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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Race Recap: Maria's Miles 3 Miler

The crowd was 1,000 deep.

Maria's Miles took place Saturday, October 11 at 10:00am in Italian Village (a little neighborhood just north of downtown Columbus). The run was marketed as a 3 miler, but I wanted to use it as a chance to accomplish one of my goals for 2014: run a 5k with an under 9-minute mile pace. [Note: From here out I'm going to round up and call this a 5K because Map My Run said it was 3.09 miles.]

Alex joined me for our first 5K together since Valentine's Day and his first event in six months. Alex had one "training" run under his belt and guess what? (spoiler alert) He placed fourth. Yes, 4TH. Can you imagine being naturally good at something and NOT taking advantage of it?

Anyway...

The Race
This was the inaugural Maria's Miles. If you aren't from Columbus, or familiar with Maria's Message you can read a bit more here. The event is a run/walk and served as a lead-in to the yearly Italian Festival. Alex and I have never attended the Italian Fest, so it was fun to finally take part.

After a few words from Maria's family and the national anthem, we set off. Alex and I intentionally lined up near the front (we're in the picture above!) because a majority of the field would be walking. He took off. I could see him for a few blocks, but then he was gone.

Whoopsie.
I started fast, but not too fast. I knew I was definitely under 10 minutes per mile, but wasn't sure if I was under 9. I didn't have my phone GPS, just a normal watch clocking my time. Around six tenths of a mile we passed the starting line and shortly after that, just before going under the highway, I totally bit it.

Yes, I fell.

I found myself suddenly on the ground, breaking the fall with my left hand, right elbow, and both knees. So strange for many reasons, but first: prior to the race Alex said, "Watch out for stuff in the road!" Second, I did not trip on anything. And I didn't realize I'd fallen until I was down on the ground. It went something like this: Oh I'm tripping. -- I'm ok, lalala -- Wait I'm on the ground?!-- Ack, get up this is embarrassing! In all, it lasted about 15 seconds. I got up immediately - it didn't occur to me to stop to assess the damage. I said something like, "that was weird." to the nice man next to me and kept running. He was supportive and remarked, "that's the problem with running on the road!"

So, that happened around seventh tenths of a mile... Only 2.3 to go!

When I crossed mile marker 1 my watch said 8:24! Sweet! But, obviously, my hand and legs were pulsing with pain. Also, I was starting to get tired. Unlike past runs (you know, the ones where I have 10 more miles to go), I didn't allow myself to walk because if I walk after 1 flippin' mile how on earth can I expect to run an entire half marathon? (Running really is mental. I need to remember this.) At mile 2 we headed uphill. It sucked and people started to walk, but I stuck it out. I knew I was slowing down, but mile 2's time was 17 something... still headed towards my goal pace.

When we hooked around Goodale Park the grossest sounding man was hot on my trail. He was literally groaning "ughhhhh," gasping, and coughing. It was disgusting. So, I let him pass. About a half mile from the end a woman (my age!) came prancing behind me breathing as if she'd left her inhaler at home. It was so incredibly loud that I began to internalize and echo her rapid breathing. Once again, I had to take a step back and let her pass.

But the end was near. Despite my fall, I wasn't feeling too terrible, just tired from running quicker than normal. I didn't feel like I was running very fast, but I knew I was keeping an okay pace. I wasn't sure if I would achieve my goal, but I was happy I'd kept running after my fall.

Map My Run gave me a slightly different pace from the chip timer.
I crossed the line at 26:31. At the time I didn't know my pace and I quickly forgot to care when Alex saw me and asked, "What happened to your leg?!" I finally looked down at my legs to inspect the damage. I had no idea I was bleeding! The entire time I thought only the palm of my left hand was scratched.

Final results online show my pace was 8:33/mile! Wooooo!! One 2014 goal accomplished!

Overall: 72/808 (8%) 
Age Group: 5/114 (!!!)

