Friday, January 31, 2014

Book review: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Description from Amazon (below) can be found here, and more reviews can be found on GoodreadsAdd me on Goodreads!

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

I loved this book, and I think the reason I loved it immediately is because it is (at least starts as) a VERY realistic high school love story.

The characters are not supernatural, super beautiful, or a nerd lusting after the most popular (or vice versa).

They don't love each other immediately. (They don't even like each other immediately.)

The plot is, for the most part, filled with extremely plausible events that could and actually would happen.

But still, I found myself so swept up in this story. It had me feeling all the feelings and thinking about the book even when I wasn't reading it. 

I highly recommend Eleanor and Park! I gave it four stars and put Rainbow Rowell's book Fangirl on hold at the library immediately after I finished reading E&P.

PS - I listened to Eleanor and Park on audio and I LOVED it. I'm sure it's good in book form too -- and to be honest, Park's voice was just OK, but Eleanor's voice reminded me of slam poetry. It was beautifully read. Good one if you're looking to start listening to audio!

EDITED TO ADD. Since reading E&P the first time, I have stumbled on some commentary regarding the way Park and his mother are written and the racial implications. You can see an example here, although that is not the only discussion I have read.

This is problematic enough to temper my view of the book. I am privileged in ways that meant the way race is described in E&P didn't resonate with me initially. I'm lucky in that I stumbled on posts from thoughtful, intelligent people who could help me understand their feelings when reading about Park and his mother. I can't imagine reading the book if I had identified more with Park's struggles with his racial identity. I still believe this is a realistic love story, and it still made me have lots of feelings. But there is something problematic in the way Park and his mother's race and their relationship to others in light of their race is handled, and I don't think that should go unacknowledged.

Have any of you read Eleanor and Park? What did you think?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Training Tuesday [1.28.14]

It feels like I've been gone from this space for a while!

Sorry about that.

And I'm sorry I'm reverting into the pattern of books-and-running-posts-only. I promise I will do my best to post other things but guys. If you saw my schedule right now...

Luckily, it will calm down a bit after Valentine's day. (Our Career Fair is the day before, hence the business.)

But I will do my best even in the meantime to be here, now and then at least.

On to training! I had a pretty good week! I needed it, too.

That first two there is intervals. They are ALWAYS my favorite. (I warm up for five minutes, then do one minute fast, two minutes slow, and repeat till I've done 6 fasts, then cool down. Goes so quickly!)

I was supposed to put in three miles Friday, but a new friend invited me to a free Zumba class, and you all know I love Zumba, so I couldn't say no. Plus, new friend! Yay!

10 miles was easier than I could have hoped. I had to walk a bit on an uphill when my knee was being funky, but once I was running flat again it was fine, and it pushed through the next uphill with no major issues.

Then two today was a deal I struck with myself. I've been a wimp and training inside and I know it's going to be frigid the morning of my next race, so I told myself I didn't have to do that many miles outside if I just ran outside. In the end, I definitely could have done more, but homework was a callin' my name, so I ended there.

I'm less than two weeks from my next half and it's funny how the prospect of training for a full has changed my perspective. I'm sure I will get nervous and excited, but it's kind of calming that in my head, it's not only a race but just another training run for my full marathon. I can push through my training runs, almost always, because I know it's building to bigger and more challenging things. So I'm feeling pretty zen about this upcoming half.

Except for the weather thing. It's sure to be freezing at 7:30 am in February.

I'm sure I'll keep you updated!

Is the cold affecting your workouts? What else in your life is altered by the cold? I know it changes what I'm in the mood to eat rather drastically!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Training Tuesday [1.21.14]

Hey friends!

Not a lot to say, but for posterity's sake, here's this week's training:

Not my best, but a crummy week always makes me hit it way harder the next week!

(Though that six was actually a five and a half :)

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Book review: Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

My mom has been listening to audiobooks lately, and she got to this one before I did and fell into the habit of texting me "GRACELING!!!" whenever it was good.

So obviously, I had to read it.

Graceling is set in a world with kinds and queens and people who are Graced -- skilled at something or another. It could be something like swimming or something like fighting. Or, in Katsa's case, killing.

