Book Review: Divide, by Jessa Russo

I received a free e-book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Divide tells the story of Holland Briggs and Mick Stevenson.  Something is wrong with Holland – she can feel it.  She’s turned into a social pariah at school thanks to a painful break-up, followed by some arson and attempted murder.  Mick Stevenson believes he’s the key to saving Holland from the evil inside her.  She just has to fall in love with him.  That’s no easy task, given what’s happened to her.  And, as it turns out, things are a bit more complicated than that.

Good things:
The way the story hooked me.
The characters. I loved the relationship between Holland and Cameron. It felt very believable. Cam did things which reminded me of my own younger brother. Of course, he was also one-up on my brother by being fiercely loyal to and protective of his sister. Ro was great fun and I liked the way she went from annoying Holland to showing she was a true friend (and so much more to Cam). I liked Mick, and I enjoyed the banter between Mick and Holland.
Bad things:
I grew increasingly impatient with the characters as the story progressed. They were slow to catch on to things which felt really obvious to me. There were also some strange cuts from chapter to chapter, gaps that took me by surprise because the passage of time wasn’t noted (one chapter Holland & Mick are making out, the next she’s waking up alone). I’m also not a fan of using chapter headings to identify your narrator. If each character has a strong voice, it shouldn’t be necessary. I felt like, as the book went on, Holland and Mick developed strong enough voices to make those headers unnecessary.
Overall, this was an engrossing read which hooked me quickly, with good characters and, despite the fact that some of the big confrontation was no surprise, still managed to sneak in a twist. I’d rate this at 3.5 stars out of 5.

Patience, Patience

I resumed running this week.  My doctor suggested I start with just a mile and increase slowly so on Monday I did a mile on my treadmill.  My shin felt absolutely fine after the run.  Yesterday it was a gorgeous day so I took my run outside.  It felt so good to be out in the sunshine running.  I stuck to the one decent road in my neighborhood (the only one that’s been repaved in the past 23 years) and thus was able to avoid the pot-holes, patches, and crumbling asphalt that makes the running on the other roads like trail running.  I felt great running and really didn’t want to stop at one mile, but I made myself stop anyway.  I don’t want to over-do it.  I went back to my house and got my dogs (and husband) to take them out for a short walk, just to get to spend more time out in the gorgeous weather.  I think the walk may have been a mistake.  My calves got very tight and there is some pain in my shin today.  It’s not as bad as it was before I went to the doctor, and there’s no swelling.  I’ll spend some time with the foam roller today before and after my bike ride and see how I feel.  If necessary, I’ll move Friday’s run to the treadmill rather than pounding pavement again.  I’m trying to balance my determination to get back to running with a suitable amount of caution to avoid injury.  It is not easy, especially on beautiful spring days that beg me to get out and run!

I’m continuing to bike, using it for a cross-training activity.  I signed up for the National Bike Challenge and have been logging my miles there.  The one bright spot from the stress fracture scare is that I finally got that bike I’d been wanting for several years, and my husband has one now too so he can get out for some much-needed exercise!  It’s a good reminder that there are always silver linings to be found.

Thunder and Lightening!

It’s thundering outside my office right now and I’m fighting the urge to run about the office unplugging all the computers.  I worked at a group of radio stations for four years and whenever there was a thunderstorm, any computer not directly related to broadcasting was turned off and unplugged.  Our main station was weird in that the studio and office building sat right below the tower (most stations do not put the two together because the transmitter generates radiation).  A big radio tower broadcasting a 50,000 watt signal is the ultimate lightning rod, and since our building was connected to it, all our stuff could easily get toasted.  Funnily enough, it was actually the defunct tv station tower which sat in front of our building which got hit during my time working there, but the lightning did arc across our building and take out the board in our FM studio (and the dj working there got a bit singed).  And for those of you who believe the old lightning never strikes twice adage, I’m sorry to say you are wrong.  I watched lightning hit that tower and arc over in the same way two times in five minutes.  In between a client called wanting us to play her spot for her.  I told her, “Ma’am, we’re being hit by lightning right now. We’ll have to call you back later.”  Of course, then we started getting flooded with the do-you-know-you’re-off-the-air phone calls.  A little tip – if a station is off the air, EVERYONE working there knows about it.  The traffic people (what I did) are looking at the paper logs to see how many spots they’re going to have to reschedule.  The sales people are trying to figure out if their clients are the ones off the air.  The on-air people are on the phone with the engineer trying to get it fixed.  Silence alarms are going off.  EVERYONE knows they’re off the air and the last thing they need is a bunch of yahoos calling to tell them that!  🙂

Running about unplugging things didn’t feel that strange to me when I started at the stations, because I grew up in cable tv’s early days.  It didn’t come down the county road I lived on because there was a railroad track to cross and the cable company didn’t want to do that.  We had a big tv antennae on our house and when there was a thunderstorm coming, we ran around unhooking all the tvs from it.  I don’t recall that antennae ever getting hit when I lived there, but I do remember a neighbor’s tree getting hit.  It was the loudest boom I’d ever heard (I was 8 or 9 and hadn’t stood by a canon at a Civil War reenactment yet).