Post race goodies included water, bananas, chocolate milk, and subs. The event shirts were super soft. I ran in mine, which was a little bizarre for me because I rarely run in t-shirts, but it was comfortable and seemed to breath well. We left shortly after eating our subs so Alex could do some side work, but were able to enjoy part of the Italian Festival (I even got some free popcorn from a woman that pitied my wound). 1,000 participants for the first year is impressive and I could see it becoming an even larger event in the future.

Some things I did differently during this run: ran faster (ha!), wore a t-shirt, wore sunglasses (forgot to put them in the gear check), no music/no audiobooks, no phone, no GPS, no water bottle ... so, really, I did a lot differently. Maybe that's why I fell? ;)

Up next: Loveland Half Marathon. (Next week!!) I'm not sure what to expect, but no matter; at least I know all of this half marathon training has helped knock :30 seconds off my 5K mile pace.

See all race recaps here.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Books of September 2014

September included my first wedding anniversary, first NFL game (Browns vs. Ravens), first trail race, first time winning prizes at an event (not for my skills. They were thrown into the audience.), and my second and third time visiting my mom in the hospital. (She's better now!)

The book list of September, while it may appear impressively long at first glance, is actually filled with audiobooks and graphic novels. So, you know, really heady stuff. I'm trying to find a new batch of audiobooks to run to and it's slow-going.

Anyway, let's get started:

Finished September 4, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lauren Oliver

Review: 3.5–4 / 5 
3.5-4: This is the best of the 4 Lauren Oliver books I've read or listened to. (Still need to read Panic.)

The story follows Sam, a high school girl in the top senior clique, dating a super popular dumb guy, and dealing with insecurities related to her less-than-popular past. A couple reviewers call it Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls. I can dig that. 

When a character relives a day over and over, it can become tedious. I thought Oliver did a good job making the repeated day feel fresh each time. The book's a bit long for what it is, but I can see why Sam had to have certain interactions before the end. 

As for the end: meh. I'd say that was my only strike. But really, what are you going to do with a theme like this? You can't have it end like Groundhog Day so, ultimately, I can respect the decision.

My only other complaint is teen angst – especially at the end with the otherwise calm Kent – but, I suppose that comes with the territory in a book like this. 

Finished September 8, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Lemony Snicket

Review: 3 / 5 
I picked this up on a whim and probably enjoyed it more as an audiobook than I would have in print. I enjoyed the different voices and the narrator's British accent. 

It's a pretty disturbing story when you think about it, but for some reason kids seem to like that. I know I did when I was young. 

I'll keep listening to these. They're really short and would probably keep me entertained during a long run.

Finished September 9, 2014
by Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

Review: 5 / 5 Best book of the month. 
I loved this. It's right up there with Misery as a favorite Stephen King (/Richard Bachman) novel. 

I can't say too much about it without giving up the end, but I did take to the web to find out "what it all means" after it ended. (The ending was pretty abrupt considering the long route to get there.) There were so many interpretations; mainly a commentary on society -duh- and perhaps referring to (too) young men volunteering for the military without knowing what to expect. 

I would love to see this as a movie, but it's been optioned for years, so I'm not too hopeful. The things they could do with flashbacks interspersed with the pain of the event -- whew. I'd see that in a heartbeat.

Abandoned September 10, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Suzanne Young

Review: 1 / 5 Worst book of the month. 
Audiobook rating: I gave this two hours and it never improved. The narrator is monotone and I can't tell if it's intentional or if she shouldn't be allowed to narrate books. 

Story: The plot is pretty much like every other dystopian teen novel, but I may pick up the book someday soon. I have faith it could be a quick, fairly interesting read. I'm just not sure I care about moody teens with high rates of suicide... especially if this is a series. 

Finished September 13, 2014
by Roald Dahl

Review: 3.5–4 / 5 
I saw the movie a long while ago, but never read the book. Found it for 80 cents and gave it a try. 

Pretty dark and twisted for a children's book. The grandma is pretty frank with her grandson about the witches of the world. Coincidentally, he walks into a witches' convention and overhears their grand plans. I remembered the movie pretty well, and about 3/4 through the book and the movie go different ways. The book ending is completely different - a bit dark, but still lovely - but I can see why the movie couldn't swing it. Very bizarre. I wish I'd read it as a kid just to see if I'd have liked it.

