31 March 2015

To the Lightpost--3/31/15

Note:  Yes, I know.  I've missed logging a few runs (and I've also missed a few runs for various reasons, including hellacious allergies).  I did happen to take notes over this particular run, so I'm writing a post after the fact.

It was 60 degrees when I set out this morning.  I wore some capri pants and a tank.

This was my first run using the armband I bought to hold my cell phone so I can listen to some music.  On Sunday I decided to go for a very long walk, which included all of the culs-des-sacs and hills in my neighborhood and I listened to music the whole time.  It was nice.  For safety, I keep the music turned down really low and I run facing the traffic.

On this particular jaunt, I did more actual running than ever before.  Not by a whole lot, but I am liking how it's becoming easier with each run.  (Unfortunately, I've had to take well over a week off, so I don't know how much I'll have backslid by the time I actually go run again)

I met my mom for a cooldown.

I didn't do any yoga before going out.  I didn't notice any difference in how I felt, which is good.  But I think I would like to do yoga before my runs, just because that is more movement.

It feels like that was a pretty bare post.  This is why I should make an effort to post immediately after I run, not a week and a half later.  Oh, well.  Life marches on.

30 March 2015

My Wild-Inspired Hike

Yesterday I reposted a review of Wild by Cheryl Strayed.  I mentioned that that book made me want to go on a hike.  I did it.  I hit a local trail for a hike.  It wasn't a long trail, but I had a great time.  So much so that I am going back later this week with a friend.

Here are some of my pictures and thoughts along the way.


The day I set out to hike was going to be a bit cooler than earlier in the week.  The high was only going to be in the low 60s, but it was my only free day remaining for that week, so I went for it.  But first I needed to stop and get some supplies.  Namely a sketchbook and a certain novel...


And some lunch.

I have hiked this trail a number of times and the last time I did, I stopped and read for a while on a rock, hence bringing a book along.  Oddly enough, this time I didn't see the rock, but my route was slightly different, so maybe it was on the other path.

I packed all of my stuff in my yoga bag because it has good pockets and is lightweight.  I brought my flip flops with me on the off-chance that I had some sort of mishap and lost a hiking boot or two.  :)


Obviously my hike was going to be nowhere near as strenuous, exciting, or breathtaking as Strayed's, but I couldn't wait to get going.



My mom offered some useful advice for my adventure.


The map the visitors' center provided was not the most easily deciphered.  I meant to take the more difficult course the first time around, but in my haste to quickly bypass some women with children (loud, but having a good time!) I took the easier route.  I quickly decided that I would take both routes--the second after lunch.  This suited me and my stomach just fine.





                                                                            
                                                                             
























There were some benches along the way.  I vowed to stop at all of them.  Not because I was tired, but out of gratitude for some unknown thoughtful person who put them along the way for reflection.  I wrote this bit at the first wooden bench, overlooking a stream or creek below.




I finished the trail.  I didn't actually come across more benches.  Mostly because I took the rugged "bluff trail" when the trail split again.  But that was good too.  Naturally, survival wasn't on my mind, but when I was working that hard and trying to follow the not so well marked trail, I didn't have the capacity to think of anything else.









I did not wind up going to the bat cave my mom mentioned in the text.  But I passed by it.  I wish I had gotten pictures that gave a better sense of the "bluff trail."  There were a lot of rocks and uneven footing.  I frequently had to steady myself on a rock while I climbed through a narrow, uneven passageway.  It was a great workout.  And it was absolutely beautiful.







I returned to my car.  Ate lunch.  MacGyvered open my bottle of Coke using scissors that I found in my vehicle in the absence of a bottle opener.  I had a pounding headache that was not food or caffeine related, so I decided to head home and come back another day.



I had a lot of fun.  I hope that I can go fairly regularly this spring and summer.

29 March 2015

Review of Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Title:  Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail 
Author:  Cheryl Strayed
Publication Information:  2012 by Knopf
How I Got This Book:  I purchased a copy online.

Goodreads Synopsis:  At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

My Thoughts:  I loved this book.  Go read it. :)

 Oh, you want more than that?  OK, fine...

