Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fitness Challenge Report Card: March 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?

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as cardiovascular or strength training exercises.

I met my goal and then some. My goal was set for 100 fitness miles and I came in at a whopping 143.25 fitness miles. Crazy.

I spent the most time in spin class and strength training, but also spent a lot of time doing the MelB workout at home on the Playstation Move, kickboxing, swimming, bootcamp and Zumba at the gym and running at the park. I'm looking forward to getting out there on my bicycle again, but waiting for temperatures to break the 60 F mark. Unfortunately, it's been pretty cold lately and in fact, we're expecting 2-4 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow. Gah!

The swimming is going okay. I joined a local Tri-women group and am attending a swim clinic on Sunday hoping to get some more instruction and coaching to improve my stroke and breathing techniques. I'm a little frustrated with my lack of endurance swimming consecutive laps. I'm still pausing every 2-3 lengths for maybe 30-60 seconds before continuing. Oddly, my heart rate isn't even that elevated when I feel I have to stop (I've worn my heart rate monitor in the pool a couple of times). Maybe it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice before I can just swim, swim, swim.

I'm going to set my fitness challenge goal at 100 fitness miles again for April. If I break 100 miles again, I'll bump up my goal.

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

What activities are you doing to keep moving?

I hope you all join me again next month! :)

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge: March 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!

After missing three months of the challenge, I finally read an In Death book this month! I don't know what happened that I couldn't get into the mood to pick it up before, but once I sat down and read the first couple of chapters, as usual, it was tough to put down. I hope this is the beginning of a new groove and I keep up with a monthly read from here on in.

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 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, on goodreads [please leave a link to your profile if we're not already friends there] or you can let us know what you read here in the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts.


Imitation In Death by J.D. Robb
Book 19

In this installment, Eve and her team are on the hunt for a murderer who is choosing his victims so that he imitates the madness and methods of famous serial killers from the past, including Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler and more. The only lead he leaves behind is a note on each victim addressed personally to Dallas. By tracing the source of this high end and illegal, un-recycled stationary, Eve has a shortlist of suspects to investigate.

I found this murder plot fairly interesting. Obviously not because the crimes were so unique--they're copy cat murders, after all, but I found it interesting to learn so much about the different suspects personal lives in the process of the investigation. Each suspect had very unsubstantial alibis that led Dallas to investigate further in their lifestyles to try to verify their whereabouts during the times of the crimes, catching the suspects and their family members in all sorts of lies. Which of course, led to some very interesting other revelations about their personal lives and potential motives for murder. I wasn't exactly sure who the killer was for most of the book, but my gut instinct proved correct in the end.

As always, I enjoyed the personal components to the story as Eve's relationships with her colleagues and friends and of course, her marriage to Roarke continue to evolve. I know I've mentioned it before, but I really adore the rapport between Eve and Peabody and how well they know each other. Peabody isn't as timid at pointing out Dallas' shortcomings, either.

For example, in one scene, Dallas tells Peabody that they will be returning to the U.N. to speak with one of the suspects who happens to be a very powerful politician who did not appreciate being questioned for murder. So much so that he filed a complaint against Dallas to her superiors.

     "We're going back to the U.N., to Renquist, and not risking federal imprisonment?"
     "We're going back to apologize, grovel, and eat massive portions of crow."
     "You don't know how to to do those things." Peabody looked mournful. "We're going to the pen."


I also continue to get a kick out of Eve's uneasiness regarding anything outside of NYC. Eve and Roarke are in New L.A. researching an older murder case with the same MO as her current case in New York and Eve finds herself outside her comfort zone in such a sunny, laid back city such as New L.A.

      "Can't figure out why anybody lives out here," she said. "Just because they've had the big one doesn't mean there's not another big one just waiting to flatten them."
      "Nice breeze though," Roarke commented. "And they've certainly battled back he smog and noise pollution."
      "Whole place feels like a vid, you know? Or a VR program. Too much peachy, pinky, white. Too many healthy bodies with perfect smiling faces on thop of them. Creeps me."
      "And I just don't think you ought to have palm trees waving around in the middle of a city. It's just not right."
      "This should please you then. The building you want appears to be suitably shabby and unkempt, and the locals seem to be satisfactorily shady."
       She sat up, stifled a yawn, and looked around.
      Only about half the streetlights were working, and the building itself was dead dark. Some of the windows were riot-barred, others boarded. Several people skulked and slithered around in the shadows, and in one she spotted an illegals deal winding up.
      "This is more like it." Cheered, she stepped out of the car. "This thing got full security?"
      "It's loaded." He put the top up, engaged the locks and deflectors.
      "Her flop was on the third floor. Might as well poke around since we're here."
      "It's always a pleasure to poke around in a condemned building where someone might stab, bludgeon, or blast us at any moment."
     "You've got your kind of fun, I've got mine." She scanned the area, selected her target. "Yo, asshole!"

