20 books & 20 lbs (week 43): It’s all ups and downs, isn’t it?

You win some, you lose some…that’s how the saying goes. I think, in that context, it’s supposed to refer to the idea that you can’t win all of your battles. Of course, with weight loss, winning is losing and vice versa, and so while I was happy to report that I’d lost a pound last week, I get to report that I gained it back this week. What the…?

Weight loss is so genuinely frustrating. If you don’t have the time, energy, or sheer mass of willpower to devote all of your time and energy to it, you just can’t seem to make the progress you want. I’m not as bad off as I was nine months ago, but I still feel like only drastic action will get me the other 10lbs down…and drastic is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Drastic is where “things that I can’t do repeatedly and forever” comes in. Drastic is “you can’t have, even when you want to” and that’s also a problem.

Now, sure, I’ve had to take drastic action before: for example, I don’t drink (highly) caffeinated drinks anymore. About 10 years ago, I stopped drinking caffeinated sodas and switched to decaf coffee & tea because my gastrointerologist suggested that might help me with my (ever-increasing) stomach troubles. Turns out he was right: dehydration is a trigger, and caffeine is definitely a trigger. And yes, there is some amount of caffeine in decaf coffee, but it doesn’t set me off, so I still drink THAT.

That was a big switch for me, and it’s also a lot of why I primarily drink water if I’m not having coffee or tea; at least that I know I can get without caffeine hidden in it (I’m looking at YOU, Orange Sodas and Root Beers!).

But that was taken for a specific symptom abatement: please make me stop being so violently ill that I’m incapacitated for several days every week. And it worked. Frankly, it’s also in the category of “drastic but totally manageable” since it didn’t require me to change how I spent my time, just what I picked to drink. It didn’t necessitate spending at least an hour in caffeine-detox every day, the way committing myself to a serious workout plan might.

So, the struggle continues. And yes, I know some of it is a matter of willpower. I could have not had that second margarita last night. COULD HAVE. But since I have about 1 alcoholic drink per month, these days, I figure that having two in one night probably holds me well enough until we get to Christmas.

Book #16: “Let the Sky Fall” by Shannon Messenger

It’s a funny thing, when you go to a movie theater and walk out with a book. That’s happened to me only a couple of times, where the movie theater had promo copies of books (recently released, is my guess, not advances) and they put them out for patrons to take on their way into whichever show they happen to be seeing. The first time that happened, we were going to see “The Three Musketeers” and I picked up some GOD-AWFUL HARRY POTTER KNOCKOFF that I just couldn’t even bother with after about 30 pages of me saying, “THIS IS A GOD-AWFUL HARRY POTTER KNOCKOFF” and exiling it to a shelf in the library to go into some nebulous “giveaway” pile that doesn’t yet exist.

So this was a bit different.

We were headed in to see “RED 2” and there was a book. On the counter. Just waiting to be picked up.

Putting aside my PTSD from having gotten such an awful book last time, I picked up “Let The Sky Fall”, a Young Adult fiction piece that seemed supernatural and potentially quite girly. The good news is that it IS supernatural but it ISN’T girly. In fact, Messenger – alternating chapters from the points of view of the two main characters – works very hard to make it NOT girly.

The book centers on Vane Weston, a teenager who managed to survive an EF-5 tornado that killed his parents and knocked out all of his childhood memories. He’s haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl that he later discovers is Audra, a “windwalker” – a sylph who can control wind, a girl who has been with him since just before that fateful day that robbed him of his parents. She explains to him that there’s a battle among the windwalkers and that she’s his guardian, sworn to protect him even if it means sacrificing her own life, and that there is another band of windwalkers that want to control him because he holds the secret to commanding the fourth wind – the westerly winds.

Of course, Vane being the average teen boy, thinks this is all fairly insane…but he manages to listen to her long enough to understand the truth in her message, and he devotes himself to learning what he can so that he can save both of them. He also tries to unlock the mystery of his past, which is tied up in secrets Audra holds clamped down as tightly as the regulation guardian braid she uses to corral her hair.

By alternating her storytelling between Audra and Vane, you get a much better sense of each character’s motivation and sensation. Naturally, there’s some measure of girliness involved – anything relating to how Audra and Vane feel about each other triggers my inner 14-year-old’s hormones – but not enough that you feel that it takes over the book. Within the first 100 pages (my threshold for pain), the book had me hooked. By the time I made it over the crest towards the end of the 400 page tome, I was staying up late to finish it. And any girliness about Vane/Audra is counteracted by both of them being tough as nails; Audra is no fading flower and her inner (and outer) strength make it clear this girl has some serious power.

