Monday, January 31, 2011

Fitness Challenge Report Card: January 2011

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

So how did everyone do with their fitness challenge miles this month?

Here's a reminder of everyone's January goals:

1. Christine 100
2. Lori 75
3. Gina 16+
4. azteclady 25
5. Brandy 80
6. Deanna TBD
7. Leslie 50
8. Crystal 90
9. Zee TBD
10. Sarai 32
11. Beverly TBD

I did way better than I expected to this month. I set my goal for 100 fitness miles and ended the month with a total of 130 fitness miles!!! There were two atypical events that helped me earn atypical fitness miles this month. One was the 3 hour spin-a-thon I did early in the month that earned 12 fitness miles in just one workout, which is usually how many miles I do in three days!

The other atypical event that pushed me far over my goal was the fact that this month was one of the snowiest months on record for my area EVER. Which from an exercise perspective, means I shoveled a lot of snow all month long... a total of 20 fitness miles worth. I even wore my heart rate monitor while I shoveled to monitor my fitness level and determine how many calories I burned shoveling snow. It's a decent workout. Not as much as my usual cardio workouts, but definitely more than strength training or face paced walking.

Here's a rundown of my types of workouts and the number of "fitness" miles I earned for each activity.

Spinning & Abs 44
Strength Training 24
Snow Shoveling 20
Bootcamp 16
Kickboxing & Abs 12
Running 8
Zumba 4
Yoga/Stretching 2


Without the spin-a-thon and snow shoveling, I would have come in at a total of 102 miles, which would have still allowed me to meet my goal, so I think 100 fitness miles per month is a realistic goal for me.

I'm going to set my goal for 100 again for February, although it's probably less likely I'll meet it. For one, it's a shorter month with two less days than January, two of which I already know are going to be exercise-free for medical reasons. Also, there are no spin-a-thons on the horizon and hopefully not nearly as many snowstorms! I'm seriously considering asking Santa for cross country skis or snowshoes for next Christmas... ;)

How did you do with your fitness challenge goal for January?

Did you have trouble meeting your goal?

If so, what were some of your obstacles?
Time? Motivation? Illness?

I hope you all join me again for February! :)
Please include your February fitness mile goal in the comments.

Thank you all for participating. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge Post: January 2011

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!

I just realized today that I never pulled a winner for the December challenge giveaway! There were three participants who read four or more In Death books from September to December 2010: Lori, Maija and Sarah. I used to select a winner and the winner is.....

Sarah! :)

Congrats! I'll be sending you an email so we can work out your prize.

The next giveaway will be at the end of April. To be qualified for the giveaway, you must read at least four In Death books between January and April, 2011. You need to post a review or keep a list somewhere on your blog as you read the books. If you don't have a blog, you need to leave a comment in the monthly end of the month round-up posts I make here on my blog stating which book(s) you read. Most of all, though, have fun reading this series!

As for me, I've fallen a bit behind schedule. I didn't read an In Death book in December or January. I'm sure once I get the urge to pick one up, I'll find my groove again.

How did you do?

Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily.

If you're just keeping a running list of the books as you read them, grab the link to your list post and enter in the Mr. Linky so we can recognize your success this month.

If you're reading or rereading without documenting it on your blog, let me know in the comments which book(s) you read in this month. This will also help me keep track of who's eligible for the challenge giveaway this month!

REMINDER: In order to be eligible for the challenge giveaway in April 2011, you must have read four In Death books between January 1, 2011 and April 30, 2011 and have documented that you have either on your own blog or on my blog within the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts.

I think it's pretty safe to say we are all thoroughly enjoying this series and have grown very fond of the characters. So much so that when we pick up the next book, it's like visiting with friends. But chances are there are some things about the series that bug you now and then.

Series pet peeves?

I have two.

One. I think Roarke's role as civilian consultant on almost every single one of Eve's cases lately has become utterly ridiculous. Not only do I find it farfetched that the NYPSD would allow it, but I'm starting to think it would go against Eve's nature as well. Although who am I to think the latter when I'm not the one writing Eve's character. Also, I think he'd be kind of busy buying and selling and managing half the private world like he does and not realistically have the time to stay up all night hacking systems to get Eve data she needs to crack a case? Or to drive her to places so that he can break into them for her. This kind of Roarke interference is starting to lose some credibility with me.

Two. Roarke ought to be putting in a little bit more effort beyond commanding Eve 'go over' immediately upon entry.

Your turn. Do you have any pet peeves? If so, spill.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

REVIEW: The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

B This is the January book selection for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club. For links to other reviews and a book discussion, visit Marce at Tea Time With Marce.

How far would you go to protect a sibling-and at what cost to yourself?

The Stormchasers is a story about Karena Jorge and her twin brother Charles, who has a bipolar disorder. Karena and Charles have an affinity towards each other, a twin radar or "twindar" that always kept them close. As teenagers, they set on different paths. While Karena was preparing for college, Charles was seemingly adrift with only his obsession with chasing storms keeping him focused. Charles' behavior became more erratic as he refused his medication and on the night of their 18th birthday, Charles and Karena chased a storm that ended with deadly consequences and a secret that changed their lives forever. Within days, Charles was admitted to a mental hospital and Karena left for college and it isn't until 20 years later that the two are reunited.

Karena, who is now a successful news reporter, joins a professional stormchaser team under the guise of doing a story in an effort to finally find Charles, knowing wherever tornadoes are, Charles will be, too. Karena finds more than just her lost twin on this adventure, though. She finds lifelong answers about friendship, family and love... but will she and Charles ever find peace and forgiveness from the nightmare that occurred 20 years ago on that fateful night of their 18th birthday?

