Let's Examine How Much I Sucked, Shall We?

So last year I made some "literary resolutions." To be honest, I had forgotten about most until I just looked at them (aint that always the way with these little effers?). Let's see how I did:

1. Read more: success

Ha! Booyah. I wanted to read over 30 books this year (I only read 26 last year and 39 the previous year). This year I read 38- I met my goal with an average of 3.17 books per month. I see some book bloggers that read over a hundred a year- how do they do it? I have some theories, but I'll be nice. Next year let's make it 40. Dream big.

2. Try a graphic novel: failure

I got one for Christmas, so maybe this year.

3. Get real: success

I read quite a few non-fiction books this year and even instituted "non-fiction nagging." I have actually really enjoyed it, and reading about issues I care about allows me the freedom to discuss things I wouldn't normally get to on the blog. Many of this year's where about deciding to have a baby and running; here's hoping for more variety next year. I mean this year.

4. Writing: big fat failure

I thought this year would be the year of the novel. Not so much. And by not so much I mean a lot of thinking with zero words on paper (or screen). This is the only one I'm probably actually angry (at myself) about. Round 2.

5. Finish Underworld: failure

Fuck Don DeLillo.

6. Go to more readings: failure

This wasn't really my fault- there just weren't a ton of them this year. I've heard rumors about lots of great releases next year, so hopefully more authors will visit Southern California.

7. Curbing the book buying habit: failure

I'm up to 60+ unread books, although many are a result of gifts. But still, I asked for them. I just can't help it.

So, I'm 2 for 7. I'd call that sucking on the resolutions front. But, have you know, I didn't suck at the rest of my life. 2011 was pretty damn decent- we added Chomsky the crazy puppy (who is now almost 11 months and 85+ pounds) to our family, bought the house we plan on living in forever and not kill each other in our third year of marriage. I ran several half-marathons, managed to produce my first yearbook with the class I advise, had a ton of fun with friends, joined a book/drinking club, and started going to yoga consistently. 2012 should hopefully be better- I plan on curing AIDS, solving world hunger, and developing an effective way to stop depending on oil. You know, basically just being awesome.

2012, you will be my bitch.

December Reviews- Rocky Road

December's reading has been strange- I read six books, but there was a lot of ups and downs. A rocky road, if you will. This of course leads us to an ice cream metaphor, which, not at all shockingly, has been on my mind all damn day. All I want is a vanilla shake with those delicious pink and white little animal cookies in it. I cannot stop thinking about it. Luckily for my waistline and impending long run, I have neither on hand. It was my initial thought to compare this month's books to this delectable dessert, but I don't think most of the books warrant such privilege. My ice cream-free reviews:

The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
384, 391 and 400 pages

I already spent a post discussing the trilogy and don't really feel like taking a walk back into Katniss' love triangle, so I'll make this brief. For those of you who have been living under a rock, The Hunger Games take place in the future, after the earth has been decimated. Each year each of the 12 surviving "districts" are called upon to send two representatives to The Games, which involve sticking a bunch of teenagers into an arena where they must fight each other for food or resources. The game is over when only one survives. Katniss ends up volunteering so her sister is spared, leading to three books worth of revolution, violence, and love. Like I said before, this is great YA reading- high-brow, quality contemporary fiction it is not. While I have some serious issues with the plot line, it will be a series I recommend to my young teenagers when they exist. For your viewing enjoyment is the LEGO trailer of the movie, which a friend told me about recently:

Marathon by Hal Higdon
304 Pages

I actually wrote about this as well in Non-Fiction Nagging. Bottom line- while I can't tout it's amazingness yet since I haven't completed a marathon, I think it's definitely worth the price and the read if you're a runner. I have been loosely following the weekly mileage guides and have seen improvement (possibly) already. I'm really looking forward to the Surf City Half in February to see if this leads to something positive.

There But For The by Ali Smith
256 Pages

I hate giving bad reviews, but for this book I have to. I picked up through Amazon Vine after semi-enjoying her earlier (and Booker Prize finalist) The Accidental. The premise behind this novel is intriguing- a man gets up from a dinner party and locks himself in the spare bedroom, refusing to come out or communicate, with the ensuing story being told from the perspective of four people. Unfortunately, the execution was shoddy- boring, unrealistic (he ends up staying for months- they would have busted through by that point) and not as funny as intended. Unfortunately, I can't recommend this one.

The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis
366 pages

Another one I can't recommend! Sonofab. Sorry, folks. I had strangely, unrealistic expectations for this novel and it completely fell short. Amis is a hit or miss writer; this novel had received better reviews than his past ones, but I don't believe I'll be reading another one of his. The underlying concepts- the sexual revolution in Europe, English literature, and transitioning from college to adulthood- are interesting, but the text just didn't deliver.

All in all, this was sort of a disappointing reading month. I'd recommend The Hunger Games and Marathon, but the other two stay away from. Here's to a better January! My next book will be very, very carefully selected!

Because I Know You Care

So, I got some books for Christmas. And by some I mean a lot, especially if you include the books bought from the Amazon gift cards I got. I'll spare you the synopses- I'm confident that you can all Google sufficiently, and to be honest, I don't feel like it. Hell, I don't even feel like writing the titles (please note, Home Repair is my husband's, it got mixed up in my pile, as is the bottom book).

On the way: Family Fang, The Barbarian Nurseries, Fathermu
cker, The Leftovers, and The Crucible (for work) should also arrive today.

While this post may seem to portray the opposite, I am actually in a swell mood and am enjoying my vacation immensely. Did I mention that I still have 9 days off? Did I mention how tired I am of people making it seem like the life of a teacher is all sunshine and butterflies and vacation? Try dealing with 180 hormonal, sassy teenagers all day, plus all their poorly written essays, and we'll check back in.

Oh, and in unrelated news, I am so unbelievably shocked that Russel Brand and Katy Perry are getting a divorced. Sex addicts reform all the time and pop stars make bitchin' wives. I actually wanted them to work, for some reason. Always the hopeless romantic. That's me.

