Monday, January 18, 2016

The Best Smartwatch for Athletes isn't an Apple Watch or Android Wear Smartwatch, it's a Garmin

I feel like Garmin has been keeping their smartwatches secret. Whenever I hear anyone talk about smartwatches, no one mentions Garmin. So I conclude that it's my duty to shed some light on one of these fabulous new models.

Let's back up a minute. I never even wanted a smartwatch. But I did need a new Garmin GPS, after mine finally died. For me, Garmin has always been the best option for running (and cycling and triathlon.) I’ve gone through several models over the years. Lucky for me, mine died in time for the FR 230 & 235 models to be released. These two models combine GPS fitness functions, smart notifications, and activity tracking all in one watch. For real - no more having 2 or 3 items banging around on my wrist!

These models are not only inexpensive for all they do on the GPS side, but considering the "smartwatch" features, they're downright bargains. The 230 is $249, while the 235 is $329. (With a coupon, my 230 was only $225, yay!) The only difference between the two is that the 235 has an optical heart rate sensor. I already have a Garmin heart rate sensor strap, so I opted to save the cash.

Here are all the features of my new favorite watch. (By the way, its compatible with Android AND iOS.)

On board GPS w/GLONASS  I don’t care what anyone tries to tell you, carrying your phone around with your watch to use its GPS is never as accurate as a Garmin GPS watch. I’ve compared the two. The phone GPS is off by about ½ mile at like 4-5 miles, and then gets greater the farther you go. So forget about accurate pace and distance. The GPS on this Garmin acquires satellites quickly and simply works beautifully.

It measures running cadence! This feature only available previously on pricier Garmin models.

The “workouts” feature. Previously, you had to get a more expensive Garmin for this feature, too. You can program intervals such as 8x800, 2x15min w/2 min recovery, etc. You can also do heart rate workouts. There are apps that can do some of this with other smartwatches. However, the options aren't nearly as advanced and without accurate GPS, it doesn't matter. Your paces and distances won't be accurate. This is crucial for athletes training for races.

Speaking of workouts, if you’re an indoor runner or cyclists, this watch has indoor mode. Cool.

VO2 max, Recovery Advisor, Race Predictor, and Finishing Time calculator - With the heart rate monitoring (using a strap, or buying the 235 model), the watch gives you these stats after each workout. Also, if you want to know your finishing time during a race, Garmin can tell you that based on various factors while racing. So, if you want to know if you're on pace during a race, you can take a peek at that. Super cool.

Waterproof. It’s completely waterproof, so I can swim in it! Also, I don’t have to worry when a surprise thunderstorm hits while running. I am in Houston, after all.

Live Tracking - If my hubby wants to track me during a race or a long training run, I simply click the option in the Garmin app on my phone. It will send him a link and bam, he can see exactly where I am during my run or bike ride. We tried it out the other day and it's super cool. I like this for safety reasons, as well as for races that don't have live tracking (or live tracking is spotty). As I said, I have to start it - it's not like people can track me without my permission. In case you're worried.

Battery life - Garmin claims the battery lasts 5 weeks in regular watch mode and 16 hours with GPS on (that’s helpful for an ultra marathon or Ironman.) But this is so dependent on how much you use the running/cycling mode. When you start a run, the GPS turns on, which uses more battery. Also, you can turn the GLONASS aspect of the GPS on or off - and that uses more battery (not much, but still.) (GLONASS = Russian satellites, something, something.) One reason I chose the 230 over the 235 is that the 235 with the optical HR sensor takes a huge hit on battery life. Frankly, I don’t need my HR tracked except with exercising, so I don’t mind wearing the strap. And my battery life is fabulous. I charge it once a week, just because I need it to be part of my routine. But the first week I had it, I was long into the second week and it was still going strong. The battery gets used about 10% per day, without a run to use the GPS. That’s completely fine with me. It feels like it could go 2-3 weeks, but I just haven't tested that.

Activity Tracking - Yes, if you’re interested in tracking your steps when you’re not running or cycling, it does that. It also senses when you’ve been sitting for a while and gives you nudges to move. You can turn this feature off, if you want. Some of the custom watch faces do fun things with tracking and the “move” nudge. The Steptris one plays a Tetris game while you step. The blocks disappear as you get closer to your goal until you've met it, and then it says "you win!" When you flick your wrist to look at it, the letters blink at you. Fun stuff.


