Sunday, November 30, 2014

There's An Art To Shaving

The safety razor
I haven't enjoyed shaving for quite some time or if ever.  At this point it feels like a chore, especially since I shave my head.  I've been wanting to stop in the Art of Shaving (AoS) for a while.  They have a location close to home, however I decided to stop in the store in Charleston, SC where we were vacationing.

The staff at the AoS were great, they walked me through all the shaving products and gave demonstrations on how to use them.  I was sold on the shaving products quickly, I got a full kit that included a badger hair brush, pre-shave oil, shaving cream, and post-shave balm.  I got a small travel kit for free as well.  What is overpriced?  Probably, but it's gotten me to enjoy shaving.  I now prep right by using hot towels or showering first, I'm saving money but using a safety razor and double edge razor blades.  I bought an Edwin Jagger DE89LBL safety razor, it came with Derby Extra razor blades which I've found I prefer over the Persona blades I purchased.
The products

I'm still learning how to properly use the safety razor and get quicker, it's quite different.  It takes a little longer to shave my face and head, but my skin is feeling better because of it.  I'm pretty happy that I've made this switch, maybe one day I'll try my hand with a straight razor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Paper Magician - A Book Review

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One more Amazon First Read to write about, this one's also from Amazon's Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror imprint 47North.

This story is the first in a planed trilogy, Ceony Twill is finished with magic school and is off to meet Emery Thane at his home. Ceony isn't happy about this as she wanted to work with metal, but instead will be working with paper. In this world once you're bound to a material you can't work with others. As Thane begins to teach her paper magic she learns that it has much more to offer than she could imagine. As you can guess something bad has to happen, an Excisioner, a practicer of blood magic, invades Thane's cottage and pull his still-beating heart from his chest. Ceony must thing fast in order to save her teacher while she chases after very dangerous Excisioner.

This was a quick read, simply because it was very short. It seemed like it could have developed more, but I"m assuming that's what will be happening in the rest of the trilogy. I enjoyed the paper dog, but that's just the kind of guy I am. She talked some about the magic school, but didn't get to crazy detailed about it which I liked. We've all had to many Harry Potter like books out there, no need for another. This student of Brandon Sanderson wrote a good story, though I'm not a huge fan of the end.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My First Marathon, A Recap

Months ago I talked myself into running a full marathon.  I scoured the interwebs and Runners World to find the perfect race, I narrowed it down the Atlanta Marathon and Niagara Falls International Marathon.  Both of these races were the same weekend but I learned just before making a decisions that the Atlanta race was cancelled so they could focus on a 10 mile race named the Atlanta 10 Miler instead.  That made the choice easy.

The marathon course
The Niagara Falls International Marathon (NFIM) starts in Buffalo, NY at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and travels through Buffalo before the cross the Peace Bridge into Canada and head along the Niagara Parkway where we finished just south of the Horseshoe Falls.  

My wife and I made it to Buffalo, NY on Friday October  24th and picked up our bags and rental car and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  We quickly made our way to the Expo and picked up bibs, shirts, and other random wares.  Once that was out of the way we checked out the Falls for a few moments before getting dinner and relaxing.
Being tourists
Niagara Falls is quite touristy if you've not been there, so we indulged our inner tourist on Saturday the 25th and walked as little as possible while checking out the views.  We had nice carb filled dinner at the Sandstone Grillhouse, which was off the beaten path and perfect.

After a good nights rest my wife and I had to get up and get to the buses a few blocks from our hotel.  We said our goodbyes until we'd see each other at the finish line, she ran the half-marathon and was on a different set of buses since they started at a different location.  We had to go through customs, so picture buses with 1500 or so runners going through US customs in running gear.  They had us moving through quickly, so it went fast.  Once that was out of the way we got dropped off at the gallery to wait and try to avoid the wind and cool conditions.

Just before the race started, I had a couple of issues to deal with.  First I somehow lost one of the thin Nike running gloves I had to keep my hands somewhat warm and one full Clif Shot package.  I had to quickly rethink my nourishment routine on the fly.  After the American and Canadian national anthems we made our way through Buffalo, it went by quickly.  Once we hit the Peace bridge, the wind hit us.  It didn't seem to bad at the time, but we trudged through to Canada.  We headed south and out of the wind for a few miles and then headed north straight up the Niagara Parkway.  It was then that I realized that the last eighteen miles of the race were going to be directly into the wind.

That guy needs to shave
Running along the Niagara River was nice, but after a while it all looked the same.  The day was gray and cool, around 45-50 degrees.  By mile 20 my neck and back were tight from bracing against the wind gusts constantly buffeting me.  Miles 22 to 26.2 were torturous, but I knew the end was so close.  Then the finish line came and I was throughly exhausted from the run and fighting the wind.  It was a level tired I'd never experienced before.  I met my wife we hugged and we quickly made it to the shuttle to get back to the hotel, we both didn't want to stand around after dealing with the wind and cold all morning.  The shower I took after the race was probably the best feeling shower ever.