Someone's a tad punchy today.

[And sorry for developing a fascination with someecards. I'm sure it will pass]

By the way, I've updated some of my Ultimate To-Do List Page.

Unabashedly Proud

This post can be turned into a drinking game: every time I pat myself on the back, take a shot.

Adults can be hard to shop for- unless they happen to be readers and you know a thing or two or about books. Luckily, my family is, so they got one of the best presents I've ever come up with: The Family Box of Books. Here's how to replicate this awesomeness for your own family next holiday season:

1. Figure out who you have to buy for and scour Amazon to find each person one book (for my family I chose Room for my mom, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for sister A, The Selected Works of TS Spivet for sister B, The Night Circus for mom's boyfriend's daughter, and Pizza on the Grill for mom's boyfriend.

2. Pick a few other books you feel like people should read- here is where you can continue to inflict your fantastic taste on others (I grabbed The Lost Girls, Fahrenheit 451, and Go the Fuck to Sleep).

3. Wrap presents and put them in a box (have I mentioned how great I am at wrapping gifts?)

4. Create a tag for each family member that lists what book they will definitely like, and one or two that they should try (for example, Sister A should also try Fahrenheit 451 and Room, while mom should read How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and The Lost Girls).

5. Have family unwrap presents and then read tags.

6. Feel proud of self while they exchange books, read the backs, and seem genuinely excited about their options.

7. Laugh hysterically with family while mom, a preschool teacher, reads Go the Fuck to Sleep aloud. Congratulate self for catalyzing family happiness.

Drunk yet?

Joking aside, I actually really loved "shopping" for this gift and putting in a lot of thought and consideration into the titles for each person. Books are always the best presents (fine, according to me).

Books on Your Back- It's a Jungle Out There!

Stumbled upon this awesome "Jungle Book" t-shirt from Tilteed.com, a site I had never visited until today (it has some pretty eclectic designs- check it out). I love this shirt, and it's only $10, but unfortunately only the larger sizes are left.

Blog Reading

I recently decided that blogs are the new magazine- at least for me. Over the past year or two I've become a fan, enjoying the motivation, recipes, tips, and distraction from my life. When making the "commitment" to follow a blog I look at:

Topic- Most that I read are about health and fitness, which is much different that the one I read. I definitely do frequent some good book ones, several related to cooking, a few fashion, and some that are just plain cool. I'm not into crafty blogs (I have nothing against them, I just rarely have the urge to glue and cut), mommy blogs (no explanation needed) or shopping blogs.

Frequency of Updates- Several of the blogs I read are for profit, so they update at least twice a day, which is nice if I'm bored. I have a hard time adding a blog to my favorites if they don't write a new post at least once or twice a week.

Grammar- I have a difficult time reading blogs that have blatantly poor grammar or writing skills. There's a difference between the occasional slip up (we all do that!) and just piss-poor writing. One of my biggest pet-peeves is exclamation mark overuse, although nothing if more irritating than apostrophe mistakes.

Visual Appeal- I'll be honest: I like pretty blogs! I know, this is ironic given the visual aesthetics aren't exactly Bookishly Boisterous' selling point. I especially appreciate great pictures on cooking sites.

Here are some of my many favorites:

Health and Fitness:
Run Eat Repeat (Monica is hilarious and blatantly human)
Healthy Tipping Point (motivational, and she's pregnant now- interested to see how it goes)
The Fitnessista (another pregnant blogger, but also a fitness instructor with great tips)
Running of the Reese's (hilarious- she runs my pace, so it's nice to not feel ridiculously slow)
Pancakes and Postcards (fellow Bruin, ex-Peace Core, Bay Area runner)
This Runner's Trials (amazing runner with fertility issues turned pregnant runner turned mommy runner)
Once Upon a Lime (drinker runner extraordinaire- my kind of girl)
Gourmet Runner (they built their own house- need I say more?)
Eat Drink and Be Meiri (she swears a lot, which I like)

Drizzle of Sunshine (my good friend who bakes me cakes and got me into yoga)
How Sweet it Is (amazing recipes)
Broke Ass Gourmet (great eats on the cheap)
Smitten Kitchen (just getting into them)
Annie's Eats (nice, normal food)

Book Riot (a collaboration of book bloggers)
The Book Lady's Blog (professional reviewer)
Literary Musings (solid stuff)
The Broke and the Bookish (responsible for Top Ten Tuesdays)

Just Plain Cool
Rockstar Diaries (these people are super-neat and have the best dog)
A LEGO a day (most related to Star Wars)
Fancy Napkin (found this cute blog the other day and managed to win her recent lip gloss giveaway!)

Now off to read an actual book.

My Best (and Worst) Of 2011

I'm a little reluctant to do this post now, since there are still 9 more days left of the year and I might finish a book or two before it's over, but something tells me they might not make the cut (if by chance they do I'll make an addendum). So, here are the best ten books I read this year, plus a few you should stay away from:

1. 180 Degrees South- Conquerors of the Useless by Chris Malloy: This is technically a coffee table book, but I read it like a novel. After being completely consumed by the documentary, I asked for this book last Christmas and received it. The photographs and writing invoke such a spirit of adventure and environmental consciousness. And now I have definitely added visiting Patagonia to my bucket list.

2. The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni: This novel told the coming of age story of a boy who lived with his eccentric grandmother in a glass dome. He makes friends with a kid with a heart transplant and they start a horrible rock band. It's funny, quirky, and sentimental without being cheesy.

3. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano: This was a such a simply written book about complex emotions. It wasn't necessary plot drive or a character study- somewhere comfortable in between. And the author is quite the looker (not that that matters).

4. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: This, I'm sure, is on a lot of lists this month, since it truly was a great book. I did have some reservations about the scientific aspect, but I find it to be a book that I think about often. Well-written and just plain interesting.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by JK Rowling: There was something bittersweet about ending the series- I was glad to finally complete something I had started ten years prior, but I find myself missing Harry, Hermione, Hagrid and Dumbledore (not Ron the whiner).

