Tag Archives: literature

Caffeine Roundup.

Caffeine Roundup

RUNNING//

For Everyone Who Says They Cant.
Anne from FANNEtastic Foods did an amazing interview with Jeff Le who shares his incredible story of never giving up.

Why Taking a Break Isn’t the end.
We’ve all had to take time off and it can be really, really hard to get back in the game.  But it can be done.

Is Being Lean Really Worth It?
Not specifically running related, but it raises a really interesting question about lifestyle and what’s right for each of us.

WRITING//

Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists
I’ve always thought that revision is where the magic of writing really happens, but I guess that hasn’t always been the case.

7 Things Dungeons & Dragons Taught Me About Storytelling
Another fun list about great story telling.

Comfort Writing and How To Avoid It
A great post about keeping your writing fresh.

READING//

Etsy: An Unlikely Source for Children’s Books
If you’re looking for fun children’s book, why not check out Etsy? Never would have thought of this!

The Legacy of Franz Kafka As Seen Through His Impact on Gabriel García Márquez
In honor of Franz Kafka’s birthday this past week.

Famous Books Inspired By Dreams
I found this list really interesting. I’ve definitely had some strange dreams, but I can’t imagine any of them becoming full-fledged stories.

FOODING//

Low-Fat Lemon Bars
I made these last night and they were fantastic! The ingredients a little confusing in some parts, but definitely worth it.

Fish in a Tin
Still not sold on sardines as an alternative to tuna? Then check out this post.

roasted cherry bourbon milkshakes with hot fudge.
I haven’t had a chance to make this yet, but it looks incredible. Definitely on my to-make list for this summer.

Want even more? Follow Medium Roast on Facebook Twitter!

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Filed under Books, Caffeine Roundup, Fooding, Running, Writing

Email marketing clearly works on me. Also, books.

I subscribe to various newsletters about the publishing industry, including Publisher’s Weekly, and occasionally they send out emails that are actually ads for upcoming book releases. Normally, I just delete these. But today, while going through my inbox, one of these emails actually caught my eye.

It was the book’s title that drew me in and the cover that sealed my interest. Something about a company that deals with unruly magic (or at least, that’s what  I  assumed based on the cover) really intrigued me. And then I did something I never do: I clicked on the link. It took me to a sneak peek of the first 50 pages and I actually started reading. I was hooked on the first page.

So then, continuing up the ladder of engagement, I added this book to my “Want To Read” list on Goodreads. All from an email. I feel like a puppet being controlled by the publishing overlords. Will they decide every book I read from now on? Will I ever have an original thought again?

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.) by Jonathan Stroud

I jest. I’m actually really excited about this book. It’s called The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud. It reminds me of another series that I enjoyed reading, the Spook’s Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney, and the cover art looks very similar to The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I guess I am just a sucker for middle grade fantasy stories.

You can read the sneak peak of The Screaming Staircase here.

In other news, I actually managed to get myself up and out running again this morning, and for the second day in a row! It’s an incredible accomplishment because I really, really like sleeping. It took me a little longer to get out of bed this morning so I started a bit later than I would have liked. The run itself was pretty awful and I ended up only doing two miles instead of three like I’d planned. Boo.

shoes

I’ve decided that this week is all about acclimating to the hot, muggy weather that is no doubt here to stay. So that means shorter runs, but trying to get out there every day. And I know that if I don’t get up and run, I won’t do it later when it’s even hotter out.

One nice thing about running in the mornings is that I have so much free time at night! Time to actually dig into the pile of books sitting on my desk that I’ve been ignoring. Right now, I’m still working my way through Inferno by Dan Brown.

Inferno by Dan Brown

To be completely honest, I started this book because I was curious about the subject matter–Dante’s Inferno. But I find myself incredibly bored as I read this book, and skimming more often than paying my full attention. Everything feels cliche, especially after reading some of his previous books, and I am more interested in the grand scheme of the villain than I am about the path Robert Langdon and his beautiful sidekick have to take to uncover it. I find myself wanting to throw the book across the room because everything is just taking too damn long. I never expected this book to be good, but I at least expected to enjoy the ride. Now I feel like I have to finish it out of some weird obligation. Apparently I am incapable of leaving books unfinished once I get far enough in. Don’t worry, I’ll have a full write-up once I’m done. Aren’t I great? I read awful books so you don’t have to!

Lucky for me, next 0n my reading list is The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter. It is a little more literary than Brown and I think it will be a nice change of pace. Plus, it’s my boss’s favorite book and she has amazing taste, so I know it will be fantastic.

What are you currently reading?

What are you looking forward to reading next?

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First to Read.

First to ReadSo I recently signed up for First to Read, a program through Penguin where I sign up for drawings to receive new books before they are released. Oh Boy, am I excited! It mixes two of my favorite things: Winning and Reading!

Penguin LogoGranted, it’s not like I need more books piling up in my house and the chances of me winning any drawings is slim, but if I do (and I really hope I do), I look forward to posting some honest reviews. One of my new ambitions for this year is to be more engaged in the communities that I inhabit. So far, I’ve joined a writer’s group, I’ve run some races, and now I want to start being a more active book reviewer.