The LCARS III (this is my favorite watch face) has a move bar. It drops down if you’ve sat around too long, and it requires a certain amount of steps to get it up again.

You can customize the colors on the LCARS watch face.

Speaking of watch faces, here are a few more. Custom watch faces is a thing I didn’t realize I needed, until I had it. Now the generic face that comes with the watch is so boring to me.

Many of these do some kind of movement based on your wrist, your activity, the sun or moon, etc. There are many more. These are a few of them:

The smart notifications work great. You can be notified via buzz or beep - you can choose. My favorite aspect is that when you dismiss one on your watch, it dismisses it on your phone too - and vice versa (thank goodness!) It also has a "do not disturb" mode, which turns on automatically when you’re running/cycling and when you’re sleeping (or anytime you flip the switch). The watch mirrors your phone notifications: apps, emails, phone calls, texts, and calendar events, etc. You can read the first few lines of your emails, and much of your texts too, right on the watch. Responding requires your phone. That's fine with me. I have no desire to look like Inspector Gadget talking into my phone.

Widgets and Apps - I didn't think I'd have a need to access widgets or apps on my phone. I certainly don't have a burning desire to plan games on my watch. However, the few widgets I use are helpful. 
It takes a simple click on the up arrow to scroll through the widgets. You can customize this list in the Garmin app. I have the steps widget, weather & rain widgets, notifications, sun & moon, and my calendar.

Customizable Data Fields - I haven't even checked this feature out yet. But when you peruse the Connect IQ app store, you can see tons of other data field apps to download. So if you want to cram 7 different pieces of data on the screen a once, while running, you can do that. There's a wind surfing and a rowing stroke analyzer app. Clearly a a wide array of stuff out there.

Of course it also tracks sleeping. I really like the “deep” sleep versus “light” sleep indication, rather than just movement. I had to research that to make sure I’m not in trouble with so little “deep” sleep. (Verdict - I’m normal, well, a normal sleeper, anyway.)

How it looks - I’m a big fan of an athletic looking watch, so it fits me perfectly. It’s pretty big, but not abnormally big. I chose the black with white accents, because I think it looks sleek and the white adds some class. It was hard to resist the Force Yellow, though, I do admit. I like a little flash in my running gear. But I had to remember that I’d be wearing this to work, so yeah.

It's big, but not abnormally big, right? 

The profile is slim. 

That white is special. 

Force Yellow 
Purple Strike
I mean, seriously, that yellow! 

Anyway, here's what I wore before, so really the Garmin is quite the step up (in size and quality).

Lastly, I haven't mentioned it much, but the Garmin app on your phone is pretty great. I have no complaints.

If you want a lengthy review of all the running features, DC Rainmaker is the best. I always use his reviews to help me decide what fitness equipment to buy. Check out his review of the 230 & 235 here.  Also, full specs from Garmin are here.

Now you see why Garmin smartwatches really are the best all-in-one fitness smartwatch.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Roundup - 10 Books About Books

The first in my new "roundup" series is entitled Books About Books. This series is exactly what it sounds like. I will gather, in a rodeo roundup kind of way, since I'm a Texan and all, a group of books that have a similar theme, genre, or some topic of my choosing and share this list with you. Many of the books I will have read, some I may have not, and others may be on my "to read" list. This is all very "librarian" of me, you know, to gather books for you and put them in a list. So I'm sure I will enjoy it very much. I hope you will too.

10 Books about Books (How Meta!)

Lately I’ve noticed how many books about books I’ve read. I suppose it’s no wonder since authors must know that they have a built in audience when the topic is books. Here are some of my favorites, along with a few others to tempt you.