A lot has been said about the risks Strayed took in hiking the trail alone, without any sort of training ahead of time, and without much of a clue as to what to expect.  OK, yes.  Probably not the best idea in the world.  But I looked past all of that towards the personal journey she was on.

The first part of the book details Strayed's past and how she got to the point of hiking the trail.  She had an unusual childhood in a very primitive house.  Her mom got sick and it destroyed her and her family.  She went down a negative path, filled with drugs and lots of promiscuous sex, which led to the breakup of her marriage.  For me, this part kind of lagged at times.  You need the backstory in order to understand what comes later, but sometimes it felt like she got a little repetitive here.  For re-reads, I will definitely skim this section.

She decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as a way to finding a path to redemption.  She learns a lot about herself along the way.

I've had a year filled with a lot of change and a lot of grief--quitting a job, moving, caring for my grandfather while he was in the hospital, and then losing him.  There were tons of moments along the way where I wanted to just run away and do something so physically taxing that I could leave behind all of the emotions.  Like Strayed, I wanted to be so consumed with the very act of making it through the day that I couldn't focus on what was going on in my regular life.  Reading about Strayed's own journey helped me process a lot of things.

I loved how open and honest and raw her writing was.  She let it all out there, warts and all.  She spoke in a voice I was able to relate to, though I have not had the same struggles or experiences she has had.

Aside from the personal, inner journey, I loved reading about the outer journey of hiking that kind of distance.  I really enjoyed reading Bill Bryson's journey through the Appalachian Trail in A Walk in the Woods.  It appealed to my inner travel bug.  So much so that I told my mom that I want to go on a major hiking trip at some point.  And so much so that I am going to start making it a point to hit a local trail on a regular basis.

Bottom line--for me this book was appealing on more than one level and I would highly recommend it to people interested in the physical adventure and to people interested in the inner journey.  Not a "fun" read (in the sense of light), but definitely a good read that will make you think.

28 March 2015

Four Mini Reviews

So...I've been having a hard time motivating myself to write these reviews ever since I finished the books (and caught my breath), but it's been almost nine months since I finished three of them and about six months since I read the fourth, so I should probably go ahead and write SOMETHING before I completely forget everything.  And here's the kicker--I actually really liked three of these four.  I just read them right before there was the big major overhaul of everything and they got lost in the shuffle.  But I really want to get my desk cleared off, so I'm writing about them today.

I'm typing up my brief notes and thoughts about:

  • Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
  • The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
  • BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier





Title:  Auntie Mame
Author:  Patrick Dennis
Publication Information:  1955
How I Got This Book:  I bought this at a local bookstore

My Thoughts:  Obviously I loved this book.  The subtitle of it is An Irreverent Escapade.  Sound familiar?  :)

I'm not sure why, but this book took me a few attempts over a couple of years before I finally finished.  Once I finally settled down to reading it, I blazed through.  This book was a lot of fun.  It reminded me a lot of spending time with my friends' boys--two of whom are my godsons.  Life is so much more fun when you just totally let loose and act silly.  Doing so in front of kids is even ten times better because they are the best audience and totally soak up everything.  Seriously.

I love the Rosalind Russell version of the film.  I bought my mom the Lucille Ball version at some point, but we haven't watched it yet.

Mame is a free-spirited and free-thinking and well-meaning individual, but she keeps finding herself and Patrick in these bizarre situations.  But they have a wonderful "us versus them" bond.  I cannot wait to read the sequel (they travel the world), which is supposed to be even funnier!



Title:  The Painted Veil
Author:  W. Somerset Maugham
Publication Information:  1924
How I Got This Book:  Ordered it online.

My Thoughts:  When I read this one, I wrote that it was in the running for my favorite book of 2014.  I want to re-read it so that I can savor it and think about it because I didn't get to do that when I read it last summer.

There are several passages I marked because they were just beautiful.  The story is of a crumbling marriage in a foreign land.  This was published in 1924 and the theme of the unfaithful wife wasn't super prevalent back then.

