10 Books to Read if You’re the Grinch

Are you tired of Christmas season starting the day after Halloween? Are you tired of talking about presents and gift lists and that creepy Elf on the Shelf thing? Do you just need an escape from tinsel and sappy music?

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Have no fear! I’m here to help with an eclectic list of books to allow escape from the holidays. They range from murder and mayhem to family and love (but not the holiday season!). All of them have happy endings though, so read without fear of being bummed out.

  1. The In Death books, by JD Robb They’re all fantastic murder mysteries featuring Eve Dallas, her love interest Roarke, and assorted characters that grow and change over the series. Some of them actually do take place over the holidays, but if you haven’t read them before, start at the beginning with Naked in Death. It doesn’t have any holiday mentions whatsoever. There’s romance in every book, but unlike most romance novels, with 40+ books in the series, we get to see what happens after “happily ever after.”
  2. Graveminder, by Melissa Marr When Rebekkah’s adopted grandmother dies, she finds out that she’s the one who now has to carry out a peculiar arrangement with death, performing a ritual at every grave to make sure the dead stay dead.
  3. There Will Be Lies, by Nick Lake Shelby has lived her whole life protected by her overprotective mother. But when she’s hit by a car and goes to the hospital, she starts to learn secrets about herself and her family. Meanwhile, she starts being transported to the Dreaming, where Coyote asks her to save the world.
  4. Ready, Player One, by Ernest Cline Most of my friends who are hardcore gamers or like hard sci-fi had multiple issues with this book, so be warned. I thought it was just a fun, fast read with lots of 80s nostalgia. It’s coming out as a movie next year, so now’s a good time to read it.
  5. 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster An autistic man who’s life is rigid and structured has a run-in with the new neighbor and her son. He starts to realize there’s more to life than routine.
  6. Made You Up, by Francesca Zappia I absolutely loved this book, though it’s not without problems. It’s YA, and the main character is struggling with schizophrenia. *It’s not an accurate portrayal of schizophrenia.* But if you overlook that, the book is a lot of fun.
  7. Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter This is my go-to pick me up book. Whenever I need a refresher course on optimism, I read this.
  8. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood I pretty recommend this on every list for any reason. But it fills all the promises I made, so you should read it. Everyone should read it.
  9. Almost Interesting, by David Spade I’ve never been a huge David Spade fan, but this was funny. He talks about his days in SNL, which was interesting. I listened to the audiobook, which I think made it more enjoyable.
  10. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed This fantastic memoir is the reason I now want to someday walk at least part of the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl is struggling in her life after a divorce and the death of her mother, so hikes 1,000 miles with little preparation, and learns a lot about herself in the process.

Are you all-in for the holidays, or already over it?

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Book Challenges 2018

I acquired a lot of books in the last year and read still more from the library. Part of the reason for this was that I did the Popsugar challenge for 2017, and probably due to poor planning on my part, I had to get a lot of the books in order to complete the challenge.

I read and planned as I went along, which is why, of the 52 books on the list, I have 6 left to read with less than a month left in 2017. (Yikes! But I’m pretty sure I can do it… wish me luck.)

I like some things about book challenges, and dislike other things. But I’m going to participate in two challenges for 2018: the Popsugar challenge and the While I Was Reading challenge.

This time around, I’m going to give myself an extra layer of challenge (that I think will actually make it easier). I’m going to plan all the books to read ahead of time, and I’m going to try to read books I already own. There are some categories for which that won’t be possible. (Nordic noir, anyone?)

Here’s my list of books and categories. If you see any blank categories, feel free to suggest books.

Wish me luck; I think it’s going to be a great way to cull my shelves. Hopefully I’ll find some books to donate and some I love and want to keep.

Are you doing any book challenges for 2018?

10 Gift Ideas for Book Lovers

With the holidays approaching, I’ve been thinking about what kinds of things most book lovers would enjoy. Here’s a list of ideas I’ve brainstormed. (Note to friends and family: any/ all of these would be welcome!)

