The City of Brass, by SA Chakraborty

Nahri is a con-woman in 19th century Cairo with a few magical abilities that she uses to survive. Then one night, those magical abilities accidentally call a djinn to her, and suddenly she’s on the run from demons and discovering more about her heritage than she’s ever known. Now she has to survive a trek to the magical djinn capitol and the politics between warring tribes when she arrives.

This is a book that I’m going to reserve judgement on. I should not have read it while in a reading slump, my brain not really focusing on books. Back in November when the book first came out, I read a sample and absolutely loved the opening. I’m not usually a fan of con-people-as-narrators, but I loved Nahri right away. It took two months for the library to get the book processed and sent to me – you better believe I was the first person on the hold list! – and before it arrived, my brain went kaput. I read the book, but I feel like so much of it went through my head without any real comprehension.

For example, I had a hard time understanding why some characters claimed that a certain magical family had been dead for over a millennia and why some characters remembered the last surviving member of said family from twenty years ago. I’m obviously missing something! Or, when it turned out that a traitor was not a traitor after all, there was no emotional reaction and instead it was as if they were never even suspected of being a traitor. Again, what am I missing?? This was not the book’s fault. This was definitely my inability to truly comprehend as I was reading. I really wish I could have listened to the audio version, because I know it would have dug deeper into me that way, but sadly I dislike the way the audio narration is handled and so can’t go that route.

Honestly, I think I’m going to have to set the book aside and reread it in a few months, when I’m out of my reading slump and in a better mental place for processing it. I don’t want to turn anyone off the book, because I think that if I’d really been present while reading, it could easily have been an early contender for my 2018 favorites. It’s exactly the kind of book I love, blending literary writing, social commentary, fantasy elements, and Middle Eastern folklore. I mean, come on – does that not sound like the perfect book for me?? So again, I reserve judgement. I’m going to treat this one as not-read-yet, and will come back to it when I’m in a better frame of mind.

Posted in 2018, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Wellness Wednesday – Sugar Hangover

I mentioned in my post on Monday that I went to the movies with Jason and Laurence on Saturday night. We saw Darkest Hour – which was excellent, by the way – and had a good night. Perhaps a little late for my tastes (I like to turn in early) but worth it. However, by the middle of the night, I discovered something rather important: the sugar hangover is a real thing, people. And it’s awful.

So far this year I’ve been doing great with keeping my sugar low, as I mentioned starting in December. I had two days where I was so sick that all I could eat was tomato soup, crackers, and cereal, and so my sugar was a bit high on those days. Otherwise, though, every day in 2018 has been an ounce or less of sugar – until Saturday. It was a celebration, and we all got treats at the movie. I got M&Ms, and was expecting one of those boxes they usually come in. I knew it would be too much, but again, birthday celebration, I’d let the sugar grams slide for a night. Except then Jason brought our treats to our seats, and…

I don’t know exactly what size this bag ended up being. I didn’t look at the ounces, calories, sugar grams, etc. My best guess is that I probably consumed nearly 100 grams of sugar – about what I normally eat now in four days – over the two hours of movie. Of course I should have stopped, but I didn’t.

So okay, it was one night. I knew I’d get back on track the next day. I just wasn’t expecting to wake up with a migraine at three in the morning. And then again at six. Medicine did nothing. My head ached pretty much the entire day as I drank tons of water and attempted to bring my sugar grams to zero for the day. I still managed to exercise, but MAN that is a lesson learned!

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Birthday Fun

Wishing my sweet Jason a happy birthday today! He and my three boys are off to the MLK March right now. I’d be with them except that it’s downtown and my anxiety in traveling to downtown is out of control, so I’m sending my support virtually today. Jason took the day off work and tonight we’re going to have a little party. We’re making split pea soup (his favorite) and giving gifts. Last Saturday, the two of us and our youngest son went out to dinner and a movie (Darkest Hour) while our older two spent the night at friends’ houses. It was a good movie, and we had a lot of fun playing with the Polaroid Movie set that was just out in the hallway before our film started:

It was a fun night, and hopefully today will be a good day for him. Happy birthday, Jase!

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Sunday Coffee – Slump…ish?

