Friday, December 6, 2013

November Reading Recap

Eleven months down, one more to go.

I finished four books in November that checked in at 1,505 pages. That brings the total to 68 books and 24,270 (give or take a few pages since some are Kindle books with no page info). I'm kind of impressed with those totals if I do say so myself.

So what'd I read? Take a look:

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Faithful Place by Tana French
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

I'll let you in on a little secret. There wasn't a lot of amazing reading last month. Just kind of so-so.

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 Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks  ****
This is your typical Nicholas Sparks novel. Boy and girl meet. They fall in love. They run into a problem and (most of the time) they overcome the problem and live happily ever after. That being said, I like Nicholas Sparks's stuff.

Just One Year by Gayle Forman  ****
The companion to Just One Day. This is told from the viewpoint of Willem, the boy in the story. It was decent.

Faithful Place by Tana French  ****
This was probably my favorite book this month. Tana French is an author I discovered this year from a friend's recommendation and she's quickly become one of my favorites. It's another crime novel with a little bit of drama thrown in. Good stuff.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight  ***
This one got a lot of hype and I actually put it on my to read list because I saw it on some "best of 2013" list. Well, it fell short. Really didn't live up to the hype and the story seemed to drag.

So that brings us to December. One month left in 2013 and if you paid attention at the beginning of this post, you'd know I need to read seven books in December to hit my 75 book goal. That might be tough given all of the craziness that usually comes with the holidays and December. But darn it, I'm sure going to try. And I'm lucky I have a ton of options sitting in a pile, just waiting for me to read.

What are you reading this month? Are you like me, scrambling to hit a reading goal for the year?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tyranena Half Barrel Race Report

Some of the funnest runner peeps I know.

I ran my fourth and final half marathon of the year on Nov. 2, the Tyranena Beer Run Half Barrel.

This was my second shot at running this race, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite fall races. Maybe it's because of the late start - seriously, an 11:30 a.m. start means I can sleep in my own bed and not have to get up in the dark in order to make the 1.5 hour drive to Lake Mills - or the full lasagna dinner they give you after the race in addition to all the usual post-race snacks. But mostly likely it's the people. Due to its location, this race draws a ton of runners from the Madison and Milwaukee areas, which means of a ton of my friends do it.

So who would argue with running a little race and then hanging with friends for a bit? Not me.

I went into this race with no expectations, other than to run some miles, have fun and hang out with my friends. And you know what? I accomplished every goal.

I ran with my friend Aaron and we ended up leapfrogging our friend Erica throughout the race.

The important things to know?
  • I ran every single hill
  • Of course I stopped at the unofficial beer stop right before Mile 5
  • I was a bit disappointed the guy manning that beer station didn't know the Badger score, even though he was decked out in Badger gear. In his defense, I guess he was probably busy providing beer to runners.
  • The Glacial Drumlin Trail was absolutely gorgeous with all the fall colors.
  • The three of us may have had in-depth discussions about the need for an additional beer stop some where on the trail and all of the delicious food we'd be eating in 5 miles. Yes, we were hungry.
  • Speaking of hunger, it's hard to fuel for a race that doesn't start until 11:30 a.m.
  • My legs decided they were done somewhere around Mile 10, which unfortunately is right when the race course dumps you off into an industrial/business park.
  • Aaron left me around Mile 11.5.
  • In general, the weather was perfect. Except for the final mile when you were running right into a somewhat nasty wind. That was kind of brutal.
  • I did pass two people in the final mile.
  • I finished, collected my medal and walked into the post-race party tent just as they were announcing the Badgers beat Iowa. Made me a happy girl.
Then it was time for food, beer and friends. It wasn't my fastest half marathon by far, but it was a fun one. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

I'll be in catch mode for the next few posts

Things I should probably blog about include:
  • Fox Cities Half Marathon
  • Tyranena Half Barrel
  • Madison Marathon spectating
  • Gratuitous Badgers pictures and other lovely sites from campus
  • My decision to start incorporating YMCA classes into my workout schedule
  • The desire to actually set goals and train for 2014 races.
In a perfect world, I'd already have touched all of these things already. I mean really, Fox Cities Half? That was two months ago already. Oops. But the world isn't perfect. Obviously. In a nearly perfect world, I'd blog these things chronologically. But it's not a nearly perfect world either.

