Book Review: Imitation and Alchemy

Of course, I need to start with a disclaimer. I received an advanced copy of this book. As per usual, I tried to pay with my first-born son, and as per usual, Elizabeth Hunter cruelly denied my offering. It’s almost like she has no idea how much fun almost 4-year-old boys are.

This is the second in the spin-off Elemental Legacy series and it features my second favorite Elemental World character: Tenzin.  (My heart will always and forever belong to Carwyn…sigh…)

ANYWAY!

Bonus: it’s set in Italy. I’ve never been, so it was fun seeing it all through Ben and Tenzin’s eyes.

The Blurb: All Ben Vecchio wanted was a quiet summer before his last semester of university. Was that too much to ask?

All Tenzin wanted was a cache of priceless medieval coins that had been missing for several hundred years.

And some company.

Phrases like “never again” don’t mean much when you’ve been a vampire for several thousand years. And promises made in the heat of anger don’t outweigh the lure of gold. Ben Vecchio thought he knew everything there was to know about the immortals of Italy. But when Tenzin tempts him into another adventure finding a cache of rare gold coins missing since the nineteenth century, he’ll discover that familiar places can hold the most delicious secrets. And possibly, the key to his future.

The Cover:

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The Review: Because this is a book by Elizabeth, you know right off the bat that I’m going to praise her world building. This book, like everything she writes, is the perfect combination of fantastic world-building, brilliant writing, and complex and interesting characters.

It was so well-written, in fact, that it sucked me in and I read it in one sitting – once again forgetting to take the time to mark things that specifically appealed to me. That, of course, meant that I had to read it again. For you guys! Not for my own pleasures at all.

One of my favorite things in this world of ageless creatures is watching Ben grow up and change. His relationship with Tenzin has always been delightful and as he’s grown from a child to a young man, so has their relationship. For as much as she is continually getting him into trouble, he goes into it willingly knowing what he’s getting into.

The characters, some of which have been present for most of the Elemental World books, are so very consistent in their actions, words, and behavior. Elizabeth crafts her worlds so well that her characters never waver or wander (unless they are wanderers by nature).

Each book I read, regardless of series or setting, is an improvement over the last – even when that should be nearly impossible to do.

In addition to being completely delightful watching Ben grow up, it’s equally delightful to watch Elizabeth’s writing continue to develop and get better and better.

The Quote:

“…it’s Louis singing ‘A Kiss to Build a Dream On.’ On a record player. [Ben] swung [Tenzin] into his arms and began to lead her around the entry hall. “In the most perfect house in Venice. We have to dance.”

 

Go forth! Read the book – read them all!

On the right track…

You may remember (but probably not, unless you are a truly dedicated gazelle fan) that in September I stopped using my fitbit (for the first time in almost three years) and stopped obsessively tracking my steps and exercise and all that stuff in an effort to be a leetle less OCD with my spreadsheet usage and a little more relaxed.

I went fitbit-less for a month. And lo! I was more relaxed about it! I didn’t pace the bedroom at night going for my step goals. I didn’t spend 30+ minutes every day updating my fitness spreadsheets and recalculating what I would need to hit my (often arbitrary) goals.

This trackingless lifestyle change went hand in hand with two things:

  1. A change in medication that is fairly notorious for messing with eating habits and weight; something that’s not going to change anytime soon
  2. A hyooooge uptick in life stress, something that’s also not going to change in the immediate future.

I’ve no idea how much I moved between 9/1/15 and now. I do know that’s when I stopped running and never really restarted (other than a few runs here and there). I didn’t swim once Sept-Nov. I never got on the bike. I didn’t yoga. I basically became sedentary.

I don’t know how much of the sendentary correlates with the lack o’ tracker and how much correlates with stress+drugs because I don’t have an Amy control group. (I should clone myself and see! BRILLIANT IDEA, 3AM insomniac Amy!)

I kinda want to start tracking again, but don’t want a wrist tracker because I bought myself a sweet wristwatch and I’m never taking that off (except to bathe and swim and sleep). I liked my fitbit’s sleep tracking and didn’t care about the HR tracking. I would prefer something I could wear to swim and that doesn’t cost too much.

