Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Death Series Reading Challenge: January 2013

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE and join the fun!

Did you read any In Death series books this month?

I did not, much to my disappointment. I had big intentions to finally pick up the pace on this challenge in 2013, and yet I broke my promise to myself to read Promises in Death! It's literally collecting dust on my nightstand..

CHALLENGE PARTICIPANTS: 

Link up any In Death series posts you may have made this month in Mr. Linky below and leave a comment letting us know which book you read. If you didn't read a book this month, tell me why not! We can swap excuses. ;)

The Winter Sea Group Read: PART I

Are you reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley for the group read-along? Have you finished it yet? I know a few people are finished already. My apologies, but I'm afraid I won't be finished with the book in time for the final group discussion as originally scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, February 1. I hope you can all hold onto your thoughts for a few more days. I had an unexpectedly busy week this week, but I hope to finish the book over the weekend. Thank you in advance for your patience! However, I thought of few things that we can talk about in the meantime.

I'm currently about a third of the way through The Winter Sea and enjoying it very much. Kearsley's writing is wonderful--she truly has a natural story telling voice, don't you think? She's expressive, but in a gentle, natural way. Her writing is rich in a lovely succinct way--sophisticated but not at all pretentious. I love the Scottish setting of this book--I have such vivid images of the places and people, the latter of which come easily to life immediately upon their introduction.

What are your impressions of Ms. Kearsley's writing? Are you like me and feel as though you are whisked away to Scotland every time you sit down to read?

If I were asked which time period of this story I like better--Sophia's early 1700s or Carrie's present, I'm afraid I could not bear to choose. Since I am still within the first 200 pages of the book, I probably haven't gotten deep enough into Sophia's perspective to truly appreciate her story, but I do like her very, very much. In Carrie's part of the story, however, I'm enjoying the dynamics of her relationships with Jimmy Keith and his sons, Stuart and Graham. I readily admit that I simply adore the pull between Graham and Carrie. It is quite lovely.

Do you prefer one time period over the other? I know, I can't choose a favorite either.
Slains Castle
photograph credits: Colin Smith
Wikipedia Commons
The historical background of this book, which is crucial to the story, is a bit challenging for me to follow. A lot of fellows named James, if you ask me. ;) In all seriousness, though, history has never been one of my strong suits. It took me some time, and a bit of external reading, before I caught on to the gist of what's going on between Scotland and England, or rather between the Jacobites and the British monarchy in this time period. I'm not even sure if that's the correct way to refer to this piece of history. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Sophia basically gets caught up in the rising tensions of a Jacobite rebellion in which her "guardian"--the countess of Erroll in Slains castle, covertly (or perhaps not-so-covertly) supports. A rebellion the aim of which is to reinstate King James Stuart (King James VIII of Scotland or King James III of England) who is in exile in France as the rightful heir of the British throne. I think. I know it's more complicated than that, but I hope I have at least a basic understanding of the conflict. I encourage anyone who is reading or has read The Winter Sea to correct me and or elaborate on this piece of historical information. Or even if you are simply familiar with this part of history, please feel free to add anything!

Are you keeping up with the myriad of characters and their allegiances in the historical components of the story?

Stay tuned.. final discussion post of The Winter Sea to come! I hope you join us!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where In The World Are You Reading? Unusual Spots

I'm so happy to see Trish [Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity], Lisa [Books, Lists, Life] and Kelly [The Written Word] continue their monthly book meme into the New Year. These three lovely book bloggers created the Where In The World Are You Reading? meme to encourage readers to share their book habits based on a specific monthly prompt. It's a fun way to sneak a peek into other readers' worlds. Check out the fun on the introduction post on Trish's blog HERE. Hope you decide to join!

This month's theme for Where In The World Are You Reading? is Unusual Spots. In what unusual spots have you found yourself reading a book? I wish I could claim some really fascinating unusual spots, but I'm afraid my reading spots are quite vanilla in nature. I would estimate that 99% of my reading takes place on a comfy chair or sofa and in bed before sleeping. See? Very unoriginal.
Reading in bed.
January 2013.
So where do I read the other 1% of the time?

Sitting in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school or dance class.

Sitting in a doctor's or orthodontist's office waiting room. Waiting. And waiting.

Sitting on the steps when the day is sunny and warm.

Swaying in a hammock when the day is sunny and warm.

Lounging on the beach. Although I have to admit this always makes me sleepy.

Standing in the kitchen stirring a pot of something with one hand, holding up a book in the other. Some parts are so good you just can't wait until AFTER dinner to read them!

In hotels while on vacation.

On planes, trains and in cars (as a passenger, of course!).
Reading on the train.
London to Glasgow.
Summer 2012.

In what unusual spots have YOU been found reading?

To see the unusual reading spots of other readers, visit this month's link-up at Trish's blog HERE.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

UPDATE: Whole Living {detox} Action Plan 2013 +RECIPES!

Drinking my greens!
{kale, carrots, celery, pear} 
Hello everyone! Last weekend I posted about a 21-Day clean eating detox plan I'm currently following and I thought I'd give an update. But first, in case you missed what this detox is all about, it's basically a 21 day food based plan of sparse and simple clean eating that is designed to give your digestive system--especially your liver, a much needed break from working so hard to clean your body of impurities. By sparse and simple clean eating, I mean eating small amounts of highly nutritious, easy to digest foods. All meals are made from whole food ingredients, organic as much as possible and absolutely no processed foods or beverages, no sugar, alcohol, dairy or gluten (wheat, barley, rye) for the duration of the plan. Through this clean eating plan, your body gets a chance to catch up on cleaning out your system and you essentially gets a clean slate for a healthier you. For more information and source links, visit last week's post, Whole Living {detox} Action Plan 2013.