My mother-in-law was terrified of thunderstorms and would insist on the whole family sleeping in their family room, which was half underground (they had a split-level house).  My parents never seemed to worry about them much.  I remember my father telling me that he worried more about blizzards than thunderstorms.  Not surprisingly, my husband tends to be more nervous about storms than I am.  Part of me kind of enjoys them.  There’s an energy to them and if I’m in my house, I feel pretty safe.  Unfortunately, one of our dogs is absolutely terrified of them.  I expect when I get home later this afternoon I will find that she’s tried to crawl into one of the kitchen cupboards, or chew her way through the baby-gate I put across the hall to keep her out of the bedrooms while we’re at work.  Poor baby.

What about you?  Do you like storms, or do they make you nervous?  Do you have any storm prep rituals you go through?

Book Review: Woof, by Spencer Quinn

I loved the idea of a novel written from a dog’s POV but wasn’t sure how well it could be done. Spencer Quinn nails it in Woof. The story is told from the perspective of Bowser, a mutt adopted by Birdie and her Grammy as a belated birthday gift for Birdie. Bowser has had a rough life, but being a dog, he doesn’t dwell on it. As he puts it, his mind doesn’t go backwards. He’s also very smell-focused, as you’d expect from a dog. He faithfully reports on human conversations, even when he admittedly doesn’t necessarily understand them, and he falls asleep when things get dull (from his POV). Still, he tells us enough for us to grasp what’s going on (better than he does) and play along at solving the mystery.

Bowser himself isn’t much concerned with the mystery, except in how it impacts his new human, Birdie Gaux. He views things on instinct, emotion, and smell. He loves Birdie almost immediately and his mind quickly moves from wanting freedom to run about to wanting to stick close to this “off the charts” kid. He picks up on feelings so even when Grammy is talking mean, he knows she’s got a good heart and that she cares. He’s dead on about who is trustworthy and who isn’t, even when he doesn’t quite understand the concepts. His way of looking at the world is delightful, from his thoughts on the importance of having a tail (“It helps to have a tail to tell you when a good idea comes along.”) to his response on a particular idiom (“Quiet as mice? You heard that one from humans. Didn’t they know mice were in fact kind of noisy?”). In Bowser, Quinn has created a unique and fun protagonist, with a charming view of the world.  I hope we’ll have many more Bowser and Birdie stories to enjoy!  I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

Getting Back to Sanity

I knew I loved running and that it was important, but I had no idea how much of an anchor it formed for me.  Since I got the news about the stress fracture I’ve felt so off-kilter.  Everything has suffered.  I basically gave up on my manuscript for Camp NaNoWriMo, didn’t do much reading, and I’ve felt discombobulated and moody.  I kept getting emails inviting me to register for races and they felt like taunts.  Reading about Boston was torture.  When I was training for the Indy Mini, I started each week with a list of to-dos for each day, sorting out what would fit in around my running plan.  That got dropped when the running got dropped and I think that’s a big part of why I felt so lost.

I got a call last Tuesday telling me that my appointment with the surgeon was being cancelled and instead I would follow up with the regular orthopedic doctor I originally saw.  I spent the past 7 days trying to figure out what that meant.  Surgery was out because it wouldn’t work?  I didn’t need surgery to get better after all?  They were going to tell me to just give up on running?  What did it mean?!  It was not a good week. Patience is a virtue that I have not acquired.

The appointment was today and, despite all my fears, the news was good.  Surgery is out because the bone does not show swelling, which suggests that it has adapted to the stress it was under.  I can return to running next week.  I’m supposed to start slow – do a mile and see how I feel – and then ease back in, upping my mileage by 10-20% each week.  If I have any trouble, I should call the doctor.  I am clear, so long as problems don’t develop, to do the 4-miler I’m registered for in July and work back up so I can train for the mini-marathon in September.  As I ease back in, I will use the bicycle my super-supportive husband got for me for cross-training.

To say I am relieved would be an understatement.  I feel like I”m getting my life back.  Running truly is my anchor.  It’s so good to have it back!