Recently, I read a YA book for my sister-in-law’s book review blog, Jenna Does Books, which is always a treat. I am certainly not the reviewer that she is, but it’s fun to give my opinions on a book when she asks. Here is the review that I shared with her for her blog…
One of the many perks of being Jenna’s sister-in-law is that she shares books with me. She knows me well enough to know when I will like a book. So, when she asked me last month if I wanted to read a book about a runner and review it, the answer was a quick YES.
I am a runner. I love to run. I have not always loved it; in fact there was a time that I would joke about only running if I was being chased. But running became a way of dealing with stress and heartbreak and taught me how strong I really am. And that is exactly what takes place for Alice Davis, the main character.
Alice is a senior in high school, the class valedictorian, and an over-achiever. She is the daughter of a dermatologist and a lawyer, has a best friend named Jenni, and a pet rat named Walter. Despite having everything she could ever want, all she wants is to go to Yale. When she is rejected, she feels like a failure and has to find something to do. And that is how she starts to run.
It’s not pretty at first, but running teaches her new lessons and leads her to meet new people. It shows her how to push through pain and limits and to be strong when she feels she can’t. She befriends the owner of a local running store, a patient of her mother’s, and takes on a part time job. She also meets a boy, cleverly named Miles. Being rejected by the one and only college she ever wanted to go to sends her down a different path that ultimately leads her to bigger decisions, better relationships, and helps her through heartache.
I really enjoyed this book. I love the running aspect because I can sympathize with running for the first time and feeling like I can’t possibly do it again. And how getting lost in a run, good or bad, can give you the clarity you need for just about any situation. Even though it is fiction, the development of Alice’s running is pretty spot on… It is well written, easy to read, and the characters all work well together. I especially love the use of SAT words throughout with the definitions, such as this…
As the sole offspring of two conspicuously consuming professionals riddled (“filled or permeated with something unpleasant”) with guilt about working too much and not paying enough attention to their precious child, I am often the beneficiary of bouts of excessive spending.
The author, Rachel Toor, is also a senior writer for Running Times magazine and has written Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running, a book that I have already added to my to-read list.
You can also read my review on Jenna Does Books here.
Read more about Rachel Toor here.
This was our first “vacation” in 3 years and boy, was it nice. I am so glad hubby convinced me to take the time off and go to Las Vegas with him while he was there for work, which is why I call it a “vacation”, but I’ll take it. It was exactly what I needed. The only thing that would have made it better is if he did not have to work while he was there. But I am very thankful I was there with him.
It’s hard for me to travel. Being self-employed makes it hard. I can’t just up and leave. But the timing of this trip worked out perfectly. I am guilty of making a few calls and responding to emails while there because I couldn’t totally let it go, but that’s fine. I still had a great time.
We arrived Friday night, an hour and a half late due to mechanical issues with the plane. Have I mentioned how much I do not like to fly? As in it scares the heck out of me. This time around I took Dramamine to help with the recent car-sickness I’ve been experiencing. I was a nervous wreck waiting to take off, especially after the captain told us they had to figure out why there was hydraulic fluid where there should not be hydraulic fluid. I just don’t fly enough for that sentence to ever be okay, so my nerves got the best of me. Finally, we took off and the flight wasn’t bad at all. We watched The Wolf of Wall Street during out flight so that took up 3 hours of our time. Finally, we landed in Sin City, in all it’s neon glory. We had not been to Las Vegas in 15 years so it was sure to be different and I couldn’t wait to check it out. I managed to capture this great picture as we were about to land.
After checking in at our hotel – we stayed at Harrah’s – we walked around for a bit. In all honesty, I was determined to walk to In-N-Out Burger, just 2 1/2 miles away. We were able to walk within about a 1/2 mile of it and couldn’t go any further because there was no sidewalk. I’m all for adventure, but walking an overpass without a sidewalk is just nuts. We decided to save it for another day and headed back to the hotel since hubby had to be up at 6am for a day of meetings. But we did see the fountains at The Bellagio…
I had visions of sleeping in every day that we were there and catching up on sleep that I never get enough of at home. But, when hubby was up and left Saturday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was sleep. There was a fun city out there, with a view of mountains, and amazing weather in the 60’s with humidity in the teens. I had to get out there and enjoy it. And that I did.