6. The Selected Work of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen: I cannot gush about this book enough. I fell in love (like platonic "oh how cute, I wan to pinch your cheeks" love, not "I want to rip your clothes off and make babies with you" love, just to clarify) with T.S. from the very first pages and wanted to adopt him by the end. Larsen is such a great writer and the illustrations and notes that went in to the text are amazing.

7. Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez: I'm a little wary of the apocalypse genre ever since the zombies started taking over, but I really enjoyed this book. It was told from the perspective of a young boy whose parents had died from the super-flu that had wiped out a huge chunk of the population. Interesting and frightening realistic.

8. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: I hesitated as to whether or not this book belonged on the list, since the first part of the novel was a little slow for me. But, the end made up for it and the way the Bipolar aspect was treated made it significant to me. This isn't for casual readers, though.

9. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: This novel could almost be considered a collection of short stories; the perspective of different newspaper employees as the paper is closed. It's an interesting look at what is happening in the print industry right now. And, by proxy, makes me hate eReaders even more.

10. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall: This is a great book, for runners and non-runners. While it does tout the barefoot running line a bit much, I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of ultras, trail running, and the quest to create one of the best races in history.

A Few That Almost Made It:
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Keep Your Distance:
C by Tom McCarthy- Horribly boring.
Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee- Added nothing to the Indian literature genre.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown- Could have been better, but ended up flat.
There But For The by Ali Smith- Could not get into it; failed attempt at something with potential.

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch

As a general rule of thumb, I don't love movies. They're long, I need to pee often, and I feel like I should be doing something rather than just sitting. I've asked my husband, a huge film buff, if we could maybe watch them in segments- a half an hour a night would equal a movie a week! Unfortunately he's not really a fan of that brilliant plan, so occasionally I suck it up and watch one with him- sometimes I'm happy I did, sometimes not so much.

Last night was a movie I actually wanted to see- Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen film. Bonus points- only 96 minutes long.

Five Reasons to Watch:

1. It's a literary movie- Owen Wilson's character, Gil, find some sort of crazy time warping black hole different dimension sort of thing (they never explain this) and is able to go back to the twenties to visit such writers as Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald.

2. He is also a struggling writer that sells out during the day- something those of us who would like to write understand. I loved how he didn't want to let anyone see his manuscript or talk about what he was working on, since I can totally relate to that.

3. Inside jokes and references for readers- Hemingway is an egomaniac and sometimes talks how he writes (and is obsessed with war). Zelda Fitzgerald is constantly drinking and dabbling in different hobbies. Gertrude Stein schmoozes it up with Picasso.

4. It will make you want to go to Paris. I don't care if they hate Americans or whatever the common complain is, I want to go.

5. It pokes fun at screenwriting and how so many Hollywood writers are in it purely for the money.

My only issues are nit-picky: I don't really care for Own Wilson (he always plays such a dumbass) and I hate Rachel McAdams with blond hair. Other than that, really great, fun, smart movie.

I can't believe I just blogged about a movie. The world is ending.

Nonfiction Nagging- Marathon Running

Like always, if running isn't your thing you may want to skip this post. Or maybe you should read it and start!

So, I publicly proclaimed that I was going to run the charming Modesto Marathon on March 18 a few weeks ago and since then I've started my training, using Hal Higdon's Marathing: The Ultimate Training Guide for help in devising my plan. While I can't yet attest to it working or not, he has had a lot of success with it, and the fact that he has run over 100 marathons says something itself. A lot of what he discussed I already knew, since it applies to the many halves I have run (10 as of a few weeks ago), but I did get a lot of important insight as to how to develop my training plan.

The lowdown:

Two steps forward, one step back, two steps way forward

When it comes to weekly mileage and the long run you have to be strategic so that you're pushing yourself, but not to the point of injury. So, for example, maybe one week would be 33 total miles with 12 mile long run, then next 34 miles with a 13 mile long run. Then you'd take it back down a week to let your body recover; say 25 total miles with only an 8 mile long run. Then you'd crank it back up with 36 miles total and a 16 mile long run the following week.

Finishing Is Always Good

According to Higdon, the goal of a first time marathoner is usually just to finish. 26.2 miles is a long way and just being able to cross the final line is an accomplishment. I am not a fast runner, but there are some numbers floating around in my head; I need to remember this.

In regards to his plan for beginners, I didn't like the fact that he suggested not focusing on speed work. Maybe if you're a new runner that would be good advice since it could lead to injury; I may be a new marathoner, but I've been a runner for awhile and like to do intervals or fartleks about once a week.

Stop Eating Like Shit

That's not exactly what Hidgon said, but it's what he meant. Training for a marathon is different from recreational exercise- your body needs fuel and it needs the right kind. He of course pushes healthy carbs and an increase in protein. I love the fact that runners are now being encouraged to drink low-fat chocolate milk after long runs. Don't have to tell me twice!

Mileage Goals

From what I can gather, the "magic" number for training is going to be to work up to 30-40 miles a week with at least one 20 miler in. After that injuries pop up, unless you're an elite athlete, have many years of a training base, or are genetically blessed. His "novice marathoner plan" starts runners off at around 18; the last few weeks I've bumped mine up to 22-28, so I'm planning on starting the training towards his week 6 (I only have 12 weeks left until the marathon and his plan is based on 18). I think I'm in a decent place but have had some extreme foot pain/swelling since the the Rock and Roll Vegas Half I did a few weeks ago. It's the normal conundrum runners have- rest it and lose training time, or power through the pain and risk injury. Right now I'm powering through.

The Long Run

The long run is something some people love, while some hate it. I'm on the fence; it really just depends on the day and what's going on in my life. Generally my long runs right now even out at about 10 or so miles; I'm going to have to hit 20 at least once (3 weeks before the marathon before the taper). I really appreciated that he said the long run should be slow- anywhere from 30-90 seconds slower than your estimated race time.


