January 28, 2015

Kaiser is Coming

I'll be able to finish the upcoming Kaiser half marathon (this certainty comes from the knowledge that F is gonna come join me as a pacer from mile 2ish on).  But it's not going to be fast, or pretty.

Last weekend, for my last long run before the race, I headed out from my mom's house in the Sierra Nevada foothills and attempted to run to my dad's cemetery plot.

Except, I'd forgotten just how *hilly* the foot-*hills* can be.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but this is the top of a long gradual hill.
This is what passes for road-running in Penryn, California.
The goal had been 10 miles, but I got on the road a little later than planned and after the first few very difficult climbing miles, I realized I'd severely underestimated the difficulty (and slowness) of the task.  It was beautiful, though. 

Unfortunately, I had a hard time deadline, regardless of the distance I'd completed.

I needed to get cleaned up and attend my niece's honor choir concert (the entire Sacramento area has one California Music Educators Association honor choir and, Niece had earned a spot -- she was the only one who made it through the auditions and rigorous practice schedule from her school).  So, running be damned, I wasn't *about* to be late to her concert.

Thankfully, Mom and step-dad had been planning to pick me up at the cemetery, so I just called them and asked them to pick me up about 2 miles short, calling it at 1h55 of running (and a non-trivial amount of uphill hiking) for 8.26 miles including 922 feet of ascent and 628 feet of descent.  It was wonderful to reacquaint myself with and enjoy the beautiful rural landscapes of my childhood.  Also, I felt that the effort and time on my feet were just about perfect for the last run before a half marathon, so I didn't really mind that it was short on distance.

Bonus, the roses I'd bought to leave at dad's headstone that my mom and step-dad were supposed to bring ended up going to the performer.  I couldn't help but think that papabear was very pleased with the outcome, because truly, he was the reason his granddaughter received roses at her performance.  It was his gift to her.  And she was very happy to receive them.  Apparently, receiving roses at choir performances is cool.   

On the workout front, the week was actually reasonably decent: 24+ miles on my feet including about 6 miles pure walking, the hilly 8 miler, a decent 3 mile progression run that averaged 10:27 and finished with the last mile at 9:54, and a few easier efforts plus a short 35 minute recumbant bike effort.

Since then, I've fit in 15 minutes pre-massage on the treadmill with my mom at her gym in the retirement village (I've never felt so conspicuously fit!), and a short 4ish miles today.  If nothing else, I'll definitely be nice and relaxed (can we call it tapered?) on Sunday.

January 26, 2015

Annual Book Exchange

5 years ago, a good friend of mine (CD) moved from the bay area.  With her, she took her annual ladies book exchange brunch.

Last year, after several people lamented the loss of the book exchange, she and I agreed to resurrect it in my new kitchen.

It was a great success.  Here, are the recommendations (all attendees were invited to present one of their favorite reads):

(Also, I feel like I may have forgotten to take notes from a few, so apologies in advance if I missed you)

Jen -- Me Before You

Cat -- Jeanette Winterson: The Passion  and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

HG -- Game of Thrones (general series recommendation), This is Where I Leave You, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

KT -- Invisible Cities

AR -- As the Crow Flies (general series recommendation)

MS -- The Bastard of Istanbul

BT -- The Magicians (general trilogy recommendation)

E2 -- Hornet Flight;  and Defending Jacob

FL- Empress Wu; and Notting Hell (Good clean brain candy fun!  referenced by several other folks as a baseline of why and what we choose to read.  Sometimes we just want simply good fun.) 

CT -- Midnight in Sicily; and The Neverending Story (classic, and great to read with kids).

JT -- General endorsement for Tom Robbins (followed by general discussion of what a cool dude he is, super compassionate and "an old guy on twitter, how cool!"  Specific recommendations include:  Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas; and Jitterbug Perfume)

JG -- (didn't speak openly, but later, in close company endorsed a book I also sincerely enjoyed last year, which controversially won the Pulitzer):  The Goldfinch

Thanks to all who came.  I can't wait to see what next year brings. And if I missed any of your recommendations, please don't hesitate to let me know.

January 20, 2015

One Of Those Days

Go grab a cup of tea or a beer or a glass of wine.  Because my day was ridiculous enough that I want to share it and I want you to *truly* enjoy it.