I walked along the strip going into The Mirage, Caesar’s Palace, The Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan, and more. The Conservatory in The Bellagio was so beautiful, with all the fresh flowers and butterflies.
I stopped at one of a millions Starbucks and enjoyed a drink outside and people-watched. I also walked around The LINQ and saw the new High Roller ferris wheel, and also found out we could possibly see Keith Urban in concert that night. The town was full of country music stars for the Academy of County Music Awards that would be live at the MGM Grand that Sunday, and they had concerts Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get ahold of hubby in time and we missed out. I also managed to find a boutique at The Venetian that sell Alex + Ani bracelets that I love, and bought a couple.
By the time I got back to the hotel from my day of exploring, hubby soon arrived and I was so excited to have his company that evening. We decided to take the monorail as far south as we could and we could see the concert behind our hotel as we waited at the monorail station. Taking the monorail to where the old Sahara used to be, we then walked to Fremont Street. Along the way, we passed several wedding chapels and also walked past the pawn shop where they film Pawn Stars.
It was just getting dark when we arrived at Fremont Street Experience. The lights are pretty amazing. Being in the sign industry, third generation (my father and grandfather), I love old school neon and signage. There was so much to see. This is also the place to see some pretty strange people. We didn’t know what to expect from one block to the next.
We took a cab back to the monorail station and then back to the hotel where we could hear the live concert playing near out hotel. We decided to have a late dinner at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill at Harrah’s. They had a live country band playing. Great food, great music, and a fun time.
On Sunday, we had a filling breakfast buffet at our hotel before heading to the pool at the Rio. I had found out the day before that since the pool at Harrah’s was closed for renovations, we could take the hotel shuttle to the Rio which was about 1 1/2 mile away off the strip. The shuttle runs all day long and leaves each hotel every half hour. We found out the first shuttle of the day did not leave until 10:30, so we decided to walk there earlier. It wasn’t a bad walk at all and we got there just as the pool opened at 9am. Their pool area is called VooDoo Beach and they have 4 pools, 3 hot tubs, and a sand beach area. It was beautiful. I crave the sun and never have the time or the ability to shut my brain off long enough at home to enjoy a lunge chair and pool, so this was a real treat for me. Hubby is not one to lay by the pool – he likes to always be doing something, so I love him for enjoying the down time with me for about 3 hours. I could have laid there all day long….
We decided to skip the shuttle and walk back towards the hotel and stopped at a cute little place called the Haute Doggery for lunch, located at The LINQ. How could we not eat there? it hit the spot and held us over to our first of three company dinners we would attend while there. This may have been the more fun part for me… I love going out to dinner and being able to dress up was fun and something we just never do at home. I had splurged on several new dresses for the trip, dresses that I would normally never wear.
Dinner that night was at Sergio’s Italian Gardens of Las Vegas. We had quite a large group so there was an open bar and dinner was served family style. Bruschetta, calamari, salad, chicken marsala, penne pasta with a vodka sauce, and so much more… Including a delicious piece of tiramisu, my favorite dessert ever.
Monday morning, hubby headed off to the convention and I met up with hubby’s boss’ wife and we took the shuttle to the Rio so I could enjoy the pool again. She had not yet been, so we had a great day by the pool. We both brought magazines with us but we never once looked at them, we were busy talking the whole time! Must be an Italian thing….
Monday evening meant another fun dress and dinner that The Capital Grille. The view from this restaurant was amazing. It was on the third floor of the Fashion Show Mall, facing the Strip, directly across the street from the Wynn. Just beautiful. And the food…. We had amazing appetizers – raw oysters, lump crab meat, prawns, and bread. We were treated with a delicious red wine. I ordered the filet mignon, my absolute favorite. I ate enough for the whole week, I’m sure but it was worth every single point and calorie.
On Tuesday, our last day there, hubby went back to the convention, while Bobbie and I met up again to go shopping at the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. This was probably my favorite hotel and the shops were amazing. I bought sinful desserts at Carlo’s Bakery (The Cake Boss!) and may have bought another Alex + Ani bracelet or two.
Hubby was done early that day, so we had time to finally – FINALLY – go to In-N-Out Burger. Until you have been, you just don’t get it. Scrumptious burgers (seriously, it’s the spread and the toasted bun), French fries and a chocolate shake. It was worth the wait. I just wish I could have gone twice while I was there!
