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.