Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Books of August 2014

Besides running races and skipping a lot of training runs due to humid weather and general laziness, I don't remember what I did in August. Let's see. Yeah, I guess that's about it. 

It was a recovery month. Recovery from being too busy with family and friend commitments, work, freelance, and running. I needed a break. I probably slept more in August than any other 2014 month. I know I spent way too much time on the computer (or my phone). Luckily, I finished a few home organization projects, though the largest (cleaning the basement) fell on September 1. 

When life gets too intense and I have one of these rare lazy months, my book choices tend to skew young. Unfortunately, some of the YA novels I read / listened to this month were terrible. Too much angst, not enough plot development. As a result, it looks like September will return to business as usual. I'm currently reading Stephen King's The Long Walk and continuing to plow through House of Leaves. I don't have many new releases on deck, so I'm not sure what's in store. As always, I will try to make a dent in my physical to-read bookshelf, but it hinges on my mood. 

Without future ado, my books of August 2014: 

Finished August 1, 2014
by H.G. Wells

Review: 4 / 5 
I really enjoyed this story. I love books set in the late 1800s early 1900s, so this was right up my alley. The story itself was smart without over-explaining (and thus, losing credibility as the book ages and science progresses). I found some of the events almost slapstick in nature and got a kick out of the character interactions. I've read a couple H.G. Wells stories now, but this is by far my favorite. 

Finished August 4, 2014
by Sophia Amoruso 

Review: 4 / 5 
I could have read this in one sitting, but chose to sleep. (I'm such a hard worker.) I read in some reviews it's geared towards teens, and that makes sense; it certainly seems like some of the juicier bits of her story are missing. Despite that, the overarching themes are work hard, be yourself, spend within your means, and consider your customers. 

I feel like I already have the makings of a great businesswoman – errr #GIRLBOSS – but unfortunately, outside of my current job, I don't have a channel for my (still unknown) "passion;" so while this was a mildly inspirational read, I am no closer to owning my million dollar business. Sigh.

I would recommend Lean In to those that want hard data and #GIRLBOSS to those that want to be entertained. I'd hang out with Amoruso.

Finished August 5, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lauren Oliver

Review: 3 / 5 
I listened to this during training runs and the Scioto Miles 10 Miler and found myself zoning in and out. It did not hold my attention like book two (Pandemonium), but I may have enjoyed it more than book one (Delirium) because of Hana.

I liked the switching perspectives of Lena and Hana. I'm not usually a fan of authors introducing a new storytelling device in the third book of a series, but it worked; mainly because Hana had such an interesting and different experience from Lena, as she lived on the "inside." 

SPOILER: Unfortunately, I did not care one bit about Alex and Lena. Where's the teenage passion? Instead of lover's quarrels (think The Notebook), I felt like they hated each other as the story progressed. As a result, the romantic (?) ending was odd.   

Overall, kind of a cheesy non-ending for the series. It's been a few weeks and I can't remember how the story was resolved; I only remember being disappointed. Not a good sign. 

Finished August 16, 2014
by Rainbow Rowell

Review: 3.5 to 4 / 5 
At first, I did not enjoy the main character ...or her job ...or her family. I did not care. Almost as soon as the yellow telephone showed up, I began paying attention and couldn't put the book down. I loved the back and forth and flew through the last half of the book (maybe even the last two-thirds). Thank goodness because I was really starting to think this might be a Rainbow Rowell letdown! 

I don't know what the future holds for the characters and I was really starting to worry about Georgie's lack of underwear and clothing choices (gosh, especially at the end), but the resolution was really intriguing (trying to avoid any spoilers). I think she'll find her way. 

I almost cried full-on crocodile tears at the end of this, which is very rare for me! (I can only remember bawling during HP 7, a delirious one-night read of The Notebook, and obviously The Fault in Our Stars.)

My only mini spoiler: So glad she didn't give a hoot about Seth. He didn't deserve her!

Finished August 19, 2014
by Lisa McMann

Review: 4 / 5 
What a fun series. I love that McMann cuts to the chase and doesn't include a bunch of filler fluff. She gets to the meat of the story —quickly. I must say, the event kept my heart rate up and it was exciting to have more people involved in this round. I also enjoyed the change of scenery — getting away from the piles and pizza! The conclusion was interesting, too. Not too convoluted, which could have been a terrible letdown. 

