fall / winter reading update

A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I highly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Kell is one of the last of his kind, a magician able to travel between the parallel universes. Red London, Grey London, and White London co-exist side by side, with very few aware of the existence of anything but their own city.

The story follows Kell on his adventures, as he tries to protect the magic, and the cities, from the evil that has escaped from what remains of Black London.

A Man Called Ove by Fredik Backman

This one is hard to write about. Ove is a man who is hard to love, and certainly easy to dislike (if not hate) at the start of the novel. He is cantankerous, ornery, and quite rigid in his ways.

The novel paints a picture of a lonely, sad man. He’s just lost his job, and he appears to have no family or friends. Throughout the story, we learn more of Ove, his life, how he lived, and his neighbors.

Ultimately, this is a moving story about community and showing the reader that not everyone is what they seem at first glance. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but my friends have said it’s very good as well.

A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest

A Shade of Vampire is the first of many in an ongoing saga. I didn’t realize how many there were until after reading the first (39 and still coming??!)

The series is fun, and a great way to take a break from reality. The first 7 novels tell the story of Sophia and Derek, and after that the series introduces a new set of main characters. I’ve only read the first 7, and may continue in the future. I’m holding off for now, because I don’t want to be sucked in for another 7 books!

The main story is about Sophia, a moderately normal 17-year-old girl, who’s kidnapped and held hostage by vampires. The vampire coven is living in secret, hiding from humans. Sophia and Derek (a leader of the coven) fall in love, and the series follows what happens.

YearYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I loved this book. Shonda writes openly about her insecurities, weight issues, and shyness. She transformed her life by setting a goal to say yes for one year. The goal was to say yes to things that were outside of her comfort zone and that she would normally avoid.

This is a motivating look at how simple decisions can drastically change your life.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1) by N.K. Jemisin

This was one of the best books I read in 2016. Jemisin takes a unique approach to writing fantasy, and it’s refreshing to read a book that’s different and creative.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms centers around Yeine Darr, and what happens when she is mysteriously summoned to the ruling city of Sky by her estranged grandfather after her mother dies unexpectedly.

When Yeine arrives, she is pitted against her cousins in a battle for the throne. Having grown up far way from Sky, in large part due to being biracial and considered beneath or less than the “pure” Amari, she is out of her element.

Sky is a bright, shiny, ethereal place, full of light (and worship of Itempas, the Bright Skyfather). And yet, the ruling class is malicious, racist, and quite evil. It’s a great juxtaposition, and there’s many other things that follow along with this within the series.

There’s lots of mythology, intrigue, and plot twists in this novel and the 2 other books in the trilogy. There’s a plethora of gods and godlings, and between them and the humans, it’s a wonder anyone is alive.

Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton

Glennon Doyle Melton has written an emotional, riveting, and raw look into her life and struggles. She touches on many sensitive subjects like eating disorders, alcoholism, drug abuse, and marital issues.

This is a story about finding oneself, rediscovery, and ultimately acceptance and forgiveness. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading, but I was soon captivated by her story and her willingness to reveal such intimate details of her life. Melton has received a lot of criticism about just how much of her life she shared, and about events that happened in her life after the book was written. However, in my opinion, none of that detracts from the book.

This is a memoir that you read and you think “huh, this could have been fiction and it would be have been interesting, but it’s REAL and it’s fascinating.”


the path to strong

My friends and family all know I’m not a huge fan of exercise, specifically when it comes to strength training. Oh, I occasionally go to yoga, and I run, but other than that? Nope. In 2015, I hired a personal trainer at my gym, in the hopes that it would motivate me and get me to a place where I could/would consistently do strength training on my own.

Unfortunately, that plan did not work out. The first trainer was awesome, but after a few sessions she received a promotion  and wanted me to come on Saturdays or to another gym location. When we couldn’t make it work, she set me up with another trainer to take over for her. 

The next trainer did not seem to know or care about my fitness goals. There were no progress measurements, no record of each workout, and sometimes she actually gave me incorrect information. She’d say “oh this is the best you’ve done at this exercise, you’re really making progress” … umm, we’ve never done this one together, so how would she know? Every session it was more of the same, squats, squats, squats, and other exercises that were also squats (burpees, ball slams, etc). There was no consistency or plan for the upper body portion of the workout, it was something different each session. I fired her, and then I didn’t go to the gym for 6 months. Maybe longer than that.