Finished September 15, 2014 (Audiobook)
by Chelsea Handler

Review: 3 / 5 
In the beginning, I kept thinking "Wow, Chelsea Handler is a horrible person." I maintained this opinion until the last two stories. Luckily, Ms. Handler seemed to have the same opinion and I felt she turned a corner near the end.

The audiobook was narrated by the same woman who read Orange is the New Black. In my times of deepest doubt (Story 1 or 2: "Am I going to finish this book?"), I would pretend these things were happening to Piper and it was easier to swallow.


Finished September 23, 2014
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman 

Review: 3 / 5 
I read their blog, so I've seen a few of these projects in the background of posts. 

What I liked: the photos and book layout are amazing. I really loved the table of contents and how it shows a thumbnail of each project. For the most part, Emma and Elsie keep things simple. I think that's what makes them so appealing. When I read their blog I feel like I could make everything I see. 

Not wild about: the tutorials were very simple. Almost to the point where I had to wonder if they had time to write the book while making all these items. Then again, if you've ever read a DIY book, chances are you can fill in the small steps yourself. 

What I'd like to see more of: before and afters. I'm sure it was a result of having an outside photographer, but I would have loved to see some of the spaces before they were finished. 

I'd also love to see more from their team. I think this was written before they had full time staff, but the pages with nine of the same object in different styles got me thinking: Their next book could include some of the new, more complicated woodworking tutorials from Josh (?) and several variations of smaller projects by each member of the staff - including the husbands. That would be cool. 

Overall, a fun book. I didn't come out of it with any new projects, but I appreciate their not perfect approach to life. This had a lot less text than the photo book, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. 

Finished September 23, 2014
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

Review: 3 / 5 
Overall, it feels like this book was right in their wheelhouse vs the home DIY book. I think they're starting to get deeper into home decor, but they were more experienced with photography when this book was written (and had more content as a result).

As many have stated, this is not for photographers. No F stops and ISO, just simple ideas for taking photos, developing skills with a camera that does most of the work, and refining an eye for detail.

I didn't read much that I didn't already know, but I could see it being helpful to someone starting out.

Other reviewers also mentioned this feels like a book about taking perfect Instagram pictures and selfies. In the end, it did sort of feel that way with all of the images of Emma and Elsie. But it's their book and they practice on each other, so it makes sense. If they create a second edition or volume, I'd like to see them include their staff (though maybe Sarah will be the photographer?) and maybe tips about natural settings/travel photography.

The tutorials at the end were a mix of great ideas and a few "yikes, you must have run out of time" projects. I think their new team members could probably help flesh that out a bit, too.

Oh! One thing I loved and want to see more of: the examples of bad setup vs good (lighting mainly). Would love to see this extended to cropping, framing, color selection, filters, etc.


Finished September 25, 2014
by Lev Grossman

Review: 4–4.5 / 5 
The second actual book I read this month!

My favorite of the series, by far. It had a lot of the elements I liked in the other books, but smooshed together: Brakebills, Fillory, underground magic, etc. 

To be honest, I forgot most of the plot from the first and second books. I should have refreshed myself with a summary, but I was afraid of spoilers, so I avoided it (advice: Wikipedia is spoiler free for book 3 if you only read the plot summaries for books 1 and 2.) I was able to fill in the blanks as it went along, but one character reveal in the middle confused me and didn't make sense until I finished the book and consulted Wikipedia. 

Anyway, I think these books would be even better on a second read. I may even try them on audiobook. 

Quentin started the series as a total tool, but in the end he seemed like a decent guy. Occasionally I'd roll my eyes at a plot point that seemed a little too convenient, but overall I'm very satisfied with the ending. 


Read on September 25, 2014
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

Review: 4 / 5 
I enjoyed the back and forth between times; now, then, and later. The art was nice and clean, though the main characters looked a little old. Maybe they are. Anyway, the background gags were fun to seek out. I laughed out loud at a few. 

I was surprised how graphic it was, but probably because I read kid comic books. ;) Nothing too crazy, but lots of naked bits and porn. But what was I expecting from a book called sex criminals? 