I loved Graceling because it was full of action, but honest and emotional too. Katsa has always just accepted everyone else's opinion of her as truth. When Po comes into her life -- a Graced prince from a land where Graced people are not shunned, as they are in Katsa's -- and is not afraid of her, she begins to see a different picture of who she is -- who she can be. Through her subsequent adventures, Katsa journeys to finding herself, to figuring out what her Grace really means, and who she can be.

There are also some fabulous characters in Graceling. Katsa's cousin and his bff, Po, and Po's cousin Bitterblue are some of my favorites. Bitterblue is actually pretty BA. As is Katsa (funny how her name is so similar to another fave literary badass, Katniss).

The one thing I didn't love about Graceling (SEMI SPOILER AHEAD BUT NOT REALLY TOO BAD OF A SPOILER) is that the climax of the story happens so fast. But I felt like the whole book built up to something that was over like that. And then, oddly, a lot more stuff happens, and the book keeps going on and on. None of it was bad. But it was weird.

Overall, I do recommend Graceling! I gave it four stars. 

Have any of you read Graceling? What did you think?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Distance sucks and I'm a wimp

Hey friends.

I had planned to write a cute, cheeky, I-don't-take-myself-too-seriously post about all the great things I get to do since Pat's away for an internship for the next twelve weeks.

(So far, I've watched the Golden Globes and watched the same movies over and over again. I was trying to think of more ideas.)

I was going to try to show that I know it's not the end of the world: twelve weeks isn't that long, and at least I can assume he's reasonably safe where he is -- he's in an accounting internship, not deployed or anything.

And then I had to inflate my tire, and spent two dollars in quarters at the gas station trying to get the air pump to sound like it was actually putting air into my tire instead of just letting it all leak out, and then I ended up going to Jiffy Lube and playing right into the stereotype of girls who can't do anything and don't know anything about their cars when I asked them to please, please just look at my tires, and no I don't want my oil changed when I still have almost 300 miles till the next date. And then they told me that I'd managed to overinflate my tire and kind of laughed at me.

And then I ended up crying in the grocery store parking lot. Not a lot of crying. Just a little.

Distance sucks. And the next twelve weeks won't be fun in some ways. But I'm really, truly going to try to find the good parts of being away from my favorite human for a while. Like sending him a valentine's card I already picked out, sending him weird pictures, and spending time we'd usually spend together making memories I can tell him about when he gets back.

Kudos to those of you who spend most of your time away from your significant other, and extra love to you if it's because he or she is deployed.

What's your favorite way to spend a day you have all to yourself? I've got a few coming up and I could use some inspiration!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Training Tuesday [1.14.14]

Hey friends!

Popping in really quickly tonight to check in with my training. Here's what this week looked like:
Wednesday, Jan. 8: This run totally almost didn't happen. Or, more accurately, I almost quit after three miles -- actually stopped running and texted Pat that I quit, then ran two more miles. I'm just so so bored of running inside.

Friday, Jan. 10: Intervals -- 2.31 miles. Always goes by fast!

Sunday, Jan. 13: My mantra on this run was, "Pace doesn't matter. Just keep moving." I have such a hard time with feeling like my long runs need to be a certain pace when really, everything I've read says to take your long runs sloooow. So I did, and I powered through the whole dang thing -- even up the giant hills. Proud of that one. Also, proves that the troubles I've been having have been totally mental -- my body easily handled the 8 miles. Probably helped that it was gorgeous and I got to run outside!

I've slacked so far this week -- I was supposed to run yesterday and today. I have excuses, but you know what they say about excuses (probably a million things. pick your favorite).

Hoping to get back on track tomorrow! Not too concerned at this point -- just used my rest days in the beginning of the week instead of the end. :)

How are you all doing with your healthy living/fitness goals?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Roomies (Book giveaway!)

Updated: Congratulations Breenah! You're the winner of the Roomies giveaway!

Hey friends!

I usually reserve Fridays for book reviews, but I've got something cooler for you today! A couple authors who I reaaaally like, Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr, teamed up to write a new book called Roomies. And the publishers are giving you the chance to win a copy!! (read how at the bottom of this post)

You may remember Tara from my review of Dreamland Social Club. Sara wrote both Sweethearts and Story of a Girl. Roomies, their new book, is about two future-roommates, "meeting" electronically the summer before their freshman year.

