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's just as good. I don't know who wrote that awful copy, but it sure wasn't Elmore.