Even More Books!

Okay so post number five of the year regarding reading...bear with me. If only I were doing this well on any of my other resolutions. Young adult fantasy has always been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine, and I absolutely have the tendency to blaze through everything an author has ever written in a week by giving up basically everything else including sleeping and eating when I get into one of these phases. Though I think these were maybe a little more adult than young adult, Sarah J. Maas's books (all seven of them) absolutely fell into this category for me. The first five were of the Throne of Glass series. There were some novellas too, but I'm not really counting those. The story is very strong, fast paced (except the third book, which I have to say was kind of a drag), and keeps you on your toes, not to mention I think this series has one of my all time favorite female fictional characters in it (Manon Blackbeak). Overall, I would highly recommend (most of) this series, especially if you like this genre, though you might consider waiting a year until it's finished because the suspense will kill you.
Next up, was the two books in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series that are out so far. I actually though that A Court of Thorns and Roses was really slow, cliche and kind of boring until about the last 50 pages, which made me anticipate something better for book two, and oh boy, A Court of Mist and Fury did. not. disappoint. Again, I think I've added a new all-time favorite character (Rhysand) to my list, and much of the plot (though it progressed a little too quickly in places) and the characters' motivations were truly well written. The book even went so far as to properly explain away some of the plot points in the first book that I was most disappointed with. So, overall, I would highly recommend the second book in this series, and I suppose you'll have to read the first one for context. I am looking forward to the next one in this series more so than in the Throne of Glass series, actually, as the plot really thickened by the end there.

And now I'm at 15 books, with a month to go! :)

Quiet! Work In Progress...

Well, I don't want to spoil the surprise just yet, but I have some big things (hopefully) happening that I'm very excited about! I won't know for sure that things have taken the direction I want until early next year, but I have a couple months of work ahead of me to put in as well, so I might be a little more absent than usual on this blog (I see you rolling your eyes at me).
I've taken some cool "breaks" though that I want to post about eventually, including my first trip to New York City, which has been a "never have I ever" go-to of mine for way too long now (even though it was always a total winner). I am currently the least excited for fall I think I've ever been in my life, not in the least because it strikes dread in my very soul that winter is coming. But things are going to be busy soon with holidays and elections (though oh god, can't wait for it to be over already) and conferences and there's SO LITTLE TIME to get everything done and I am so bad at not getting enough sleep now! I hope your fall is going a little more relaxing than mine, and if you live somewhere warm, please for the love of all that's holy, send a little more summer my way.

More (Audio)Book Reviews

I must say that I am kicking ass at my reading goal this year, though I will be honest some of it has felt a tiny bit like cheating because well...audiobooks. My office does not have parking directly below or around it, so our designated work parking is about 0.5 miles away. This means I have about a 25 minute walk (round trip) every day during which to listen to something and in order to not spend that time with my head buried in my phone, I will sometimes fill it up by listening to a book. And I am of the opinion that listening to books still counts as reading them.
Somehow I managed to get all the way through high school and college without ever having to pick up this book, but I took a public health class this summer for which one fo the final paper topics dealt with this book. Having never read it and feeling a little ambitious, I told myself it would be unfair to select another paper topic without first giving this book a go, so I downloaded an audiobook. As pretty much expected, it turned out to be an interesting read (with a healthy dose of incredibly depressing and totally horrifying on the side). For those who've never read it, The Jungle is about a Lithuanian family who emigrates to the the Stockyards of Chicago in the early 1900s and slowly learns first hand about the horrors of the meatpacking industry of the time, while struggling to make ends meet. I wasn't a huge fan of the ending which was basically a 10-page political plug, but it made sense in the context of the book. Sinclair had actually written the book as a way to highlight the plight of workers in the meat industry and advocate for better rights for those workers, but the uproar around the book's release centered almost solely on the egregious practices of the meat industry and led to some of the first food inspection laws with real teeth behind them. Overall, I would recommend this book, but maybe...pick something fun to do after you read it.
Admittedly, I am somewhat picky about narrators in audiobooks, but I LOVE listening to comedians narrate their own books and this book was no exception. Offerman has excellent delivery and descriptions in this autobiographical tale of his life, experiences, and career. It was a light and easy listen with some really good lessons incorporated throughout the book. There were a couple parts where the writing was a little heavy handed for me, but ignoring those, the book was wonderful! I would recommend this book.
Basically as soon as I had finished Paddle Your Own Canoe I went through the end-of-book withdrawals that every reader experiences upon completing a good book. You know, the ones that kind of feel like you just got broken up with? Well, naturally, I did what any good book lover does and jumped right into the next book by the same author so I could listen to Nick Offerman, my new friend, tell me about Gumption. The concept for this second book of Offerman's was pretty unique to me. Instead of writing about himself, he chose to highlight the concept of gumption, what it means, and who he has found to have exemplified the trait. As such, I got to learn about a variety of incredibly interesting people from James Madison and Teddy Roosevelt to Yoko Ono and Carol Burnett, all while laughing heartily. I thought it was a great concept for a book and Offerman had incredible delivery. I would highly recommend this book.

