Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 201966 books in 202067 books in 2021 and 41 books in 2022). Recently, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks since I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have two-ish hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in January:

  • Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki - I thought it was only fitting to start the year off with an audiobook about minimalism. I mean, if you know me, you know that I live (or try to live) a very simple life. I don't need (or want) a lot of things - and, in all honesty, having lots of stuff (especially when it's not neat and tidy) causes quite a bit of anxiety. With that said, although I might not be a minimalist, I do enjoy learning more about the lifestyle - picking up a few tips and tricks whenever I can. This was a quick listen (the audiobook was under 5 hours long and because I listen at 1.75x speed it went by even faster) and I really enjoyed it. The author not only talked about minimizing his possessions to what was deemed necessary for him (reminding the reader that minimalism looks different to everyone) but also touched on topics like information clutter, relationship overload, etc. One chapter contained 55 tips to help you say goodbye to your things. Although some of them I have heard time and time again (give everything a home, only keep what you use or love, etc), there were a few notions that stuck out - like giving up on the idea of "someday", material items are constantly vying for your time and attention, etc. I don't think I will buy this book for my personal library (I mean, that sort of defeats the minimalist mindset, right?!), but it might be one to listen to on an annual basis. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - This book popped up as a recommended read for me on my Hoopla app because of some of my recent downloads. I hadn't heard of it before, but it had a high rating and it was read by Lin-Manuel Miranda so I figured it couldn't be bad. I was right ;) This is a coming of age story of two teenage boys in El Paso, TX. It dives into topics such as personal identity, family dynamics, friendship, homophobia and more. I wasn't sure what to expect with the book, but so much of it was wholesome and sweet. I'll be honest (although I don't want to give anything away), I was a little disappointed in the way the book ended. First, I was really liking the idea that it was a book with an LGBTQ character that wasn't necessarily a romantic book. Second, once there were some discoveries made, I felt like the book just ended. (Note - when I went to add the link to this post I did notice that this was book one of a series, so I guess the story ending abruptly was so the author could pick it up in a second book, but I still wanted a little more before the story stopped.) I would say the first half of the story was a little slow, but I really like all of the characters and am now excited to find the follow up book. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • It Was All a Dream by Justin Tinsley - I saw this newly released on my Hoopla app and wanted to grab it right away. Can you believe that Christopher Wallace would have been 50 years old right now?! That he has been off this earth for longer than he was on it?! Don't get me wrong, I may not have been deep in the rap world in the 90s, but it's hard to argue that Christopher Wallace didn't make a BIG impact. I appreciated that this biography wasn't just about Christopher's life, but it also included a lot of what was going on around him (both in the streets, in the government, etc) that formed him into the young man that he was. I'll be honest and say that I enjoyed the younger years portion of the book more, but maybe that's because there is a lot "out" about his later years. Even if you don't know much about The Notorious B.I.G., you probably have heard a bit about his untimely death and some of the rumors, speculations and theories of who was involved in the murder and how his life was cut short. I admire that the author is upfront and explains that this is NOT a book that will solve the mysteries surrounding a lot of what happened in the rap game in the 90s, but that it would show the world a little more about Christopher Wallace from those who knew him best. I loved all of the interviews and I've gotta say, I walked away with a slightly better understanding of who the person was behind the persona (even if the two may have been similar in a lot of ways). I would give it a 9 out of 10. 

