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Book Review – Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness is Book 2 in the All Souls Trilogy and is one of the books that I recently picked up at New York Comic-Con about 2 months ago. I had read the first book, A Discovery of Witches, back in the beginning of 2015, but with the recent release of the television show based on this series, I wanted to get back to the books.

First of all, I read the opening pages and realized that I had no memory of how the first book ended. I found some plot summaries online and was quickly up to speed. With the way that this book begins, it’s going to be impossible to avoid spoilers, so if you haven’t finished the first book, read on at your own risk.

Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night is set in Elizabethan England (and other parts of Europe). At the end of A Discovery of Witches, Diana Bishop and her new husband and vampire Matthew Clairmont must flee the modern world. Diana needs time to find a teacher who can help unlock her powers of witchcraft, and their relationship is forbidden by powerful creatures who are trying to hunt them down.

One thing that Diana does know is that she is a Timespinner–a witch who can travel through time. She takes herself and Matthew into the past in an attempt to avoid their enemies, find herself a teacher, and to search for the mysterious alchemical book that started it all: Ashmole 782.

Once they arrive, Diana and Matthew meet with his friends from that time. This turns out to be a blend of historical figures and a few imagined characters. While they attempt to blend in at first, it is quickly apparent that they must divulge their secrets to this group. While it is safe for Matthew’s friends to know that version of the vampire is from the future, he must go on playing his established roles in Elizabethan society.

Diana’s relationship with Matthew meets several challenges as she learns about the secrets he has been hiding. In fact, much of this book’s secondary plot revolves around the growing relationship between the witch and the vampire. She must also deal with trying to figure out Elizabethan dress, manners, and etiquette. Danger also follows Diana, with historical witch trials taking place in nearby Scotland and a constant suspicion of anyone new or unusual.

The story takes them to other parts of Europe, and the details from this time period felt very accurate to me. That only makes sense, because the author is a historian who studies and teaches European history and the history of science at the University of Southern California. This book was a lot of fun to read, and has several sections that deal with different aspects of the story. The overarching plot to find a teacher for Diana and search for Ashmole 782 is often in the background, but I don’t think that the book suffered for this, as the other events were entertaining on their own.

I’m hoping to get to book 3 in another couple of weeks and then watch the television show. Have you seen any of that yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Find my other book reviews here


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Race Report – CJTC Turkey Tri 2018

Just when I thought that my triathlon season was over, I found one more event to participate in! This was the Central Jersey Tri Club’s second annual Turkey Tri, a fun and laid back event taking place over Thanksgiving weekend.

While this was only open to club members, everyone brought a lot of enthusiasm to the event. The Turkey Tri is a virtual triathlon, where each participant completes all three disciplines on their own and reports their times via Strava, but also a Google form.

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Race packet for the Turkey Tri.

Race packets included a long-sleeved t-shirt, race bib, and medal. The event planners had prepared an Athlete Guide which detailed the format. Everyone had to swim, bike, and run in any order, all in one day, on any day from November 21 – 25. The events were timed, with each athlete reporting the distance that they were able to go in that time period.

Bike – 30 Minutes

I decided to start out on my bike because I’m just not a morning person, especially when it comes to cold water (yes, the pool is cold). I also needed to bike before I ran, because the running is the toughest on my legs.

My bike segment was completed indoors on my Tacx Neo trainer, while running Zwift. The map for Zwift was London, and I put myself on the flat Greater London Loop. I worked hard, with my heart rate over 180 bpm for a good portion of the ride. Thirty minutes went by and I had traveled 10.9 miles.

Run – 20 Minutes

For my run, I drove over to nearby Nomahegan Park where I have done a lot of my training. I usually run there from my house, but I wanted to avoid having to cross roads for this event. The weather was overcast and a chilly 41°F and the park was relatively deserted.