I have a definite love/hate issue with the taper and have basically quit doing them. Interestingly, my PR was after a serious one week taper- I should be connecting the dots. For non-runners, tapering is when you bring your mileage way, way down before a race. When training for a half marathon you taper for about a week; Higdon recommends three (right after the longest run of training). You still are running, but you move from a 40 mile week three weeks before the race to an 8 mile week in the seven days preceding the big day. It's a tough pill to swallow.

I feel like this is a really great book for those starting out; he is an old guy, so his writing voice is a little antiquated, but that's okay (I love when he admits to being a "postmenopausal male" when discussing whether or not women should run on their periods). Even if you're not running a marathon, he has great info for halves and the sport in general. Now everyone go run!

Top Ten Tuesday- Bring it, Santa!

Frankly, I'm over the whole materialistic aspect of this time of the year- it seems like everyone has "a case of the gimmies." So, when I saw this most recent post from the Broke and the Bookish I took pause, but decided that at least there's an educational, intellectual component to wanting new books. If the masses were running around Target and the mall trying to find the best deal on microscopes or history documentaries, rather than iPods and stupid plastic toys, I'd be a lot more cool with this whole season.

And now I'm stepping off the soapbox. Ho. Ho. Ho.

My top ten literary gimmies:

1. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson: I just heard about this book (like an hour ago) from a blurb Ann Patchett did with Martha Stewart. It sounds hysterical- quirky artistic parents make their children into the subjects of their performance art.

2. The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar: About a Latina maid in Los Angeles who is left with her employer's children when their house is about to be foreclosed on. Nice.

3. Franny and Zoey by JD Salinger: I've talked some crap about Salinger before (sorry, husband, if you're reading), about how Catcher in the Rye is o
verrated. Sorry! Really. But I still mean it. Anyway, this is supposed to be a true gem- some even say better.

4. Where Children Sleep by James Mollison: I've mentioned this before- it's a peek into the bedrooms of children all over the world. It's fascinating to see how the world values certain things. Fantastic coffee table book.

5. Luminous Airplanes by Paul LaFarge: I think what interests me both about this book is that it combines the actual written text with an online portion. I'm obviously very anti-eReader, but I feel like this may be an interesting compromise.

6. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta: Because I'm a groupie.

7. Bridge o
f Sighs by Richard Russo: Ummm, because I'm a groupie.

8. Michael Mina: The Cookbook: I ate at his restaurant in Vegas over the summer and loved the menu.

9. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Allison Bechdel: This is the graphic novel I'm supposed to read this year according to my 2011 resolutions (I said I would read my first graphic
novel). It's probably not going to happen, but next year. This novel is more up my alley; something to dispel my false notion that graphic novels are just longer versions of superhero comics.

10. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne: I'm smitten Visual Editions and own the other two books that they have published so far. The company is basically turning the medium of the traditional novel into art.

Books on Your Back- Prairie Style

Reading The Hunger Games this week made me think of books that came in a series- like Little House on the Prairie. I remember reading those books during my elementary years and watching the reruns on TV. I guess I was a sucker for family values and everything working out in the best after some hard work, life-lessons and family bonding.

I really love how prairie detail in what is presumably L
aura's body.
Found from the T-Shirts I Want website.

The Hungriest Week of My Life

I am so sick of Katniss Everdeen right now, but it's not her fault. After much debating, I ordered The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins with a birthday gift card and decided, for some, reason to read all three at once. And so now not only am I sick of Katniss, I'm sick of Peeta being such a martyr, creative combat techniques, training, and everyone obsessing about food. I still have a soft spot for Haymitch and Buttercup, though.

I know, I'm not really selling the series. So, let's start over. If you have no idea what they're about, read the synopsis on Amazon. I have faith, you can do it (because I am not).

The Hunger Games Trilogy is not high-brow contemporary literature, nor is it mindless, poorly-written crap. I'd describe it as quality YA lit- the kind of novels I'd like my reluctant-to-read students to have the opportunity to experience (not that I'd lend them my copies). There are definitely elements to applaud, although I do have some issues with other parts. Let's make it simple:

(please note anything that may be considered a spoiler is in purple, so don't read it if you care)

- This isn't a YA novel based on romance, shopping, being popular, vampires, zombies or any other ridiculous or materialistic concepts that many are.
- Love is a topic, but it is done tastefully and there is absolutely no sex; Katniss does get a little hot and bothered in the second and third volumes, but if the kid reading is clueless they won't pick up on it. I'd probably let a mature 5th or 6th grader attempt it.
- Bare with me, the teacher in me is coming out for a second... The novels require quite a bit of inference skills, especially the first and second ones. The reader is expected to pick up on clues and try to hypothesize why things are the way they are. This is a good thing.
- There are important issues being dealt with- friends, family, survival, morality, ethics, and the idea that having "stuff" doesn't mean you truly have a good life or are a good person. It is very violent, but the fighting is not glorified. Emotions and turmoil are attached to the damage caused.
- The story is interesting, although I definitely preferred the first book, when the idea of "The Games" is still a novelty. Not to say the second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, are bad (see below).
- The worlds Collins created in the arenas were fascinating- little biomes of horror.
- These books can be used as a steppingstone into more serious literature; a teenager may discover they're really interested in science fiction and had never known it. Good sci-fi, though, like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451.

- First let me just get this out of my system- I felt more than once that Haymitch was a rip of Harry Potter's Hagrid. Big, protective oaf that likes to hang out alone and drink? Yup.
- I thought some things became a bit overused, like Katniss being rescued and then the text bringing the reader to her bedside in recovery. Done at least twice...
- I got really tired of reading about her being prepped for appearances; I didn't care if she was being scrubbed and waxed yet again.
- The writing was quality on the YA level, but at times the syntax bothered me. This, of course, is partially just personal preference.
- I felt, on a plot level, in Mockingjay things got a bit rushed and sloppy.
- The ending was a bit too "full-circle" for me. And I really, really did not like who she ended up with. She absolutely let the Capitol win.
- I often think that series novels are a bit of a cop out; the lazy way to write. I understand that it builds interest and makes money, but a truly good writer can be concise and pack a punch in just one text. Sticking to one story line and set of characters sometimes seems to say "I got nothin' else." I know there are exceptions- Harry Potter, Little House and the Prairie and I think it's John Updike who uses many of the same characters repeatedly. But...