Luckily I have some time before the first round of drawing winners are announced, so I had better get moving through the stack of books I have sitting next to my bed.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiHow it was possible for me to get this far in life without realizing there was a book out there that combined my two loves: running and writing, is beyond me. This book, of course, is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

This book is only 180 pages. Short and poignant, it is a collection of short essays written by Murakami while training for yet another marathon. He describes his many experiences as a runner, including training, running races, and how all of it can be related to his writing.

To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t run enjoying this book. A writer may pick up this memoir to glean some wisdom about writing–which there is some–but I don’t think there is enough to satisfy someone with no interest in physical fitness.

But for me, it was the perfect mix. I have always said I would never run a full marathon, but having just run a half marathon and  now, having just read this book, I am starting to think a full marathon might be a reality for me sometime in the future. This book was inspiring in so many ways. As soon as I finished, I laced up and ran the fastest, most enjoyable four miles I’ve run probably ever.

One might consider this book a bit self-indulgent, which is exactly what Murakami said he feared in his introduction. It felt like he was working through his own thoughts, never really drawing helpful conclusions so much as, raising questions about life. At times I found this a bit frustrating, like reading someone’s diary, but at other times, I found it really human, and I appreciated knowing that this amazingly accomplished writer and runner has the same fears and concerns that I have, and works through them with the same uncertainty as I do.

As a runner, I really appreciated the discussion of his training and race experiences. He describes a grueling experience running the original marathon race in Athens, and his seemingly unbearable trial of human strength running an ultra-marathon. The details he gives of the pain he felt, physical and mental, remind me of many of the thoughts and feelings I have experienced as well. (And also solidified my resolve to never run an ultra-marathon because it does not in any way, shape, or form, sound fun.)

Below, I have excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book:

“When I’m training for a race, I have to show my muscles who’s boss. I have to make it clear to them what’s expected.” Page 72.

“Even if there were two of me, I still couldn’t do all that has to be done. No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is kind of a lifeline to me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.” Page 73.

“What’s needed for a writer of fiction — at least one who hopes to write a novel — is the energy to focus every day for half a year, or a year, two years. You can compare it to breathing. If concentration if the process of just holding your breath, endurance is the art of slowly, quietly breathing at the same time you’re storing air in your lungs…Continue to breathe while you hold your breath.” Page 78.

“Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.” Page 83.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I appreciated it both for the wisdom is imparted, and  for inspiration of a shared human experience. It made me feel like I could pour my love into both writing and running, and that I didn’t have to choose one or the other to place my focus. Most of all, it made me feel like things I have been unable to even comprehend attempting are possible and achievable.

I’ll no doubt come back to this book for a pick-me-up every so often. It only took me a few hours to read, and it provided just the push I needed to get myself off the couch, out the door, and back putting one foot in front of the other.

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I have become that girl.

I have become the girl that carries multiple books around with her. I can’t help it, I don’t know what I want to read next! Rory Reading

This is a problem I’ve had for a while. I’ll start multiple books at once and keep picking up other books to start, while inching along through the others. Eventually, I’ll pick one and just plow through till the end, but until then, it’s not uncommon for me to be working through 2-5 books at a time.

The reason I keep carrying multiple books around is because sometimes I want to read a novel, but other times I want to take a break and read a few short stories. But when you read short stories, you can’t just rush through. You have to let the stories simmer and sink in.

Recently, I also started reading a nonfiction book about human behavior which is absolutely fascinating, but not something I can breeze through quite like a novel. So I mean, how am I supposed to take just one book with me when who knows what I might feel like reading? Luckily, two of these books I have in the digital form, but that’s still carrying two books and a kindle.

Right now, I am currently reading:

              

But I’m also carrying around How To Survive Grad School & Other Disasters by Molly McCaffrey which I am hoping to get around to starting as well. I’ve had this one sitting on my shelf for a year now, and I think its about time I start working through the stack of books I’ve just had sitting around, waiting to be read. I just can’t seem to decide what to read next!

 

 

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

  [ This Post Contains Spoilers ]

Gone GirlA friend and I decided we would do a two-person book club since all of our friends are in school and don’t have time to join with us. The first book was my suggestion so I figured, why not read the book everyone is talking about? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has won a number of accolades including Goodread’s Reader’s Choice for 2012 in the mystery/thriller category.

But I was particularly drawn to read it because during a trip to Michigan with some girlfriends, one of the girls spent the entire weekend plowing through this book rather than carrying on with the rest of us. And I thought, if she can’t tear herself away from that book, it must really be good!.

So I set to reading.

The main thing I hear from people who talk about this book is how they read the whole thing in one sitting, how they just couldn’t put it down. That is definitely the case. The only reason I stopped myself from reading was because it was midnight and I was only halfway through the book. I honestly had to tear myself away so that I wasn’t a zombie at work the next morning. But I will say that it took me about a week to pick it back up again. I really had to set the time aside to make sure I wasn’t interrupted because I knew once I started again, I HAD to finish.

