Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

I hope you get a lot of books for Christmas! Or if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have some good books to read today.

The Valley of Amazement
Every now and then, I forget how much I enjoy Amy Tan. This book helped me remember. The Valley of Amazement follows the intertwined lives of a mother and daughter: Lucia (sometimes Lulu) and and Violet. Lulu is a white woman from San Francisco who runs one of the top courtesan houses in Shanghai and is estranged from Violet's father, the Chinese painter she followed across the ocean while pregnant with Violet. Through a series of events somewhat out of her control, Lulu boards a ship back to San Francisco without Violet. Violet is sold to another courtesan house and begins training to live the life of a courtesan--a life with which she's familiar but never thought she'd follow. There were parts of the book that drug for me and were maybe a little too detail-oriented (it is not a quick read), but I really enjoyed it. Violet and Lulu do not live easy lives, nor do many of the other characters within this novel and it's easy to get drawn into their struggles and find yourself rooting for them (most of them).

The Apartment: A Novel
I think it was maybe not a great idea to follow a novel that spans forty years with a novel that spans one day. I loved this book in a sense (except that the author didn't use quotation marks and I know that's prose and acceptable and blah blah, but it bugs so much) because the plot line was intriguing. A man comes to an unnamed European city after working as a contractor in Iraq. Although it's just one day in his life, searching for an apartment, he flashes back routinely to Iraq in moments that are eye-opening. That said, I felt really disconnected to the character. I don't know if it was the style of writing or that I read it after a fairly long novel with massive character development or what, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about his day. I just wanted his day to end so I could put the book down.

The Beginning of Everything
At the end of his Junior year, Ezra Faulkner has it all: he's on the varsity tennis team, he's popular and he has a gorgeous girlfriend. Then one night leaving a party, he's hit by a car, his leg is shattered… and just like that, everything is gone. Ezra is forced to find his way back to his old best friend, an unpopular boy who is known for being the kid who once caught a decapitated head on a ride at Disney Land. Ezra joins the debate team, falls in love with a mysterious, troubled girl named Cassidy and struggles, really struggles, to find himself and discover who he is and where he fits in along the way. I loved this book, the characters and especially the ending.

I Am the Messenger
Does anyone remember the CBS show "Joan of Arcadia"? I loved that show. This book reminded me slightly of that. Ed is ordinary in every sense of the word. He's a 19 year old just drifting through life with an equally aimless group of friends, until one day he's in the midst of a bank robbery. Compelled by he doesn't know what, Ed picks up the gun dropped by the robber and apprehends him, causing him to become an ordinary hero. After this event, Ed begins receiving anonymous messages on playing cards. The messages all involve a person and it's up to Ed to figure out what he has to do to help this person--or maybe the people around them. Ed is pushed to find who is sending the cards, but also, to make the world around him a better place. I thought this book was lovely, though I know there was some criticism of the ending. I liked it. I had to read it twice, but once it sunk in, it worked for me. The whole idea of "ordinary Ed" making right in the world was beautiful and that sold this book for me.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail (Outdoor Lives)
I was one of the people who didn't really care for the book Wild. I knew it was a memoir, but I found myself not that interested in the author's journey of self-discovery and blah blah, but I came out of the book really fascinated by the Pacific Crest Trail and have been having one of those Langston Hughes "what happens to a dream deferred?" moments ever since. Like, I really want to hike the PCT someday, even though by all accounts the actual hiking of it sounds miserable and I would have to split it into two summers, unless I wait until I'm retired and would I still be able to hike that far when I'm retired? Probably not. But I really want to do it someday, so I've read as many books as I can on the subject. This book is technically about hiking the John Muir Trail, which splits from the PCT, but it was still a good read. While it was a memoir, the author still gave good, vivid descriptions of the wilderness and I felt that she gave apt descriptions of the differences in hiking in the wilderness for men vs women, in terms of fear and safety. She did an excellent job of balancing her insights on the beauty of the nature on the trail with her thoughts on hiking, her trail partners and the people she meets on the trail. This was a really good read.

The Book Thief
I've been wanting to read this one for quite awhile, but the wait list at the library was miles long. I was so excited when it finally came in, especially because I'm teaching The Diary of Anne Frank and about the move on to The Devil's Arithmetic next. Good timing! This story was fascinating. It is narrated by Death, giving it an entirely unique point-of-view. First person but also third person, in a way. Death is, as you can imagine, quite busy during World War II. Death is detached because he's so busy and yet, he tells us that he always cradles the souls of children in his arms. From the outside, Death observes a young girl named Liesel who is a book thief, stealing her first book following the death of her brother. As the story and the war unfolds, so does Liesel's journey. It's difficult to discuss the plot without giving much away, but suffice to say, this was a beautiful story, with even more beautiful prose--and yes, I was sobbing at the end. Read it.

I love Fangirl and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, so I really wanted to read this. One thing the author does is write characters really well. Lincoln is the IT guy that everyone who works dreads: the guy who reads your emails if they web filter flags a word. One day, he comes across a series of emails by Jennifer and Beth, but he doesn't warn them. The next day, he doesn't warn them again. As the story unfolds, it switches between Lincoln's life and Beth and Jennifer's perspective, told via their emails. As always with her stories, the characters are engaging and fascinating and you feel like you know a piece of them when you finish the story.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Well, I failed at last Wednesday. Wednesday needs to stop being so busy. I also read all Young Adult books in the last two weeks, so if that's not your thing, you probably won't find this interesting. OR you should try one of these books. Seriously. Just choose one. The YA Lit field has come a long way in the last few years.

The Thing About Luck
I've been trying to read more National Book Award winners or finalists and this one was a winner. I loved the story. It was simple, but really engaging and peaceful. Summer is a Japanese-American girl who travels with her brother and grandparents to work to harvest wheat in the Midwest. There's a lot going on thematically about hard work and culture and family and although this wasn't an exciting story, it was one that unfolded slowly and pulled me in. Bonus: There were drawings of combines, which Tommy loved.