  • Not That Bad by Roxane Gay - Oh, wow. Let me start off by saying this is NOT an easy read/ listen. This is a compilation of essays written by women and men about rape culture and the phrase "not that bad". How often have we heard the comparisons or the justifications (whether they are what we tell ourselves or have heard others say)? "It's not that bad, at least it wasn't <insert some act/ trauma/ tragedy that seems worse>..." You definitely have to be in the proper state of mind to get through this one. It is heartbreaking and heart-wrenching, but, in my opinion, absolutely essential reading. Yes, of course these essays all have a common theme, but the breath of the stories is unfathomable, yet not shocking at all. I commend each and every writer for taking the time to share their truth, their trauma with their audience. If you know the editor, you know that the stories selected are probably all in the same vein, but I guess you can consider me a card carrying liberal feminist, so I didn't notice ;) I'll definitely be adding this one to my physical library. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - I don't remember if I snagged this from one of the little free libraries I pop by on occasion or if someone sent this book to me, but it has been on my bookshelf for a while and I finally got around to reading it. California had been getting a lot of rain, so I started this book one weekend that we were "stuck" inside and then was able to finish it while the hubby was out of town for work. I would say that there were things I liked and things that I didn't. I liked that the story was told from two different perspectives (two narrators). I liked that the story kept me guessing and intrigued the entire time. I disliked the white savior narrative. (If you are unfamiliar with what this means, it is the idea that a white character needs to come along to help save/ fix/ rescue people of color from their plight.) Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that the author touched on very serious topics like immigration and refugees, atrocities occurring all over the planet, etc, but the fact that Sarah has to come along to save Little Bee, especially towards the end of the story, didn't sit great with me (but that might be how this white, cis male author views the world). Note: I would also recommend a trigger warning be added - especially for topics like genocide, rape and suicide. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Loveless by Alice Oseman - This title popped up in the "suggested" section on my Hoopla app (assuming it has to do with my previous downloaded books) and figured I'd give it a try. I've gotta say, I really enjoyed this one. Yep, it's a YA read, so probably not for everyone, but I really appreciated that the author dove into the "A" in LGBTQIA+. So often if there is an LGBT character, it is often the L or the G, so I was stoked to have a character that was asexual and aromantic. Not only was it a good story, I felt like I learned more about an identity that isn't generally focused on and one that I knew very little about. There were points that felt slow (remember, this is written for 14 year olds and older), but it was cute enough. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • What Happened to You by Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D Perry - I had this on my "for later" list for a while, but a friend shared she was reading it on her IG stories so I decided it was time for a download. Wow. There were so many great nuggets in here. First, I love the reframing of "what happened to you?" instead of the "what's wrong with you?" that we're so used to hearing/ seeing in our culture. There's so much that goes into making us who we are and this simple switch can make the world of difference - in everything from your compassion and empathy for folks you meet to treatment of people in the medical (physical and mental health) realms. Next, I really like that this book is a combination of Oprah and Dr. Perry. Please do not hear me saying that Oprah "dumbs it down", but Dr. Perry has a lot of medical and statistical information he's sharing while Oprah tends to help this become more relatable in story form (Dr. Perry also shares stories from his experiences, so he isn't all nitty gritty detail, but I feel like it was a good blend). Also, I really appreciate that the majority of this comes back to the brain. There were a lot of 'ah ha' moments throughout this book as to why people react how they do in certain situations due to what has happened to them in the past. The audiobook was a bit like a conversation between two experts in their fields that we were listening in on, which I really enjoyed, but you could also grab the physical book and take notes throughout the entire thing too. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety by Yvonne Castaneda - I hadn't heard of this book before, but the title caught my attention (and I also tend to be a sucker for biographies because it's hard to argue with someone's personal experiences, right?!). I really appreciated the author for sharing her raw and real story with her readers. She went through a lot of ups and downs in her younger years and was pretty brutally honest about it all. I've gotta say, I think the biggest thing that stood out to me was how some somewhat inconsequential statements (or what some may think as inconsequential) can have HUGE, lifelong impacts on people. This is just another reminder that you never know the type of inner battles someone is fighting, so it's important to always approach others with gentleness, kindness and grace. Many of the stories Yvonne shared hit close to home. I didn't realize this was technically a book for young adults, but I would recommend it for young adults or anyone who comes into contact with young folks (whether it's your children, kids you might work with, your friend's kiddos, etc) because it's a good reminder of how our words have power. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - As y'all know, I enjoy myself some YA books, so every once in a while I will scroll through the "teen" section of my Hoopla app. This book was constantly towards the top so I had added it "for later" and decided it was time to give it a go. I am normally not a huge sci-fi fan, but this book kept me intrigued the entire time. I like that it switched between different character's perspectives (and notating which it was with the title of the chapter so you weren't left guessing). Although this book is "fantasy," it is based on racism, injustices in the world and a struggle for change. The author does an amazing job of getting readers wrapped up in the story and characters, but the undertones of the story very much parallel what is going on in our political and social landscape. This was a long book (almost 18 hours of audiobook), but I didn't notice because I constantly wanted to know what would happen next. I never felt that there was a part that was dragging on or that could have been cut short. It's such a magical book (that revolves around magic ;)). I feel like it's part Black Panther, part Hunger Games, and part West African culture/ religion. Now, don't get it twisted, this is very much a story all on its own and I don't think it's trying to "be" anything, but it was just meant to give you an idea of the epic adventure the characters of this story go on (while trying to fight the violence and oppression of the world around them). PS I downloaded the next book in the series seconds after finishing this one and can't wait to see where the story goes - I'll gobble it up too I'm sure! I would give it a 10 out of 10. 

