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Book Review: Carrie Soto Is Back

It’s the week after Thanksgiving and I’m back with another book review! I was actually able to finish two books over the break, despite my seven month old being fussy for most of the time. This was the first book I finished, and I’ll write another post for the second book sometime soon.

Here’s the synopsis for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest novel: Carrie Soto is a tennis player with the record for most Grand Slams. But when a new tennis star Nicki Chan comes close to beating her record, Soto decides to come out of retirement to prove herself to be the world’s greatest tennis star – just like her father raised her.

I am a HUGE fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid. I have enjoyed all of her books, if not absolutely loved them. This one did take me a little longer to get into, but once I did it was another Reid book that was hard to put down. I tend to read during my pumping sessions, so this book actually made me look forward to those!

I like how there were a few throwbacks to other Reid novels. Specifically, Daisy Jones and the Six and Malibu Rising. I didn’t realize until it was mentioned, but Carrie Soto is actually the “other woman” in Malibu Rising. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler because I’m pretty sure it’s mentioned pretty quickly in that book.) And Carrie ends up reading Daisy Jones in the Six at one point in this novel, which I found funny.

The fact that Carrie was briefly mentioned in Malibu Rising makes me wonder if Reid had her story in mind all along. Or maybe Carrie was a character that took hold of Reid and wouldn’t let go. As a writer myself, I have definitely had some characters do that! It was interesting to me that Reid wrote an entire novel about a character who was sort of hated in another book. Carrie really is an anti-hero even in this novel, because she’s not well-liked. But that’s why I ended up loving this book. She’s not the sweet, humble tennis star – she basically acts like a male tennis player and people hate her for it because she is a woman.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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Book Review: Bookshop by the Bay

Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley is a women’s fiction novel set on Cape Cod. It has four main characters: Jess and Allison, and their daughters Caitlin and Julia.

Jess and Allison are childhood friends from the Cape, although Jess has been living in Charleston, South Carolina for her adult life. After she finds out that her husband has been cheating on her, she decides to spend the summer at the Cape. Since her daughter Caitlin has just been fired from her job and dumped (on the same day, no less), she decides to join her mother for the summer.

Allison has just gone part-time at her magazine job because the magazine isn’t doing well. When she finds out that the owner of her favorite book store is looking to sell the store so she can retire, Jess convinces her to jump on the chance of making her childhood dream of owning a bookstore a reality. They also end up re-opening the coffee shop next door. The novel is basically about all four characters’ growth over the summer.

Four main characters is a lot, and sometimes I found myself getting confused about who was who, especially since Jess and Julia start with the same letters! But in general I did like the storyline for all of the women. Caitlin was probably my favorite character, as she had the most growth within the story.

The writing was good, if not a little lackluster. Sometimes I felt like I was just reading one scene after another without any real emotion or feeling behind it. But it didn’t bother me enough to stop reading!

This is definitely a book I would recommend if you’re looking for something easy and light. A beach read, you might say. Although I did find everything a tad predictable, it wasn’t necessarily predictable in a bad way. The plot points were exactly what anyone would want from such a light-hearted read. If you’re looking for something with a little more substance to it, you should probably pick up something else.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending this book for review consideration.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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New group fitness certification!

Hello everyone! I’m super excited to announce that I have been certified in yet another group fitness format – HIGH Yo!

What is HIGH Yo? It’s the latest format from HIGH Fitness, which I’ve been certified in since 2020 (yes, that was a pandemic purchase for me haha).

The website describes HIGH Yo as:

Yoga inspired, music driven stretching. HIGH Yo was created to help people fall in love with stretching and start including it into their routines on a more regular basis. This lighthearted format incorporates stretching, strength and balance to improve overall health, and show what a difference stretching can make in our lives and for our bodies. HIGH Yo was created to leave you feeling amazing, help you appreciate and take care of your body, help prevent injuries, and maintain overall good health. With HIGH Yo we embrace the fact that every body is different, and we hope to inspire and encourage participants to embrace and love the body they have, both on and off the mat. Most importantly, HIGH Yo is FUN – say goodbye to boring old stretching and say hello to HIGH Yo!

HIGH Fitness website

In the virtual training I did in October, the creator Amber Zenith kept emphasizing that HIGH Yo is NOT yoga but rather yoga inspired. I think she was always careful to make this distinction because she herself is a certified yoga instructor, so she knows how many hours and hour and hours of training people have to put into becoming yoga instructors. HIGH Yo certification was just a one day training, and it’s really more about the stretching rather than the whole philosophy and mindset of yoga.

Yoga hasn’t really been my favorite way to workout anyway. It’s sort of too slow for me, I guess. But I know that stretching is important. So I was excited when HIGH Yo was introduced to the HIGH Live platform last year. Like the rest of my workouts, if I’m not having fun I probably won’t stretch like I should. HIGH Yo was perfect for me to ensure I gave my muscles what they needed, without feeling like I had to force myself to do it. I’m never consistent if I feel that way!

Just like HIGH Fitness and HIGH Low, the class is set to real music that people know and love. Not the royalty-free stuff that most group fitness classes are set to. I mean, that music is fine. But it really never gets me as excited to workout as the real songs do.

Unlike the other two HIGH formats, which have four class lengths, there are only two HIGH Yo lengths: the 50 minute and the 30 minute. The former is a full workout in itself because it has stretching, cardio and strength tracks. The latter is more about full body stretching.