The Stormchasers is an interesting story about the strong bond and affection between twins, bipolar disorder and the metaphorical use of tornadoes to describe bipolar disorder. The author presented many great facets of the characters and the story arc, yet I felt I spent a lot of page time anticipating and waiting for startling character developments or plot revelations that never came to full fruition. I never felt completely convinced that the characters themselves truly recognized their own growth or the strength in their connections, especially regarding Karena. Charles seemed to understand himself more and is actually more at peace with himself than Karena, which was actually unexpected and quite refreshing given he's the one with the 'disorder.'

The story is told in the third person present, following Karena's perspective which I found a bit unusual and I think it kept me from becoming absorbed into the story. Karena goes here, she does this, she sees this, remembers this, thinks this and then eats this and then goes there. I don't know... I felt like I was just watching over her shoulder, but never really getting to know her or experiencing her story. I also felt the pacing was choppy for the first half of the book. The story finally started to come to life for me about halfway through when we meet Charles.

While learning about Charles through Karena's memories of their childhood and teenage years, I felt pity for him and silently begged for him to stay on his meds so that he'd be 'normal' and safe. Yet, when Karena and Charles are finally reunited and I see Charles in the present, through my own eyes, I developed tremendous admiration for him. During the years he and Karena were apart, Charles was chasing storms but finding himself along the way. He learned to respect his body, learn its rhythms and be true to his heart. He may not be as successful in life as seen from the eyes of society, but to me it's apparent that he was more productive in finding contentment with himself and his life than the lonely, haunting life his twin was living. Not only that, but it turns out that Charles was actually the one protecting Karena all these years by keeping their dark secret, not the other way around, which was quite a satisfying revelation for me.

As a reader who is fond of romance and happily ever after endings, I am pleased to report that there is a romantic subplot for Karena and a stormchaser she meets on her trip to find Charles. While a fairy tale ending would not be fitting for this story for either Karena or Charles, simply given the nature of their story, the author still penned a happy ending perfectly suited to the characters. I gave The Stormchasers three out of five stars on goodreads, which translates to 'I like it'. According to the grading system I adopted here on my blog, but haven't used ages, I would give The Stormchasers a B-.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Library Loot XXXI

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! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's.

Of what do you think when you hear the word loot?

Stolen goods? Acquired by some thrilling adventure? Like pirate loot? Exactly!

This week, my library loot is definitely feeling like pirate loot, because I practically stole books from my library! Okay, not literally, but it sure feels like it! I went to my library's used book sale last weekend where the going rate was $8 for all the books you could fit in a paper grocery bag! I am seriously efficient at packing a grocery bag. Check out all that I brought home for only eight bucks:

At left:
Memnoch The Devil by Anne Rice
Servant of the Bones by Anne Rice {duplicate}

Because for some reason I have been on an unofficial quest to acquire a complete set of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and The Lives of the Mayfair Witches in hardcover {in used condition}. Rice's Vampire Chronicles are practically considered classics in vampire literature. Not quite considered as such compared to Stoker's Dracula, but nearly classic nonetheless. Years ago, I found several of Rice's hardcovers at a used book sale for dirt cheap and decided they'd make a great addition to my personal library. Besides, they have great cover art and the spines looks gorgeous on a bookshelf. Then I acquired a few more when my friend Mariana was cleaning out her personal library. I think I have only two or three to find to complete my set.

The next stack of books are nearly all young adult novels, except for the two at the top.

From bottom to top:
Clockwork Angel by Clarissa Clare
The One Where The Kid Nearly Jumps To His Death And Lands in California by Mary Hershey
The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan
A Northern Light** by Jennifer Donnelly
Hard Love** by Ellen Wittlinger
Betwitxt by Tara Bray Smith
Pure Sunshine by Brian James
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

** Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Award Honor Book

The last stack of books consists of a few literary fiction, chick lit and romance novels along with a few Christmas themed novellas.

From bottom to top:
Don't Look Down by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer {duplicate}
Away by Amy Bloom
Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh
Little Chapel on the River by Gwendolyn Bounds
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Julie and Romeo by Jeanne Ray
Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
When Christmas Comes by Debbie Macomber
Waiting For Nick & Considering Kate by Nora Roberts

All those books for $8? Now that's what I call loot! :o)

Anything there that you've read or sparks your interest?

Friday, January 21, 2011

"The Women of Fantasy" Book Club

I've joined another online Book Club. :)

I made note of this online book club when I first stumbled upon it months ago. It is hosted by Erika at Jawas Eat Books and showcases some popular fantasy books written by women, hence "The Women of Fantasy" Book Club. It looks like most, if not all, of the protagonists in the books are women as well, although I haven't confirmed this. I've mentioned this book club a couple of times in passing, but have put off joining for reasons I don't even know. I read one adult fantasy novel last year and it ended up being one of my favorite reads of the whole year, so I vowed to read more fantasy in 2011. This book club is the perfect inspiration for me to reach that goal, too, because Erika has put together the perfect reading list that includes some titles that already caught my eye such as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Gaslight Dogs, books by authors whose I wanted to read like Cherie Priest, Juliet Marillier, Mercedes Lackey and other very interesting sounding books, most of which I'll borrow from my local libraries when the time comes.