It’s been quite a long time since I went through any kind of reading slump. I often have periods where I’m reading more or less, or when my brain switches gears and starts spending time with a new kind of book. I have diverse enough interests that when a particular genre or age group or time period begins to wear on me, I kind of naturally flow into a different one. Lately, though, I can’t find anything that sounds particularly wonderful to read.

I think partly this may have been due to my binge-reading of Oathbringer and the other books of the Stormlight Archive. (Because yes, after my first read of the book and subsequent audio read of it, I went back and read the first two books, the intervening novella, and then a third read-through of Oathbringer.) My brain is now satisfied and worn out on the series and ready to leave it behind for a bit, but I seem to have hit a wall on what to read next. I’ve been grabbing at random and have already tried-and-rejected half a dozen books – all in the last week. The good news is that I finally settled on a book and an audiobook. The bad news is that neither have particularly engaged me, not even the one I’ve been eagerly awaiting for two months now. It’s definitely not the books’ fault. It’s me. This definitely feels slumpish.

I’m not going to try to force the books. I’ll plod along, and if I don’t read anything for the next little while, so be it. Perhaps the blog will go quiet for a bit, though I’m not taking a full break. And hopefully soon, something will break through the stupor and reinvigorate my book-brain. We’ll see.


Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 8 Comments

Wellness Wednesday – Up and Down and Up Again

The first week of 2018 has been a wild ride. It started off pretty good. My brother came over to hang out on Monday, and my writing group met up on Wednesday evening (including one friend that I haven’t seen in a couple years). Thursday, my dad and brother came over for a wine party. I had plans to attend a coffee festival with a friend Saturday, and then to head out to my grandmother’s ranch for our annual family bonfire in the evening.

Beyond all the social events – which I love, because I’m one of those rare extroverted book bloggers – I’d been so happy beginning Yoga With Adriene’s TRUE yoga series. My cotton yoga mat arrived (via Ashi Box), I joined a worldwide online yoga community, and my body felt so good! Until Thursday evening.

When my brother and dad came over for our wine party, I thought I was having allergy symptoms. Just a little sniffling and stuffy, you know? But it was more than that – on Friday morning, I woke up with a lead weight on my chest, unable to take a deep breath, full-body weakness, all that jazz. I basically slept the entire day away. Saturday was a little better, but my heart would still race every time I walked up the stairs, or even stood still for more than a few seconds. I had to cancel both of my Saturday events (boo!!).

Pretty much everyone but Laurence (so far) has been hit with this, all to varying degrees, but I seem to have gotten the worst of it (yay?). Still, I managed to keep up with my yoga practice, only missing a day and then doubling-up on Sunday to catch up. By Monday, I was feeling mostly better, and I had one of those truly glorious moments that come periodically during exercise.

I posted this picture on Instagram and Facebook, but didn’t really give the full story behind it. There are two parts to it. First, there are my problem-feet, which I’ve discussed before. Balancing has always been tough for me at every age, size, and fitness level. Then I broke my foot back in August 2015. A year ago, doctors discovered my left foot was still broken 18 months after that fall, and I was restricted to no-impact exercise (pretty much just modified yoga) for six months. I wasn’t allowed to do any balancing postures on my left foot, and I wouldn’t have been able to if I tried. Here we are a year later, and I didn’t fall once while in tree pose. That’s rare enough on my problem feet without accounting for the recently-healed-and-still-strengthening broken foot. That’s the part I discussed via social media.

What I didn’t discuss was this particular variation of tree pose. The traditional pose has either hands together at the heart or together overhead, but in Monday’s practice, Adriene said to make it our own. Find something that resonated with us. I almost never put my arms overhead just because balancing that way is so difficult on my feet, but on Monday my arms rose right up, shoulder blades back, fingers spread, eyes toward the sky. In my head, my fingers became tree branches that connected down the trunk of my body to where my foot rooted to the earth. After four cross-country moves in three years, I finally feel rooted again, and I really felt that as I stood tall in this pose, maybe wobbling a little here and there but never even close to falling. I am home. What a great way to end the first week of 2018.

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Mind Games, by Kiersten White

Two sisters with psychic powers. A mysterious and dangerous school. Both sisters trying to protect and save each other though one is blind and one is psychologically traumatized by what she’s forced to do.