So I'm going to do whatever I want. And that means write about those things in whatever order I wish. So hold on to your hats. It's going to be a random ride over the next few days.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

October Reading Recap

A month between posts. That's what this blog has come to.

Oh well. I'm back. I guess. I have things to write about, I was just going through a funk last month. Maybe November will be the month I get back on track. Maybe.

So let's start with a quick recap of what I read last month. Because while I wasn't blogging, I was reading. I finished five books last month that checked in at 3,179 pages. That brings the yearly total to 64 books and 22,765 pages (give or take a few since some books were Kindle titles without page counts).

So what'd I read? Take a look:

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Allegiant by Veronica Roth

So yeah, a few re-reads last month in preparation for the release of Allegiant.

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.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson ***
I picked this up because I really liked Devil in the White City. This one? It was OK, but not as good in my opinion. It was interesting to read about what was happening in Germany during Hitler's reign from an ambassador's perspective. The first half (the background/ buildup) was slow. The second half was much more interesting.

Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth  both *****
I really liked both of these. Do I need to say more? And like I said, they were re-reads.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin  ***** 
OK, these books are intimidating mostly due to the number of pages. But they're so, so good. This one started a little slow, but right around the halfway point it picked up speed. Then it was non-stop twists and turns. So many good parts. By far, my favorite of the three books so far. 

Allegiant by Veronica Roth  no rating yet
I finished this a few days ago and I'm still not completely sure what to think. It definitely was the weakest of the three books in this series, in my opinion. The first 75 percent of the book was good, pulled you in. The ending? Well, I kind of knew something like that would happen, but I guess I'm still a bit in shock that the author went about it that way. Read it yourself and tell me what you think.

So 11 books and two months stand between me and my 75-book goal for the year. Good thing I have a stack of books just waiting to be read. What are you all reading? 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Reading Recap

Yes. I read in September. A decent amount. But for once? I really wasn't blown away by anything. There were a lot of so-so pages turned last month.

I ended up reading seven books last month. So to go through 1,940 pages of so-so words? That was kind of surprising to me. Anyway. That brings the yearly total to 59 books and 19,586 pages (give or take a few since some were Kindle titles with no page info).

Remember last month I said I may need to revamp the reading goal? To refresh your memory, Reading Goal Version 3.0 was set at 60 books. I started 2013 aiming for 40, then upped it to 52 and then had to bump it up to 60. Well. Guess what? I'm upping it again. Reading Goal Version 4.0 is now set at 75.

Anyway. What'd I read last month?

Bridesmaid Lotto by Rachel Asstor
Gamble on Engagement by Rachel Astor
The Wedding Wager by Rachel Astor
The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin
The Confession by John Grisham
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
The Week Before the Wedding by Beth Kendrick

See a theme there? Other than somewhat sub-par reading selections. Yup. Lots of wedding-related chick lit.

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.

Bridesmaid Lotto by Rachel Astor  ***
A Kindle freebie, so I wasn't expecting much. It was an easy read, a cute story. Which is why I picked up...

Gamble on Engagement *** and The Wedding Wager *** both by Rachel Astor 
Neither were amazing. I really didn't get the point of Gamble on Engagement other than it was needed to make it a trilogy and throw a little bit of, oh no! Is the wedding going to happen? Overall, the series was quick, fluffy, easy reading. Actually kind of perfect for a summertime beach read.

The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin  **
Oh, such a waste of reading time. The first half was slow, the second half was better, but not much. Basically, a White House intern who has an affair with the President. And I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for her when the crap hits the fan and the affair becomes public. Do yourself a favor. Stay far away from this and pick something else up.

The Confession by John Grisham ***
Not my favorite John Grisham novel. Drawn out, long. I kind of gotten the feeling it was never going to end. It's about an innocent man who's executed for a murder he didn't commit and the actual murderer who comes forward at the last minute, but not before the innocent man is killed. The third part, where the innocent man is exonerated dragged and I felt like it got a little too preachy for my taste.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman ****
Some YA reading for the month. And I liked it. Good story. And it made me want to pick up some Shakespeare.

The Week Before the Wedding by Beth Kendrick ****
It's been a long time since I've plowed through an entire book in one day, much less one work day. But that's what I did with this one. It was a good piece of chick lit with a good story. Not too cliche. An entertaining read.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Spectating at Ironman Wisconsin

 Good morning, Madison. Looks like a great day for an Ironman.