It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

Sounds good, right?

Ok, so I may be a little biased. Having spent two years as a Resident Assistant (RA) in the res halls as well as racking up at least fourteen official (plus some unofficial) roommates of my own in the past six years, I've seen a lot in the realm of roommate relations. Some of the worst stories:
  • The resident who let her friend have sex on her roommate's bed while her roommate was out of town
  • The resident who had sex in her room with her roommate there -- before they had even officially met!!
  • My freshman  year roommate who was literally the messiest person I've ever known -- she had a tendency to leave... ahem... used feminine products lying around. Yuck.
  • That same roommate's birthday was the same night as a tornado warning, and she ran out to the lobby of our dry campus (meaning no alcohol allowed, even if you're of age, which she wasn't) to look out the windows -- hiding a beer under a towel she threw over her arm. Because, you know, you can't leave your beer behind in a tornado!!
  • The residents who came to my room crying on separate occasions because they couldn't agree on how to arrange the furniture in their room (big crisis, I'm telling ya).
But I've also had some really great roommates. Simone, one of my best friends, and I lived together my sophomore year. I spent many nights sitting on the floor of her room talking, and loved critiquing the boys she dated :) We had a couple fights, but we made it through all right and she's still one of my closest friends! 

And I miss my former roommate Sam like crazy -- he moved out to go to law school and our house totally isn't the same without him.

And living with Pat is all right, I guess. :)

So I'm pretty excited about this book. And I think you should be too.

Sara and Tara are on tour now! Unfortunately none of their booked tours are near me, but maybe they're near you?

For your chance to win a copy of Roomies, leave a comment telling me about your worst/funniest roommate experience -- or, if you don't have one of those, one that you've heard or a warm and fuzzy roommate memory. Any kind of roommate memory, really. Potluck roomies, bff roomies, sisters. Free for all. Unfortunately, this giveaway is restricted to US street addresses only. 

I'll pick a winner Wednesday, January 15th at 8 pm, so have your comment posted by then! Please make sure to include an email address where I can reach you -- especially if you're a no reply blogger!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Training Tuesday [1.7.14]

(I think that might only be the second time or so that I've used 2014! Woah.)
Training this past week was less than ideal. I missed a couple days last week visiting friends/being lazy/reuniting with Pat. And then, the weather decided to be frigid, icy and scary for driving. So, I've only got two runs in the books this week.

I'm not too worried about it. I missed a 4-mile run, and five days off during training isn't ideal but it's also not the worst thing ever. I'll survive!

The two runs I got in were pretty solid. Not super long -- the first was actually 2.51 miles, even though it's showing as three. That was a nice interval run, which always goes by fast! Then tonight I really wasn't feeling it -- my stomach has been funky all day -- but I feel SO much better having gotten that run in!

Has anyone out there set some new fitness or healthy living goals for 2014? I'd love to hear about it!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ms. Manning

This is my niece-cat Manning.

She's a little weirdo.

Sometimes me and Pat cat sit.

The end.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Book review: Gated

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Add me on Goodreads!

Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader. Will is her Intended. The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

I loved the premise for this book. Loved. I thought it would be SO interesting -- and luckily, it was! I ended up really liking Gated.

Lyla, a member of the community led by Pioneer, has doubts from the beginning of the novel. During target practice, when the teens are trained to shoot cut outs of people outside the community who may want to get in during the end of the world. When she looks at her Intended, Will, and knows she doesn't love him like he loves her. And when she thinks of spending five years in the underground Silo the community has built to protect them during the Armageddon.

Gated starts out slowly, calmly. The first half of the book is spent showing Lyla's life in the community. About halfway through, she meets a boy from outside the compound. A week later, she and her family are sent into town to bring supplies home to the compound and all hell breaks loose.

I could not read the end of this book fast enough! All the action! Suspense! Happenings! The cover calls it a thriller, and though you can feel the tension building through the whole book, I didn't really get it until the ending.

There is one part not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. You can still read it probably, but don't say I didn't warn you!

Have any of you read Gated? What did you think?


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