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    I'm a 20-something, recently married, runner who recently moved to New York City. Questions? Email therunnerwife (at) gmail (dot) com!

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Fluff Reading (or, Why I Read the Twilight Series)

Everyone has guilty pleasures. Some are more open about theirs than others. Generally, I’m pretty private when matters of potential embarrassment are concerned. One thing I refused to be ashamed of was my fanatical obsession with Dawson’s Creek all through college. No joke, I ended a date early, once, because I insisted on going home to watch the new episode. (A fact The Huz is probably happy about, since I wasn’t on a date with him!)

While I certainly have other guilty pleasures, I’m only going to reveal one more here: Cheesy young adult books. LOVE them. Most recently, I finally finished the Twilight series. I know, I should be hanging my head in shame, but they were just so good! Ridiculous, obviously, but also so much fun! I bought and read the first book while living in Boston. I let a friend borrow it after raving about it and she returned it a day later and suggested I might want to have my head examined. I guess someone didn’t share my appreciation for overdramatic teen vampires. Sigh.

I waited until I’d moved to NYC to continue the saga and, in light of my new, more expensive surroundings, borrowed books two and three from a coworker. Well, from my coworker’s teenaged daughter, actually. I finished each book in less than a week and vowed to wait a few weeks for the last book. Then, I quit my job. Suddenly, my source for sappy teen drama had been cut off. I felt like an addict who’d lost contact with her supplier. I needed my fix!

Finally, as if this girl wasn’t already a complete goddess, I discovered book 4 on the shelf of one soapy, chocolatey Diana while shuffling through her truly awesome cookbook collection. Not only did I walk out of her new abode with a belly full of clafoutis and a handful of recipes, but I also had Breaking Dawn tucked into my bag and a guilty grin on my face.

True to form, I polished this book off in just over 5 days. Started on Sunday evening and finished at work on Friday, and I loved every single printed word of it. Was it cheesy? Of course. Was it predictable? Fairly. Was it a totally fantastic summer speed read? Without a doubt! And now I’m ready to revisit some of the more intense novels on my bookshelf!

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

Book Review – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I think my book slump has finally ended! I’d heard of my latest literary conquest while browsing an old issue of Runners World and I’m so glad it came up in my book queue when it did. I was gearing up to race the R Baby Mother’s Day 4 mile race and trying to get my running groove back. I know I go through phases with running, but I struggle with all the mind games I start to play when my running shoes have been in the closet for more than a few days.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami, is truly a meditation on running. A dramatic departure from his other books, WITAWITAR is a collection of diary entries, mixed in with recaps of races he wrote for running magazines and interviews. Much of the book is a tribute to Murakami’s love of long distance running, a passion he began cultivating at the respectable age of 33. He describes, with vivid detail, some of his favorite, and most challenging runs. And he highlights the many ways in which running and writing have become inextricably connected in his life. Both require talent, focus and endurance. This is why Murakami has run and written every day. And he has run a marathon almost every year since he began running.

The commitment to the practice of his trade, and to his passion, is remarkable and humbling. When I raced in Central Park on Mother’s Day, I chuckled as I remembered Murakami’s musings on how quiet his mind becomes when he runs. “Essentially I’m not thinking of a thing…all I do is keep running in my own cozy, homemade void.” I tried to absorb every moment of the race, mulled over each signal my body was sending me. I pushed through my fatigue because “It’s precisely because of the pain,” Mr. Murakami writes, “precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive.” And what do you know, I came out the other side with a new 4-mile PR: 33:15. That’s an 8:18/mile average, folks, and boy did I feel alive after that!

I might not be signing up to run from Athens to Marathon in the middle of the summer (Murakami did this) or running a 62-mile ultramarathon anytime soon (he did this too), but I am definitely excited to hit the streets consistently, to build up my own habit and commitment to regular running. And I’m also dying to read more of Murakami’s books! In the meantime, I’m going to read and re-read this interview. Enjoy!

Book Review – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Hello world! Happy Thursday! I had a fab weekend packed with class, dinner with Diana, and lots of relaxing. In addition to plenty of Dexter (season 2 is in the bank!), I just finished another book and realized I’m way behind on my book reviews. After I read Ellen Foster, I was still feeling a mild case of book blues so I knew another short book was in order. Up next was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby. I remember The Huz’s cousin, Jessica, reading this several years ago and her remarking on the beautiful language with which this memoir was written. And now I can’t remember why I didn’t pick it up earlier. She was right. The book was impeccably written, a fact made even more impressive given the way the words found their voice.

Bauby, a former French Elle editor, suffered a brain stem stroke and was diagnosed with “locked in” syndrome when he awoke from a coma. The only functioning parts of his body were his brain and his left eye. As he described in his memoir, Bauby communicated the text by blinking his left eyelid to designate words, letter by letter, to an assistant who recited to him a special alphabet.

If the memoir had been full of self pity and rage against the world, I would have understood completely. Bauby’s life had been stolen from him and he was forced to witness it strictly as a spectator. Instead of descending into a pit of inconsolable misery, Bauby seized the beautiful power of his imagination, which “takes flight like a butterfly….You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas’s court,” and he tells stories with humor, a dry wit and an unmatched elegance.

As if the stroke and resulting locked in syndrome weren’t bad enough, Bauby died of heart failure just two days after the book was originally published in France. Since its initial printing in 1997, Bauby’s memoir has become an international bestseller and was adapted into a feature film in 2007. I hadn’t seen the movie prior to reading the book, but I’m looking forward to seeing the adaptation and hope it does the author’s story justice.

Book Review – Ellen Foster

 Happy Monday, everyone! I’m in the process of uploading all my photos from Abby and Jared’s wedding this weekend and wanted to tell you what I spent my few spare minutes doing: reading! This week and a half has been such a wonderful vacation from studying and I’ve gotten plenty of my two favorite activities in between jogs home from work and evenings curled up with good books. I’ve actually read several, but I’ll start with the first one I finished.

