Review: Struggle Reading

I am struggling.  I am struggling soooo hard with this book right now.  In general, I like Brandon Sanderson’s books, but I picked up Way of Kings from the library and…. I am slogging.

I blame his editor.  His editor needed to look him in the face and say “Dude. You don’t need to say everything six times.  It’s one book.  and four main characters? FOUR?  You need to work up to that kind of multi-protagonist shit.”  Seriously, that doesn’t count the like 8 times there have been little aside-sort of things.

I can tell this book was written post-Wheel of Time… I think he picked up some of Jordan’s bad habits.

It’s an interesting world and the protagonists are well-written (it is still Sanderson and he does write interesting characters).  The magic is kind of fascinating and I will drag myself through it, but LAWD, I am struggling with it.

Manners: Why we need Feminism for Men

I still think this is a topic we need to be having. Like constantly tell men they don’t have to have sex to be vulnerable shouldn’t be shocking.

Dream by Day

Yes, I think this is a topic on manners as much as politics.  There has recently been a kerfuffle about “Nice guys” and feminists and how the two shall never meet!

In case you missed it, this one started with a “Nice Guy” named Scott Aaronson blogging on the difficulty Nice Guys have with feminism. The responses (#1 and #2) I have read both are neither bashing nor justifying but trying to re-frame the questions, and both link to even further responses which are either trying to “teach” Mr. Aaronson how to “get over it” or why he IS still priviledged or…. the rabbit hole is deep my friends.

I could easily talk about Nice Guys, but this guy does a good job of it.  I’ll have to write up my explanation of Schrödinger’s Rapist another day because I don’t like that imagery (although there is something important about…

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Reading Challenge!

Goodreads does an annual reading challenge (if you aren’t on Goodreads yet – GET THERE)

Last year I set myself 52 books – a book a week.   I ended up with 57 according to Goodreads.  So this year I said 60.  That’s 5 books a month.   Whew, I better get cracking!

Now, last year I pretty much only tracked books I read “for the first time” – there were a few books I picked up as an “afternoon read” (books I know so well I brush over the details and jump to the juicy parts).  Wheel of Time is the only one I think I made an exception because I tracked all 14 – but I was working my way through the whole series and I hadn’t gotten past book 9 previously….

So this year I am going to try to track every book I read – even the little “I only read my favorite parts but cover-to-cover” books I go back to over and over (I still feel like I “read” the whole book, I just know I graze over the lulls in the plot).

So expect to see more reviews this year!

Review: Star Wars (SPOILERS)

Ok, there are 2 reasons I’m writing a second post.  The first is the easy one: SPOILERS.  The second is (perhaps) less obvious.  I needed a few days to really process my thoughts on the movie.

Let me begin by saying: I enjoyed this film.  In a lot of ways I think it’s among my favorite Star Wars films. The writers of this film took some fun deconstructions of expectations.  (A read on someone else’s opinion I just read: here)

There is a lot I liked about this movie.  I loved the Luke in this movie.  Honestly, he might be my favorite iteration of Luke Skywalker – bitter and snarky and all.  Apparently, I am the only one who thought he would/should throw the saber over his shoulder – OK, I admit I thought he was going to turn and chuck it as far as his force/mechanical-empowered-arm would send it into the depths of the ocean.  I love that he was flawed and still struggling so much, his guilt and his learning – but he owes Rey another lesson.

I did not not not like Yoda. He felt like a muppet.  I know they went back to the puppet (yay!) but…. that stupid little dance-thingy was…. ugh! ugh!  On the other hand, I like that Yoda prevented Luke from seeing the books were missing…. did you catch that in the Falcon at the end? The books in the drawer that Finn pulled a blanket from?  Luke wasn’t able to confirm the books burned.  I think Yoda knew.  I think he also knew that Luke needed to let go of that past.  That past that Rey needs to still wrestle with – because our past does influence us.  I am curious where they will be taking that thread honestly – does Rey need to wrestle or will she adapt to the Jedi code?

As I said in my non-spoilery review, I did not like the casino-bit.  I liked that not-quite-callback to “hive of scum and villany” from Rose – because this isn’t “scum” – but they are pretty terrible people who live on the backs of the less fortunate…. as I also said, my biggest beef is that this really just felt like “get to know Rose”  and a little bit of “get the psuedo-villain to the big ship.”  Why couldn’t Maz call her buddy and help them out?  Oh right, because they needed Finn and Rose to have an adventure and bond!