It started out with a night of bad sleep due to city noise and a very tight bed in the hotel (E was also sleeping poorly so with each toss and turn of one of us, we'd wake the other all night, neither of us getting more than 30 minutes straight after 2 AM or so).  Now, yes, I realize this is nothing compared to the sleep interruptions one experiences from an infant or even a toddler, but I'm spoiled.  Unless work is horrid, I've reached a point in my life where I usually get 8 hours of good sleep.  And I didn't last night.

Groggy, I woke at my normal time and cleared my inbox and went about my day, doing my preferred routine of post-early AM work late AM run and shower before lunch.  My first hard work deadline was a 1:30 call.  I left the hotel room at 12:20 PM in the optimistic hope that I had enough time get to my car, load my luggage, drive to the San Francisco Center Nordstrom and buy my niece her birthday present before taking the call as I drove down the peninsula.  Teenage Birthday Present Aside:  the number of calls and texts and emails to friends with kids her age has been like a completely separate high billable work project this last week.

*Before* I left the hotel room, I made sure to locate my car key because my hands were going to be very full.  Then I loaded up -- the rolling bag that doubles as my virtual office, the back-pack, the giant purse, and the large shopping bag from the Nespresso store containing enough caffeinated capsules to cover my needs for at least the rest of Q1 (oh, I'm officially an addict).

I rolled and carried all of these items to the parking garage, but when I got to my car, my key was not in the normal pocket where I *always* put it in my purse.  It also wasn't in my back pockets, or any other obvious place I could think of.

I took a few deep breaths.  I decided to take the systematic approach.  I unloaded every single thing from my purse into the Nespresso bag, assuming I'd eventually find the key.  Instead, I found:

 -Business cards from every professional introduction I've made since the purse was purchased in fall of 2013 (thanks, Sis!  you always make me buy the best stuff)
-Approximately 30 pens and pencils
-Large wallet
-Small wallet/phone case
-Smallest wallet attached to janitor-like key set
-Receipts.  So many receipts.
-Eyeliners, moisturizers, sunblock, lipliners, gloss, chapstick, eyeshadows, powders, foundation and brushes (A majority of which had only been used once.  Probably while attending a wedding.)
-Approximately 5 bags of nuts/trail mix from plane flights and a couple of packets of random food handed out at races
-Lots of binder clips
-Hairbands and a comb
-Deodorant (I actually stand by this one, I keep deodorant in my purse at all times.  What?)
-Sunglasses, tissues, sewing kit
-Mittens (because, you know, mittens are very important in Northern California)
-Gum

Well, crap.  As the remaining items in my purse decreased, I was slowly coming to the conclusion that I had likely left my key up in the hotel room when I'd gone to the trouble of taking it out to be sure that I had it ready.

See, I have a bit of a disorder.  I'm not very aware of what's in my hands.  When I get mentally distracted, I regularly pick things up and put them down wherever.  Phones in freezers. Laundry in pantries.  Random items lost to the ages found several years later in completely odd places.

Once, when I lent my car to a friend, he had it detailed and when he returned it, he handed me not one, but *2* gallon ziplock bags full of pens and pencils.  In case you were wondering who stole your pen?  It was me.  But it wasn't on purpose, I swear.

First, I email my client and ask to reschedule the 1:30 call to another time.  It was very clear to me that I wasn't going to get through this ordeal in any time to be calm and together enough to host a conference call.

Then, I checked all the other pockets and compartments of all of the other bags.  Finally, I loaded up all the bags and trudged back to the hotel where I asked for a new key and, of course, found my room in the course of being cleaned by housekeeping.  Gesticulating wildly (no Cantonese), I finally convinced her that I'd lost something.  She emphatically assured me that she hadn't found anything.  But that didn't surprise me.  Because I often end up putting things in my hands in very unexpected places.  She cocked her head to the side as I lied down on the floor and started searching under the desk, the couch, the bed and the bedstand.

Eventually, I asked if I could see the trash.  It took a while, but she finally understood what I wanted.  I started picking through the refuse from the outside of the see-through trash bag and she came over with gloves.  She made a motion to put them on and help me, but had a look of serious relief when I motioned that I would take the gloves and paw through the trash myself.  "You.  Be careful.  Glass."  Yes, Ma'am.