Five I've Read:

This Alex award winning book is one of my all-time favorites. It combines an old bookstore full of ancient, code-filled words with the modern technology of Google. This book easily won my heart by combining my twin passions of books and technology. 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
This one evokes my lifelong love of small, independent bookstores. It's a heartwarming story of how a curmudgeon is slowly brought back to life by two unexpected deliveries. The characters and the bookstore itself will sneak their way into your heart and make a home for life.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
This is also about a bookstore, although not an old comfy one, but rather a new-fangled version of a bookstore. The main character goes to work for a company with a leader who who attempts to open a bookstore to sell e-books. For real. I enjoyed this wry, laugh out loud story.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Just in time for the holiday season, I bring you a snow-filled delightful book with witty characters and an independent bookstore. While perusing his favorite bookstore, Dash finds a journal with a dare written inside. He follows the instructions and then leaves the journal with the clerk. Later, Lily retrieves the journal and follows the instructions left by Dash. The instructions are dares that increase into bigger and bigger stretches for each of them. 

Disclaimer by Renee Knight
What if you started reading a book and realized it was about you? And it began divulging secrets about your life that you didn't want revealed - because, naturally, as secrets do, they would destroy your life. That's what this story is about. It's a mind trip, for sure (and not for young readers). If you read it, let's chat about the ending, okay?

Five I Plan to Read:

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
Synopsis : When Florence Green opens a bookshop in a sleepy seaside town she is met with open resistance by her neighbors who resent her success. 
This is an oldie from 1978 that I just discovered. The 1959 English setting intrigues me. Also, I wonder what bookshops were like in 1959?

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon
Okay, first of all, the cover. Right? I'm a sucker for a cute dog cover. 
But if you still need a synopsis : Michelle doesn’t believe in fairy tales. She’s a hard-headed businesswoman, making a fresh start in a new town. And when she decides to take over a neglected book shop, she knows the perfect manager. For book-loving Anna, it’s a dream come true—and not just because it gives her an escape from her three demanding step-children and their adorable but hyperactive Dalmatian. Although she’s been thinking that her own fairytale ending hasn’t really turned out the way she hoped, Anna’s passion for the classics is transforming the shop. The customers, and even Michelle, are falling under the spell of the magical stories of romance, adventure, and lost dogs. 
Ex-libris by Ross King
Synopsis : Isaac Inchbold, a bookseller and antiquarian in seventeenth-century London, becomes caught up in a treacherous game of underworld spies and smugglers, ciphers and forgeries when he embarks on a quest to recover a missing manuscript.
Sounds intriguing, right?

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
Synopsis : Simon Watson, a young librarian receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. Why does his grandmother's name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? 
A librarian, and a mysterious antique book? "Nuff said!

White Space by Ilsa J. Bick
Synopsis : In the tradition of Memento and Inception comes a thrilling and scary young adult novel about blurred reality where characters in a story find that a deadly and horrifying world exists in the space between the written lines.

Bonus Ten: Books that Sound Great that I May or May Not Read at some point...

The Book Thief by by Markus Zusak
Among Others by Jo Walton
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
Between the Lines & Off the Page Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer (mother & daughter author duo)
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (love him & this is supposed to be awesome!)
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Please let share your opinions on my choices and/or feel free to suggest more books about books!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pam's Picks Book Recommendation Email

Howdy! If you're looking for my book reviews, I have great news!

You can now have my book recommendations sent directly to you! Sign up here for Pam's Picks to have all my reviews sent to you once a month. I review fiction and nonfiction.

As a bonus, within hours of signing up, you'll receive your first email with some of my favorites of the year so far.

Pam's Picks Email List

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        You can also scroll down to search or browse the archives of my older book reviews.

Friday, August 21, 2015

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reinvention or Growth?

photo D Sharon Pruitt 
If you seem to change your mind often, are you making mistakes, flighty, or simply growing as a person?

I've changed so much, that my blog has had many different titles over the years. Heck, it was even called Evolution of a Librarian at one point. Each time I renamed my blog, I thought, wow, I'm glad I fixed that mistake, this is a way better name/format. But lately I've come to realize that each step along the way wasn't a mistake. I wasn't simply "changing my mind" as a teenager changes her nail polish every other day.

Each reinvention was a step towards finding my voice. It was growth. And growth is good. Finding your voice is good. I'm not sure if the mother of reinvention, Madonna*, is actually growing or simply changing up her image to continue to be relevant in the marketplace, but I know that I am definitely growing.

Remember this the next time you change your mind. Maybe you're not just being flighty - maybe you're growing.

