Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Half Marathon: Run this if


You may have noticed I've been a little MIA and sporadic with the posting. (One day, every post will not start with a similar sentence, I swear!) Well, it's been a rough winter, and when I wasn't working (or whining about work or snow or ice), I was mostly training for this half marathon thing I just did, and then too tired to concentrate much on reading or blogging. (Lame, I know.) A year ago I could barely run a 5K - what on earth made me sign up for a half marathon?? I have no idea. Probably just to see if I could really do it. (The answer is: Yes, I can. Woohoo!) Or maybe just to have a goal to work toward. Or maybe because it seemed like a worthier goal for raising money for the wonderful Stray Rescue. (If you are a softie for rescue critters, you can still donate even just a small amount over to the right! It'll be live until the end of April. No pressure at all; it's the place that united us with our ridiculous canines and they are really a fantastic organization.) Or maybe just so that I could officially be "a runner." (I now proclaim myself "officially" a runner.) 

I was not very fast, but I was much faster than my what now seems pitiful 5K last year, and this was more than 4 times as far, and with wonderful IT band issues to boot! I say that as if it's a good thing... it's not. Now for the stretching and foam rolling and exercising to get the leg back into form so I can... keep running. I'm already planning my next half. 

So, should you, dear reader, sign up for a half marathon as well? I don't know. Ask your doctor, as they say. And stuff.

Run a half marathon if:
  • You're looking for some good 'me' time or some social time - it's great to train both alone and with groups. Note: Long runs can be easier with a group. 
  • You need another 'r' to fight having the body of a heavy reader - that is, the idea of an R&R weekend appeals to you in the reading & running sense.
  • You've a playlist already geared to 170-190 bpm to get your cadence just where it should be. 
  • You like listening to audiobooks while exercising. You'll have plenty of time to listen while training.  
  • You just need something to keep you sane. 
  • You want to see what all the fuss is about. 
  • You are not totally and completely repelled by the possibility of removing your shoes to discover that your toes have been bleeding and some toenails may not be sticking around for the summer. (Ladies, apparently you just paint the nail bed, and voila! Sandals anyway.)
Do not run a half marathon if: 
  • Your doctor said no, don't do it. 
  • You think you can just grab any pair of sneakers and go with no plan. You're likely going to injure yourself. 
  • You are afraid of dogs and pedestrians.
  • You are not willing to risk, ahem, runner's trots. 
  • You don't want to get addicted to races. The entrance fees really start to add up after a while... it might eat into your book budget!
  • Your doctor said no, absolutely under no circumstance are you to do any amount of running.

At any rate, go me! Ha. Kidding. But really, I never thought I'd ever run that far, continuously. And no, I am not (currently) thinking about a full. That just seems completely insane. 

Hope all is well, and I'll be back w/ more reads shortly! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

For Immediate Release: Books to Remain Closed Until Further Notice


TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO: A terrifying phenomenon is sweeping the nation: books everywhere, when opened, spill their guts - literally. That is, literature-ally - after a book is opened, the words actually float off the pages and scatter into the air, never to be retrieved again. 

The anomalous book behavior seems to have begun sometime in waning hours yesterday evening. "I didn't know what was happening!" said 9-year-old Timothy Sassypants of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. "I opened my history text book, and nearly choked on the words as they sprang into my mouth and everywhere!" 

Sassypants eventually managed to spit out the offending words, but, tragically, they were gonners. Chapters of his history reader were left completely blank. "I don't think Mr. Sideeye is going to believe me when I tell him why I couldn't finish my homework." Until, that is, Mr. Sideeye opens a book for himself. 

Everything from classics to trashy fodder to dictionaries is susceptible to this text loss disease - except, interestingly, user manuals and the Bible. Textualists and librarians have begun experimentation to see how they might replicate this immunity and inject it into susceptible books. 

Librarian Ms. N. O. Sinabuk of Cripple Creek, Colorado, has locked the doors of the town's library in an effort to save the books from the curious and the devious. "They'll not have the chance to witness the text-floaty-craze from our precious books," she said. "Someone's got to protect the books until they can get this thing under control."

Some theorize that this text-annihilation book disease was developed by an underground book-banning organization. Others speculate a higher power is at the heart of this "letter flood." 

Whatever the cause, dear readers, if you care about books, keep them closed for now. "Experts" hope to have this issue resolved in the near future. Some even say it is likely similar to the 24-hour flu, and we can expect book life to return to normal by tomorrow. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Giveaway! THE UNCHANGEABLE SPOTS OF LEOPARDS by Kristopher Jansma


Last year, I wrote about the wonderful novel The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. This year, I have the opportunity of offering you the chance to win a copy! If you have not yet read the book, you should. I am re-posting last year's review below. Please enter by 11:59pm Monday, March 3rd. Only those with a US street address are eligible. Winner will be notified by March 5, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Originally posted April 11, 2013:

Kristopher Jansma's debut novel, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, is anything but unchangeable. The chameleonic narrator is about as unreliable and changeable as they come, or, at least, that's what he'd have you believe. He insists that he is a liar, a teller of tall tales, and someone other than himself. He'll never tell you his *real* name (or will he), or the names of his trio of friends - which keep changing from one chapter or story within a story to the next. He seemingly seamlessly (say that ten times fast) slides in and out of various characters, from student to writer to journalism professor to plagiarizer for hire to editor, but always he is a writer, or he would be if only he could write something he recognizes as real, and good, and true. Although, he does believe there is an art to - and a hunger for - lying:
The truth is that I actually have the greatest respect for those fantastic liars. Someday I'd like to teach a class entirely about them. "Late Great American Fakes." My humble thesis will be that America no longer desires truth, only the reasonable facsimile thereof. Like battered lovers, we're willing to settle. Our sense of values still holds us to dismiss that which we know, outright, to be blatant lies, but we avoid the truth with equal intensity. We wish to remain in the gray interregnum of half believe, when at all possible. 
Of course, as he later admits, most of his lying is really to himself, and he wonders how much he can change, and how much he has changed, if at all. He muses about such capabilities when he comes across the son of his former lover, his to-date lifelong obsession. The boy is the same age as the narrator when he wrote - and lost - his first book.
Someday he'll see that he can't have one without the other. He can't know he is the same unless everything around him has changed. It's like black spots on black fur - you can't see them, but they're there, all the same.  
He'll think he's moving in zigzags, getting anywhere but where he meant to go. But there are edges to the board, and someday he will reach one, and it is only then that life will place a true crown onto his head. It's only then that he'll be able to turn around and see for the first time a glorious path back from where he came. 
The leopard and chess motifs pepper the novel, and this quote nicely brings them all together.

I'd definitely recommend reading this if:
  • You enjoy contemporary novels that play with form. 
  • You don't mind it when your narrators might be lying to you. 
  • You covet explorations of the hazy lines between perception, truth, fiction, and lies. 
  • Your current theme song could be "You Can't Always Get What You Want." 
Don't read this if: 
  • You are easily confused and believe everything the media tells you.
  • You like your plots and characters to be pretty straight-forward. 
  • You don't like novels that make you think about stuff.
  • You love How I Met Your Mother and hate Mad Men.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Read This If


What a trip! I just finished Night Film by Marisha Pessl, and it was a fantastic novel with which to start the year - a good fall/winter read. I read Special Topics in Calamity Physics last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed that novel, too, but this is a much different type of mystery.

Without further ado, read this if:
  • You are looking for a unique and compelling page-turner with intellect and some depth. 
  • You enjoy novels in which a city, here, New York, is a major character. 
  • You are looking for a read that matches the weather, and you live where it is winter now, and winter where you are is cold and grey or brown. 
  • You are a fan of quirky characters and caricatures and intricate plot lines. 
  • You've had Prufrock whispering in the back of your head somewhere since that fateful day in high school.
  • Sometimes your theme song is "A Night Like This" by The Cure. 
Pass on this for now if: 
  • You are looking for a slow-paced saga about quilting. 
  • You can't read yet another story centering on a stunningly beautiful genius misunderstood girl because without the whole beauty thing no one would give a damn. In fact, most of the women with multiple appearances are apparently drop dead gorgeous. Except the ones that are cartoonishly ugly. There really is no in-between. 
  • You can't help but think New York needs to get over itself already. Or the people that live there need to stop acting as if it's a badge of honor to 'survive' New York. It's a city. It's 'survivable.' People come and go. Talking of Michelangelo. 
  • You would just die if the smartphone app doesn't work seamlessly. 
  • You need everything wrapped up and tied neatly with a bow at the end. 
  • Your current theme song is "Walking on Sunshine."
Despite my few misgivings, I would completely recommend reading this novel as soon as you have the chance. It might even make a good book club read, honestly. There is plenty of fodder for discussion. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: Read This If


I admit this freely: sometimes I look back on the time in my life when I devoured Eat, Pray, Love with a cozy, amber-tinged nostalgia. A particularly touchy feely, kum ba yah (in a very sweet, good way) friend gave it to me with flushed READ THIS IMMEDIATELY instructions, and I did. I was insanely jealous of this Elizabeth woman who managed to convince someone to fund her year of travel-the-world self-discovery, which, yes, can seem totally self-indulgent, but do NOT tell me you wouldn't seize the chance to explore different modes of being and living, given fully-funded the option. And Gilbert managed to produce a book that was raw, honest, and fully relatable. 

The Signature of All Things is a completely different animal, but in an amazingly good way - 500 sweeping pages covering the long, unlikely life of one Alma Whitaker. Told in a style that befits the time period during which it is set (the 1800s), this historical tale takes us through the age of great geographical and scientific discoveries, when the entire world seemed new and ferociously beautiful, with newly found peoples (non-white peoples, of course, who managed to exist just fine without the meddling patronizing whiteys came along with their ugly diseases and 'civilized' ways, but, well, 'discovery' happened) and newly discovered (by white people) species of plants and animals finding their way into the modern world. 