And by the time I turned to the last page (on my kindle), I was literally sick to my stomach.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is about a husband and wife who have quite possibly the most toxic relationship possible for two human beings who claim to have been in “love.”

On the day of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick returns home to find his wife, Amy, missing, and the house a mess. She’s gone. Then begins the police investigation, making Nick the primary suspect, a development not unheard of in cases like this. As the reader slowly learns what has happened through Amy’s diary entries and chapters in Nick’s point of view, it become clear that things just don’t add up.

The best part about the first part of the book is the reader’s uncertainty about Nick, especially when the diary entries and his thoughts contradict each other. The unreliable narrator is used perfectly in this instance, especially because we aren’t completely sure when Nick is lying, when he is telling the truth, and when he just isn’t telling the reader something–something important–like his affair.

And then we get a chapter from Amy’s point of view.

Without giving too much away, because I’m already shared plenty, I can say that this book is just full of “WTF” moments. More often than not, at every turn of the page, I was saying out loud, “WHAT?” and “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” You are certain that each development can’t be topped with something more outrageous, but you are always wrong.

I can’t decide if I was satisfied with the ending of this book, or just so disturbed that I was glad it was finally over. There were times when I really wanted to put this book down and walk away, but I simply had to know how it all ended. And yet, the end, though not all that exciting, seems like it’s the only way things could have gone for these characters.

Some things I really liked about this book:

  • Great Pacing: The chapters never felt too long, I learned things exactly when I needed to, and I was pulled through the story with ease.
  • Unreliable Narrators: This is one of my favorite narrative techniques, and it works perfectly in this book. Every character is the worst and you don’t want to trust what any of them say, but you don’t have a choice because no one else is telling the story….so as a reader, you really have to draw your own conclusions.
  • Realism: The first part of this book reminded me a lot of the highly publicized Scott Peterson murder case, and something about that kind of realism made the beginning of this book especially creepy.
  • Evoking feelings: When the characters felt trapped, the reader felt that just as profoundly.

One thing I didn’t like about this book was some of the blatantly stupid decisions the characters made. Like smiling like an idiot when your wife is missing or carrying on with your mistress when YOUR WIFE IS MISSING AND YOU’RE A SUSPECT. I mean, come on. Sure, they were characterized in way that sort of explained this behavior, but half the time, they just ignored basic logic, and it drove me nuts.

I am also unsure about my personal feelings about the book about 3/4 of the way through. At many times, I was tempted to just free myself from this book and read the end, but thanks to having a kindle that wasn’t an option. But there were times where I was so desperate to know what was going to happen next that I didn’t care what was happening on the page I was reading. However, this may be my own fault more than a fault of the book.

With all that said, I am in awe of Gillian Flynn. This book is incredible and I can see why so many people enjoy reading it. While the plot is definitely front and center, there are some elements of craft that are really quite impressive. And to those who complain about not liking this book because they didn’t like the characters, I think that was the point, and it was very, very well done.

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So I finally read “The Yellow Wallpaper”

So I finally read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a short story about a woman confined to a room by her doctor husband who feels it best that she engage in complete passivity because of her delicate mental condition. The story follows her decent into madness as the awful yellow wallpaper that covers the walls of her room becomes the focus of her everyday.

And apparently I am the only person who had never read this story before.

(In case you haven’t read it either, you can download a copy for free at Project Gutenburg.)

I think during the segment in school when most people read this story, I instead read “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, another excellent and delightfully creepy story about a madness of sorts.

But the fact that it took me so long to finally read “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a travesty because it is an excellent work of fiction.

It reminded me a great deal of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson in that the summer home where the couple is staying seems to have other-worldly qualities, unsettling for those inside, and the main character is classified as a “weak-minded woman” who is easily corrupted by the house.

What is more interesting about “The Yellow Wallpaper,” however, is that it expertly demonstrates the historical reality of how women with potential mental instabilities were shut off and shunned by their husbands, and their problems ignored by doctors. The poor narrator in the story must write in her journal in secret while her husband is away because he is convinced that she will only get better if she just sleeps all day or sits in the room with the windows open, lounging about. Even if this poor woman wasn’t mentally unstable, that kind of inactivity would drive anyone mad.

This woman’s clear and desperate needs are so evident to the reader, but the husband just writes it off as her being hysterical or fatigued. It’s one of those stories that is painful to read because you feel so sorry for the narrator, but you can’t look away because her decent into madness over the ugly wallpaper is fascinating.

What’s more, the narrator seems to know that a change is occurring in her mind and in her behavior, and that it is also evident to her husband, but like any mentally unstable person, she doesn’t seem to realize that she is losing touch with reality.

The prose of the story is beautiful and touching, but unsettling all the same.  My favorite is Gilman’s use of the word “creep” throughout the work. Things are always creeping around the room and the narrator seems inspired to “creep” about herself. Somehow, using creep as a verb is much more unsettling than using it as an adjective, and I love it.

Everyone I ask about this story has not only read it, but vividly remembers how unsettling and well-written it is. It’s like this story gets stuck in your mind and stays with you forever, not unlike the yellow wallpaper from the story.

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