“Good for her! Not for me.”

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I finally got an Audible subscription (thanks for the recommendations/advice everyone!). So now that I’m audiobook-addicted, here are some reviews of books I’ve “read.”

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenOk, I admit that I’m slightly ashamed to have listened to this popular novel-made-movie. I liked it at first, when they were just cancer kids living their lives and being funny (yes, I realize this statement makes me an asshole), but then it started getting all love-story-ish, and lost its mojo. Overall, on a scale of 1 to 5, (1 being, “No way, Jose!” and 5 being, “Yeah, baby!”) I’d give it a 2.5. Not a 3 because it’s not that good, but I feel bad about giving it a 2 (hurt it’s feelings and all). Anyway, this is the story of two kids who met in a cancer support group, both having miraculously survived childhood cancer. They fall in love, and it gets sappier and sappier from there (read: no modicum of reality). Perhaps I’m shunning my teenage angst by shunning this book. I can see how I’d have cried over it had I read it when I was 14 or something. Whoops, spoiler alert?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch by Donna TarttThis book was long. I got an award on Audible for listening to a book that took 30+ hours. But it was totally worth it. This book tells the story of anti-hero Theo Decker in three parts, starting with the day his mother died in the bombing of an art museum. You follow him through troubles and good times as he moves to Las Vegas to live with his estranged dad and meets his BFF Boris. Events conspire that bring him back to his home town of New York City, and the third part is where shit gets real. At first I thought I was following the life of this unfortunate boy, which, I was. But the novel gets deeper and deeper as it goes, and you find yourself thinking, “Whoa! What am I reading/listening to?!” I’ll admit that, had I been real-life reading this, I probably would have given up during some of the extended boring parts, but listening made it better. The narrator is great if you go the audiobook route. If you’re reading it, then you are the narrator, so the narrator is always default great.

The end is where it lost me. You go through this kid’s life from childhood to adulthood, and crazy stuff happens, and then the characters spend the last chapter lecturing you about the minutiae and subtle notions of good and bad. I get it, you wanted your novel to have a “message” but let the story tell it, not the actual dialogue beating the dead horse with it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 4. The lack of lesson at the end would have made it a 5.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes, Please by Amy PoehlerMother of God. This book. It is my manifesto. I have never been a mega huge Amy Poehler fan. Nothing against her, she’s just never stood out to me before this. But now. I can’t even begin to recommend this book enough to all women to read. Get it NOW. Listen to Amy read it to you on audiobook. Or get the book and mark the passages that stand out to you. This compendium of personal stories is SO relateable, but also just plain good advice. Some of my favorite tidbits are these…

Talking about self-hate & insecurities:

“When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad shit about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.”

On comparing yourself to other women:

“Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.”

On treating your career like a bad boyfriend:

“You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look… Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you.”

Amy, we love you. Marry us. This book is a 6+ out of 5.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de BeckerI read this book because Amy (see above) recommended it in a section of her book. This is a sort of popular self-help book. So, take it with a grain of salt. But it had a lot of solid points that I think people could benefit from learning. The author is a security specialist and has worked for the gov, public figures, large companies, etc. The book’s subtitle is “And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence,” and talks about things the author calls “Pre-Incident Indicators” that we can pay attention to in order to avoid being attacked. The book uses examples when telling you about these signals, so it reads almost like a thriller. Things like, when we say, “No” to something. That should be the end of the conversation. “No” is the answer, not an invitation for negotiation. No means no means no. End of conversation.

Also, another thing I found interesting is his discussion of not discounting your fear. Imagine a deer in the woods hears a noise that spooks it. It perks its ears up, listens, and then runs away. What do we assume? It knew a predator was nearby based on all the signs, and got the hell out of there. Now, imagine a woman waiting for an elevator. The door opens, and it’s a creepy looking guy alone in the elevator. All signs point to, “DO NOT GET IN.” And yet she ignores her fear, and gets into a steel box with a potential predator. What would it have meant to hurt his feelings and wait for the next elevator? Not much to him probably, but could have been a lot for her.

I don’t agree with everything he says. There’s a hint of victim-blaming toward the end that I can’t get behind, but I think the rest is useful and interesting enough to ignore that and appreciate the good parts. I found a free excerpt of the first chapter here. Rated: 3.5 out of 5.

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy WeirThis book was awesome. The story begin when Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars, is left behind on the Red Planet. A storm hits his crew, and Watney is swept away. His suit malfuntions leaving his crewmates to think him dead, and they leave him there. Until… (dramatic reverb) we discover he’s aliiiiiive. But seriously, I have a hint of like for sci fi, but this doesn’t even feel like sci fi. The voice and tone of the book narrator (Mark Watney) is ON POINT. I found myself laughing in my car at some of his quips. You’ve got to make your own humor when you’re stuck alone on Mars. Watney manages to stay alive on Mars through hardship after hardship. Mistake after mistake. It’s a great book. I read that it was self-published and so awesome that a publishing company re-published it under their label. The audiobook narrator is awesome, and really captures the emotion in some of the logs that the Mars man writes. I loved this book. I’ve been trying to get everyone to read/listen to it.