I had bundled up in layers – fleece-lined leggings, a base layer top, second layer running top, and my Central Jersey Tri Club tri top over it all. I brought out the winter hat and gloves as well. Oh – and here was my chance to wear my bib for the event!

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Sitting in the car at Nomahegan park before my run. I don’t want to go out there – it’s cold!

My run went well considering that I hadn’t done any running in 4 weeks. I didn’t have any weird aches or pains and pushed myself as hard as I thought I could manage. The path at Nomahegan is about 1.9 miles, and I made it 1.8 miles in 20 minutes.

Swim – 10 Minutes

After my run, I spent some time fueling myself in transition with a roast beef sandwich. I almost took a nap as the day’s efforts were starting to add up.

Finally, I took myself to the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness & Wellness Center in Scotch Plains, NJ for my pool swim. The pool always feels cold to me, so I was a bit reluctant to jump in, but I knew that I’d warm up quickly. This is a 25 yard saltwater pool, and there were plenty of lanes open.

I swam freestyle for the entire thing and started out hard. After 75 yards, I had to breathe more often and felt myself gasping. I backed off a little and knew that I should end up with between 400 and 500 yards. After 10 minutes, I had clocked 475 yards!

Results

I’m not sure how I placed in the event (not really the point of it), but I had a good time fitting all three disciplines into one day of activities again. I need to be more consistent with my swimming and running in general.

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Flat me!

I wish that I had been able to meet up with some other club members for this, but my meandering plan for the day didn’t seem to line up with anyone else’s schedule. It was a fun time and I’ll be sure to sign up next year!

See my other race reports here.

Book Review – Dragon’s Code

I discovered Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books sometime in the mid-1980s.* These were some of the first science fiction books that I had read after first becoming enthralled with the genre by Heinlein, Asimov, and Tolkien. I believe that I found the first few Pern novels on my parents’ bookshelves. I re-read my Dragonrider books (and The Lord of the Rings) because I wasn’t aware that there were other books with dragons and fantastical places out there. My library kept the science fiction and fantasy section in the adult area of the library, so I hadn’t discovered this on my own yet.

With every trip to a book store, I asked for the next Dragonrider book, gradually collecting the entire series. By the time that All the Weyrs of Pern was released in 1991, these were my favorite books, and Anne McCaffrey my favorite author.

I read through everything else that McCaffrey had written, with her Crystal Singer books and Planet Pirates series some of my other favorites. After reading All the Weyrs of Pern, I think I read maybe two more of the Dragonrider books. But after the way that Weyrs ended, the books were no longer the same to me. Weyrs had ended the series in a satisfying way as far as I was concerned.

I have been hesitant to delve back into any books set in Pern since then, but when I see a book offered on Net Galley, sometimes I can’t resist requesting it. Dragon’s Code is written by Anne McCaffrey’s daughter Gigi and is set in the same time period as the original six Dragonrider books.

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More specifically, this book is told from the point-of-view of journeyman harper Piemur, a favorite secondary character, and is set alongside the events in The White Dragon. As I read Dragon’s Code, many details of the books resurfaced in my memories. I think that this would not be the best entry point to the series, but anyone not familiar with Pern could still read it and follow most of the story.

Piemur has lost his childhood soprano voice, and with that, a portion of his identity and confidence. Harpers in Pern do more that provide music and entertainment, however, and Piemur is sent to the Southern Continent to spy on the exiled Oldtimers, a group of dragonriders who have clashed with the rest of their people. Piemur knows that a few of the Oldtimers are up to no good, but he can’t get close enough to figure it all out.

As Piemur reports his suspicions, we get to see some old favorites once more: Masterharper Robinton and Menolly, in particular. This book is more about Piemur’s journey to regain his self-worth than it is the details of the plot that unfolds in The White Dragon. Readers of the other books will know what has taken place, and in the scope of Dragon’s Code, that crisis is over fairly fast. The plot meanders, with some exciting action segments, obligatory Threadfall and dragons, and a sentimental conclusion that is appropriate for this type of story being told.

