Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 will be known as the year I read alot

I hit triple digits.

I may never do it again, but I'll always be able to say I read 100+ books in 2014.

First, a look at some stats. I finished 102 books and 33,136 pages. That's a lot. A lot of books. A lot of pages and a lot of trees that are probably dead. Fear not, I'm starting to save a few trees by reading more titles on my Kindle, which I love. Each book averaged 325 pages. I finished an average of 8.5 books and 2,761 pages per month.

Other numbers that jump out?
The shortest book I read was Castle Hill by Samantha Young at 97 pages. OK. Maybe it's more of a novella, but it's still on my list and therefore counts as the shortest thing I read. The longest was A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin, which came in at 976 pages. That was a beast, but so so good. There were a couple of authors that showed up on my list multiple times, including Samantha Young (5), Richelle Mead (6), Kiera Cass (3), Tara Sivec (3), Deborah Harkness (2), John Green (2), Jill Shalvis (3), Tara French (2), Rainbow Rowell (2), Janet Evanovich (20), Liane Moriarty (2), Ian Doescher (3), Sylvia Day (4) and  Emma Chase (4).

My takeaways for the year?

A big reason I was able to hit 102 had to do with Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum series. I mean seriously. When I plow through 20 books in the series as quickly as I did, that's a big chunk of my reading totals. That being said, they weren't the most amazing things I read this year.

Absolute favorites for the year include A Feast for Crows, the two Tana French books and Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Two that I would tell people to put down and run far, far away from would be Love in the Time of Algorithms and Someday Maybe.

For 2014's "classic" I read Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms," which wasn't bad.

Throughout the year I did a fairly detailed monthly review of what I read. Check out the links for lists, ratings and a sentence or two about what I thought.

May and June

So what kind of reading goals have I set for 2015? Last year it was all about chasing numbers. I know it would be really hard to break 102, so I don't even know if I'm going to try. I'm going to set a reasonable book number, because I want 2015 to be about reading for enjoyment again, not necessarily numbers. I'll aim for 50 again because that's been about average the last few years.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December reading recap

Well. I did it.

I hit triple digits for the number of books I read in a year. It took a lot of reading in December and it was HEAVY on the light, fluffy, vacation-type reads, but I did it.

Sitting at 87 completed books at the beginning of the month, I went into December with the mindset that I'd just read and see how high into the 90s I could get. But somewhere around the middle of the month, I looked at the number of books I'd read, how close I was to 100 and how many days I had left in the month. Suddenly I was shooting for 100. Of course, knowing I had a week of vacation at the end of the year helped sway my decision.

I finished the month with 15 books and 4,012 pages. That brings the year's final total to 102 books and 33,136 pages. Needless to say those are new reading records. More on year-end stats in a future blog post.

For now, what'd I read?

A Discovery of Witches by Deobrah Harkness
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
A Beautiful Wedding by Jamie McGuire
Shame on You by Tara Sivec
Shame on Me by Tara Sivec
Shame on Him by Tara Sivec
Tangled by Emma Chase
Twisted by Emma Chase
Tamed by Emma Chase
Tied by Emma Chase
Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins
Instant Temptation by Jill Shalvis
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Sense a trend? Lots of series by authors. Fluffy, easy, vacation-type reads. And of interest? Everything except the Matthew Inman book was read on my Kindle. For being someone who really likes the feel of an actual book in my hands, I really enjoy my Kindle.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness  ****
When I started this, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. The first chapters just didn't draw me in. But I set it down and came back to it a week or so later and let me tell you. Good decision. Somewhere around Chapter 4 I got hooked. I was drawn into the characters of Matthew and Diana, developed so well that at times I sometimes forgot I was reading about vampires and witches.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman  ****
I run and I like cartoons from The Oatmeal. No brainer that I would pick this one up.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness  ****
The second book in the All Souls trilogy. More Matthew and Diana and more character development, particularly Matthew. Good stuff. I have the final book in the trilogy, but this was around the time when I decided I was going to hit 100, so I opted for shorter, fluffier reads for the rest of the month.

A Beautiful Wedding by Jamie McGuire  ***
I generally don't read those "between the whole number" books in series, but this had been sitting on my Kindle for a while. Eh. It was OK.

Shame on You  ***, Shame on Me  ***, Shame on Him  *** by Tara Sivec
This three-book series reminds me of the Stephanie Plum series with a bit of chick lit thrown in. Three women form a private investigation company and during the course of their cases fall for some man. Not bad. Entertaining.

