Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

I recently discovered that many old horror movies were actually books first. This is good because I can't watch scary movies, but I can definitely read scary books (just not so much at night when I'm alone).

Rosemary's Baby
The interesting thing about books that were made into movies a long time ago is that they become a part of your collective mind. Although I've never seen this movie and never will, I knew that the general gist was that Rosemary wanted to get pregnant and somehow ended up pregnant with a demon child.
This book was fascinating. It was suspenseful in the way that Shirley Jackson is suspenseful. It's not overt and in your face, but by the end of the book, you're biting your lip. What the author did that was also brilliant is that as Rosemary's pregnancy progresses and she begins to suspect that her baby may be taken as a ritual sacrifice by those around her, all of whom she suspects to be devil worshippers, you feel Rosemary's mania. I found myself suspecting everyone, too, because it seemed that everyone was out to get Rosemary and her baby.

Psycho: A Novel
Just like the last book, although I've never read this one or seen the movie, I know who Norman Bates is. Some of the surprise of the novel was taken away by knowing the movie, but I still enjoyed this book. The glimpse into the mind of Norman Bates and those around him was horrifying. This novel is built mostly on internal dialogue and conflict, with a lot of psychological aspects. Again, it's a slow suspenseful build, but it's a good one.

Psycho II
I didn't realize that Psycho was an entire series, but the library helpfully gave me a compilation of all of them. I love libraries. In this book, Norman Bates is back and in an insane asylum. He escapes by killing a nun and dressing in her habit, then the story unfolds into an ambiguous narrative where you are unsure if Bates is dead or alive. Meanwhile in Hollywood, the filming of a movie on Norman Bates is interrupted by vandalism on the set and, eventually, murder.
I did not enjoy this one as much as Psycho. I felt like the author changed some nuances of Norman Bates' character, but it was still overall a good fluff read.

Psycho House (Tor Horror)
I don't know that I would have read this one if it wouldn't have been included in the compilation. In the final Psycho edition, a man has recreated the Bates motel to use as a tourist location. But as always, where Normal Bates is involved, murder follows. I definitely felt this was the weakest of the three books and was maybe a stretch for the author. Kind of like those Halloween movies--how many can you really have?!

I've also been slogging my way through Afterparty and I'm trying really hard to like it because it seems like the type of book I would like (dystopian), but it's just not clicking. I'm still trying, but it's slow going.

What are you reading?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crownfest 5k

When I saw this one advertised, I knew I would sign up because I was going to the fest afterward. So why not? I also knew it would be a challenging course, despite being a 5k. The fairgrounds and the area surrounding the fairgrounds is hilly, so a month out, I started doing weekly hill repeats. I've been kind of lax about hills lately because I find them annoying.

The day of the race was perfect. 50 degrees, some wind, a little overcast---you couldn't ask for better running weather. And the best part? Barb was also running, which meant I had someone to chat with before the race. Shane was there, also, but it's funny to have a running buddy, too. The second best part is that instead of a t-shirt, you got a pint glass. I will use this much more than t-shirt. The race was small, only 110 people. When it comes to 5ks, I really prefer small, local 5ks. In a half marathon, if it's big, eventually you start to spread out. In a big 5k, you never spread out from the crowds of people and end up hopping around until the very end.

It was also very casual. We grouped up at the starting line, the director said, "On your marks, get set, go!" and we were off. I started out at the back of the crowd, but dodged my way to the back of the front pack pretty quickly. I wondered if this was a mistake, but I felt good, so why not? The cool thing about the course is that even though I'd just seen the course map that day, I knew exactly where it went because it was an out and back in Barb's neighborhood (past her house, actually). I liked this because I could visualize the course in my mind the entire time. Now, when Barb and I looked at the course map, it became quickly apparent that the course was going to take us on a gravel trail by her house. I've run this trail before--several times--but obviously never during a race. Gravel makes me nervous because I'm afraid I'm going to turn an ankle, so between the gravel and the hills, I could just see myself strolling across the finish line in last place.