After a few minutes, I became convinced that the key was not in the trash, so I stopped looking and resumed my search of the room, frantically picking up towels, looking under sheets, and going through all the zippered pockets in all of my various bags before re-starting the search of the contents of my purse.

Nothing.

She seemed to sense my frustration and actually removed the trash bag from her cart, put it on the ground, ripped it open so that it was just a plastic sheet on the floor and gave me back the gloves.

That's some serious customer service!

After pawing through the trash of approximately 5 or so other hotel patron's rooms, I confirmed that my key was, in fact, *not* in the trash.

Finally, I opened my phone and called AAA.  I haven't had to use AAA in a long time, but I love them.  They have great travel contracts with many brands that result in better rates that you can get through any other loyalty program, *and* free roadside assistance (even if I did end up sitting on hold for 20 minutes before the final arrangements were done).  They gave me an hour window, *and* they gave me the bad news that to have the locksmith make me a new key would not be free, unfortunately.  It's one thing to slim-jim into a vehicle for free.  But apparently making a key is much more difficult, and close to $200.  Between the lost billable hours and the fee, this unknown placement disorder incident was not going to be cheap.

Resigned, I walked back to the garage and warned the garage attendant that a locksmith would be coming sometime in the next hour.  "Did you call *our* locksmith?"  Ummm.... what?

Apparently, the parking garage has its own locksmith and it's free.  Cool!  I call AAA back and sit on hold for another 20ish minutes to cancel my apt.  Then, I called the building's locksmith.  As I did so, I realize they are probably only free for lockouts much like AAA is free for lockouts and they are probably going to charge me for the key... Sigh.

While I'm waiting on hold I decide to search the detritus of my purse (now mainly in the Nespresso bag) one last time.  Lo and behold -- there was the key.  I have no idea how I missed it when I did a piece by piece transfer from one bag to the next and a second piece by piece search, but I'm not complaining.  I hang up on the building locksmith and drive to the exit station.

But you know what they want at the exit station?  Oh, yeah.  A ticket.  Somewhere in the mess of removing and putting my purse back together I appear to have misplaced that one.  So, I fill out the lost ticket form and pay the penalty.

Finally, I drive to Nordstrom and buy my niece's present.  I am very careful to ensure my car key is in my hand and that the car door/trunk is locked by the remote locking mechanism in my hand.  I go in and the helpful saleswoman who is only 7 years older than my niece guides me on what is cool.  I take my purchases back to my car and I'm not kidding you...

I CAN'T FIND MY CAR KEY.

Back into Nordstrom I go, and of course, it's on the purchase counter, just waiting for whomever to pick it up.

Finally home, several hours later than expected, I log into a client-issued computer to start a large project (sometimes I need access to client's corporate networks and they want me on hardware they control).  The computer immediately crashes.  I try to reboot.  It fails.  Thankfully, my key is back in its normal pocket of my purse, so I drive to the client and spend 45 minutes working with their IT department.  They inform me that it looks like either the hard drive or the motherboard failed, so I'll have to come back tomorrow AM.

I did make it home in time to do my last client call of the day at 5:15.  But I was kind of shocked that the conference call server didn't go down or something else didn't go wrong. 

So now, I'm calling the day officially done.  I'm not even going to chance it.

January 19, 2015

Just Lazy

After all the running around we did in the end of 2014, I've very much been enjoying these last couple weeks at home.  We spent 14 of the last 15 nights at home and the one night away was just a quick overnight pleasure trip to San Francisco with friends.  For the first time in several years, I don't have a flight on the calendar.  None.  I have *no* idea when I'll next need to get on a plane.

This week I do have an overnight work trip to SF, but we do those so often and we almost always stay at the same hotel, so those trips don't feel like travel, they sort of feel like home, too.

Work is busy.  But not crazy.

On the running/fitness front, I'm very much finding it difficult to motivate.  I don't mind putting in the time to work out (did it every day last week except for one).  It's just the effort level where I'm struggling.  For example, yesterday, instead of racing the Foster City 10-miler with a bunch of other awesome running bloggers, I opted to sleep in (seriously, how great is sleeping in?) and promised myself I'd do 12 miles.  I slept in like a champ.  Glorious. 