Champion: A Legend Novel
This is the last book in the Legend trilogy. I was a little wary going into this because I still don't know how I feel about the conclusion of the Divergent trilogy, but overall, I was pretty happy with it. The plot was still action filled and the split character story telling worked. There were some interesting story arcs and explorations into the dystopian world that was set forth in Legend that kept me reading. I really enjoyed this trilogy.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
In Tana's world, vampires are a normal, every day threat and places called Coldtowns exist for vampires, those infected by vampires and those who want to be vampires. Tana wakes up in the aftermath of a party where everyone is dead, save for herself, her now infected ex-boyfriend and an ancient, hunted vampire. Somehow, this plot line not only completely worked, but really spun a pretty convincing bleak tale. It's not a sparkly vampire story, though it does involve a little bit of romance, but there are definitely some strong, true themes about human nature within an engaging story. I loved this one.

Far Far Away
This was an NBA finalist and one that I've had on my list for awhile now. Jeremy Johnson Johnson is your ordinary teenage boy, except for one thing: he hears ghostly voices. Specifically, the voice of Jacob Grimm who is Jeremy's somewhat fatherly spirit guide. Jacob knows that he's been left on this Earth to protect Jeremy from the Finder of Occasions, only he doesn't know who the Finder is. As the story unfolds, it becomes more than just a story about a boy and a ghost; it's very quickly apparent that it's a fairy tale in and of itself. It was, in parts, predictable, but aren't all fairy tales? My heart still pounded in moments, despite being able to predict what might happen next, and I found myself not wanting to put this one down. It was incredibly creative and so well-written.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

So last week, it was Wednesday and I was all, "I've only read one book. I'm a failure." Then I realized it was actually THURSDAY, and I was a really big failure. Sorry about that, blog readers.

Light from a Distant Star: A Novel
This is one of those books where a young teen protagonist is set in a situation where she has to make a choice that may disrupt her family life and the world she knows. The book covers a few months in Nellie's life and follows her somewhat boring, but somewhat tumultuous family life. Her dad is a slightly drift less dreamer who is more focused on writing his book than he is on earning money to provide for his family. Her mom is tired of having to provide for everyone. Her older, half-sister Ruth is on the search for her real father, who lives in Australia. Her younger brother Henry is weird and just can't quite fit in. Her grandpa Charlie owns a junkyard and lacks certain moral and ethical guidelines. Add in a vivacious tenant, Dolly, who is a stripper--or a singer and dancer, as Nellie thinks, and Nellie has quite the adult world to learn to navigate. I could see this as a pretty strong coming of age story and really enjoyed the author's prose.

UnSouled (Unwind Dystology)
I thought this was to be the last book in the Unwind series, then realized about 20 pages from the end that unless there was going to be a very rapid tying up of everything, it obviously wasn't. A quick Google search explained that no, it isn't the last book in the series and I have to wait longer for the last book?! No! It's been awhile since I reviewed the first book in the Unwind series and since it's really hard to review the third book, I'll just tell you why you should look into this series. Unwind (book 1) takes place in a dystopian future set after the Heartland War, a war fought over the issue of pro-choice vs. pro-life. Both sides came to an agreement: abortion is illegal, but if you have an unwanted baby, you can leave it on someone's porch, as long as you don't get caught. This is called storking. If you're storked, you're obligated to raise this child. Oh, and there's another catch… somewhere along the way, someone invented a technology that allowed every part of the human body to be harvested as an organ donation. Amazing, right? Except that there's always a need for organ and well, with the public school system in collapse in the midst of the Heartland War, there was this issue of these pesky, feral teens running around. So, a new law was put in place where you can choose to Unwind (full body organ donation) your child at the age of 13. Storked children are often at the most risk, but biological parents choose to Unwind children who misbehave. And children in state homes are at the highest risk, unless they can demonstrate they have something worth saving. This is not a pro-life/pro-choice statement disguised in a book, not by any means, but it is a powerful book on maybe how we treat children and teens in our society. The third book was as strong as the first and I absolutely cannot wait for the fourth and final book.

The Signature of All Things: A Novel
I am one of the five people who did not read Eat, Pray, Love, so I wasn't sure what to expect of this author. I was pleasantly, incredibly surprised. Despite being a pretty big book, I finished this over the weekend because I was very drawn in to the story and characters. This book follows Henry Whittaker and later, his daughter Alma through much of the 18th and 19th century. Both are interested in matters of botany, both of which take them over the globe. Henry was a boy who went from poor to wealth, but despite raising Alma in luxury, Henry and his wife Beatrix still instilled a work ethic in her. Indeed, every night Beatrix would sit with Alma and her adopted sister Prudence and recount how they could have bettered themselves that day. As the story evolves, Alma enters into a tenuous love with a man named Ambrose who makes his living (if you can call it that) drawing orchids. She becomes somewhat of a scholar in the field of studying mosses, yet not as well known as if she'd been a man. She travels to Tahiti and discovers much about life and herself. There's so much more, but you should definitely read this one for yourself.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now and finally got around to it. Junior is a teen growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who doesn't feel like he belongs. When he gets a math book, opens it and sees his mother's name on the inside cover, he snaps. He realizes they get so little at the reservation that their supplies are outdated by thirty years. He realizes he has to get off the reservation or he will never leave, so he makes the move to transfer to the school for rich white kids, where the only other Indian is their mascot. I loved this book. It was based on the author's own experience and it spoke of the rage and sadness felt at the plight of his people, at the poverty and alcoholism, but it was also so funny and had such strong voice. It was an incredibly easy read, and I found myself feeling like I knew Junior and wanting to read so much more.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Movie Pack {Giveaway}

Giveaway closed. chose comment #1, Megan. Thanks for entering!

I always think of The Hunger Games as the trilogy that launched a new genre of dystopian young adult lit, so like many people, I'm pretty excited for movie two: Catching Fire (click that to watch the exclusive trailer if you haven't already!).

Catching Fire is set to release on November 22 and as book 2 of The Hunger Games trilogy begins with Katniss and Peeta returning home safe after the 74th annual Hunger Games. But like life in any dystopian society, nothing is truly as it seems and along her victory tour, Katniss senses that rebellion is brewing, one surely to simmer over as President Snow announces his plans for the 75th annual Hunger Games.

In celebration of the release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, I have a prize pack for one lucky reader!