So, do I recommend them? To teenagers, absolutely. To people that are casual readers, or who read purely for entertainment- yup. For those that enjoy more challenging writing, even yes, but maybe sandwiched between something a bit more complex.

And unless you're in love with then, don't do a marathon reading like I did (and I did not love them, not even close).

Weekend of Books

It's been a bookish weekend spent...

Plowing through The Hunger Games trilogy (1/2 way done). I'm not going through them fast because I'm in love, nor am I trying rush because I hate them. I still have mixed feel
ings that will absolutely be self-analyzed when I'm done.

Working on my marathon training plan (and getting in some mileage based on it) thanks to the Hal Higdon guide I talked about last week.

Creating a Julius Caesar final for my two sophomore classes. I absolutely adore finals week- two days spent reviewing and then three days of testing. The kids kiss butt like crazy trying to pass their classes ("Umm, I know I haven't been to your class much this semester, but do you think there's anyway I can still pass? I promise I'll come every day from now on and do all my work...") and three of five days are minimum for the kids. Not to mention the fact that it's followed up with three weeks of break.

'Tis the season... for giving books as presents! My family up in Modesto is getting a cool (according to me) present based on books. That's all I can say.

Reading end of the year book lists. I love seeing what I'
ve read already and adding new ones to my wish-list. Recently I've discovered Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar and The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky.

Going to Barnes and Nobles and spotting this gem

Want this book I do.

November Reviews- Your Mom Busts Out Fast Reviews Without Pictures

I have a student that takes pretty much everything and prefaces it "Your mom is..." At first I tried to get him to stop, but it was entertaining and he does his work (one of those "pick your battle" kind of things). My favorite was when I told him to be quiet and read and he retorted, "Your mom is quiet and reads, Mrs. Stebbing." Half right; my mom in nowhere near quiet, but she does read. I've also heard, "Your mom claps her hands," "Your mom speaks in a British accent," and "Your mom doesn't do her homework." Ahh, kids. Well, like your mom, this review is also fast and to the point.

I read two books and have already wrote tangential posts on both, so I won't bore you with crap ("Your mom bores you with crap").

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
416 Pages
I had a bit of a hard time getting into this novel, but once it started picking up it was really good (hang in there for the first seventy-five pages). That being said, it is not driven by plot; it is a definite character study, so if that's not your bag (baby), you may want to skip it. I thought Middlesex was a stronger novel, but this one still deserves accolades. Read my diatribe on bipolar disorder here.

Antibiotic Resistance by Karl Drlica and David Perlin
288 pages
I really enjoyed this because it confirmed something I've lived by for a long time- antibiotics are making our culture weak. If you're interested in more of my half-assed analysis read here. If you don't have the cellular basics down, brush up or skip.

Two books? Ah yes, but 704 pages (plus rereading Julius Caesar twice for work). Take that.

Your mom busts out fast reviews without pictures because she needs to go to yoga.

Marathon Fueled by Books

"Are you ever ever going to run full marathons, instead of just halves?"

"Probably not, I don't have the time to train, 13.1 is long enough" or "Maybe one day" or "How far do you run?" or "Hell fucking no."

And, then as of about 12:30 this afternoon, "Yeah, I think so."

I don't know what really got into me. I've actually been eagerly anticipating my February "retirement" from longer races and haven't been terribly psyched about the Rock and Roll Half in Vegas this Sunday. I've been putting in the miles but not necessarily pushing myself or enjoying it. But, as I watched my students take an essay today I decided, "I'm going to run a full marathon this spring." I have no clue what the correlation was; I've gone through the epiphany many times and have failed
miserably to make the connection. Within seconds of this decision I decided to make it public, posting it on Facebook (nothing in life is real until it's in your status... shit) and texting a few fellow runners. I instantly knew what marathon- the Modesto Marathon, which is hilarious because I've been swearing up and down for the past nine months that I would never run that race again (it was freezing, raining, and windy last year and I felt capable of homicide when I eventually finished). But, it is my hometown and it does have an extremely long limit (7 hours!) so I don't feel any pressure (except the whole finishing 26.2 miles part).

I guess it was inevitable. I'm fairly competitive and I'm constantly looking for ways to push myself. I hate it when people say "just halves," because 13.1 miles is a huge deal, but I have to admit I'd like to be able to say I went for it.

At this point I have about 15 weeks until the Modesto one I'm eying- since I can run 13.1
miles right now I'm basically half way through your typical 15-18 week marathon training program, so it's definitely doable. I am concerned with my "bad" foot (I have an extra bone in one of my ankles that swells up and is extremely painful after 13.1 usually), asthma, and fitting in the time to increase my mileage by anywhere from about 25-70% each week for awhile.

After a lengthy happy hour I hit up the book store to pick up some necessary suppli
es for my new endeavor (see, a book connection). I grabbed Hal Higdon's Marathon- the Ultimate Running Guide so that I'd have an actual hard copy of a running plan for once. I was tempted to pick up something by Jeff Galloway, but his run/walk strategy isn't something I want to use (at least not right now... might as well live in a bubble for awhile). I also noticed Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir on his training of NYC (which, by the way, is supposed to be the marathon I'm doing; unfortunately it's a fall race and it's lottery only).

If you read about it you can do it... right?

Oh, and if the half on Sunday blows I reserve the right to take this all back.

Blog Hop- Brrrrrr With a Side of Ef Don DeLillo

Blog Hop time! Or, as we like to call it- Christine is too lazy to think of a topic and needs to go hammer out a long run before her Sunday half marathon (just running with my nearest and dearest 40,000 fellow runners on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night).

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish- Top Ten Books on My "Going to Read" List for Winter:

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I caved and bought the set with a gift card. We'll see... I can confidently say by reading one page of Twilight that it sucks balls; I need to read these myself to say one way or the other.