Gilbert does subtly tackle the issues of race and conquering, though they are not issues at the forefront of the novel. Its heroine, Alma, is a large (6 feet tall!), uncomely woman with a brain and education to more than match any man's, and one can imagine the issues that can be expounded upon with such a character, during such a time period, when a good marriage was supposed to be the main goal of all women. Alma was a woman obsessed with botany, and, eventually, with mosses specifically. She was privileged beyond measure, especially for the time, but she was not haughty, and was only somewhat clueless. She made quite an interesting character. I could keep rambling, but I've already broken my keep-it-short-and-sweet rule, so: 

Read this if: 
  • You highly enjoy or are not offended by well-researched, well-written historical novels.
  • You wonder if women did much of anything besides marry and/or take direction from men in the 1800s (they did).
  • You're looking for an atypical read with an atypical story arc. 
  • You want to go on a fantastical adventure all from the safety of your cozy couch. 
  • You are looking for a departure from the plight of the beautiful, misunderstood woman. 
  • For you audiobook junkies, the audio is highly recommended. 
Don't read this just now if: 
  • You are looking for a fast-paced, highly suspenseful read. This is epic-esque, not high-adrenaline. 
  • You are a misogynist. You would only enjoy a small portion, and would miss the point entirely of many descriptions. 
  • You are at a highly distractible point in your life - I seem to always be in such a state, and it took me a few weeks to finish this one. 
  • You are stodgily religious - you might find some of the presentation and subject matter offensive. 
  • You are looking for a a cookie-cutter, predictable plot. 
Oh, and full disclosure: I received this book courtesy of Penguin and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Education by Susan Choi: Read This If


My Education by Susan Choi was my favorite read this summer, and possibly one of my favorites for the year so far...

...And I started writing this in AUGUST so it was still going to be summer when I posted this, but now it's nearly WINTER (WHAT? WHAT?) and I thus prove my bum-ness in book blogging in 2013. Apologies.  Between the co-conspirator's workaholicness and my semipromotion that involves a whole lot more talking to people (sucking out all my introverted energy reserves) and the needy critter posse at the home, I just haven't had the time & inclination simultaneously.

Still, despite the dropping temperatures, you should pick up this book. Probably. Well:

Get thee to a book store or library and pick up a copy to read if:
  • You can relate to the passion of young, obsessive love but have attained enough distance from it that gives you maturity and clarity.
  • You don't mind (or possibly are looking for) a little sexiness in your literature, but in a well-written, non gray-shaded sort of way.
  • You're looking for some smart, mostly likable but tragically flawed intellectual characters to befriend in your imagination.
  • You find yourself nostalgic for your university days & want to relive a little of your experience without the hardship, or you want to feel better about not totally destroying your life while you were at it.
  • You just want to read something contemporary, frank and smart, pre-social networking.
Perhaps avoid this one if: 
  • You are looking for a high-stakes espionage thriller. This is not that.
  • Gay marriage makes you queasy. Which likely means gay makes you queasy. Which probably also means
  • You're really prudish, or maybe you're trying to maintain your prudish image despite the fact that you're actually human. 
  • You prefer your plots like some people prefer their whiskey: neat and to the point.
  • You hate intellectuals.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ebook copy to review, though I enjoyed it so much I did go out and buy it. Because I have a book-owning sickness. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Late Lights by Kara Weiss: Read This If



Late Lights by Kara Weiss is a novella of interwoven stories following the lives of three teenagers, Monty, Erin and B.J., with three very different backgrounds. It's set in the Brookline neighborhood of Boston. A little background: Monty is an only child with an abusive father, and finds himself in and out of juvie. B.J.'s brothers are also trouble-makers, with her oldest having served time in prison, where her other brother will undoubtedly end up one day as well. Erin is the only daughter of a well-to-do attorney couple, and grows up best friends with B.J. and Monty, until they inevitably drift apart during adolescence. Still, their underlying bond is never fully broken, and each is fully capable of making some serious mistakes.

I found B.J. to be the least fleshed out and most perplexing character for me, perhaps because she was only the focus of one story, while the other two characters each get two - I would have liked to have had a little more insight into how she dealt with the issues brought up in her story.

Overall, Late Lights is very tightly written, its vivid descriptions fully bringing the reader into the lives of the three characters. It is not a pretty world, and nothing is sugar-coated, but it is a realistic world not without hope for the future.

I'd recommend reading this if:
  • You have a 2-3 hour plane ride and want something you can read start to finish - this will engage you from the beginning.
  • You enjoy stories told in snapshots. 
  • You like characters you can imagine as real people. 
  • You appreciate books that are not afraid to talk about the baser aspects of life, and that are explicit in a realistic way - not for shock value.
Don't read this if: 
  • The slightest bit of violence or sex offends you.
  • You'd rather not know what your teenager might be up to.
  • You're looking for a light and fluffy read.
  • You have triggers to do with rape - there's one small scene that could bring things up.

*I received this book courtesy of the author and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. See what others have to say.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Happy Book Lover's day

Book Lovers Day



I may not have time to grab a great book, a cup of coffee and relax into a fantastic story, but hopefully you do! Happy reading.
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