Salad with Orange and Sardines
In week one, I ate ONLY vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and plant-based oils. It was tough, but I made it. Today is Day 14 for me, marking the end of the second week and I'm still going strong. Meals were more satisfying and easier to plan this week since I was allowed to add fish, beans, legumes and gluten-free grains to my diet. The foods I added this week were quinoa, oats, brown rice, cannellini (white) beans, tuna, salmon and sardines. Yes, sardines! This was a first time for me--am I the only one who's never had sardines before? Well, I'm glad I finally did because they were a lot better than I expected! Did you know sardines are super good for you, too? They're also a very affordable and sustainable choice. I bought a 3.75 oz can of boneless, skinless sardines in olive oil (the only ingredients being sardines and olive oil) from Trader Joe's for under $3. Okay, so if you're feeding a hungry family of 5, maybe it's not the cheapest protein source, but since they're so healthy, I'm going to make them a regular choice in my salads in the future. I had them in a green salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Have you ever had sardines? If so, how do you like to prepare them?

The toughest part of Week 2 continues to be preparing "regular" meals for my family--they're still eating meat, dairy and gluten-foods such as pasta or bread--and making something completely different for myself. It was a bit easier this week, however, because we all could eat rice and fish a couple of nights, but I couldn't make them eat that every night! The key was to make sure my meal was planned and even ready before starting their dinner. This way I could have a few bites as I got hungry or started wanting a bite of their pasta or chicken. I stayed strong, though!

But.. I have a confession. I ate an oreo one night last week. Gah! For some reason I bought my kids a pack of Birthday Cake Oreos last week. I usually bake homemade snacks or treats for my family, but I thought that would be too tempting for me during the detox, so I bought them the Oreos instead. Well.. I was going mad not having one, so I did. Ugh. What a mistake. Not that I'm riddled with guilt or anything.. but it tasted SO sugary sweet and fake! Ick! I hope this means I'm on my way to un-conditioning myself to want sugar. I hope!

So what new recipes did I try this week? 
Two of them were hits and will make regular appearances in my diet long after this detox is over. One is quinoa porridge for breakfast. It takes a little while to cook the quinoa, but I'm learning to start my day with a mug of hot water and lemon and then waiting 30 to 60 minutes before eating, so I don't mind the time it takes to prepare the quinoa. It can also be made ahead and reheated. The other is Dried Fruit and Oat Bars--a great afternoon snack or workout snack. I'll be making these in the spring to take along on those long bike rides. I adapted both of these recipes to my own preferences and have posted them separately from this post so that I can link them with my other recipe posts more easily.

In the meantime, here's a quick and easy recipe for homemade pear sauce that I made when the mood for something apple-pie-like struck me last week. It's a delicious sweet snack with no added sugar--it's nice warm or cold--and a whole lot healthier than a piece of pie! I've decided this is my favorite way to eat pears. I'm just not crazy eating them out of hand or in a salad.

Unsweetened Pear Sauce 
6-8 pears, peeled and diced (I used a combination of Bosc and D'Anjou or Bartlett pears)
1 small cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/4 lemon)
water

Combine pears, cinnamon stick, lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the pears halfway, about 1 - 1 1/2 cups water. Simmer pears until they are soft and about half of the water remains, stirring frequently, mashing a bit towards the end with a spoon. Remove cinnamon stick and let cool. Delicious served warm or chilled. Can be used in the recipes for Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries and Dried Fruit & Oat Bars [both vegan].


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 



RECIPE: Dried Fruit & Oat Bars [vegan]

These snack bars are gluten-free and vegan. I made these late in Week 2 of the 21-Day food based cleanse I'm following featured in the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of Whole Living magazine. They literally saved me from cheating when my girls came home from school one day and asked me to bake brownies. So glad I made these oat bars for myself instead. So much healthier and now I have a new go-to recipe for a satisfying afternoon snack or workout fuel for those long runs or bike rides!

Dried Fruit Oat Bars
Adapted from Cherry-Date Oat Bars from Whole Living magazine:

Dried Fruit Oat Bars 
Makes 9
Coconut or olive oil
3 cups oats (gluten-free)
1 cup mixed unsweetened dried fruit
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 smooth almond butter
4 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
1/2 cup Unsweetened Pear Sauce (or apple sauce)
1/3 cup maple syrup (or agave syrup or honey)
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Coat a 9x9 inch baking dish with coconut or olive oil. Line the pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine oats, dried fruit, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. I used dried cherries, Medjool dates and dried apricots. Other good choices would be raisins, prunes, dried cranberries and dried apples. Let your creativity flow! 

In another bowl, stir together almond butter, ground flaxseed (I grind whole flaxseeds in a clean coffee grinder), pear sauce, maple syrup, orange juice and vanilla extract.

Add wet mixture to dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Press mixture into baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and firm.

Let cool for several minutes and cut into 9 squares.

Delicious warm or at room temperature. 

Store in an airtight container for three days or freeze for longer storage.

RECIPE: Qunioa Porridge with Blueberries [vegan]

I've made various versions of this quinoa porridge this past week while in my second week of  the 21-Day food based detox plan featured in the Jan-Feb 2013 issue of Whole Living magazine. The original recipe calls for ground cardamom (I was out) and fresh diced pears. The recipe was good, but I happen to like it a lot better with blueberries being the center of attention.

Adapted from Cardamom-Quinoa Porridge from Whole Living magazine:

Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries and Almonds
Vegan and gluten-free! 

Quinoa Porridge with Blueberries
Serves 2
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cinnamon
pinch of salt
For each serving:
  1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  1 tablespoons sliced almonds
  1 teaspoon pure maple syrup or agave syrup, optional
  Unsweetened Pear Sauce, optional

Combine rinsed quinoa, almond milk, water, vanilla, allspice, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork. For each serving, spoon half of the quinoa into a bowl and top with 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1 tablespoon sliced almonds and drizzle with 1 teaspoon maple or agave syrup, if desired.

I had some homemade, Unsweetened Pear Sauce on hand and stirred about 1/4 cup of that into my porridge this morning for added sweetness instead of using maple or agave syrup. VERY delicious!