Once I settled into my pace, I felt pretty good, although my legs were starting to protest early on in the race. Possibly at the upcoming hills. There was a short hill out of the fairgrounds, then it was across the street and into the subdivision. Now, we got to go down a really big hill, one that I sometimes do repeats on, but I knew we had to go back up it at the end, so I wasn't too excited. After going down that hill, there was a minor uphill, then we were on to the gravel path. I thought I would need to slow for the gravel, but it was pretty well packed down from all the rain we've had. I eyeballed the guy who was about 100 yards in front me and kept the same distance between us the whole time. Because of all the rain, one part of the path had water moving across it. The tall guy in front of me leapt it pretty well, but I splashed right through. It was cold. A benefit of knowing the course is that I knew that after the 1/4 mile on the gravel path, I would have to go uphill. I mentally prepared myself, but it was straight uphill on gravel and I was not feeling it, so I walked halfway up. At this point, I was at the back of the front pack where I would stay the whole time, and except for one girl pretty far back, I couldn't see any other runners. I felt like I was pretty safe to walk.
After this, I saw Barb's husband and son in her front yard. I shouted that the hill sucked, but it was really nice to see friendly faces halfway through the course. After this, we looped around and went uphill a little, then thankfully down a big, brutal hill.

When I got down a hill, I couldn't believe that we were about to loop back toward the fairgrounds. I still felt pretty good, no side stitch or anything, and it didn't seem like I was about to hit the two mile mark. Or what I assumed was the two mile mark because I didn't see any course markers out there there anywhere. After this, it was time to go back up the big hill. I made it about halfway up, then my legs started to cramp. Once again, there was no one behind me, so I figured, why not conserve my energy for the end? Although I walked part of the two hills, I started running as soon as I got to the top. After that, it was quickly back into the fairgrounds for a loop around the pond and back to the finish line. I didn't push while I was running around, but when the finish line was in sight, I could tell there was a low 28 on the screen and I wanted to end before 29. I reached down deep and pushed myself to crank forward as hard as I could. Some guy standing about 200 yards in front of the finish line shouted, "Good push!! Looking good!" which pushed me to move more. I ended up crossing at 28:32 and was the 10th female overall. Most people finished in under 40, so I feel pretty good about my place and definitely felt that if it was a flat 5k without gravel, I probably could've shaved off those 32 seconds. But for not doing any speed work and not monitoring my pace in… months? I'm thrilled with how I did. It is amazing to me how well watchless running works. I ditched my watch months ago because my feet were in a bad spot, but I'm not eager to go back to it. Last summer's 5k without a watch for two months before earned me an AG award. Last fall's half marathon without a watch earned me a 7 minute PR. I just do better without the technology weighing on my wrist. I feel better. I'm running. I don't know how fast or slow I'm running, I just know that I'm getting from point A to point B and I'm leaving all the pace obsession behind and that seems to work.

After finishing, Shane and I hung by the finish line and walked down a bit to wait for Barb to come in. I had Shane ready to get a picture of her crossing the finish line, too. The best part is that as I walked down to cheer her on, the same guy who cheered for me said, "Go Barb! Which one is Barb?" and started cheering and clapping for her, too. I love nice spectators.

Would I do this race next year? YES!! It was so much fun. Small, good crowd at the end, well organized, great swag, and a course that really made me push myself. I loved all of it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Moon Over Manifest
Newbery Award winner! 12 year old Abilene has been a drifter with her father her whole life, until he puts her on a train so he can work a railroad job. She arrives dirty and suspicious of the town of Manifest, where her father grew up. She sets out to find out about his childhood, but no one is saying much of anything about him. In the process, she makes two friends, discovers a box of letters dating back to WWI and uncovers all the secrets Manifest has to old. This story was told through Abilene's viewpoint but also through flashbacks. It was really well-written and would be great for upper elementary and middle school, but I enjoyed it, too.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Another Newbery medal winner. Flora Belle is watching her neighbor vacuum her front yard (yes, her front yard) when she sees a poor, unsuspecting squirrel tangle with the vacuum. She rescues outside to save him and in the process, ends up with a squirrel who has superhero powers (Ulysses). Ulysses doesn't quite know how to use his powers and know does Flora, but through the story, the two end up learning a great deal. I loved the illustrations in the book. It was a quick, funny read.