Tangled ****, Twisted ***, Tamed ***, and Tied *** by Emma Chase
I really liked Tangled and the other three books were entertaining as well. My biggest beef would be the order. Technically I think Tamed should have been second in the series, not third, since if you're reading it in order you're actually going back in time. The first and final books (Tangled and Tied) are told from the male point of view.

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover  **
No. Just no. I don't remember how this ended up on my list, but if it's on yours, just stay away. Rambly. Repetitive. Parts could have been axed to make it shorter. I didn't like the characters. I just didn't like it.

In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins  ****
Enjoyable. Emmaline needs a date for her ex-fiance's wedding so she takes the town heartthrob Jack. They go just as friends, but you know that's not how it ends. And plus, the puppy on the cover? Adorable.

Instant Temptation by Jill Shalvis  ***
This is the third in a series and just like the other two, I liked it. However, I felt this was the weakest.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green  ***
I don't think I should read John Green anymore. After being blown away by The Fault in Our Stars, everything I've read after (this and Paper Towns) has just been, meh. I didn't like the main character Colin, he was whiny and self-centered and the actual plot didn't do much for me either.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And 2014 is in the books

Hard to believe 2014 is done. It was a year full of memories created with friends and family. Some good stuff and some bad.

It was the winter of the Polar Vortex. So dang cold I pretty much only left my apartment to go to work.
 Ragnar Florida Keys #Whale Van 1 girls!

Soaking up the Key West sunshine with Mo and Erica.

Goodbye, Florida Keys. It was fun.

But for the first time ever, I planned a winter vacation and it couldn't have come at a better time. In February I boarded a plane bound for Miami for Ragnar Florida Keys. After two days of running, I spent a few days soaking up the sunshine and warmth in Key West.

Who can forget the Badgers run to the Final Four? That was spectacular.

I was supposed to run the Green Bay Half Marathon in May, but a teenager from Kimberly had different plans for me when she ran a stop sign and crashed into my car when I was on my way to packet pickup. My little blue Ford Focus died. It was a good 12 years with that car.

 Ragnar Chicago Eve with Erica and Renee.

Another Ragnar Chicago in the books!

June brought another Ragnar adventure with a van full of 5 friends during Ragnar Chicago. I still say Ragnar is the best 36 hours of little sleep a person can have.

A foggy run on Milwaukee trails.

 Madison, one of my favorite cities.

The rest of the summer was spent recovering from a pesky back injury, exploring state parks, wandering amongst thousands of airplanes, "running" a half marathon on trails through Milwaukee parks and more.
 Badger football tailgating with Sara, Renee and Erica!

There were trips to Madison for Ironman Wisconsin spectating and Badger football.

And suddenly, it's New Year's Eve. Looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tyranena Beer Run race report

The calendar says I'm getting this race report written before the race was technically a month ago, so that's a win, right?

I went into the Tyranena Beer Run with absolutely no expectations. I mean, I hadn’t run in a month. I was going to be fighting a steady 20 mile per hour wind. I didn’t have a clue what to expect on the course since I’ve never run the sixth-barrel at Tyranena before. Lots of unknowns.

All I wanted to do was finish. And have fun with my friends.

And I did.

But if you really want to know, I finished in 54 minutes, a solid 12:00 minute/mile pace. Which yes, is a little slow. But remember, no expectations. And that does include a couple of walk breaks. I’m proud to say I ran most of the hills.

Like I said, the route was new to me. It started out the same 1.5 miles or so through downtown that the half marathon runs, but then it makes a left hand turn uphill into a neighborhood. This was the only hill that I walked in its entirety. It was long. And kind of steep. The course stayed in neighborhoods, winding its way passed some pretty houses to a lakeside park, where there was a water stop at Mile 2. I then ran along the lake for a bit more and eventually ran back up a long hill into some more neighborhoods and suddenly found myself running passed Lake Mills High School, the site of Exchange 6 for Ragnar. Unlike the half marathon route, we never got dumped into the industrial park, and the one small section where it had that little bit of an industrial park feel, it was still pretty. If that makes any sense. Then one last turn and I was back at the brewery.

Can I let you in on a secret? Yes. I didn’t get a medal and there was no unofficial beer stop on the race route. And yes, it was kind of annoying that we had to wait an hour after the half marathoners started before we could run, but I liked this option.

So many times I say I’m going to keep training after Fox Cities, but I always end up going into Tyranena kind of undertrained and not quite in race shape. So it takes me longer than normal to finish. And by that time, my friends have all been done for up to 45 minutes, they’ve inhaled their post-race lasagna and are nearing the time when they pack up and are getting ready to go home.

In other words, I miss out on some of the post-race fun.

