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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh Yeah, Audrey! (reveiw)

3.5/5 stars

Oh Yeah, Audrey! (Goodreads | Amazon) struck a cord with my old-movie-loving high school self.  Back in those days I was obsessed with old movies, thought Clark Gable was clearly the hottest celebrity ever and Katherine Hepburn was amazing. Though I liked Audrey Hepburn she was never one of my obsessions.  So to me, these three teenagers who run a tumblr blog about old celebrities felt authentic.  I would've done that in a heartbeat.

This is a cute story following main-character Gemma Beasley as she tries to escape her painfully normal existence and turn into Audrey Hepburn/ Holly Golightly for one perfect New York City day.  Along with her co-bloggers, they runaway to NYC to recreate a 24 hour Breakfast at Tiffany's inspired experience.

But when a handsome wealthy boy shows up, someone else Gemma also met through her tumblr blog their plans change as she is swept away by a chance to experience New York City like she never would be able to.

This book is a cute 24-hour whirlwind.  Of course that creates limitations on character development but the book has a surprisingly amount of heart and forces Gemma to tackle a lot of the issue she's been avoiding since her mother's death.  If you like old movies, especially if you did at 16, odds are you'll relate to the main character. It's a quick, fun and very pleasant little adventure thats enjoyable to read.

I received an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Seriously Saturday Series Catch-up #5

Seriously Saturday Series Catch-up update time!  I haven't made much progress since last time I posted.  I finished the Scarlet audiobook (loved it!)  Yesterday I picked up Trapped by Kevin Hearne and expect to make quick work for that book.  On request at the library are Boston Jacky (book 11) by L.A. Meyer and Cress by Marissa Meyers, both on audiobook.  We're still waiting on the release of Clariel which finally comes out this month and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers which comes out next month.  Looking at the list I finally feel like this is something I can accomplish before the year is out!  We're mainly waiting on books that were released or will be released in 2014. 
  1. Heist Society by Ally Carter (books 2 & 3) - Finished book 2 and 3
  2. Necromancer series by Lish McBride (book 2) - Finished book 2
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyers (books 2 &  3) - Currently listening to Scarlet in my car
  4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (books 2 & 3) - Finished book and 3! I didn't realize there was a book 4
  5. Abhorsen series by Garth Nix (book 4 will be published in 2014)
  6. The Agency by Y.S. Lee (book 4 will be published in 2014) 
  7. Fallen World series by Megan Crewe (books 2 & 3) - Finished book 2 and 3
  8. Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne (read at least 1 book in)
  9. Bloody Jack by LA Meyer (book 11)
  10. His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers (In the name of honesty, I'll admit I've already read the second book in 2014 but I want to count it. Book 3 will be published in 2014)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Of Scars and Stardust (review)

4/5 stars

Of Stars and Stardust (Goodreads | Amazon) is a bit of a perplexing read.  Don't get me wrong, it's wholly enjoyable and something where you'll keep turning the pages.  But even after finishing I'm a bit puzzled by a lot of things in the novel.

The main character Claire Graham is damaged and engaging. She's the perfect example of an unreliable narrator. After her young sister is attacked by wolves, Claire is sent to live with her aunt in New York City where she stays until her sister Ella mysteriously disappears.  That event forces Claire to return home, to return to the place and memories that left her mentally broken to investigate and bring home her sister.

The investigation leads her unexpected places, surprising Claire as much as they surprise the reader.  It's hard to say much more about what they discover because I want other readers go into the story without expectations.  Just know it's twisty and intriguing, which I hope isn't saying too much.

The writing has that simple beauty that I always appreciate.
"I looked at Grant, who just smiled his crooked grin back at me. It was funny because I had always thought that Ella was magic, and Grant thought that I was magic. But maybe Grant was magic too, and his magic was that his sincerity in everything he did made people do crazy things, like open up a box of construction paper stories and trust that he'd be able to find the answers hidden there." 
The book is atmospheric, filled with eery cornfields and the chill of winter snow that sets the tone perfect for a book that is both mysterious and chilling.  This is the type of book that makes you shiver, so I recommend reading it with a fuzzy blanket, cup of tea or even bed a warm fire to keep away cold.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Firebug (review)

3.5/5 stars

Firebug (Gooreads | Amazon) is what I expect from Lish McBride. It's a fun paranormal with a snarky protagonist who feels like someone you could actually know. If you like Hold Me Closer, Necromancer this book is in the same vein, though I didn't like Ava nearly as much as I like Sam. (And I can stay that with certainty since I also just read Necromancing the Stone).

You may ask why I didn't like Ava as much?  Well it's small grating things that are probably authentically teenage type jokes that rub me the wrong way as an adult.  For example, when a male friend wants to talk about Ava's feelings she makes a joke about him having a uterus.  Gendered humor just tends to strike me the wrong way.  Ava can be annoying and rude, just like a real teenager.

Overall this story is good though.  It builds on itself, leaving little clues and important details along the way.  Things that at first bugged me later made complete sense.  I liked the creation of a paranormal world that runs alongside ours without being noticed, especially the building of a criminal underbelly.

This is a fun snarky read that has a surprising amount of heart.  I definitely recommend despite that little moments that grated on me.

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