Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Book Review: "Slave to Sensation" by Nalini Singh

Slave to Sensation (Psy-Changeling, #1)Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ignore the strange pink smoke and the crazy cover - this is not your mother's romance novel.

I admit - I never really read romance or erotica before because every time I tried there was basically no plot, nothing to hold my interest. Then I found Nalini Singh and WHAM! Instant love!

Ms. Singh writes two different series at the moment; "Slave to Sensation" is the first book in her Psy-Changeling series. I love these books because Ms. Singh creates an entire universe populated with believable characters. In this universe, the human race has split into three subgroups: regular humans, Psy, and changelings. The Psy have mental abilities, such as telepathy and foresight. Also, the Psy are all connected to each other through the Psynet. The changelings possess the ability to change into various animals, such as leopards, bears, and wolves.

At the beginning of the novel, you learn that the Psy attempted to remove emotion from their lives about 100 years ago through a protocol known as Silence. The main female protagonist of this story, Sasha Duncan, is a Psy who is about to break her Silence. Breaking Silence means a virtual death, so Sasha tries as hard as she can to fool everyone into thinking she is as Silence as everyone else.

The main male protagonist is Lucas Hunter, the leader of the local leopard pack. He and the changelings are on the warpath, because there is a Psy serial killer on the loose who is hunting changeling women. Someone in Lucas's pack has been murdered, (view spoiler)

Ms. Singh brings together these two people in such a way as to resolve both immediate conflicts, but she sets up a large story arc that has spanned 12 books and multiple novellas. Her next book to be released finally begins a new story arc in this universe.

Overall, I love the characters, the universe, and Ms. Singh's writing style. I never thought I'd say this, but I will be looking forward to more books from her, more romance novels, in the future.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 16, 2014

Coming out of My Closet

Today, I watched a video where Ash Beckham discussing coming out of the closet.  To paraphrase, everyone has a closet, something that they don't want to think about or say.  At least everyone has the potential to be in a closet.  It's easier to stay in the dark then come out into the light.  Here's the video if you want to hear how she explains it so well.

I thought about what she said for a long time, and I decided it was time for me to be authentic. To come out of my closet, even though it may not be a shock for everyone. I am an atheist.

No, that's not really the proper term.  You see, atheist means "against theism", which presumes the existence of theism and gods, lending credence to a concept that I don't believe in.  I prefer human secularist or (my favorite) a-pink-unicorn-ist.

To be quite honest, religion just doesn't have a place in my life.  I live, love, and get along quite nicely without attending either Sunday School, church, or Bible studies.  So why do I hide this in a closet?

My extended family.  My parents go to church and have their beliefs, though they still love and support me even though we don't agree.  But my aunts, uncles, and cousins?  My father came from an Amish background - AMISH, as in horse and buggy, don't teach your kids English, and only let the men read the Bible.  Those who left the Amish church are Mennonite, Beechy Amish, or other conservative religions.

I don't know what any of them would do if they knew that I consider god a social phenomenon from a less technologically advanced era as a means to cope with the unknown.  As for the church, all Christian churches descend from the Catholic church, and the Catholic church rose in the power vacuum left behind by the fall of the Roman empire.  From the beginning, the Catholic church consolidated in power and position through clever manipulations, such as adopting local pagan holidays for themselves. (Note: ever wonder why the date for Easter is based on a lunar calendar?)

But I digress. I hide my personal beliefs because I don't want my family to reject me.  I don't want to deal with the ignorance spread about atheists and those who choose not to believe that mythologies are real.  I find myself loathe to discuss religion with others, because I know that most people will answer questions without thought, with answers spun by the church authorities.  And for those who think, they fall back on the answer of faith, believing when there is no proof, no reason to believe.  If someone wants to believe a concept regardless of the facts, then no one can dissuade them of their belief.  That makes discussion with theists a bit like trying to argue someone out of their opinion.  It just does not work.

This was my secret, my closet.  It feels good not to have to hide anymore.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Racist, Intolerant, Hate - Oh, my!!!

Just when you begin to hope that racism, hate, and intolerance are beginning to dwindle, the Terrible Trio sneak back into the limelight to remind everyone that people - for all our beauty, knowledge, and love - have serious potential for ugliness.

