Goodbye to 2014 & Hello to 2015: goals met and remade

At the start of this year, I set out with the inauspicious goal of losing 10 pounds and reading 21 books. The 10 pounds isn’t bold because I aimed for 20 pounds last year and didn’t get there, so I assumed that resetting the goal might make it happen…or at least put me closer to the target. The 21 books idea was based on the notion that I should continue my attempt to stay literate, even as my commute makes it impossible to focus on anything but driving.

I’m proud to say that I was able to make it happen on both counts; my last weigh-in of 2014 (on Sunday) was 10-1/2 lbs lower than my first weigh-in of the year, and as of December 30, I managed to finish 22 books! I can’t describe how happy I am to have been able to meet these goals, not just because it’s nice to have met specific numbers, but also because they’ve gotten me closer to where I want to be.

First, the reading.

I love to read. No, let me restate that: I LURVE to read. If I could spend whole chunks of a day ignoring the world, curled up on the couch with a cuppa and a book, I’d be happy to do so. Driving to and from work, often surrounded by drivers who consider motor vehicle operation laws as mere suggestions, I can’t even consider audiobooks; I’d never be sure that I could pay attention enough to absorb the material. I turn NPR up to keep my road rage down, and if I have to ignore Morning Edition or All Things Considered while I deal with the crazy drivers, I can always read it online at some other point – assuming it’s a story or piece that I really wanted to hear. Audiobooks are a whole other issue and, frankly, it may be all the commuters focusing more on their audiobooks than the road that keep me from listening to them myself. *cough*

This Fall, I did manage to resolve my e-reader angst and bought an iPad Mini 2; I’ve been devouring Kindle books like there’s no tomorrow ever since, and I have several Kindle-d friends who gave me tips to help add to my tally. Great suggestions: the Kindle Daily Deals email list and the Kindle First email list; the Daily Deals are Kindle books offered at steep discounts, some just for that day and some over the course of a week or month. The Kindle First list gets you one copy of an unreleased Kindle book the month before it becomes available to the rest of the world, and if you have Amazon Prime, the book is free. (I got sucked into a free trial of Prime during the Christmas shopping season and now I’m totally addicted…DANGEROUS.)

I know that buying a tablet HAS altered my printed book-buying pattern; I’m becoming far more selective about what I buy in print now. On the other hand, we’re currently in a storage crisis in our library, and with the impending room shuffle (to get ds out of his miniscule room into one that’s larger), the fewer items we acquire to go on already overstuffed shelves, the better. Once things have settled into their new homes, more paper books can be bought. And, frankly, some of the ebooks I bought I wouldn’t have considered buying in paper form. Others…YES. The links below are to the versions I read (paper or plastic).

The list of what I read in 2014:

Then, the weight loss.

Weight has been an issue for me perhaps my entire life. It seems that way, at least. The fat kid with glasses turned into the chubby girl with contacts turned into the chubby woman who’s gone as high as 230 lbs (when pregnant) and has been as low as 140 lbs (senior year in high school). None of that range matches with what the federal guidelines for BMI indicate are “healthy” for my height, but BMI can kiss my fat ass. Seriously. At best, it’s an imperfect measure to help identify when someone gets too heavy, but since BMI for can be completely inaccurate as a health assessment for elite athletes, I know it’s not nearly as good a measure as body-fat composition or total weight. Since total weight is the easy one to measure, that’s the one I’m focusing on.

I started this year just over 214 lbs, and I’m finishing it just south of 204 lbs, for a total loss of about 10-1/2 lbs. And sure, that’s still damn heavy, but I’m fitting into size 14 jeans far better than I have in ages, and some of my size 16’s fall off me. My shirts are looking better…and, as dh will tell you, I’m constantly fussing at my wardrobe because so many styles acquired over the past few years of gaining have been designed for covering up, so now they look like balloons on me. It’s a good problem to have, I suppose!

People ask me how I lost the weight, because when you tell people you lost weight, they instantly want to know the trick. Did I drink shakes? Do some plant-only diet? Do a carb-free diet? Go gluten-free? Work out six days a week? Do this-or-that workout?


Here’s what I did:

  • I walked or worked out when I was able to make it happen, including weekly training walks of 7-9 mi.
  • I ditched the sweetened tea that I drank during dinner as soon as it was possible to start brewing sun tea, and I drink that with dinner rather than just drinking water.
  • I stocked the house with York Minis, because a handful of those is full of satisfaction and lower on fat & calories than some other desserts. It made it possible for me to have dessert on any night – without dessert always being as heavy as my beloved “ice cream o’clock”.
  • I switched out my afternoon lattes or mochas for hot/iced coffee with milk and sugar (or, if at Starbucks, their “classic sweetener”). Pumpkin Spice Season was a little tough, not having Pumpkin Spice ALLTHETHINGS, but my hot or iced coffee never made me feel deprived – and I still was avoiding the faux sweeteners that I don’t like to consume.
  • When I traveled, I worked out at least one day of each trip (sometimes two or three times, depending upon the length of trip). Walking, walking, walking. I was all about it. I ate my way through BlogHer and STILL lost weight!