The prize pack includes:
*One (1) movie poster
*One (1) official movie T-shirt with Mockingjay logo
*Two (2) wristbands
*One (1) iPhone cleaner
*One (1) iPhone dot

To enter, leave a comment telling me which book of The Hunger Games trilogy was your favorite. Me? Catching Fire was my favorite. Haven't read the series? GASP. Go out and buy the books right now! You can still enter, just let me know who your favorite character is.
Giveaway closes Tuesday, November 19th. Only open to US residents.

I received the same prize pack in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

I read some great books this week. You should add all of them to your list.

Somebody Up There Hates You: A Novel
Richard Casey is 17 years old and residing in a hospice unit. As you can imagine, he's unhappy about it. Although he has cancer, he tells anyone who asks that he has SUTHY, which stands for Somebody Up There Hates You. In hospice, he meets a 15 year old girl, Sylvie, and the two develop a relationship… or at least, want to help one another not die with certain things unconsummated. Is this book The Fault in Our Stars? Well, no, but few books are. Still, I loved it. I loved Richard's voice, the strange twists, the secondary characters in the hospice, the way that the author didn't gloss over the reality of the fact that sometimes, kids die and it's really sad.

Prodigy: A Legend Novel
This is the sequel to Legend, which I reviewed last week. I felt like this was a much stronger book than Legend, but it always seems like the middle book of a trilogy is the best (at least to me, anyway). I felt like this book explored the dystopian world more and explained what happened to create The Republic and The Colonies. Of course, the end leaves you hanging, but fortunately I came into the series just in time for the final book to be released.

The Circle
This book was incredibly fascinating. The main character, Mae, gets a job at Circle, the most powerful internet/social media/everything technological company. Hired in by her friend Annie who is in one of the top employees of the company, Mae is overwhelmed by the huge, beautiful campus. As time goes on, she realizes there's no need to ever leave. Parties after work, dorms on campus, Circle has everything. Except not everyone in Mae's life may agree with her assessment on Circle. While there were some incredibly obvious plot points in this book, I was able to overlook them because the overarching theme of this book was so powerful and the dystopian world that Eggers set up was so disturbing in the fact that it could be so real, so soon.

Rustication: A Novel
I think I would've enjoyed this book a lot more if I wouldn't have been so tired, but it's been a week of going to bed by 9 every night. Okay. 8:30. Still, I would give it a solid 3ish out of 5 stars, even with my tired brain. This novel is set in 1863 and is told through the journal of Richard, a former Cambridge student who has been rusticated. Side note: A google search taught me that rustication is used at Cambridge, Oxford and Durham and means, "being sent down or expelled temporarily." It's used more modernly to talk about students who leave temporarily but was originally derived from the Latin word rus, countryside, as most students were sent back to their families in the country. Although situations vary, some students may be disallowed from entering the university after rustication. So, that was interesting. Yay for learning! I'm going to start threatening my students with rustication instead of detention.
The events surrounding Richard's rustication aren't very clear, though the reader knows he has an unpleasant opium addiction and he likes girls but maybe in a slightly awkward way. Upon returning to his family, things start to go haywire in his town. His neighbors start receiving threatening and slightly dirty letters, farm animals are mutilated… and Richard is, of course, the prime suspect. All in all, the premise was interesting, but I guess I struggled with the sheer amount going on in the novel--which may have been my tired brain. That said, it was definitely an interesting plot and I did enjoy the ending, it just lost me a little bit in the middle.

The Isle of Youth: Stories
Every time I read a book of short stories, I think I remind myself that I'm not a fan of short story collections. However, this one really grabbed me. Each short story in this book features a female main character who is fighting some sort of uphill battle, but who also really isn't to keen on changing her uphill battle. Or who maybe doesn't really know how to change her battle, in some circumstances. They were all really strong stories, and I saw myself in so many aspects of the different characters the author created. This is one that I would recommend reading even if you aren't a fan of the short story genre.

What are you reading?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ever Happily

She asked me, "Son, when I grow old,
Will you buy me a house of gold?
And when your father turns to stone,
Will you take care of me?"

twenty one pilots


Life with a six year old boy who pushes himself to be the very best at school and then collapses at home has been a little rough lately, but this photo makes me step back and notice. These are the moments I live for, the nose crinkling moments where he's so very mine, where he'll be my boy forever.

Gorgeous photo by Donya Marie Photography. Are you local? You should hire her. She's the best.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

I read all Young Adult lit books this week, except for the first book. Sorry, but not sorry because YA is a good genre that you should probably explore if you haven't yet.

The Night Guest: A Novel
I love books with unreliable narrators, but I'm not really sure if the narrator of this book is unreliable. Maybe a little unreliable with an unreliable antagonist? Either way, it was good. Really good. I would like you all to read it. Ruth is a 75 year old woman who lives alone in a cottage by the sea, who seems pretty well put together, except that she thinks she hears a tiger at night. Her sons are kind of worried about her, so when Frida shows up, saying she's been sent by the government (this takes place in Australia) to help out for an hour a day, everyone is pretty happy. At first, Frida proves helpful, cleaning Ruth's house, assisting with medicine, making meals before she leaves. But then, Frida starts to stay longer and longer hours, on the seemingly small salary paid to her by the government. This was one of those books that had a slow opening, then smacked me over the head and left me kind of chilled when I realized what twist might be coming. This novel is described as a psychological thriller and it is aptly so. I found it even more disturbing than books like Gone Girl or others of its genre, even though it wasn't as overtly in your face. It creeps up on you, but leaves you unable to think about anything else. While the ending wasn't a huge surprise, the relationship between Ruth and Frida and the way this story was written was so well-done to me that I didn't need the surprise. It was definitely creepy and unsettling.