  1. Bookmarks. Honestly, we can never have enough bookmarks. It’s an inexpensive and thoughtful gift. Bookmarks are often one-sided, so bonus points if you write a personal message on the blank side.
  2. Books. This one seems obvious, but very few people gift me books. I guess they figure I’ve already read everything in existence? (I haven’t.) Sometimes gifted books are repeats, but one of my favorite things to ask for is a book that was meaningful to the giver in some way. It’s a great way to get to know friends and family better and makes a thoughtful gift. Because, honestly, who needs more stuff?* Bonus points if you write a note in the book (or on a post-it note in the book for those who abhor writing in books.)
  3. Alternate versions of the book lover’s favorite book. I already have multiple copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Watchers. If someone found a unique or interesting copy of any of these books, a graphic novel, or an attractive cover, I’d think it was a wonderful gift. All book lovers have their favorite books. Knowing what they are opens up endless gift possibilities.
  4. Art prints inspired by favorite books. I love these prints from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Etsy.com is my favorite place to shop for handmade and unique items, and they have tons of book related artwork.
  5. Journals. Not all book lovers journal, but many of us do. Personally, I have a weakness for all paper products: notebooks, journals, scrapbooks. I’ve started to try getting better about writing reflections on things I’ve read. I think it’s a good way to deepen my relationship with books and get a better understanding of things I’ve read.
  6. Upcycled journals. I would say I’m the only one who loves these, because I don’t know anyone else who’s into them, but they’re all over Etsy.com, so I can’t be alone. People find old scrap paper, paper bags, old books, ephemera, and turn it into a hand bound journal. I would own 3,465 of them if I didn’t already have problems with books spilling onto every surface in my home. If you know someone with a weakness for secondhand shops and journals, this might be a unique and fun gift.
  7. A Book of the Month subscription. My sister in law got me this last year for my birthday, and it was great. I got to experience new books that I wouldn’t have gone looking for on my own. A few of the books were meh, but one of them is a new favorite (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things). I’m always looking for the next magical experience in books, and thanks to the BOTM club, I found it. (There are many other book subscription boxes out there; that one just happens to be the one I have experience with.)
  8. Bookish clothing. I’ve been lusting over a pair of tights with text from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (from Etsy.com). There’s a site with great scarves with text from all sort of books. Here’s a site with T-shirts, socks, and accessories.
  9. An autographed book. Back when my husband and I were first dating, he got me a copy of a signed, first edition of Watchers, by Dean Koontz. That was one of the (many) ways I knew he was a keeper.
  10. A Zen Pencils book/ print. This one’s a bit of a stretch, but most readers I know also have a thing for quotes. Though Gavin Aung Than, the artist behind Zen Pencils, doesn’t usually illustrate book quotes, he often does poetry and quotes from authors. Right now he’s got 15% off going on. (This post is in no way sponsored… I just love Zen Pencils.)

*Books aren’t stuff. They’re a magical transportive experience.

What kinds of bookish gifts do you like to give or receive?

My Book Wishlist Solution

IMG_0181There are always books I want that I’m not going to buy or borrow right away. Sometimes (usually) it’s because I already have a million books stacked up, staring accusingly at me. Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to complete a goal, and the book I want doesn’t meet that goal. Sometimes it’s just because I’m out somewhere and someone whose opinion I value has recommended a book to me.

I tried keeping track of them in my head, but apparently there’s only so much room up there.

I used to just keep a list of books in the notes section of my phone. I listed title and maybe author (if I knew it).

The list quickly spiraled out of control. I ended up with a list I couldn’t keep track of, no rhyme or reason to it. If I went to a bookstore or the library, I didn’t have a good way of sorting the list.

I got a now defunct app for my phone. I never loved that app. It was cumbersome to use, having to do multiple button pushes to add a book. And I had to add a book in a different section from books that were already on my list. If there was a way to sort them, I never figured it out. They were just there in the order I added them. Then one day, I couldn’t use the app anymore, and my wishlist had disappeared.

I’ve tried using the library’s and Amazon’s wishlist functions, but I end up not liking them because I have to log into a website. I want something quick and at my fingertips.

I have a digital list of all the books I own. It’s lovely; I can just scan them in either via barcode or manually enter them. I just recently noticed that the Sort It! app has a wishlist function as well.

I tried it, and I think this is the solution for me. It shows pictures of the books and is easy to use. I can sort by author, title, or publication date. It’s easy to add or delete books from the list. If you’re looking for a way to keep track of books you own or want to own/ read, I highly recommend Sort It! (There’s also versions for DVDs, music, etc.)

How do you keep track of your reading wishlist?

Guest Post from While I Was Reading

Today’s post is a guest post from Ramona Mead over at While I Was Reading. She’s here to talk about her reading challenge for 2018.

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I’ve known the author of this blog since elementary school. We lived on the same street, and when a move in junior high took me to the other side of the school district, we lost touch. But thanks to the wonders of technology (ie Facebook) we reconnected several years ago and have rekindled our friendship, bonding over our shared passions for writing, reading, and having what others consider “too many” pets.