  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi - Of course I had to listen to Part II as soon as I finished the first book. I'll say that, like most series, I liked the first book more, but this one still kept me interested the entire time. Unlike the first book, I'd say there were a couple different spots where I could/ did anticipate what was coming (I'm not sure if that means it was more predictable or that the story was a little slower so I had more time to ponder what might be coming). Don't get me wrong, I still couldn't stop listening to this one, but it just didn't have as much of a grasp on me as the first book did. I'm sort of glad I was listening to the audiobook (and not looking at how much time was left) as opposed to holding a physical book and seeing how few pages were left towards the end, because the end was a little abrupt (of course, the author was leaving us on a cliffhanger for the third and final book of the trilogy, but had I seen the few pages left I probably also would've guessed how it was going to end [and how quickly]). Now we just have to wait for the third book to arrive (the InterWebs speculates it should be sometime this year...). I would give it an 8.5 out of 10. 

With that, January has come to a close. My reading may have slowed down a bit (especially compared to years past), but I hope it never stops. If you have suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my "must read" list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read so they're in one place. Feel free to check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Workout Recap - Week 4

Sunday, January 22nd – 13.13 mile run (2 hours)

Monday, January 23rd – 12 mile run

Tuesday, January 24th –  90 minutes on the stationary bike

Wednesday, January 25th – 6 mile run

Thursday, January 26th – 10 mile run

Friday, January 27th  Rest Day

Saturday, January 28th – 14 mile run 

My first "official" week of training. The training plan I'm using is technically 24 weeks long and I jumped in at week 14, but, don't worry, I'm planning to listen to my body and just do what I can. (I don't know that I've shared the next adventure I'm training for [and, if that's the case, I'm going to keep you in suspense a bit longer before I share with the world], but speed isn't a focus on it, so my mileage will probably look slower than it has in the past, but I'm more focused on covering the distance right now.) Surprisingly enough the body feels good after jumping in head first and getting in over 55 miles this week (not to mention having to work 10am-7pm Monday through Saturday because I was covering for a coworker who's race got rescheduled to this weekend due to recent rains ). I'm gonna take it as a win and continue plugging forward.

How were your workouts this past week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Workout Recap - Week 3

Sunday, January 15th – 12.12 mile run

Monday, January 16th – 90 minutes on the stationary bike

Tuesday, January 17th –  6 mile run

Wednesday, January 18th – 6 mile run

Thursday, January 19th – 6 mile run

Friday, January 20th  Rest Day

Saturday, January 21st – 10.10 mile run 

This week's weather made everything interesting. Sunday I was running with 95% humidity and 55* (dodging storms), Monday it rained but thankfully I normally bike so I didn't have to swap things around, Tuesday it was super windy (I kept telling myself it was extra resistance training) and then Wednesday and Thursday it was chilly (down in the 30s, so chilly for us ;)). I'm thinking I am going to get a training plan together for an upcoming adventure, so it'll be nice to have a gameplan to follow (right now I'm just sort of running what I want, when I want, which is nice, but sometimes I'd rather not have to think about it and just follow what the paper calendar on the fridge says ;)). Overall the body feels good (albeit slow because speed has not been a thing for me recently, but the hope is I'll start adding strength back into my routine). 

