Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Weekly Reads: The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind is yet another novel written by novelist-whom-can-do-no-wrong-in-jerbear's-eyes.  As I previously wrote about my love for The Last Letter From Your Lover, and then I devoured Me Before You, as well, I'm equally as excited to get my hands on this one.  She has a great way of crafting a love story that has so many more layers and dimension than you're cookie cutter love story.

My rating:  5/5 stars.

A summary from goodreads:

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Weekly Reads: Crazy Rich Asians

I read about the synapsis of Crazy Rich Asians in one of the bazillion book emails I get daily, and I was sucked in, and immediately submitted a purchase request through my library.  Give me a bird's eye look at anyone who's rich and crazy, and I'm hooked.  (See also:  Real Housewives of Orange County and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  See also:  Any show on Bravo starring 20-30 somethings).  It came out earlier this summer, and it finally arrived at my library this month.  Can I take a vacation day to read books?  kthx.

A summary from goodreads:

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia's most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick's formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should--and should not--marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence,Crazy Rich Asians is an insider's look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Weekly Reads: Fangirl

One of the best (if not the best, if I'm being totally honest) books that I've read in 2013 is Eleanor & Park.  A relatively unknown author to me, produced a novel that was putting young adult obsessives in a tizzy over it's amazingness.  Two of my reading "twins" asked if I had read it, shortly after it's release, and when I hadn't yet, they both demanded I check it out immediately.  When your reading twins recommend a book IMMEDIATELY, you drop everything and pick it up.  They were right.  As usual. Thanks reading twins.  (Wait, does that mean that we're triplets?  They're both gingers too.  Perhaps they're actually long lost twins/sisters.  Will investigate further after writing this post.)

Eleanor and Park is set in the 1980s, which for a child of the 80s makes this pretty awesome right off of the bat.  It's an unconventional first love story, but so so so much more than just that.  It's raw, and beautiful, and just so very real.  I devoured it.

So when I found out that Rainbow Rowell (also, her name?  Amazing.  I feel like we'd be besties.  She just lives down in Omaha.  BRB making Rainbow my bestie!) had another book coming out this fall, I immediately put in a purchase request at my library.

Dear Library,
Please grant my Fangirl purchase request ASAP, as the book is being published September 10th, and I need it in my hands, ASAP.
Sincerely, Your devoted employee and obsessive YA fan

A summary from goodreads:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love. 

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Focus: Madison Marathon

With the Sioux Falls half behind me (race report to come, shortly), I am full-steam ahead focusing on the Madison Marathon.  I'm notorious for not being able to stick with a long (long=more than 14 weeks of training) training program for the marathon, but knowing my lack of running/endurance/general schlepitude when I signed up, I knew I needed a full 18 week cycle to get me prepped for 26.2.

I purposely put a half marathon smack in the middle of that training program so I could focus on that for the first nine weeks, and then I'd only have nine weeks of suffering to go.  Little did my brain know (ok, it totally did, it was the one who typed Pfitz' training program out into a fancy excel doc--Thanks for the doc Jenn!) that I was marathon training all along.  Whoop!

So I made it halfway through my training cycle, and have really just been doing a LOT of long, slow runs.  I think my base is the strongest it's been in a really long time, and I'm excited to start throwing some actual speedwork in to the plan per Pfitz.  I mega puffy heart love speed work.  But my legs tend to hate speedwork, so fingers crossed the base+excessive foam rolling+form fixing will have me speedy and uninjured.

Without further adieu, here are the things I'm focusing on over the next 9 weeks of training:

  • Miles.  More miles.  Lots and lots of miles.  I looked ahead on my training program (never look ahead on your training program) and I have 4 weeks of 50-55 mpw straight.  Shiz is getting real. I need to make sure that I'm mentally prepped for my long runs, and physically prepped for all my weekly mileage--good night of sleep, hydrating, foam rolling, stretching, ab work, etc.
  • Getting my eating in check.  For a normal girl, my weight is perfectly fine.  For a runner girl looking to PR in 9 weeks, I'm some lbs higher than I should be.  When I set my marathon PR, I was almost 20 lbs lighter than I am right now.  My first training cycle I could NOT keep weight on me (rough life, I KNOW) but ever since that cycle, I haven't had that issue.  Getting older probably doesn't help.  I know that I run stronger when I'm fueling my body properly, and if I focus on that, the extra squish will just disappear.
  • Mental game.  One of my biggest struggles with running is mental.  I'm either too hard on myself or I let myself give up too easily.  I need to find a decent middle ground and go from there.  As the temps cool off, I'm REALLY hoping I can have some solid workouts that serve as confidence boosts towards my goal time.  Since the weather for the Sioux Falls half was such a bust, I really don't have an idea of what my goal in November will be.  TBD, I guess, but dang I'd really like a PR.
  • Massage therapy.  The Sioux Falls half has complimentary massage tents set up after the race, and I got in line on Sunday because it was miraculously short for once.  I talked to the therapist about my issues, and I was blown away by everything he told me.  He talked at length about my hip flexors and the issues they were causing, issues with my IT bands and knee.  And he told me that his goal is to give me stretches to do on my own so that I only have to visit him minimally.  Sold.
  • Buddy up.  With the bazillion of miles ahead of me, there is no way I'll be able to do them all on my own.  I will make it a point to beg one of my friends to run with me at least once a week to make the miles more enjoyable.
There you have it.  My survival plan for the next 9 weeks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Weekly Reads: MaddAddam