Jules is a great character and I'm sad this is the end. 

(Also, when I picture Trey I imagine Nolan from Revenge.)

Finished August 21, 2014
by Dave Isay (/StoryCorps)

Review: 4.5 to 5 / 5 
We recieved this as a wedding gift last year. Originally I thought it would be super mushy and "not my thing", but I was wrong! I picked it up last night because I saw a StoryCorps animation on PBS last weekend and I hadn't actually read the subtitle of this book. 

Generally collections of personal stories remind me of the Chicken Soup books (which I used to enjoy, but probably aren't "my thing" anymore). This collection was well curated. I love that they're taken from audio clips and they move fast. 

There are some gems. I enjoyed stories of interesting meetings and wild courtships. (And there's a terribly sad/nerve wracking tale about 9/11.) As other reviews have suggested, if you love the couples in When Harry Met Sally... you'll adore this book.

Finished August 22, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Megan Abbott 

Review: 3 / 5 
I may have made a mistake choosing this as an audiobook. Had I imagined the girl's voices, I may have liked them more (if it's possible to like a bunch of self-professed "bitches." They really are horrible people.) 

There were a lot of repetitive sequences which I could have skimmed while reading, but I had to power through while running. Not very motivating. Addy was kind of an idiot, but by the end everything clicked (for her and the reader).

I really enjoyed Addy grilling Tasi (can't spell a name I've only heard, sorry) because it felt a little noir. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how I felt about the ending. The big Addy-centric reveal was not surprising... lots of clues dropped along the way (including her love for the coach). And the eventual "event"-related reveal was also kind of ho-hum. Honestly, I wanted it to be (SPOILER) Beth, because I hated her. But goodness, how is it okay that Beth "got away" with everything?

Finished August 28, 2014
by Becca Fitzpatrick 

Review: 1.5 to 2 / 5 
I really enjoyed the first book, but this one made me so angry. Nora is an idiot. Near the end she was almost logical about one thing (Scott), but by that point it didn't follow her established pattern. She consistently put herself in ridiculous situations. Situations that could have been avoided had she 1. thought about it for two more minutes or 2. told someone (anyone!) the truth. 

Let's compare this to New Moon: Bella is sad Edward leaves so she puts herself in the path of danger to hear his voice. Her danger includes riding a motorcycle with her werewolf friend. Nora, on the other hand, convinces herself she doesn't want Patch's help, yet voluntarily goes to some weird biker gang/angel pool hall (the second one in the series!) AND hangs out with people that might be murders. Good plan. 

Vee is also an idiot. She was funny in book one, but I thought she was a pretty shitty friend here. Nora is constantly left home alone by her mother*, gets into even more terrible situations than those mentioned above (I'm still wondering how she got her schoolwork out of the library), and Vee's like, "hey I have a boyfriend now so I'll just drop you off at this dark place and drive away before making sure you're safe. Bye!"

FINALLY -- I've heard it a million times how terrible the relationships in Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight are. I enjoyed those books as fluff and didn't really follow the logic because it seemed like the power dynamic shifted as the stories progressed. Lordy, the same could not be said with this book. I felt sick when Nora and Patch were talking. It was not sexy - it felt like abuse. I get that he was unable to be honest (and we knew how it would end up), but that's no excuse. Edward and Christian – as turd-ish as they could be when angry– where never so horrible.

Anyway, the cliffhanger was exciting. I'll keep reading, but this one was a dud. 

(Sorry this was so long. I had a lot of feelings)

*By the way, after the detective comes to her house when she's been assaulted, how is it OK that he leaves her home alone?! Isn't she 16? And isn't this the second time she's been threatened (possibly third if he believed her library story)? Good police work. And not to mention, Vee is once again terrible for not offering Nora a place to stay.

- - - - - - - -

For the most part, these reviews were ripped from my Goodreads. 

What did you read in August? 
What are you reading now? 

What I'm looking forward to: The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman and making a bigger dent in House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. (I'm about 180 pages into the 700 page book! Enjoying it so far.)