My students had an essay due last week where one of the possible prompts was to compare Divergent to another dystopian novel. One boy asked if he could compare it to Legend. A quick google search revealed that it's a dystopian book, but I figured it'd be a good idea to read it prior to his essay. This book is told by dual characters: Day, a 15-year-old street boy and June, a 15-year-old sister to one of the Republic's top military men. Day is the bane of the Republic's existence in that he's constantly pulling off heists, yet they never come close to catching him. June is thrust into Day's path when he murders her brother. Like any dystopian novel, the flaws in the society are slowly unraveled and revealed as the novel goes on. While there were some plot holes that were left empty, this is also part 1 of a trilogy, so I would assume they'll be answered. I really enjoyed this book and felt like she did an excellent job developing the characters and the horrors of the dystopian world June and Day live in.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Leonard Peacock has one wish for his 18th birthday: to kill his ex-best friend, Asher, then kill himself. Before he can carry that out, he has gifts to give to the few people who he feels have cared about him or helped him in some way: Walt, his elderly neighbor with whom he watches Humphrey Bogart movies; Baback, a school "friend" who allows him to listen to his violin recitals; Lauren, an evangelical Christian who hands out tracts at the subway station; and Herr Silverman, Leonard's Holocaust teacher. As the story unfolds, we learn about Leonard's childhood and what happened to lead Leonard to this place where he wants to kill Asher and himself. This book, honestly, set my teeth on edge, but there was something raw and real about it. I could see Leonard in so many kids that I've taught, where you just hope that they know that someone cares about them. I was a little disappointed in the ending, but sometimes ambiguous endings are good and this is probably the type of book that benefitted from it. I guess a part of me just didn't want to let Leonard go. This is one that will stick with me for awhile.

A Chance for Charity (The Immortal Ones - A Paranormal Romance)
Sometimes my students will recommend books to me and they're books that I would've loved at 13 but not so much at 31. This book is an awful lot like another book that rhymes with Smilight. Charity is 17 (but really she's immortal) and lives with her aunt and uncle, who are also immortal. Her uncle is a doctor. The family has to move around every so often so no one notices that they don't age. They have a lot of money. A mortal boy falls in love with Charity and finds out her secret. Sound familiar? Fortunately no one sparkles in the sunlight. All joking aside, the kindle version is free to download and it was actually an easy, enjoyable read. Good literature? No, but it kept me occupied while I recovered from 13 miles on Sunday.

What are you reading?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Indy Monumental Half

Way back in June, Barb asked if I wanted to buy her sister's bib for the Indy Monumental. They'd planned to run it together, but her sister was going to be unable to run. I told her to give me a few days to think about it, then I'd let her know. At this point, my feet were still pretty up and down. I wasn't running any more than 3 miles, my pace was all over the place and I couldn't foresee another half. Then I think I texted her back 20 minutes later and was like, You know what? I'll take it. I figured that I would start training and if my feet couldn't handle it, I wouldn't do it.
Barb told me that for $20 more I could transfer the bib from her sister's name to my name, but I was all, "Pssh. I'm cheap. And this is definitely not going to be a PR or anything." Sarah was considering doing the marathon, then decided to step down to the half so at some point, it became a kind of girls' getaway, too.

I decided to follow the TLAM Finish It half plan. I followed the Own It plan last fall and while I got a PR with it, it's also a pretty intense plan and I was definitely burned out on running by the time I was done. The Finish It plan was nice because it was somewhat more intense than some of the other lesser plans I looked at, but not so that it would kill me. And then, I'll be honest. I cut down on the week day runs. Most weeks called for 3-4 runs during the week. I only did 2. With preschool pick-up and drop off, that's all I could squeeze in. I picked the ones that I felt would be the most beneficial. I always did the long weekend runs, of course. My feet flared up a few times, but I made sure to roll them, step back if needed and always wear good shoes (Orthaheels, of course!) to work. In other words, I trained smart. Somewhere around week 7, I started to feel stronger in my running again and was seeing paces in long runs that I hadn't seen since last fall. I thought that maybe I could come close to my time last fall, which would be really cool.

Then I got up super early for a long run on a Saturday morning, with a month to go before the half. I had brunch plans with friends, so I figured I'd start out my run by doing laps around my block, then head out of my neighborhood when it got light. I do laps around my block on the mornings before work, so this is nothing new and should've been routine. On my second lap, I moved over for a car and moved right into a pothole. Normally when I roll my ankle, I can roll it back the other way, but I didn't even see this one coming. I went down, hard. Once I crawled out of the way of the car, I realized that I was hurt. I limped home crying, bleeding and swearing and realized that I wasn't going to be finishing that run. Or going to brunch. Instead I went to urgent care with a swollen ankle, where I got an unsurprising diagnosis of a sprained ankle. The doctor gave me a wrap and an air cast to wear and told me that maybe I could run again in a week, but that it would more likely be two weeks (meaning that I would miss the last two double digit runs of the training plan). I was optimistic about a week, but he was right about the two weeks. I'm not going to lie that it was incredibly defeating to be at a point where I felt like my foot issues were almost all the way cleared up, only to go and sprain my ankle. I knew it was temporary, but come on. So, I gave up on any thoughts I had of a good half marathon time and just wanted to run it and finish it without hurting myself. I did my first run a week and a half after spraining my ankle and it was in a lot of pain the next day. I let myself rest for four more days, realizing that I should've just waited until the weekend. Then I headed out for what was supposed to be 8 miles but ended up being 7.5 when my left knee and legs seized up. My ankle wasn't so bad, but my legs and knee were a mess, I can only assume from off-loading weight from my right ankle. It was painful. I didn't have much hope, but I pushed through the last two weeks of the training plan. I did feel better and better with each run, although my left knee and calves continued to bother me. I just got better at ignoring them.

The day before the race, Barb, Sarah and I headed down to Indy around 11, stopped for lunch, then went to the expo. I'd been dealing with a migraine since the day before (because why not?), but I found an amazing doctor at the expo who specializes in ART and he did some incredible maneuvers on my neck and shoulders that really helped. After that, we went to the mall where we all proceeded to go broke at lululemon, Athleta and Lucy (which may be my new favorite store). We ate dinner at Cheesecake Factory, where we shared a divine pumpkin pecan cheesecake for dessert, then we headed to Barb's brother's house, where we were staying for the night (he was also running the half). I seriously slept like a rock. I'm thanking the ART guy for this.

