The Complete Book of Running For Women by Claire Kowalchik

A throwback review from when I was still a newbie runner and this was one of the first running books I ever read.

A throwback review from when I was still a newbie runner and this was one of the first running books I ever read.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 416 pages.
Read from April 20 to June 26, 2013.

As someone who has been seriously running for almost two years I didn’t think that this books would have anything to offer me. I was thankfully mistaken!

This book provided helpful insight for runners of all levels and goals. What I found the most beneficial was the advice that was supplied in regards to maintaining running while staying busy with family and relationships. While I am not a married woman and I don’t have any children I strongly admire the woman who keep running involved in their lives. I struggle to keep up sometimes, so I don’t know how other women manage! Women who run are taking care of themselves and they understand the importance of taking the time for themselves, especially when juggling a career, family etc. Besides the physical benefits of running most women who stick with running, stay for the mental benefits. I know I do!

I also appreciated the scientific explanations that were provided on why men and women perform so differently. The most fascinating was how different our bodies carried oxygen to our muscles and differences in how we store glycogen.

As I mentioned, I’m no where near the married-with-kids sort of life but I actually really enjoyed the chapters in regards to running while pregnant. I wasn’t going to read the chapter as it doesn’t currently apply to me but maybe one day in the future it might. As long as a woman is active before becoming pregnant and cuts her activity levels in half the benefits of running and staying active while pregnant is remarkably impressive. I even appreciated that they stated that while it is beneficial it has to come down to the woman’s comfort level too. If you’re not comfortable exercising while pregnant, then don’t.

The chapter in regards to menopause was another one that I was going to skip but I’m glad I didn’t. My Mom is runner who is at this stage and reading this chapter gave me a good idea of what her body is going and just how important is it to continue to stay active.

The few annoyances I did find with this book was that some of the information was a bit out of date, as the book was published well over 10 years ago so that’s not overly surprising I guess. For example, some of the brands of supplements or clothing that they suggested no longer exist. The one that stood out the most for me was that they suggested that runners shouldn’t do yoga because runners needs some tension in their legs and even implied that their aren’t any professional runners that do yoga. While this may have been relevant when it was published it most certainly isn’t now! The other item that was a bit tedious was that all of race and reference information was for the USA only, which wasn’t helpful to me as a Canadian.

Overall I would still recommend this books for any woman looking to get into running or is already running.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Another throwback review to that time I attempted to tackle Tolkien again.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 388 pages.
Read from November 23 to December 10, 2012.

Another throwback review to that time I attempted to tackle Tolkien again.

Well I finally made it through my second Tolkien book. This was my second attempt at reading the Hobbit and I successfully made it through (can’t say that for the trilogy unfortunately). People are going to hate me for saying this but I still don’t enjoy him. I appreciate what the man has done for the fantasy genre, recognize that his writing is a reflection of his generation and that this was really the first of it’s kind, and that it has also shaped millions of childhoods but, he’s still not for me. I feel that I’ve been tainted by my generation and all of the buzz as I don’t think I’ll ever be able to really see Tolkien’s work in any other light or fully understand the impact that he had.

What killed this book  for me was that I kept craving more character development and dynamic plots rather than descriptions of scenes… For example the only characters you really remember are Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin and Bombur (but only because he is fat). There are at least 10 other dwarf characters in this novel that I can’t recall and that really were not required to be there. If you read this book by itself, you end up knowing so little about the characters, other than that Gandalf is a wizard, Bilbo is a hobbit and most hobbits don’t like adventures and that the dwarves want their gold back from a dragon. I recognize that this is the story that started it all for fantasy and that it was written for children but I just feel that everything could have been developed so much further! I suppose that’s where the next generation of fantasy writers took it. For example, I couldn’t believe how anti-climatic the death of the Dragon was! (Spoiler alert here, though I imagine most people are familiar with the plot from either the book or the movie.)  I mean the dwarves come all that way, figure out the dragon’s weak spot just to have some random villager kill it in a quick paragraph! I mean, it ended making for a more intriguing ending but it was just so unexpected. Let’s be honest here, the whole book is about the dwarves and how they were going to kill this dragon and then at the very last minute it turns into a civil dispute about the treasure and who owns it and ultimately about honour and friendship instead of killing the dragon. Which is good and all, just not exciting, especially for a children’s book. But maybe that’s the point, children need to learn morals and what better place than a book. Perhaps that’s the fault of modern books is that they cater more towards entertainment than content.

There were however some really intriguing scenes in this book such as when Bilbo interacts with Gollum in the Goblin’s caves. The riddles and execution of this scene was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Admittedly,  I found Gollum to be the most interesting character in this novel and had I not known a bit about Gollum previously, thanks to the movies and all the buzz about these books, I would have been disappointed not to know more about this strange creature! The other scene I really enjoyed was Bilbo’s conversation with the dragon itself, as the dragon had more personality than most of the characters in the book and I found the scene intense and effective.

The movie actually portrayed more of the story I was envisioning when I set out to read The Hobbit. Though, that’s because it didn’t stick to the main plot and actually developed the main characters so you could get emotionally attached to them.

After all this bitching, I do have to say that the book  is good and I did enjoy it. I just found it lacking and I ultimately craved more. I won’t ever be able to appreciate this story or the trilogy the way major fans of Tolkien do but at least I tried!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 321 pages.
Read from May 07 to 08, 2013.

Another throwback review! Yeah! Read this gem a few years back and it really stuck with me.

This novel caught me off guard emotionally. It pulled at all of my heart-strings, in a good way and  I couldn’t put it down. I had heard about the book before but it wasn’t until an acquaintance lent me the book that I had a desire to read it. Stein manages to create a successful novel that is race car themed AND narrated by a dog. I mean what are the chances of that? Well, he absolutely nailed it.

The Art of Racing In the Rain is a story about human resilience, love and what people will do for the people and things that truly matter to them. Enzo is a dog and he is your narrator throughout the entire book. He dreams of being human while his owner, Denny dreams of being a race car driver. Enzo watches Denny succeed, meet the love of his life Eve and the birth of their daughter Zoe. Even though Enzo isn’t all that impressed with Eve in the beginning, he plays an essential role in an event surrounding Eve. Enzo is also there for the most heart wrenching time in Denny’s life.

Enzo is the perfect narrator for this story. He is extremely likable, kind and supportive, just like a dog should be. I also really appreciated the quirks of dog behavior explained by Enzo, like when he destroys on of Zoe’s stuffed animals  as he thought there was something evil about it. The reasons behind his actions make perfect sense to him and it’s pretty humorous, especially for those that have dogs and are familiar with some of their strange behaviors. Enzo also offers some amazing pieces of advice because, as Enzo puts it, he listens.

“Here’s why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot talk, so I listen very well. I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own.”

Enzo summed up the essence of the novel with these next few quotes:

“There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.”

Enzo never gave up on Denny, and Denny never gave up on his family.

“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”

The ending is remarkable. It left me smiling from ear to ear and ear.  Stein is a remarkable story-teller and he knows how to satisfy his readers. His style is easy to read and humorous with added philosophical bits. Let me also just say, that I have no interest in any form of race car driving, yet in reading this book I found the topic intriguing as Stein was able to make the content accessible to any reader. Overall I would say that this is a definite read for any dog lover or those looking for a feel-good novel.

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