Recently, I started having more and more issues with back, hip, neck and shoulder pain. All of it seems to be related to poor posture, weak glute and hip muscles, and overall, lack of strength training. I decided that I need to take control, and finally put some effort into strength training. I’ve also decided to focus on lowering my body fat percentage rather than looking solely at weight loss in terms of total body weight. I’d rather be strong and healthy and weigh a little more than be “skinny fat” where the pounds come off but it’s all muscle mass that’s being lost. I’ve been there before.

My goals are to make it to the gym at least once a week, yoga once a week, plus continuing with my running. After my last half marathon, I’ve been having some issues with my adductor muscles and the psoas on the left side, so I took it easy for several weeks and have stretched more often.

Oh, and by June I want to be able to do unassisted chin-ups. Then I can move on to pull-ups!

believe in your own power to transform

Here’s a look at a typical gym session:

Cardio Warm-up
5 min

Upper Body
Chin Up (Assisted)
3 sets of 10

Lat Pulldown
3 sets of 10

Tricep Extension
3 sets of 10

TRX/Lower Body
2 sets of 10

TRX squat
3 sets of 15 

Forward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Backward walking lunge
3 sets of 10

Cardio finish
5 min


San Jose RNR 1/2 marathon race recap

New PR! Woot Woot!  2:50:02, 18 seconds better than my previous best which was last year in Capitola.
I was super prepared this time around, and had all my stuff out and ready last night. I spent about an hour at the expo yesterday trying very hard not to buy all the things. On my list for future purchases: new running jacket, more sport bras, new shoes, and anti-fog sunglasses for running. Yes, I need all the things!

I settled for a 13.1 magnet for my car, and of course, the race shirt pictured was included with the entry fee.

I did buy one shirt, but shhhh…. let’s not talk about that.

It was a beautiful day for a race, not too cold and not too hot. Kimmy and I met up in my corral, and
 waited patiently for our turn to start. We both knew she’d be far ahead of me, so we wished each other luck as we crossed the start line.

I really wanted to run this race in 2:45, so I quickly caught up to the 2:45 pace team and settled in. For the first 3 miles, everything was going well, and keeping pace with the pace team was OK. Then around mile 3, I started to get some cramps, so I had to walk for a bit. Thankfully, I was able to keep the pace team in sight and catch up when I would run.

Around mile 5, I was passed by my ex, so that gave me a little motivation to kick it up and start running a bit more, as by this time I was doing run/walk intervals. I’m pretty sure he saw me pass him, so he dashed ahead. For someone who claimed to hate running, why is he at every 1/2 marathon I’ve done since breaking up with him??!

To my amazement, I was able to keep in view of the pace team until mile 8. This was very exciting for me! However, I definitely don’t do enough long runs, and the last 5 miles were miserable for me. I passed by my ex again at mile 9, and boy, it sure seemed like he didn’t like that. I had seen him ahead of me for about mile, walking most of the time. Once I passed him, again he blasted past me. I didn’t see him again after that, and good for him for finishing before me, and thanks for not trying to talk to me. 🙂

By mile 10, I was starting to hurt all over. My TFL and my adductor muscles have been acting up, my heel felt like I was getting a blister, and the cramps came back, worse this time.

When I was walking, I tried to really walk as fast as possible, since by now, I was walking way more than I was running. I kept trying to calculate how fast I needed to go to finish with a PR and how fast I could walk to get there. The trouble is GPS never quite matches the course distance.  Argh.

At mile 11, my GPS and the mile marker lined up almost exactly, and I knew I could make it to the finish line around 2:50, which wouldn’t be the best PR but at least it wouldn’t be slower….

Mile 12…. ah the final mile. I felt so miserable, everything hurt and I just wanted to be done! I did my best to keep a good fast walking pace and to run when I could. 

As I approached the final stretch, I kept thinking “where the hell is the 13 mile marker??!” and “where the F is the finish line?”. The one thing I hate about the SJ RNR is that the approach to the finish line is full of turns, so you can’t see it until you are almost there (less than .1 mile to go). Once I turned the last corner, I went for it and started running. And then I realized that it was almost 2:50 so I made a mad sprinting dash for that finish line!!!

Kimmy was waiting for me at the finish line, and boy oh boy was I happy it was over!


And guess what? Next year we are going to Vegas for the RNR 1/2 marathon in November. Running on the strip is going to amazeballs!! 

Here’s how I’m spending the rest of my day:

race recovery

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