Do you eat quinoa? What's your favorite quinoa recipe?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2013


I have one more reading challenge to share. This will be my third year participating in this challenge. In 2011, I read After the Quake, a collection of three short stories by Haruki Murakami. I enjoyed it, but thought it was too small of a sampling of Murakami's writing to truly decide if I was a fan of this popular Japanese author. So I signed up for the challenge again in 2012, intending to read Sputnik Sweetheart, but the closest I came was to borrow the book from the library on December 20th! Alas, here I am ready to give it another go in 2013.

Host: tanabata
Link: Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2013
Time Frame: January 1 - December 31, 2013
Challenge: Read one or more or all [sign up for different levels] of Haruki Murakami's books in 2013.

I am going to challenge myself to read one, but I'm hoping to read two. Sputnik Sweetheart and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the latter chosen largely because I found a reader who is hosting a read-along later this year. I welcome the motivation to read this one with a group since it is a long one at 607 pages.

The No Stress, No Fuss, Read-Along of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami hosted by Ti who blogs at Book Chatter.

It will take place April 1 - May 5, 2013.

The twitter hash tag for the group read will be #winditup2013.

Visit the Read-Along sign up post at Ti's blog HERE for more info and to sign up!



Have you read any books by Haruki Murakami? Which is your favorite?


*** CHALLENGE COMPLETED JUNE 2013 ***

Books read to date:
1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
2. Sputnik Sweetheart 

Monday, January 21, 2013

REMINDER: The Winter Sea Group Read

It's not too late to join our casual group read of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Readers should be starting to read the book this week and be prepared to discuss the book on Friday, February 1, 2013 here on my blog. I suppose those of you who are fast readers can start January 30th or something. :p If I'm well organized and on schedule, I hope to include a discussion post on the first half of the book on Sunday, January 27, 2013 as well.

If you'd like to join us, visit The Winter Sea Group Read sign up post and link your blog with Mr.Linky widget at the bottom of the post and or let me know in the comment section there. As always, please feel free to stop by and join any of the discussion posts at any time. :)

I'm looking forward to reading The Winter Sea and chatting about it with you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 Book Bingo Reading Challenge!

Hold onto your hats, everyone! This is the newest, coolest, shiniest Reading Challenge ever invented!

Well, I think it's pretty darn cool. ;)

Hosts: Anne from Creativity's Corner & Kristilyn from Reading In Winter

Link: Anne & Kristilyn's 2013 Book Bingo Reading Challenge

Time Frame: January 1 - December 31, 2013

Challenge: Read books and fill your BINGO board! [see below]

Just like any challenge, this ultimate goal of this challenge is to read books--lots of books! Instead of just keeping a list of books to satisfy some theme or number goal this challenge is designed in a Bingo board format, where each square on the board has a set of reading requirements that need to be met in order for you to cross out that square. To get Bingo, all you need to do is complete a whole column, row or diagonal.. just like the classic game. But Kristilyn and Anne know no one should EVER get stressed out over reading or reading challenges, so really, you can complete your Bingo board in a variety of patterns as you play along, including going for the Stamp of Awesome by blacking out the entire board!

The reading requirements on the Bingo board vary from reading books from your own TBR pile, reading multiple books in a series, reading new releases, reading books everyone else has read but you and re-reading books. Also, the center square is not a free space. To fill in that square, you need to read a book someone else in the challenge has read for the challenge. Sounds fun, right? Hopefully you're not confused and hopefully you want to join!

Here's what Anne and Kristilyn's 2013 Book Bingo Board looks like:

I'm going for the "the super reader" level [fill the entire board!] so I can get the Stamp of Awesome. It's probably not gonna happen--I honestly don't see myself re-reading 15 books to cross out the entire last column, but it'll be pretty darn fun trying to make it happen. Because Rule #1 is that YOU MUST HAVE FUN. And I'm all about THAT.

I'm not sure yet how I'm going to keep track of the books I'm reading for each square. I'll either keep tabs here in this post or make a new post just for my Bingo board.

Want to play?

What's In A Name 6 Reading Challenge

This year will be my fourth year participating in this fun reading challenge hosted by Beth F at Beth Fish Reads. I don't know what it is about this one that's so much fun.. but if you know me, you know I like making lists and if there's a creative way to cross something off that list, I'm even happier. Well, I guess that IS why I like this one so much!

Host: Beth F at Beth Fish Reads 

Link: What's In A Name 6

Time frame: Jan 1 - Dec 31, 2013

Goal: Read six books whose titles satisfy the following six themes:



1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in title
2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in title
3. A book with a party or celebration in title
4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in title
5. A book with an emotion in title
6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in title

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
2. French Milk by Lucy Knisley
3. Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs
4. The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
5. A Short Guide to A Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
6. The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

*** Challenge completed on September 4, 2013 *** 

TBR Challenge 2013 {Romance}

Host: Wendy The Super Librarian 

Link: TBR Challenge 2013

Time Frame: January 1 - December 31, 2013

Challenge: Read and Review [or comment on] one romance novel per month from my TBR pile

Once again, Wendy has suggested themes for each month's book pick. It's optional to follow the themes, but it really is fun when we're all reading from the same sub-genre. Reviews and commentary are "due" on the third Thursday of the month. This is all for fun, so no penalties if readers post late. Visit Wendy's blog each month on the dates below to see what other readers are reading from their TBR piles. You can also follow what people are reading on twitter by the hash tag #tbrchallenge.

January:    We Love Short Shorts!
February:   Recommended Read
March:   Series Catch-Up
April:   New-to-you Author
May:  More Than One (more than one book by that author in your pile)
June:  Lovely RITA (RWA RITA nominee or winner - link to lists at Wendy's)
July:   The Classics (in romance genre)
August:  Steamy reads
September: Western
October:  Paranormal or Romantic Suspense
November: All About the Hype
December:  Holiday themes (any holiday - doesn't have to be Christmas)

I already have ideas for some of these themes--I can't wait to get to them!