As always, be my friend on Goodreads.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Emerald City Half Marathon Race Recap

"Running is terrible. Meow."
Egads, this race was a doozy. 

The Emerald City Half Marathon took place 7:00am on August 24, 2014 in Dublin, Ohio. [The course]

I had a premonition this was going to be horrible. I woke up at 4:54am, got dressed and ready, then proceeded to have some stomach issues til we needed to leave at 5:30am. I won't get into the details, but yikes. Seemed like an inauspicious beginning to my day. 

Let's just cut to the chase, shall we? 

The Beginning I lined up with a slower pace group than normal. 10:40/mile (2:20 finish) instead of 10:20/mile (2:15 finish). I figured it was the smart thing to do since the humidity was very high (almost 90%) and there was a chance for high temps. Looking back, probably not a good idea. I kind of felt like I was trotting along and never found my stride. In fact, I eventually lost the pace group... and kept going slower and slower and slower... 

Just before mile 3 the quarter marathoners split off. Man, I really wanted to go with them. I started to think, "Would I really get into trouble? I'll still get my medal..." but I stayed the course (literally). 

The Beginning of the End
Miles 4 and 5 weaved through a nice neighborhood and up some hills. Hey, I was told this was a flat course! I wanted to walk. I was having a really hard time breathing in the soupy air (not quite gasping, but I could never get a deep breath). It wasn't terribly hot, but it was foggy and thick – kind of like running through a cloud on Mars (or so I imagined). Additionally, my left leg was locking up behind the knee. 

I can't remember the first time I seriously considered walking. I think it was near mile 5. I was losing sight of the pace group and people were dropping like flies all around me. One girl would run/walk so that every time I caught up to her at my slow trot she'd start running. Honestly, that was kind of annoying.

When we turned into the Metro Park (miles 6 and 7) I wanted to go home. By this point, I had a blister or two forming. I never get blisters. NEVER. So naturally it made me really whiny. My tummy still felt gross and I kept thinking about calling Alex to come get me, or faking an emergency so the nice first aid people would drive me back. Before mile 8 I had to stop THREE times to chuck rocks out of my shoes. 

Smiling for Alex / glad to be done.
The End
Miles 9 - 12 had me walking a little bit. Let's face it: I was ovvvverrrrrr it. This made Cap City seem like a dream. At one point the 2:30 finish pace group passed me. What a downer. I knew immediately that my time was definitely going to be 10+ minutes slower than Cap City. Instead of motivating me to pick up the pace, I took a little pity walk while I ate my complimentary GU. (Another thing I don't do normally - I usually eat chews.)

Ultimately, I finished strongish. I ran the last mile at a respectable pace. I smiled as I crossed the line (mainly because Alex was taking my photo and hollering at me). I'm not that sore today and I wasn't very tried after. I'm a little relived by that. My feet were rubbed raw and burned, but I took a nice bath and didn't walk around too much yesterday, so they're okay (Plus, I'm wearing fluffy moccasins today.)

In summary
The course was lovely and the weather – minus the humidity – was nice: overcast and kind of breezy, but it wasn't my day. I had a bad attitude going into it, I'd skipped my 5 and 6 mile runs the week before, and I didn't really run the beginning. I trotted. And so, the rest of the race was a trot to keep up, some sad walking breaks, and general grumblings of "why do people sign up for these? This is it. Never again."

I'm here for the chocolate milk.
Things I've learned:
  1. I hate running in humidity. I am not a summer distance runner. Give me a 30-50 degree day and I'll love you forever. 
  2. My audiobook wasn't great. I was listening to Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. It's an okay book, but not too riveting. Not to mention, around mile 11 the protagonist starts drinking a ton of liquor discussing how nauseous she is. I had to switch over to music at that point... 
  3. I should have started with a different pace group. 10:20/mile didn't exist (they had 9:55), so honestly I'm not sure what I would have done differently. But Lordy, this was night and day from the 10 miler a few weeks ago (where I ran a few miles under 10 minutes.)
  4. Attitude is everything. I wasn't feeling it, I just wanted to go home, and it sucked.
  5. Well, running slower means I'm less sore. 
  6. I don't want to be in the back of the pack again. 