What’s on tap for me for 2015?

As much as I’m possibly setting myself up for trouble, I’m going to keep the same weight goal – taking off another 10 lbs – and upping my book challenge to 23, to beat where I ended this year. Follow along at Goodreads, if you want to get in on the challenge; I love to see how my friends are doing!

This isn’t a resolution; these are goals, things that I want for myself. If you have goals that you want to share, feel free to comment below. And if you don’t have specific goals, that’s fine, too. I can say this, though: complaining without action rarely yields results. So, if you want to hit even the barest minimum of goals, the barest minimum of action will be required.

What action are you willing to take?

21 books and 10 lbs (week 28): Overdue books

I realize I’ve been sorely neglecting the book reviews I should have been posting as I’ve made my way slowly but surely through the year. In the past several months, I’ve made my way through four books – some of which were FAR better than the others. As far as my weight goes, I’ll be reporting on that in a separate post, since there is news to provide there and I’d like to have separate space to think it all through. I am still aiming to get through 21 books, though – as Goodreads was kind enough to point out – I’m moving too slowly. You can see farther down on this page just who owes me a month of my life back. Hopefully the next few books will go faster…

As far as the books go, you can see where I am on Goodreads at any point, or you can wait for me to post my reviews here. So, without further ado, catching everyone else up on my last few months of reading:


Book 3: “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson

The quintessential “pirate” book, “Treasure Island” breathes life into the character of Long John Silver, a character of broad reputation and dubious morals. A young innkeeper’s son, Jim Hawkins, gets recruited to go on a hunt for a sea-faring hunt for treasure, where he uncovers mutiny and danger. As one of those books that I felt I always should have read, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When you think back to the books you were required to read in school, “classics” typically stood in for “boring” or “why am I reading this” or “isn’t there something written within the last century?” This book was a fairly good read, the first time I’d ever read any fiction centered on pirates, and it was interesting reading about Silver and buried treasure. You saw Jim come into his own, learning probably more than he cared to about the dark side of human nature. For what’s typically considered something aimed at children (the “classics” version of YA?), I’m surprised at the amount of death and danger. Then again, I guess every century has its way of trying to shock parents.


Book 4: “The Magic Mistake (Oh My Godmother, #2) by Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson

From the presses at a Disney imprint comes the second book in a series about – you guessed it – Fairy Godmothers. Only, in this case, you have a young girl who’s been tapped to head off to Fairy Godmother school, leaving her family and friends behind. Lacey Unger-Ware (great name) is the young girl in question, and though she resists her call to join the corps, an accident places her squarely in the position of having to serve as a fairy godmother to her best friend’s mother…or have everyone hate her. A series of madcap mishaps ensue, and it’s up to Lacey to save the day – and herself – by saving others. I read this one with dd, who liked it a lot and asked to get more books from this series. I was sent a copy by the Disney folks so that I could see what she thought, and I was happy to see yet another example of smart YA writing. As much as dd liked the book, I found myself snorting along and enjoying it immensely. Definitely two thumbs up.


Book 5: “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Having loved “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, I figured that this one had to be worth a read. I saw Chabon appear on “The Colbert Report”, plugging the paperback release, and I went out right away to get a copy for myself. What then ensued was my “Midnight’s Children” moment for the year. I could not have been more disappointed with this book if I tried. I liked that Chabon tried to explore the lives of multi-cultured couples in Oakland, CA, centering around a failing record store in a failing neighborhood about to be gentrified and steamrolled into a whole new existence. Archie and Nat are co-owners of this anchor for a driftless neighborhood, and the relationship between the two men and their families is the central point on which the book should turn. Instead, you follow the shiftless Archie more often than not, finding him less an anti-hero and more just a poor excuse for a husband and father. Threads of stories don’t get pulled together too well, as everything suffers under the weight of Chabon’s apparently editor-free writing. The idea was just far better than the execution. Chabon’s rambling narrative – including one epic 8-page-long sentence that was a chapter unto itself – reduced the value of the book to bare minimum. It was as though someone took filet mignon and smothered it in a rancid sauce; you can’t even come close to eating it with any sort of pleasure. Unlike the bother books I read this year, this one was a terrible bore and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.


