Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What I'm Reading Now - The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick



-The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
--You know, the guy that wrote The Silver Linings Playbook. That Matthew Quick. Before we start, I just have to say this - as much as I loved the performances in the movie of The Silver Linings Playbook, the script just was lacking. I realize many books are difficult to translate, but good Lord, it was like they just filmed every fifth page of the book and called it good. So, SO, much quality stuff left out. Please, it you've only seen the movie, go read the book pronto. OK, onto The Good Luck of Right Now. Well, it has some obvious similarities to The Silver Linings Playbook. The main character, Bartholomew, is a emotional mess, socially awkward, has a possible love interest but can't quite connect with her...sound famililar yet? That said, there are just enough changes and nuances in this story to give it a new feel and a nice drive to the story. The biggest change is the novel is written in an epistolary fashion - as letters to Richard Gere. Yes, Richard Gere. Really. A couple of the characters are a bit stock, but Bartholomew and his new friend, Max, another stunted adult, ring very true. Overall, a satisfying read, although just a bit too remenescent of Playbook.

-Bad Twin by Gary Troup
--Yeah, not really. This one was written by none other than Laurence Shames. And yes, there's a very convoluted story behind this one. Gary Troup was a character in the TV series "Lost." Unfortunately, he got sucked into the jet engine about two minutes into the pilot episode and that was that. But wait! Sawyer, ah good old Sawyer, found the manuscript for a book called "Bad Twin" in the wreckage and decided to read it, since they didn't have much else going on that island, right? Anyway, the Lost producers decided to make a book tie-in to the series and publish an actual Bad Twin novel. Only since Gary Troup was a fictional character...and a dead one at that...they got real-life mystery author Shames to write it. Got all that? Anyway, as a book, it was OK. Not great. Not bad. If you're looking for something much, much better from Shames, grab his very first novel: Florida Straits. It's absolutely fantastic. Scavenger Reef, his second book, is very good as well.

-Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
--Apparently, today is just the day to compare new novels with better, previous novels. In case you don't recall, Smith is the author of the fantastic, amazing, so, so, so good novel Winger. Which you should read, like, right now. Grasshopper Jungle is basically nothing like Winger. Well, you still have a high school age boy trying to figure out love and friendship. And you still have a high school girl trying to figure out high school boys. And you still have a best friend that's gay. And there's still death and tragedy toward the end. But then there are six foot tall grasshoppers that eat people in this one, so, yeah, they're a little bit different in the end. I liked it. I liked the human element and the sci-fi element, but I thought Smith was concentrating so hard on the bizarre sci-fi element that he didn't spend enough time on the character. Which is exactly the opposite of Winger, where you learn to love the people that jump from the pages. In Grasshopper Jungle, those people just don't make as much sense.

-Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
--Strangely enough, since this one got the movie and all the press, it just isn't as good as the very similar Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, by the same authors. See below.

-Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
--Just amazing. While I love The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I know that one is a bit too goody goody and perfect for some readers. Well, if that's you, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is your book. The "Me" of the title, Greg, is definitely not perfect. He, like many teenage boys, is hard to understand and hard to love...sometimes even hard to like. And Greg has some real problems understanding his own feelings. His best friend, Earl, on the other hand, is outwardly very clear and obvious. Abrasive, tough, and from the wrong, wrong side of the tracks, Earl at least knows himself, which is something that Greg struggles with throughout. If you're looking for a wonderful, and seemingly unsentimental, cancer book, this is it. Ah, but there is some real emotion and learning and love among these two. Then the dying girl, Rachel, gets thrown in between them, and real magic happens.

-The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
--This one is a National Book Award finalist and a Printz Award Honor Book, so it's got plenty of high-powered critical backing behind it. Oddly then, I wasn't overwhelmed by it. Don't get me wrong, it's good. But I was never totally sold on Frankie or the story. The basics of the story: Frankie is heading into her sophomore year at an elite prep school and is tired of the same old clubs and status at the school. So she makes a new identity online and leads the rest of the school on a series of adventures. I don't know, I feel like maybe I'm missing something on this one, but I just didn't love it. Hey, it happens.

-The Troop by Nick Cutter
--Yes, I still step away from the YA section occassionaly. And this one is a big step. Pretty much a straight up horror story, although with plenty of psychological torment as well. Nick Cutter, by the way, is not Nick Cutter, nor is he Patrick Lestewka. He's actually Canadian author Craig Davidson. Apparently, he enjoys pen names. Anyway, while this one has been compared to both Stephen King's Carrie and William Golding's masterpiece Lord of the Flies, it actually reminded me, strongly, of The Ruins by Scott Smith. If you enjoy dark, depressing horror, a la The Ruins, well, check out The Troop. Cause it's all of that.

-Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
--What can I say? I liked this one MUCH more than Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The characters are both more likable and more believable here, although I'm sure some would say both Dash and Lily are too smart for high school kids (such kids do exist, really). This one will make you want to spend some time in used book stores. Of course, if you're anything like me, you always want to do that anyway.