I loved how accessible Maugham is!  At least here.  The only other Maugham I've read is The Razor's Edge and it was good and pretty accessible as well.  But this book had me wanting to read more.  He tells a good story that has the power to just bowl you over with these moments of utter brilliance.

There were a lot of gems in here for me--

  • Doing your duty is what you were put here to do.  It's not something overly magnificent.
  • Only when you cut through the bullshit can you really change.
  • There is beauty in simplicity.


Obviously, none of those are super ground-breaking, but that the story beautifully reinforced those notions.



Title:  BUtterfield 8
Author:  John O'Hara
Publication Information:  Published in 1934
How I Got This Book:  I either ordered it online or bought it in a bookstore.

My Thoughts:  This was the one I blazed through the fastest, which means it's the one I probably most need to re-read!

I loved the jumping storylines.  At first I wondered how they were all going to fit together and also whether they were even supposed to.  But everything does fit together as it all comes crashing down.

I also really enjoyed O'Hara's language.  He is sparse, in the vein of Hemingway.  He created a rough, raw, gritty depiction of this time and place and these people, which I loved.  He didn't overly glamorize the setting or the characters.  He gets you to understand them, but not necessarily sympathize.

This made me go out and buy O'Hara's collected New York Stories, which I haven't read yet, but really want to.  I'll probably pick it up during the hottest heat of the summer and turn on some jazz.




Title:  Rebecca
Author:  Daphne du Maurier
Publication Information:  Published in 1938
How I Got This Book:  I ordered it online.

My Thoughts:  To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of this one.  I don't have any notes over it, so I'm going from memory when I read this last fall.

I couldn't really understand why Maxim married the unnamed narrator.  He didn't seem overly fond of her.  And it was just weird.  Though I absolutely loved the French Mediterranean setting.  That was fabulous!

Mrs. Danvers was an excellent villain.  I really liked the intrigue throughout the main action of the novel and the way everything unfolds.  It was a great thriller/mystery.  But the ending is what really just pissed me off and let me down.  I think a lot more could have been done there with how things shook out.

So basically, it was the ending that ruined it for me.  I am glad that I read it.  There were a lot of good interesting bits, such as the narrator being nameless outside of her husband's last name and Mrs. Danvers's creepiness, and the notion of the ghosts we live with daily.  But that ending.  :(

I would, however, be willing to read something else by du Maurier in the future.

27 March 2015

A Day in the Life



Trish came up with the excellent idea of having a lot of people write a Day in the Life post and link up around the same time.  I love doing this kind of thing because I think it's interesting to see how other people manage their time and how I manage my time.  I've never been successful at actually recording the entire day, but I actually pulled it off this time!  I do not have a lot of pictures because I don't usually take a lot of pictures and also at one point I had four devices charging, so there was no way to take any pictures...then I forgot.

6:30--First alarm goes off.  Nope, not happening.

6:45--Second alarm.  Nah...

7:00--Third alarm.  Maybe a few more minutes...

7:03--I grudgingly get up so I don't fall back asleep--I have stuff to do today!--and put on my yoga clothes.

7:15--Start Detox Yoga video.

7:40--Head downstairs to wait for mom to get ready to walk.  Stare zombie-like at the TV, which is playing SportsCenter, wishing I had gotten up earlier so I could have had coffee before my jog.

7:50--Alert mom to upcoming Top Plays so she can see them.  I really don't understand why she likes watching them.  We usually gripe about how they aren't that good.

8:00--Head out.

8:16--Rejoin mom and finish her walk with her as a part of my cool-down.

8:34--Eat a banana and wait until Coffee! Is! Ready!

Drink coffee.  Mess on computer.

Write several blog posts and schedule them (who AM I?!).

I'm kind of embracing my uncle's really light breakfast, then an early big lunch philosophy.  Decide to go to Chipotle for lunch.

10:20--Head upstairs to get dressed.

10:42--Stomach says, "Give me Chipotle now or I cut you!"

10:46--Begin this log while waiting to leave for Chipotle.