Classic Eve. I love it. :)


I'm lacking creativity for our discussion topic this month, so I'm going back to the old AutoChef thing. I'm still stumped by how it all works. Having a "stocked" AutoChef is frequently mentioned. Exactly how does one stock their AutoChef? With fresh ingredients? Fully prepared meals that are fresh? Or frozen? Also, I'm under the impression that AutoChef's aren't that big. I suppose there could be different sized units--small ones for your office that maybe just have coffee and maybe a snack or two. Like a mini vending machine, right? Okay, fine. But what about the ones that produce freshly prepared full course meals? Those AutoChefs have to be pretty big in size, right? It stores and cooks the stuff. Or not if you order salad. How do they even know what dishes are available in there? How does this thing work?! Anyone else wonder obsess about this?

Don't forget to link up and thanks for keeping up with the challenge! :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Books In the Movies

So much for getting my blogging groove back last week, huh? That plan backfired. I have nearly 1000 posts in feeds that remain unread--yikes! I think I'll be doing a lot of skimming, but I really want to catch up on what's going on with everyone and what you've all be reading and so on. As for me, reading has been kind of slow this month (what in the world have I been doing??), but I have read two really wonderful books that I hope to post about in the very near future. Needless to say, I miss blogging and interacting with all of you. I hope everyone's been well... happy, healthy and reading lots of great books!

Last weekend my little girl turned twelve. I can hardly believe it. To celebrate her birthday, she had a dinner, movie and sleepover party. Originally we planned to see the Justine Bieber movie, but it was no longer playing in any of our local theaters by last weekend, so I was spared. :o Instead, we saw Red Riding Hood. As a fan of fairy tale retellings, I was actually looking forward to seeing this one, but a little leery when I noted it wasn't getting such good reviews. Turns out I really liked it! I thought it was suspenseful enough without being too scary or gruesome and the romance part was subtle enough to not overpower the fact that this story is indeed a grim fairy tale--not a Disney romance. Although there was one scene for which I wished I had octopus arms so I could cover each of the girl's eyes. No nudity, but it was suggestive. Thankfully it lasted all of 30 seconds or so.

One of my favorite parts of going to the movies is seeing all the previews. For once, I walked away wanting to see almost all of the previewed movies, several of them based on popular novels that I have not yet read.

movie poster
book cover
The first was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I have seen this book everywhere over the last couple of years from bookstores to Target to the library, etc., and more recently when my book blogging friend, Michele told me she recently read it with her book club and loved it. Now that I saw the preview for the film version, I finally want to read the book, too!

movie poster
book cover
Another preview I saw was for the movie Something Borrowed based on the same titled 2005 chick lit novel by Emily Giffin. Hilcia read and reviewed this book several months ago and because she liked it, I thought I might give it a try even though I was hesitant because of the nature of the story. Basically the main character of the story is in love with her best friends boyfriend-fiance. You know that's just setting up for heartbreak and disaster, right? It looked like it in the movie, too. Frankly, I'm still hesitating about the book and the movie.

Have you read Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin? What do you think?

The third preview that grabbed my attention--although this one is not based on a literary work-- was for an upcoming dark fantasy film called Suckerpunch. Have you heard about it? It looks really bizarre, but that's kind of its appeal, I think. Set in the 1950s, a girl named Babydoll had been horribly abused and gets admitted to a mental institution where she transports herself into her own fantasy world to search for a way to escape the hospital. I'm not sure if the fantasy world is real or in this girl's head, but maybe it doesn't even matter. The special effects look amazing and the whole package looks like a strange, far-fetched, but thrilling ride. Of course the twelve year olds in the movies with me all thought Suckerpunch looked creepy and even my teenager gave me the weirdest look when I told her I wanted to see it. Apparently, you have to be a cool grown up like me to be suckerpunched by psycho girls in weird outfits, excessive makeup and wielding fantastical weapons while fighting their way through some grim alternate reality in order to escape institutionalization. Who knew?

The trailer:

Suckerpunch will be in theaters March 25.

Who else wants to see it?

I'd also really like to see the latest film adaptation of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, but it seems it's only playing in select theaters and none of those select theaters are in my neighborhood. I'll most likely wait until it's available to rent from redbox or netflix.

