10.23.2014

My Favorite and Least Favorite Books of 2014 (So Far)

I'm linking up with Kiki again for another round of "The Circle." This month's topic is: books. Hurrah for books!

So far this year I've read 23 books out of my goal of 24. Hit me up on Goodreads if you want to follow my reviews! I'll spare you the extended list of all 23 and just share my favorites and least favorites of the year so far.

Stiff
Nonfiction book about cadavers and what they're used for. Super weird but also really interesting. Plus the author is funny, so you end up laughing more than being grossed out. I think this goes down as one of the strangest books I've ever read.

Shadows of the Workhorse
Book 2 in Jennifer Worth's series that the PBS show Call the Midwife is based on. These are her real-life stories, and she's a really good writer. If you love the show, check out the books!

The Wise Man's Fear
Book 2 in the trilogy. The first book, Name of the Wind, is fantastic. You will like these if you like fantasy, adventure, and coming of age. I compare these to the Game of Thrones books except without all the sex and cursing.

Quiet
This nonfiction book is all about introverts. I read it because Jordan is a huge introvert, and I, as an extrovert, wanted to understand how he operates. This book is well written and very interesting. (On that subject, those of you extroverts out there might enjoy my post "Why Extroverts Are Misunderstood and Introverts Talk Too Much")

The Secret Keeper
I love all of Kate Morton's books. Her stories are well written with great plot twists. I suppose I should have seen the ending coming, but I am terrible at guessing plots, so I loved it. The Secret Keeper is my second favorite of her books (The Forgotten Garden was my favorite).

I hope I don't lose any friends over this. 

I'm sorry, but you guys I did not like either of these books.* You can read my full reviews on Goodreads, but here's the gist:

Outlander
There is way too much sex in this book. Not to sound like a prude, but seriously. And I've read all five Game of Thrones books, so you can't say I haven't read books with sex in them. From a writing standpoint, I thought the author did a great job with her research, her characters, and the setting. The book is overall very well written, so no complaints there. But I hated the plot on pretty much every level and just couldn't get past it.

Divergent
I think a huge problem was that I waited too long to read this and therefore was too hyped up for it to be the best book ever. But besides that, I didn't think the writing was good, and I hated all the characters. I mean all of them. The story is creative, but the plot was too rushed and fell flat for me. This is a rare book that I actually think might make a better movie.

*In light of a post I recently read on Jenny's blog, I am adding a disclaimer: please do not think that just because I didn't like a book that you loved, your opinion isn't valid. I know I have books I love that other people didn't like. We all have our own opinions, and I think too sometimes we can really connect (or not connect) with a book based on what's going on in our lives at the time we read a certain book. That said, I would love to hear from anyone who hated Outlander and Divergent, because I feel like I'm all alone over here!

Currently Reading: Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman

Up Next: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. After that, I'm going to reread Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand in preparation for the movie this winter!

P.S. You might also want to check out My Top Ten Books of All Time.

In Its Time

10.21.2014

Runners Tell All: Tough Mudder Recap

"Runner's Tell All" is a monthly linkup for runners of all ages, skill levels, and experience hosted by Sunshine to the Square Inch and The Lady Okie. Each month we'll have a different topic, and you can find all the topics listed here. We are accepting two sponsorship spots for each month, who will receive a sidebar ad on both blogs as well as entry links in the giveaway. 100% of your sponsorship money will go directly toward running-related giveaways. Find more information on sponsorship here. We have 2 spots available for November!

Welcome to Runners Tell All! I can't believe we're nearing the end of this linkup. Only two more! Beka and I have had so much fun this year chatting about all things running, and I'm going to miss this next year. Make sure and link up with us for the final prompts!

This month we're talking about most memorable running moments. All my running moments are memorable to me for different reasons, but most recently I ran a Tough Mudder in Dallas, and it was quite a memorable day. In case you don't know, a Tough Mudder is an obstacle course mud run that is 10-12 miles long depending on the course. The runs aren't timed. It's not about speed or exact distance: it's just about finishing.

This has been on my bucket list for a few years now, but they're super expensive. I paid $90, and that was the cheapest price! However, after running in one, I would definitely say my money is put to good use, and TM donates to the Wounded Warrior Project, so it's a good cause too.

I volunteered my brother to run with me because he's a good one to do something like this with. We ran the Dirty 30 together in 2012 and had a blast. He is one of those annoying boys who is super athletic even though he doesn't technically actually work out on a regular basis.

We left for the race early Sunday morning for the hour-long drive, and once we were on the road Daniel realized he forgot his sunglasses. Luckily for him, I keep a backup pair in the car for emergencies such as this. Foxy.