It's become a September tradition. Take the second weekend of the month, head down to Madison and cheer on athletes as they tackle the 140.6 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin course.

This was my third year down there and the second that I've been down there to cheer for my good friend Myriah's husband, Josh.

I headed down to Madison Saturday afternoon. The original plan was to get a 12-mile run in before I left, but I woke up to a pretty constant downpour with thunder and lightning for the 3 hours or so that I had blocked off for the run. So no run, but I'd be doing plenty of running around during the race Sunday.

Plotting a spectating plan.

I met up with my friends at their hotel, we got food and then plotted our spectating plan for Sunday. Like last year, Myriah and Josh would be leaving the hotel early and I'd be in charge of getting their families (about 15 of them) from the hotel to the Monona Terrace in time for the swim start. And for the second year in a row, I'm proud to say that I got them all there and no one was lost in the process!

Unlike last year, we decided to stake out spots on the upper level of the Monona Terrace for the swim portion. While it wasn't as crowded as the helix, it kind of lacked the energy that the helix has. But on the plus side, it was easier to make it from the upper terrace to where you could see the athletes running to get their bikes in transition (which is a nightmare if you're on the helix).

 Josh heading to his bike.

After Josh was off on his bike, we rounded everyone up and grabbed the shuttle bus back to the hotel. We then loaded up the three vehicles and headed out on to the bike course.

 Bikers coming up the hill on Timber Lane.

We first caught Josh around Mile 45 on the hill at Timber Lane and he looked like he was having a blast on the bike. And he was flying. As in, going so fast we didn't make it to stop #2 in time. We were getting out of our cars as we saw him fly around the corner. Oops. So it was back to Timber Lane - a little past the hill - to wait until he passed the Mile 90ish mark. And yup, he was still looking good and having fun when he flew by us.

Josh smiling and waving on his bike.

Then it was back to the hotel. Everyone else got on the bus to head back to downtown and I jumped in my car to head downtown to find a place to park.

Then the fun part started. I met up with my friend Jeff and we chased Josh around the run course on our bikes. We caught up with Josh about 6 times on each loop. He looked great on the first loop and went through some ups and downs on the second loop, but Josh still finished strong.

Eventual men's winner heading out for the second loop of the run.

I met up with Myriah and Josh after he crossed the finish line and then I was off to try to find my friend Steena, who was tackling Ironman Wisconsin for her first time. I saw her somewhere around Mile 15 and while I would have loved to stick around to watch her cross the finish line and become an Ironman, I knew I needed to take off. I had a long-ish drive ahead of me and I was starting to get tired. And I was hungry. So I headed home.

But it was another great day at Ironman. So many stories. So much inspiration. People just like me who put in the training, the ups and downs, the sweat, the aches, the pains. The good runs and bikes, the bad ones. All of it came together for them on Sunday.

The tackled the 140.6 miles and they became Ironmen. And once again, I'll take that experience with me and remember it when I get to Mile 11 of a half marathon and start hurting.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 years

12 years.

That's a lot of days, hours and minutes. Yet, I can clearly tell you where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news about the attacks. I can remember the thoughts that went through my mind that day as the picture became clearer about what just happened and all the questions the events of that September day raised.

Over time, memories are supposed to become fuzzy.

But 12 years later, my memories of Sept. 11, 2001, remain crystal clear.

I thought about writing something, but I really can't put it into words any better than what I wrote in a 2007 post, six years after that day.

Go read it here.

And whether it's been six years, 12 years or 30 years after those twin towers fell, I'll always remember where I was.

And I'll remember those who lost their lives that day.

I will never forget.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

August Reading Recap

August was a busy month, but I still found plenty of time to read. Granted, I did have a week's worth of vacation where I could literally sit with my book on the patio for an entire afternoon.

In August, I read eight books for a total of 2,371 pages. Wow. That's more than I thought I read. But I'll take it. That brings me to 52 books and 17,646 pages (give or take a few pages since some were Kindle books that I don't have page number information for). Compared to last year when I'd finished 30 books and 10,577 pages by the end of August. Heck, I should just stop with the comparison to last year since I've already read more so far this year than I did during the entire 2012 calendar year.