I read the first book in the Maddaddam Trilogy while I was in college.  Oryx and Crake was the first dystopian adult book I had ever read.  As a child, growing up, the Giver was my all time favorite book, and to read a "grown up" book with as much excitement and appeal threw me for a book nerd loop.  And thus, a dystopian junkie was born.  After graduating, I picked up The Year of the Flood because I had loved Oryx and Crake, not even realizing it was the sequel.  Derp.

Now, four long years later, the finale novel, MaddAddam, is being released September 3rd.  To say I'm excited for the conclusion is an understatement.  I may be person #1 on the library's hold list for it.  Not surprising.

A summary from goodreads:

Months after the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of humanity, Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers. They return to the MaddAddamite cob house, which is being fortified against man and giant Pigoon alike. Accompanying them are the Crakers, the gentle, quasi-human species engineered by the brilliant but deceased Crake. While their reluctant prophet, Jimmy -- Crake's one-time friend -- recovers from a debilitating fever, it's left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology, with Crake as Creator. She must also deal with cultural misunderstandings, terrible coffee, and her jealousy over her lover, Zeb.

Meanwhile, Zeb searches for Adam One, founder of the God's Gardeners, the pacifist green religion from which Zeb broke years ago to lead the MaddAddamites in active resistance against the destructive CorpSeCorps. Now, under threat of an imminent Painballer attack, the MaddAddamites must fight back with the aid of their newfound allies, some of whom have four trotters.

At the centre, is the extraordinary story of Zeb's past, which involves a lost brother, a hidden murder, a bear, and a bizarre act of revenge.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Race Week Thoughts

This week marks my first "serious" race week in about a year.  When I initially embarked on marathon training for the Madison Marathon, I had planned to have the Sioux Falls half be my benchmark race mid-training to give me an idea where I was fitness-wise 9 weeks out from race day.  A few months ago, I thought I could maybe set a course PR (1:52 or 1:53) if training went all fine and dandy.

Thus far, I've put in the miles (save for the week I was in Vegas and logged 0 miles, and a few missed runs here or there), I've been impressed (knock on wood) with my body's ability to hold up to marathon mileage, and my endurance is coming back.  Unfortunately, I know my body's limits and know that it can only handle speed work with a strong base already in place.  The Pfitz program has a large endurance mesocycle which is predominantly what I've been doing the last 8 weeks.  So with that being said, I'm pretty freakin' nervous about my speed.  Meaning:  I don't think I have any, anymore.  Hmmm.

Based on the current forecast, it should finally be cool on race day.  Although it's not Jeri approved COLD.  That'll help me tremendously.  But it's weird for me to go in to a race without really knowing what I'm capable of.

Currently my goals are as follows:
  • Beat last year's time--2:05.  Compared to last year's training log, I'm running way more miles, slightly faster.  But I did some speedwork (very sporadically) last summer, so that makes me slightly nervous again because of my lack of speedwork this time.
  • Beat 2011's time--1:59.  I was in shape to run a low 1:50 and had major IT band issues, where they locked up and I shuffled along to a barely sub-2.  For confidence going in to Madison, I would really like a sub-2.
  • Ideally I'd like to be around 1:55, but man that seems impossibly hard at the moment, so we'll see.  Perhaps if all the stars align, and I can hitch a ride on a unicorn's back, perhaps I'll hit this marker.  ;)
If I don't hit a sub 2 this weekend, I don't think that means I can't run a sub 4 in Madison.  But it would be a great boost of confidence to me.  I have sped up considerably since I started running more consistently this past May, but I'm not to where I was when I was running well.   But I'm certain I will continue speeding up, especially with the crazy speed work that Pfitz has planned for me.  EEPS!  

Above all, I'm just excited to be back to doing something that I love and seeing progress for my hard work.  I <3 running and racing.  Whoop!