As if I was't already sold, another plus is that there is absolutely no pressure with this book club. None! You don't have to write book reviews, you don't have to read each month's book selection and you don't even have to participate in the book discussion if you don't want to. Although, why you wouldn't want to, I'm not sure... isn't the whole point of a book club to discuss the book? ;)

I know two other bloggers who are participating--Kerry and Kristen, and so far I've tricked convinced another fantasy reading book blogging friend to join "The Women of Fantasy" Book Club with me (Hi KMont!) and I know of at least one other who is thinking about it (No pressure, Hilcia). I hope you might consider joining this book club with me, too. Or if you joined already, let me know!

I already have January's book-- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin borrowed from the library and look forward to starting it soon.

To learn more about the book club, see a list of books we'll be reading and to sign up, visit Erika's post 2011 Book Club: The Women of Fantasy.

I really hope you'll consider joining! Let me know if you do.

There's also a sister challenge being hosted by TJ at Dreams and Speculation-- 2011 Book Club: The Women of SF [Science Fiction]. Be sure to check that out, too! They'll be reading The Handmaid's Tale by Maragaret Atwood in November. Would you believe I've never read it? I might just tag along for the ride that month.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Library Loot XXX

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! This week's Library Loot is at Claire's.

I grabbed these first three books for my youngest daughter. She's a picky reader and has just come off a streak of reading a whole bunch of books and now nothing appeals to her. We can all relate to that, right? Now if I suggest these books to her, she won't read them. If she finds them just laying around on the coffee table, however, she might just pick them up. Or maybe I will!

Peeled by Joan Bauer (2008)
Newberry Honor Author of Hope Was Here.
In an upstate New York farming community, high school reporter Hildy Biddle investigates a series of strange occurrences at a house rumored to e haunted.

A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin (2002)
A Newberry Honor Book. Another book set in a small town community, Hattie Owen's world gets turned upside down when her Uncle with mental disabilities arrives.

Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning (2003)
Seventeen year old Molly Montgomery learns about the cost of fame and stardom when her band, The Hormones gets a big break.

These three young adult novels are my picks. The first is a re-loot.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006)
A Michael L. Printz Award For Excellence in Young Adult Literature Book.
Abandoned by her drug addict mother at the age of eleven, high school student Taylor Markham struggles with her identity and family history at a boarding school in Australia.

Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2007)
I've read two books by this author team--Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist which I read in 2008 and thought was decent, and then more recently Dash & Lily's Book of Dares which I absolutely adored, so it seemed logical to pick up this one, published in 2007.

Although they have been friends and neighbors all their lives, straight Naomi and gay Eli find their relationship severely strained during their freshman year at New York University.

Marly's Ghost by David Levithan (2006)
While exploring the shelves for more books written by David Levithan, I spied this one and thought it sounded cute. It's basically a modern day twist on The Christmas Carol set on Valentine's Day.

The spirit of Ben's girlfriend Marly returns with three other ghosts to haunt him with a painful journey through Valentine's Days past, present and future.

One more young adult selection.

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams.

I sought this book out after having read a review by Ana of The Book Smugglers last fall. I was next in line on the holds list for it at the library for literally months and it finally came in-- surely the person who had it out surely paid beyond what it cost in overdue fines. Anyway, I just finished reading it yesterday and am still mulling it over. The book is very well written and I think very highly of it. I'm just trying to decide how to effectively explain why it's such a good book when the story left me feeling kind of sad and lost.

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum
I read this book last week for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club that I'm in hosted by Paula at the blog called Tome's Devotee. This is the book chosen for the letter 'B.'

This is a story about a set of twins--one who is bipolar and the other who is not-- who haven't seen each other for twenty years and the consequences of their harboring a dark kept secret all that time and how this secret has affected them and their relationships with others and each other. It also creatively uses storms--specifically tornadoes-- as a metaphor for the mental cycles of a bipolar individual.

The Hundred Tousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Book One of the Inheritance Trilogy

I don't have a Library of Congress summary for this one, but on the cover it says this:

Gods and Mortals. Power and Love. Death and Revenge. She will inherit them all.

I know nothing else about this book, but I have been curious about it for a while and it happens to be the January reading selection for the Women in Fantasy 2011 Reading Club hosted by Erika at the blog Jawas Read Too in which I hope to participate even though I still haven't officially signed up. I guess I feel a little out of my element signing up for a fantasy book club when I don't read a lot of straight fantasy, but I'm really intrigued by the titles selected for the year. I'm still hoping to just bite the bullet and join! I guess borrowing the book from the library this week is one step closer to joining. ;)

Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? Opinions? :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fitness Mid Month Progress Report: January 2011

I still haven't played around with making a graphic button for this challenge, but I hope to set aside some time before the end of the month to do that.

How is everyone doing with their workouts so far this month?

I hope you've all had a great start to your Fitness Challenge! 

I've been having a seriously kick-ass workout month! :D

If you're also having great workouts so far this month--high five and keep it up!

If you're off to a slow start, DON'T STRESS OVER IT! What's done--or not done in this case-- is done. You can't go back and redo the last two weeks for any part of your life, so there's no sense beating yourself up over it. What you can do is learn from it. Take that disappointment you may have and transform that into motivation. Prove to yourself that you can do this. That you want to do this because it's important to you. Then get out there and move!

So, what has everyone been doing for fitness miles?

