Spring Recap – 2018 Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to do an update on my reading challenge since March. This spring really got away from me. I’m not quite keeping up with the pace needed to finish the challenge, but I have added 9 more books to the list.

  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Next book in a series you started)

This book took most of February to get through. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is not good for quick, light reading. In this third book, it took me a little while to figure out who was who again, since I haven’t re-read the first two books since they came out. Once I remembered who the characters were and what was going on, I enjoyed it greatly. Sanderson holds first place as my “Favorite Living Author” and he never disappoints.

  • Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs (A book that’s published in 2018)

Patricia Briggs is probably second place in the “Favorite Living Author” rank. She usually has a book come out right around my birthday in March, so it’s a perfect time for me to grab the next one. This book focuses on her werewolf pair, Anna and Charles, and some troubles close to home. There was an absolutely fantastic twist that I didn’t see coming at the end of the book that made my jaw drop. I don’t think this is the best of her books, but I enjoyed it all the same.

  • Luciana by Erin Teagan (A book you borrowed)

I borrowed this book from my oldest daughter. Luciana is American Girl’s “Girl of the Year” for 2018. My daughter recently earned enough money to buy her own doll and the doll also came with a book. Luciana Vega dreams of being one of the first astronauts on Mars and sees a first step towards that when she goes to NASA Space Camp. While this was a quick and simple read for me, I thought it was a great book for girls in our day and age, and especially a great one for my daughter, who’s been all about space since she was 5-years-old.

  • Dangers in the Desert by Diamond Wilson (A book by a local author)

“Local” author is a little bit of a stretch, since Diamond Wilson doesn’t technically live here anymore, but Diamond and I grew up together, sharing classes, basketball practices, sleepovers, and all sorts of other adventures. Dangers in the Desert is her second book in the Quest for the Queen series, as a group of kids try to unravel the mystery of a missing piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The story bounces between the cold of Montana and dry heat of the Middle East and Diamond’s great descriptions give you a great taste of both of those places.

  • Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser (A book with a weather element in the title)

I’m a long time lover of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie books. I’ve read the series countless times and I’m planning on visiting some Little House Museums during our upcoming vacation (you have no idea how excited I am about that!!!). Prairie Fires is a well-researched and detailed true account of Laura’s life and the creation of the Little House books. In it, you see what parts of Laura’s account were true, and what areas were fudged or tweaked around (or left out altogether). There’s a lot of focus on Laura’s daughter Rose and her influence on the books as well. Even though this was technically a non-fiction, long lovers of the series may find it very emotional.

  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (A book set in a country that fascinates you)

New Zealand has long been a place of fascination for me, but I was rather frustrated when it came to finding a book set in that country. It seemed that I could not find many books available through my library that were set in New Zealand. I did come across this one, which is far more of a fantasy than anything else. A simple, short read, it painted an interesting picture of a small New Zealand community and it’s special relationship with whales.

  • Life in a Medieval Village by Frances & Joseph Gies (A book you meant to read in 2017)

Okay, to be totally honest, I meant to read this all the way back in 2015 or so. Frances and Joseph Gies have several books out on Medieval life that I’ve intended to read for research purposes for quite a while. Though I occasionally got bogged down by names and dates, the overall information in the book was interesting and gave me a few good nuggets to remember and consider for worlds in my fantasy

  • Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (Nordic Noir)

I’ll tell you right off that Nordic Noir is not a genre I will be returning to anytime soon. While it was an interesting story, there were aspects in the storytelling that I didn’t care for. In it, a woman named Smilla goes on a mission to find out the truth behind the death of a neighbor boy. The story has a lot of twists and time jumps, so pay attention as you go.

  • A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa (A book by an author of a different ethnicity)

A month or so ago, Amazon gave away a number of e-books that had been translated into English. One of them, A River in Darkness, is an autobiography of a man who spent most of his life living in North Korea before escaping. The book was a heartbreaking and sobering account of a brutal life that many North Koreans lived. It was hard to read and hard to fathom just how terrible it all was. With all of the talk in the news about North Korea, the timing on this was very interesting. While not an easy read, I highly recommend it.