I went to the library last Thursday since I had free time (no more teachers, no more books, etc…) and I picked up Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons. The book was published in 1987 and was added to Oprah’s Book Club list in 1997.

A quick plot summary: The book is told in the first person perspective of a little girl growing up in the South. Her family environment is miserable, and her education is abismal, but she has this incredibly vivid imagination that transports her away from her life and into a world of possibilities.

What I loved most about the book was getting to know Ellen chapter to chapter. I felt like I was sitting with a sweet, precocious child, listening to her story while waiting for the train. Throughout the book I became more attached to her and felt the feelings she expressed.

Unfortunately, much like the narrative of a child in real life, the book is a bit disjointed. Just when I was really getting engrossed in a chapter, it ended. And just as I felt I was really getting to know Ellen, the book was finished. I wanted so much more from the book and was left feeling disappointed.

It’s very possible this was Gibbons’ intent. The reader is left feeling somewhat lost and a bit abandoned, just as Ellen does. And how well developed could each story be if it was to be from the perspective of a little girl? Still, I wish there was a way to have both the childlike voice and the complete picture.

Would I recommend buying this book? No. But did I enjoy reading it on school vacation and returning it to the library. Absolutely.

Do you get frustrated with books that aren’t written in standard English?

Book Review #2 – The Art of Racing In The Rain

First of all, thanks to all your great wrap fixin’ suggestions! All I want for lunch this week is to try out each and every one of your suggestions 🙂 Oh, and if you missed them, check out the goods. Sweet wraps, savory wraps. Salsa-fied wraps. You name it, I’m totally tempted to try it!

The Huz and I went to Costco on Saturday and, as usual, I couldn’t help stopping by the book section for a quick perusal. At one point, I had four or five books in our cart, but I managed to narrow it down to one – The Art of Racing in the Rain. The last puppy book I read was Marley & Me, which made me cry like a baby. I’d seen The Art in the stacks several months ago and was intrigued, but I firmly believe that sometimes books come into your life at just the right time. I’d passed this one by before, but this time it was meant to come home with me.

After the rest of our errands, we spent a lazy afternoon at home watching football, making homemade soup, and spending time with a family friend. With football finished and a belly full of pasta and chickpeas, I hunkered down for some quality reading time. And wouldn’t you know, I didn’t move from the couch for almost four hours. I positively devoured this book, flying through the pages, committing the words, characters and scenes to memory.

I probably should have known that I was in for a tear jerker after the first chapter had my mascara running and my nose sniffling but I can honestly say I loved every page of this book and I believe any pet owner or dog lover would too. I want so much to tell you all about the story, but I don’t want to ruin a single sentence for you. It’s Wednesday, now, and I’m still replaying scenes in my mind. I will say that Denny and Enzo are two of the sweetest, most genuine characters you’ll find in a book today and I know they’ll remain in my heart.

Have you read a book that stays with you for days or weeks after you read it?

Oh and if you missed my first book review of the year, check out my opinion of My Life In France!

Restaurant Success and a Book Review

When I got home on Friday, after yet another good workout (5k in 26:30!), I was ready for a tasty dinner. We quickly changed and headed to Dresner’s, which is a restaurant in our neighborhood that The Huz’s family adores. Armed with all of your wonderful suggestions about ordering dinner in a decided non-organic, non-vegetarian restaurant, I felt very comfortable while perusing the menu. Most of the appetizers were red meat or seafood, so I opted for a very nice mixed greens salad with a homemade dressing. It seemed similar to a caesar dressing but was much less creamy and significantly lighter. For dinner, I did end up ordering pasta, but I got a dish filled with vegetables – pasta shells with broccoli, eggplant and roasted tomatoes. The shells were served in a basic red sauce and it was sprinkled very lightly with cheese. Even though it wasn’t vegan, it was pleasantly vegetarian and I enjoyed every bite. Many thanks to everyone for your responses to my post about ordering modified restaurant meals!

Before going to bed, I covered a box of dried chick peas with water and baking soda to prepare for a delicious soup and then I curled up with a new book. I mentioned before that I just finished My Life in France, and can’t say enough about this book!

Even though the book was a joint effort between Julia Child and her husband’s grandnephew, I felt her voice really came through very well. I remember watching her show when I was little and loved her bubbly tone and cheerful spirit. The love she had for her husband, her work, and all of Paris, was so clear and so beautiful articulated that I must have read close to half of the book to The Huz in small portions. The descriptions she gave of her most memorable meals, the fantastic places she lived, and all the challenges she faced as an American living in Paris were so exquisite that I felt transported right into her kitchen and could almost smell the savory stock and loaves of bread she toiled over. (No joke, in her search for the perfect French bread recipe, she estimated that she and Paul went through almost 250 pounds of flour. Now THAT’s some serious carb love!)

My only issue with the book was really rather trivial. As I said, her accounts of many luxurious, decadent meals was so detailed and so in tune with my senses that it sometimes seemed like I could actually smell or taste the food she was describing. While this was pure heaven for much of the book, many of her meals did center around a meat of some variety and her descriptions of those dishes were just as impressive. As someone who hasn’t eaten much meat of late, I wasn’t thrilled to read about the specifics of meat preparation and so on. I’m not going to go into this further, but I’m sure you understand what I suggesting.

My complaint aside, I can highly recommend this book to almost any foodie, though cause-driven vegans might want to pass, or skim some section with a bit more haste.

Now I’m reading Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr. and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think!

I think I’m going to spend the rest of the day relaxing, reading and writing up my soup recipe so check back soon. I hope you’ve had a nice weekend!