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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10 Second Book Reviews

Island Beneath the Sea: I wanted to love this one, I really did. It's the story of a slave woman and her life. The story takes her from Saint-Dominigue, Haiti to New Orleans, and is truly epic. Isabel Allende's prose and imagery is beautiful and then brutal. The history of slaves on Haiti is told in great detail. The brutality of the slave owners is sometimes difficult to read, and the historical sections sometimes dragged for me. In the end, the reason I didn't love the book was because it was just too heavy for me at the time that I was reading it. I did like it, and I do recommend it, but it was just... too much.

The Hangman's Daughter: This book is the first in a four-book series. I bought the fourth book because it was on special on my Kindle for 99 cents. Then, I was kind of obligated to read the first 3 books in the series. So, I started with this one. It's less about the hangman's daughter as it is about the hangman himself, and his physician friend, who happens to be in love with the hangman's daughter. It's a bit of a crime drama, but it's a crime drama that takes place in 17th century Germany. It was a good start to the series, and it did make me want to read on. So, I recommend it.
The Dark Monk: This is the second book in the Hangman's Daughter series. It's much the same as the first, except that the hangman's daughter actually takes a larger role in this one. It's a mystery set in 17th century Germany and includes the same cast of characters as the first book. I enjoyed it, and I will eventually finish the series (although I took a break from it for a while).

The Dog Lived (and So Will I): This one is honestly a nice break from animal stories where the dog doesn't live. It's clear from the title that it doesn't have an Old Yeller kind of ending. Yes, the dog lives. This is a personal memoir by the author about her fight with cancer which just happened to happen right when her doggie is fighting cancer as well. It's a cute story, and a quick read. I very much liked it.

Allegiant (Divergent Series): Ugh, this one was so disappointing. I loved the first two books of the Divergent series, but this one fell flat. The writing was sloppy, and the story really deviated from the original premise of the series. In fact, a lot of the fighting and whatnot from the first two books was rendered basically pointless. I won't quibble over the ending (which many fans hated), but the book itself wasn't very good. It didn't help that it had been something like 2 years since I'd read the last one.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln: I listened to this one as an eBook, and it was long. 41 hours. I listened for 30-60 minutes per day and it took me from September to January to finish. It really gave me some true respect for Abraham Lincoln and how great he was as president. I also learned a lot about some great men whom I knew very little about. My biggest lesson is that politics really isn't that much different now than it was then. We like to think we're all fresh and new, but no, it's all just more of the same. The disappointment that I had with this book was that the movie only covered a very small part of it. I'd love to see more of Lincoln's life covered in film.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Back to the Grind

Galloway training, Week 1
Photo courtesy Fleet Feet Sports Baltimore
Well, I'm running again. You know, for real. The Baltimore Galloway program kicked off on May 24, and I'm back in it!

I signed up for the training program in the hopes that it would get me back on track. So far so good, as I've managed to get most of my runs in so far this season (granted, it's only been a few weeks).

My old group is... I don't know, dispersed, I guess. Plus, I am slower than I was pre-baby, so I've been added to the marathon training group, even though I'm only doing a half marathon. The last time I led a marathon group (2011), I had someone doing this, so it's no big deal, but it means my mileage is picking up faster than I'd like. I'll end up turning around earlier (either with the group or without the group) later in the season. At least the pace is right, and I've felt pretty comfortable running with them so far. Plus, this particular group has the highest number of my close friends compared to other groups, so that makes me happy.

On week 2 (May 31), I ran my first magic mile since 2012. Well, that's not totally true. I ran a magic mile in the fall on the NCR trail and was so ashamed of the time that I quickly wiped it from my memory. This one was on the track, and it was better, but still my second slowest magic mile since I started keeping track of them in 2006. My worst one was 2007, when I hadn't been running at all in months. My time was 11:31... only 8 seconds faster than my per-mile time on my half marathon PR, and slower than my per mile time for my 10K and 5K PRs. So, I have some work to do.

The good news is that both the 10K and the 5K that I've run since returning to running have been faster than the pace that Jeff Galloway predicts for a magic mile time of 11:31. The bad news is that the predicted half marathon time would be slower than any other half marathon I've run, including the one where I rode a roller coaster during the race. So, I have a pretty big goal of getting faster over the next few months.

I haven't decided what race to run yet, but I have a few ideas. The tricky part is that Todd wants to run a fall half marathon also, so we have to balance out TWO races (since one of us has to watch the baby while the other runs). Someday, I'm going to start a "parents half marathon" where one parent runs a half on Saturday and the other runs it on Sunday.

Anyway, my ideas:

  • Richmond, November 15. One of my good friends is running the full marathon, so it would be nice to go down and run the half at the same time. The bad part is, I don't really want to wait until mid-November to run my goal race. But... that would give me more time to improve my speed, so maybe.
  • Gettysburg Blue-Grey Half, October 26. The biggest benefit here is that it's only about 45 minutes from my house. It's a small race, which I like, but likely to be pretty hilly. And, I only have a ho-hum interest in the civil war theme of this race. It also doesn't run on the battlefield
  • Runner's World Half, October 19. This one has been on my bucket list since it was introduced. The course looks beautiful... but challenging. The exciting part is that there is a 10K on Saturday that either Todd or I could participate in.
  • Hershey Half, October 19. Fairly close to my house and an interesting course, I think this would be a nice one.
  • Monster Mash Half, October 18. Probably the one I'm least interested in at this point, but it's not too far from home and you get to wear a Halloween costume.
We'll see.

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