Despite my reservations about returning to Pern, I truly enjoyed this book. I don’t think that it will be for everyone, but I feel that Gigi McCaffrey has done her mother’s legacy proud with this one.

* I remember having Dragonsdawn in hardcover, which was published in 1988, so I must have read Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, and the Harper Hall Trilogy  (and probably Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern) all before that time.


New Releases – Collector’s Editions for the Fantasy Book Lover 2018

I love going into bookstores so much that I’m really no longer allowed to. It has always been hard to leave without a purchase, especially when I can pet all the pretty books. It’s easier to resist unneeded purchases if I simply browse online. E-books are more tempting because I don’t have to find them a place on a shelf, at least, but holding an e-reader still isn’t the same as clutching that physical book.

I’ve never been into collectibles, but I do appreciate special editions of some of my favorites books. I was thinking about that the other day, one thing led to another, and I found myself browsing Amazon endlessly, looking for pretty books. Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my finds here since many people are starting to shop for holiday gifts.

Book of DustIn no particular order, here are some of my most intriguing finds:

La Belle Sauvage is the first volume of the Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. Set in the same world as His Dark Materials trilogy, this book delves deeper into that universe. This collector’s edition contains illustrations and an interview with the author.

Also by Philip Pullman, I found this gorgeous 20th Anniversary Edition of The Golden Compass, the first book in His Dark Materials series. This new edition features a discussion on fantasy literature between Pullman and Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians), and a letter from the author to his fans.Golden Compass

As far as Lev Grossman goes, I also found a boxed set of his Magicians series. While this isn’t exactly a new release, and I was not a fan of his books, it is still pretty. The series is still growing in popularity with the success of the television show on SyFy.

MagiciansOn my adventures through New York Comic-Con last month, I listened in on a panel that was promoting a collection of artwork from the long-running role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. This illustrated history by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer, with a foreword by Joe Manganiello was released in October, but I was not aware of this Special Edition.D&DArt

This special set of Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana includes additional full-color prints, an unpublished version of an adventure module from creator Gary Gygax himself, and other ephemera.

AlphabetteryWhile Anne Rice’s books are more horror than science fiction and fantasy, there is always some overlap in these genres, particularly with more recent crossovers featuring both supernatural and fantastical elements. For fans of her Vampire Chronicles, I found the Alphabettery, a encyclopedic collection that details the many connections between her characters and settings. Read up on the lore and gaze at the illustrations in this book by Becket.

EarthseaNow going back for a few more classic fantasy picks, I discovered this huge volume (1008 pages!) of The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition.

This well-loved series by Ursula K. Leguin is illustrated by Charles Vess and includes: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, The Other Wind, The Rule of Names, The Word of Unbinding, The Daughter of Odren, and Earthsea Revisioned: A Lecture at Oxford University. Of all the books on this list, I think this is the one that I need the most!RedLotR

Lastly, one of my most cherished books on my shelves is the red leather bound version of The Lord of the Rings.

While this is hardly a new item (and I don’t think you can even get this edition any more), I did find a new boxed set of The Great Tales of Middle-Earth: Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.

Great TalesThis collection brings together the most recent short novels published by the Tolkien estate and also features maps and color plates by famous Middle-Earth illustrator Alan Lee.

Are you aware of any neat collector’s editions for your favorites series or authors? Let me know in the comments!

Triathlon Training Ahead

I’m in a bit of a training slump for triathlon for the past few months. I had thought that signing up for Eagleman would help to get me back on track, but so far it has still been tough to find consistent motivation. I thought this would be a good time to step back and look at how I plan out my triathlon training.

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Swim exit at Eagleman

This Is Not Normal

So first of all, I don’t work a standard Monday through Friday job during normal hours. I work an average of three 13-hour overnight shifts each week. Right now they are grouped so that I work four shifts on one week and then two shifts the next. This might sound like I have a lot of free days to train, but it takes another day to recover from those night shifts, as well as some napping before heading in for the first night shift.