This year? We all finished within 15 minutes of each other. So we were all basically sitting down to enjoy our beer, lasagna and post-race fun at the same time. It was great. If I had to register tomorrow for the 2015 race, chances are I’d sign up for the sixth-barrel option, unless I am certain that I’m going to be in race-ready shape to run 13.1 miles. It’ll be a decision I’ll make next summer though.

Friday, December 5, 2014

November reading recap

I always have good intentions to blog, but apparently I've become a once or twice a month blogger. Eh. Someday that might change.

At least I'm consistent with coming back at the beginning of the month to tell you what I read the month before. In November I read a lot. Like 11 books or 3,758 pages a lot. It brings the yearly total to 87 books and 29,124 pages. Yup. That 77-book goal I set way back in January was crushed. And I'm still reading.

What'd I read?

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young
Dare to You by Katie McGarry
Fall From India Place by Samantha Young
The Burning by Jane Casey
Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
Entwined in You by Sylvia Day
Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

Apparently I wanted to read multiple books by single authors this month.

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel  ****
I honestly can't remember how this ended up on my "to read" list. I didn't know a whole lot about it going in, so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was different. And I liked it.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin  ****
I had heard some good reviews of this one and I liked the cover. It was a good, quick read

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks  ****
A typical Nicholas Sparks book. I think it's really a 3.5, but I was feeling generous and rounded up. Always a good option when you want quick and mindless.

Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young  ****
I like the series and while they all have followed the same basic plot, they're different enough that they're still enjoyable.

Dare to You by Katie McGarry  ***
Still trying to remember why I even bothered. Kind of predictable and honestly, a bit too long.

Fall From India Place by Samantha Young  ***
As much as I like this author and this series, this was just kind of "meh."

The Burning by Jane Casey  ****
Another one that I don't remember how it ended up on my list, but I'm glad it did. If you like Tana French, chances are you'll like this. It's a murder with a female detective trying to figure out what's going on. Good stuff.

Bared to You  ****, Reflected in You ****, Entwined With You  **** and Captivated by You  **** by Sylvia Day
I've read the first three, but I read them one to two years ago. When the newest installment came out earlier this fall, I knew I would have to reread the first three in order to refresh my memory about what's going on with Eva and Gideon. I still say while similar, this is far better series than 50 Shades of Grey.

With one month to go, I'm still going with the goal to "read as many books as possible" before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. While I think it would be cool to hit triple digits, that would require a lot of reading and I know December will be a busy month. I'd be happy to finish somewhere in the 90s though.

What have you got on your "to read" list before 2014 is done?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's Tyranena week

My last run

It's been four weeks and one day since I last decided to go for a run.

I'm not hurt. I just don't have the motivation to lace up my shoes and head out the door. I've missed some pretty spectacular fall running days, but I've also missed some terribly miserable fall weather. There's part of me that just can't quite face the idea of running to nowhere on a treadmill yet.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem.

But I'm actually registered for a half marathon this weekend. It's Tyranena Beer Run weekend. And I'm all registered to run the half marathon for the third year in a row.

See how the four weeks and one day since my last run is a problem?

Actually, it's not quite so problematic. During that run a month ago, I was running on the WIOUWASH Trail, which is quite similar to the Glacial Drumlin Trail where a good chunk of this weekend's half marathon is run, and I came to a realization.

I didn't want to run long distances in an attempt to get myself somewhat ready to tackle 13.1 miles. I just didn't want to. So on that bright, sunny, early October day, I decided to drop down to the sixth-barrel race, which is 4.4 miles. Much more manageable to wing it for that distance.

And then I stopped running.

So this weekend will be interesting. The weather is looking less than ideal, but I just keep telling myself that other than the turkey trot on Thanksgiving, this is my year-end race. But more importantly, it's a race weekend with my running friends. So we'll run, we'll eat, we'll drink the post-race beer and we'll have a good time.

Last year at Tyranena.

Because even though there are many times that I (along with so many other people I know) think running is completely stupid, it's connected me with a really great group of friends.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

October reading recap

Another month, another round of books that I read.

In October I finished seven books for a total of 2,456 pages. That brings the yearly total to 76 books and 25,366 pages. Yup. I'm definitely going to hit that 77-book goal for the year. With two months to go, maybe I should consider revising it. One hundred seems like a scary number and that would mean I'd have to read 12 books a month for the last two months. Maybe I'll just aim for the "read as many as you can" kind of goal. Although it would be pretty cool to hit triple digits.

So what'd I read?