So fresh and clean
One thing I did tell myself to motivate myself along the run was "finish and you can shave", I had grown a beard during my entire training period and by race day I hated it.

I did enjoy the race, I was proud to finish even through the adversity of wind and lack of nourishment.  Luckily they had some Honey Maxx at the aid stations and that was a huge help.  I plan to run another marathon down the road, luckily I learned quite a bit a long the way and will be better prepared for next time.  My official chip time was 4 hours 41 minutes and 12 secs, I was actually hoping to get under 4 hours 30 minutes, but the wind and the fatigue it caused slowed me down.

Next time though, I'm sure the conditions will be perfect :)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Last American Vampire - A Book Review

The Last American VampireThe Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should it be known that I won an advanced reader copy of this book from a Goodreads First Read contest. I won one of the twenty-five copies offered in the contest and had it delivered very quickly after I was notified that I was of the winners.

First things first, if you're looking for a direct Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter sequel you will not find one within this book. This tale focuses on Henry Sturges, the vampire who taught Abraham Lincoln how to hunt. It's chronicles Henrys experiences from when he was made into a vampire, to almost present day 500 years later. It covers the highs and lows of his life highlighting his relationships, his inclusion in wars and dealings with the United States government throughout. He meets and befriends several historical figures from John Smith of Pocahontas fame, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Tesla, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt to name a few.

This book was fun and full of pulp, just like ALVH. Grahame-Smith took a more expansive approach to this novel, it covered so much time and space. The amount of world events and historical figures he weaved into the story made it evolve constantly, it also moved the story along quickly. I enjoyed this as much as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. While the book doesn't focus on Abe, it does feature him and give you a bit of closure.

If you're looking for a book, that moves fast and doesn't take itself too seriously, check this one out.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Artful - A Book Review

ArtfulArtful by Peter David
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Artful is the second Amazons First Reads books I tackled on my recent vacation. It's also published by 47North, Amazon's Sci-Fi imprint.

This tale picks up after the end of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist and features Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the Artful Dodger. He's pulled into the world of vampires when he happens upon a young women on a street corner who's arguing with a lady of the night. The young woman is obviously out of place, he befriends her and takes her in off the street. This story features Mr. Fang and Fagin from the Twist novel and gives us a look a vampire power grab that threatens England's royal line. We briefly see Oliver Twist, if only momentarily.

It was a quick read, something I was able to knock out in a couple of hours. It had some action, pesky vampires, and that dirty old London feel to it. It was one of the better Amazon First Read books I've read. To be honest, I wouldn't have paid for it from store be it digital or otherwise, but it sure is hard to pass up free.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Eat a Bird

The Bird EaterThe Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted shorter books to read while traveling to and from Niagara Falls where I was going to be running a marathon. This was the ideal time to actually read some of the Amazon First Read books my wife and I had chosen since it's a perk of being Amazon Prime members. These books all appear to be from one of Amazon's own imprints, this one was published by 47North which deals specifically with fantasy, sci-fi, and horror titles.

Ania Ahlborn brings us The Bird Eater, a story that falls squarely in the horror genre. It starts dark and that darkness continues throughout. We follow Aaron Holbrook, who's trying to piece his life back together after his son is killed in a car accident, he slips into the quagmire of drinking and drugs while his marriage falling apart. Aaron is straight up flawed, he's been through much even before these events, his mother and his aunt both died tragically and mysteriously.

The house Aaron was raised in, the same house his Aunt died in needs to be sold. He moves back to a town he was taken from by child protective services after his Aunt died. He returns a haunted man cover in ink, which happened to be various birds. Soon after he arrives he's menaced by a creepy kid, the menacing later turns into terrorizing. Aaron rekindles relationships with a past love interest who's now married, which can only end badly and a long lost friend who now run his fathers grocery store. He also has a video recorder, something his therapist suggested as a form of therapy by keeping what is essentially a video journal. He learns the house he's living in has a name, The Devil's Den, and is supposedly haunted.

Bad choices are made and the situation spirals to a dangerous place, shadows, nightmares that seem too real. The house and creepy kid are attached, evil permeates through them and feeds off each other drawing others in. Bad things happen and a cycle starts over.

I gave this book a pretty low rating, two stars which when you hover on them says it best: it was ok. I didn't love the story, especially how it ended. The ending was rushed and cheesy, there were a lot of stereotypical bump in the night "scary" things happening in the book. The story felt like it was missing something, like certain parts just needed to be tweaked to make it better. I applaud the program Amazon has put together and will be happy to keep reading these books in the future.

View all my reviews