I learned in the last year or so that I am definitely a cross trainer. Basically, I thrive physically and mentally when I switch up my workouts on a daily basis. I do this by attending a variety of fitness classes at my gym each week and throwing in a day or two of running or biking outdoors. I've also accepted the fact that I'm fitness class junkie. I love the loud, pumping music, the camaraderie of group instruction and having someone constantly telling me what to do, how to do it, and to do it faster, harder, stronger over the loud speakers. My favorite instructor at the gym, is just about the only person I allow this privilege. I wonder if she realizes how much I let her get away with? LOL ;)

Today is my first non-workout day since December 30, 2010 and a much deserved day of rest. It's also a great day to reflect on all that I accomplished in the last two weeks. I have worked out every day since New Year's Eve, racking up a whopping 64 fitness miles doing my cross training thing-- Zumba, spinning, kickboxing, running, bootcamp, strength training, a yoga-like stretch class and an hour of shoveling snow, plus this three hour spin-a-thon that I participated at my gym last Sunday. For the spin-a-thon, each of the three hours was an hour of spin taught by a different instructor. The instructors had completely different styles of teaching, and also played very different types of music, so that helped mix things up a bit and kept me from getting bored. My hip flexors and knees started to ache a little in the last twenty minutes or so, but I finished strong. I took advantage of a 30 minute stretch class at the end, and boy did that feel good. I was exhausted when I got home, but after a hot shower, some food and a nap, I felt great! Nearly a week later, and I still feel a great sense of accomplishment for it. I imagine I'll feel similarly in September when I do the triathlon! I can't wait! ^_^

Please share your progress so far this month in the comments. We want to hear about your accomplishments and any disappointments or frustrations, too.

We're all here to support each other and provide motivation. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best of 2010 {in Books}

Better late than never, here is my annual reading stats and my list of favorite books that I read 2010. Note that while many of my favorites were published in 2010, some were published in late 2009 or even earlier.

I read 83 books in 2010, averaging bout 7 books per month. I didn't make my goal of reading 100 books, but I sure read some really fantastic books last year.

As little as three years ago, I read predominantly paranormal romance. Every year since then my reading preferences have become more and more diverse. Last year, I read from ten different genres and sub-genres.

Mystery/Crime fiction.... 24
Young Adult .... 17
Historical Romance..... 15
Contemporary Romance.... 8
Urban Fantasy .... 7
Literary Fiction.... 6
Paranormal Romance .... 2
Children's Fiction.... 2
Fantasy.... 1
Steampunk.... 1

Mystery/crime fiction dominated my reading last year at a total of 24 books. This dominance was largely due to my challenge to catch up in the In Death series by J.D. Robb, of which I read 14 books. While the In Death series is largely considered a romantic suspense series by romance readers, I have come to recognize it more as a mystery or crime fiction series, a classification with which I believe libraries and bookstores agree. The series is undeniably character driven, focusing on the actions of detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she solves homicides in a futuristic New York City and inevitably on her private life with her husband Roarke and their small network of friends and colleagues as well. If you're not reading this series yet, why not challenge yourself to try the first book, Naked In Death, and see what you think? Be sure to check out the In Death Series Reading Challenge hosted here as well.

Now for my favorite books of 2010.

Most Compelling Series:
There are two series of which I picked up and read the first book and I found it so compelling that I couldn't help but devour the subsequent books in the series.

The Lily Bard Mystery books by Charlaine Harris (Mystery)
This series of stories were published some time ago, and I don't recall what prompted me to pick up the first book when I saw it on the shelf while browsing the limited selection of paperbacks at my library. I just know that I was instantly and completely drawn to Lily Bard and her stories. The books are a bit on the dark or bleak side, but the Lily felt so real to me from the very first page. So much so that I actually missed Lily after I finished the last book.

Shakespeare's Landlord (1996)
Shakespeare's Champion (1997)
Shakespeare's Christmas (1998)
Shakespeare's Trollop (2000)
Shakespeare's Counselor (2001)


The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning (Urban Fantasy)

I read the first book in this series, Darkfever, in the summer of 2007, but was inspired to re-read it for a Fever series Read Along hosted by SmexyBooks and FictionVixen blogs in anticipation of the release of the 5th and final book in the series, Shadowfever, which releases January 18, 2011. I'm so glad I decided to give the series a try again, because when I re-read Darkfever, I liked it so much better than the first time I read it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much more, that I wasted no time picking up and reading the next three books, Bloodfever, Faefever and Dreamfever. Now I'm sitting on pins and needles, waiting for Shadowfever. I haven't been in such a state of anticipation for a new book release in a really long time. One more week!

Darkfever (2006)
Bloodfever (2007)
Faefever (2008)
Dreamfever (2009)

Shadowfever (2011) coming January 18, 2011...

Favorite 'Aren't You Too Old to be Reading That?'*, 
a.k.a Young Adult:
*category name courtesy of Lurv a la Mode

I read SO many really fantastic young adult books this year. Every single one was wonderfully written, really engaging and creative, all with characters whom I adored. In fact, nearly every single one I read teeters toward the top of my list of favorite books of 2010. But one stands out as THE Best Young Adult Book of 2010:

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (2010)

Honorable Mentions:
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (2010) (contemporary)
Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005) (contemporary)
Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater (2009) (urban fantasy)
Beastly by Alex Flinn (2007) (modern fairy-tale)
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (2010 US) (dystopian-fantasy)
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (2009) (magical realism)
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater (2010) (paranormal)
I'll stop there... ;)

Worth Every Single Tear:
These two novels made me cry. A lot. But both books also provided a few good laughs and were overall incredibly satisfying reads with genuine, sigh worthy happy endings. Thank God.