Instead of the sought-for 12, I only managed 8 miles, with 5.25 constant slow jogging in the high 11s to low 12s and the remainder run-walk intervals (although the intervals averaged in the high 8 min/mile range).

Total mileage for the week: 21.61 which includes a 3 mile walk.  One day, I opted for 35 minutes of recumbant bike reading.  I also decided to bust out 15 pushups, 50 crunches and another 15 pushups while waiting for my Garmin to locate the satellites one day.  HAHAHA -- I woke up with sore arms in the middle of the night and it took my sleep-addled brain a few seconds to figure out why. 

In short, I'm not focused on smart training.  I'm not anywhere near the effort level I like to be at when I've got a half marathon 2 weeks away.  And, I can't seem to make myself care.

The sleeping in.  The puttering around the house chores while it's gloomy outside.  The cooking in the new kitchen.  All of these things are so wonderful (and rare) and the scheduled workouts are so nonenticing in comparison.

So, more often than not, I replace what was scheduled with a shorter, slower run with my audiobook.

Combined, this leads me to the conclusion that Kaiser SF Half will be very slow, and possibly, not very fun for me.  You might think that this would be enough to motivate me to make some changes.  But I can't seem to care.

In other news, I did manage to lose a couple of pounds in the last 2 weeks, which is one of my other goals.  So at least I can point to that as some sort of focus and discipline.  

 

January 12, 2015

Mellow

This past week was just going through the motions and all of a sudden it's the weekend.  Thank goodness, because by the time I got there, I was tired.

Getting back into the swing of work was harder than I thought it would be.  Add to this that all of my clients are *also* waking up from the holiday slumber and I had a very busy work week.  Plus there was laundry, bills, estimated taxes, 2 scheduled repairman visits in the ongoing fight with the new range.  You know, life. 

And, typically, life pushed on my running and sleep.  Total mileage of 19.  3 days completely off my feet.  3 weeks 'til the Kaiser Half Marathon -- I definitely need to get some longer runs in!  Longest run this week wasn't even 7 miles. 

I've been on the fence about the Foster City 10 Miler (next weekend), but I think I need to just sign up and do it.  Probably relatively slowly as all of this week's runs averaged slower than 10 minutes/mile.

In other news, Santa got me a fondue set and we've been putting it to much delicious use.
Mmmm.... Moitie Moitie.


And we had a fun overnight trip to SF to celebrate E2's birthday.  We all joined up with J and (and C who took A's place) and went to the SF Symphony to enjoy a movie night for the second year in a row.
  
Movie Night at the Symphony
This week should be relatively similar to last week, except I'm hoping to get in more runs, and at least one trip to the gym (most likely several as I haven't even started the book club book that's scheduled for Thursday).

January 4, 2015

(Very Overdue Post) 2013: The Year in Books

After posting the 2014 year in books post I realized that somehow, I never posted my summary for 2013.  The end of last year was a bit of a whirlwind, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But, for the sake of sharing with my fellow book lovers, here's the final summary (just a year late).

22 books.  Book club started late in the year.