How were your workouts this past week?

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Workout Recap - Week 2

Sunday, January 8th – 6.5 mile hilly run

Monday, January 9th – 10 mile run

Tuesday, January 10th – 90 minutes on the stationary bike 

Wednesday, January 11th – Rest Day

Thursday, January 12th – 4 mile run

Friday, January 13th  5 mile run (actually it was 2.5 mile run, 2.5 mile walk)

Saturday, January 14th – Rest Day

I started the week strong, but then my body fizzled out. I donated blood on my lunch break on Wednesday, which means I normally take that day as a rest day. The day after I donate I've found that I can't run for very long or hard because I get a little lightheaded, so Thursday I "only" did four miles. When I woke up on Friday I thought I'd shoot to tackle my midweek six but about two miles in I was feeling a bit off. My heart rate was high and I was overheating a bit (or at least felt extra sweaty and clammy). I decided to stop at 2.5 miles and then just walk back to the car. Saturday I normally would've gone for a run, but with the previous couple days not feeling 100% I decided I'd give myself a full rest day and see if that helps next week to get back on track to feeling strong. Seeing as I technically don't have a race on the calendar at the moment, I felt ZERO guilt about shortening the runs that I had originally planned. Now, who knows if I would've felt the same had I had an actual training plan on my fridge, but, for now, I'm stoked that I'm having an easier time listening to my body.

How were your workouts this past week?

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Workout Recap - Week 1

Sunday, January 1st – New Year's Day 5K with the hubby

Monday, January 2nd – 90 minutes on the stationary bike

Tuesday, January 3rd – 6 mile run

Wednesday, January 4th – 6 mile run

Thursday, January 5th – Rest Day

Friday, January 6th  10 mile run

Saturday, January 7th – 6 mile run

Starting off the year on the right (and then left) foot ;) Although I may not technically have any races on the schedule until December, I am jumping right back into training. I may be eye ballin' some events in the coming months, but even if they don't pan out, I still prefer being marathon trained so I can jump into a race whenever the mood strikes ;) I ran CIM at the beginning of December and then tackled my #40MeaningfulMiles mid-December, but other than those longer runs, I've been giving my body the rest it needs and deserves. It's been raining since we've gotten back from our Christmas vacation, so I was STOKED to see sun at the end of the week! (PS I'm NOT complaining about the rain - because although I LOVE the sun, these storms have been said to be potential "drought busters" and golly gee do we need that!)

How were your workouts this past week?

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Workout Recap - Week 53

Sunday, December 25th – Christmas Day 5K with the hubby

I know, this is NOT a picture of our run, but it was raining and we didn't
have a phone with us, so here's a picture of the group before snorkeling.

Monday, December 26th – Rest Day

Tuesday, December 27th – Rest Day

Wednesday, December 28th – Rest Day

Thursday, December 29th – Rest Day

Friday, December 30th  Rest Day

Saturday, December 31st – Rest Day

Last week I mentioned I was taking the end of the year "off". I didn't want to have to force any runs or workouts while we were in Mexico, since I wasn't familiar with the area, and then, when we got back, I was right back into working every day at the running store. The hubby and I did an easy 5K around our resort on Christmas, but other than that it was snorkeling, swimming, playing water soccer with the nephews, etc.. (It rained 90% of our trip, so when we tried to hit up the resort gym it was packed so we opted out.) All-in-all, I am heading into 2023 with a happy heart and a healthy body. LET'S GO!

How were your workouts this past week?