I may need to revamp the reading goal. Remember, I've now got it set at 60 books (I think that was Reading Goal Version 3.0), but I was reminded that it's now football season, which means my reading may decrease a bit. Maybe. I may just leave it at a goal of "read as much as you can" in 2013. I do like having a number to aim for though. We'll see at the end of September.

So what'd I read in August?

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
Eden by Jamie McGuire
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Prince by Kiera Cass
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison
On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
The Racketeer by John Grisham

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.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris  ****
This was the final installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series and I liked the way it wrapped it all up.

Eden by Jamie McGuire  ***
It was a decent ending to the three-book series, but there a bit of me that thought there was a lot of build up and then, BAM, it was all over. Almost like the author ran out of pages and had to finish the story up quickly.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan  ****
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up, but I was pulled into a fun, quirky story that wove together books, technology and friendships. A good read.

The Prince by Kiera Cass  ***
This almost doesn't count as a book, since it's all of 64 pages. It's one of those mid-series novellas that it seems like a lot of Young Adult authors are fond of writing. It was a decent lunchhour read though.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes  ****
Yes, I almost cried in parts. Take a controversial topic - assisted suicide - and throw in a little bit of a romance angle and one person's attempts to "save" a person.

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger by Beth Harbison  ***
So many people were reading this and it seemed to get a lot of good reviews. So I tried. And honestly, the first three-quarters of the book were decent. A cute, fluffy beach read. But the ending? It felt rushed and left a little to be desired.

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young  ****
I read most of this in one sitting. Story pulled me in.

The Racketeer by John Grisham  ****
I haven't read a John Grisham novel in years, but I've always liked his writing style. This was a good crime/legal thriller that kept me guessing.

I'm not exactly sure what's next on my reading list. At the moment I have NO books checked out from the library. This never happens to me. I guess it's time to scroll through my "to read" list on GoodReads and pick out a few titles to get my hands on. Because, really, being with out a book is unacceptable.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I'm sick of my running routes lately.

So tonight I headed here. It's a bit of a drive, about 20 minutes from my office, but it's a 3.6 mile trail that is mostly along a breakwater in the lake. And tonight? No diving seagulls to avoid. That was worth the drive itself.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College football has returned!

In case you missed it, college football is back!

I'm happy. So, so happy.

I made the trip down to Madison Saturday to meet up with my friend Renee and we took in the Badger game. Yes, it was hot, as in, so hot I could feel the sweat dripping down my back.

But it was worth it. In his first game as head coach Gary Andersen coached the Badgers to a 45-0 win over UMass. Forty-five points score? Yes. Three 100-yard rushers? Yes please. Watching as the players themselves took the field and jumped during the traditional pre-fourth quarter "Jump Around?" Yes. And listening as the team huddled near the end zone and sang "On, Wisconsin" before heading into the lockerroom? Loved. It.

Is it Saturday yet?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Madison Mini Marathon Race Report

This was my third time heading down to Madison for the Madison Mini Marathon. And let me tell you, it's always a great experience.

I mean seriously. A course that starts in front of the Memorial Union, takes you up past the Capitol, down State Street, through campus down to the Henry Vilas Zoo and then the rolling hills of the UW Arboretum. Then it's through some neighborhoods, back out by the UW Hospital and then it's onto the Lakeshore Path for a two-mile run back to the finish line in front of the Memorial Union. What's not to like? Oh, the post-race party on the Terrace is pretty fabulous as well.

I got down to Madison Friday night, met up with my friend Jodi and we headed down to campus to pick up our race packets. And I needed to stock up on some fuel, since I had none at my house. Nothing like breaking that cardinal rule, nothing new on race day, since I would be going with Shot Blocks. Then it was off for a pre-race meet up with more friends for dinner.

Pre-race with Jodi.

I had no goals heading into this year's race. It would be my longest run since Green Bay and I just wanted to enjoy myself. I ended up meeting up with my friends Erica and Aaron and we ended up running together. We kept a nice easy pace, chatted, threw in some walking when needed. Erica started cramping somewhere in the Arb and she kept telling us to go on without her, but we stuck with her.

Dear Runner 3770, you ruined what would have been a perfect picture.