So that’s 13 books down for the Reading Challenge. I’m open for other book ideas in the challenge, so comment below if you have any recommendations for me.


A Knee and a Spartan

Last year around this time, I started having trouble with my left knee. It hurt if I knelt on it and after a few weeks, would hurt terribly if I sat with my leg bent for any length of time. Weeks passed and it got worse, and worse, and worse… By September, I had to hang on tight to a handrail in order to get up and down flights of stairs, and even that was getting difficult. I was taking elevators and handicap ramps to spare myself the pain. Straightening my leg after sitting for even a short period of time became agony.

I mentioned it to my chiropractor, who tried a few adjustments first. They did nothing. Then he recommended me to the physical therapist who worked in his office.

I was beginning to dread that I’d torn some tendon or something in my knee (my mom tore her ACL when I was a teen and ended up with 2 surgeries and an terrible recovery time). I stressed and worried over my meeting with the PT.

That appointment came and Curtis had me give him a detailed breakdown of when my pain had happened and how it felt, then poked and prodded and twisted and bent my knee.

His prognosis was somewhat heartening. I had some tissue buildup under my kneecap. He had an actual name for what was wrong, but I forget what it was now, but basically when I sat, that tissue was getting compressed into my joint, which was causing most of my pain. Because I began favoring that leg, the muscles had grown weaker and it had gotten worse because of that.

No torn ACL, thank goodness. No surgery needed. Just some physical therapy.

… … yay…

So I started going in a couple times a week, first getting my knee area massaged by one of the two PTs that worked in the office, then getting into very simple exercises (starting with just bending and straightening my leg while sitting, which was stupidly hard to do). And ice. Lots and lots of icing my knee.

I started attempting squats after a week or two. Couldn’t do that without pain. Even riding the bike to warm up was difficult.

But, little by little, I saw improvement. The squats started getting more painless. I started to be able to do single-leg squats on the bad knee.

Then I’d slip on ice, or my dog would collide with my bad knee, and I’d be set back a few weeks while my joint recovered from the unexpected.

Last week, I had my last PT appointment. My knee is pretty much 100%. I still get a vague ache every so often, but it’s not tied in with anything sitting or standing.

More importantly, having a functioning knee again has helped me to decide that things need to change. I’m about 100 lbs overweight and that’s been causing other health issues.

About the time my knee first started bothering me, a few friends of mine ran this thing called a Spartan race. I saw pictures and while my husband laughed and said it was insane (and I didn’t disagree), there was a little part of my brain that wanted to do a Spartan race. I used to be able to run a 5K and I always loved obstacle courses as a kid. When the knee went, I pretty much figured I’d never run again, much less do a Spartan race.

Now, though?

About a month ago, I was at a ladies get-together with my best friend. At the table next to us were our friends who’d been doing the Spartan race. A bunch of them had their Spartan t-shirts on. My friend and I started talking about the Spartan and I said that now that my knee was better, I was tempted to start looking into training for one. She said, “Want company?”

So her and I have started running. Because she doesn’t have the 100 extra pounds to lug around, she was able to jump into one of the Couch-to-5K programs. I took one look at those and laughed. I haven’t run in at least 10 years. Most of those programs are WAY more than I can physically do right now. But I found one called None-To-Run, designed for the very out of shape who want to start running. Even the first week’s exercise of 30 seconds of running was more than I could do, so I spent the first time just briskly walking laps around my acre yard while my children played. Then I was able to run for 30 seconds and walk for two.

Now I’m 3 weeks in, and I finished the official ‘Week 2’ of the program. I ran for 1 minute and walked for 2 today (plus an extra 5 minute cool-down walk because I misjudged how far to go before I turned around to head home). Seven minutes of total running in my 30 minute workout. I figured I got about 2 miles.

You know what? I feel better than I did a month ago. I’m sleeping better. I’m not as hungry (weird…). I noticed that I’m carrying myself differently. My posture is straighter, or something. I feel taller. I’m eating better, though not strictly following any program on my eating, so I’m still eating junk when the mood strikes.