At the start of 2015, I followed the lead of another bookish pal, jumping into Book Riot‘s first annual Read Harder Challenge . It sounded easy enough for a nerd like me: read a book to fit into each of the 24 categories. Two books a month? Piece of cake.

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I approached my book shelves with my challenge list in one hand and a pencil in the other. I scanned through categories such as: a book that takes place in Asia, a book by an author from Africa, a book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture, and a book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ.

I came to a startling realization, my book shelves are not exactly diverse.

2017 is the third year I’ve participated in the challenge, and to be extra nerdy, I did a second one, the PopSugar 2017 challenge (including the advanced categories, of course!) The challenges have expanded my horizons as both a reader and a writer. They have pushed me far out of my reading comfort zone and busted many of the misconceptions I had about certain genres such as fantasy and romance, and YA writing.

As the years have gone on, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Read Harder’s categories. This year I’ve found them to be painfully specific. I’ve had a hard time completing some of the categories as they’re written so I’ve put my own spin on them to be able to mark it off.

It was this frustration that led me to create my own reading challenge for 2018. I enjoy categories that are more personal to the reader.

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I’ve come up with 12 categories, because while Doree and I can finish a ridiculously large number of books in a year, this isn’t realistic for the majority of readers I know. I have a few friends who have been intrigued by my completion of challenges past but too intimidated by the large number of categories to give it a try.

All you have to do is read, no other participation is required. If you start and don’t finish, that’s okay. However if you do complete the challenge, you can email me your list to be entered to win a prize at the end of 2018!!

  • Read a book that takes place in one day.
  • Read a memoir or biography of a musician you like.
  • Read a collection of poetry.
  • Read an audio book with multiple narrators.
  • Read a self published book.
  • Read a book you received as a gift.
  • Read a book about a historical event you’re interested in (fiction or non).
  • Read a book written by an author from the state where you grew up.
  • Read a book recommended by one of your parents (in-laws count).
  • Read a book with your favorite food in the title.
  • Read a book with a child narrator.
  • Read a book you chose based on the cover.

If you wish to participate in the challenge, please let me know either by commenting on this post, contacting me via Facebook, or you can shoot me an email at grazona@live.com.

You can download a printable list of the challenge categories here.

I’ve created a Facebook Group and a Goodreads Group for participants to gather for discussion and brainstorming!

I am excited to have you all along with me on this new venture! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, ideas, or suggestions.

Update on Me

I know I sort of dropped off the face of the earth and hadn’t been posting for a couple of weeks, so I wanted to let everyone know where I went.

I had a family emergency, and had to drive from Austin to Phoenix. While I was in Arizona, one of my cats died in her sleep.

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Goblyn was the cat probably most pictured on this blog. She was the one who sat on my desk and often on my keyboard, making writing difficult. She was the one who helped me take interesting pictures of books.

Goblyn is the third of my cats to die this year. We had an 18 year old die in January, then another 18 year old a month ago. Goblyn was only 17, and it was unexpected.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I didn’t feel like doing any writing. I decided to let myself take a break and not worry about it.

I’m back now, and starting next week, should resume the regular Tuesday/ Friday posting schedule.

5 Things Friday- November

One

What I’m Reading

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold. This book is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the shooters at Columbine. It’s not just a memoir; it also integrates information on mental health and the thought process of kids who commit this kind of violence. She tries to make sense of the tragedy and talks about the subtle signs of Dylan’s mental state that she missed.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is that while she never tries to minimize the tragedy other families experienced that day, she reframes Dylan’s death as a suicide. Sue Klebold is an advocate for suicide awareness, treatment, and prevention. This is a fantastic book that anyone with children (or who knows people with children) should read. All proceeds from the book go to mental health research and charitable organizations.

Two

What I’m Writing

I’m starting work on my next book, a YA horror about a world where Death has been kidnapped.

Three

What I Read This Week

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North. It took me a long time to get through it because it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Honestly, it was a decent book, but not great. There were parts of it I really liked, but overall, it sounded better than it was.

I also read Almost Interesting, by David Spade, on audiobook. That was a fast read and a lot of fun.

Four

When I Wasn’t Reading

I binge watched Stranger Things at night (so good!). During the day, I know I was busy, but I honestly don’t remember what I was doing. Writing? Cleaning? I know I mowed the lawn, but that’s about all.

Five

Favorite Picture of the Week

Did you read or watch anything particularly good this week?

Have a great weekend, everyone!