Will I run another half? 
During the race (miles 5-end) I kept thinking how stupid long races are. They are SO self-indulgent! "Look at me run a stupid distance! Look at my medal!" In the car on the way home I told Alex it was ridiculous. I told him I wouldn't do it again. I was so totally bummed with my result and it wasn't fun. I said I'd keep doing 5-15Ks and 10 milers, but never a half. 

Then I sat around at home for a while. I really like running far with my running group. I woke up today and thought, "Well, I still have half a season left. Everyone else is training for October 19*, so maybe I should train for October 19." Get a shot at redemption! *Can I also add: it totally sucked to be on a separate training schedule from my running group. It certainly didn't help my summertime running sadness. One point of commiseration: the only other dude in my group to run Em City also had a horrible day. Yay for shared misery!

So, in conclusion: It sucked. I hated it. It was slow. I wanted to die (quit). BUT I might sign up for one more half in the (cooler) fall.

Mile splits:
1 mi    10:42 min/mi
2 mi    10:31 min/mi
3 mi    10:19 min/mi
4 mi    10:33 min/mi
5 mi    11:06 min/mi
6 mi    10:44 min/mi
7 mi    10:44 min/mi
8 mi    11:34 min/mi
9 mi    13:45 min/mi (I was pouting with my GU here)
10 mi    11:42 min/mi
11 mi    12:04 min/mi
12 mi    11:34 min/mi
13 mi    11:53 min/mi
13.6 mi 10:40 min/mi

Final time: 2:33 (Cap City was 2:19) :'(
What a change from the last two races. Bummer. Oh well... onward and upward!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Books of July 2014

Let's start a new feature, shall we?

Welcome to the inaugural installment of "Books of [Insert Month and Year]!"

July was a strange month. Lots of regular work, lots of freelance work, dog sitting, mini-trips, and catching up on sleep. (I had many 10 hour nights last week. I needed it.) Travel included a work trip to Dallas, a friend trip to Cleveland, two weddings, and a two-winery tour of Ashtabula county. Weird month, but these books got me through it:

Finished July 2, 2014
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Review: 4 / 5
I'm torn: On one hand, this is a great book about an important subject. On the other, it felt very... flat. Haley and her father would go into rages, but for some reason I didn't get upset. I didn't cry at the end when I was "supposed to." I didn't start liking either of them more as the book progressed. In fact, I think I liked Haley less.

Back to that other hand: military-induced PTSD is not something I've read about in fiction, let alone YA. I think this was great attempt. In the end, I wish there was more feeling (but maybe we were supposed to be numb like Haley?). And I do wish the author would have given us a better ending and not one of those wrap-up chapters I hate so much.

My rating goes from 3 for blah feelings to 4.5 for interesting subject matter.

Finished July 5, 2014
Blessing the Hands that Feed Us...
by Vicki Robin

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway... last year. It took me a long time to read... I started in April. That's not a reflection on the book, just a reflection on my non-fiction reading. 

Review: 3 / 5
I enjoyed the subject matter of this book (eating local), but felt it took a turn about 100 pages from the end. The 30 day challenge was complete and even though the author still had interesting points to cram in, they felt very disconnected. I found myself zoning out and skimming.

Overall, excellent points and an interesting challenge. I'm not sure this would work in locations with extreme climates, but her island seemed like a perfect testing ground. There were many do it yourself activities at the end of each chapter. Though I skimmed them, I appreciated the guidance.

Some parts were 5 star thought-provoking, but the repetition later on canceled out my initially high rating.

Finished July 15, 2014
The Girls from Corona del Mar
by Rufi Thorpe

Review 4 / 5
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Well-written debut novel. It was a quick read that covered a few disturbing topics. I enjoyed Lorrie Ann's last response -- it was an interesting look at the narrator.

I'd recommend this novel to most of my Goodreads friends.

Finished July 16, 2014 (eBook)
by Nora Ephron

Review 3.5 / 5 
The ending was great but the rest of the book hovered around a 3. It was fun to see lines that eventually made it into When Harry Met Sally... Based on the writing style* I'm sure this made a better movie. Now I need to watch it.