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
Instant Attraction by Jill Shalvis
Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
The Secret Place by Tana French

And now for the brief reviews, complete with number of stars given out on GoodReads. Follow me here if you’d like a more timely update on what I’m reading, what I think and what’s been added to my to-read list.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich  ****
Not going to lie. I'm glad to be done with this series. Well, at least for now. It was OK. A typical Stephanie Plum book.

Instant Attraction  **** and Instant Gratification  *** by Jill Shalvis
Total chick lit. Girl meets boy in remote mountain village. Fast and enjoyable reading. I did enjoy the first one more though. I've got a request in at the library for the final book in the trilogy.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub  ***
I'm not sure why I picked this up. Or kept reading it. It was a fairly short book, but it dragged. I didn't really get where it was going. My recommendation? Pass.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty  *****
One of my favorites this month. Think chick lit with a murder thrown in. I liked this one even more than The Husband's Secret, which a lot of people raved over. A must read.

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes  ****
I didn't have any intention of reading this, but I saw it was offered through a program at the library for everyone (as in, no holds necessary). Plus a few friends were also reading it at the same time. I struggled for a bit with this book, wondering where it was going. But I definitely had one of those "a-ha" moments during the last quarter of the book and everything finally made sense.

The Secret Place by Tana French  *****
I really, really like this author. I had been waiting to get my hands on this so I was excited when I finally did. It's your typical French book. A murder to be solved full of twists and turns throughout the investigation that keeps you guessing up until the very last pages. A definite must read.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fox Cities Half Marathon race recap

I guess I should write something about my sixth attempt at the Fox Cities Half Marathon. After all, it is my favorite race.

The race was on Sept. 21 and even though I had told myself earlier that month that I was going to get a long run or two in between the Lake Michigan Trail Half and Fox Cities, I didn't. So it was another race that I was super under trained for. Oh well. At least I knew it wasn't going to be fast.

The forecast for race day wasn't all that ideal, with rain chances in the morning. When I woke up at 5 a.m. I could hear the rain falling. Great. Thirteen miles in the rain and slightly chilly temperatures. Wonderful.

My Mom, who was playing photographer and chauffeur, and I headed out at 5:30 to pick up my brother and sister-in-law and two of my nephews. My brother was going to be running his first full marathon that day.

We did the typical pre-race stuff. Port-a-potties, stretching, photos. The rain had died down a bit, but it was sill kind of windy and chilly and misting, making it hard to decide what to run in. Long-sleeves? Arm sleeves? Just my tank top? I ended up going with my arm sleeves, but tossed those to my mom when I went past her at the starting line.

Like I said, I had no expectations for time since I wasn't prepared for this. So there was no pressure. I planned on walking the aide stations and whenever I needed to. I just wanted to run, finish the race, collect my medal, have a good time and cheer on my brother to his first marathon finish.

Thoughts from the course:

Mile 1: Running feels hard. This is going got be a long day.
Mile 6ish: Oh, great. The first race walker just passed me. Usually that happens around Mile 7.
Mile 6-7: This is the worst stretch of the course. I hate it.
Mile 7.5: "Eye of the Tiger" comes on my playlist. Reminds me of Lake Michigan Trail Half Eve with my friend Erica. Alabama Week! 

Mile 8: I see my mom and two nephews. This is the first time I've seen my family since the start and makes me happy. Also get an update that my brother's through Mile 10 and doing well. Then I get told that I need to beat him to the finish.
Mile 8.3: Oh. It's starting to rain harder.
Mile 8.5: Menasha is a freaking long city. That, or I'm running really slow.
Mile 9: Still raining. The drips off the brim of my hat are coming faster.
Mile 10: There's Mom and the Rugrats again. Three miles to go.
Mile 11.5: There goes the marathon pace car. Kind of thought the leader would have passed me sooner.
Mile 12.25: Oh, it's the Capt. America-clad Rugrats again. I wasn't expecting to see them, but then I glance left. There's the finish line and I've still got to run around the park. Sigh.
Mile 13.1: Finish!

Overall, I never really felt bad during the race. Sure, I got into a few mental dark spots, but they were short lived. My legs? I think I did a good job of mixing in the walk breaks with my runs to keep them somewhat feeling fresh given the lack of training.

It was my fastest half of the year (OK, OK, so I only ran two of them), but the finish time (2:47) gave me hope that if I just buckle down and actually, you know, train next spring, I can maybe be "fast" again next spring/fall.

After I finished, it was time to get some food, change into some dry (although not much warmer) clothes and wait for my brother to come in. And the wind? Let's just say I was glad I finished when I did, because holy windy.

Soon my brother came across the finish line, crossing it in around 4:15, looking great for his first marathon finish. After pictures it was time to head home, shower and then over to his house for some pizza and Packers. It was a good day.