Sheesh, I need to do this a little more often, so the reviews don't get quite this long. I'll be back soon with more good reads!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Corvallis Half Marathon Report and Results



Yeah, I was in about nine pictures, but not a single one was a decent shot. Ah well...when your best photo is the one where you're directly blocked by some guy without a shirt that should never be without a shirt, well...

Here are the free photos if you'd like to look through them.

And note, that I was wearing my AWESOME Blerch shirt from The Oatmeal. "I believe in the Blerch!"

OK, Corvallis Half Marathon. Let's discuss. Actually, let's discuss the week heading to the race.

So last Wednesday, Jen came down with a pretty bad case of the flu. Vomiting, diarrhea, the works. I, of course, teased her about it being great prep for the Half. Yes, foreshadowing.

Fast forward to Friday morning. I wake up with an upset stomach, but not feeling too bad otherwise. Yep, I’ve got the runs too. Oh boy. I still don’t feel awful though. So I’m shaving to get ready for work and am about to get into the shower when I suddenly feel like I’m going to throw up. I mean, it hit me out of nowhere. Super-fast. Sweat on my forehead – the whole works immediately. So I get down on the floor by the toilet and…

Yeah, I’m not sure if you know this about me or not, but when I’m really sick or dehydrated, I pass out. I’ve fainted probably a dozen times in my life, usually when I’ve got the flu or something similar.

…so I come to, and I’m not joking here, wedged in between the bathtub and the toilet with my face resting on the toilet plunger like it’s a pillow. And lord, I know where that thing’s been! Anyway, when I come out of a faint like that, it always takes a good few minutes just to remember where I am and what the hell is going on. But it eventually comes to me: I’m sick, I passed out, I should get my face off the plunger. Oh, and I’ll spare you the details, but did you know that some bodily functions, like vomiting and diarrhea, don’t necessarily stop when you’re passed out? Yeah, the bathroom and I were a god-awful mess.

So I get in the shower just to get cleaned up. Stumble downstairs and get into the floor of the bathroom down there…and proceed to do the whole damn thing over again. Vomit, pass out, diarrhea…in various combinations. I think Jen ended up doing about four loads of laundry just from me that day.

So after about two hours of this, I felt a little better and moved out to the couch. Since I weigh myself every day, I realized the next day that I had lost seven pounds in basically two hours!

So yeah, that was two days before the race. Saturday I felt about 60-70% back to normal and I figured I’d walk the damn Half if I had to – I wasn’t going to just skip it. Sunday, I was up to maybe 80% health. The problem was the illness and the weight loss just took the starch out of me. At about 8 miles, my legs were just jelly. There was an ambulance taking a girl off the course at about mile 12 (it was probably due to the heat – it was pretty warm) and I thought “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Yeah, so that's the short version about why I ran a 1:58 instead of a 1:45 or so that I think I was capable of.

If you're looking for results, check here or here.

For non-free photos, head over here or here.

There was a fair bit of controversy about the new logo for the race. Most people didn't like it. They did clean the final version up a bit and the logo on the shirts actually doesn't look too bad.



Sorry, didn't get a very clear shot on that one. Let's try again.



And the back.



It's one of those races where they give you a "finisher" shirt before you actually run the race. That's OK. I still ran it, even though the temptation was pretty strong.

They also tossed in a decent pair of racing socks with the logo, but I forgot to get a picture of the socks. Sorry about that.

The medal isn't too bad. Better looking than the previous few years, for sure.



So that's that. A very slow Corvallis Half. No biggie. I plan to be in shape - and NOT sick - for the Eugene Half on July 27th. Looking for a PR there.

See you then.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Amazing, Individual Talent of Elmore Leonard



Yes, I've said it before. And I'll say it again. If you haven't stepped into the huge swath of Elmore Leonard books and picked out a few, do it now. There are no more coming, so no need to delay now.

Michael Weinreb had a nice article over on Grantland about Leonard. Check it out here.

Yeah, take a wild guess at when that paperback cover came out - I'm gonna say the 80's. What a decade. Oh, here's the back...it's just as good. I don't know who wrote that awful copy, but it sure wasn't Elmore.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New RaceCenter NW Magazine Article - Five Ways to Avoid Running Burnout



Yep, still alive, still running, still writing.

And the latest article is out, Make a Change! Five Paths to Avoid Running Burnout. I cover all those maladies that you say you never do, but of course always do. Like overtraining and lack of sleep and no goals and too much pavement and...well, you know.

But I forgot one remedy that just worked for me! Go buy a new pair of shoes already! Apparently, my old ones were worn out because when I strapped on the new Mizuno Wave Riders, my legs suddenly felt fresher than they had in weeks. And I had my first workout where I actually felt like I was running fast in weeks.

New shoes! Who knew?

Monday, March 3, 2014

What I'm Reading Now - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee



Actually, because I haven't posted in forever, I've read a whole bunch of stuff.

Let's REVIEW!

-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The most read book in the high schools in America and somehow I had never read the book until now. I took a lot of English classes in high school and college - I'm not sure how I missed reading this classic, I can't explain it. Payton was reading it for his English Lit class, so I figured I'd grab a copy from the library myself. It was, of course, an amazing read. The fact that it's Harper Lee's only published work is just shocking. Nothing like hitting it out of the park on your only at-bat of your life. Just a great book. And for being a book written in 1960 and based on the 1930's, it's so fast and modern. Impressive in every way.

-Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
The 2014 winner of the Michael L. Printz Honor for excellence in YA literature. This one is a tough read at times. Eleanor does not have an easy life, and author Rainbow Rowell exposes that all too clearly. Definitely reminded me at times of a John Green story, which is a huge compliment, coming from me. It has taken some criticism as being racist with its portrayal of Park and his family. Maybe - I'm not the best person to judge that. Overall, I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone. A great love story.

-The Fame Thief by Timothy Hallinan
Hallinan has been around a while, but I've never read anything from him. I enjoyed this one, although it didn't leave a huge impression on me. Maybe because I was reading another, similar book at the same time...

-The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (or, you know, J.K. Rowling)
Yeah, this was my read at home book (big, heavy hardback) while The Fame Thief was my take in the backpack to work book (small, light). Of course, shortly after this book started getting some positive press, the author Galbraith was outed as Harry Potter author Rowling. This is a straight-up Private Eye Mystery novel, with no pretense of being anything else. I'm only about halfway through, but it's convinced me that Rowling has plenty of talent outside of the YA category. This is a pretty good read.

-Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Another YA novel - the story of a teenage girl whose father commits suicide. There were parts of this novel that I thought were very well done and parts that I thought were a bit weak. I wasn't crazy about the wrap-up, but there you go.

-Let It Snow by John Green
Actually, there are three short stories in this anthology, but I only checked it out to read the one by John Green. The three stories actually have interconnected threads running through them, so I ended up reading them all. Yes, the one by John Green was the best, but that's just me. He definitely has a way with young people trying to find their way through life and love. Nice, lighthearted fun.

-Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
I admit, I'm a sucker for a great premise. Something that makes you stop and think "what would I do there?" And Zevin comes up with a great hook here. High-schooler Naomi hits her head in a fall and acquires a case of amnesia. Suddenly, she wondering why she had the friends she had and liked the things she liked. Should she be doing everything differently? Then, just when she is coming around to the "new" her, the memories return. Which Naomi will she be? Convoluted? Sure. Contrived? Yeah. But wow, what a great "What if?" Zevin does a nice job here.

That's it for now. Back soon. Maybe even with a running report????

Friday, January 31, 2014

Beaver Freezer Triathlon Registration! Monday, Feb. 3rd at 8:00am



Well, this snuck right up on me. On Monday, Feb 3rd, right at 8:00am, they'll open up the registration for the super-famous Beaver Freezer Triathlon, put on by the awesome OSU Tri Team.

As you should know by now, this baby is way popular and sells out pretty much instantaneously every single year. I think last year, maybe, it was open until the afternoon on the day registration opened, but there have been years where it sells out in a couple hours.

So if you want to race the Freezer, get in front of your computer with your credit card in hand on Monday morning!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What I'm Reading Now - Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr



Yes, I appear to be going through a bit of a YA phase at the moment. It happens. Story of a Girl was a National Book Award Finalist in 2007. Sherman Alexie won the award that year with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, so that's some good company to be in.

And as a dad with a quickly maturing 11 year old daughter, I don't mind getting some solid insights into the world of teenage girls. Let me tell you, as a male with only a brother to observe as I grew up, girls were, are, and may always be, quite the mystery to me.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New RaceCenter NW Magazine Article



Yes, it's been quite a while, but a new issue of RaceCenter NW has just hit the newsstands...and Jamba Juice outlets. If you're into reading things online while sitting on your rumpus room, then head right over here for the online version of the mag.

It's the big 2014 race calendar issue, so this is the one you want to make sure to grab. My article in this issue is titled "What's Your Race: Choosing the Perfect Race for You."

Sounds good. Real good.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

What I'm Reading Now - Hate List by Jennifer Brown



Hate List is a YA novel by Jennifer Brown with some acclaim, on a very, very tough subject. I'm already halfway through it actually. Pretty good so far. Reminds me a bit of Thirteen Reasons Why, which I thought was a powerful, horrible read, for obvious reasons.

And I'm Done Update:

Good read. Tough read. I hate that guns are such a prevalent thing in our culture, but there's no escaping it at the moment. And while a multiple shooting in a high school might seem like an overly provocative subject for a YA book, it's sadly becoming less and less bizarre and noteworthy. Anyway, Hate List can be pretty painful at times, but does a good job looking at the big questions. We all have bad thoughts about ourselves, and others, at times. Even terrible thoughts once in a while. What happens if those thoughts come true? Do we hold any responsibility? Should we?

There's no easy way to write about bullying, suicide, school shootings and murder. And I would never suggest any kind of outside or self-censorship on these kinds of topics. Still...still, I'm troubled by publicity of these kinds of actions. It's been shown that the number of suicides, in particular, can rise when another suicide is publicized - something called the Werther effect. And of course, there have been plenty of considerations to the publicity given to mass murderers. There's no easy answer. In the end, I think these things need to be discussed - it's out there, it's happening - and there's probably no place better to discuss it than in a novel, where you can actually get some nuance and insight.