MY BOOKS:

January    Surrender At Dawn by Laura Griffin
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

The 2013 Big Book Challenge

Host: orannia from Walkabout
Link: The 2013 Big Book Challenge
Time Frame: January 1 - December 31, 2013
Challenge: Read a book that is 500 400 pages or more that you have been procrastinating reading because it is so big.


I've done this challenge for the last couple of years and have welcomed the push to finally tackle some of those big books that I'd been putting off. This year I plan to read at least two big books. The first is to finish Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I started it last November, but stopped somewhere around the 250 page mark. It comes in at 828 pages so I still have over 500 pages to go. There was another big book that crossed my mind to read in 2013, but I forgot what it was! I think I mentioned it somewhere ...


Edited to Add: 
I got it! The other big book I'd like to read in 2013 is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. Hopefully I'll be able to make that happen in a group read hosted by Ti at the blog Book Chatter in April.


500+ page Books Read in 2013:

1. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley  [527 pgs]
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami  [611 pgs]
3. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness  [579 pgs]
4. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness [584 pgs]

100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge



Host: Carolyn at Book Chick City 

Link: 100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge

Time Frame: January 1 - December 31, 2013

Challenge: Read 101 Books in 2013

I've slowly increased the number of books I read in a year over the last several years, but I think I've found my magic number to be around 100, so I'm sticking with this annual reading challenge hosted by Book Chick City, but making my goal 101 books just because. :D

 61 books read in 2008
 79 books read in 2009
 83 books read in 2010
100 books read in 2011
109 books read in 2012

Last year's tally of 109 books includes 8 online short stories that were so short that I felt guilty counting them towards my total. Therefore, in my mind, I really only read 101 books in 2012. I think this is a challenging number of books for me to read in a year, a total which includes a smattering of graphic novels and novellas as well as a few re-reads. So instead of challenging myself to out-do my numbers from last year, I'm going to stick to an annual goal of 101 books, which may or many not count any books I re-read during the year. I'll track my progress both here and on goodreads, where I've joined the 2013 Reading Challenge again this year.

Favorite reads are highlighted in PINK! 

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens [graphic novel adaptation]
2. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
3. Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell
4. Surrender At Dawn by Laura Griffin
5. Spider's Revenge by Jennifer Estep
6. Thread of Death by Jennifer Estep

7. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
8. The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
9. Bodywork by Marie Harte
10. Working Out by Marie Harte
11. Sins & Needles by Karina Halle 

12. By A Thread by Jennifer Estep
13. A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
14. A Game For Swallows by Zeina Abirached
15. Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas
16. Metamorphosis [Franz Kafka] by Peter Kuper
17. The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan [RE-READ]
18. The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
19. On Every Street by Karina Halle
20. Promises in Death by J.D. Robb

21. Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs
22. The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt
23. Wild Invitation by Nalini Singh
24. French Milk by Lucy
25. Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson
26. MirrorMask by Neil Gaiman and David Mckean
27. Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan
28. Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady [RE-READ]
29. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
30. The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn
31. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn
32. Spellbound by Nora Roberts

33. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
34. The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 1 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
35. The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 2 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
36. The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 3 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
37. Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey 
38. Hearts of Shadow by Kira Brady
39. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
40. Falling for Anthony by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
41. Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi
42. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

43. The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi
44.  Midsummer Nights Dream Graphic Novel [Shakespeare]
45. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
46. First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones
47. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
48. Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
49. For I Have Sinned by Darynda Jones
50. The Great Gastby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

51. Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
52. Persepolis: The Return by Marjane Satrapi
53. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
54. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki fiction
55. Demon Angel by Meljean Brook 

56. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
57. "Paradise" by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
58. Demon Moon by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
59. Demon Night by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
60. To Die For by Linda Howard
61. "Thicker Than Blood" by Meljean Brook [RE-READ]
62. Dirty by Megan Hart 
63. Primates by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks
64. Sins & Needles by Karina Halle [RE-READ]
65. Reason Enough by Megan Hart
66. Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation by Time Hamilton

67. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
68. The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz-Zafón
69. The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini 
70. One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry
71. The Girl Who Owned A City by O.T. Nelson
72. Amulet, Vol. 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi [RE-READ]
73. Amulet, Vol. 5: Prince of Thieves by Kazu Kibuishi
74. At Home in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller
75. The Last Unicorn Graphic Novel Adaptation by Peter S. Beagle
76. Demon Bound by Meljean Brook 
77. Demon Forged by Meljean Brook
78. "Blind Spot" by Meljean Brook

79. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
80. Beg For Mercy by Jami Alden
81. A Study in Scarlet: A Sherlock Holmes graphic novel
82. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
83. Relish by Lucy Knisley
84. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
85. "Delilah Dirk and The Turkish Mark" by Tony Cliff

86. Baby's In Black by Arne Bellstorf
87. Coraline by P. Craig Russell and Neil Gaiman
88. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
89. The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Záfron
90. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff
91. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

92. Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James
93. The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex
94. Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James
95. It Happened Under the Mistletoe by Valerie Bowman
96. Wanderlust by Kitty French
97. Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan [RE-READ]
98. Dark Curse by Christine Feehan


I didn't make it! :(

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Whole Living {detox} Action Plan 2013

This time last year I did my first ever detox diet, following the food-based body cleanse featured in the 2012 January-February Whole Living magazine. Since then, I've done a 24 hour green juice cleanse but that's about as extreme as I'd go. The detox diets presented by Whole Living magazine are food-based plans that restrict your diet to simple, whole foods in spare quantities that are gentle on your digestive system. This gives our detoxifying organ, our liver, a break from being overworked, allowing it to focus on cleansing our body of impurities. The diet is sparse, yet nutrient dense to supply our body what it needs most for a much needed tune up.