Title
Author
Review
Lit
Mary Karr
The memoires of a recovering alcoholic about her young adulthood and later child-rearing years told in a brutally honest and wonderfully lighthearted way.  Mary finds her way to the Catholic Church as part of her journey, which is difficult for her, as she self-identifies as a rational academic.  This is a story of redemption and love and forgiveness.  And yet, the voice is so compellingly human that you feel the drama and the pain enough to almost miss the continual positive slope of the storyline.
The Liar's Club
Mary Karr
The first memoire by Mary Karr, whose writing knocked my socks off in Lit.  This one is engaging, but it's jumpier, and the voice is not as mature as the voice in Lit.  Many of the stories in this memoire weren't even alluded to in Lit -- she left some of the biggest topics in the Liar's Club unexplored in Lit, which made for some good surprises.  A very engaging tale of a crazy childhood full of love  
Cherry
Mary Karr
Mary Karr's second memoire.  Adolescence and sexual awakening and drugs.  Darker and more sullen than the other two memoires, just like a teenager would be.
China Road
Rob Gifford
A narrative of driving west on the Old Silk Road from Shanghai to Korgaz in Kazakhstan.  This book did more than anything I've encountered so far to help me understand the enormity and complexity of China.  There is no 1 Chinese perspective, except, perhaps, a shared commitment or resignation to "economic progress" and globalization.  Definitely the most informative book on China I've encountered in my studies thus far.
Running the Hanson's Way
Luke Humphrey
Simple, straightforward.  Very similar to the information in Running for the Hansons, but with more regular mid-pack runner info. 
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
John Perkins
Facts you probably knew existed all strung together in a persuasively written indictment of American culture, consumerism, and the corporatocracy that rules the world.  Educational.  A bit unbalanced and biased.  But a good read, nonetheless.
The Lazrus Project
Aleksandar Hemon
Descriptive and vague interwoven tale of a Basnian-American immigrant and his struggle with the conflict of his past and present told through his research into a 1908 murder of a Jewish Immigrant.  Etheral and dark but fascinating and beautiful, nonetheless.
The Weight of All Things
Sandra Benitez
Yet another in the pile of "depressingly beautiful stories of human struggle" from Arvay.  Glorious language tells the sad and desperate story of a young boy whose mother is killed at the funeral of an El Salvadorean Archibishop.  He returns to his grandfather to find their homestead co-opted by the rebels.  Briefly free, he is conscripted by the army and put to work for them.  Eventually, after witnessing much carnage and base humanity, he returns home to his grandfather.
White Rose (Una Rosa Bianca)
Amy Ephron
Short, well-written chapters telling a fictional account of the true story of William Randoff Hearst's journalist's rescue of Evangelina Cisneros from a cuban prison.
The Redfoot Manual
Mike Pingleton
The most detailed resource I've encountered so far re: care, husbandry, and general info about Redfoot and Yellowfoot tortoies.  Funny Note:  Flying home from my sister's baby shower, a nearby flight seat occupant asked, "are you a doctor?"  "No."  I said, "I'm a lawyer."  Huh.... "Why would a lawyer be looking at anatomy diagrams and diseases...?"  The *obvious* answer is because she has a new tortoise and needs to learn basic veterninary and husbandry skills for her new baby... Duh...
You (Only Faster)
Greg McMillan
One of the more advanced running books I've ready.  Discusses types of training, feedback and how to structure a personalized training plan for yourself that actually works.  I suspect I'll be returning regularly to this one in the years to come.
Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
I'd seen the movie before this book was selected for our newly formed book club.  I don't usually like reading a book after I've seen the movie, but in this case, it was actually quite interesting.  The movie was such a different story, that comparing and contrasting the two was a fun exercise.  Different timelines, character development, plot and more made for the book actually containing many surprises.  Overall, my book club agreed that this book was simplistic and had some flaws that were eliminated by the changes to the movie script.  Some things were lost, of course, but overall, this seems like a rare case where the movie did a better job on most fronts than the book.
My Name is Asher Lev
Chaim Potok
Powerful vivid tale of a gifted artist who is born a Hasidic Jew in Brooklyn.  Conflicts between the art world and the world of conservative Judaism make for a complicated life for the young genius.
The Fault In Our Stars
John Green
I cried.  I've lived cancer, but it was my dad.  This is a book of love and life and the horrid realities of cancer, but from a teenager's perspective.  We are all aware of our own mortality, but not as much as those who live on the edge, and this book made the stark contrast of teenagery and the edge of cancer-death very clear with its descriptions.  Gorgeous.  But so sad. 
The Gift of Asher Lev
Chaim Potok
So complex and beautiful -- human realities on the conflict of life, art, religion, principle, and commitment to self.  I wish I could send this book back to the friend who sent it to me as a gift as if she'd never read it.
Self Made Man
Norah Vincent
Fascinating tale of a lesbian woman's experience passing as a man for one year.  Full of all sorts of stereotypes as observed from a true outsider, I found much of what she said to be insightful, and the bits I disagreed with forced me to think hard about why.  Overall, this book probably forced me to think more critically about gender, culture, and sex more than any book I've read in years.  In particular, after reading this book, I found myself much more sympathetic to and understanding of some stereotypically common male behavior traits that I used to find frustrating.
Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami
Symbolism, magic, and lonely japanese protagonists living in dreamlike worlds told only the way the Murakami can tell it.  Supremely enjoyable.
The Bette Davis Club
Jane Lotter
Breezy easy brain candy rom com fun.
Dandelion Growing Wild
Kim Jones
Honest and real tales from one of America's best female marathoners.  Inspirational and poignant.
14 Minutes
Alberto Salazar
Fine.  Not great.  Not terrible.
The Gods of Guilt
Michael Connelly
Fast, suspenseful, and just overall enjoyable.  Michael Connely has become my favorite law thriller writer, easily.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great American Novel.  An excellent book to do with book club.  Even better after listening to the audiobook.
 