Book 6: “Perfect Ruin” by Lauren DiStefano

The first book in the Internment Chronicles series was just the breath of fresh air that I needed after slogging through “Telegraph Avenue”. Yet another delightful YA novel that I picked up for free at the local movie theater, “Perfect Ruin” centers around a young girl – Morgan Stockhour – living in a controlled, but generally happy, society established on a chunk of floating earth, suspended high above the planet. Strict measures determine the number of children, who will marry whom, and even the lifespan (population controls being important when you have finite space), but Morgan is fairly happy in her existence on this higher plane…until a murder is committed, and her illusion of a happy society is well and properly shattered. She begins to dig into what happened, her natural curiosity getting the better of her, and she uncovers far more than she bargained in the process. This was a delightful book (not just because of the contrast with the prior read); I’m definitely hooked and can’t wait for the second book in this series to come out. Further proof that the YA tag should never be used to weed out books…but perhaps to weed them in.


Book 7: “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas

Dumas’ book was a literal page-turner; I found myself devouring the book 50 pages at a time. The story focuses on a young man, Edmond Dantès, wronged by a rival suitor for his beloved Mercédés. Dantès is tossed into prison, where he befriends an abbé right as he is on the verge of desperate measures. As time passes, Dantès’ mind and body both strengthen, and when he manages to escape from prison, he reinvents himself as the eponymous Count so that he can take revenge on those who contributed to his imprisonment. I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to miss every theatrical version of this book, since the material is so rich you could mine it for ages. Dumas draws his characters in 3-D; they just seem to have such depth and emotion. Where Chabon was slow and plodding, Dumas races from household to household, weaving an incredible tale of love, betrayal, politicking, redemption, mystery, and finally – salvation.

Book Review: “A Dance With Dragons”

(We will return to our regularly scheduled discussion of books and weight loss when there’s weight loss to report – D’oh!)

Funnily enough, for as few times as I’ve posted lately, I’ve been doing a lot. It’s mostly just that I haven’t been posting about it because time, energy levels, or other things have prevented me from it. And so, this is the first of three book reviews that I need to push out from this year’s “21 books and 10 lbs” challenge.


Book 2: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin


A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin


I originally bought George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series for dh, as we were both fans of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series. Over time, as he realized that Martin’s vision of an otherworldly medieval world was perhaps too bloody and too filled with “adult themes”, he withdrew from it. In fact, he never even picked up the books. So, of course, I picked them up instead. {Warning: ahead there be spoilers! Not that I’m going to tell you who’s died, but by telling you who’s ALIVE, you find out who hasn’t yet been killed off. Maybe. Let’s just say, don’t read this review unless you’re okay with possibly knowing that someone’s lived long enough to be there at least for a part of this book.}


My brother-in-law refers to Martin as “the enemy of happiness”, and I would tend to agree with him. Much as the four preceding novels in the series, the closest you’ll find to a happy ending in “A Dance With Dragons” is of the prurient kind. This book focuses more closely on main characters that were set aside in the prior book – A Feast for Crows – so, there’s renewed focus on some of the children of House Stark, particularly Arya, Bran and Jon. You get more time with the golden haired Lannisters, as well, and Danaerys Targaryen gets more than her fair share of page time. The book opens with Arya still learning the arts of concealment and killing, Jon trying desperately to control a continuing escalation at The Wall between Stannis’ retinue and the wildlings, Cersei scheming to get her freedom, Danaerys endlessly lip-chewing in the desert, and Tyrion attempting to make his way East to plead his case to the white-blond would-be Queen.

As usual, Martin focuses on four main themes: people killing people, people having sex with people, people pondering the miserableness of their situation, and people wandering/dithering/nearly-but-not-quite-finding-each-other. I won’t say that it’s become boring after five books; I devoured this one fast enough for something that runs over 1,000 pages. I will say, though, that this is not a book for the faint of heart. Martin’s vision of a medieval world is never sugar-coated, and the hyper-realism and sheer grittiness of his descriptions can be off-putting to those of tender or delicate sensibilities.

There is also a sense of frustration to be had reading some of the rather lengthy tales of indecision and wrong turns; Martin is very clearly in love with Danaerys, else he wouldn’t mind watching her wander, ponder, and generally do not a lot of anything for quite a few pages. Or perhaps he loves her least, since she often is the literary equivalent of the video game character you keep bumping into a wall because you can’t manage to sort out the controller.

For those who are willing to hang onto the dragon, so to speak, and see where it leads – I suspect the ride will continue to be interesting. And, after all, he claims to have “The Winds of Winter” in progress and teed up to keep the (planned) seven-book franchise going. I’ll keep reading…even if I’m reading it all on my own.