Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Podcasts aka why I don't read as much

I'm in a bit of a reading slump.  Not sure how it started, but on my lunch breaks I started listening to audiobooks from the library. Then I ran out of good audiobooks on the online system. Who knew you could run out of books you wanted to read?

Then I discovered podcasts and it was love at first listen. Seriously, if you like audiobooks and haven't delved into podcasts you're missing out. They're like never-ending audiobooks. There's always a new episode or new show you can listen to.

My Favorite Podcasts

  1. Missing Maura Murray
    For the mystery lover, this is your podcast. The case of Maura Murray is baffling. Maura disappeared in such a short time frame, it seems crazy that nobody noticed. This case has so many different bunnytrails. Lance and Tim do a great job of keeping the show interesting, while being respectful of the family and people involved.
  2. Up and Vanished
    This podcast began my love of true crime podcasts. It's well-produced and engineered. The case is also fascinating.  The only complaint I have is the community surrounding this case is pretty full of drama with Facebook groups and secret Facebook groups.  Just avoid it and listen to the story.
  3. True Crime Garage
    Nick and the Captain explore a different case every week (or two if there's a lot to cover). They're entertaining, respectful and sometimes righteously angry at the players involved.
  4. Vox's The Weeds
    I started listening to this podcast when I was overwhelmed by politics. For me, it felt like everyone was always yelling at each other. This podcast is a nice contract, an intelligent deep-dive into politics.  I also recommend Wordly and The Impact which are spin offs of this podcast.
  5. Left, Right and Center
    Everything I said for The Weeds is pretty much same for Left Right and Center. This podcast brings together commentators from across the political spectrum who discuss what's happening in politics. It's nice to hear different perspectives in a respectful medium. 
  6. Lore
    For lovers of folktales and fantasy, lore should be on your podcast list.
  7. Heaven's GateThis new podcast gives an in-depth look at everything that happened with the Heaven's Gate cult. It's fascinating and respectful, likely because the host grew up in a cult himself and understands the experience.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Books I've read: The Epic Catching Up Post

So it’s pretty obvious I quit blogging. I’m not sure in what capacity I’m back. I simply don’t have the time that I used to (and honestly am not sure where it went). But I miss writing. Aside from press releases and work-related social media posts, I feel creaky and rusty in the creativity department. Also I’m trying to curb my current Netflix habits (seriously why am I watching so much Netflix?).  So I’m sort of back!  And don’t worry I have a few posts written, both about climbing and books, so this won’t be a one-off.

Let’s Get Lost - 2 stars
This was a meh-fest for me. The whole premise felt contrived, a hipster-tastic manic-pixie dream fest that was almost unreadable.  It’s maybe a miracle I finished the damn thing. The book is divided into a few different mostly-independent and unconnected stories (except for a character bridging them). Some of the stories were really annoying, with a case of insta-love and some were a little more compelling.  Overall the whole thing just grated on my patience.

Goldenhand - 5 stars
Thank you Garth Nix for being reliable. Also, I’m extremely grateful for a Lirael and Nick story.  I adore Lirael, and loved seeing her grow into her role as Abhorsen-in-Waiting. These two are so awkward and delightful at times. If you have not read the Abhorsen series it’s highly recommended.  This book was worth the wait.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center - 4 stars
I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are railing against gender roles and asking questions about why boys and girls were treated differently. However, I’ve never done much reading on feminist theory. I wanted to read something that dealt with intersectionality. This book was so relevant I was surprised that it was published in 1984. It was a little heavier than I normally read on my lunch break but probably more enriching.

The Name of the Star - 3.5 Stars
For some reason I had low expectations for this book but actually really enjoyed reading it.  Isn’t it funny how expectations can either ruin or improve upon a book?  It’s been a few weeks since I finished it and I took no notes (since I wasn't blogging at the time) so about all I can say is that it was a pleasant surprise and I plan to continue the series.

Sorry for the lack of details in these short reviews.  I wasn’t thinking about blogging when I wrote them, just reading for fun.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Top 5 Climbing Routes I've Led

A look back on some of my favorite climbing routes that I've led. For all my book blogging friends here is a handy list of climbing terminology. (It's missing a few terms but I'll look for a better list soon).
  1. Bathtub Mary
    As my first 5.11a send, this climb will always be special. I’m not sure I could think of a more perfect climb. It has everything, perfect pockets, to a slabby crux, then gently overhanging crimps, a giant sit-down rest inside a hueco and then overhanging jugs to the chains. If you don’t love this route you don’t love climbing.
  2. Mona Lisa Overdrive
    I don’t think this is considered a “classic” but I felt in love with it the first time I climbed it. It starts with a boulder problem on small pocket holds with a very distinct sequence, then goes into a hueco rest (I love sit down rests). You can stem out of the hueco, then it’s juggy climbing all the way to the top. It doesn’t hurt that it’s in the middle of the sun soaked golden wall known as Solar Collector.
  3. Heresy (still a project for me)The only non-Red River Gorge route on the list. It’s the hardest grade I’ve led, with a slabby sloper crux that’s well protected that you can fling yourself up it. Then it goes into a horizontal roof with holds so large you can wedge your leg inside of them.
  4. Bongo (trad)
    I don’t lead much trad, but this 5.6 was just fun. It was my first trad onsight, with lots of jugs, some crack climbing and a hollow drum-like “bongo” that gives the route it’s name.
  5. Yellow Brick Road
    I love slab climbing. I also hate slab leading because it’s terrifying. When you climb vertical or overhanging routes, falling is fun. You fall into open air without any consequences. Slab is different. When you fall, because it’s less than vertical, your chances of slamming into the wall is much higher. Yellow Brick Road is a route that I walked by and thought “I need to climb that.”  I even voluntarily hung the draws, then bolt to bolted the nerve wracking line. It included the most nerve-wrecking clip of my life. The first time on this route, I cheated my way through the crux. Next time I went back, hung the draws and did the climb beautifully. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Half-Remembered Reads