The beginning of my first detox last year was challenging, but I muddled through those first really tough days and managed to stick it out for the full 3 weeks. I lost a few pounds, which was great, but the best part was that I broke my addiction to caffeine*, discovered the awesomeness of green juicing and found out I felt lighter, more comfortable and less bloated when not eating gluten foods. It's not even that I thought I felt bloated before, but rather that I could feel the difference when I wasn't eating those foods compared to how I normally felt. I don't otherwise have difficulty with gluten foods, but it did make me mindful of how much wheat is in my diet practically at every meal. I think we, as Americans, unnecessarily consume far too much wheat--a dietary trend that is actually considered harmful in some nutritional circles [See Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD and Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr among others].

[*since breaking my coffee addiction, I no longer get frequent migraines. Whereas I used to get 2-3 per month, I only had 2-3 in all of 2012! Something to think about if you suffer from migraines.]

In any case, my mindfulness of wheat foods in my diet didn't stick the entire year. Eventually I went back to eating at least one wheat-based food per meal whether it be breakfast cereal, bread, power bars, pasta, crackers, cookies and other baked goods. Not the direction I had hoped to take.

Sometime amidst the holiday season of plentiful and delicious foods and treats, I began to look forward to a return to some serious healthy eating, including a jump start to a healthy year by revisiting the Whole Living detox plan. I heard rumors that Whole Living magazine was going to be discontinued, which at this point I think is accurate news. I'm quite sad about this, since I only discovered this magazine a year and a half ago and I thoroughly enjoy it. In any case, I received the January-February 2013 issue of Whole Living magazine in my mailbox last weekend and instantly jumped on this year's detox plan.

The 2013 Whole Living Action Plan is very similar to last year's, so I was already familiar with the strategy and even have a repertoire of recipes to which to turn. This latest issue is also chock full of new recipes to help participants have a successful and enjoyable detox. I've already prepared most of the Week 1 recipes, which were all very good.
Blueberry Mint Smoothie and
The Jan-Feb 2013 issue of Whole Living magazine
I started my 2013 21-Day detox on Monday, January 14 and after a few rough days of hunger, bloating and crankiness, I think the worst is behind me and I'm now feeling good about the detox and how my body is responding.

Here are this year's guidelines:

NO caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, gluten, processed foods or beverages.
All of these tax our liver and digestive systems.

Start every morning with a mug of hot water with a squeeze of lemon. 
There are many benefits to this morning ritual, including the fact that it aids in digestion and detoxification of the body by stimulating the digestive system and helps loosen the toxins in the digestive tract. I love this part of the detox. I know so many people rely on coffee to jump start their day, but why not consider having hot water with lemon upon rising and waiting an hour before reaching for caffeine. I continued this ritual last year for several months, but fell out of habit when the warmer months approached. I hope to make hot water with lemon first thing in the morning a permanent part of my daily ritual starting now.

Why You Should Drink Warm Water & Lemon from MindBodyGreen
Drinking Hot Water & Lemon in the Morning from Livestrong.com

Drink plenty of water. 
We hear this all the time, right? Drinking plenty of water--aim for 64 oz. a day--to keep hydrated and facilitate your body in flushing out impurities.

Week 1: Eat ONLY vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils, plant-based oils and seasonings.

Week 2: Introduce fish [not shellfish], legumes, beans and gluten-free grains such as brown rice, quinoa and oats.

Week 3: Introduce eggs and organic, non-GMO soy 
[specifically, tofu and edamame as these are the most natural, unprocessed forms of soy].

So what do I want to get out of this detox action plan?
First and foremost, I want to jump start my year to healthy eating and I think this cleanse can get me to a great starting point--a cleaner body and some new eating habits. Like hot water and lemon in the morning, more green juices and green smoothies, and eating mostly vegetables throughout the day and fewer daily servings of wheat. I'm not quite in the school of thought that wheat needs to be completely eliminated from our diets, but I would like to generally eat less wheat and wheat products.

If I'm honest, I also hope to jump start some weight loss with this detox. I lost 30+ lbs. in 2010 and have kept it off, but would love to lose another 20+ lbs. Or at least lose inches in certain areas of my body. Whether that's 15, 20 or 25 lbs. from where I am now, I know when I'll get there.

How am I doing with Week 1?
Today is Day 5 and I'm feeling pretty good. The first three days were the roughest. I was hungry and cranky.. craving carbohydrates and sugar. I felt bloated and uncomfortable and quite fatigued by the end of the day, but at least I slept well! I maintained some low to moderate workouts throughout the week, which I think my digestive system welcomed as did my mental health! As many of you know, I exercise almost every day, so I needed to get out there and move for my personal sanity. By the middle of the week, I found some relief from the bloating (I'll spare you the details) and I felt as though I put the worst behind me. My body is now comfortable, although I do still fell hungry several times a day. Although.. maybe I'm not hungry but rather just craving sugar in the form of a cookie, muffin or even a bite of good bread! Those habits die hard! But after five straight days of this, I'm not wasting all that hard effort and sacrifice on a cheat so I'm sticking it out. On Monday I'll start Week 2 and be able to eat fish, legumes, and gluten free grains. The addition of protein will provide the liver with amino acids it needs to flush out more toxins.

My favorite recipes from Week 1: All of the green juices are very good, but I think I like the Cucumber-Pear Juice best. For the entrees, it's a toss up between the Creamy Broccoli Soup and the Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew. The latter tastes even better the next day!

Creamy Broccoli Soup
[see recipe link in paragraph above]
Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew
[see recipe link in paragraph above]
For recipes and more information about how the cleanse works, check out the January-February 2013 issue of Whole Living magazine on newsstands or the Whole Living website at http://www.wholeliving.com/216880/2013-whole-living-action-plan.

I also highly, highly recommend you visit Sarah Britton at her website My New Roots for tons of information on detoxing your body and living and eating clean and healthy. She offers sound advice and so many wonderful mouthwatering recipes that are super good for you. Here are some links to get you started:

Simple Detox For All from Sarah Britton at My New Roots

A New Year, A New You! Sarah B's Whole Living Detox Plan 2013

A New Year, A New You! Sarah B's Whole Living Detox Plan 2012

Have you ever treated your body to a detox before?

