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My Best Books of 2019

Well 2019 is over and I wanted to look back on my year’s reading and pick out my favorites. Since some of these were parts of series, I’m going to limit my picks to no more than one per author. If any of these interest you, use my links to help support this blog (at no additional cost to you).

I’m going to list these in no particular order and reviews are still forthcoming on some of them.

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton was the final volume in a multi-volume science fiction saga that I listened to as an audiobook. If you like very long and complicated plots stretched across the galaxy, this is a great series. You can find by review here. Start with his earlier book, Pandora’s Star.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an amazing surprise of a story inspired by the fairy tales of eastern Europe. This is a stand-alone fantasy novel that I listened to as an audiobook. While I had a little trouble adjusting to the narrator’s accent, it ended up fitting the book perfectly. This may have been my absolute favorite for the year. It looks like there is a chance that it will be adapted into a movie as well. You can find my review here.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders was another surprise audiobook pick for me that I chose as part of an Audible sale. I had heard the author speak at New York Comic Con in 2018 and had been interested in her work. This stand-alone novel relates the story of a witch and a mad scientist as they work to save the world. You can find my review here.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. I also read the sequel, but I enjoyed the plot better in this one, with plenty of swords and female pirates. If you want to start this series, pick up The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was one of the non-fiction books that I read in 2019 and was a great choice. This book relates the author’s efforts to discover more about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who unknowingly contributed her cervical cancer cells to science, leading to numerous discoveries in biology and medicine. While the book does discuss the scientific side of the subject, its main focus is upon Henrietta the person and her life and family. I haven’t written up my review on this one yet.

I became aware of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo sometime after the Netflix series inspired by the book spurred articles criticizing the approach in regards to discarding books. Given that I am not the best housekeeper, I thought I’d take a look at this one. I’m glad I did, as her approach to organization has helped me learn to make better choices about what to keep and what to give up (yes, even books). It’s part of the reason why I can sit at a clean (well, half-way) desk and get more writing done now. I have a long ways to go in the process, but I fell better about getting my messes under control. You can read my full review here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was one of two classics that I was determined to read in 2019. I hadn’t been aware of what this book was about and just delved right in. I listened to the audiobook version of this one, narrated by Sissy Spacek. While I was confused at first, once the main plot expanded past the daily life of the children, I quickly realized that this book was about racism and prejudice. I plan to put more of my thoughts into a review soon.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and was published thirty-five years after that first look at her frightening dystopian future. I found The Testaments to be a more enjoyable read than the first book, mainly because it was a bit more hopeful. The scope of the story is greater, with the narration split between three characters rather than just Offred from the first book. If you’re unfamiliar with these novels, The Handmaid’s Tale has been on sale for no free lately.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was my second pick for a classic book to read in 2019. I lucked out this year in choosing classics that I actually liked, which is not always the case. This novel tells about Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man who receives a treatment to make him smarter. But this change comes with unanticipated consequences and the ending of this book is heartbreaking.

So I guess that The Giver by Lois Lowry is also considered a classic now, so that’s three for me for the year. This was a quick read that I picked up with no real idea of what it was about. I think I read it in a day and a half, and with the upsurge in dystopian fiction, this book isn’t as shocking as it may have been when first published. However, the story was well-done and I liked how it challenged the superficial utopia of the society in the book.

Anyone by Charles Soule was a pick that I obtained from Net Galley and I had never read anything by this author before. I just reviewed it here. This book was exciting and easy to read, despite the complicated implications of being able to slot your consciousness into another person’s body. I need to read more of this type of action-science fiction because I really like it.

That’s it, my favorites for the year! I’m planning to catch up on my reviews for some of these in the next few months. For now, I’m going to plan my 2020 reading and look at my most anticipated reads ahead.

Find all of my reviews here.

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My Top 10 Triathlon Accessories for 2018

It’s December and that means that it’s time to look back at 2018 and think about the high and low points of the season. Without any major races on my schedule until June, it’s time to start a new training plan and to focus on what worked last year, as well as what did not. I realize that I found a few pieces of equipment and clothing that I was really glad to have on hand this past year with all the time that I put in training for Ironman Lake Placid.

Here are my top ten triathlon accessories from my 2018 season:

10. Cycling Glasses

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Now we have matching glasses.