All of the triathlon training plans that I have seen so far assume that you have something close to a traditional schedule. The long workouts fall on Saturdays and Sundays, with a rest day on Monday in most cases. The workouts in the plan are structured in such a way that you’re rotating through sessions of varying intensity in the different disciplines in a way that makes sense. If you stick to the plan, it scatters the swims, bike sessions, and runs in an order that (probably) won’t overwhelm your legs all at once.

Add Some Swords

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Summer Nationals Veteran Women’s Sabre Team event – 3rd place.

On top of swimming, biking, and running, I have been fencing for over twenty years and practice for 1 to 2 hours twice a week. This adds another leg-heavy workout to my training, but I’m actually much better at fencing than at triathlon. Old injuries and just practical scheduling keep me from training more than that in a high-impact sport with a lot of repetitive hand and arm motions.

So how do I work around all of my scheduling weirdness? I pretty much make it up as I go. For some people, a triathlon coach may be helpful, but I don’t envision myself hiring one anytime soon. I also squeeze in at least an hour of weight training once a week with a personal trainer and that helps to keep me free from new injuries. I’d love to make it into the gym for that twice a week, but that rarely happens.

What Have I Used?

I started out my triathlon training by keeping it very simple. I already had some cycling experience but I had to learn to run and swim. I bought some real running shoes and started running only a mile at a time until I could tell if my ankles would tolerate it at all. Once that was going well, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA.

When it was time to do my first race, I had bought a Garmin 920 and used one of the sprint triathlon training plans on the Garmin connect training log. This was pretty simple and the workouts were all short, so I just squeezed them into my schedule where I could.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect features sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training plans. Access this by buying a Garmin device.

By the time I was ready for Eagleman training for my first 70.3 distance race in 2017, I needed something more. My husband pointed me toward Trainer Road, which is primarily a cycling platform that integrates with an indoor trainer. We had just purchased an indoor trainer because I was going to need to start my plan over the winter. Trainer Road has triathlon plans also, and while they don’t integrate into any specific device, I could read the workout listed there and then just go do it (for swims and runs). For the swim workouts, I’d jot down the sets on a small Post-It note and then tape it to my water bottle.

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Example of a triathlon training plan on Trainer Road. The bike workouts are used on a power-based indoor trainer. The swim and run workouts are text descriptions.

The plans on Trainer Road got me through Eagleman in 2017, and the Rev3 Quassy Half and Ironman Lake Placid in 2018. The site has options for sprint, Olympic, half, and full distance triathlons. Pick from three options of level and time commitment for each distance. The plans are built in blocks, starting with base fitness, then a build phase, and if you have time for it, a specialty phase. Look around at the plans and then count backward from your race date to see when to start each section. I had built in several extra weeks because I knew I’d have to take a break for certain travel weeks, fencing competitions, and a snowboarding vacation.

Going Forward

Now that I’ve signed up for Eagleman for 2019, I needed to think about how I planned to train again. I looked over plans on Trainer Road and found that it now offers a calendar option. This lets you pick a plan, decide which day of the week you prefer to start on, and then import it into those dates. From there, you can click and drag workouts to different days if you need to. The swim and run workouts also show up!

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This is an example of how a training plan looks after you import it into Trainer Road’s new calendar feature.

If you click on a swim or run workout in the calendar view, you can see more details. I think I’m sticking with Trainer Road for my training for Eagleman again. As the weather turns in the spring, I will do more of the rides outdoors, but the application even lets you import your outdoor rides into the calendar so it’s all visible in one place.

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Close up view of a run workout as seen through the calendar view in Trainer Road.