I have anxiously been waiting for the chance to get certified and now I finally am! Who wants to take a virtual class with me? Comment with what days and times work you!

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Book Review: The Starless Sea

Goodread Synopsis: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood.

Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.⁣

Review: I still don’t know how to feel about this book. 🤔 😂 ⁣

It was beautifully written. It was also not a typical novel construction, as it was a story within a story within a story. So this would probably be hard to follow over audiobook versus just reading it.⁣

I’m not sure if the ending was happy or not. It’s one of those endings where you’re not quite sure what it means. There was kissing though so I guess that’s good enough for me. 😜 ⁣

I LOVED the author’s first book (The Night Circus). I liked this one too, just not as much.⁣

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 💫

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Book Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation⁣

Goodreads synopsis: Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

Review: I felt like this book was longer than it needed to be. Especially since most of the action happened within a few chapters at the end.⁣

Or maybe I just wasn’t interested enough in the main characters to want as much character building from them.⁣

This was a good genre for me to get a semi-Bridgerton fix in though. 😂

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⁣

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Book Review: Dating Dr. Dil

Goodreads Synopsis: Kareena Mann dreams of having a love story like her parents, but she prefers restoring her classic car to swiping right on dating apps. When her father announces he’s selling her mother’s home, Kareena makes a deal with him: he’ll gift her the house if she can get engaged in four months. Her search for her soulmate becomes impossible when her argument with Dr. Prem Verma, host of The Dr. Dil Show, goes viral. Now the only man in her life is the one she doesn’t want.

Dr. Prem Verma is dedicated to building a local community health center, but he needs to get donors with deep pockets. The Dr. Dil Show was doing just that, until his argument with Kareena went viral, and he’s left short changed. That’s when Kareena’s meddling aunties presented him with a solution: convince Kareena he’s her soulmate and they’ll fund his clinic.

Even though they have conflicting views on love-matches and arranged-matches, the more time Prem spends with Kareena, the more he begins to believe she’s the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. But for Prem and Kareena to find their happily ever after, they must admit that hate has turned into fate.

Review: Supposedly this was a retelling of Taming of the Shrew, but I wouldn’t have gotten that if I hadn’t been told. So if you’re wanting to read this book for a modern Shakespeare story, find a better retelling. But if you just want a fun read with a fake engagement trope and South Asian culture, then this book is for you! Keep in mind that it’s definitely spicy. ⁣

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⁣

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Looking to Ditch Hormonal Birth Control? Here are Three Options

I was put on the pill when I was 16 – not because I was sexually active and wanted to prevent pregnancy, but because I experienced horrible cramps during my period. When I went off the pill in college, those horrible cramps came back.

Even though the pill helped with my cramps, I stopped taking it because there were unwanted side effects from using a hormonal contraceptive, which I thought were worse. Personally, I experienced depression when I was taking the pill, but I know that other women experience different problems from their hormonal contraception.

I was able to get rid of my cramps without the pill through diet and lifestyle changes, and with fertility awareness. It took a little longer, but I thought it was well worth feeling mentally like myself again. Plus, I could use fertility awareness to avoid or achieve pregnancy without any side effects once I got married.

If you’re also experiencing unpleasant side effects from your hormonal contraceptive, I want you to know that there are natural methods available – and they work.

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5 Things to Consider When Creating Your Next Fitness Goal

Summer is here, which means that some of us may be thinking about how we can keep on track with our fitness goals. While the weather is often better for exercising in the summer (except in those areas with blazing heat and humidity), the frequency of barbecues, pool parties, and general social activities with friends and family makes it hard to balance everything.

If you struggle to reach fitness goals during the summer, here is a step-by-step process to make sure you’re creating realistic fitness goals.

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Workout Moves You Can Do at the Office

Exercise can often seem inconvenient. You may need special attire or equipment. And there’s always the problem of time. How can you find any time to change clothes, work up a sweat, and then clean yourself off? You already have to worry about getting things done for work, cooking healthy meals, and spending time with friends and family!

Well, how about fitting in time during the workday to exercise? Many of the moves that I teach in my pilates classes can be done in regular clothes and don’t cause you to sweat any more than you already do during a stressful meeting. So, if you need a boost during the day, simply close your office door (if you have one), choose a few or all of these moves, and get moving! Even if you don’t have an office door, maybe your co-workers will want to join in!

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Fitness Websites for Building Muscle at Home

One of the most common pushbacks I hear as a health and wellness coach for millennial women might not be the one that you expect.

“I’m too intimidated to go to the gym. I have no idea what I’m doing!”

Yep, that’s right. Self-esteem can often be the biggest issue that stops a woman from reaching her fitness or weight loss goals. That little voice in a woman’s head that threatens to sabotage our success in everything else in our lives can also encroach on our exercising. The voice sounds like “I can’t do that,” or “I’ll never be able to look like that.”

Trust me, I get it. When I was in college, you wouldn’t catch me trying to pump iron in my university gym—I was too worried I would embarrass myself. Let me assure you, most people in the gym are not focused on you. Like you, they’re also just trying to lose some weight, build muscle, or boost their fitness.

Something I’ve found that has helped my clients build confidence before they even step into the gym are fitness websites that help them gain muscle and skill. All of them offer free workouts, and most of them don’t require any equipment—so you can do it in the comfort of your home without anyone around you. Plus, all of these fitness entrepreneurs are positive and encouraging, which will help with any negative thoughts that may pop up. Then there’s the fact that every single one of these workout coaches is female; talk about girl-power!