Somewhere around Mile 10 it started getting warm and they told us the race was raised to a yellow flag, or one of those, "Hey, it's getting warm. Be careful and remember to drink fluids" levels.

With two miles to go, Aaron and I decided to split off from Erica. We knew she'd be able to handle the last two miles just fine. We started to run. Right after the UW Boathouse, with about 0.75 miles to go, I was the silly one who looked at her Garmin, noticed we could hit 2:55 if we pushed it. And then I mentioned it out loud and Aaron was all for it. D'oh. I should have kept my mouth shut.

So we ran. Pushed the pace. Actually, Aaron pulled me at times. And when we got off the path and made the turn on to Park Street, where's there's this little uphill, my legs revolted. They'd had it. No more. As much as I didn't want to. I walked. Yes. I walked a block from the finish line. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that. But my legs were done.

Before we made the final turn, I started running again, turned and I have to say, had a pretty decent kick to the finish.

2:55:18. Not bad.

Then it was time for the post-race festivities on the Terrace with friends and beer.

And it was races like the Madison Mini that reminded me how much easier it is to run long distances with friends, when the chatter can keep you occupied or they can push you to a finish.

Not surprising, it was a good day.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hang on, it's going to be a busy month or two

Seven days into August, you would think my summer would be starting to wind down.


If anything, my summer is about to get crazy busy. And I'll have to remind myself to take time to breathe.

It all started last week, when I spent the entire week out at AirVenture. For those of you have been around for a few years, you know this is my favorite event to cover each summer for work. A week of airplanes and aviation enthusiasts. So much to see, so many stories to tell.

 This is what I watched in the afternoons last week.

Since I left the shack on Friday at 5 p.m., I've been on vacation. It's been needed. I haven't done too much. I've gone to two going away shin-digs for two co-workers, read two books, got in a decent 9-mile run and even a bit of speed work. Today, I've watched as people throughout my community have had to clean up after a wicked storm moved through the area overnight.

 Seen on my long run.

My plans for the rest of the week include more reading, a possible trip to Packers training camp tomorrow and sneaking in a 10-mile training run before the weekend. And then there will be rest. Because Friday afternoon the craziness of the next two months begins.

Friday I'm taking off for Milwaukee where I'll meet up with friends to volunteer Saturday at the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals. We've got aide station duties and I'm pretty sure it'll be a good time.

Then it's off to Madison on Aug. 16-17 for my third attempt at the Madison Mini. To say I'm looking forward to a weekend in Madison is silly. I mean, come on. It's Madison, one of my favorite places. Plus, it's a gorgeous - albeit somewhat hilly - course through some of my favorite places in Madison.

I get a weekend off! Mostly to catch my breath.

But then it's back to Madison on Aug. 31 for the season opener at Camp Randall! Football's back! I'm going to watch the Badgers with my friend Renee. And while the game itself won't be nail biting, it'll be a great day. Football. Badgers. A good friend. And Madison. Need I say more?

I throw in one more trip to Madison on Sept. 7-8 for Ironman Wisconsin weekend. I'm helping cheer on a good friend's husband and I hope to spot a few other folks who will be out on the course as well.

I get lucky and get another weekend off before it's time for the Fox Cities Half Marathon on Sept. 22.Yeah, during all this craziness and traveling I've still got to fit in time to get the long training runs in.

Finally after Fox Cities things start to die down a bit and I don't have any other races on the schedule until I head back to Lake Mills in November for the Tyranena Beer Run.

It's going to be a crazy, busy few weeks, but it's going to be so fun. However, I'm tired just typing those plans out. I think I need to go take a nap now.

Monday, August 5, 2013

July reading recap

I had good intentions of blogging in July. Really. I did. But then life got in the way. I got busy.

Strangely. I still managed to find time to read. And quite a bit.

In July I read five books and 2,408 pages. That brings the yearly total to 44 books and 15,275 pages (give or take a few pages since a few of the books I've read this year were the Kindle variety). Compared to last year when I had finished 24 books and 8,259 pages, I'd say I'm doing OK.

In fact, at some point during the last month, I decided I needed to revamp that yearly reading goal - again. Remember at the beginning of the year I was aiming for 40 books. Then I upped it to 52. Well, I've upped it again. Now I'm aiming to finish 60 books by the end of the year.