So that’s my plan for this upcoming triathlon season. What other platforms have you used and found helpful for your training? Do you have an abnormal schedule that makes it more challenging to train? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review – A Plague of Giants

I’m nearly caught up with my backlog of reviews, but I’ve noticed that I seem to be developing a bad habit where I read the first book in a series and then move on to a different author and series before finishing the one I had just started. In the next few months, I’m going to make an effort to go back to finish some series that I’ve started so you’ll see a lot of book 2 and book 3’s here. But first… another new series:

I recently read the first book in a new series by Kevin Hearne that I had received as an advance copy at New York Comic-Con in 2017. Yep, 2017, that’s how far behind I am in the to-be-read pile.

Plague of Giants Cover

A Plague of Giants is Book 1 of the Seven Kennings series and takes us to a fantastic realm filled with humanoid races, each having an associated kenning, or magical affinity to something in the natural world – fire, water, air, earth, or plants. At the opening of the novel, only five kennings are known, and I think that the search for other kennings will be part of the ongoing story.

This book is several tales woven into one, and is told as a story within a story. The bard Fintan uses his kenning to take the form of each important character in the development of a recent war and tells their story to the city of Pelemyn. While the people there know how their own city has managed in the war, Fintan entertains them with details from other parts of the world. At the same time, he instigates some political drama, with all of this part of the book being told by a historian sent to record the bard’s tale.

Fintan’s story follows several point-of-view characters through a time when two separate catastrophes strike. The action begins when Tallynd du Böll, a tidal mariner from Pelemyn, defends the city from an approaching fleet of strange ships. Her kenning gives her the ability to breathe underwater, swim at incredible speeds, and manipulate water. Tallynd detects an invading army of bizarre giants approaching the city, and they are clearly aggressive.

The tidal mariner surges into action to defend the city, using water to swamp the ships and drown the giants. She manages to single-handedly defeat most of the enemy, but at a cost. When a kenning is used to perform great feats, it ages the user relative to the power exerted.

The invasion of the Bone giants is half of the book’s focus, alternating with a second group of troublesome giants, the Hathrim.

The giants of the Hathrim clan live on the slopes of an active volcano and have long known that their days of safety are going to come to an end. Their part of the story opens when the volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate. The Hathrim had prepared for this eventuality and managed to get many of their people and supplies loaded on their famous glass boats in time to escape.

However, instead of seeking refuge with another clan of giants, their leader, Gorin Mogen, dares to lay claim to a piece of land along the southern edge of Ghurana Nent. The Nentians see through the giants’ claims that they are only there temporarily, but since the Nentians lack a kenning, they are forced to use political and unaugmented military strength against the fire-wielding Hathrim.

As the plot unfolds, Fintan relates the stories of numerous point-of-view characters, and there is truly no singular protagonist in the book.

The plot came to a more satisfying conclusion that I would normally expect from the first book in a series. One main plot thread is concluded while hinting at further problems from that quarter. However, many lesser political intrigues are just emerging, so I expect that aspect to play a greater role in upcoming volumes.

I had fun reading this book and the world and magic was easy to understand. I read an advance-copy which did not include the map, but I found one on the author’s website to reference. I like to have a visual reference for where different nations are located in regard to each other. Looking at maps also helps me to remember place names at the outset of a book.

I’m not sure when the next book in the Seven Kennings series will be out, but I’ll be sure to pick it up.


Coming Soon – Eagleman 2019

Funny story…

I raced in Eagleman in 2017 for my first Ironman-branded event, as well as my first 70.3-mile (half distance) triathlon. Prior to that, I had only completed sprint distance triathlons and two half marathons. I had never swam that far in open water, and had only ridden that distance once before on my bike. I had spent a good amount of my time training up to the running distance, since that is a weak point for me.

The day of Eagleman came, and I raced. I felt great during the swim, despite getting a little lost on one turn and being swum over by another age group. I started out strong on my bike and felt fast until I was about two-thirds of the way through the course.