And I’m back with more half-remembered reviews and general impressions of books. Just what you always wanted, right?

Blue Blood Series - 3ish stars
This is not my typical type of book. I’m not into vampires or the problems of pretty little rich girls.  So why am I reading this series? Honestly, I like the audio-book narrator and my library has the whole series on digital download. Oddly, despite seeing the flaws, I thoroughly enjoy listening to these books and went through the series pretty quickly. The premise is creative, vampires as fallen angels, but I struggled with the fact for the most part there didn’t seem to be anything remotely angelic about the characters. Still, it’s a fun series especially on audiobook.

Library of Souls - 2 stars
I really liked the first book about the Peculiar children. It was weird and quirky, trying a little bit too hard but earnest and enjoyable. The second one I liked a little less.  This third one just began to annoy me. The love-story grated on me, I’m just over the Jacob/Emma relationship and the angst over whether they’re staying together or not. The characters feel annoyingly thin, despite the fact this is the 3rd book, they don’t feel fully fleshed out. This is a series that wore out it’s welcome for me.

Rebel of the Sands - 4 stars

I absolutely love fantasy that’s set in the Middle East. I’ve read enough stories with your typical faeries and creatures that it’s always nice to step into a different setting with a different mythology.  I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.  

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Alex as Well (review)

2/5 stars

It requires more writing expertise for books to tackle a tough subject.  While I admire what Alex As Well (Goodreads | Amazon) attempted, portraying a character who was intersex and struggling with her identity and to a lesser extent her sexuality, it just didn't live up to the potential of the topic.

The characters never really come to life, not even Alex feels real despite spending the whole book inside her head.  Her parents are the worst developed, turning them either into villains or incompetent placeholders that the story just pushes around like pieces on a chessboard.

There are some basic premises about the book that are hard to believe.  The story begins with Alex enrolling into a new school, just walking in the front door without a birth certificate or any information (this is when she goes from living as a boy to a girl).  The school half-heartedly seeks her birth certificate.  The whole enrollment felt deux ex machina because the story needed Alex to start a new school but had no real way of accomplishing that.  I also felt like when Alex announced (out of nowhere) she was a vegetarian, it was a plot device so her mother could slip her medicine without telling her.  It just felt out of place within the story.

There's not much good that I can say about this book.  It's just meh all around, which is disappointing because the subject matter could have been really interesting.

I received an advanced reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Climbing Adventures: An introduction

Early in 2014 I took a big step in my climbing adventures by learning to sport climb.  I'd always been reluctant to lead climb.  When I first started climbing, years ago at Girl Scout camp, we top roped everything.  I never saw a need to do anything else.  I was having fun, getting up routes and improving.

But sometimes you have to step out into something new and a little more risky.  Luckily, it's also been more rewarding.  When you lead a sport route, you know that the rope didn't help you and you did it under your own strength.  You push through your mental limits and realize how physically strong you are.  You realize you can fall and that it's okay to fall.

My first lead climb was a ridiculously easy 5.5 (That's how climbing routes are rated. It's a weird system so I won't explain it but it goes from 5.1-5.15b with bigger numbers being more difficult).  Despite climbing more difficult routes on top rope, I was still nervous as hell. For my early sport climbing experiences it's been obvious that my fear is my limiting factor.

Second sport lead ever.  Also ridiculously easy but a more interesting route.

My biggest regret from my first season is top roping so many routes that were obviously well within my ability.  I am a pansy guys (less now than in March/April when these pictures were taken).

Obligatory Matt on a really hard route picture because this wall is so impressive. Matt wants me to attempt this route this year. It's a 45 degree overhang classic Red River Gorge endurance route. It's also a 12b. My boyfriend has a ridiculous amount of confidence in me.

Some Information on Climbing (if you're interested)
Lately, my hobby has been getting some mainstream media attention. After reading the comments (my eyes they burn) on the articles about the Dawn Wall I realized that most people don't know much about climbing.  So I want to give you a little information about climbing.