I only found out recently that Kiersten White had written more than the Conqueror’s Saga. I’m not sure why I thought it was her first series. I looked through her many books and decided to try this one as my second foray into her writing. My thoughts were mixed. On the one hand, it wasn’t nearly so in-depth or nuanced as what she did in the Conqueror’s Saga. It felt much more YA-thriller, not as much depth, and I’m kind of in the mood for more depth. But on the other hand, the book arrived for me right when I was sick and unable to concentrate much on anything heavier. It kept me reading and was the perfect level and speed for me when I was under the weather, and I appreciated that. So it was a mixed experience, and in the future, I’ll likely approach more of White’s work a bit more cautiously.

Posted in 2018, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Wrapping Up 2017

Well, once again I reiterate the mantra of the last few years: 2017 wasn’t a great one for me. The government went crazy, lots of bad stuff happened in the world, and my family had a rough year with Jason losing his job and then a cross-country move. Not to mention that whole summer of nightmares thing. Anyway. I’ve begun 2018 in a much better place physically (no broken foot) and mentally (liking where I live). I hope that I can make this year far better than the last few have been. I know that it’s a week into the new year already, but I wanted to take a moment to recap the last year, and to highlight some of the good things that happened.

I didn’t track nearly as many stats as I would have liked in this category. I don’t know how many yoga sessions I did, for instance, or how many miles I walked/jogged. But I do know that I exercised 213 days in 2017 despite everything that happened. That’s 58% of the year. I’d like to increase that to at least 75% in 2018 (274 days). I exercised a total of 198 hours and 34 mins (equal to over 8 days! and averaging 32 mins/day) and I walked over three million steps (!!! average of 8382 per day, even with a broken foot for six months). My weight went up a few pounds from January 1st to January 1st, but it’s still within a fluctuating maintenance range and my inches are the same, so I think I can say I was successful at maintaining this year. Yay!

Writing and Books
I already did a more extensive books-in-review post so I won’t go much into detail there, only to say that I averaged six books per month. That seems to be a sustainable and enjoyable reading pace for me. Unfortunately, I did very little with my writing this year. A tiny bit of editing and a negligible word count for the year (so small I’m not even going to report it – it’s BAD). I don’t see that changing until I can get my mental health better together, so I’m just going to accept that 2018 will not be a writing year for me.

Highlights of 2017
There weren’t many of these, but I’ve done my best to find the top ten highlights of the year. I’d rather remember 2017 by these memories than the nightmarish ones.

Yoga – I said above that I didn’t manage to track my yoga this year, but this was definitely one of my primary forms of exercise. While I’ve been practicing yoga for several years, this was the year I realized just how much I loved it. I’ve grown so much stronger and more flexible while practicing yoga, and it just brings me so much peace.

Vacation and Visits – I loved every second of my vacation to Texas in February and March. I was so homesick and this helped me to cope. Then in May, my friend Stephanie came up to visit me in Wisconsin, which was another little bright spot in the year to help me make it through.

Healed ankle – Finding out in December 2016 that my foot was actually broken and not sprained was a blow. I wasn’t allowed to do much in the way of exercise for the first six months of the year (except yoga). When I suddenly discovered in June that I could spread my toes and twist my foot without pain, it was like a miracle after two years of being unable to do these things.

Moving back to Texas and a new house – The circumstances around the moving back to Texas and getting a new house were bad, but moving back? This lovely house? Both of these have been amazing. I’ve enjoyed seeing all my friends and family again, going places with them, getting back together with my writing group, making an exercise area for myself in my bedroom, walking at my favorite hiking locations, etc.

Meeting Rory – A year to the day after my nephew was born, I finally got to meet him!

Oathbringer – I haven’t been this excited for a book release in years, probably not since the 7th Harry Potter came out.

Snow day – It never snows in San Antonio. The fact that it snowed was just awesome and so much fun.

Nimi – The other nine things on this list were roughly in the order that they happened in the year, but I saved this one for last. Nimi, who we adopted in February, has been one of the primary sparks in my life this year. She united our other two kitties and is a constant source of joy. When Jason and I went into the shelter to choose a cat, we’d never met her before. We’d met many of the other cats in the shelter (I volunteered there) but Nimi was new. She also aggressively chose us, so that we had no choice really but to take her home with us. This little lady has made the world so bright. She was by far the best decision we made in 2017.

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