The weather on race day was perfect. Mid-40s at the start. I decided awhile ago that I wasn't going to run with a watch. When I ran the 5k in July, I also didn't use a watch and I really liked doing that. I've become good at running by feel and through most of this training, I've ignored the pace on my watch and don't even look at it until the very end of my run. It's not something I care about or need to know anymore. I knew that it took us a few minutes to cross the start line, so even the split clocks at each mile were meaningless to me. I found my pace, settled in and just kept going. I could tell somewhat where my pace was because I was hanging pretty close to the 4:00 pace group for the marathon, but otherwise, I was blissfully unaware. And for the most part, I felt good. I was loving the course. The spectators were amazing. There were a lot of funny signs, a lot of people high fiving and little kids and strangers cheering you on. I haven't ever run a half marathon with crowd support like this and I think it made a huge difference in my motivation.
Normally, my game plan for a half is that I run without stopping until mile 6, then I stop for water, stretch if I need to and run again until mile 9 or whenever the next water stop is. However, when I reached mile 6 on Saturday, I thought, "You know what? I still feel good. I don't feel like I need water." So I kept running. There were water stops every mile, so I knew that if I got thirsty, I could stop. I was in such a good stride and such a good place that I didn't want to stop, which is not something that has ever happened to me during a half marathon before. I was with a group of people who just kept running, too, and this was definitely a huge help. But mostly, I felt strong. Occasionally, my breathing would get a little out of control, but I was able to get it back under control. The miles seemed like they were passing by quickly because there was so much to look at and take in. I didn't really start to struggle until mile 11 or 12 and by then, I was SO close that there was no way that I was stopping for a drink. I realized that if I pushed through, I could tell myself (and anyone who will listen, hi!) that I ran the whole entire half marathon without stopping once. 2+ hours of non-stop running without slowing one single time, after this last year of injuries and wondering if I'd ever run another half again. I'm not going to lie, I started to tear up a little when I got to mile 12, but that might also be because my knee and ankle were starting to kill me.

Finally, we were almost to the end and all the spectators were cheering (seriously, best crowd ever) and saying things like, "Just two more turns, you're almost there!" and the finish line literally right around the last turn, which was awesome. Because how much does it suck when you come into that home stretch only to have the finish line be SO far away? The time on the clock said 2:09 when I crossed, which was already a PR, but I was more focused on the fact that I'd forgotten how to walk and I was seriously crashing into people left and right while trying to navigate my way through the crowd to get to where we'd all agreed to meet post-race. I found Sarah and discovered that she also PRd, then she looked up my official time (apparently she'd been trying to look me up to see what my projected finish was but couldn't remember Barb's sister's last name, because remember, I was too cheap to switch the bib?), which was 2:06:14. A six minute PR! About ten minutes later, Barb came up with a huge smile and announced a nine minute PR, so basically, this was a magic day for the three of us--none of whom set out to PR or followed a strict training schedule. It was just one of those days, one of those races where everything fell into line. Numbers and paces don't mean everything to me or much at all to be honest, but this one feels pretty good.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

I only read two books this week. Not for lack of wanting, but because I have six books on my library hold list and none of them are in. This always happens. They'll all come in at once and I'll be overwhelmed.

Allegiant (Divergent)
The last book in the Divergent trilogy. It's hard to discuss this because I don't want to give away any spoilers. I will say that I was mostly happy with it, though a few things bothered me. I don't think anyone will really ever be happy with the last book in a trilogy that they love because they don't want it to end. I will also say that through virtue of spending the last month teaching Divergent, I felt that I had a better grasp on the ending and some other plot points because much of it seemed very thematic to me--and there's nothing I love more than beating theme into my students with a giant, symbolic hammer. That's really all I can say about that, but if you've read it, please feel free to email me and we can discuss it further.

The Rosie Project: A Novel
I loved this book. Don Tillman is a genius, but incredibly socially challenged. Although the book never explicitly states it, he is most definitely on a spectrum somewhere. In his social awkwardness, he's yet to find a wife, so he sets out to do so, but first every applicable woman must meet his very rigid guidelines through filling out a questionnaire he's put together. I loved this book because it was quirky and different, but also because Don's voice was very strong. I teach many students who are autistic or Asperger's and Don reminded me so much of some of them that I felt like I was getting a glimpse into their adult lives. I tore through this book.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

MaddAddam: A Novel
The final book of the MaddAddam trilogy. This picks up where Year of the Flood ends and while I was drawn into it, it's definitely a gentle read for a dystopian novel. I enjoyed it because it was a storytelling of the world before it ended and the hopeful world after it ended and whether it can be rebuilt into something better. It was definitely a good conclusion to the trilogy.

Becky pointed out to me that the author of Eleanor&Park has a new book out. This somehow missed my notice, so I added it to my library list as soon as possible because I loved Eleanor&Park. Cather and Wren are twins who go to college. Wren dives right into the drinking and partying college scene. Cath struggles, staying attached to her fanfiction and not wanting to leave her dorm room (outside of classes). Her older roommate Reagan takes sardonic pity on her and tries to help Cath grow, despite Cath's resistance. I loved this book. I stayed up late reading the first half on a school night, then finished the second half the next night. I wanted to finish the book because I couldn't put it down, but I didn't want to finish it because I didn't want to say goodbye with the characters. I loved it so much that when I saw one of my students walk into class carrying it, I couldn't stop myself from gushing, "Isn't that just the best book?"

The Silent Wife: A Novel
Another Becky recommendation! I was not a huge fan of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (not to say that I don't love the author--Sharp Objects was awesome). This book was what I wanted Gone Girl to be. The novel makes no secret of the fact that Jodi will kill her husband Todd, so you're left wondering how this can be marketed as a thriller. Yet, when it's told from the dual perspective of Jodi and Todd and opens as Jodi is preparing an appetizer plate in their condo overlooking Lake Michigan, you're immediately left wondering how? How does Jodi get to the point where a seemingly mild woman kills her husband? The dual perspectives really worked in this novel, as each character revealed more and more of a flawed marriage.

Burial Rites: A Novel
This is the story of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland in the 1800s. Although her story is true, this should be considered historical fiction. Agnes was convicted of the murder of two men, Natan and Petur, along with two accomplices. Until her death, she's sent to be housed at a farm because there's a financial issue at the prisons. Although they're initially wary, and who wouldn't be at housing a murder, the family comes to accept her. This was one of those books that gripped me slowly, then really grabbed me by the end, so that I had tears running down my face as I read the last page. It was stunning and beautiful. It isn't a fast moving novel and the end wasn't a surprise, obviously, but the stories in this book held my head and heart for quite awhile.