2014: The Year in Books

Last year, I made an effort to read more and I was successful.

I love reading.  It's something that makes me feel more balanced as a person.  More whole.  Written words make me feel less alone.  Also, my book club is a great group of folks and as a result of their selections, I picked up and finished several books I otherwise would have never read.

The total physical books read for the year is 34, which makes me very happy.  I'm hopeful I can read a similar number in 2015 (although the Harry Potter books went so fast that it may be difficult to repeat the same volume).


Title
Author
Review
Age of Innocence
Edith Wharton
Couldn't make it through the book in time for book club.  Slowly slogged through…finally finished and didn't enjoy it at all.  Big surprise given how much I loved The House of Mirth.
Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte
I'd never read this one.  So different than I expected.  Dark, dreary, sad portrayal of mental illness and the power structures that placed women at the hands of men.
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Jonas Jonasson
One of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time.  Lighthearted and yet full of historical references and a constant reminder that if you live a long time, even the things that seem like a very big deal become relatively small in the grand scheme of time.
The Tao of Pooh
Benjamin Hoff
I think I read the Te of Piglet many years ago.  This one was very enjoyable to me, particularly due to some of the cute plays on words ("Confuse" was always capitalized in a way that made it clear that there was a strong reference to Confucianism).  Overall, I like the Tao.  And the Tao of Pooh, well, I like it, too.  More chill and going with the flow.  Who could possibly argue with that?
California Apricots:  The Lost Orchards of Silicon Valley
Robin Chapman
A great historical view of Silicon Valley from the agricultural side.  Nice pictures.
Saughterhouse-5
Kurt Vonnegut
So it goes.  A wonderful book to read with book club.  An impressive work -- the tone is so balanced, yet the outcome is so very strongly anti-war.  Many layers to discuss and enjoy.
Sputnik Sweetheart
Haruki Murakami
Yet another magical mythical dream interwoven with reality and the loneliness of Japanese life.  If you usually like Murakami, this one will please you, too.
A Study in Scarlett
Arthur Conan Doyle
The first book introducing Sherlock Holmes and the first half was exactly what I'd expect.  The second half, however, surprised me greatly -- a tale of Mormons in Utah leading to murder and a 2-decade long search for revenge, not anything like what I thought it would be.
The Soul of a New Machine
Tracy Kidder
1981 Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a book E read as a kid.  This book tells the story of bringing up a start-up-like project to fruition within the confines of Data General Corporation.  Many of the experiences of the engineers who "birthed" the machine are so similar to the stories of my clients and my own experiences within startups.  This book definitely aged exceedingly well. 
Happy Potter And the Sorcerer's Stone
J.K. Rowling
Read this with my niece and enjoyed it very much.  Fun and predictably fanciful with more advanced vocabulary than I expected.   I'm looking forward to the next one in the series.
the all of it
Jeannette Haien
A delightful quick read.  A recent widow insists on telling her life story to a priest and reveals actions that could be considered sins, for which she wants no absolution.  A beautiful intimacy between them develops as the story unfolds. 
The signature of all things
Elizabeth Gilbert
Such a different story than Eat, Pray, Love -- if I didn't know it was the same author I never would have guessed. A thoroughly enjoyable well-researched historical fiction.
Dracula
Bram Stoker
The root of all vampire stories -- so interesting to see how prominent the lawyers were and the origins of various myths that were expanded along the lineage.  Defintiely one of the more meaningful and rewarding books I've read in book club, in terms of making me feel like a better educated and cultured individual.
Gone Feral:  Tracking My Dad Through the Wild
Novella Carpenter
A softer side of Novella than the one she shows in City Farm investigates and tries to understand and accept her outsider father.  He is a man who tries to live off the land, but in today's world, this is almost impossible.  In seeking a relationship with him in his old age, her idealism meets reality and she must learn to accept many more faults than she realized were there.
Palo Alto
James Franco