Why couldn’t it be “we need a way to help duder get here undetected, pick us up and get us over there” on the ship?  Why the hell did Holdo then have to wait so damn long to enact her “cloaked transport” plan?!?!  If they could have gotten away from the crusier before they were in sight of the planet that would have changed everything.  It ended up making the entire “running away from the empire ships” feel VERY contrived.

And again – my husband pointed out that although the rebels were running out of fuel for jumps; why couldn’t the empire just hyper-space jump in front of the rebel ships and wait in ambush?  Why did they have to pursue that way….? A comment of “we can’t go to hyperspace when we’re at full speed like this” is all I needed – it’s space fantasy, I don’t need much! Those two intertwined plots of ship-chasing and casino-planet… I honestly just wanted to get back to Rey + Luke + Kylo Ren stories during about 1/3 of the movie.

I like the Poe-plot better since I read a review (here!) about Poe’s arc – and part of his issue being his damn brashness. I think it would have helped the audience if someone (not Holdo but someone else) had made a snarky comment to him about “well if we had some bombers right now” – because he got them all blown up.  (Another plot hole – imo – if you KNOW your bombers are threatened by exploding shrapnel why the HELL would you use a “tight formation” on a bombing run?!?!  and why did the rebels have so many bombers and so few of anything else?)  Or if Holdo had smacked him down more firmly than she did  – I wouldn’t have objected if she had said, “No. I won’t tell you the plan. I can’t trust you with the plan because the last time you were trusted you destroyed all our bombers.  Get to your post and follow the orders I DO trust you with. I’ll tell you more when I trust you with more.”  I think this was the message they were trying to convey, but what they did ended up feeling…. passive-aggressive?  I don’t blame her – God knows I might do something similar with a man in my face (defuse! defuse!) but…. BUT – I can still say “I would have liked…” (I also would have liked ice cream!)

The last thing I felt could have been better was Leia in space.  When she was in space and like force-dragged herself… the ship is going full speed, right and how fast is she going then???  And this isn’t a Leia thing we’ve ever seen. She isn’t the Force user. I really wish instead it had been “random bridge dude #4” force-pushed her.  Reinforcing this message of “the Force is in everyone” message and “Power can be in anyone” that threaded through the movie. I think this would have been super powerful.  And driven the fans nuts in the best of ways.  So much more intriguing than just another Skywalker being a damn hero….

Which leads to my hope going forward.  I was a little devastated when Carrie Fisher died. She’s my princess.  And if they kill her off screen…. I am going to be SOOOO disappointed.  SOOOO.   No one seems to think there’s much choice, most of my friends are saying “they can just jump forward 10 years.”  MEH.  and NO.  I think they should have “Princess Leia” off politiking with powerful people gathering allies and begging for money, supplies, people…. she passed off “General” to Poe, but she’s just off in another part of the galaxy being useful.

I ended up really liking the dialog, I know some people think it’s too much like the Marvel/DC attempts at “humor” but I liked it.  I enjoyed the aside comments like not quite calling the casino a “hive of scum and villainy.”  It was a cute call-back.  The salt-looks-like-hoth planet call-back was well done.  Enough to be nostalgic but not “hit me over the head with it.”

And the use of the crystal-fox-things … man at first I just thought it was a fun gag and then – then they used them!?! I don’t get surprised often, and I liked it!

Manners: Apologies

Apparently, it needs to be covered: How To Make an Apology.

Let’s start with some context. WHEN to apologize.

The answer is “yes.”

1. Whether it’s been 10 minutes or 10 years (or 90 years)- if you need to apologize, do it.  

This is a hard one, but there it is: it is never too late to apologize.  If it’s something you believe you did that was “wrong” – even if you (or maybe especially) if you thought differently at the time.

There are a ton of examples I could pull of my behavior as a teenage that I’m downright embarrassed by today. And some of it is that I was 17 and stupid (I blame lacking a complete prefrontal cortex). Some of it was that I was stupid. Some of it I look back and cringe. I have apologized for things years after they happened because in retrospect I learned they were bad ideas or actions. And as often as not, the person I apologize to appreciates it, even if they have already worked through it and it no longer hurts them. I did a dumb thing. I apologized for the dumb thing.