First climbing is broken up into a bunch of different categories but I want to mention free climbing  and aid climbing.  Free climbing encompassed both sport and traditional (trad) climbing.  Since I am a sport climber I am also a free climber. As you can tell from my pictures free climbers use a rope.  What free means in this context is that the climbers don't use ropes to assist our ascent up the wall.  We use the rock and our strength (flexes muscles) to move upward, clipping our ropes into bolts (or gear if it's trad climbing) for safety along the way.  Aid Climbing uses rope, daisychains and other equipment to aid their way up a route.  Neither of these are free soloing, which is when you don't use a rope for protection (Alex Honnold) is known for this and probably responsible for much of the current confusion).

Lead climbing is when you take the rope up the wall with you, clipping as you go but climbing above where you're clipped. Here is a random gif I found (there should be more climbing gifs guys) to shows you a girl climbing above where the rope is clipped in.


And when you fall this is what happens:

You have a longer fall than you would on top rope but the equipment and rope stops your fall. Magic!

Since I'm planning to post climbing pictures I thought I would give you a basic introduction.  If you have any questions feel free to ask me in the comments!  Like books, climbing is something I love to talk about if you're willing to listen. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why the hell should I blog?

So this month I had planned to return to blogging (and this is me following through with that plan).  If you follow this blog you probably noticed my disappearing act this fall.  It wasn't planned.  I was never quitting but I hit a wall. I felt like what I did with my blog didn't matter, at least not to publishers who sometimes treat us as more of a nuisance or some authors who want to argue against every bad review.  I was frustrated and fed up with the disrespect that blogging receives.

Really I still am.

This started with Blythe. And I'm sorry if you see this dear, I've loved being your friend and it started with you because you are my friend. Yes there was some frustration before that, especially when bad behaving authors showed up.  Generally bloggers rallied and things returned to a peaceful existence.

Then an author stalked someone who I considered a friend.  Someone I tweeted TV shows with, made Chad Michael Murray jokes with and enjoyed her book reviews.  It was chilling that someone would do something that crazy to someone I knew.  I don't care what Blythe's real name is or how old she is.  I've been on the Internet for many years and though I go real-name now I've used pseudonyms when I was younger. What matters on the Internet, as far as I'm concerned, is how you treat those around you.  That's who you are.

What bothered me more than the author stalking my friend was the radio-silence from the publisher.  And yes I know Kathleen Hale comes from a prominent media family and has connections out the wazoo.  None of that matters to me.  She stalked my friend. The publisher still employees this woman. There were no consequences.  What's to stop her from stalking me next?  What's to stop a different author?

I hope my large dog and former MMA-fighting boyfriend might be reason enough to avoid a house-call at the Haggard household.

There is actually a book that I've been waiting on for years from the same publisher that was released about the same time as the Kathleen Hale story.  I still haven't bought it.  After years of waiting, despite the fact the author is not connected, I just could not make myself purchase the book.  I've been reading this series since high school and it's on my favorites list.  To an extent, I feel like HarperCollins stole some of my joy of reading.

So that's where I've been, trying to re-discover my joy.  I started by re-reading two of my favorite series, the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce followed immediately by the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire (and if they are connected to HarperCollins I did not check because frankly I did not want more joy stolen from me).

Where does that leave me now?  Still wondering why the fuck I should even blog anymore.  Right now there's a different author vs. reader battle going on in the blogsphere that I have lots of thoughts about.  Mainly that the authors have totally hijacked a relevant conversation regarding crowd-funding by somehow turning it into an anti-piracy thing/books shouldn't be free thing, which was NEVER the point.  The author in question created a kickstarter and threw it out there to the public and then when readers, the potential funders, had legitimate questions about the kickstarter all hell broke loose.

For the record, I check into any charity I donate to including seeing if there are available tax records online before donating.  If you want people's money you have to put up with their criticism and questions.  If you can't, then don't ask people for help. To be honest, I didn't give a damn about Stacey Jay's kickstarter.  But what I do give a damn about? Bloggers being allowed to have discourse about topics relating to publishing without people deciding they are bullies.

Once again, bloggers' words are misconstrued and we're treated like shit. This time by authors that I like who read Stacey Jay's blog and misunderstood the whole situation and quote tweets that I haven't seen (provide a link or a screenshot to back up your claims people) to call us all bullies.

I am not a bully.

What I am is a blogger. I am a critic. I have opinions and I like sharing them.  The other day I was at the climbing gym talking to one of my friends.  She asked me what I thought of the Doctor Who Christmas special.  So I told her, much like I would in a book review and she nodded along.  For her I helped articulate what we both thought were some of the problems with the recent season.  I loved that moment.

I love blogging and reviewing because I like thinking critically about the media that I consume.  I like to look at the "Why does this work" whether than just liking or disliking a book.  I love helping others find great books (I recently loaned my boyfriend Feed by Mira Grant and then the Earthsea series).  I also love steering people away from books that won't suit them.  Not every book is for every person.

So I'm coming back to my blog, probably a little slowly.  I still feel like bloggers in general aren't appreciated but damn it I'm still a blogger.  Things may look a little different around here. There will probably be more about my climbing since it's talking up more of my time and maybe fewer reviews at least to start (because I have nothing prepared at this point). Heck maybe I'll even get a co-blogger (seriously).

In the meantime I'll be reading, hopefully what I want and supporting the bloggers that I love.