I'll keep reading these as they are released. I appreciated the art process write-up and the extra cover art in the back of the book.
 
Read on September 30, 2014
by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman)

Review: 3.5 / 5 
I have stupid reasons for not giving it a higher rating, so I thought I'd round up to 4. 

First, I've read a lot of this before on The Oatmeal or other websites. I don't seek out his comics daily, so I was surprised I'd seen half of the book. I do appreciate the new content. 

My other ridiculous complaint is how he depicts himself as a fat blobby man. It's really cute and endearing... until you see what he actually looks like: a thin, fit runner-man. So, having that mental image of a person in tip top shape (who is very fast for a non pro runner, despite his statement about his PR) is a little weird when you read all of the negative statements about his body and eating habits. It almost seems like body dysmorphia, but in this case I think he's trying to appeal to a larger crowd. Also, he said he used to be fat, so I'm sure that's always with him.

I could relate to a lot of this book, but he is pretty intense in his running, feelings about people at the gym, and life in general. I've enjoyed many of his online comics, but those are usually about more universal topics like work, grammar, or cats. 

I'm sure a lot of runners will get this for Christmas / Hanukkah 2014.

- - - - - - - -

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

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

What I'm looking forward to: Getting back to House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Totally abandoned it last month. Whoops. I have a few books reserved at the library, but I forget what they are so they must be super exciting.

As always, be my friend on Goodreads.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Race Recap: Summer Squatch 10k

Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The Summer Squatch 10k trail run took place 6:15pm Thursday, September 17, 2014 at Alum Creek State Park. [The course]

Prior to Tuesday, September 18 (two days before the race) I had never run on an actual trail. I've hiked lots of trails - flat and mountainous - but I've never run on one. A couple months ago I saw a photo on Women's Running and thought, "I've got to get into that." It seemed like a perfect combination of running and being outdoorsy– two of my favorite things. (Add in an audiobook and I'd be in heaven.) Then the soul-crushing Emerald City Half obliterated my love of running and I didn't sign up for much of anything. For a week, anyway.

I signed up for the Summer Squatch the day before the final price hike. $45 still seems like a lot for a 10k, but it felt like an "experience." And let's get this out of the way: I signed up for the race because of the awesome medal.

So cool | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
I wasn't prepared in the sense that I hadn't trained for it at all. I was supposed to run some trails down in the Hocking Hills on our anniversary trip the weekend before, but we ended up hiking, exploring Athens, and drinking a lot of beer. Whoops. To make up for my lack of experience, I read a few articles. Pretty much the only nugget of wisdom I took from the articles: Your pace will be about 2-3 minutes slower than normal.

I eventually ran on a gravel path (easy) Monday before the race and followed it up with an honest to goodness trail run on Tuesday. But only 2.5 miles because the trail ran out. I was ready (ha). Inside I just kept telling myself, "just don't finish last." (My rule in cross country. What can I say? I'm still too lazy to actually train.)

My hilliest course, to date
The race
We arrived after sitting in rush hour traffic. Good times! (I don't know how anyone works downtown and lives in Powell. How do you get home everyday without going crazy?) We arrived to find a few things: the park bathroom was not open (I used the woods. They eventually brought porta-potties), the size small shirt was gigantic (but still very cool. I have since used it as PJs.), and - ohmigod -everyone looked like trail pros. I had my headlamp and water bottle, but you could tell this group knew how to handle a trail.

We're off! | Photo by Fleet Feet Columbus
The trail was constructed (by hand/shovel) last winter. As we lined up at the start we were told to watch out for rocks and roots (the trail's namesake)... and water crossings.

I kept myself to the back and let the pros hurry forward. The first 3/4 mile was on relatively flat grass with a few gulches and one water crossing that took a girl down. She immediately got back up, threw her arms in the air, and screamed, "woooooooo!!" before continuing on. Impressive. I latched on to a woman wearing a Warrior Dash t-shirt and a camelback. She was going at an easy pace and I knew I had a lot of trail ahead.