I almost had to read this one -- it's about being a teenager in a town that borders my own.  Wow!  Teenagers have way more sex, drugs, and angst than I ever encountered (but I had a bit of an odd teenagerhood).  I enjoyed it more than I thought it would and it made me want to see the movie, which I was previously uninterested in seeing.
Brain on Fire
Susannah Cahalan
A journalist suffers a psychotic break, and afterwards, uses her skills to document the unique disease she suffered in all of its confusing and crazy reality.  Extremely well done, if a bit scary in how clearly it shows that the line between sanity and insanity isn't really a line at all.
The Magicians
Lev Grossman
My sister-in-law gave this book to me as a birthday present and she was dead on.  I ripped through it in every spare moment I could find and when I finished it, I went to the store to buy the next 2 books in the series.  Set in modern day, but also magical fantasy, it is best described as chronicles of narnia meets potter with a darker more gritty reality.
The Magician King
Lev Grossman
Very enjoyable.
The Magician's Land
Lev Grossman
Sad that it had to end.
The Diagnosis
Alan Lightman
Perhaps one of the most depressing books I've ever read.  A man without much of a life slowly loses his faculties.  De-press-ing.
Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone
J.K. Rowling
A little late to the party, but I bought my niece the set for her birthday and we co-read, scheduling phone calls or in-person discussions to go over the book.  It was fun.  And I was hooked.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling
Continuing with the niece reading until it became apparent that he onslaught of middle school made co-reading with her aunt much too low on her priority list.  So I forged forward solo.  Actually, I raced to the end of the book.  So enjoyable.
Happy Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling
The first book in the series I read solo -- I tried to rip through it, but my life is not structured for reading.  So often, I'd find myself opening, paging back and re-reading the previous 2-3 pages to re-orient myself before another 3-4 pages and then good night.  As you can imagine, when this pattern is repeated, it is not exactly hyper efficient.  But it was enjoyable.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling
Harry is getting older in this one, maturing, the plot gets a bit darker.  Enjoyable twists and turns.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling
At this point, I'm in full on addiction mode, just ripping through the books as quickly as I can.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
J.K. Rowling
Still enjoying my romp through the series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J.K. Rowling
A very satisfying end. 
An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England
Brock Clarke
Book Club Book.  A bit of a let down.  None of us enjoyed it very much.  I kept feeling like the book itself was some sort of meta-literary joke being played on me, the reader.
The Jennifer Morgue
Charles Stross
Otherworldly, fast, geeky, fun.  A great travel read.
The Bette Davis Club
Jane Lotter
Simple, syrupy, plot-driven, guilty pleasure. (re-read)
Mrs. Hemingway
Naomi Wood
One of my favorite types of fiction.  Well-researched historical stories that tie together actual historical facts with an imaginary tale.  I learned more about Hemingway and the Jet Set of the 1920s from this book than I have since re-reading the Great Gatsby.
Dance Dance Dance
Haruki Murakami
This one ended up being a bit of a mystery with a traditional "solve" albeit in the crazy Murakami multiple worlds way.  Very enjoyable.  Read almost all of it on the couch on a Saturday after rolling my ankle on a trail run.  A wonderful way to spend the day.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
Haruki Murakami
Another excellent work in the inimitable Muraki style.  His ability to create mysteries, both magical and in the real world and to weave them together to describe the loneliness and otherworldliness of human relationships is so enjoyable.  Color, music (particularly piano), dreams, many things unexplained.  Surprisingly light on moons and cats.  But heavy on food and coffee.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel
P.
Adelle Waldman
Book club book.  A tale of the modern love life from the perspective of a mid-20s male writer in New York  with serious commitment issues.  Well done, but the character is so shallow.  Far enough from the actual life experience of all of our book club members that we couldn't decide if it was realistic or overdone.  Interesting.