Another book to movie adaptation that I'm looking forward is Beastly by Alex Flinn that opened earlier this month. The book was one of my favorite young adult reads of 2010. I'll probably end up renting this movie down the road as well.

What book to film adaptations are you looking forward to?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fitness Challenge Mid Month Progress Report: March 2011

Sorry I'm posting this a few days past our mid-month check point. I had plans of posting more this week and now, poof! It's Friday afternoon already! Anyway, I've been working out really hard in the last few weeks having already accumulated 69.5 fitness challenge miles as of today, just a few days past mid month. Let's hope the rest of the month goes just as well.

As I mentioned last month, I started swimming lessons one night a week, which has already helped me tremendously with my freestyle technique. However, I still find swimming nonstop really hard. It's the breathing. I find a do a lap and a half of freestyle and have to switch to backstroke to catch my breath. I understand that it's more difficult to breath while swimming because the water applies additional pressure to your lungs while you're in the water and well, you can't breath when your face is in the water (!), so hopefully I'll see improvement if I just practice, practice, practice. Which I'm doing one other day of the week now in addition to the lesson. We learned breaststroke in this week's lesson, which is just what I need because from what I understand from other triathletes, many swimmers alternate between freestyle and breast stroke during the race. I'm guessing freestyle is best for speed and efficiency and breast stroke is best for sighting the course and other swimmers.

How are you doing so far this month?

Do you use any home exercise DVDs?
"Move-type" video games such as Wii or Playstation Move?
On demand exercise shows?

I've been using the Get Fit with Mel B workout game for the Playstation Move lately on days when I'm unable to exercise outdoors or get to the gym for cardio. I'm still exploring all of the options in the game, but it's okay so far. Not as good a workout as what I can do at the gym or running or biking, but it's a good back-up workout.

Wishing you all a great weekend! Got any fun plans?

It's a gorgeous 79 F (26 C) right now here in NJ--a real treat for this time of year. I'm off to pick up sticks in the yard and rake out my flower bed while it's so nice outside. We'll be back into normal March temperatures in the low 50s F (11 C) for the next few days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi Humor

It's been a while since my last post--nearly two weeks! Unfortunately, I haven't visited many blogs, either. I've just been unusually busy with different things, working out really hard and consequently falling asleep earlier than usual at night. I hope to catch up on my blog hopping this week and get some posts up here as well. In the meantime, a quick post to celebrate Pi Day, which is today!

March 14 was established as Pi Day in 1989 by physicist Larry Shaw to commemorate the mathematical constant pi, the date chosen because the first three significant figures of pi are 3, 1, and 4 which are represented by the date 3/14. In 2015, the first five figures of pi will be represented by the date 3/14/15.

How does one celebrate Pi Day? Discuss pi and eat pie, of course!

I'm making yummy Curry Chicken Pot Pie for dinner tonight. As for discussing pi, ponder this:

What do you get when you cut a jack o'lantern by its diameter?

Pumpkin Pi.


Info gathered from

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What I Read Last Month

February 2011

I read another interesting mix of books last month, including my first graphic novels! :)

Total books read: 9

Graphic Novel: 3
Romance: 2
Young Adult: 2
General fiction: 1
Cozy Mystery/Romance/fiction/whatever: 1

1. A Lady's Guide to Improper Behavior by Suzanne Enoch
The Adventurer's Club, Book 2
I bought this book months ago after having read Lori's review. I picked it up one day on a whim and really enjoyed it. It tells the love story of the very proper and popular Theresa "Tess" Weller and the sullen and physically wounded soldier, Colonel Bartholomew "Tolly" James. Tolly is the brother-in-law of Tess' cousin. Everyone tiptoes around Tolly since he's come home from India crippled and so melancholy and ill-tempered all the time. Everyone, except Tess, that is, who has no problems telling him how rude and insufferable he is. This, of course, is just what the surly Colonel needs to start feeling alive again. Of course, spending time with the Colonel would be the most improper thing for Tess to do when she is supposed to be the epitome of a proper lady. Not to mention that she has already caught the attention of several acceptable suitors. Of course, Tolly and Tess fall in love anyway.