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins (2010)
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (2010)

Smart & Sexy Historical Romances:
One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare (2010) 
Proof by Seduction by Courtney Milan (2010) 
Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran (2010)
The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros (2010)

Most Heart-Pounding-Edge-of-Your-Seat-Thrilling Read:
Bloodfever No, no, actually Faefever was more exciting.
But omg... Dreamfever!! My blood pressure was totally elevated reading this one. Okay, okay, so I'm going with the whole dang series as the most thrilling read of 2010 for me.

The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Surprise Favorite Read:
Except the Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder (2010)

I first heard of this book from The Book Smugglers who posted a favorable review early in the year. The premise of the story appealed to me, but I don't read a lot of straight fantasy, so my curiosity wasn't piqued enough to seek the book out and read it. But when I saw it come in my library a few weeks later, I figured I had nothing to lose and should give it a try. I am so glad I did, because Except the Queen turned out to be one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. Beautiful writing, wonderfully drawn out characters and a compelling story line. It has even inspired me to read more straight fantasy fiction in 2011. :)

Most Read Author of the Year:
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
I read 4 contemporary romances written by Nora Roberts and 14 of her In Death series futuristic crime fiction novels written under the pen name J.D. Robb.

Here's to another year of amazing books in 2011.

Cheers! :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reading Challenge Addict Challenge

Last but not least....

Hosts: Gina of Hott Books and Cheryl of CMash Loves to Read.

Challenge: To complete all of your 2011 Reading Challenges.

This might just be the most challenging of challenges. Including the ongoing In Death Series Reading Challenge that I've been in since January 2010, I am participating in a total of seven reading challenges. Well, I guess this one makes eight. ;)

I will keep a running list of my completed reading challenges in this post.

1. Steampunk Challenge 2011                                 June 8, 2011
2. Out-Do Yourself Reading Challenge                  October 28, 2011
3. What's In A Name 4 Reading Challenge             November 27, 2011
4. E-Book Challenge                                               December 7, 2011
5. Holiday Reading Challenge                                 December 26, 2011
6. Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge 2011         December 31, 2011 
7. 100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge 2011   December 31, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge STILL ONGOING
2011 Book Club "Women of Fantasy" I only read 3 out of 12 books. 

1. Once Upon a Time V Challenge [spring only]   FAILED 3/5 
2. A-Z Mystery Challenge                                      FAILED 4/26 
3. Big Book Reading Challenge                             FAILED  0/1 
4. Take a Chance Challenge 3                                FAILED  0/10
5. Reading Challenge Addict Challenge 2011        FAILED 7/12

To sign up for this challenge, visit these two fun, reading challenge addicts HERE.

In Death Series Reading Challenge {ongoing}

This is an invitational post to anyone who wishes to join the ongoing In Death Series Reading Challenge that was started in January of last year, but is an open enrollment challenge that can be joined at any time no matter where you are in the series.

The In Death series is a widely popular futuristic crime fiction series with romantic elements, written by author J.D. Robb.

Host: Christine at the happily ever after... (that's me!)

Challenge: Read at least one book per month from the In Death series by J.D. Robb until you are caught up to the latest release in the series.

There are currently 38 stories published in this series, including 31 full length novels and 7 short stories or novellas.

I am currently up to the 19th book and anticipate completing the challenge in late 2012 or early 2013. :P

You can write reviews or simply keep a running list of the books you read like I do HERE. At the end of the month, I post a discussion post in which participants share their thoughts on characters, plot points or trends in the series.

Anyone who is interested in joining the In Death Series Reading Challenge can visit the sign up post HERE. The sign up post details the challenge rules and contains a list of the series books in order.

Come join the fun!

A-Z Mystery Challenge {by the author}

Host: Michelle at red headed book child blog.

Challenge: Read 26 mysteries, one book for each letter of the alphabet that corresponds with an author's last name.

It's unlikely that I'll actually read 26 mysteries in 2011, but it is a genre of which I'd like to read more, so I figure joining this challenge will give me a fun method of selecting and tracking the mysteries I read. Plus it is hosted by my darling friend Michelle. :)

Please leave any suggestions for mystery authors in the comments. I have a preference for cozy mysteries and or mysteries with romantic elements. Thank you!

E Dianne Emley, The First Cut 
H Charlaine Harris, Grave Sight, Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave
R J.D. Robb,  multiple In Death series crime fiction novels
W Heather Webber, Deeply, Desperately
Z Carlos Ruiz Záfon, Prince of the Mist

Sign up for this reading challenge HERE.

E-Book Challenge 2011

Host: La Coccinelle at The LadyBug Reads

Challenge: Read the minimum number of ebooks for your chosen level. Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.

There are different levels to the challenge, depending on how many ebooks you want to challenge yourself to read in a year. I'm going with Addicted which is 12 ebooks, but am hoping it's even more. While I have an iPad now that is a dream for reading ebooks, I still have a lot of paper books on my shelves to read plus the library always calls to me!

I'll keep a running list of the ebooks I read this year here in this post.

1. Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
2. Reaper by Rachel Vincent
3. Pieces of Paper by Jeannie Lin
4. The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
5. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
6. Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
7. Everything Changes by Megan Hart
8. I Love The Earl by Caroline Linden
9. Summer's Crossing by Julie Kagawa
10. The Bastard by Brenda Novak
11. Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare
12. A Taste of Midnight by Lara Adrian

***** CHALLENGE COMPLETED on December 7, 2011 *****

13. The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland -- For a Little While by Catherynne M. Valente
14. To Desire a Scoundrel by Tracy Sumner
15. The French Maid by Sabrina Jeffries

Take a Chance Challenge 3

Host: Jenners at Life... with Books.