*This would probably make a great audiobook.

Finished July 18, 2014
by Cecily von Ziegesar

This was just about when life started catching up with me an I needed a good veg out!

Review: 4 / 5
I've only read book 1 and got this for 80 cents. Made for a good stress-free summertime read. Having watched the show, it was fun to see which stories made it onscreen. I enjoyed the book version more. Everyone's much more likable in my head. Blair and Nate together really works. Vanessa and Dan aren't as obnoxious. But Chuck and his pet monkey? No, thanks.

(I just read the summaries for the other books and I'm not sure I care. I think I picked the perfect one for skipping ahead.)

Read July 22, 2014
Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction's Most Beloved Heroines
by Samantha Hahn

Review: 4 / 5
A beautiful book and a quick read. I have to admit I had some issues:

First, ONE Asian and ONE black character. Surely there are great non-white female characters in popular classics (there are). Second, the quote from Elizabeth Bennett was poorly chosen as a representation of her character. And finally, while I LOVE the art, the quotes and art became repetitive: quotes of suffering next to beautiful, young, white women.

Oh, and where was Tess?!

Mainly this got a 4 because it is gorgeous and I might be overly sensitive to the inclusion of POC. Anyone else?

Read July 25, 2014
by Wolfgang Parker

Review: 4 / 5
I found out about this book from a co-worker. Missing is a cute children's (chapter) book set in the Columbus neighborhood Clintonville. It was fun to read about familiar places, changed just enough to add drama. I'd definitely read another! 

Finished July 25, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lauren Oliver

Review: 4 / 5 
3.5-4. MUCH better than the first. Things actually happened! A few "twists" were really predictable, but that seems to be the norm with this new wave of dystopian novels. I'm not sure if this was better because I listened to it while jogging (vs. reading), but it was an improvement, regardless.

- - - - - - - -

These reviews are ripped straight from my Goodreads. If it's not working, perhaps I'll write longer reviews next month. 

What did you read in July? 
What are you reading now? 

What I'm looking forward to: Gasp by Lisa McMann, Landline by Rainbow Rowell, The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman, and making a bigger dent in House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.
As always, be my friend on Goodreads.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Pinterest and Tumblr

Just a reminder you can find me on Pinterest and Tumblr. (Mainly because I update them more frequently.)

Scioto Miles 10 Miler Race Recap

Yesterday I woke up at 4:50am to run a 10 mile "race." I'm feeling pretty achy today, but overall it was an improvement over the half marathon in May.

Bright and early!
Getting Ready
The race was point to point, so we had to take a bus from the finish line to the start. Because of this, everyone had to arrive an hour to an hour and a half before the 7:00AM start time. I was lucky to get to bed by 10 (I'm a night owl) and get a decent night's sleep, so waking up at 4:50 wasn't terrible.

I made a friend on the bus and we chatted until the race began. I recognized several people from other races and my running group, but it was nice to have someone to talk to to take my mind off any pre-race nerves.

The Run
I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel like walking after mile... 1? I was tired. There was a large (for Columbus) hill at the start and a few others in the first 4 miles. I realllllly need to start training on hills. I live in a relatively flat city, so a tiny 50 ft incline kills me.

I texted Alex during those first miles. I knew he'd be around mile 4.5 so, in addition to warning him that I was close, I also complained about the hills. ;) It was kind of fun to text and run. Maybe not the best idea for speed, but it was entertaining. I didn't have my phone during Cap City, so perhaps I was amused by the novelty of being able to text him.

Anyway, I passed him at mile 4.5. Just before that a few girls near me started to walk. I really wanted to join them, but I persevered and told myself to at least make it halfway. By this point, the field was spread out. I was between the 1:40 and 1:45 finish pace groups. My goal finish was 1:45, but I was feeling pretty good about my pace. Tired, but it seemed sustainable.

Around the 4.5 mile mark. Lots of pavement.

Around mile 5 we took a turn onto the bike path. It was gorgeous. The tree canopy was a welcome relief from the rising sun. I kept running. I didn't want to stop! (Ok, that might be a lie.) I was in a group of 4 or 5 runners with space between and I kept them in my sights. Around 6.5 I thought, "Maybe a 10k or quarter marathon is my optimal distance! I feel ok." Everything was going pretty well...