Messenger ended the book by setting up for the next (“Let the Storm Break”, due out in March), and I’m curious to see what she puts into it. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for it, since this seems very much to be a series worth picking up, not just for me but also for my kids when they get old enough to handle YA. Her writing style and focus draws characters more in the vein of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson than Bella Swan, without necessarily alienating the young female set, so I think Messenger does a very good job of walking a very fine line. I’m glad I read “Let the Sky Fall”, and now I’m looking forward to March to see where she takes Vane and Audra next…

20 books and 20 lbs (week 30): It would be nice just to be whelmed

I’ve had this conversation with family before, including dh: how come you can be overwhelmed or underwhelmed, but never just “whelmed”? Right about now, I could use just being whelmed. It would be such a nice change of pace.

Since we got back from vacation, things have been quite busy at work – to the point where one of my major sources of work-related stress is just getting there and getting out on time. I’m very much looking forward to the point a little more than a year from now, when we’ll get back to ONE set of drop-offs and ONE set of pick-ups for the kids; having two separate drop-offs and pick-ups makes morning and evening logistics hard and adds stress. Will I get to work on time or show up late? Will I get the kids before {the place I’m getting them from} closes and I get into trouble?

I also – rather randomly – got sick late last week, probably food poisoning of some kind, so my eating was pretty curtailed. On the plus side, that meant I lost some of the weight I’d gained in DC. That’s definitely NOT how I like to lose weight, so I’ll hope that I can find a way to lose the remaining 10lbs without that extra oomph. Of course, being that this week had extra stress at work and with my family, my eating habits were off a bit. I wasn’t shoveling all the food into my body at a breakneck pace, but neither was I existing off lettuce and raw carrots. Neither is sustainable, anyway, so I’ll just take what I’ve got when I weigh in tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, I can report that I’m currently down almost 10lbs from my starting point…but I’m losing daylight on the year and need to find a ~sustainable~ way of losing the remaining 10. I also managed to finish off another two books, so at least I think I’m on track there. I hope.

Book #9: “Gun Machine” by Warren Ellis

This is my second read by Ellis this year, and between that and “FreakAngels”, I’m starting to get the sense that he’s one moody, dark genius. I consider this an incredibly good thing. The story opens with Detective John Tallow losing his partner to a gun-wielding psychotic. The building where the shooting takes place gets cordoned off as a crime scene, and when Tallow discovers an apartment that’s literally covered in guns, he unwittingly uncovers a conspiracy, ages-old murders, and a plan by one of the most dangerous men in history. Ellis deftly mixes the geography and history of New York City with more information about how to kill a person than most sane folks should ever know. The story builds slowly and carefully until it all starts to come together…by which time the characters, the story, and you are running through it all so fast that it climaxes in a blur. Ellis’ second novel is an incredibly engaging read – not for the faint of heart – and it shows that just as he’s got the ability to craft rich, well-drawn stories in graphic novels (where “well-drawn” refers both to the artwork AND the story), he’s mastered the art of the graphic (un-graphic) novel, as well.

Book #10: “Gossip Girl” by Cecily Von Ziegesar

Figuring that I’d need a “light, come-down” reading after another Warren Ellis book, I’d saved this library sale pick for the #10 spot. It definitely didn’t disappoint for the category of “light read”, although I can’t say that I was entirely enamored of it. Perhaps it’s because I read it immediately following a book that had my neurons firing constantly, or perhaps it’s because I never saw the show “Gossip Girl” but had the images in my head of the various actors who played the key roles as I read every page of this book. In any event, I found “Gossip Girl” to be fairly meh, as books go.

I’ve read enough young adult (YA) lit to know how things typically go, and I’m just as interested as the next person in reading about the troubled life of the brahmin; however, I found the writing to be scattered enough that character development was too limited for my taste. Only two characters really got fleshed out to any extent, and even then it was hard to find anyone particularly sympathetic enough that you’d want to continue reading on. This works fine for TV, when the purpose is to give short, easily consumed bites on a weekly basis…but when it’s a book, it’s not always as attractive. Let’s just say that I’m not inspired to read the rest of the series. For those interested in a far better YA read with a girly bend to it, I’d recommend skipping “Gossip Girl” and getting “Spoiled” by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (aka “The Fuggirls”). It’s a far more amusing and engaging read, as is its followup, “Messy”.