*Fun fact. Madonna & I share the same birthday.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach - Unforgettable and Moving

"Some people think happiness is impossible in the face of death, but Epicurus tells us that there's no reason to fear death, because we don't get to meet it. While we exist, there is no death. And when death comes, we're not there anymore."

WE ALL LOOKED UP is about four high school seniors faced with a 66.6% chance an oncoming asteroid will hit the planet in two months.

Peter, the star basketball player, begins to question whether playing a game is the best way to spend his life. Anita, the overachiever, has been trying to prove herself to her parents her whole life. She's been on their path for her, not her own. She wants to be a singer, not a doctor or lawyer. Eliza is an the artist. After being called a slut for so long, she begins morph into one. Andy, the slacker, pretty much does whatever he wants most of the time.

After the news about the asteroid, they all begin to re-evaluate their lives. The four seniors are all loosely connected at the beginning, but over the coming weeks before the asteroid is due to hit, their lives become interconnected. Unexpected friendships form, love blooms, while other relationships are severed.

I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for these disaster themed books. Maybe because they seem more realistic than typical dystopians, if only because they are based on nature, rather than humans slowly turning wicked. A volcano, an asteroid - those are things that could crop up and alarm us at any time.

Anyway, this book succeeds in evoking the same eerie atmosphere created by my other favorite disaster books, ASHFALL and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT. The vivid descriptions of the desolate commercial centers that have been turned into blackened shells by looters and pyromaniacs, along with the rationing and fighting at grocery stores feel so real and frightening.

All four main characters are well written with moving stories. Even the minor characters are strong and memorable. (Peter's sister, Misery, and Golden, what a great villain.)

I highlighted many passages with descriptions that created such a perfect picture. Here's one for you. Peter is looking at a photo that Eliza captured. Her artist's eye shines in the passage.
Every school had a kid like this. He stood in the very center of the line, exactly where he was meant to be - a point of stillness - as the students diffused into a buzzing, slow-exposure swarm at either end of the frame. You could already see the tough years of puberty stretching out before him, a minefield strewn with awkward rejections on dance floors and lonely Friday nights. He was imprisoned within his upbringing. Doomed. (p 17)
Beautifully sad, and a crystal clear picture of this boy, right?

There are many more passages I could share, but I'd rather let you experience them when you read the book. And the book isn't all sad. It's also witty and funny. Overall, it's thoughtful, beautiful, sad, and hopeful. As the four teens consider how to use their last two months, you may also find yourself giving your time on earth some consideration.

The author is also a musician. His website has a full length album inspired by the book, with a free download. What a great way to combine these two talents. I look forward to whatever Tommy Wallach creates next.

Happy Reading!

And the trailer to pique your interest:

Friday, July 3, 2015

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE by Carrie Ryan is Your Perfect Summer Read

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE is a beautiful, fast-paced suspense story perfect for a summer afternoon by the ocean (or pool).

Frances Mace is one of three survivors after a luxury ship, Persephone is attacked. Over 300 other people were brutally murdered aboard the ship before it was set fire. But the other two survivors, a Senator and his son, aren't telling the truth about what happened aboard the ship. They claim it was a rogue wave that "attacked" the ship and caused it to sink.

Frances and her friend Libby are left to survive alone on a rescue raft for seven days before they're found. Unfortunately, Libby dies moments before the yacht reaches them. Libby's father, Cecil, is devastated. When he realizes the attackers will be looking for Frances and could be out to kill her, he convinces her to step into Libby's life. As Frances, she wouldn't have parents or anyone to protect her. As Libby, he could send her out of the country and away from these men who invariably would be hunting her until she's silenced. Frances lost her parents and everything else in her life. Cecil lost his wife and daughter. They could help each other overcome the devastation.

Four years later, Frances is firmly ensconced in Libby's life. She's come back home to seek revenge against the Senator and his son Grey. Why did they lie about the attack? Were they involved? To complicate the issue, Frances and Grey fell in love on the ship. But when she saw him lie to reporters about the attack, that love turned to ice cold hate. However, seeing him again, four years later, those romantic feelings come bubbling up. Will she be able to continue her plan, while being physically drawn to him?