Unravel Me (Shatter Me)
The second book in the Shatter Me series. I liked it because you learn more about Juliette's dystopian world and the war that's being raged both inside and outside the compound in which she's currently living. This isn't my favorite as far as YA dystopian lit goes, but it definitely held my attention.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Thank You for Your Service
I didn't read David Finkel's previous book, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this one. I knew that it would be moving subject matter, but I also thought maybe it would be on the clinical side. Instead it reached into my throat and tore out my heart, while also rendering me unable to put down the book. It hurt to read it, but I didn't want to stop reading. The author humanizes the soldiers and their families, without making any excuses for who they are. In some parts, you don't feel sorry for them or you want to shake them, but in other parts, your heart just breaks. While we certainly do more for our soldiers now than we did after VietNam, there's always the question of whether we're doing enough... or if we ever can.

Shatter Me
A student loaned me this book because it's dystopian and she said it's her favorite. Juliette, the main character, hasn't touched anyone or seen another human in 264 days. Locked away because she has a bizarre defect that causes her to accidentally kill people she touches, her life changes when a boy is placed in the cell with her. Unsure of why this boy is in the cell with her, Juliette is cautious and, of course, doesn't touch her. In Juliette's dystopian world, everything is so polluted the birds no longer fly, real food is scarce and life seems bleak. I was definitely hooked, though as far as dystopian YA lit goes, I've read better. I wish the author would've developed her world a little better, but it's part of a trilogy so that may come in later books. Juliette's powers were the main focus of this book, along with her love interest.

The Year of the Flood
I wasn't sure if this was meant to be a sequel to Oryx and Crake or a prequel, so I looked it up and Margaret Atwood wrote it as a "Meanwhile..." book, which is brilliant because that's exactly what it was. It basically continues alongside Oryx and Crake, then ends exactly where Oryx and Crake left off. Once again, the reader witnesses the slow destruction of the dystopian world Atwood sets forth. First, the dying of endangered species, followed by gene splicing of various animals to create new species, those with wealth/prestige living in heavily secured compounds, those without living on the outer reaches of society, criminals being sent into the "Painball" arena to fight it out on television and the eventual virus that wipes out most of humanity. There's some implausibility in this novel, but I loved it. It's good dystopia and I can't wait to read the final one.

Counting by 7s
Thanks to Corrin for blogging about this one, because I completely missed it. The protagonist of this story, Willow Chance, is the 12 year old kid we all wish we could've been. A genuine genius who struggles to fit in, Willow decides to wear gardening clothes to her first day at her new middle school because the middle school name is the Sequoias and so, why wouldn't she? Even her parents know this is a bad idea, but Willow is not to be stopped. Still, Willow is the least of the misfits in this book. As the story progresses, Willow loses both her parents on the same day and has to rely on: a bumbling guidance counselor, the Vietnamese owner of a nail salon, her two children and a taxi cab driver to help her navigate the waters of grief. Willow is lost, but so is just about everyone else in the story and somehow, they all find themselves in helping Willow heal. Is the story realistic? Probably not entirely, but it made me feel good and happy and whole and sometimes that's all I want out of a book.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

I read a lot of books this week, thanks to my stupid sprained ankle.
A House in the Sky: A Memoir
Brief disclaimer: When I read things like this, there is a tiny little mom voice inside of me that says, "But you shouldn't have been in Somalia in the first place. You're not Anderson Cooper!" Mom voice aside, this memoir was stark, brilliant and another in a long line of absolutely must-read memoirs that have come out this year. Amanda Lindhout spent her somewhat discombobulated childhood living through National Geographic magazines. As an adult, she travels through the countries she only saw glimpses of in magazines, though some of them are not safe, especially for women. Emboldened by visits to Pakistan, Syria, India, where she's denied hotel rooms on account of traveling without a husband, she travels further and further off the beaten path, writing small stories about what she sees. After a visit to Iraq and subsequent articles written there, she convinces an old boyfriend to travel to Somalia with her, thinking she'll write stories of the war-torn country.
And she does--but her story came later, after the two of them were kidnapped and imprisoned for an unfathomable 460 days. Although the ending was obvious since she clearly lived to tell the story, I was gripped. She managed to humanize her captors, even at points where they were dehumanizing her. I cannot imagine surviving what she did and making anything good of it, but somehow she has. Whether or not she should've been there in the first place, that's admirable in itself.

The Lowland
This book starts out as the story of two brothers: one who decides to leave India and find college and career in America, the other who stays and becomes part of a militant movement. As the story unfolds, it becomes about more than just the two brothers and about a generation of families, about loud heroes and quiet heroes and heroes who really aren't. This was, at its surface, not a happy book, but it was moving, in a very quiet way with themes about the choices we make and how deep those choices go.

Those Across the River
I read this book in one sitting because I have a sprained ankle and what else am I supposed to do with my time? I didn't realize that it was a horror story, but as far as horror goes, it was pretty good. Frank Nichols and his wife (but not really, they're only pretending to be married because it's 1935 and to do otherwise would be scandalous) return to his inherited family home in Whitbrow, Georgia, after he lost his professorial job for having an affair with a student (Eudora, obviously). His dying aunt warned him in a slight incoherent letter to not take the house, but he ignored her and moved in, planning on writing a book about his great-grandfather Lucien, a slave owner who made killing his slaves a sport. As Frank and Eudora settle in, they slowly notice that Whitbrow has its nuances... the locals seem afraid to go into the forest, making it hard for Frank to find Lucien's abandoned plantation. Once a month, two pigs are sent in the forest--for who? Or what? This was one of those books that slowly unfolded and kept me hooked because I wanted to know what was going on until the very end and to be honest, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go.