Have you ever given up a food or foods that you absolutely loved for an extended period of time? How did you do?


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Weekend Cooking, a weekly blog event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food related post to share--a food related book review (fiction or nonfiction), cookbook review, movie review, a recipe, random thoughts, gadgets, food quotations, photographs, etc. Please visit Beth's blog for more information and join the fun! 

Note: your post does not have to be posted on the weekend, but do visit Beth's blog over the weekend to link up your post. 



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

REVIEW: Surrender At Dawn by Laura Griffin

Digital Edition Short Story, Published June 14, 2011
TBR Challenge Review

This is the first month of the 2013 TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy the Super Librarian, encouraging readers to tackle their TBR pile one book at a time. Once again, Wendy created a list of suggested themes for each month, this month's theme being 'We love short shorts!'... short stories, novellas, category romance, etc. I actually read a lot of novellas, but very few stay on my shelf for very long without being read, so I searched the recesses of my virtual bookshelves and found this short story by romantic suspense author Laura Griffin.

Surrender At Dawn by Laura Griffin is a short romantic suspense story about a devoted sister who travels to Thailand in search of her brother who has gone missing while on a journalism assignment. Charlotte Whiteside knows her brother is in danger and arrives in Phuket, Thailand with a wad of cash and the name of an American pilot--John Brenner who she's been told to hire to find her brother on a remote island. The search and rescue of Charlotte's brother is deemed dangerous because it is believed he went to this particular island to interview a dangerous drug lord. John "Jack" Brenner is an ex-US Navy SEAL and just the man to do the job.

Surrender At Dawn is a pretty short story--not really long enough to develop the characters or their relationship as fully as I would have liked. However, for a short story, I think the author did a decent job of creating a suspenseful situation and bringing two characters together with the promise of something more between them. The ending to this story is realistic and suggests at the possibility of a future story between Charlotte and Jack. I hope that's the case, because I would enjoy reading another story in which they meet again.

3 out of 5 stars

I have Snapped by Laura Griffin, the 4th book in the Tracers series in my TBR pile and look forward to reading it.

Have you read any books by this author?


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Library Loot LXII

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! 

I'm starting the new year with a nice, thick stack of books from the library--just how I like it. I got these several days ago and can't wait to dive in.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

For the Group Read I'm hosting. Please join us!


The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

January's Book Club pick. Have you read it or seen the movie?

Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman

I've flipped through all the recipes.. I want to make everything. Next I'm going to read every page.

I had been on the hold list for Rod Stewart's new Christmas CD, Merry Christmas, Baby at the library since around mid December and finally got the call the other day that it was in. I debated whether or not to I still wanted and then thought why the heck not.. it's Rod Stewart singing Christmas music! I really like the CD, by the way. Very soothing but fun at the same time.

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

While I was at the library picking up the Christmas CD two weeks after I really wanted it, I decided to look for The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin--the book I'm considering reading for Joy's New Year's Resolution Reading Challenge, thanks to the idea by Vasilly (http://classicvasilly.wordpress.com/). I grabbed said book and then promptly proceeded to pull a whole bunch of books from the self help section into my arms, as well as some food & health related books and a cookbook in a different aisle. I'm pretty psyched to read through these books over the next couple weeks and hope they inspire me to live more fully, happily and healthfully in 2013. Here's what's in my stack:


Pictured above from top to bottom:

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff for Women by Kristine Carlson
A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
This Is Why You're Fat (And How to Get Thin Forever) by Jackie Warner
Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard

And finally...
A Year Of Pies by Ashely English

Because while I am all for thinking, living and eating for optimum health, I still plan LIVE. And therefore... eat pie. :)

Have you read any of these books?

Which, if any, of these books interest you?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

With Sadness

It is with sadness that I write this post to tell you that my dear elderly father-in-law, who has been under my and my husband's care for the last six years, has passed away this morning at 87 years old. Having suffered a severe stroke over a decade ago that left him in need of assistance with his daily life, my husband and I took him into our home and under our care when my mother-in-law passed away in late 2006. We expanded our home to include a bedroom and bathroom for him on the first floor [more about my father-in-law in our home here] and then three years later he suffered another minor stroke that left him more dependent than ever where he could no longer be left alone without supervision. My husband and I have been his full time caregiver pretty much every day, around the clock for the last six years. It has been very challenging to provide this kind of around the clock care for an elderly parent-- requiring personal and familial sacrifices and more patience than you can fathom. In that same breath, however, I will say that it has been an honor to have shared the role of care giver to this man who has lived his entire life with immense kindness, generosity and unconditional love towards other people--especially those lucky enough to be counted among his loved ones. He will be greatly missed.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best of 2012 In Books

I love this time of year when book bloggers post their favorite reads of the year. I get reminded of the books I wanted to read and may have missed and I always manage to add more to my must read list. Before I get to my most memorable books of 2012, I gathered some stats from my reading patterns last year. Just for fun.

By the numbers: 
I read ...
101 books total plus 8 online short stories

11 of the books I read were re-reads

37 library books
64 from my shelves
 8 online short fiction

33 were ebooks or online fiction
76 were paper books

71 novels/books
16 novellas
14 graphic novels
  8 online short fiction

I read books or stories by 66 distinct authors...