2. The Women by TC Boyle- I have three books of his that I haven't read yet! I'm a die-hard Tortilla Curtain lover and was mesmerized at his reading, so I'm confident they'll be awesome.

3. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach- A book that I got several months ago through Amazon Vine that has seen a lot of initial success.

4. Light Boxes by Shane Jones- a short little experimental-esque novella that has gotten quite dusty.

5. Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro- A short story collection that will be perfect for when we go on our short San Francisco trip in December. With the constant rushing traveling involves I feel that short stories work best for me.

6. The Time of the Doves by Merce Rodoreda- Honestly, I know very little about this book except that it is set during the Spanish Civil War and is a translated work (a book club selection).

7. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith- This collection of essays by the anti-chic lit queen is also a contender for travel.

8. Underworld by Don DeLillo- I've been "reading" this beast for years (somewhere around 6) and it's on my 2011 Literary Resolutions list to finish. Fuck DeLillo and fuck this book. The bane of my existence. But, godammit, I'll do it.

9. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- A classic, shall we? Plus everyone loves a good tale of underage sex. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Yay Kwanza.

10. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins- Must have at least one non-fiction title.

Please note that:
a. I probably will not stick to this, as I find rules stifling
b. i consider winter from now until May
c. I seriously mean it when I say "fuck Underworld"

Nonfiction Nagging- Antibiotics

Before I begin, I suppose it is my ethical duty to state that I am not a healthcare expert and that my knowledge and opinions come from being a concerned, semi-informed citizen. Wanting to be a doctor and holding a biology credential may make me a nerd, but definitely not a professional.

So, while everyone in the world today was out snatching up TVs for $20 and macing fellow shoppers, I was holed up on my comfy couch reading Antibiotic Resistance: Understanding and Responding to an Emerging Crisis by Karl Drlica and David Perlin (please note that all information in this blog was acquired from this text, unless otherwise noted). For fun. This was not for a class or for credit, it was total self-education. And boy did I learn.

Personally, I stay away from antibiotics because a) they make my birth control ineffective and, more importantly, b) the body can often fend for itself. My cheap-ass younger self spend some time insurance-free time in college and got sick numerous time... and survived. Interestingly, now I don't get sick (knock on wood) often- my personal opinion is that I built up resistance then and during my years teaching elementary school. I've been aware for many years that the world is rendering antibiotics ineffective by overuse and I have wanted no part. Unfortunately, my concerned have now been affirmed: I have no choice.

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem that impacts us all, no matter what. It stems from:

Doctors prescribing antibiotics for viruses (colds!), possible infections, and other inconvenient symptoms. Some studies have found up to half of the 100 million antibiotic prescriptions distributed each year are unnecessary (bets on how many go to kids with slight ear infections, adults who swear they have sinusitis, and people tired of coughing?). We don't like being sick- there's nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, though, are doctors that lack the balls to say "rest, drink fluids, and let your body give it a go for a week or so." Oh, and old-school docs calling in meds without seeing patients? Augh! No! No! No! Doctors admit they simple don't have the time or energy to fight with people. No one likes an unhappy customer.

Moo, Gobble, Oink
The agriculture industry has used antibiotics and growth hormones for years now at an alarming rate. The cows take the antibiotics and we eat the meat. Need I say more?

A Spoonful of Medicine...
Dosing guidelines are too conservative. Resistance happens because of mutation; low dose antibiotics aren't always strong enough to kill a bacteria population before the whole natural selection/survival of the fittest theories kick in. Little Joe Bacteria mutates to resist Penicillin, reproduces, and all the sudden it's not working anymore. Joe Bacteria reproduces... and reproduces... and reproduces... and then escapes the body so your coworker/child/friend/bus seat partner then picks it up. Boom. Higher doses does mean a possible increase in side effects; the pharmaceutical industry is too concerned with low side-effects instead of the resistance problem.

It's All About the Benjamins
Drug companies aren't terribly concerned with developing new antibiotics (or possibly more effective combination drugs) because the money is in more expensive prescriptions for diseases that require prolonged dosages. Pneumonia is temporary (if treated appropriately), while diabetes requires a lifetime of prescriptions.

The authors of this text, nor I, aren't calling for an end to antibiotic usage. They are absolutely necessary, and life-saving, sometimes. There are certain people that should not put off going to the doctor when symptoms show (those with compromised immune systems due to HIV or other diseases, the elderly, young kids that are obviously suffering, etc...), yet most of us need to trust our bodies a little more. And, we need to take care of ourselves so we're strong enough to fight off infection in the first place. Stop stressing! Start eating better! Workout! Laugh! Have more sex! Wash your hands! Go to bed earlier!

It's also really important to remember that there are good little bugs out there- all you germaphobes who carry around hand sanitizer on your key chains need to calm yourselves. Some microbes are good- they help build resistance and break down certain things in our bodies (like in the digestive tract). The authors mention the fact that antibaceterialing (yes, I made up a word... artistic license) the hell out of your house can actually be a disservice to your kids- living in bubbles do not help build up immune systems for a healthy adulthood. So yes, keep your house clean, but it's not necessarily to clean everything with Lysol every night.

So, at the end of the day, it's like voting. I personally can't really do much about this global problem by turning down a Z-Pack, but if we all started working together to reduce antibiotic consumption we could.

PSA for Today

I just/finally finished Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot, and, while the end of the month review will be forthcoming, I had to take a few minutes to discuss one of the major concepts the novel deals with, as it's something that has unfortunately been a huge part of my life.

For those unfamiliar with the text, it's about three college graduates stuck in a love triangle. The novel follows them through their late college years into the year following their graduation. Madeline is the one coveted by both Mitchell and Leonard; she chooses Leonard, while Mitchell sets off abroad instead of dealing with the shitty economy of the 1980's recession.