Almost as soon as we crossed into the woods there was a steep downhill. We're taking hold-on-to-the-trees-as-you-go-down steep. A guy stopped to take a photo of it. Immediately after was a steep uphill. The ladies in front of me walked, so I walked. I was taking my cues from the pros.

Around mile 1 some of the ladies got confused and tried to turn before they were supposed to. It was the only mishap on the trail and the race volunteers set them straight, but not before I passed the group. My beacons were gone, but I soon latched on to two very chatty ladies up ahead. By this point the field was starting to spread out and they were the only two runners I could see, so my expert plan became stay with them!

Typical trail view
I had MapMyRun alerting me to every half mile. My pace was wavering between 11:20 and 12:00 for a while. Faster than I anticipated, but it seemed slower than reality. I felt like I was flying down the trail. Occasionally, the two runners ahead would talk to me. It was tough because I had headphones in and listening to The Archers. From our short conversations I found out they are in MIT (10:30 and 10:45 pace group), ran full marathons, and ran at least one 50k trail run. I was impressed. Also a little impressed with myself for staying with them. But, they were talking a lot and I was breathing heavy just to keep up.

Every time I passed a mile marker I felt equal parts relief and disbelief. One more down, but it feels like I've run twice as far! Even though I was extremely tired and SO HUNGRY (chews did not cut it on the trail), I was having so much more fun than I had during my two half marathons. I knew I'd do it again.

Between 5.5 and 6 I started to slow down. The ladies walked steep up- and downhills and I followed suit, but I had to confess I was losing steam. I walked a bit more than a downhill, but I was able to keep them in my sights. Somehow! Mile marker 6 came and I knew I only had two tenths of a mile remaining. I came to the final road crossing, got encouragement from some of the race volunteers, and came to the grasslands. I KNEW the race was almost over. The ladies were still up ahead. No one had passed me since mile 1.... but then I had a mini shut down. I stopped and walked (noooooo) and I'm pretty sure I saw stars before my eyes. I ate a chew as I heard two new ladies approach from the rear. I think they said a few words of encouragement as they passed ("You're almost there!" I knowwwww.). If I had one regret in this race, it would be that I stopped running. I should have trotted along and maintained my place. At the time it felt like I would die, but I'm sure two tenths of a mile at 10% power wouldn't have killed me.

Looking nerdy
I crossed the finish line minutes later (running) and had a hard time breathing as I talked to Alex. Weird! But I was so happy to be done and in a new way: not happy because I was soooo over it, but happy that I'd done it! I was proud! And I finished before sunset (about 7:30pm)!

I knew there were at least 5 people behind me based on the folks I'd passed. We stayed for a while after, but as it got darker and darker, I got hungrier and hungrier, so we left before the entire field was finished. The next day, someone asked how I'd done, so I looked up my results.

Overall: 77/108
Females: 27/55

When I see those results I'm pretty happy. And I think about the following: I finished before more than one person! I was 50% for females! This was my first trail 10k. EVER! I did so much better than anticipated. And, ugh, guys are naturally so much faster and stronger. Not fair. ;) This was a field dominated by trail runners -some who helped build the trail and have been on it for months - and I held my own.

Alex's photo from the finish line
Up next
Alex thought it looked fun and even though a 10k is his absolute distance maximum, he wants to sign up for trail races now. We're looking into the two race Rock and Roots Trail Running series this winter. Should be interesting!

Beyond that, I have another half marathon (yikes) on October 19 in Loveland, Ohio and Alex and I will be running the Hot Chocolate Run (he the 5k, me the 15k) on November 16. We're also planning to run a few holiday runs and 5Ks. Gotta love the cooler weather!

My Running goals for the end of 2014
Run a 5K at a sub-9 minute mile pace. Even 8:59 will do.
Run the next half marathon in a respectable time. Ideally, faster than Cap City, but at least faster than Emerald City!
Run more trail races

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Word of the Moment

sang·froid
säNGˈfrwä/Submit
noun
composure or coolness, sometimes excessive, as shown in danger or under trying circumstances.

"He wanted to play the game the way she had, but he had nowhere near the necessary reserve of sarcasm and sangfroid, so he wound up just being honest."  
Source: The Magicians Land, page 163

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.
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