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From there on, my stomach complained and I became dizzy with more exertion. In hindsight, I believe I was dehydrated, but at the time I didn’t know that that was how my body would react. I started the run barely being able to walk, but finally found a jog-walk strategy that helped me keep moving. By the last 3 miles of the race, I really couldn’t run at all, but I kept moving and made my way to the finish.

I had been hoping for a better time, but with the heat and dehydration, I just couldn’t move any faster. This past season, my races were all hilly, so it has been tough for me to compare times between any races so far.

Since I now have a couple more races under my belt, I have been thinking ahead about goals for next triathlon season. I don’t do too badly in the shorter events, but I’d like to get faster overall. I signed up to race in the New Jersey State Triathlon in July, for both the sprint and the Olympic distances.

I had been thinking that I would do another 70.3, but it was a toss up between Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev3 Quassy Half), Eagleman, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3, or something a little further afield. My thoughts kept going back to Eagleman and that flat, hot course.

Last week I received an email announcing that all of the Tier 3 entries for Eagleman had sold out. That means that the race was down to the last tier of entries and would likely sell out completely. If I wanted to race Eagleman next season, I needed to decide soon. This race has also been designated as the tri club championship for 2019, which has probably added to the entries.

When I raced Eagleman in 2017, my brother also did the race, and my cousin, sister-in-law, and a friend completed a relay. My husband had considered doing the bike portion of the relay with them, but ultimately decided against it. I know that he’s said a few times that he wished he had ridden in it.

I brought it up to him and mentioned that the race was likely to sell out soon. By the end of the night, we had both signed up. He’s in for a relay and I’m racing the whole thing. Now I just have to figure out how to hydrate and go faster. I guess I’m starting a training plan again in December!

Graphic Novel Review – Monstress Volume 1 (Awakening)

I picked this graphic novel up at New York Comic-Con last year (2017) and only got around to reading it now. Fortunately, I was able to get the second volume at this year’s event, because this was a beautiful, albeit dark and violent, book. Monstress Volume 1 – Awakening is written by Marjorie Liu with artwork by Sana Takeda.

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I was first interested in this graphic novel because I loved the artwork. The mixture of Egyptian and steampunk themes on the cover and opening pages was enough to draw me in. When the book added demons, cats, and a dark and compelling protagonist, I was hooked.

Monstress tells the story of Maika Halfwolf and initially switches between glimpses of her past and her current scheme to infiltrate the stronghold of the human witches who are experimenting upon the Arcanics (her people). Maika doesn’t remember much of her past, having mysteriously survived the catacysmic end of a great battle between humans and the Arcanics.

As the plot unfolds, I was immediately sympathetic toward Maika because of her mistreatment at the hands of the humans, and the nature of their cruel experiments. When Maika discovers herself to be inhabited by a demon, she gets a pass for what she is forced to do to survive because she is not wholly in control of her actions. She both uses the demon against her enemies, and fights against it, in her journey to find revenge against the humans and relearn her past.

There are definitely some dark moments in this story, ranging from the murder of children to questions about cannibalism. However, cats feature prominently and bring some levity to the rest of the book.

While Monstress definitely isn’t for everyone, I enjoyed it and will be reading Volume 2 in the next few months.


Upcoming Events (Nov 2018 – 2019)

Well I’m out of races to write about because the triathlon season here in New Jersey is essentially over. I don’t want to swim outside unless the water is at least 70 degrees, so any time from mid-September through May is out for me. That means that it’s time to look ahead at what events I’m competing in for this season in fencing, as well as triathlon in 2019.

CJTC Turkey Tri

Well, I guess I do have a triathlon to race in November. This one is put on by my local tri club and is a self-guided indoor (or partially outdoor) triathlon. Competitors will pick one day between November 21 and 25th and will complete a swim, bike, and run all on the same day. They don’t need to be back-to-back, but I’m not sure if they need to be in the traditional triathlon order or not. I’ll have to pick up my athlete packet to find out, I guess.