What'd I read in July? Take a look:

The Elite by Kiera Cass
The Likeness by Tana French
The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
Austenland by Shannon Hale

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 Elite by Kiera Cass ****
This wasn't bad. It was the second book in a series and I had to wait for it for a while from the library. It was a quick, easy read, although there were a few parts where I wondered where it was going. It all came together in the end though. Waiting for the third book to come out.

The Likeness by Tana French *****
This is a follow up to In the Woods, which I read last month. So, so glad I had friends recommend this author. So good. I liked In the Woods a lot, but I liked this one even better. So many twists, turns and surprises and it kept me guessing until the final pages.

The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes ***
I don't remember how this got on my to-read list, but I finally read it. And it was just kind of, eh. Yes. I realize this is a YA book, but it was a little too high school drama-ish for me. Honestly, if I could give half stars, this would probably get a 2.5.

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin ****
The second good in the Game of Thrones series. I had watched season 2 of the series, so I knew what was going to happen, but at 969 pages, this was still a good read that pulled me into the stories and added more details than the TV series couldn't.

Austenland by Shannon Hale ***
A quick, easy read about a woman who loves Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and sets out to get the full Jane Austen experience. Cute story.

So what's next? Well, I have a few  titles that I got from the library just in time for my vacation. After that? Who knows. What are you all reading?

Monday, July 1, 2013

June Reading Recap

Let's skip the fact that it's already July. Let's just talk about books.

Like the previous five months, I managed to do a little reading in June. As in six books and 2,037 pages. That brings the yearly total to 39 books and 12,867 pages (give or take a couple pages since a few books this year were of the Kindle variety). Compared to last year when I had finished 22 books and 7,475 pages by the end of June. I'd say I'm doing OK and well on my way to hitting my 52-book goal for the year. Let's just say I might want to consider upping that goal, but I'll decide that in the coming months. Or whenever I hit 52 books.

So what'd I read in June?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Entwined With You by Sylvia Day
Requiem by Jamie McGuire
Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
Burned by Sara Shepard
In the Woods 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.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen  ****
It's one of those classics that everybody has read. But I had never read it. So I picked it up and it didn't disappoint.

Entwined With You by Sylvia Day  ****
I'd been waiting for this third book of the series to come out since last fall. It didn't disappoint. What did disappoint? Learning there were plans for a fourth book. And I'll have to wait until who knows when to read it.

Requiem by Jamie McGuire  ****
This wasn't bad. A quick read.

Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris  ***
This is #12 in the Sookie Stackhouse series and since I've read every other one, it was time to pick this one up. These are fun, quick reads. I am, however, looking forward to reading the 13th and final book in the series.

Burned by Sara Shepard  **
Tell me again why I'm still reading this series? Seriously. After 12 books, it needs to wrap up. Actually it could have wrapped up a few books ago. But from I've heard, there isn't any immediate plans to do that. Sadly, I'll probably keep reading them. Unless someone forbids me to. Yes, please forbid from reading more of this series.

In the Woods by Tana French  *****
By far, my favorite book of the month. Maybe it's because I write about crime for a living, but I found this one fascinating. A great crime story full of twists and turns. One that I couldn't put down. And I was pretty excited to realize this is part of a series. So needless to say, I'll be reading the rest of these books. If you haven't, pick this one up and read it. Trust me.

So what's next for July? If the library comes through with any of the books I've requested, I'll obviously read those. But I'm also thinking it's time to start tackling A Clash of Kings, the second book in the series by George R.R. Martin, which Game of Thrones is based on.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ragnar Chicago

Ragnar Chicago.

I'm finding it hard to put those 60 or so hours I spent with 11 other amazing people into words.

In short, it was everything I could have asked for and more.

It all started Thursday afternoon when I headed down to Milwaukee to meet up with a chunk of my teammates and pick up our vans. The six of us who would be spending the next two days in Van 2 got lucky and ended up with a 15-passenger van. Yes. 15-passenger. And me? The girl who drives a Ford Focus? I drove that spaceship to Madison. And didn't crash. Although Garmin Dave might have gotten a bit snippy with me at one point.

 Pre-Ragnar bonding.

Once we got to Madison, we checked into our hotel and met up with our remaining teammates before heading out to Noodles for some pre-Ragnar food. Then it was back to the hotel and time for some more team bonding. Which of course involved beer.