Young God: A Novel
I saw a comparison between this book and Winter's Bone. It's apt in some ways, but this book is far harsher and darker than Winter's Bone which at least left the reader with some hope. 13 year old Nikki loses her mom, steals a car and goes to her dad: once the biggest dealer in their area of the North Carolina hills. Nikki is thrown into a life of drugs and other ways to get money and falls quickly into the darkness. The prose of this novel was fascinating. Very short, choppy sentences, which almost made me think that it was written to emulate Nikki's life or the lives of those around her.

The Painter: A novel
I loved The Dog Stars, so I was super excited to see the author had a new book. Jim is a fairly successful artist with a storied past. He shot a man in a bar for making lewd remarks about his young daughter (the man was a known pedophile). His daughter was murdered. He's twice divorced. But now, that's behind him and he fishes and paints and mostly lives as a recluse, until one day when he comes across a man beating a horse and intervenes. This single act spirals him into a life of madness and violence that he isn't sure if he can escape.
This book was not The Dog Stars (but few books are--read it if you haven't), but I still loved Jim and Jim's choices and wondering what would happen to him and those around him.

Since You've Been Gone
Emily's best friend Sloane is her world. Emily believes that Sloane shines while she just gets to be in Sloane's light--and she's okay with that. Then at the start of summer, Sloane disappears and all Emily has from Sloane is a mailed list of the thirteen things she should do to spend her summer. Some are easy, like pick apples at night. Some are frightening for a rule follower like Emily, like steal something and go skinny dipping, but in the end, Emily grows and sees that maybe she can shine, too.
I loved this book. It's a YA novel, but it was so enjoyable and I think regardless of our age, we can all learn from Emily's summer.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Little Star: A Novel
This is probably one of the more "set your teeth on edge" horror books I've read in awhile. It wasn't disturbing in a way that it was about zombies or vampires, more disturbing that it was about a man who finds a baby buried in a hole in the forest and when he picks her up, she sings a single, perfect note. Then he brings her home and insists to his wife that they're going to raise her. She agrees because, well, other her husband will probably smack her around and thus begins the series of awful people within this book. The little girl, called Little One, by her would be parents is kept in the basement until something tragic happens, when she's whisked away by their older son, Jerry. Jerry enters her into a singing competition (Sweden's version of American Idol) and his sister begins to gain fans--or followers--reaching out to them over the internet. The ending of this book is slow and the build-up is long, but the characters themselves were so unusual and in some cases, so awful, that it had me on edge even before the climax. I really enjoyed this one.

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour
Tragically, the library request system was down all last week. Tragic because I had about fifteen requests I wanted to make. Fortunately, I'd borrowed two books from Barb's daughter, so I was able to get by.
The Red Blazer girls is a really cute mystery series for pre-teen and early teen girls about a group of girls who go to an all girls school in New York City and have to wear red blazers. They stumble onto their first mystery by accident, but their success in solving it leads them to form a crime solving group called The Red Blazer girls. What I like about these books is that they incorporate a lot of math and word puzzles and encourage girls to solve them within the books. They're also silly and fun and easy to read. They'd be good for upper elementary through middle school.

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin
This is the second book. This one definitely had a lot more word, math and logic puzzles in it than the previous book, some chapters not even giving away the answer to the puzzle in hopes that you would try and solve it yourself. Again, these are really cute books. I enjoyed it!

Love Letters to the Dead
The library request system went back up Monday and I requested all the books. This was one. Last night I was kind of keyed up and couldn't sleep and began reading this at a little past 8. I ended up staying up until midnight to finish it--oops. Laurel is coping with the death of her sister while struggling to fit in at a new high school. Her english teacher gives her the assignment to write a letter to a dead person, and she begins a year long process of filling a notebook full of letters to the dead. In some letters, she connects to that dead person, to Kurt Cobain on his parents' divorce, to Judy Garland and how she was forced to always perform, to e.e. cummings and his beautiful poetry. But she also fills in the pieces of her life, her broken heart and the events that led up to her sister May's death. Although it is hinted that something awful happened to Laurel before May died and although you can mostly put the pieces together, the author still builds to the moment in which she writes it in a letter. This book was beautifully written and stylistically unique. I loved it.

What are you reading?