12 male authors     18.2%
54 female authors  81.8%

GENRE: 
Non fiction................... 3
Fiction .....................106

Romance...................... 55      52% 
    paranormal ..... 23
    contemporary.. 15
    historical ........ 14
    steampunk ....... 3
Graphic novels.............14       13.2%
Urban Fantasy ............ 13       12.3% 
Young adult ................. 7         6.6% 
Crime fiction ...............  7         6.6%
General fiction ............  6         5.6%
Fantasy ........................  3        2.8% 
Children's Literature...... 1        0.9%

Number of books per month:
   Jan    3
   Feb 14
   Mar 13
   Apr 12
   May  8
   Jun    5
   Jul     6
   Aug   9
   Sep    8
   Oct    7
   Nov 12
   Dec 12

My most memorable reads of 2012: 

The Book That Broke My Heart :
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones [2012]

Favorite Romance:
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Best Recommendation from a Friend:
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell [2011]
   and Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke [1998; re-issued ebook in 2012]

Fantastic Fantasy: 
Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman
and Cold Magic and Cold Fire by Kate Elliot

The Roller Coaster Book:
Gold by Chris Cleave [2012]
It was sad, happy, exciting, bittersweet and anger inducing all at the same time.

Best Debut:
Hearts of Darkness by Kira Brady [2012]

The Longest Linger :
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz [2012]
This book got under my skin and I thought about it for a long time after I finished it.

Short but Oh So Sweet:
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan [2012]
Deck The Halls with Love by Lorraine Heath [2012]
The Scandalous, Dissolute, No Good Mr. Wright by Tessa Dare [2012]

Most guilty pleasure:
Catching up on the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole [2008-2011]

Best Blast From the Past:
Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke [1998; re-issued ebook 2012]

Kicking Myself For Waiting So Long To Read This One:
 The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook [2010]  ...phenomenal world building!
    and The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley [2009] ...fascinating main character!

The Book That Challenged Me :
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I only read the first 275 pages or so back in November, but I'm going to pick this book back up soon and finish it. The volume of it still intimidates me, but it's 19th century chick lit which is fun, even if Tolstoy can be quite long winded at times.

The Ones That Got Away: 
  and are now on my list to read in 2013... 

As always, I could go on and on about the books I missed in 2012, but these are at the top of the list.

The Fault in Our Stars by John
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Easy by Tamara Webber
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Iced by Karen Marie Moning
Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley

What was your most memorable 2012 book? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Group Read of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Inspired by Leslie and Hilcia's wonderful reviews of Mariana by Susanna Kearsley and because several many commented and said they have always wanted to read a book by this author--or more books by this author, I've decided to host a very simple group read of Kearsley's The Winter Sea.

The Winter Sea is an historical time travel romance set on the shores of Scotland.


In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...



Hilcia's review of Mariana by Susanna Kearsley 
Leslie's review of Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

Leslie's review of The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Brie's review of The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsely

I'm sure I could provide you with link after link of rave reviews of Ms. Kearsley's books, but why not find out for yourself and join us as we read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley in the next few weeks. The book is about 527 pages and since I know so many of you fly through entire novels in just a couple of days, we'll keep this group read very simple. We'll start reading around the same time and have one day to discuss the book about two weeks after that to give some of us slow pokes some time to finish it. Of course, we can discuss the story during the reading period as we see fit.

In order to allow some time to spread the word and for everyone to get a hold of the book, let's start reading The Winter Sea together on or around January 21, chat about it as we go along and finish for a group discussion on February 4, 2013. For those of us on twitter, we can use the hash tag #WinterSea to discuss the book there.

If you'd like to join this group read of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley--which I hope you do, link up your blog to the Mr.Linky below. You don't have to have a blog to join the group read. If you don't, just leave your name in the comments below.

I hope you join us!



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My 2012 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

For all of you who laughed at me in good nature, of course, for joining so many Reading Challenges, Read-Alongs and Book Clubs, here's a review of what I set out to do last year and how I actually did.

[X] Book Pilgrimage 2012 
This was a little travel challenge hosted by Libby at Libby's Book Blog. The idea is to read a book and then take a pilgrimage to the setting of the book or a specific place associated with the author. I read Gold by Chris Cleave which is a novel about two female Olympic track cyclists and their professional and personal relationships. The book takes place over the course of several years, leading up to the London 2012 Olympics, which I attended with my family over the summer. Great book.. even better vacation. ;)

[X] R.I.P. VII 
Hosted by Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings in the fall [Northern Hemisphere], this reading event focuses on mysteries, thrillers, dark fantasy, horror, etc.. I joined a few of the challenges and met all of the requirements--including a Group Read-Along of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. It was a great way to get into the spooky mood for Halloween with this one. I plan to join again this year. You can read more about what I read and watched for this event HERE.

[ ] Once Upon A Time VI 
Hosted by Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings in the spring [Northern Hemisphere], this reading event focuses on reading fantasy, folklore, mythology and fairy tales. I didn't quite meet two the three challenges I set out to do with this one. I read Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere for the Group Read-Along, which counted as my fantasy read and I read a folklore and mythology based book, but didn't read a fairy-tale nor did I get around to Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Maybe I'll finally follow through with this one in 2013.

[ ] In Death Series by J.D. Robb Reading Challenge [ongoing]
This is an ongoing reading challenge that I have been hosting since January 2010 as I read the entire 34 book and counting crime fiction series by the very prolific J.D. Robb [Nora Roberts]. I fell off schedule with this one, having read only 5 full length novels and 2 novellas. I'm hoping to be completely caught up to the author in 2013.

[ ] A-Z Mystery Challenge [ongoing]
Michelle at Red-Headed Book Child came up with this mystery reading challenge a few years ago for anyone who wanted to try to read their way through the alphabet of author last names. I haven't gotten far, but added one to my list in 2012. I need to work on this one some more.

[ ] Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2012
I didn't complete this one. I borrowed Sputnik Sweetheart in late December, but I didn't get around to picking it up. Maybe I'll pay penance and read TWO Murakami books in 2013.

[X] TBR Challenge
This romance-focused challenge is hosted by Wendy The Super Librarian and is aimed at helping reduce that TBR pile by reading one book per month from your shelf. I read all 12 books for this one, although I didn't get around to reviewing two of them. I'm still saying I finished this challenge because I did comment on them on twitter which is an allowed form of reporting in your book read. Here's a list of what I read for this challenge and links to my reviews, if you're interested.