10:52--Leave.  Decide it's a Sinatra kind of day.

11:02--Wonder if I will ever be able to hear "The Way You Look Tonight"--a song I love and the song I had always mentally reserved as mine and my papa's dance at a future hypothetical wedding--without tearing up.

11:15--Chipotle in hand, I reflect on how happy and how not lonely I am in Tulsa.

11:20--Arrive home.  Reflect on how wonderfully sore I am; embrace it--I did something today that I couldn't do yesterday.

Lunch and reading material


Select books to donate to senior center library.

Decide to subscribe to Runner's World and take the card down to the mailbox.

1:20--After doing various and sundry housekeeping items (calling bank, tossing bad meat, packing lunch) I get ready to read Moby-Dick on the porch for a while.

2:20--Head to Starbucks for an iced coffee and free pastry.  I'll read until my friend maybe, hopefully, joins me.
Loving the sunshine

4:00--Work!  I am assigned active customer service for the evening.

6:15--Take my lunch break a little late.  I eat the salad I brought and buy  cup of tortilla soup from the cafe.  Read the book I just bought--Food:  A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan.  It's hilarious!

7:45--Talk to a manager about jogging.  I think she will be a great person to bounce ideas off of.  She also says I have a runner's physique, which felt pretty nice to hear.

8:30--Break.

10:50--Left work.  Nothing super interesting happened, so I won't go into the details of my night.

11:00--Home.  I need a small snack before bed.  I really hope that the small breakfast, then two larger meals doesn't lead to evening snacking.  We shall see...

11:30--After reading for a bit, I turn off the light and go to bed, resolved to get up at 7:00 in the morning.


So sorry there aren't more pictures.  I kept meaning to take a picture of my outfit, but it just kept not happening.  I am awful at remembering to take pictures!

It wasn't a totally normal, normal day.  I don't think I really have those, to be honest.  I work retail, so sometimes I work early, sometimes I work late, sometimes on my days off I bum around the house or visit my grandma or visit my friends.  But this was the kind of day that I love having.  It's the kind of day that is so like my old self that just got shit done, but kind of fell by the wayside during a funk that lasted a few years too long...though I have been having more good days like this, so I think it will become the new normal.

26 March 2015

Review of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Title:  The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Author:  Carson McCullers
Publication Information:  Published in 1940
How I Got This Book:  I ordered it online.

Goodreads Synopsis:With the publication of her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, and an enduring masterpiece.

At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small-town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Brilliantly attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated--and, through Mick Kelly, to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.

My Thoughts:  OMG!  I cannot believe it took me so long and so many tries before I finally finished this book!  It was absolutely exquisite.

McCullers had such a gift for creating an atmosphere in her writing.  I could feel the temperature and humidity around me.  I could feel the sorrow and isolation and bewilderment of her characters as they moved through the year this novel depicts.  I wanted to hug each of them in turn as life didn't become what they expected it would.

This novel does such a wonderful job of illustrating how isolated we can be as we move through this world, how difficult it can be to create a true and deep connection with another person, and how we often project our own ideas onto other people as we try to figure them out.

Each of the four main characters moves alone through the hours and pours out their heart and soul to the deaf-mute, figuring that he understands and sympathizes with their plight.  They project their own conceptions of him onto him, which makes for some very interesting miscommunications as the plot unfolds and the characters interact.  Of the four main characters, I loved Mick and Biff, the cafe owner.  I could relate more to Mick, but Biff was beautifully rendered as well.

I got to the point where I could only read this novel sitting outside with a cold drink nearby.  There was something about the heat and the sun that made this story come alive for me.  I am so glad that I have read it now and I cannot wait to read more by McCullers!

23 March 2015

To the Lightpost--3/23/15

While yesterday's jog went well, I think today's went even better!

I got up at 7:00 and did a Detox Yoga video from an instructor I found on Youtube.  It was a really good video.  About 20 minutes.  And one of the main things I liked was that the instructor didn't hold you up on one side for an inordinate amount of time to explain things.  I feel like 20 minute videos are a good place for me to start a regular practice.  Eventually, I would LOVE to do one of the longer yoga for weightloss videos.  Eventually...