I read this in only a few days. The suspense kept me flipping through the pages quickly. The writing is lovely and lyrical. Identity plays a large part of the appeal for me. If you assume another person's identity, what happens to your old one? Can you really ever leave that person behind? And how would that feel to leave yourself behind. Do the two identities blend to form someone new?

This is a beautiful story. I'm not typically attracted to revenge stories, but with Carrie Ryan's reputation, I told myself I'd give it a few pages. Well, that's all it took to grab me.

I loved it, and you will too!

Here's more about the book and the author.

And the trailer for you:

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU by Moriah McStay is a Beautiful Debut

EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is a lovely, original debut by Moriah McStay.

What a lovely, original debut by Moriah McStay. We often wonder what would happen if we took a different path. Would our lives be substantially different or better, perhaps? In this case Fiona wonders about an accident that happened to her when she was a child. The accident scarred her face. People have treated her differently her entire life because of that one moment in time. She wonders how her life could've ended up. 

Turn the page and we hear from Fi, who is living the exact same life, without the scarred face. This is a story about one girl who lived two different lives. In alternating points of view, we see how their lives seem very different. But they both end up with struggles to overcome. Each girl must take her own path to become her best self. 

I enjoyed the journeys of both Fiona and Fi. I loved the premise, and the author pulls it off really well. The stories are different, with the same characters, but their relationships have shifted. The differences cause different aspects of each character emerge. I can imagine the author enjoyed getting this chance to tell two plot lines with the same characters. I can imagine it involved lots of post-its on a giant white board to keep it all straight! Somehow, Fi and Fiona end up as distinctly different voices, which is a credit to the author. 

I loved this story. It's about relationships, human connections. It's also about inner strength and overcoming obstacles to grow and be your best self. I'll be thinking about it for a while. I'm looking forward to reading more from Moriah McStay!

Enjoy this lovely story you won't soon forget. 

Check out the author's website here

Friday, June 26, 2015

DEAD TO ME is a Fabulous Forties old Hollywood Mystery by Mary McCoy

DEAD TO ME is fabulous! It's set in 1940's old Hollywood. I can't remember ever reading a YA novel set there, so right away, it felt new to me.  Alice's sister has been missing for four years, so when she gets a call from the hospital, she's relieved to finally see her. But her sister has been badly beaten and she hasn't woken up.

Soon after Alice realizes how badly hurt her sister is, private detective Jerry Shaffer walks into the hospital room questioning Alice. Little does he know, Alice isn't the meek sixteen-year-old she may appear to be. She turns it around and begins questioning him. Then she proceeds to begin her own investigation to uncover the brute who pummeled her sister into a coma.

Although the author takes familiar elements (young girls fleeing to Hollywood to become the next famous starlet, cops owned by thugs, actors owned by major studios), the story has a freshness that I truly enjoyed. After hearing about the cryptographers during the war, Alice and her sister Annie learned to create their own secret codes using ciphers. This skill comes in handy when certain clues are unearthed that only Annie can decrypt.

Annie is a feisty, determined sister. Even when unsavory facts are uncovered about her family, she doesn't let anything stand in her way of getting to the bottom of the whole sordid situation.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, as well as the characters.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hilarity Ensues When you Accidentally Invite the Devil to Live in Your Basement: HELLHOLE by Gina Damico

HELLHOLE is hilarious, all the way through. I grabbed every spare moment I could find to get back to reading it. It was a breath of fresh air after reading a few dark books in a row. And yes, I just said that reading a book about the devil was a breath of fresh air. Weird, but true.

Max Kilgore accidentally invites a devil to live in his basement. Max assumes he satan, like the devil. But he soon finds out that his devil is only one of many. This particular devil is in charge of salty snacks. He demands that Max bring him stolen snacks on a regular basis while demanding that Max find him a mansion (with a hot tub) to live in. And the kicker - the mansion has to be "stolen."

Max only agrees because the devil promises to cure his sick mom. Before he realizes it, Max gets deeper and deeper into debt with the devil. But with the help of a few friends, he may be able to get himself out of trouble.

I loved this book! It's in my top five for the year.  It's original and a total joy to read!

Watch the trailer to get a feel for the humor in the book