I enjoyed both of these characters immensely. Although their burdens were clearly very different, both of them needed to learn to forgive themselves and start following their hearts rather than what the rules of proper behavior. They each helped the other heal from their pasts and were really so well suited for each other.
Grade: B+

2. Kiss Me Deadly anthology edited by Trisha Telep
This young adult paranormal anthology was a great way to sample the writing of several prominent young adult authors. My review can be found HERE.
Grade: B

3. The Lover's Dictionary: a novel by David Levithan
This first adult novel by accomplished young adult author David Levithan offers the reader glimpses into the relationship between an unnamed man and his lover. It is more a sharing of the trials and tribulations of love through anecdotes than a story. Each anecdote or reflection accompanies a word and its definition from the dictionary from A to Z. Interesting story telling style and a very insightful and realistic look into the love between two real people, but it left me feeling a little undecided about the couple and the book because I don't know what happened to their relationship. I couldn't ever decide if they were happy together or not. Did they stay together or did they break up? I'm sure the author intended the reader to feel this way, but it unsettled and disappointed me. Perhaps I'm too idealistic in my romantic views of love.
Grade: C

4. Marly's Ghost by David Levithan
Another book by David Levithan, Marly's Ghost is one of his earlier works. This story is a modern retelling of the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, with a Valentine's Day twist. Ben is a teenage boy whose girlfriend Marly has recently died from cancer. Stricken in his grief, he has become a scrooge on anything to do with love. With the help of ghosts from the past, present and future, Ben is reminded to live life to the fullest and with love in your heart just in time for Valentine's Day.
Grade: B

5. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

I finally read this very popular, well loved Jennifer Crusie novel and I absolutely adored it. It a funny and romantic love story that will have you sighing on one page, laughing on the next and thinking "uh oh" on the next. Really a fun read. You can read my review and a book club discussion HERE.
Grade: A

6. Amulet
Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
I'm admittedly brand new to the genre of graphic novels, but I have to say this book packs both fantasy adventure and coming of age into one dramatic story. After a family tragedy, Emily and Navin move with their mother to a distant uncle's old house in the country. Emily discovers an elaborate study and in it, a curious and subsequently powerful amulet. Emily and Navin soon also discover a dark, fantastical world hidden beneath the cellar where a tentacled creature has kidnapped their mother. Emily and Navin embark on a dangerous search for their mother, finding both friends and foes along the way.

My middle schooler is reading this series with me. She's on book two already, finished book three while I typed this! I'm anxious to start book two this week.
Grade: B+

7. The Good Neighbors
Book One: Kin by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
This graphic novel is a young adult urban fantasy story of the dark world of the faerie. Teenager Rue Silver's mother has gone missing and her father is under suspicion for her murder. To make things more confusing for Rue, she starts to see strange things that no one else is noticing. Faerie things. As she learns the truth about her heritage, Rue becomes entangled in the faerie world.

Although this kind of urban fantasy faerie mythology and story premise isn't exactly fresh, the novel is still a great introduction to the Good Neighbors series. Readers who enjoy dark faerie worlds and teenage angst will certainly enjoy this story. It ends on a cliffhanger, so be prepared with the second and third books at the ready.
Grade: B

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Graphic Novel adaptation by Amy Corzine
I'm so glad I discovered this graphic novel on the library shelves. This is a graphic novel of the classic Jane Eyre novel by Charlotte Bronte in Original Text. While I know it is not the same experience as reading the original classic novel, at least now I finally know the story and am familiar with the characters. The book includes a character glossary and a lot of information about Charlotte Bronte herself. This graphic novel is a great way to introduce reluctant readers to a classic novel of British literature.

As for the story itself, I never realized how depressing the story of Jane Eyre really is. What a life this poor girl had, but what determination to make the most of her life and not compromise her instincts. You can't help by admire her tenacity to survive and her determination to preserve her individuality and sense of worth.
Grade: B

9. Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber
A Lucy Valentine Book, Book 2

The Valentine Family runs a successful match making business that uses the psychic ability to see the colors of people's auras to make compatible matches. A childhood accident zapped Lucy Valentine of those abilities, but left her with the unusual gift of being able to determine the location of lost objects. In this story, Lucy is using this gift and working with her new boyfriend, private investigator Sean Donahue to help solve two different missing persons cases. Add a slew of complications and dramas such as the unwelcome arrival of Sean's ex, pre wedding troubles for Lucy's best friend and much more, and you've got a really fun and crazy story that is sure to surprise you with it's warmth and character depth.

I'm not even sure what genre this book is. It's part psychic mystery, part romance, part chick lit... but you know? It doesn't even matter. The important thing is that it's such a great read. The books in the series are fun and light hearted, but just when you think it's fun, romance and adventure, it packs some unexpected depth and emotional punch. Deeply, Desperately is even better than the first book in the series, Truly, Madly, both really delightful reads. I'm looking forward to reading Absolutely, Positively that just came out last month.
Grade: A

Questions? Comments? ;) 

What was a favorite book you read last month?