Challenge: Challenge yourself to take chances with your reading by finding books to read in unusual and random ways based on the challenges listed below. Challenge runs from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.

I stumbled upon this very creative reading challenges and think it would definitely encourage me to expand my reading horizons and read books that I wouldn't have otherwise selected.

1. [Bookstore] Staff Member's Choice
2. Loved One's Choice
3. Blogger's Choice
4. Critic's Choice
5. Blurb Book [by one author who blurbs another]
6. Book Seer Pick
7. What Should I Read Next
8. Which Book
9. LibraryThing Pick
10. Pick a Method
[Random, Public Spying or Random Bestseller]

It should be interesting to see what books I take chances with through this challenge. :)

Want to join? For a more detailed explanation of each category and to sign up, visit Jenners at the Take a Chance 3 Challenge post HERE.

Steampunk Challenge

Host: Rikki at The Bookkeeper.

Challenge: Read steampunk books from October 2010 through October 2011.

This challenge is running from October 2010 to October 2011, but am listing it among my 2011 Reading Challenges. Rikki hasn't established a minimum number of books to read for this challenge because her goal is to simply encourage readers to explore the steampunk genre and share their thoughts with others without obligation or pressure. I hope to read at least five steampunk novels for this challenge.

I'll keep a running list of the steampunk novels I read for this challenge here in this post.

1. "Here There Be Monsters" novella by Meljean Brook
2. The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith

What's In a Name 4 Reading Challenge

Host: Beth F of Beth Fish Reads

Challenge: Read one book from each of the six categories below between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011.


1. A book with a number in the title
2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title
3. A book with a size in the title
4. A book with travel or movement in the title
5. A book with evil in the title
6. A book with a life stage in the title

I had so much fun choosing books from my TBR and the library shelves to fit last year's categories, that I just had to do it again this year.

I will keep a running list of the books I read for this challenge here in this post.

1. A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
2. The Amulet Graphic Novels by Kazu Kibuishi 
3. Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips 
4. Into the Flame by Christina Dodd 
5. Kiss Me Deadly anthology edited by Trisha Telep
6. Imitation in Death by J.D. Robb

****** CHALLENGE COMPLETED NOVEMBER 27, 2011 *******

100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge 2011

Host: Book Chick City
Challenge: Read 100+ books from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.

I've inched closer and closer to reading 100 books every year in the last several years that I've kept track of the books I read.

In 2008, I read 61 books.
In 2009, I read 79 books.
In 2010, I read 83 books.

In 2011, I'm hoping to read 100 books.

I'll keep a running list of the books I read this year in this post.

1. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
2. The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum
3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
4. The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
5. Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
6. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

7. A Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior by Suzanne Enoch
8. Kiss Me Deadly anthology edited by Trisha Telep
9. A Lover's Dictionary: A Novel by David Levithan
10. Marly's Ghost by David Levithan
11. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
12. Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
13. The Good Neighbors Book One: Kin 
             by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Graphic Novel adaptation
             by Amy Corzine
15. Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber

16. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
              by Mary Ann Shaffer
17. Foiled by Jane Yolen
18. Amulet: Book Two The Stonekeeper's Curse 
             by Kazu Kibuishi
19. Amulet: Book Three The Cloud Seekers by Kazu Kibuishi
20. Elfland by Freda Warrington
21. Renegade Hunter by Lynsay Sands
22. The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
23. Imitation In Death by J.D. Robb

24. Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
25. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 
26. My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent
27. Reaper by Rachel Vincent, novella
28. Frankenstein The Graphic Novel by Mary Shelley
29. Knight of Passion by Margaret Mallory 
30. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
31. Pieces of Paper by Jeannie Lin
32. Still Life With Husband by Lauren Fox
33. Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

34. Remember When by Nora Roberts & J.D. Robb
35. The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds
36. It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens et. al.
37. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
38. My One and Only by Kristan Higgins
39. Blaze of Memory by Nalini Singh
40. The First Cut by Dianne Emley

41. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
42. The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith
43. Burnout by Rebecca Donner, illustrated by Inaki Miranda
44. Harvey by Hervé Bouchard, illustrated by Janice Nadeau
45. Bonds of Justice by Nalini Singh
46. Play of Passion by Nalini Singh
47. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh
48. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
49. A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
50. Burning Up by Angela Knight et. al.
51. Shades of Midnight by Lara Adrian

52. Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg et. al.
53. Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
54. Taken by Midnight by Lara Adrian
55. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
56. Deeper Than Midnight by Lara Adrian
57. Divided In Death by J.D. Robb
58. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris
59. The Bride by Julie Garwood
60. The Wedding by Julie Garwood

61. Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
62. Visions In Death by J.D. Robb
63. A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
64. Everything Changes by Megan Hart
65. Naked by Megan Hart
66. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
67. Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

68. Simply Irresistible by Jill Shlavis
69. Into the Flame by Christina Dodd
70. Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh
71. An Ice Cold Grave by Charlaine Harris
72. Night After Night by Kathryn Smith
73. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
74. Beowulf by Gareth Hinds
75. Survivor In Death by J.D. Robb

76. The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
77. Something About You by Julie James
78. Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris
79. When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James
80. Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Biography 
                by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón
81. I Love The Earl by Caroline Linden
82. Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh
83. Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins
84. Summer's Crossing by Julie Kagawa

85. The Bastard by Brenda Novak
86. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
87. The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne 
88. My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent
89. Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elisabeth Phillips

90. Origin in Death by J.D. Robb
91. Once Upon a Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare
92. A Taste of Midnight by Lara Adrian
93. The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland -- For A Little While by Catherynne M. Valente
94. Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
95. Memory in Death by J.D. Robb
96. Haunted in Death by J.D. Robb
97. To Desire a Soundrel by Tracy Sumner
98. The French Maid by Sabrina Jeffries
99. Macbeth by William Shakespeare, script adaptation by John MacDonald
100. after the quake by Haruki Murakami

Favorites are highlighted in pink. 