We walked through Paris on the way back to our hotel from lunch. These pictures do not do it justice – it’s pretty amazing!! We also saw the fountains at The Bellagio during the day.
Tuesday night was our last, amazing dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chao. There was so much food and it was all delicious. I enjoyed more filet mignon, but I have to say that the artichokes and fresh mozzarella at the salad bar may have been my favorite. We had chocolate mousse cake for dessert and it was heavenly. I also wore what was probably my favorite dress of all for this trip.
We ended the night with a quick cab ride back to our hotel and then walked back to The LINQ and watched the ferris wheel one last time. I still refused to go on it, but I sure loved looking at it.
We were up very early the next morning to check out and get to the airport for our flight home. I was thankful for an early – and nonstop – flight home. I was sad to leave but I was also ready to get home to my own bed and back to our boys who were probably done with being boarded after 5 days. I was finally able to catch a few last fun shots , including a sunrise. And I managed to get a few good shots from the plane as we took off over the mountains (thank you, Dramamine) and also as we flew over Clearwater Beach on our approach to Tampa. It’s amazing how different two sides of the country are – both beautiful.
I learned several things on this trip….
- We really shouldn’t go 3 years before going on another get-away. It does wonders for the mind and soul.
- I am becoming a dress girl. After years of only wearing dresses if I had to, I think I might do it more often now.
- It’s important to get away with your significant other whenever you can. It’s too easy to get in a routine at home with all the day-to-day stuff.
- I love Las Vegas – the weather, the atmosphere, and the enormity of it all.
- I am not afraid to go out exploring on my own. Sure, it’s more fun with someone else, but I’m glad I didn’t just sit around in the room and miss out on the excitement of a different city. I can hopefully sleep in one day here, but Las Vegas certainly wasn’t the place to do it.
- Quality time with hubby, away from it all, is the best!
Have you been to Las Vegas? What is your favorite thing about it?
The last week has been spent having fun with my Aunt Darlene from California. We are very lucky to have her visit us just about once a year now and we enjoy her visits very much. We sadly said goodbye to her today as she hops on a plane to fly back home this evening. There has been a lot of Starbucks coffee, eating out, shopping, laughing, and enjoying her time here. Darlene also got to meet hubby’s grandmother. And like the rest of us, she thinks she is a real hoot!
I am always sad to see her leave, but we made a lot of fun new memories this week!
Here is our week in photos!
On Friday, hubby and I are going to Vegas. He’s going for work and I am tagging along for fun! I am so excited to get the heck out of town for a few days and I will likely be behind on my posts again… There will always be time for that when we return!
It’s not often that there is a nighttime run. I’ve only done 2 the past couple of years, but they are a lot of fun. Add in glow sticks, fun lights, and running friends, and it makes for a fun night! I was excited to run the Electrodash 5K with hubby this past Friday night at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.
After fighting traffic from Clearwater to Tampa at rush hour, we finally made our way to the fairgrounds well before the start. We parked and made our way to the line to pick up our packets since we did not do so the night before. There was a delay getting in, but the weather was nice and cool, and it was fun chit chatting with others in line.
When we finally entered, we made our way to packet pick-up for our race bibs, shirts, and fun glow sticks including glasses. After we checked in, we walked around and I kept my eyes open for several friends (go Tampa Bay Bloggers!) who I knew were running this event. Caitlyn actually spotted me first. Since it’s now become habit to take pictures of us whenever we see each other at a race, we took another selfie. It’s what we do….
Our friend Xiomara found us, too. I was happy to see her, it had been quite awhile. We would also end up running together so we had time to catch up. Always fun to chit chat while running! Is it just me or do we look like Scuba Steve with these glassed on? Too fun!
The event was to start in waves, but it seems like everyone started at one. It was dark, all the cool lights were on, and we were off!
We made our way through several zones of lights and music. As with most races, it’s a little congested at first but then it spreads out. They handed out water around the mile mark.
I was very proud of hubby as he ran most of it! He is not in love with running the way that I am, but he wants to do it, and he did just that. He was ahead of me most of this one!
Before we knew it, we found ourselves back at the start line. They handed out water and granola bars. Everyone was heading back towards the stage for music and dancing at they finished…
One thing I really loved about this event was seeing all the kids that were there. They were having so much fun with the glow sticks and running at night.