Scale says a difference of about 5 lbs, but I know I’m building muscle in addition to losing fat, so I’m not paying attention to the scale right now. Supposedly my scale measures BMI as well, but I doubt how accurate it is since it’ll give me multiple different numbers each time I weigh myself.

Each Saturday, my friend and I meet up to run “together,” each at our own pace. We’ve run a popular local trail together, and we’ve done laps around my yard when I wasn’t able to leave the house because of kids. Knowing that she’s running too helps me to be motivated to not skip my solo workouts.

There’s a 5K coming up the first weekend in August. I ran it before… I think in 2001. If I can keep with the program, I should be about able to run those 3 miles by then. I’m going to do it, because nothing motivates me better than external deadlines.

Next year in May is the Montana Spartan Sprint. By next year, I should be able to run the 3 to 5 miles and have the strength to complete the obstacles. I’ve got another exercise program I’ll start implementing when I finish None-To-Run. I’ll be ready in a year.

Who knows, maybe in a couple years, I’ll be ready to go for a Spartan Trifecta.

It’s not writing related, yet, it kinda is. Poor health and poor self-esteem can do a lot to a writer. Writing’s on a bit of a back burner right now, but in the last few weeks, I’ve found my mind drifting back to those unfinished writing projects. The energy and drive to finish them is coming back from wherever it’s been for the last few months.

Maybe that obnoxious Muse of mine is drawn to running?


January Recap – 2018 Reading Challenge

Not much to announce in the writing department. I’ve been focusing my energy on a few other aspects of my life that have been struggling for a bit.

I did manage to get a little reading done in January, checking 4 books off of the 2018 Reading Challenge list.

  • Artemis by Andy Weir (A book set on a different planet)

I really enjoyed The Martian a year or so ago when I read it, so I jumped on the copy of Artemis when I saw it on the Most Wanted Books shelf at my library (which is a display of popular books that are first come-first serve, no holds). While I didn’t enjoy the story as much as The Martian, it was still an interesting and imaginative story involving a smuggler living on the only city on the moon. The details of a potential moon life were curious and well thought out. Biggest downside for me was the amount of swearing and sexual content. Not a fan of that in any writing, so that was my only real complaint.

  • Mind Hunter by John Douglas & Mark Olshaker (True crime)

Okay, this one was fascinating! The history of a FBI agent and the development of the profiling method used to identify serial killers. Ironically, found out that John Douglas went to college for a while in my hometown (though many years before I was born). The content was often disturbing, as it talked about the gruesome murders done around the country. My husband was recently watching a show by the same title on either Netflix or Hulu, which seems inspired by this book based on our compared notes.

  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (A book made into a movie you’ve already seen)

I wasn’t initially sure how easy it’d be to find a book in this category, but a quick Google search pulled Jurassic Park up for me and I happened to have that book on my shelf for some reason (though I’d never read it). The book is similar to the movie, though there were a few differences in who died between the book and the movie, but the discovery of the dinosaurs breeding and how the trouble on the island started was so much more involved and suspenseful! One of my favorite scenes involved a graph of the number of animals in the Park, when the characters realize that the computer counting the dinosaurs had a glitch in it and suddenly you realize that there are way more animals than first thought, especially of the deadly raptors. There was also a great scene involving the T-rex swimming like a crocodile after the protagonists, which I’m terribly bummed they didn’t have in the movie, because the mental image I got was utterly terrifying.

  • The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (A book involving a heist)

Written from the perspective of the protagonist, Michael, who’s in prison for reasons you later discover, The Lock Artist hops back and forth between two points in time in Michael’s life. One deals with his childhood/teen years, detailing how he meets the girl of his dreams and begins to learn how to pick locks and crack safes. The second takes place when he’s on his own, traveling the country to various jobs that need his talents. I had to pay attention to the tops of each chapter to keep from getting confused at what point in time we were at, but I enjoyed the way the story unfolded and the truth was revealed.

Are you participating in the Challenge? What did you read last month?