Madeline and Leonard's relationship is quite tumultuous, given that he is bipolar, which is where my connection to the novel comes into play. Stop getting excited- this isn't me announcing a personal diagnosis of mental instability to the world (I'm admittedly moody at times due to running out of cereal or the dog waking me up at 4 am). My father suffered from this mental illness and eventually took his own life when I was a freshman in high school, making me a decent judge of how people with the illness act and how it impacts those around the person. I went into the novel on the lookout for bullshit, but am pleased to say that I feel Eugenides did a good job portraying a bipolar patient. Leonard had highs and lows, his medication was ridiculously hard to stabilize (this was a huge part of my dad's struggle), and those around him felt a wide range of emotions ranging from anger to helplessness to frustration in regards to his behavior. One day Leonard would be throwing parties and leading midnight adventures to casinos and then a few days later he would disappear. Eugenides obviously did his homework- not sure why I had any doubt.

What frustrates me is the false perception of manic depression/bipolar disorder many people have. The word is thrown around constantly for people who are emotional or at times unstable. Let me tell you, there is a definite difference between being moody or depressed and actually having this disease. While I'm not a doctor, healthcare professional, or sufferer, here are some of the more interesting aspects of the disease:

- More than 50% of cases start before the age of 25 (although they aren't necessarily diagnosed til until later)
- Can't be "cured," just managed
- Mania is more than just being hyper; it generally includes fast talking, breathing changes, extreme distraction, prolonged periods of feeling "high" or even irritable, sleep changes, unrealistic expectations, or risk-taking (impulsive sex, spending sprees, etc...)
- The severity of the cycles can differ
- People who are bipolar often have greater risks for anxiety disorders, substance abuse, thyroid problems, migraines and even diabetes
- Genetics play a risk; children who have a parent or sibling are 4 to 6 more times to develop it (so if I stay clear then my kids won't necessarily have the heightened risk). The odds are low already, though, so don't let the statistics fool you. And of course genes aren't the only risk factor- hello nature vs. nurture
- There are lots of available medications that continue to produce more favorable outcomes, but there are still side effects and balancing issues
- Obvious increased risk of suicide
- Those that feel they have symptoms or know someone who may should consult their doctor

And that's my literary-inspired PSA for the day.

Lucky to Be Alive

This is Chomsky:

Sometimes he's referred to as "Buddy," "The Fat K
id," or "Chomskito" (okay, the last one is just by me).

Today he was referred to as "you effing little shit!"

In retrospect, it was partly my fault- I left the book do
wn while I shut my eyes for a few minutes (I just came back from Vegas, so give me a break), and he is still a puppy at 9 months. But, then again, books are NOT TOYS. He's pretty good about only destroying his personal possessions, but today- not so much.

After putting him in his crate and going upstairs to collect myself (thank for the deep-breathing lessons, Yoga Den) I realized that it was still readable and would look fine once put back in the jacket, which I take off before reading. But still. It's my book and he hu
rt it.

Little effing shit.

It's That Time Again

I'm not really a big birthday person- I don't declare the week before the 22nd "birthday weekend" or make lofty gift requests. I think this comes from growing up- my family was on a budget so we did lots of modest family parties and no one went crazy on the gifts (which, by the way, I have no qualms about and is the way I'll strive to raise my kids too). Add in the fact that I'm getting older (no, not my late 20s), I'm cool ignoring it.

That is, unless I get a birthday book cake.

My awesome friend Joanna (check out her food and healt
hy living blog) made me a book cake, including fondant and legible writing (you should see my lack of frosting skills). So cute, such a great color, and so good (running fuel for my impending 3-4 miler).

Growing old sucks, but having true friends there with you makes it a bit more manageable.

Especially when they come to your house with chocolate cake.

Book on Your Back- Awesome, Man (and Pinterest)

I love this shirt, probably because I use the word "awesome" too much.

I'm not really sure about the source; I saw it on this stupidly ridiculous site called Pinterest and then it redirected me to a church site. And then I got scared. Here's the pinning and here's my Pinterest, just to show you the fruits of my trolling.

While I'm talking about Pinterest I just have to say that there are some definite good things and bad things about it, from the few weeks I've been on.

- I'm loving it as a way to store recipes for food, desserts, and drinks
- Great way to remember things you don't want to clutter up your "favorites" with (dresses! clocks! t-shirts!)
- The ap on my phone keeps me entertained on the 1/4 mile walk from my classroom to car everyday. For some reason that walk seems longer than running 5 miles.

- They're growing way too fast and simply don't have the technological support to keep up. The results equal glitches and error screens.
- It's free. This is bad because it's actually valuated to be worth quite a bit; eventually they're going to start charging or are going to eff up our boards with ads.
- It's just another form of social networking that you have to watch yourself on. On my bucket list I stuck up a picture of a boudoir shot because it would be nice to be so hot you'd want people to take your picture. For those that don't know me, I'm now this anonymous slutty person that has secret aspirations of becoming a porn star (porn star name, in case you want to know, would be "Raven Countryside." Kinda of nice). It also allows people you do know to get you better- good and bad. Anyway, you get the gist.

Happy the Weekend is Over Eve. Expletive, expletive, expletive.

Spiney Art

One of the (fun) challenges of having a new house is deciding what you want on the walls. My husband and I are quite particular, and really are in no hurry to fill the walls with random, meaningless crap. You are what you hang on your walls.

My discovery of this awesome company, Ideal Bookshelf, ran by artist Jane Mount, definitely gives possibilities. She creates simple, whimsical paintings made of book
spines that come in a few sizes (8 x10 runs $26, while 11 x 14 $55). You can either purchase prints of ones that she has already created or customize your own actual paintings. There are tons of options for the prints, featuring anything from children's literature to classics to contemporary literature to gardening books. Two of my favorites:

I also really like the idea of taking her note cards framing some of the ones that work with the books I have and love.

What intrigues me the most is the custom painting options, of course. You pick your own books, take pictures of the spines and send them to her. It's a little pricey, but it is customized art. I'm hoping to ope negotiations to go halvsies with the man who pays the mortgage with me after the holidays. This of course made me thinks about the books I'd want if I were to do it. My picks (based on appearance and importance):

Haters Gonna Hate

Why must I torture myself? For some god-foresaken reason I decided to waste my time and watch this tidbit on Nicholas Sparks on CNN today. Those are three minutes I will never get back.