Two things I wish… I know it was night time, so it was dark, and there were glow lights and effects along the way, but I felt like I was going to fall because I literally could not see the ground in front of me. I ran carefully the entire time to make sure that I didn’t trip on anything or step in a hole (like hubby did!). The only other thing is, I wish they would have given out a medal because I love medals!
All in all a fun night. My time was around 34 minutes, which is great for a fun event like this. And it was fun participating with hubby and seeing my running friends.
Electrodash is in many cities across the US this year. Be sure to visit their website and see if they’re near you!
Have you participated in Electrodash, in Tampa or elsewhere? What was your favorite part?
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary entry to the Electrodash 5K in exchange for my honest review. The opinions shared are my own.
Sometimes, it seems like just yesterday I ran my very first half marathon. And all of a sudden, I am getting up at 3:20am on a Sunday to drive 60 miles to run my 9th half marathon. How did that happen? I’m always pretty competitive with myself and have some sort of goal in mind, usually with the hope of a PR. But after celebrating PRs at my last two half marathons in just the last 6 weeks alone, and then not running for the last two weeks, I knew this one was going to be for fun. I love the course and the views for this one. I also had the memory of this one being the first race last year where I finally broke 3 hours for a half marathon. After picking up my shirt and bib on Thursday, I was very excited to run this one again. I love the shirt and the colors!!
I arrived early enough to find a free parking spot not far from the start / finish line, which is located at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, right on the water. You can see the John Ringling Causeway in the distance. I am partial to races along the water, so I just love this.
I had plenty of time to walk around and take care of business before the start. Thankfully there were plenty of port-o-potties. I also ran in to my friend Caitlyn before. We joked that we were both tired and not really ready for 13.1 miles, but we were going to do it. Just before it started, I also ran into Meghan and Nadine, who were running the relay. The race started just after 7 and we were off. Once again, I decided to not listen to music and enjoy the surroundings. The course heads south on Tamiami Trail and then over the John Ringling Causeway. This might be my favorite part of the course. I love running bridges, however hard it may be, and I looked forward to running around St. Armand’s Circle. After St. Armand’s Circle, as I was approaching the causeway, I caught up to Caitlyn. It was shortly after that I took my first walk break. I always try to run at least 4 miles before I walk because I feel like once I take a walk break, I want to take more. I was very happy to catch up to Caitlyn and we ended up running for about 4 miles together. It was fun to chit chat with her and the time passed quickly. Around mile 8, I ran ahead. The course took us past the Ringling Museum of Art and through a beautiful neighborhood along the water. I took several more walk breaks during this time. The sun was high and bright in the sky and it had warmed up quickly. I also had Gatorade at each hydration station, in addition to the water I had with me. Between Mile 11 and 12, I had this amazing view and I stopped to take a picture of it. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful area and I really don’t think I will ever get tired of such views.
Finally – FINALLY – I made it back out to Tamiami Trail. A very nice woman, who’s name I forgot (!!), was along side me as I was taking a quick walk break. She said we should run it in together. We did just that, talking for a little bit, and then when I turned around to thank her after we crossed the finish, she was gone. Runners are so friendly, I always enjoy that. I was ready – and happy – to be done. My time was far from my last half marathon 2 weeks ago, but it was still better than this same event last year. Regardless, I was very happy with how I did and my time. We can’t PR every time, and I enjoyed running with Caitlyn for several miles on this one.
After calling hubby to let him know how I did, I caught up with my fellow Best Damn Race Ambassadors so we could all go to breakfast.
Beth, Meghan, Katie, Me, Haley, and Nadine
Katie, Me, Nick, Haley, Meghan, and Nadine
We also took a Tampa Bay Bloggers photo since so many of us ran the race. Clearly, we love photos. I think we’re a fabulous bunch.
Beth, Meghan, Me, Caitlyn, Haley, Chrissy, Denise, Brad
Me and Caitlyn
I am very happy with how I ran and finished this race. It’s a great event, I love the shirt and medal, and the camaraderie is priceless. And here are my official results…
What is your favorite thing about running races and the running community?
**Disclaimer: As part of the Tampa Bay Bloggers network, I received a complimentary entry to the First Watch Sarasota Half Marathon and Relay in exchange for my honest review. The opinions shared are my own