January:       The Longest Night by Kathleen O'Reilly
February:     Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt
March:         Ecstasy Unveiled by Larissa Ione
                    Sin Undone by Larissa Ione
April:           A Dangerous Beauty by Sophia Nash
May:           Saving Grace by Julie Garwood
June:           Caine's Reckoning by Sarah McCarty
July:            Danger's Kiss by Sarah McKerrigan
August:       Deeper by Megan Hart
September:  Riftwalker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
October:      Demon From the Dark by Kresley Cole
November:  The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
December:  Holiday Kisses by Shannon Stacey et al.

[X] The Big Book Challenge 2012
Hosted by orannia from Walkabout, this challenge encourages readers to read that BIG book [over 500 pages] that you have been intimidated to read because it is so long. I chose to read Eon and Eona by Alison Goodman as my Big Book Challenge and completed it in March 7, 2012. Great YA fantasy books, by the way. I ended up reading a handful of other books over 500 pages, too.

[X] Year of the Fantasy Classic 
Hosted my KMont at Lurv a la Mode, this challenge was designed to encourage readers to read more classic fantasy novels. I made a list of fantasy novels I'd read in 2012, and only read TWO books from my original list. I ended up reading other fantasy novels, though, and surpassed my goal of reading six fantasy novels. Here's a list of the fantasy novels I read in 2012:

     1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien [graphic novel]
     2. Eon by Alison Goodman
     3. Eona by Alison Goodman
     4. The Amulet Series, Books 1-4 by Kazu Kibuishi
     5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
     6. Cold Magic by Kate Elliot
     7. The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa
     8. The Riftwalker by Clay & Susan Griffith
     9. Cold Fire by Kate Elliot
   10. Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning [graphic novel]


[X] What's In a Name 5 
This fun challenge is hosted by Beth F at Beth Fish Reads and is an annual favorite of mine. The goal is to read six books--titles of which match each of the preset categories. I usually just read what I want and end up filling in the requirements, but this year I actually had to hunt down a book that would work for one of them--the type of house. But I did it! Here's what I read for this one:

1. A book with a topographical feature in the title.
                 The Riftwalker by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title.
                 Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title.
                 Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
4. A book with a type of house in the title.
                The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse or backpack in the title.
                Archangel's Blade by Nalini Singh
6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title.
                The Arrival by Shaun Tan

[X] E-Book Challenge 2012 
Hosted by Sarah from Workday Reads, this challenge encourages readers to read a set number of ebooks during the year. I chose the 25 ebook level and barely managed to finish this one on time! Finished it on December 30, 2012. Phew!

[X] OutDo Yourself Reading Challenge 2012
This challenge was hosted by The Book Vixen and challenged readers to read more books in 2012 than you read in 2011. I needed to read 101 books and managed to finish with 102! Not all were full length novels--some were novellas and graphic novels, but I still count those. I did count books that I re-read in 2012, but I did not count the online short fiction stories I read for the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep, although they are in my 100+ Books List.

[X] 100+ Books In A Year Reading Challenge 2012
Hosted by Book Chick City. I made it! I listed all the books [except cookbooks] in my original post HERE. I included short online fiction that I read in the list, but I'm not counting them towards my actual total. My list also doesn't match up to my 2012 goodreads challenge because not all of the books I re-read in 2012 were included on goodreads since they were already documented in a prior year. This is how I read a total of 101 books:

109 books/stories read - 8 online super short stories = 101 TOTAL Books Read in 2012

How did you do with your 2012 Reading Challenges?

Are you joining any Reading Challenges in 2013? 

I'll be joining a few. But you're not surprised about that, are you? ; )

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day 5K

Happy New Year!

For the last four years, I've started my New Year with a local 5K Race called The Hangover Run, aptly named following a night of perhaps one too many glasses of champagne the night before as people welcome the New Year. For me, I just like starting my year with a push.

Running 5K isn't particularly challenging for me--that's the distance I typically run two days a week among my other workouts. But running a race is always a push because I can't just go out there and do it to have fun. Oh I do have fun doing it, but I guess I'm a bit competitive [with myself] and I feel compelled to try to beat my time from my last race and set a personal best. Well, sadly, I didn't do that. I ran 5K in 30:59 [9:58 min mile pace] which is faster than my every day pace, but not faster than I ran it last January [30:31] or faster than my personal best [30:02]. I know I should be pleased with my effort and results, but truthfully, I'm kinda disappointed. But don't worry.. I'll get over it.
Hangover Run 5K
January 1, 2012
Because you know what I'm going to do about my disappointment? Turn it into motivation! I'm going to train more seriously to improve my running time in 2013. Which, I think includes losing some weight and finally reaching my target weight in 2013. I mean.. who wants to run 3+ miles with a 20lb. backpack on? I didn't think so.  So here I am repeating my goal for the last two years to run a 5K in under 30 minutes by the end of the year.

Looking back for a moment...

In 2012: 
I RAN        244.87 miles
I BIKED  1672.43 miles

I SPENT 292.71 hours EXERCISING

THAT'S 12 days 4 hours 48 minutes OF EXERCISE.

Which actually doesn't sound like a whole heck of a lot to me right now. . But if you want to see what I did in all those hours of exercise, feel free to scroll through my monthly workout logs on my fitness journal blog See How She Runs...

So what do I want to accomplish in 2013?
I'm still exploring specific events, but I'd like to do the following: 
  • Run a 5K Race in under 30 minutes. 
  • Bike another Gran Fondo [100 miles] or other long distance bike event. 
  • Do another Sprint Triathlon.  

My first choice is to do the Danskin Tri again, but once again.. it is on the SAME DAY as the NJ Gran Fondo, so I'm not sure what I'll do. Maybe the SheRox Tri in August if it doesn't coincide with our summer vacation. I'll have to see.. 


What are your fitness goals for 2013?

Wishing you all a year of good health and happiness in 2013!