2018 Reading Challenge

As promised in my last post, here’s information on the new 2018 Reading Challenge. While there are other reading challenges out there (many with similar categories), I always look up the one on Popsugar.com, simply because that’s the first place I saw the challenge, back in 2015.

I’ve already printed out the challenge and taped it in my shiny new Passion Planner, so I’m all ready to go.

As usual, there are 40 books in the main challenge, plus an additional 12 for “Advanced Readers”.

My goal is to read more than last year (which was 24 books). I’m curious about some of the categories (like a “Nordic noir”) and I have no idea what sort of books I’ll end up reading when I go searching for books that fit the categories.

In the past, I have not counted audio books as part of the challenge (unless the category was specifically “an audio book”), but I think I’m going to relax that just a little this year. Areas of my life are crazy enough that I can’t always sit down to read, but I often can listen to someone else read. So some of the books may be audios digitally checked out through my library (which, by the way, is one of the the best things ever invented!)

Are you going to join the Reading Challenge? What category is the most interesting to you this year? Got any recommendations to get me started?

2017 Reading Challenge Recap

It’s the end of the year and time to tally up the results of the 2017 Reading Challenge. I read 24 of the 52 books on the list, which was a huge improvement over the 8 books I read in 2016.

My top books from 2017 are:

  • Hunter by Mercedes Lackey (A book involving a mythical creature)
  • Wrath by John Gwynne (A novel set during wartime)
  • Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs (A book that’s published in 2017)
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (A book of letters)
  • Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (A book by a person of color)
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (A book that is a story within a story)

These 6 books were the best reads of the year, either in terms of story, the emotion I felt while reading, or just the simple fact that I could not put them down!

Definitely lost some steam in the reading department later in the year, but overall, I’m pleased with my progress! I’ve already got the 2018 Reading Challenge printed out and I’ll talk more about that in a few days! Hopefully you’ll join me for another year of expanding the reading horizons.

Did you participate in the Challenge this year? What books were your favorites?

Below are all the other books I read this year (in approximate order in which I read them, excluding the books already listed above).

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2017 Conclusion

Day 25: 2186

Day 26: 301

Day 27: 765

Day 28: 2343

Day 29: 194

Day 30: 1685

Someone stop the ride… I want to get off…

I intended on posting my wrap-up for NaNo over a week ago, but it seems like life has been a never ending spin-cycle. The entirety of November was kinda like that and it hasn’t really stopped yet. Had a lot of issues: personal health, financial, vehicular, and weather-related. Had some good times, too, with a visit from my mom, baking Christmas cookies, and seeing my sister perform in a local production of Annie, but overall, it’s been a whirlwind.

The Tinctists is not done, though I’m planning on finishing it and my posts for Redwall Survivor before the turn of the year… if everything else slows down enough that I can focus. My Muse tried to hop a plane to Bermuda again, but I caught her and dragged her back before she got too far.

NaNoWriMo 2017 was one of the most challenging for me and just solidified in my mind two things:

  1. Writing two stories is hard — almost impossible for me right now.
  2. Pantsing is not an efficient, effective, or fun way for me to write.

I’ve continued my winning streak with NaNo, and I did write every day (with my record low for the month being 16 words), but I’m more glad it’s over than I normally am.

Lack of Soundtrack – NaNo2017 – Day 25

Day 21: 2384

Day 22: 1717

Day 23: 1841

Day 24:  1778

Day 25: 1332 (so far)

Normally, when I write, I have a small soundtrack selected early on. Often, it’s because a song helped inspire a scene idea. Last year’s NaNo was initially inspired by a song. My character for Redwall Survivor this year was born from a couple songs (and has continued to be inspired by them). Every year has had a soundtrack.

This year has been more a case of “Eh, this is close and it’s good to write to, but it doesn’t inspire anything.” I’ve got my Spotify playlist, but nothing has really called to me well.

Until the other day, when I was listening to an album by a new group I discovered (who did a Redwall-themed song!). One song came up and suddenly, pieces of The Tinctists began to click together. Though it’s not something that’s going to be all that relevant in this first book, it’s given me a target to shoot for and, more importantly, the big bad guy of the series!