Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A March and April reading recap

So there's been a little lapse in my blogging.

Because I needed that two-month break, you're now getting a two month catch up on what I was reading during that non-blogging time. Get ready.

In March I read six books for a total of 2,247 pages. That's an average of 72 pages a day. It brings my yearly total to 23 books and 8,220 pages. Add another nine books in April for a total of 3,024 pages. It's an average of 101 pages a day and that brings the yearly total to 32 books and 11,244 pages through the first quarter of the year.

What'd I read?

Finding Perfect by Susan Mallery
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Only Mine by Susan Mallery
Only Yours by Susan Mallery
One Wish by Robyn Carr
Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Only His by Susan Mallery
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Summer Days by Susan Mallery
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Summer Nights by Susan Mallery
All Summer Long by Susan Mallery
I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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.

Finding Perfect; Only Mine; Only Yours; Only His; Summer Days; Summer Nights and All Summer Long by Susan Mallery (all ***)
These get thrown into one snippet because they're all part of the same Fool's Gold series. All quick, easy, boy-meets-girl type romances. Yes, they're a little predictable and a little cheesey, but I like them.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty  ***
Not my favorite Liane Moriarty book. It was an interesting idea - woman falls at the gym and loses the last 10 years worth of memories - but the first half really dragged. Second half was more readable.

One Wish by Robyn Carr  **
Flat. Didn't care about the characters. Still wondering how this ended up on my "to read" list. Don't bother.

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates  ***
This was a community read thing offered through my library. No waiting list for a book? Sign me up. It was an interesting read, seeing how prison inmates connected with Shakespeare, but it got a little long. Made me want to revisit Shakespeare myself.

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio  ***
Not bad. Nothing really stands out though.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah  *****
Seriously, the best book I've read this year. So different from any other World War II ear book I've read. It was a great story with characters who really came alive. Very hard to put this down. Go to your library or bookstore and get your hands on a copy of this book and start reading it now.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver  ***
Interesting read. I figured there was a twist, but wasn't quite expecting what that twist ended up being.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami  **
 I write for a living and I enjoy running long distances. So this should have been great. It wasn't. It had bright spots - moments when I went "YES!" - but more often than not I was annoyed with the writer's style and his tendency to repeat things over and over and over again. I think I need to give up on memoirs.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman  ***
I was disappointed. I've really liked other stuff by Gayle Forman (If I Stay and Where She Went), but this just wasn't as good.

So that's what I spent two months reading. And of course, I have a stack of stuff just waiting to be taken off the pile and read this month. I need a job where I'm just paid to read. Too many books. What are you reading?

Friday, March 6, 2015

February reading recap

Let's talk books and the month of February.

It was cold - like the seventh coldest February since 1893 or something crazy like that - so I got a lot of pages read. I mean, when it's that freaking cold, I'd rather not venture outside. So I stayed inside and read. A lot.

I finished nine books in that 28-day month of February. Nine books and 3,057 pages. In other words, an average of 109 pages a day. I told you it was cold. That means I've read 17 books and 5,973 pages so far during the first two months of 2015. Something tells me I should really revamp that 50 book goal I set for myself.

What'd I read?

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in the Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
On the Rocks by Erin Duffy
Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery
Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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.

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum   ****
I picked this one up because the author was one of my journalism professors at the University of Wisconsin. She taught my creative non-fiction class and I learned a ton from her. I liked this. It was informative, but didn't read like a piece of straight non-fiction, science writing.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White  *****
What's not to love about a story involving a pig and a spider? Loved it when I was a kid and I still love it as an adult.

Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman  **
I just didn't like this. It was a hard story to get into and it never really grabbed my attention. Come to think of it, I don't think I liked the last book I read by this author.

On the Rocks by Erin Duffy  ***
A quick, easy, chick lit kind of read.

Chasing Perfect by Susan Mallery  ***
Cute story. Fast read. Probably my new go to series when I'm looking for an enjoyable, but mindless read. Doesn't hurt that the male lead character was a former pro cyclist.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion  **
Sigh. I wanted to like this. I really did. I loved The Rosie Project, so I was hoping the follow up would be just as good. It wasn't. I couldn't get into this. I didn't care about the characters (even though they were the same characters from The Rosie Project). The middle was an absolute drag. The end was decent, but by that point, I just wanted to finish the book.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen  ***
Not a bad book, but a little slow to get into. Apparently this is a second book in a series, but could be read as a stand alone. Maybe if I had read the first one it would have grabbed my attention quicker.

Almost Perfect by Susan Mallery ****
Yup. I still like this series.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige  ***
I guess Dorothy Gale went back to Oz, got power hungry and now the people of Oz are revolting. And another girl from Kansas just happens to be brought to Oz via a tornado. She's supposed to help free Oz of Dorothy's wickedness. This was actually a pretty good read. I'm looking forward to the next book.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

January reading recap

After hitting triple digits in books read last year, I thought I told myself I was going to slow down on the reading.

Yup. Didn't happen.

I finished eight books in January. Eight books and 2,916 pages. That means I read an average of 94 pages per day. Like I said, lots of reading.

What'd I read?

The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros
Gray Mountain by John Grisham
The Reckoning by Jane Casey
All of You by Christina Lee

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.

The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg  *****
Seriously one of the best books I've read in a long time. I've always been fascinated by the Holocaust, so I got sucked into this book, which tells the story of a man trapped in Auschwitz and his escape attempt. Hard to put this one down, even though I had to due to the nature of the story.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman  *****
This was a re-read. I watched the movie version of If I Stay and just had to read this one. By the way, the movie? Good.

Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young  ****
A bit of chick lit. It's the latest in a series that I enjoy.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness  ****
This one has been sitting on my to read pile since I finished the first two books in the trilogy in early December. Good final book to wrap up what I thought was a pretty fantastic series.

Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros  ***
Kind of cute. The story of how two people fall in love via tweets. Not sure I remember how this ended up on my to read list. 

Gray Mountain by John Grisham  ****
Not quite the kind of John Grisham that I'm used to, but good. Not so much courtroom drama, but a good story wrapped around legal issues.

The Reckoning by Jane Casey  *****
I liked this. A legal thriller/who dunit with lots of twists and turns that kept you guessing. This author reminds me of Tana French's stuff, so if you liked In the Woods, The Likeness or other books in that Dublin Murder Squad series, definitely check out Jane Casey.

All of You by Christina Lee  ****
Pretty sure this came from the GoodReads recommendations list. Quick, easy, enjoyable chick lit.

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?