But even better news, guys. I found out they’re making a MOVIE out of it with Matt Damon. It’ll come out around Thanksgiving next year, and I can’t wait. Definitely a 5 out of 5. Get it. Read it. I need someone else to be giddy about it with me.

 

Ok now, do you have any recommendations for me? I’m currently in the midst of All the Truth is Out:The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai, a nonfiction book about how the media and politics have changed over the years to get where we are today. I heard about it originally from listening to Fresh Air after class one night while driving home. So far, it’s super interesting. Here’s a blurb about it:

In 1987, Gary Hart-articulate, dashing, refreshingly progressive-seemed a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination for president and led George H. W. Bush comfortably in the polls. And then: rumors of marital infidelity, an indelible photo of Hart and a model snapped near a fatefully named yacht (Monkey Business), and it all came crashing down in a blaze of flashbulbs, the birth of 24-hour news cycles, tabloid speculation, and late-night farce. Matt Bai shows how the Hart affair marked a crucial turning point in the ethos of political media-and, by extension, politics itself-when candidates’ “character” began to draw more fixation than their political experience

Big Cottonwood Marathon Recap (at long last)

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for months. I apologize. Now that this is irrelevant and many months past, here ya go…

Our race alarm went off at 4am, and we popped out of bed to get ready! Just kidding, we dragged ourselves, and slowly got our race clothes on. The hotel was serving a race breakfast, which consisted mostly of bananas, PB, and bread items–a runner’s dream. There were about 3 hotels in that area, and all the runners were supposed to meet outside in a single location for the bus to come get us. After breakfast, we tried to use the restroom (because you want to get it out before the pre-race port-o-potties, believe me. There’s a reason why runners love coffee, and that’s pre-race pooping. And nothing’s worse than holding your breath in a smelly port-o-potty.), and then headed out into the 30-something degree weather to wait for the bus.

We were smart and went to le Wal-Mart the day before to get throw-away warm clothes, plus we all got metallic space blankets in our race bags. But that didn’t cut the chill. Man, it was cold. When the bus finally showed up (a fancy charter bus, woo!), we all piled in. And kept piling, and kept piling. People were sharing seats and standing in the aisle, and I still think a few got left behind. Ungood.The bus wound up the dark-ass mountain road, and I was in the very back of the bus. Remember how I didn’t like flying? No control, and all that. This was even worse–couldn’t see anything, but turning on the winding roads like a roller coaster, pitch black. Ugh. I felt woozy, sick, and super nervous. The sweat, guys. So much sweating.

Sweaty as hell

When we were finally off the bus, it was even colder than before (my nervous sweat did not help), and people were huddled down in their space blankets or swishing around from port-o-potties to pre-race hydration tables. The race was set to start at 7, so we’d timed our eating, hydration, & bathroom breaks fairly well with the start time. So, now we just waited & stayed warm until gun time. You were allowed to take your race bag and then pitch it at the bag truck at about 6:45. We decided to do it around 6:40 to avoid the masses of people. After we’d ditched our space blankets and race bags, we walked around, huddled together to stay warm, got sips of the water & PowerAde, and tried to use the bathrooms one last time.

And then the sun came up, and we were still waiting. And a little before 7 they told us that people were still coming up the mountain on buses. Once those people got here, they’d give them time to use the bathrooms, and we’d be off. You could hear the groan of the crowd. Note to all race admin: Do not ever do this. This is the worst.

When a bus finally came, people started lining up, but we got a another announcement that there were like 3 more buses on the way. Please note it was still like 30*. We waited for what felt like forever in the cold, slowly getting hungrier, the cold setting in to our legs. When finally, I think around 7:15, they told us to line up. We had to wait for dumb announcements and the National Anthem. (The only time in my life where I’ll admit I did not enjoy listening to it because we were running behind already and the singer kept taking LONG pauses between phrases because people kept singing along and she wanted to be Whitney Houston–what did you expect, mediocre singer lady?).

You see how long this preamble was before I’ve even started talking about running? That’s how it felt waiting for the race to start.

So when we were FINALLY able to start running, I had to pee immediately. Of course, all race admin think that you’ve taken care of that before now, and don’t put a bathroom until at least 2 or 4 miles in. The temp warmed up as we got moving and the sun was really up at this point. So I stopped at the first bathroom station, and soon after ditched my $7 WalMart sweatshirt. The first 15 miles felt like a breezus, man. We stopped again around mile 8 because Sean had to use the bathroom (such poor start timing, race peeps). And somewhere in there we got some GUs.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 1

I kept singing to myself to the tune of Papa Roach’s Last Resort: “Cut my life into pizzas, this is my plastic fork.” I don’t know why, but I felt such a runner’s high and was so on cloud 9, that this seemed especially hilarious to me. I’m sure Sean wished I’d just be quiet.