Also, I want a personal trainer, a personal chef, and a personal unicorn. As long as I’m making requests. Maybe a personal pool boy and a personal masseuse, too.

Happy New Year!

So I’m a little bit late. Twenty-one days late to be precise (and I love being precise).

The last 21 days have been a bit on the rough side for reasons that I’m not planning on sharing with the world at this point in time (vague blogging!). I logged into ye olde blogge several times to write a post, stared at a blank screen for a while, and then logged out.

This has also been my approach to writing and eating and exercising. I’ve spent more time staring at blank screens and into the depths of my fridge and at my running shoes in the last few weeks than actually doing anything productive and useful. At all. I’ve run once this month. I yoga’d once. I’ve written less than 2000 words. I’ve eaten very little and when I do eat, I’m eating crap. I’m also barely sleeping and all of this is not surprisingly making me feel terrible!

So why did I break three weeks of blog silence to whinge at you internets?

Because I wanted to remind myself (and you, too, I guess…in case you care) that this is the #yearofme and dammit, just because things are stressful doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take care of myself. There’s only so long I can eat my feelings before those feelings start to become who I am instead of a temporary state of being.

So it’s time to revisit my #yearofme goals.

  1. More sleep
  2. More writing
  3. More movement
  4. More job satisfaction – things are actually, maybe, just possibly looking up here

Awesome might be a bit strong.

Bonus mini goals

  1. More water
  2. More gin
  3. More love
  4. More laughter
  5. More time outdoors with the Bean
  6. More unicorns
  7. More letting shit go
  8. More reading
  9. More cheese
  10. More beer & cribbage nights

I am ready to pull myself out of the self-pitying funk I’ve been in. Sometimes life is hard and adulting is less desirable than building a pillow fort and hiding with a few books and a bottle of gin, but I am a strong, capable woman who has the power to make my own life as awesome as I want it. I can’t won’t sit around waiting for my fairy godmother to show up and *poof* my life more fantastic.

Although that does look worth a shot at least. (Get it? Worth a SHOT?? I slay me.)

I’m sure I’ll still have moments or days or maybe a week of self-pity here and there, but I swear on the life on my second-born child (I do not have a second born, nor will I ever…just to quell any rumors that phrase might inadvertently start), I am going to start taking care of myself and that is going to make all the difference.

stuart_smalley_Daily-Affirmations-I-am-good-enough-I-am-smart-enough-and-doggone-it-people-like-me

My strategy is to give zero fucks and just do what I want.

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#winning

Also chocolate milk.

mmmm…the best use of chocolate ever.

Running Down a Dream

I am an accidental drug addict. I was prescribed a drug (and for purposes of vagueness, I’m not going to tell you what it is) the end of June to help arrest the daily panic attacks and heart palpitations.

Speaking of – the first time you have a full-blown panic attack, you are pretty sure you’re having a heart attack and are going to be one of those people who drops dead before age 40 due to cardiac arrest. Also times 3-5. By the tenth time, you know what it is and can work on breathing and meditating through it. If I ever do have a heart attack, I’ll probably just try to meditate through it and die. AND PEOPLE WONDER WHY I’M ANXIOUS! What if this time it’s real‽‽‽‽

ANYWAY – DRUGS. I went on a drug so I could function as a normal human being and it worked. I’ve had only a handful of panic attacks since then and most of them were in September, i.e. the month the shrink decreased my dose without warning me what might happen. (Sorry people in September!)

My fatigue has been ridiculous lately, yet I’ve been sleeping more than ever. I’ve also been on the drug, which is in a class of drugs considered relatively addictive, for almost 6 months. I decided – and got new shrink to agree – that I could stop taking them.

The first week, when I decreased my dosage by 25%, had some pretty bad days. Anxiety, panic, paranoia, mood swings, temperature swings, depression, etc. But the fatigue seems a bit better. I decrease another increment starting tonight, and was warned that nights 2 and 3 after decreasing might be a little…insomniacish.