Summer Shakes

One of my goals for the year has been to improve the quality of my food intake. I have made it several months being really good about hitting a decent caloric deficit every day, but since noticing an annoying plateau in my fitness goals, I thought I probably needed to step it up a little in the macros department (and the strength training department). Right this minute I am at Newport beach in California, so my current shakes have been a little more of the sugary ice-cream variety, but over the past few weeks, I've been trying an assortment of protein shakes and smoothies to improve my fruit/veggie/protein intake and give myself a good energy boost in the morning and before my high intensity workouts (which are usually on my lunch break). I thought I'd take a minute and share some of my favorites with you!
This shake is a staple. The ingredients are by far the easiest [banana, protein powder (I use vanilla), peanut butter, and some low fat milk] and it's one of the most delicious shakes I've tried. It's extremely high in calories (usually around 600-700 with two bananas), so I try to save this one for days I know I'm going to be doing a much more intense workout (or dancing for 3 hours).
This berry-packed shake is light and refreshing (and if I don't finish the whole thing in the morning, I sometimes add a little gin or vodka to it in the evening for a light fruity cocktail). I'm sure there are a million ways to make this, but I generally prefer a combination of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, a plum, and maybe a banana if the berries/plum combo turns out to be a little more tart than I'd hoped. Adding a scoop of protein powder and some milk to this shake usually caps it out around 400-450 calories, making a good breakfast substitute on a low-intensity exercise day.
I am absolutely a minimalist, and I am rather obstinate about not buying things I plan to only use once or twice, so looking for a green smoothie mix was a challenge. Many recipes had their complicated assortment of ingredients by which to mask the taste of a bunch of bitter vegetables, and I just didn't feel like investing in Goji berries, chia seeds, coconut flakes, or whatever else. Knowing that banana is basically the all-masking smoothie flavor, I decided to go for a simple kale, spinach, and banana recipe for my green smoothie and topped it off with some milk, cinnamon, and vanilla protein powder.

Do you have any shake recipes you really like? How are you getting your protein for the day in?

Rueda de Casino!

This week, I found a new favorite quote about dance. I am reading/listening to Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and there is a line at the beginning about attendees of a wedding:

"Some do not dance anything at all, but simply hold each other's hands and allow the undisciplined joy of motion to express itself with their feet."
The undisciplined joy of motion...I can't think of a better way to express how I feel about dance, though I lack the eloquence of Sinclair (and boy is he eloquent in this book) in my expression. I have been quoting this to myself all day, while thinking about salsa class tomorrow and looking forward to it more than usual.

I mentioned a while ago about taking a salsa class as a means of completing part of a New Year's resolution. Well, here's that post I promised I was going to make about my salsa class. The style I'm dancing is called Rueda de Casino. The video above is actually some of my instructors and classmates dancing this style! Maybe one day if they get me on video, I will post that, but don't hold your breath, guys.  It's a group dance that started in the streets of Cuba and is danced in a circle or rueda, where moves are called out and partners are constantly switching. In Cuba, the moves would differ a lot even between different areas of the same city because people would make up their own and then groups jealousy guarded their own moves in their communities. The history of this dance and the flexibility and variety of moves is one of the things I have loved most about learning it! I've talked about dance as a passion of mine on this blog before; one that, in different phases of my life, hasn't been maintained as regularly or thoroughly as I really need in order to to feel fulfilled. Taking this class has been slowly filling that gap, teaching me to be confident in movement again and helping me feel that undisciplined joy of motion, and I am so happy and thankful to have dance to look forward to every week again!

Book Reviews: Why Not Me? and Catcher in the Rye

In keeping with my resolutions, I recently finished two more books! The first, was Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? which I basically knew I would like before I even started. Full of her usual charm and wit, Mindy Kaling rocked it yet again. I really enjoyed the glimpse into her life and how well the autobiographical and comedic components complemented each other to make this book so enjoyable. Also, reading the whole thing in her voice and with her delivery helped a lot. I would highly recommend this book.

The other book I read recently was J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Somehow I managed to make it through the entirety of my primary education without ever having to read this book, but I'd heard a lot about it, namely that the characters get more and more annoying the older you get. I can't really speak to what high-school-me would have thought about Holden Caulfield, but adult-me definitely found him a little over dramatic and judgy. That being said, I didn't have any trouble at all getting through this book and found the story pretty interesting overall. I've notcied that when I read books I had to read for school over again, I like them A LOT more than when I struggle to read a chapter a day and identify themes and symbolism and whatnot, so for those of you who didn't like this book much as a student, it might be worth another try. I'm not sure I would choose to read this again, but overall, I would recommend this book, especially as a one-time adult, re-read.

In other news, IT'S FINALLY WARM OUTSIDE. I'm pretty sure my mood has improved like 1000% since March.

Tuesday Tunes!

Spring is in full swing here, and as I've been trying to spend more and more time outside walking in the warmer weather, I've been on the lookout for music that matches this significant uplifting of my spirits. Here's a few songs I've been enjoying!
1. "Summertime" - The Mowgli's
2. "Bounce With Me" - Ben Drake, John Clay, & Josh Radden
3. "Words I Never Said" - Lupe Fiasco ft. Skylar Grey
4. "Nothing Without Love" - Nate Ruess
5. "High Society" - Betty WHO

Also, there's the Hamilton: The Musical soundtrack, which I haven't included above because otherwise this Tuesday Tunes would be 30 songs long, but is a complete goddamn masterpiece through and through. Happy Tuesday, friends!
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