And then we got off the mountain and headed onto the moderately flat, but still somehow hilly out & back part of the race. And this is where shit hit the fan.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 2

The out and back was pretty much one moderately rolling hills, but having just blown out our knees running down a mountain for 15 miles, we were not prepared. We did tons of hill work in training. In Atlanta, runners are known for withstanding the “heat, hills, humidity.” And to get our downhill training, we ran up them first. But really nothing can prepare you for the pounding of running downhill for that long except training by running downhill that long. Sorry but my landscape doesn’t allow for that.

Aaaanyway, our breakneck pace slowed WAY down to a trot, which, by mile 18-19 slowed down to a run-walk. During the whole race, all the aid stations had water and PowerAde. And every once and a while there was GU, and even less than once and a while there were oranges.

We trained with HUMA gels, which the guys at the local SWOLE shop recommended. HUMA gels are like 2 ingredients and GU is like 400. This is a rookie mistake. I should have 1. trained with GU or 2. brought HUMA gels. But I was not really concerned at the time.

I should have been, because this one girl stopped to talk to us during a run-walk around mile 20, and I had to hold my finger up to say, “One second” and throw up on the side of the road. This is like the ONE place that had spectators too. I managed to throw up on myself and in my own hair. It was one of my finest moments.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 3

“I hate my liiiiiifffe”

And that’s when it was over for me, for real. I was 6 miles from the finish line, so not enough to quit, but run-walking would take me another hour, and I knew I didn’t have it in me. So Sean (very graciously) walked the last 6 miles with me. We met people along the way who walked with us. One lady from Alabama who, like us, thought she could train on hills and be fine to run down a mountain. But, like us, was wrong.

So we walked for what felt like ages while our knees and legs tightened up. When we were really close to the finish line, after what felt like years of my life and tons of time to regret my decisions, Sean encouraged me to jog across the finish line over an hour after I had expected to.

Big Cottonwood Marathon 4

Look how happy Sean is that it’s over…

So I did. It was miserable. But it was over. I went to the first aid tent immediately, and they gave me some ice water, a cold wrap, and seat after telling me I was way more overheated than I thought I was. So I sat there in the shade while Sean went to get our bags. When he got back, he informed me that all the post-race goodies were gone. And after a disappointing race, that’s what I was most sad about.

It definitely wasn’t the race I expected, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I was still glad to do it (long after the pain stopped), and going out to Utah was still exciting. Sean says he’ll never run another marathon, but I think we need to redeem ourselves. :)

Big Cottonwood Marathon 5

Calories and Holidays

Every year it makes the rounds on Facebook in groups, fitness pages, Instagram, etc. You know, that one poster that tells you how many push-ups or burpees or miles your candy, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas brunch will “cost” you. I saw one “motivational post” on a Women of CrossFit group once (Remember to not get off track this Thanksgiving, ladies!), and when I commented with my opinion (No men’s group would ever post shit like that), people ganged up on me to tell me to lay off.

Lay off me I'm starving

It’s ok. I get mad when I’m hungry, too.

I get that the holidays are the hardest time of the year to control what you eat if you have weight loss goals and are working hard toward them throughout the year. I get that it’s hard to “get back on track” if you allow yourself one day of “off limits” food. I get that I am lucky that I don’t currently struggle with weight. But these calorie posts and, “Watch what you eat, ladies!” comments kill me. Our culture is SO focused on this sort of perspective. It’s toxic! To our minds and to our bodies! It’s what leads to kids thinking they’re fat. I thought I was fat in middle school because I heard this sort of talk from people I went to school with who heard it from adults! That’s where it starts.

Middle School Me

Calorie counting should not be a middle-school math activity.

If you’re doing it right most of the other days of the year, a day of indulgence will not kill you. You will not gain 100 pound, 50 pounds, 15 pounds, or really any pounds in the long-term from eating candy this Halloween night. You will not immediately die of a heart attack if you enjoy turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes (white, starchy goodness) and gravy on Thanksgiving. And, for heaven’s sake, eat a pastry on Christmas morning — because that won’t doom you to obesity for life either.

Eating Junk

The notion that we need to “burn off” our indulgences and treats that we are enjoying during a holiday enforces our already distorted relationships with food. This is why people drink “Diet Coke” and STILL THINK IT’S BETTER FOR YOU THAN REGULAR. Eat margarine (how many ingredients?!) and think that real butter (2 ingredients) is evil. Choose Oreos (they’re vegan!) over homemade treats.

Butter a Carb

We need to stop focusing on CALORIE COUNT. That’s not what matters in life. So eat your freaking candy tonight, and don’t worry about the burpees. Life will go on.