2. Repentance & Apologies are not the same thing.

This is one of those times my Christian beliefs are going to sing loud & long.  Repentance goes way beyond just saying the words of an apology.

An apology is the words.  Repentance (according to Merriam Webster) is “1 :to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life. 2 :to feel regret or contrition.”

TURN is a key word here. I might apologize for eating the last piece of cake, but frankly if there is cake there tomorrow I’m probably doing the same thing. And every day thereafter…. really, just don’t leave cake around me.

If however, I know that I said something or did something I should never do again I might repent. I don’t repeat the behavior. I apologize and change forever. I might not apologize but still change forever. That change is very important. If you apologize but don’t repent – was it a sincere apology?

I mean obviously, there are things which might repeat – I am somewhat clumsy and end up dropping & breaking something (a plate, a cup, whatever). I apologize. I am super-duper sincere.  Next time I am double-careful, but after a year…. I forgot I ever did it until I break something else because I’m clumsy. I am equally sincere and I temporarily (?) repented, but did I really? Yes, but…. but.

This is also why an apology isn’t always enough.

4. Apologizing don’t fix it

Even if you truly repent (ie you are changed and would never repeat that mistake) – it’s already broken.  I can’t magically wave my wand and fix that plate/cup/trust and fix it.

An apology is a good start. It is not the end of the break in trust (you can make the argument apologies always stem from a break in trust). Whether it’s a broken plate you dropped or a broken heart or just straight-up broken trust – an apology is a start not an end.  An apology isn’t worth the carbon dioxide you release unless it’s sincere.

We all know the person who learned at 3 if they apologize and look cute they think they can repeat the behavior without significant increasing consequences.  Know that old phrase:

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Life application.  Guy fondles me/smacks my ass. He “apologizes” but the next day DOES IT AGAIN.  Well he can apologize as much as he want – I now know that the initial apology wasn’t sincere. Abusive relationships frequently abuse the “apology contract” where when someone apologizes we’re “supposed to” forgive & forget.  Same with public issues where someone like a politician might apologize – but a year later the press catches him again!

Be aware that just because you can get away with it (for a time) it doesn’t mean you should. And eventually these things tend to catch up with you.

4. They don’t have to forgive you or forget.

Whew, this is always a tough one.  You feel guilty.  You want that freedom to know the person you hurt – and the worse the hurt, the more you want it – forgives you. Man that’s a craving. You put your courage to the wall and manage your apology.

You wait.

They don’t respond.  Or they tell you to go to hell.  Or they say thank you. They apologize for what they did that they’ve carried as their guilt.  Any of these are 100% acceptable responses.

There is no rule that says when someone apologizes you have to forgive them.  The same goes in reverse.  If they tell you to go to hell (or whatever equivalent) you bow your head and say, “Thank you for giving me these few minutes.”  Then you should walk away. The apology is given and they may not be ready to forgive. You have to respect that boundary.

This is the hardest part – but let’s say I am in a car accident and kill the other driver’s child. There is no going back “to the way thing were” (even blissful indifference to each other).  I will forever be the piece of shit who destroyed their world. FOREVER. I can apologize. They can forgive. Our worlds have still be drastically altered. FOREVER.

And what might not have seemed as serious to the apologizer might be traumic.  A man thinks he’s being sexy, so he pushes his date against a wall for a good long “first kiss” (they had been laughing and having a great time all through dinner – let’s take this to the next level!).  She squirms and screams and says no.  He immediately backs off and apologizes – he’s very repentant.  That doesn’t mean she has to forgive him. And she may never forget that he was obtuse enough to not pick up that although she was laughing, she was almost always arms-across-chest/leaning away/not encouraging him. She may never forgive him for even for a heartbeat making her feel unsafe. She may never willingly be alone in a room with him.

5. Trust Broken is never the same.

Go back to my #3 – it’s broke and you can’t fix it.  As the person apologizing, sometimes you also have to allow that you can’t fix it.  Trust once broken might not able to be repaired.  When it can, it might be damn difficult.

Just look at how much people spend on counseling if a partner cheats.  Alone or as a couple – it is damn difficult to repair that.  And then it’s never the same.  You might have a patched-together trust. Your trust in some ways might be deeper and stronger, but it’s because there is a scar there that had to be patched and that scar is there forever.