Everyone tracks their workouts and reports in on their times. I think there are age group awards, but this is my first year participating in this event, so I’m not really sure. But in any case, it’s a good excuse to get some workouts in over a weekend where everyone is typically focused on eating.

US Fencing North American Cup (December NAC)

This is the first of three national-level events that I will be competing in this year and is being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have entered the Vet-40 and Veteran Open events in Women’s Sabre, and chose to forego the Division II and Division I events this time. I could technically fence on all four days (one event per day), but the entry fees and travel expenses make it tougher to commit to that.

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This is what a NAC looks like.

Division II isn’t an unreasonable event for me (I think I finished top 16 in the last one where I had a decent day), but Division I is tough. If I remember right, I believe that my last Division I event had me facing Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis in my first bout (I did get one point on her).

Thrust Fall ROC

This is a regional fencing event in December which features both Division I-A and Division II options. I’m going to fencing both days/events, and I’m hoping that it will be a good warm-up for the NAC that takes place on the following weekend. If I fence well, I can qualify for Summer Nationals.

Tri-State Veteran Cup Events

This is a series of fencing competitions held in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, and is limited to athletes in the Veteran age groups (40+) and is only held for sabre.

I finished second in the first event of the year, and there are at least four more this season. I probably won’t make it to all of them, but I’m planning on at least two more, depending on my work schedule.

Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon

This will be my first time participating in the Lifetime Fitness series of triathlons. This chain of fitness centers runs this event in January all over the country. I’ll be competing in Florham Park, NJ on January 20th. I don’t have any particular goals for this race (yet) because I’m not really sure what to expect with the indoor format.

New Jersey Half-Marathon

This is a race that I’m undecided about for now. I feel like I need to have an event on the horizon in order to motivate me to run. Otherwise I tend to focus on just fencing and cycling (which is fine, but not if I want to do triathlons). The half-marathon distance is a good stretch on the distance for me, but is also something that I know I can finish (and hopefully improve my time).

What Else, Isn’t That Enough?

I’m sure I’ll find more fencing events as the season progresses, and then there are those other two national-level events ahead also. But it’s too far away to plan and think about those for now. I’m considering a 70.3-distance triathlon, but haven’t decided on which one. Oh, and maybe I’ll do another cycling time trial? I have plenty to keep me busy!


Book Review – How He-Man Mastered the Universe

This was a bit of an unusual read that I picked up through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. The book had actually been sitting on my Kindle for quite a while, but I’m trying to do better to catch up on my backlog of reading, so I picked it to read in the week leading up to New York Comic-Con.

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I grew up watching the He-Man and She-Ra cartoons, so I thought that I might like How He-Man Mastered the Universe by Brian C. Baer, and I was certainly familiar enough with the cartoons and toys, even if I could no longer remember the names of every single character. This book was fun to read, but is probably only of interest to fans of the television show or toys, or to people who like to learn about film history, as a good portion of the book discusses the making of the 1987 movie, Masters of the Universe.

The first section of this non-fiction book was a little slow and repetitive, but I did learn that He-Man was a toy (with mini-comics) before he was a cartoon. Toy company Mattel developed the He-Man line of action figures in response to the success of the Star Wars toys by rival company Kenner. When the He-Man toys were a success, the television show was created and brought directly to local television networks at a time when Saturday morning cartoons were just starting up.

The book details several key episodes of the cartoon before delving into the history of the Masters of the Universe movie, produced by the notorious Cannon Films. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book, and I wish I had had time to go back to watch the movie recently, now that I know much more about how the casting, story development, and special effects were all created under the shadow of a failing production company.

HeManMovie

After the movie failed in the box office, a few additional cartoon spin-offs were released, but none of these ever achieved the same level of pop culture success as the original cartoon and toys. Overall, this was a reasonably fun non-fiction book to read, but the subject matter may limit its appeal to fans of He-Man.

 

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