The Invisible Ones
This was one of those dual perspective books that was confusing at first because it was not only switching characters, but it was also subtly moving ahead a few weeks. Once I got the gist of what was going on, though, I really fell into the story. The narrators are a young Gypsy boy, JJ, and a middle-aged, somewhat self-loathing private investigator (who happens to be half-Gypsy). Both are, at times, equally as clueless to the bigger picture of what is going on, but both become intertwined in each other's lives. The PI, Ray, is hired to search for a Gypsy woman who has been missing for seven years. It's a frustrating search because the non-gypsies seem to not notice the gypsies at all (hence the title of the story) and the Gypsy community in which she lived is clearly harboring a secret. As Ray digs deeper into the community, it becomes clear that everyone will go to great lengths to cover up what truly happened--which is far more complicated than Ray and JJ realize. There were parts of the book that I found a little unbelievable, but overall, I enjoyed the storyline and format and read my way through it pretty quickly, eager for the conclusion.

The Maid's Version: A Novel
I was really looking forward to this book because the premise sounded so great: Alma, a maid for a prominent family, loses her sister Ruby to an explosion in a dance hall that kills 41 others. No one knows what causes the explosion, except Alma thinks she knows the answer. It sounded so good, but I could not follow the book. It started out good. Alma working as a maid, serving the family, making a second dinner for kids who refused to eat the first time, thinking of her own children at home hungry, leaving to find her sister waiting in the trees. And then, it just fell apart for me. I could not follow it. At times, I wasn't sure who was narrating it. It would talk about the explosion, then flip to someone else, then back to the explosion with very little character development. To be honest, if it was a longer book, I probably wouldn't have finished it--and I rarely leave books unfinished.

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools
It's no secret or surprise that I'm a fan of public education. While I believe that everyone should school their children the way they see fit, the public education bashing that I see on a regular basis drives me crazy for a few reasons. One, I don't bash these same people for choosing to educate their children in other ways, so step off the way I educate children. Two, I strongly believe in public education as a whole. I don't actually believe the system is broken. Are there ways it could be fixed? Yes, but I also believe that public education "reformers" are doing more harm than good. While I could go on and on, I believe that you're either going to be interested in this book or you're not, but I do want to share one interesting statistic on a fact that's often lobbied around as proof that the public education system in the US is failing, the statistic that children in other countries are outperforming ours. Finland has a child poverty rate of 5.3% (I mention Finland because it's the country that commonly comes up in education reform conversations), compared to the child poverty rate in the US: 23.1%. If you look at US schools with a low poverty rate (less than 10%), those students' test scores are equal to students' test scores in Shanghai and *significantly better than* Finland, Republic of Korea, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia. With a child poverty rate second only to Romania, an overall comparison to these high-performing countries is not accurate. But, looking only at low-poverty schools shows that we are doing well. Child poverty is an uphill battle, one that sets children behind before they even enter schools, which means that teachers are trying to make up for an achievement gap that starts before children step foot in classrooms. I took six pages of notes while reading this book and found it fascinating and frustrating all at once.

What are you reading?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sole Provisions | Orthaheels [review]

If you've been following for awhile, you know that my feet have been in a constant state of disarray since a fall half-marathon last year. Along with that constant state of injury comes a loss of all the pretty shoes that I used to wear. With injured sesamoids and plantar fasciitis that does not want to die, heels are out of the question and actually, flats are, too. I can't even wear cheap flip flops anymore, which is probably the saddest thing of all. I spent three months at work when my injury was the worst wearing running shoes every day and dressing every morning killed a little piece of my formerly cute soul because there's just no way to make yourself look cute like that. No way.

I resigned myself to the fact that I was 31 and going to wear old lady shoes for the rest of my life, because my feet wouldn't have it any other way. Then I discovered Orthaheels. They make shoes that are orthotic, but they're actually cute. Like, so cute that when I wear them, people compliment me, ask where I got them... then can't believe that they're orthotic shoes, because although they have all the trademarks of an orthotic shoe, like a raised arch for support and a cushioned footbed, they don't LOOK it. They are cute.

Take for example, my newest pair, the Mia Pewter. Aren't they fun? They're silver and strappy and they fit work dress code guidelines. I definitely believe that I wouldn't be able to run again at this point with my plantar fasciitis if I couldn't wear Orthaheels to work every day, because standing on my feet for eight hours in regular shoes was leaving them a serious mess. Even if you don't have an injury and you're someone who works on your feet, you probably need to look into one good pair of orthotic shoes just because it's going to feel better at the end of the day. But if you have a foot injury and you're still wearing regular shoes? Knock it off!

The downside to Orthaheels, like any orthotic shoe, is that they aren't cheap. I think they're worth every penny and they're a heck of a lot cheaper than custom orthotics. With that said, I would definitely recommend purchasing from Sole Provisions. Although I've purchased Orthaheels from a few different places in the past (including the Orthaheels website), I'll be purchasing just from Sole Provisions from now on. Why? They have a huge selection of Orthaheels and other foot friendly shoes, many of which are discounted, making Orthaheels a more affordable purchase. All items come with free priority 2-3 day shipping--who wants to wait for new shoes (especially when your feet hurt)?! They also offer free returns, which is big for me. Sizing certain shoes, especially shoes you can't find in the stores, can be difficult. I like knowing that if they don't fit, I don't have to suffer through too big or too small shoes. I can easily return and order the right size for me. In short, Sole Provisions is interested in customer satisfaction and that's a huge deal. I will definitely be purchasing more Orthaheels from their website soon, especially since it's going to [sigh] get colder and I know I can't pull off strappy sandals much longer.

I was provided with a pair of Mia Pewter sandals for my review, but all opinions expressed are my own

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Remember this summer when I was reading six books a week? Those were the days...
Alex: The Commandant Camille Verhoeven Trilogy
I almost didn't request this book because I sometimes have trouble with books that have been translated into English, but the premise sounded interesting so I went for it. I'm so glad I did. A young woman has been kidnapped and the clock is ticking. The senior detective on the case lost his wife to a kidnapping, so he unwillingly takes the case. What follows is a story with so many twists and turns that I truly didn't see what was going to happen next. It was one of those books where my sympathies shifted a million times and it was brilliantly done. This is not a 'who done it,' book but rather, a 'why was it done' book.