In the news, Cliven Bundy, the cattle rancher from Nevada who illegally grazes his cattle on federal land, changed from local hero to zero when he wondered if (to paraphrase him) black people were better off as slaves.  To make matters worse, Mr. Bundy responded to criticism by stating (and I have to quote this):
If I call — if I say negro or black boy or um um uh slave, I’m not, uh, I'm not, uh, if those people cannot take those kind of words and, and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet. They should be to able to, I should be able to say those things and not offend anybody.  I didn't mean to offend them.
Then we have Donald Sterling, the man who has left behind decades worth of ugliness.  A decent summary of some of his quotes can be found on this website.  Basically, Sterling is a divorce lawyer who became a billionaire as a slum lord in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills and as the owner of the L.A. Clippers.  In 2009, Sterling settled a law suit with the government to the tune of $2.73 million (plus another $4.9 million in attorney fees and costs), a suit based on his racially discriminating rental practices.  Last month, TMZ broadcast a conversation where Sterling told his girlfriend that she could have sex with black people, so long as she doesn't publicly associate with them.  The conversation began because his girlfriend posted a picture of her standing with Magic Johnson.  Now, the NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.  Not that the fines matter - either one - because the man is a billionaire.  A few million doesn't really effect his bottom line.

Moving to the Internet, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) created an interactive hate map, a widget that lets you click on one of the states to see a list of hate organizations registered in the state.  Let me clarify this, the organizations are registered with the state as businesses or non-profits, not registered as hate organizations.  But I suppose all those chapters of the Klu Klux Klan don't really need to register for people to know it promotes hate.

Yet it's not the slew of KKK chapters that is bothersome.  It's the depth of hate out there, the number of groups of people bound together not by love or general social obligations, but by hate.  The SPLC has to list the ideologies on separate pages because there are so many out there.  From anti-immigration and anti-LGBT, to several forms of white supremacists to black separatists to all sorts of religious bigots- including the Holy Church of Odin -the SPLC tracks formalized ideologies that exist to hate nearly anything about anybody.

Sadly, even our government has legalized racism and intolerance.  Beginning with the Constitution, Article 4, clause 3:
No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.
The federal government then passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 to create the legal framework and mechanisms for slave-catchers.  When some of the free states tried to ignore and/or undermine the federal government's stance on slavery, the government then passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Throughout history, the federal government legalized and acted in racial discrimination.  Their actions include:

  • Stealing over 25 million acres of good land from the Native Americans after forcing them to move to less-desirable lands, 
  • Taxing the blacks while denying them their rights, 
  • Purposely segregating non-whites from white communities, 
  • Using "separate but equal" to legally justify discrimination, 
  • Putting American citizens of Japanese-descent in concentration camps during World War 2, 
  • Putting American citizens and legal immigrants of Arabic-descent in jail after 9/11,  
  • Targeting Hispanic people for illegal search and seizures in the name of the "War of Drugs",
  • Targeting black people for, well, everything,
  • Targeting Mosques and Arab people because of wars happening on another continent,
  • et cetera, et cetera, et cetera
To be honest, this list only scratches the surface of the injustices done on a federal level, completely ignoring the racism and intolerance at the state and local level.  (I'm looking at you, Arizona.)

We live in an unprecedented time in history.  The majority of people don't need to grow or hunt their own food.  We have time to debate philosophy, to ponder the meaning of life, to artistically express ourselves. Technological advancements allow us to first define the box and then think outside of it.  Medical advancements allow us to live well beyond the fifty-year mark, with a good quality of life for the majority of the time.  With an abundance of food, clothing, shelter, and energy, you would think that people would be happy, celebrate their existence.  Instead, people find reasons to be suspicious of others, to fear the "evil stranger", to cast aspersions on others based on tiny mutations in DNA.

So what can anyone do about this?

Be nice.  That's it, no fancy speeches or philosophical soliloquies.

Just be nice.  If someone does something that offends your sensibilities, be nice and don't be around that person.  If someone marries someone and you don't like the marriage, be nice and don't socialize with them.  But in the end, being nice and tolerating everyone is the only real choice we have if we want a better society.
The choice is yours.  Choose wisely.

Freaky Friday News: Unicorn Licenses

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