At some point, the Van 1 teammates decided it was time to sleep - something about having to run early in the morning - so us Van 2 runners continued our bonding and drinking downstairs in the hotel lobby.
Team B*****s Be Crazy, being a little silly.

The next morning dawned bright and early. Our runners would be starting at 8 a.m., but we all met up at the start line for pictures. Before we knew it, Runner No. 1 was off and so was Van 1.

We jumped. Or tried to.

For the six of us in Van 2? First there was an attempt at a jumping picture. Then it was time for food. One power outage - while I was in the shower - and one fire alarm - while I was clothed only in a towel - later and we hit the road for Lake Mills to decorate the van and wait for our teammates.

We got prime parking at Exchange 6 in the Lake Mills High School parking lot. Seriously. Every Ragnar van wanted the LCat of the Week spot (which apparently didn't matter too much since our van got hit by another big white Ragnar van).

 It's harder to draw Mr. Potato Head than you think.

After going through the safety briefing, we got down to the business and decorated the van. There were boxes to check off when legs were finished, a "map" from MadTown to ChiTown, Mr. Potato Head and some feathery ta-tas.

Eventually we met up with our Van 1 teammates and we went to wait for Runner No. 6 to come in. And with minutes to go, we were left scrambling after hearing that Leg 7 would be 3.5 miles longer due to a detour. We switched up runners at the last minute and then it was time for Van 2 to begin our first set of legs!

Van 2 girls! Who knows where the boys were.

We leap frogged with out runners along the routes and cheered them into the exchanges. Eventually it was time for my first run, a 5.9 mile jaunt along the Glacial Drumlin Trail. A straight shot. No chances of me getting lost. Even though it was only 6:30 p.m., I would be finishing just after the nighttime hours went into effect, so I was decked out in my neon yellow tank, my reflective vest and headlamp. Oh, and I was still wearing my sunglasses. Because, you know, the sun was still shining.

I finished my leg and handed off the slap bracelet to Runner No. 12. After he was done, it was time to find some food. After we pulled into Exchange 18, we all tried to get a little bit of sleep, knowing we'd be running our next legs in the middle of the night.

Tried is the key word. My eyes were closed. But it was that restless sleep. Tossing, turning, hearing all the voices. I maybe got an hour or so. But at least I was able to close my eyes in the dark.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Van 2 started running again and before I knew it, it was 4 a.m. and time for me to run again. This time it was 7 miles through the neighborhoods in Racine. My longest leg. It was cold when I started running - like see your breath cold - but I warmed up quickly. And if I was worried about getting attacked, I shouldn't have since I was armed with a plastic knife from Noodles (thanks to a teammate). On this leg, I'm proud to say I registered two kills. And let me tell you, they were hard!

But 7 miles after I started, I was done and handing off to Runner 12 and shortly after, we were greeted with this:
Welcome to Racine, folks.

There was another stop for food, and even though we all were starving, we barely touched the food once it came to the table and I may have had my first regular Coke in more than 8 years.

We headed to the last major exchange to wait for Van 1 to finish up and then we began our last legs through Illinois. My 4.9 mile leg was through Evanston. Had I not been paying attention to the sidewalk in an attempt not to fall flat on my face, I would have been greeted with some pretty amazing scenery as I ran through some pretty swanky neighborhoods with huge houses.

I'm responsible for five of those marks.

I grabbed one kill while in sight of my van mates. What? The dude slowed down to walk. He was right there in front of me. I sped up. He decided to start running again. I couldn't let him stay in front of me. So I sprinted. Passed him - barely - and then slowed down and watched him pass me up. Dude. Still counts as a kill.

When I was in front of the Northwestern University football stadium, some lady told me it was "just straight for three blocks, take a right and another three blocks and you're done!" Liar. I swear I went like 9 blocks straight and another 6 after I turned right. They must count blocks funny down there in Evanston.

But I eventually finished. Handed off that slap bracelet to Runner 12 and we were off to try to beat him to the finish line in Chicago traffic (harder than it sounds since he was speedy!). But we did it (barely), ran into the finish line with our teammates and had a mini celebration before heading home.

What. An. Experience.

Seriously. Ragnar Chicago 2013 was amazing. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people - many who I already knew, but a few new friends as well - to travel that 200ish miles with.

When can we do it again?