My take:

Headline "Nicholas Sparks calls writing painful"
Thought: The only thing that's painful is listening to your mouth and reading your words.

"I need to blow my nose... allergic to the books."
Thought: I hope you blow the five brain cells you own out of your head and spare the world anymore books. I'm allergic to your books. Sneezing, coughing, scratching and vomiting.

"...All of which have been made into movies."
Thought: Shut up you money-hungry asshole

"I write what I think people will want to read..."
Thought: He had just said writing would be easy if he wrote what he wanted to; can you say "SELL OUT?" Douchebag.

"The motivation for me largely these days comes from that my publishing house expects a novel from me every fall..."
Thought: What would a book you truly wanted to write be like? You have enough clout to say "no," why don't you? Work outside the box, write something you want to. I think I have even less respect for him now I understand "playing the game" when you're young, but this far into it? He could easily rework his contract.

"... a wife and five kids..."
Thought: Oh, he's a [insert religious community that reproduces in excess of 2.5 kids]. I mean someone dumb enough to not use condoms. I mean someone who obviously needs the cash to feed the family.

I almost feel bad for him. And it's passed.

Top Ten Tuesday- You're Making Me Uncomfortable

A lot of things make me uncomfortable in my life. People changing their baby's diapers in front of me. Being questioned about my personal life by people not involved in it. Teenagers with low rise pants. Opening gifts in front of people. Being hit on when I'm sober. The list goes on.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to divulge the top ten books that have made us uncomfortable. This is pretty difficult; books don't make me uncomfortable and I'm quite accepting of new genres. But there are some that have forced me to go outside my comfort level, and a few that maybe I shouldn't have read when I did. Here we are:

1. Shank by Roderick Anscombe: I read this when I was about thirteen- I have no clue what made me want to buy a book about a man in prison when I was that young. I remember very little except the graphic description about the glory hole (thanks to my husband for that terminology) that the male prisoners employed. At the time it was traumatizing; now I understand that we all have needs and 20 years can be quite a long time...

2. Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison: This is another novel I read way too young and just remember feeling very strange when the young protagonist masturbated, considering I was reading it in the family room while my little brother and sister watched cartoons (see note above about needs... I promise no more awkward sexual references from my youth).

3. Maybe Baby by Lori Leibovich and assorted writers: This was a collection of essay written by people who have made choices to have, and not have, kids. I read this recently, and I think it made me uncomfortable in a good way- as a married girl in my late (ew) twenties this is very relevant topic that deserved some reflection.

4. Big Machine by Victor Lavalle: I'm not normally a sci-fi reader, but I had heard great things about this text so I gave it a try. The unrealistic elements being treated real was hard for me to accept in a novel, but the writing was superb. While I haven't read much since, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up his next novel.

5. A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne: I read this for a college education class and was legitimately uncomfortable with the assumptions she made about the culture of poverty. The blatant stereotyping and borderline racism was just too much for me. As educators we need to understand the culture are students come from, but it needs to be accurate.

6. Marley and Me by John Grogan: I'm not one for the "I found the meaning of life in my animal" genre, but I read the young adult version to my students when I taught elementary and this one made me horribly sad at the prospect of losing my pets. I read it every year and made sure that I had a bottle of water handy when I got to the part where they put him down. I'd stop, yell at some kid for not paying attention and take a few sips so I wouldn't cry in front of my kids.

7. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Piccoult: This book didn't make me uncomfortable for the scientific organ-harvesting aspect; it made me uncomfortable because I was reading such a highly popular mainstream book. What can I say? I'm a snob. It was okay; what my husband would refer to as "Oscar bait" in movie terms. The writing was definitely mediocre.

8. Open Me by Sunshine O'Donnell: This novel is a high under-rated novel, all about professional wailers that people pay to mourn at funerals (illegal in many places, but still happens). It's hard to pinpoint why this bothers me. In a way it trivializes mourning and death, by turning it into a business. Also the abuse the young child in the novel faced was very depressing (by the way, I highly recommend this book).

9. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe by Katrina Firlik: I've used this book before on the blog, and I've rambled on about the regret associated with it as well. This memoir is about a female neurosurgeon and her trials and tribulations in the field. The discomfort factor comes with the remorse I feel in regards to switching from the doctor track to the teacher track. While I've grown to accept and embrace it, I can honestly say it will probably forever be one of the biggest regrets of my life. That and not partying more in college.

10. Underworld by Don DeLillo: This makes me incredibly uncomfortable because I started it six or seven years ago and have yet to finish it. What the hell? That isn't like me, not finishing something I start. I'm a doer! I problem solver! A task manager, a list maker, a to-do addict. It's downright shameful. But, it will happen. Mark my words.

Books on Your Back- Whore!

In honor of the girls who dressed up as Olive from Easy A for Halloween last week, here's a shirt from Novel-T celebrating that stupid whore Hester Prynne:

Can I Get a What What?

What I Need: Patience to teach Julius Caesar to my sophomores during the next six weeks.

What I Want: Good Times painting by Christopher Stott (only a mere $998)

What I Roll My Eyes At: That I had one student ask to read a Chelsea Handler book and another a Miley Cyrus biography for their extra credit books assignments.

What I Hate: eReaders are getting cheaper (than
ks a whole fucking lot, Amazon)

What I Wish: That I could rent a (luxury, fully renov
ated) cabin for a week somewhere out in the middle nowhere and read by a fire drinking Bailey's all day. It would be quiet, it would be cozy, and it would be expensive.

What I Love: That so many great books came out this fall. Perotta, Murakami, Eugenides, Smith, and Ondaatje, to name a few.

What I Wonder: Marisha Pessl's new book would have an actual release date so I could determine whether or now she is a one-hit wonder.

What I'd Visit Tennessee For: Paranassus books
, an independent bookstore that Ann Patchett is behind in Nashville. I've been stalking the Facebook page since I heard her talk about it during the summer and love seeing it come together.