One of the difficult parts of an apology is that even after the words are spoken: repentance is a thing proven not said.  I might say “I Repent!” but until I’ve proved it (possibly over and over), I can’t expect people to believe me.

Conclusion

Apologies suck. I don’t know anyone who enjoys giving a sincere apology. Humans don’t like being wrong.  We really like being right, or at least feeling right. So we justify our actions so we don’t feel wrong.

And for something traumatic like sexual harassment (and all the hubbub around them at the moment) an apology will never be enough – but damn if it isn’t a good start.  Once you sincerely apologize you get to the repentance-proving grounds. We will see if the men who have come out and said “oh, I’ll go to therapy for a few days – surely that will fix it!” can understand it isn’t going to be such a short journey – there isn’t a quick fix.  But then, most of them haven’t even started with an actual apology.

For an example of “I think he really repented” I’ll point out Michael Vic.  I agree he should never be allowed to own a dog again – but you know what, it’s been a bunch of years and he’s still sounding pretty damn repentant. I think he probably means it.  I think I might believe him.  I also think he’s earned the loss of trust that he will never be allowed a pet again (which sounds like a circle of hell to me).

Review: The Song of the Lioness

Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite authors.  She is on the short list of “oh, I saw one of Tamora’s books I haven’t read. I’ll pick that up and read it.”  I don’t love every book of hers I’ve read, but I’ve loved enough.

And pretty much anything she wrote in Tortall is a win for me.  All of those books stem from this series.  I recently re-read it (for probably the hundredth time), but this time on audiobook.  So I some of those sections I’ve skimmed the last few read throughs came back into focus.

So first off – this book is a 10/10.  I think everyone (male, female, young, old) should read this series.  It isn’t long or arduous or painful.  Each book is an awesome ~150 pages of really solid writing.  I know I’m pretty much drooling over it, but if anything listening to it and honing in on those sections I’ve skipped a few times reminded me why I loved it when I first read it and let me recapture that joy.

It is a coming of age story.  It’s following Alanna of Trebond as she tries to become a lady knight. So in the first book she’s 10-14, the second 14-18, the third is just one year and the fourth is probably a little less than a year.  The first two are longer year-lengths because she’s learning.  Once they set up her class schedule, Pierce can jump forward to the important moments and bits.  The second book probably has the most pacing struggle because of this – there are several important moments and Pierce has to jump in for a few days, jump back for weeks, then jump back in when the action needs attention.

That’s probably my harshest criticism for the series.  Part of the reason I say everyone – one of the feminists “complaints” I’ve seen is that men don’t read stories about women. This is a perfect introduction. In the first book when Alanna is struggling with “but I’m a girl just pretending” and feeling all the doubts of whether she can make it – honestly, who hasn’t felt like an impostor? The boys do too and could relate to her struggle. They might not understand it to the level, but we’ve all felt like an outsider and impostor.  Perfect book for them (a) to experience relating to a female (b) seeing that we all have those feelings – even someone who is amazing and (c) it’s got some of the best relationships between men and women I’ve ever read.

So the one thing that I want to warn people about – especially because this is a “young adult” novel is that Alanna has sex. With more than one person. But you know what – these books saved me from some truly terrible relationships. I’m not exaggerating either. In college, I dated someone (shortly) who was abusive and controlling. I re-read these books over the summer and the questions Alanna asked in her relationship (which was helluva lot better than the one I was playing with) made me take a huge step back and think “shit. Firstly, I deserve better and secondly. Shit.”  The reasons she gets into relationships are human – sometimes imperfect and full of problems; but you know what? She keeps asking the question of what she wants her relationship to look like – and figuring it out.

I will (someday) have my kids read these books. When they begin dating we will talk about the relationships Alanna has and why they work or don’t work.  We will talk about how she figured it out and when it was ok to have sex and when it wouldn’t be. We will talk about using protection and why it’s so powerful for women (’cause fantasy of course has what’s essentially birth control). Sons as well as daughters need to think about these things and answer questions about their relationships.

Seriously – if you haven’t picked up this book yet, you might get a few days off over Thanksgiving or Christmas – use them to read this series.  None of them should take very long and after you read these you can move on to Wild Magic (the next series in Tortall – and the audio version of that one is a full cast, let’s just say I want to BUY that audio series).