After I did that, I went downstairs.  I ran into my mom and asked when she'd be leaving for her walk.  I told her that I would start out when she did.  This worked like a dream!

We did a brisk walk to the lightpost, then I took off.  In some way, I can't quite put my finger on it, today seemed easier than yesterday.  When I set out, it was about 50*, so I wore some capris, tanks, and a light jacket.  I wound up keeping the jacket on the entire time.  It was early enough that I didn't feel the need to wear sunglasses, which made breathing a lot easier and was wayyyyy less annoying!

I don't know if I ran more than I did yesterday, but it seemed easier while I did it.  So that's a good thing.

I saw my mom on the way back and made her my final mark to run to.  She was a perfect mark because she was moving towards me, so the distance narrowed as she kept moving.  :)

I decided to join her for the rest of her walk as a way of extending my cool-down walk part.  I read an article in Runner's World last night that said the best thing was to simply move more because your calorie intake would level itself off based on your exercise.  One of the suggestions was to make your cool-down longer.  I am really glad I adopted this suggestion!  I think I will try to run while my mom walks in the future because it's a good way to get me out the door.

Friday Night Lights Reading Adventure

I don't know how or why, but for some reason I am a little bit in love with Friday Night Lights.  It reminds me so much of my high school.  I was a trainer for the football team for a couple of years, so I was right in the middle of a lot of what was going on.  I swear, our coach was Coach Taylor--dressed like him from the visor to the white socks.  The team wasn't good at all, but in retrospect, that doesn't really matter.

Back in August, a writer for BookRiot made a list of the Top Ten Literary References on Friday Night Lights.  Many of the ones on the list are books I'd genuinely like to read.  This got me thinking...there aren't many literary references on the show, but why not go through episode by episode and read the books referenced?  My buddy Bear from Connecticut is doing that with Gilmore Girls, so I thought I would do something a little less ambitious and a bit closer to my home.

First up on the list is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

Julie is the one reading it. I couldn't find a better picture.
My Google skills have deteriorated since quitting my desk job...

This is nice because it's on my 2015 TBR Challenge List and I'm already about 130 pages in.  It is a mammoth book (notice how I avoided I obvious pun involving it being a whale of a book), so that's not saying a lot, but it's a good head-start...

22 March 2015

To the Lightpost--3/22/15


Before I embark on something, I like to do a bit of research, learn what I can so I do it "right."  I've decided that I want to start running.  In all of the reading I've done on running, I've come across several mentions of keeping a running log to see how you feel after each run.  I think this is probably a good idea and will help me determine when I need to step it up to the next level.  Plus, hey, more posts!

I'm really in the beginning phases of running.  We'll call it pre-running.  Basically, I'm more concerned with getting out the damn door than I am with form and breathing techniques.  That will come later or not.  I'm not really interested in turning this into a science and spending boatloads of money when I think that basic equipment will definitely suffice for my purposes.  If I become one of those marathon runners, yeah, I think things would change.  But until then...yeah, not to much.

So today, I got up and did some yoga.  I'm still trying to find a good short morning practice I can do that will loosen me up and get me going.  I did the same video today that I did yesterday, but I just wasn't feeling it today and switched it off halfway through.  I'll try a different one tomorrow.

Then I went downstairs, made my coffee, and grabbed a quick breakfast of a banana and some Cheerios before hitting the grocery store with my mom.  I had the brilliant idea of getting some sausage from Sprouts and grilling it for lunch.  :)

Once we got back, it was time to lace up and hit the pavement.

When I set out it was about 60*.  That felt like a good temperature for the sleeveless workout top and capri length pants I was wearing.  On cooler mornings I can add a light jacket and take that off as I warm up.  On warmer mornings (it only gets down to about 75* during the summer months) I'll have to go with shorts, but I have a bit of time before I need to worry about that.