No one came with us to watch because my mom was much too nervous about the thought of us swimming through mud pits to handle actually being there, and no one else was available. That was fine with us. Nothing wrong with a little brother/sister bonding time.

That said, we don't have any spectator pics. All the pictures below of the obstacles and us on the course are courtesy of Tough Mudder. I was super surprised and excited to find out that all our race pictures were free! Courtesy of Under Armour, apparently. I love that brand.

Let's talk obstacles.

I've done the Dirty 30 (recap and pictures here), the Warrior Dash, and now the Tough Mudder. These were by far the best obstacles, most amount of mud, and basically just awesome. There were walls to climb over using rope ladders, hills to run up and down, underground trenches to crawl through, and other fun stuff. PLUS, the 10 miles pretty much looked like this the whole time:
^^^For real. This is an actual picture from our race. Hills for days.

Three obstacles stand out in my mind: 1) Arctic Enema, 2) Muddy Mile, 3) Electroshock Therapy.
^^^ Arctic Enema

Basically it's a giant square box filled with water and tons and tons and tons of ice. The water is seriously so cold. I can't even describe to you how cold it is. You jump in, swim to the middle, duck under the wooden wall that's in the middle of the water, and then climb out the other side. But the water is so cold that it kind of paralyzes you for a second and makes you disoriented. If you think about it, that really can't be safe, but we survived so I guess it's all right.
^^^ This one's the Funky Monkey. It's monkey bars that tilt up and then down. Daniel thought he could be all cool and triple-skip the bars... and he totally fell into the water. Ha! What a loser, right? I, on the other hand, completed the obstacle. Boom.
^^^ My hair totally got stuck on the barbed wire, and it took me a minute or so to untangle myself. Embarrassing. (That's my brother on the left with the pink wristband waiting to give me a hand up.)
^^^I found this picture searching hashtags on Twitter. Some guy took this with his GoPro. How random is that?

So, the Muddy Mile was nuts. As you can see in the picture above, it was just a huge trench area where you climbed in and out of mud pits. When my mom saw this picture, she was like, "Oh my gosh it looks just as horrible as I thought it would be." Sorry, Mom! 

There was no way to get up and over the trenches without a boost, and everyone was helping everyone else. Once I got a boost up to the top of one, I turned around and grabbed the hand of someone behind me to pull them up. I didn't see anyone who wasn't being helpful, and it was fun to feel like you were on a team with the other runners. A lot of spectators were watching this one. 
^^^ Electroshock Therapy

So.... this one hurt. Kind of a lot. It's the last obstacle before the finish, and there's a huge crowd of people watching. You have to run through an area filled with hanging live wires that will shock you if they touch you, which they most definitely did. 

If I were to do another Tough Mudder, I would legitimately be scared of this obstacle. But since this was my first, I was dumb enough to not know what to expect. Ouch. Those things will shock you, and you'll fall to the ground like a limp noodle. It's hilarious when it's happening to someone else.... when it's you, not so much.

When you're watching people run through it, you can hear the "pop" of the wires when they shock someone. Crazy!

Based on the time it's taken me to do 5k obstacle courses, I estimated it would take 2-3 hours to finish the Tough Mudder. If we finished in 2 hours, we were booking it. We ended up finishing in around 2 hours and 30 minutes, so not bad at all.


Overall Tough Mudder thoughts: 

The run is extremely organized from check-in to bag check to starting corrals and post-race beers. You can tell the directors know what they're doing. The obstacles were hard but fun and really varied. There were different kinds of obstacles, which I liked, and the obstacles were also ranging degrees of easy and difficult. There was only one obstacle I couldn't complete.

The finisher's shirts were dri-fit Under Armour brand, so they're really nice. The pictures are free, which if you know anything about races, that's a big deal. They had lots of showers and changing areas for runners to clean up after the race, and they provided energy beans and water at various points along the course and had lots of photographers out. I honestly don't have any complaints, and I felt like my $90 was well spent.

Have I convinced you to do one yet? Anyone else out there done a TM?

P.S. Last week I was featured on OtherMix blog with a little running Q&A. Check it out here if you want!

*On last month's giveaway, I asked you guys if you're right or left handed. Here were the results: only TWO people are left handed. So holler to the lefties! I am left handed too, and we are a rare but awesome breed.



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Runners Tell All Linkup Rules


  1. You MUST leave a comment on the person’s blog who linked up directly before you. This is not a linkup for the sake of linking up. This is a linkup to build community and spread the love and encouragement to your fellow runners! Don't be lame.
  2. Do not share links to unrelated running posts or to your blog’s homepage, or we will have to delete your link. (I've done it before too, so I'm not joking.)
  3. Please link back to either Beka or Amanda in your post so others can come here and join in! Or grab the button below and add it to your post. 
  4. Have fun!

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