**** CHALLENGE MET DECEMBER 31, 2011 ****

Thursday, January 6, 2011

find me on goodreads!

I've packed up my books and moved to goodreads! I've catalogued my books on Shelfari for three and a half years and I've had a lot of fun there, but turns out all the cool kids (except my Shlefari friend Jen...) are hanging out at goodreads! Plus there's a goodreads app for the iPhone and we all know how much I lurve my iPhone... so I moved!

I imported 880 books into goodreads this morning and see that my shelfari tags created all kinds of interesting "shelves" on goodreads, some of them making no sense whatsoever, so I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time cleaning all that up. I also have a record of 908 books on Shelfari, so I guess I'll be trying to figure out which 28 books have gone missing! Something I find a little too life-like... losing a box of books in a move. Am I Right?

In the meantime, I'm trying to get the hang of navigating around on goodreads, adding friends when I see people I recognize and then stopping when goodreads tells me I've reached the maximum number of friendship requests for the day. Clearly goodreads doesn't realize how popular I am and that yes, I should be able to add 50 friends in one day, not FIVE! ;)

Seriously, if you're on goodreads and would like to be my friend there, please add me! You can find me at my goodreads bookshelf. :)

If you're not on goodreads yet... come join! :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Fitness Challenge 2011 {Sign Up}

[snazzy challenge button to come]

Last year was the most athletically active year of my life and I'm so excited to see this year be even better. Last year, I biked a total of 640.7 miles between April and November, ran at total of 150.7 miles from January through December, and spent literally hundreds of hours at the gym in fitness classes. I had visions of running upwards of 250 miles last year, but I've been nursing planter fasciitis [inflammation of the tendon that runs along the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toes, resulting in sharp pain in the heel area] on my right foot since early last spring. If you've ever had this injury before, you know it takes a really long time to heal. My case is almost completely healed, but I am still being very cautious about the frequency and duration of high impact workouts, i.e., running and jumping type activities.

So what am I going to do in 2011 to make this year even more athletically active than last year?

I'm going to strive to be even more consistent than ever with my workout schedule. I had been exercising 3-5 days a week for many years and thought I was doing a the best that I could. Turns out I could have been doing more. I started working out 6-7 days a week last year and my fitness levels took gigantic leaps. To be fair, I started carefully tracking calories during this time, as well, which lead to weight loss, which in turn lead me to a better overall health and fitness level right there. I'm not saying I follow a perfect diet or that I'm an exercise expert, and I still have 20+ lbs. to lose before I'm at my goal weight, but I have learned first hand the benefits of keeping your diet in check and exercising every day. I feel better than I have since ... well... since maybe forever. I don't want to lose this edge on life and not only that... if I feel this good now, I can only imagine how incredible I'll feel physically [and emotionally] when I'm at my absolute best shape. And frankly, I don't want to just imagine all that. I WANT it to be real, so I'm going for it!

Which brings me to my Fitness Challenge for 2011. The idea for this type of challenge is not my own. Many companies and gyms sponsor fitness challenges that have participants track their progress in fitness miles which are measured by actual mile per mile walked or run or mile per specified time intervals spent in other cardiovascular or strength training activities. My inspiration for this challenge comes from the ladies at the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge blog.

Fitness Challenge 2011 Rules:

1. The challenge will run month to month throughout the year. 
Anyone can join at any time for however many months you chose, although I'm hoping for company throughout the entire year!

2. ONE mile walked or run  = ONE fitness mile
Note: If you use the metric system, divide the number of km walked or run by 1.6 to convert km to miles. 

3. 15 minutes of 'other exercise' = ONE fitness mile
You must exercise continuously for 15 minutes without stopping for it to count. If you work out for 20 minutes, it only counts as 1 mile, and you don't get to save the 5 minutes to pad onto the next workout. You may as well keep working out for 30 minutes to get full credit and then you've got 2 fitness miles to your name. A 60 minute fitness class at your gym would equal 4 fitness miles. 40 minutes on the elliptical counts as 3 "miles." You may as well stay on another 5 minutes to get credit for 4 "miles"! Get it?

4. 'Other exercise' is specific only to designated workouts such as fitness classes at the gym, fitness videos at home, exercise machines, biking, swimming, weight lifting, etc.

5. Do not count daily activities such as shopping, cleaning, etc.
This is because those types of daily activities are already accounted for in our daily caloric needs. You do them all the time as part of your daily or weekly routine, so you don't get exercise credit for them. You'll only be shortchanging yourself if you count them. However, some activities that are strenuous and not routine, like shoveling snow or manually tilling a garden bed, can be counted. Use your own judgement regarding distinguishing routine daily activities and exercise specific activities.

6. Decide how many miles you want to challenge yourself to finish in a month.
It might take you a month or two to figure out how many miles will offer you the best challenge. You don't want to set the bar so high that you get frustrated, but at the same time, you also don't want to make it too easy that you're not pushing yourself.