After talking with my friend who just randomly started to jog one day, I decided that going from my house to the main street and back (about a mile) was a good distance to start with.  Once I can pretty much run the whole thing, I can add loops on some culs-de-sacs.  I'd do a warm-up walk, then jog until I needed a break, walk until I had almost recovered, jog, walk, jog, walk, and so on, then do a cool down walk.  I used the lightpost at the curve in the street as my marker for when to end my warm-up and start my cool-down (hence the title).

As I ran, I tried pushing myself, but also to listen to my body.  Particularly at the beginning, I tried to get myself to go just a little bit further, "no, Lori, to the next driveway," than I did at the end.  I am proud to say that I didn't stop jogging short of whatever landmark I chose.  And this time I spoke to myself in a much kinder voice instead of shaming myself to go further or harder, so that was also good.

I carried a waterbottle with me, which I think was probably unnecessary, but I liked having something in my hand.  At some point if I keep doing this, I'm going to have to find joggers' sunglasses (do they make such a thing?) because mine kept bouncing when I jogged and slid down my nose, which made me breathe more through my mouth than I wanted.  At the very end I took the things off, but I need something to keep the sun out of my eyes.  

My plan is to jog two days, then take a day or two off.  I don't want to overload myself.  But I also need to have a flexible routine because sometimes I visit my friends or my grandma and neither situation is really conducive to running.  I could walk hills in my grandma's neighborhood though...We shall see.

Anyway, that's what I've got so far.  I have no idea if the run was good or not, but I did it, so it's better than nothing.

17 March 2015

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

I am soooooo happy it's almost springtime!  I hate the cold, snow, and other winter weather indicators.  I'm a hot weather kind of girl.  My favorite part of the warming weather is heading outside to read.  I've found a great spot for myself this year--sitting on the front porch with a book and a cold beverage.  And I can't wait to add baseball as some background noise...

My happy reading spot.
I FINALLY finished this book, by the way, so I need to review it.

This week for Top Ten Tuesday, we're thinking about the books we'd like to read this spring.  Here are my choices:

1.  Light in August by William Faulkner  I've been making pretty good headway on this book...but at this point I can only read it sitting outside.  I can't explain it.  There's just something about Faulkner and being outside.  I love it though.  Lots of beautiful passages.

2.  Travels with Myself and Another by Martha Gellhorn  I've been reading this one already as well.  I've been fighting the travel/adventure bug lately.  This has helped tame it in some ways, but has also made it worse in others.  For instance, I rode a camel yesterday because the opportunity presented itself.



3.  Hotel Florida by Amanda Vaill  Since I'm already reading a book BY Martha Gellhorn, I may as well read a book about her.  This one describes her time in Spain with Hemingway.  It will probably make the travel/adventure bug worse...

4.  Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells  I reread a book by Wells pretty much every spring and/or summer.  I love how vividly she creates a place and time and I love these characters.  Definitely comfort reading.

5.  Twee:  The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film by Marc Spitz  One of my favorite things about working at a bookstore is all of the super random books I find on a regular basis (my paycheck, on the other hand, does not love this).  I came across this book one day and immediately bought it.  This seems like good spring reading.

6.  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving  I've been thinking about this book a lot lately.  Seems like a good time to read it.

7.  A Time to Kill by John Grisham  This will be good reading as I begin to prepare for the LSAT, which I think I'm taking in June.

8.  Gilead by Marilynne Robinson  I've only read a few pages of this novel, but I think that springtime will be a prefect time to read it.  I've heard that there are a lot of lovely prose passages and beautiful prose and spring just blend so well...

9.  Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique  I keep picking this one up.  I think if I would just devote a couple of days to it, I would fly through.  This is my plan.

10.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith  Another one I reread almost every year.  Something about the story is just perfect for reading in the warmer months.  The book is so much about a love of reading and spring is when I most feel my simple, but intense love of reading.



There you have it.  What is on your spring reading list?

05 March 2015

Review of The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn

Title:  The Intern's Handbook

Author:  Shane Kuhn

Publication Information:  April 2014 by Simon & Schuster

How I Got a Copy of This Book:  I can't remember exactly how I got a copy of the ARC, but the publisher asked if I would be interested in reviewing the book, so I decided to give it a shot.