Doctor Sleep: A Novel
I love The Shining, but I hate The Shining because it scared the hell out of me. Like, didn't sleep for a whole night scared. Still, I love that Stephen King chose to write a sequel because someone asked him whatever happened to the kid from The Shining. And it's an interesting question because a kid who went through all that surely can't come out unscathed. The answer to that is no, he can't. He still has the shining, but as an adult, he's learned that one way to dull it is to drink. A lot. But that brings about its own level of trouble, of course. While there are echoes from The Shining, this book isn't about crazy Jack Torrence and the Overlook Hotel. There's some continuance, but mainly it's about the little boy who grew up into an adult and how there are things in this world scarier than the Overlook Hotel, that threaten adults and now little girls with the shining. So scary that when I was running at 4:30 in the morning after finishing this book, I spent most of the run peering over my shoulder. I liked this one. Stephen King can be hit or miss, but this one was good.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Bad Monkey
I love Carl Hiaasen. I've read all of his books--some of them multiple times. What I love about his books is that his characters are so quirky and engaging, yet they're still believable. He also tends to carry certain characters over into subsequent novels, so you'll find beloved characters popping up in smaller roles. This book follows Andrew Yancy once a police detective, now demoted to restaurant inspector for assaulting his ex's new love with a vacuum hose in a most uncomfortable spot. Yancy is in possession of a severed human arm which is lacking a body. No one wants the arm, so it's taking up space in his freezer. The arm leads him on quite an adventure, through Miami and the Keys, down to the Bahamas where he meets a voodoo priestess and an ill-tempered monkey said to have starred with Johnny Depp. As Yancy follows the trail of the arm, the plot thickens, as it always does in Hiaasen novels, and things become ever more dangerous as he tries to find out what happened to the owner of the arm and win back his job as detective.

Help for the Haunted: A Novel
Sylvie is used to her parents getting calls late at night. As the daughter of two parents who help those dealing with hauntings, her parents often receive late calls to assist those in needs. But on their last night alive, this call in different. She's taken along and told that they're going to meet her estranged sister in a church. When they arrive, the church is dark and by the end of the night, both of her parents are dead.
This story chilled me, on so many levels. The supernatural level, of course. As it unfolds, you learn about Sylvie's parents and the cases they took on, many of which were unsettling, with a fine layer of wondering if Sylvie's parents were real or frauds. But there are many complexities within this story. You have Sylvie's relationship with her sister, Rose. Sylvie and Rose's relationship with their parents. The bullying and cruelty that Sylvie deals with from her classmates after they find out that Sylvie's parents help the haunted. The entire time, you're wondering who the haunted really are and that question haunted me as I was reading it. This was one that I stayed up way too late reading it. It's good. Really good.

The Husband's Secret
This is one of those books that I started reading it, then I put it down because there were so many characters introduced that I couldn't focus or get into it. Fortunately, I decided to give it another try and I'm pretty sure the issue was more how tired I was than the book itself because upon picking it up again, I was pretty quickly hooked.
While her husband is away on business, Cecilia discovers a letter from him that says: to be opened only in the event of my death" on the outside. Because Cecilia is a better person than myself, she doesn't immediately rip it open and instead mentions it to her husband over the phone. Although he's fairly flippant about it over the phone, he cuts his business trip short and arrives home three days early to discover that she still hasn't opened the letter--much to his seemingly apparently relief. In this novel, we also meet Tess whose husband and cousin just told her that they're in love with another, leaving her to escape to her mother's house with her young son, Liam, as well as Rachel, whose daughter Janie was murdered at the age of 17--and Rachel finds herself haunted by the question of who did it? And why? All three women are intertwined throughout the novel in ways both public and private--Cecilia's husband isn't the only one with a secret. While some of the plot twists were predictable, I still greatly enjoyed this story and the characters and definitely found myself drawn into their lives. It's hard to discuss too much without giving away major plot points, but while parts of it made me sad, I loved watching the characters grow throughout this novel.

What are you reading?

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Little Mermaid [Review/Giveaway]

As a little girl, The Little Mermaid was my favorite of all the Disney movies (well, next to Alice in Wonderland--I was a strange child). I loved it so much that in elementary school, I used to call my best friend and we would sing on the phone to each other, pretending to be Ariel. When I saw that it was to be released from the Disney vault and on Blu-Ray for a limited time only, I was pretty excited. Of course, I have a boys--would they like it? Would they be as enchanted as I was?

We watched it together last night and they were captivated. Of course, they didn't want to be Ariel, but they fell in love with the singing, so much improved and bold on Blu-Ray. They were terrified by Ursula, as I was all those years ago. They cheered for Ariel. Yes, this one falls under timeless classic, and I am so glad.

We also explored some of the bonus features, like Carly Rae Jepsen singing "Part of Your World." At 6.5 Luke is starting to get into "songs he hears on the bus," she was definitely into the girl who sings "Call Me Maybe," singing a song from The Little Mermaid.

The best part is that they've already asked if they can watch it again tonight, and I cannot wait. It definitely takes me back to being a kid and watching it again and again and... well, you get the picture. Once you've checked out the movie, you can check out the website for some more games and bonus features to go along with the movie. We haven't done this yet, but I definitely plan on doing it soon.

The best part of all this? I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader [US only]. If you'd like to enter, please leave a comment telling me who your favorite childhood Disney character was. Did you sing Ariel's songs? Dance with teapots like Belle? I want to know!
Giveaway ends Monday, Sept 30.

I was given a copy of The Little Mermaid. All Ariel loving opinions are my own.

Giveaway ended. Congrats to Many Thoughts of a Reader!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese
I didn't remember requesting this book, so when it came in from the library, I was like, "Why on earth did I want to read a book about cheese?" Except that I really like cheese, so I figured that was probably why I requested it. I am definitely glad that I did, because as the title suggests, it's about more than cheese. The author is a brilliant storyteller and weaves a tale of the small Spanish village of Guzman, a mystical cheese, the cheese maker, his wine, his stories and his betrayal. Although the book wanders at points, the tale of Ambrosio and his cheese is one that hooked me in enough to keep me reading and wanting more.

Aaaand... that's all I read this week. Somehow I had no free time and during silent reading time, my students kept interrupting to ask me how my pirate monkey book was going. Yeah. It's been of THOSE weeks. Hopefully I can tell you about my pirate monkey book next week. What are you reading?