My personal medical professional (doesn’t everyone have one?) recommended combatting the depression with exhaustion. As I’m currently trying to not be fatigued, that seemed a bit counter-intuitive, but she’s the medical expert and I just work in a hospital where knowledge does not flow into my brain via osmosis or my strong psychic powers.

I’m hoping that exhaustion will help combat the depression and the fatigue. I also read today – and I didn’t do extensive research, so who knows if it’s true – that this class of drug can interrupt REM sleep, which is one of the reasons that those of us who are taking this drug can sleep a lot but still experience fatigue. It would also explain why I almost never dream anymore. I’ve got three more weeks of weaning off the drug – and hopefully the withdrawal symptoms will end shortly after that.

In the meantime, in the spirit of making it through a drug withdrawal and getting a head start on my 2016 goals, today, I went for a run.

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It was a bit chilly. And muddy. But four miles to end the year is pretty damn good.

This Time, It’s All About Me

It’s that time of year again. Many of us reflect on the year that is nearly past and start looking forward to the next year.

It’s a time of endings and new beginnings. I try not to do resolutions because I think they’ve developed a negative connotation over the years as being doomed to fail.

Instead I set goals. Sounds so much fancier and more doable. I know it’s a bit early to officially talk about what I want out of 2016, but you know what? I don’t care.

Because 2016 is the year of the Amy.

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I’ve spent a lot of time in the past years not making me a priority and that has got to stop. To be the best me, which in turn makes me the best mom I can be and the best partner I can be, I need to take care of me.

That means that my needs don’t get put at the bottom of the list. Compromising is good, but not when it leads to loss of sense of self.

There are four big things that I am planning to be the best me possible. These, above all other things, are what I am prioritizing this year. I believe that by making these four things a priority, I’ll have more time and energy for all the people in my life that need my time and energy.

  1. More sleep – I need to manage my cortisol levels better without drugs (who wants to talk about drug detoxing? Anyone? Because let me tell you, the controlled withdrawal from one of my ‘keep Amy sane’ drugs made me scratch my 2016 goal to become a drug addict). Stress management is better for overall health and sleep is a key ingredient for that. So I need to get back in the habit of early to bed.
  2. More writing – I have a book to finish up, and I’d like to finish it by my birthday (2/24 in case you’re taking notes). I have more books to edit. I have an edited book to send out to a couple beta readers. I need to make a concerted effort to get it published. I’d also like to do some smaller pieces and blog more. I love sitting at the keyboard and doing what I love should also help with that pesky stress.
  3. More movement – this was a pretty crap year of exercise for me. I started off strong, then got pneumonia, then got burned out. So no real big race goals this year. Just make time to move consistently every week. Trail running, bicycling, swimming, yoga. I like those things. I can do those things. I need to make the time to do those things on the regular. The architect can totally handle mornings without my presence a couple times a week. Bonus: exercise is a great way to increase stress management! (It’s almost like there’s a theme!)
  4. More job satisfaction – I think this would go the furthest towards managing the stress levels. I am not sure exactly how to get there, but by the end of 2016 I want to look around and say absolutely that I do not dread going to work (and maybe, if I get really crazy, that I actually enjoy what I’m doing). For some reason this one is the scariest.
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Being fabulous

Bonus goals

  1. More water

  1. More gin

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  1. More love

IMG_2546

  1. More laughter

2015-10-11 10.20.18

  1. More time outdoors with the Bean

2015-06-20 16.15.06 HDR

  1. More unicorns

2015-12-29 12.04.53

  1. More letting shit go

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  1. More reading

to read pile

  1. More cheese

  1. More beer and cribbage nights

2015-11-27 18.53.50

 

There might be difficult paths on the road to putting my own oxygen mask on first, but when else do I start prioritizing myself? I don’t want to look back in twenty years and realize that nothing’s changed. It’s the last full calendar year in my 30s. When better, really?

This is what awesome looks like.

This is what awesome looks like.