7. Keep track of your "fitness miles" on a piece of paper, a file on your computer, or even on your blog on your sidebar or in a post like I do at See how she runs... . Then share your success and struggles with the group at the end of the month.

8. Share your progress in the Fitness Report Card post here on the first day of the month.
The first Report Card post for January's challenge will be on February 1. I'll also try do a Progress Report type post in the middle of the month so we can check in on each other.

9. To join, leave a comment below telling me you're up for the challenge and how many miles you're going to challenge yourself in January.

10. IMPORTANT: Please consult with your physician before starting any new exercise program. This challenge is for camaraderie and motivational purposes.

 I'll edit this post to include the names of participants and their challenge miles as people join. 

Fitness Challenge 2011 Participants:

1. Christine  100 
2. Lori  75
3. Gina   16+
4. azteclady  25
5. Brandy  80
6. Deanna  TBD
7. Leslie  50
8. Crystal  90 
9. Zee  TBD
10. Sarai  32 
11. Beverly TBD

Who's next? :) 

Looking forward to many happy, healthy miles with you in 2011!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions & Challenges 2011


Happy New Year! :)

I've made a few New Year's resolutions and challenges for myself in books, health and fitness, photography and ... well... a resolution to work on my list of goals. You know that last one made a lot of sense when I wrote it down... now it sounds really silly. :o)


I had so much fun with the reading challenges I joined in 2010 even though I only met 7 out 12 of those challenges. So of course, I'm inspired to join several new ones this year!

My reading style really expanded in 2010 such that I've read more books from a wider variety of genres than ever before in my life and I loved it. I did not meet my goal of reading 100+ books in 2010--I read 83, yet I'm not even that disappointed because what I did read was so enjoyable. Yet I'm still going to try for 100 books in 2011. ;)

I'll be making individual posts on the following reading challenges and book clubs over the next few days so that each one has it's own place for me to keep track of the books I read, but here's a list of the reading challenges and book clubs I'm joining this year:

In Death Series Reading Challenge hosted by Me [ongoing]
Steampunk Challenge hosted by Rikki
What's In a Name 4 Challenge hosted by Beth Fish
Take a Chance Challenge 3 hosted by Jenners
A-Z Mystery Challenge {by the author} hosted by Michelle
100+ Books in 2011 hosted by ???? [still looking for one to join...]

Authors by the Alphabet Book Club hosted by Paula
Women in Fantasy Book Club hosted by Erikka

Sounds like fun reading, right? :)


My 5K Personal Best:
One of my fitness goals for 2010 was to run a 5K in 31 minutes. I participated in a 5K last year on New Year's Day and ran it in 34:51. I signed up for the same 5K race today, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to all the snow and ice still on the roads around here from last week's blizzard. The race is rescheduled for January 30, 2011 so I'll have to wait till then to see if I met my goal. :)

Fitness Challenge 2011
I'm aiming to exercise for 100 "fitness miles" per month in 2011. One "fitness mile" is equivalent to one mile walked or run OR 15 minutes of other cardiovascular or strength training activity that elevates my heart rate to my target heart rate zone. In fact, I'm planning on hosting this as a challenge for others to join in on a monthly basis. Let me know in the comments if you think you might be interested in something like this. All you'll need to do is keep your own log either privately [for example, on a piece of paper, your computer, etc.] or you can keep a log on your blog, like I do. See my fitness blog see how she runs... if you want to see how I did it. More information on this to come... :)

September 11, 2011
Already signed up!!! Weeeeeeeee!
Still haven't started training for the swimming component, but I did buy a fitness swimsuit at least. Now to get myself in the darned pool...

Get to my target weight.
Some of you who follow my blog regularly already know I started using the Lose It! App on my iPhone last April. I've lost nearly 37 lbs. in the last nine months, but have a bit more to go to get to my goal weight. I just got my body fat measured at my gym this morning and was pleased with my results. I'm currently in the 70th percentile for my age group, meaning that out of 100 women, 30 have a lower percent body fat than me and 70 have a higher percent body fat than me. I'm going to repeat the body fat test in June after I've lost these last 23 lbs., hoping to end up in the 85-90th percentile.

If one of your goals for 2011 is to lose some weight and get in better shape, I recommend you download the free Lose It! app to your iPhone or iPod Touch today and get started. You can also now use the Lose It! app for free by setting up an account on their website at And there's a brand new Lose It! book out, too. If you start using Lose It! and want someone to compare notes with and help keep you motivated, request me as a friend and we can support each other. If you know my gmail email address, you can find me there with that. Otherwise email me at the email address on my blogspot profile and I'll let you know how to add me.

It's a fantastic tool. I'm telling you, if you use it, you will Lose it! :)


Project 365 Take Three.

I'm making another attempt at a Project 365 --a photography project on Flickr. The idea is to take at least one photograph a day for a whole year. I failed at this twice already in 2010, so I'm trying it again. They say the third time's a charm, right? I can only hope! LOL

My first photo is the birdseed in the snow photo in this post. :)

My daughter is still going strong with her Project 365 at day 192!

My 101 Things to do in 1001 Days
I started this personal challenge in May 2010 and haven't accomplished too much yet, so I'm going to make a bigger effort to make a dent into this list in 2011. 

So what do you think? Over ambitious or achievable?

I'd love to hear about any New Year's Resolutions or goals you've made for 2011. :)

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and healthy New Year! xo