...Until mile 7 when we had to climb a hill to cross a bridge. Ouch. At the same time the 1:45 pace group passed me (10:30/mile). Bummer. According to Map My Run I was maintaining a just over 10 minute pace. I was confused.  By the time I got to mile 8 I was dead. Two girls in front of me started to walk. Then a really tall dude, then two other guys that looked fit. And then, I walked. I KNOW. Terrible. I walked an uphill and told myself that would be it. Unfortunately, I ended up walking a few uphills. In my defense, they were uphill and full sun. After the woods, I was not ready for the hot glare of the sun! I texted Alex, "8 had to walk." And he replied, "That's ok! Almost there!" How nice. I kept run/walking through mile 8, as did the three individuals near me. I wonder if they'd kept running would I have willed myself to follow? I'm not sure... I was pretty freaking tired.

So, mile 8 sucked. Mile 9 arrived and I told myself I had to run the whole thing. I walked a bit up a hill, but for the most part I kept myself going. As I turned the corner to the finish I had a little bit of energy left, so I picked up the pace. I didn't sprint in, but ran a little faster. As I crossed the line, the announcer said something about "there are still finishers on the course, cheer them on!" so I immediately knew I wasn't breaking any records. ;)

In a good mood at the end.
This was a FAST field of runners. This was a runners race. Generally if I run around a 10:00-10:30/mile I know my finishing place will be around 50% . I was 72% (330 our of 458)! The winner ran 10 miles in 54 minutes! I won't lie, it was a little disheartening, but only because I kept wondering how I'd do if I actually ran the whole thing.

I slacked off this summer. I didn't run all of my runs during the week and I've been avoiding challenging hills. The compressed training schedule to get ready for my upcoming 1/2 didn't help, but I'm still glad I ran this. I'd do it again next year.

It's weird that I don't run the whole time in these long races. I guess I need to work on the mental part of the run. Sure, I'm tired, but I think I need to jog a bit slower for a while instead of stopping. Once I stop, it's really hard for me to keep running consistently.

I wanted a 1:45 finish. Well, really, I wanted a 1:43 finish. My official finish was 1:47.

Again, I'm kind of bummed because obviously those extra minutes were spent walking. I'm also confused because my Map My Run said I rain 10.41 miles at a 10:20 pace, while my official finish says I ran a 10:40 pace (I'm sure they're using 10.02 miles for distance). Am I taking the long way around a course? I know part of that accounts for the starting line, but was I really weaving that badly or did my app lie? I do weave around a bit, so perhaps I need to focus on taking the shortest path next race.

Sweet medal.
My mile splits
1 mi         09:43 min/mi
2 mi         10:00 min/mi
3 mi         09:59 min/mi
4 mi         10:12 min/mi
5 mi         10:22 min/mi
6 mi         10:34 min/mi
7 mi         09:56 min/mi
8 mi         10:17 min/mi
9 mi         11:39 min/mi (whoops)
10 mi       10:18 min/mi
10.4 mi    09:49 min/mi

Overall, I'm happy with the run. I'm still confused by Map My Run vs. reality, but whatever. I'll pretend I ran a 10:20 pace. ;) Pretty nervous about the 1/2 in 2 weeks considering I wanted to die around mile 8, but maybe I'll be in better shape...

At Home:
As I mentioned before, I'm achy, but feeling pretty good leg-wise. Unfortunately, I spent the day yesterday with a terrible stomach ache I couldn't do anything about. I ate a normal amount of food, but constantly felt like crap. Still feel like crap today. Apparently this is a thing some runners deal with (?!).

Next time
  1. Run it all. (duh)
  2. Do not skip any training runs during the week! 
  3. Do not skimp on the distance of your training runs (lately I've gone 3.6 miles instead of 4, or 4.2 instead of 5. No bueno.)
  4. Train on hills! It sucks. You'll have a slow time, but just do it to prep for races!
  5. I probably ought to cross train... maybe I can focus on that later. ;) I run so I don't have to do anything else!
And this concludes another race round-up.

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