Goodreads Summary:  Interns are invisible. That’s the mantra behind HR, Inc., an elite "placement agency" that doubles as a network of assassins-for-hire, taking down high-profile executives who wouldn't be able to remember an intern’s name if their lives depended on it.

At the ripe old age of twenty-five, John Lago is already New York City’s most successful hit man. He’s also an intern at a prestigious Manhattan law firm, clocking eighty hours a week getting coffee, answering phones, and doing all the grunt work no one else wants to do. But he isn't trying to claw his way to the top of the corporate food chain. He was hired to assassinate one of the firm’s heavily guarded partners. His internship is the perfect cover, enabling him to gather intel and gain access in order to pull off a clean, untraceable hit.

The Intern’s Handbook is John Lago's unofficial survival guide for new recruits at HR, Inc. (Rule #4: "Learn how to make the perfect cup of coffee: you make an exec the best coffee he’s ever had, and he will make sure you’re at his desk every morning for a repeat performance. That’s repetitive exposure, which begets access and trust. 44% of my kills came from my superior coffee-making abilities.")

Part confessional, part how-to, the handbook chronicles John’s final assignment, a twisted thrill ride in which he is pitted against the toughest—and sexiest—adversary he’s ever faced: Alice, an FBI agent assigned to take down the same law partner he’s been assigned to kill.

My Thoughts:  This book was extremely fun to read.  I've gotten rather into thrillers over the past few years.  This book reminded me quite a bit of Archer if Sterling Archer were doing a long-term undercover assignment.  The protagonist, John Lago, is pretty smooth.  He's an assassin who is great at what he does and he's a bit cocky about it.  But he finally meets his match on his last mission ever.  The ending is one I didn't see coming, but once I got there, it was the only ending that there could be.

Most of the book is Lago writing instructions and tips for future assassins.  Occasionally, there are FBI transcripts.  These transcripts do an excellent job of furthering the plot in ways that John's narrative could not do.  He also includes his rules for how to do his job.  John spends a good amount of time discussing how being an orphan helps him do his job because he has not had an easy life with clear rules and feelings towards other people.  This was really interesting to ponder.  Finally, he gets to the point where he finishes his handbook and continues to tell the story.

I really enjoyed the thriller from a first person perspective.  I'm sure there are other novels out there that use this technique, but I haven't read any before, so it was new for me.  I liked the depth that it brought to the story.  And I liked the voice of John Lago.  He was intelligent and funny, but also removed and distant.

I read good bits of this book with NCIS playing in the background.  This was a great combination!  Both are about agents who have a job to do.  The NCIS agents sometimes bend the rules to the breaking point in order to get their man.  John is an assassin who disregards all rules and laws to get his man (who is usually a very bad person who really kind of deserves to die, even if it's not exactly legal).

Four stars for a fun read and an awesome narrator!

01 March 2015

Reading Light in August

Today I am finally picking up one of my books for my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge!  I don't know why I have been so...lackadaisical about picking up any.  Maybe that's why they are still on my TBR pile instead of on my Books I've Read list.

Anyway, Lisa and I are going to pick up Light in August.  We've tried doing buddy reads in the past and they've always petered out rather quickly.  Nothing wrong with that; it happens.  But I always love reading Faulkner in the early spring, so I am hoping I will finally be able to stick with one!


During college each year on the first warm truly spring day that we'd have, I'd skip classes and cancel plans to stay home, throw open the windows, make some fresh lemonade, and read As I Lay Dying.  It was like clockwork.  I couldn't not do it.  This time I want to branch out a bit and read something else by Faulkner.  Also I'm not sure if we'll be getting any spring weather any time soon.  It feels like a permanent winter has settled in and I'm so over it.

I'll admit...we might be having a nice 62 degree day on Tuesday.  And I don't have to work.  If that happens, you had better believe I will be throwing open the windows and reading all day and woe betide anyone who tries to stand in my way!

All right.  Enough stalling!  I am completely ready to get down to some reading this morning before I have to go to work.