These glasses were a gift from my husband as we started doing more evening outdoor rides. I had regular cycling glasses from XX2i Optics that had served me well, but were pretty dark. My new pair of Oakley glasses has photochromic lenses that change from a darker tint to less tint as the daylight fades. I don’t know exactly which style I have since this was a gift.

9. Coeur Trishorts

I was looking to buy another pair of trishorts for the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon. While I’m not a fan of many of the color combinations in the Coeur lines, I did like these blue ones.

The chamois is seamless and soft and fleecy. The fit was as I expected and I didn’t experience any unexpected discomfort during the race. I’d definitely buy another pair if I can find a style that I like.

8. Cycling Vest

I decided before the same Quassy Half event that I also needed to find a vest for cycling in cooler weather because I am always cold.

This one from Garneau was on sale and fit my needs. It has two large pockets in back which turned out to be a perfect size to stow my jacket (see #6). The vest is very lightweight but does help to cut the wind. The fit is a bit slim.

7. Mizuno Running Shoes

I may have bought these Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 shoes at the end of 2017, but most of my use of them has occurred in 2018. The replaced my previous pair of Mizunos and have held up well. I didn’t have any major foot pain or problems while increasing my distance in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid. I’m a bit sad that they have so many miles on them now because I’ll have to replace them soon.

6. Pearl Izumi Running Jacket

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Pearl Izumi jacket.

This was another item that I think I picked up at the end of 2017, but I got more compliments on it than anything else! It saved my race in the rain and wind of Lake Placid, and I wore it for the entire bike course. I’m not overly fond of pink in my clothing, but the combination of fluorescent pink and yellow was certainly eye-catching. It is officially a running jacket, but it works on the bike just fine. It doesn’t have the standard pockets on the back, but one large one instead.

5. Swim Goggles

A few weeks before Ironman Lake Placid, I decided that I needed new swim goggles. The ones that I had been using in my training were starting to fog up more quickly, despite using Cat Crap defogger. I looked at polarized versus standard goggles and ended up buying three different styles and brands.

After all that, the pair that I used for Lake Placid (and still use in the pool) is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 series, which is what I had before all my shopping. The new pair that I used in my race was untinted because the day was overcast. They fit me better than the other goggles and as long as they’re not that old, they don’t fog up much.

4. Cycling gloves

My right hand goes numb while cycling on regular bars. I finally found a pair of gloves (Giro Strada Massa Gel) that seems to alleviate this to some extent. The numbness still occurs, but it takes longer to start up and it isn’t as bad.

I’ve gone back and bought several pairs of these gloves since discovering them. They’re available in several colors and have small pockets on the backs of two fingers to allow you to remove them easily when they’re sweaty. One problem that I did have with them – if they get wet on a ride, they smell really bad when they dry. I’ve had to wash them a few times.

3. Gu Campfire S’mores Flavor

I found this flavor of Gu while trying to figure out a nutrition strategy for Ironman Lake Placid. These really taste like s’mores. I usually eat Gu on long runs – I find them too messy for cycling. I learned that after 45 minutes of running, my energy levels would start to dip. Around 5 minutes after I ate one of these, I’d feel better. This flavor does not contain caffeine.

2. Stroopwaffle

These are very similar to the Honey Stinger waffles that I had been eating, but with less crumby edges. I discovered this tasty snack on a flight when it was served during the food/snack service. Later, my husband found that we could order these by the case. I’ll typically eat one about an hour before cycling, running, or fencing, after fencing practice, or if I need a quick sugar boost.

1. Walk-On Alarm Clock

So this isn’t specifically a triathlon accessory, but it is one of my favorite items that I’ve found this year. I don’t like mornings and I have trouble getting out of bed and getting my day started. This alarm clock sits in the next room and looks like a small rug or scale. When it goes off, I have to get out of bed, stumble into another room, and then stand on the alarm clock for about 10 seconds before it stops.

If you have trouble getting up for your early morning triathlon workouts, it might help! It certainly helped me to get my day started so that I could make better use of my time to fit in those long training sessions.

That’s it for this year’s finds! Have you used any of these? Do you have any favorites pieces of clothing, fuel, or other accessories that have benefited your triathlon training this year? Let me know in the comments.

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