Thursday, December 31, 2015

Links and Stuff: December 31, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Earlier this year, I read Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I loved it and could not wait to put a few of her lessons into practice in my own life. Since I'm on an academic calendar for work, I had last week (when we hosted our families for the holidays) and this whole week off. I've been splitting up my chores over the days, and one of those chores is weeding everything in our apartment.

I decided to start with the books first. I've always been good about weeding my collection, but there always seem to be books on the shelf that don't need to be. So, I put Kondo's motto to use. If a book did not "spark joy" it was piled for donation to our apartment's community bookcase.

Those culled are in the picture below.

I was very proud of myself for being honest and upfront about what I want to keep, so I posted the picture on Facebook. Turns out I have books others love, and a few people requested my donations go to them. The Gabaldon books are going to a friend from college, and the Keegan books will be shipped to my brother. I love that weeding (which makes me happy) results in books going to friends and family (which make them happy).

Everybody wins!

YouTube Tuesday: Background

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What I Read This Week: December 27, 2015

I hope everyone had a joyful and relaxing holiday. This post is going up later than usual because we were seeing the families off. We hosted Christmas this year and it was a grand... with far too many cookies.

As it should be!

  • Magazines
    • Washingtonian, December 2015 - The cover story was all about how metro is basically falling into a pit of despair and the systematic failure is so bad there is no hope for fixing anything any time soon. As a heavy metro user, all I can say is, "Word." Aside from that piece that had me head bobbing in agreement, I enjoyed the large gift guide and really cute panda image story. There was also a story about the Discovery network that has seen massive ratings by creating formulaic shows that dramatize murder stories. Not my cup of tea, but the insights were interesting to read.
  • Books
    • I'm still working on Titanic: A Love Story. It is most definitely not a good book. To start, there are too many characters for such a short book AND their stories are overly dramatic. That said, I won't stop reading cause I just have to know what happens to everyone once the ship sinks.
  • Other

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Friday Find: Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates! I hope you all find books under your tree... and have plenty of time to enjoy them.

The above image is a book advent calendar. You grab 25 books and wrapped each one individually. Starting December 1, you unwrap one book each day. It's your literary countdown to Christmas!

I found this idea a bit to late to use this year, but you better believe I am storing this one away for
future use.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Variations on a Theme: Christmas

How is it, in all the years I've been posting this feature, I've never done a Christmas theme? I didn't think that was actually possible. I even went back through all my previous posts to double check. So, since it's Christmas Eve, here is a list of books that take place during or are about Christmas.

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens

In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family's meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol,has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill. With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge's eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England's greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

The Night Before Christmas
Charles Santore

Since it was first published anonymously in 1823, “The Night Before Christmas” has enchanted children with the story of St. Nicholas climbing down the chimney and filling all the stockings before springing back to his sleigh. Many families read the poem every year, and now they have an edition to treasure. The cherished verse, faithfully reproduced here, is accompanied by Charles Santore’s lavish illustrations.
The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg

A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole. Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish. For millions of readers worldwide, this mysterious journey to the North Pole has become a beloved classic. In this 30th anniversary edition, the inimitable artistry of Chris Van Allsburg is revealed in a never-before-seen fashion, with a new jacket design and expanded interior layout. Includes author’s note, downloadable audio read by Liam Neeson, and golden "All Aboard" ornament.
Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

Stanley Weintraub

In the early months of World War I, on Christmas Eve, men on both sides of the trenches laid down their arms and joined in a spontaneous celebration. Despite orders to continue shooting, the unofficial truce spread across the front lines. Even the participants found what they were doing incredible: Germans placed candlelit Christmas trees on trench parapets, warring soldiers sang carols, and men on both sides shared food parcels from home. They climbed from the trenches to meet in "No Man's Land" where they buried the dead, exchanged gifts, ate and drank together, and even played soccer.
Throughout his narrative, Stanley Weintraub uses the stories of the men who were there, as well as their letters and diaries, to illuminate the fragile truce and bring to life this extraordinary moment in time.

Jean Shepherd

A beloved, bestselling classic of humorous and nostalgic Americana, reissued in a strikingly designed paperback edition. Before Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray there was Jean Shepherd: a master monologist and writer who spun the materials of his all-American childhood into immensely resonant—and utterly hilarious—works of comic art. In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash represents one of the peaks of his achievement, a compound of irony, affection, and perfect detail that speaks across generations. In God We Trust, Shepherd's wildly witty reunion with his Indiana hometown, disproves the adage "You can never go back." Bending the ear of Flick, his childhood-buddy-turned-bartender, Shepherd recalls passionately his genuine Red Ryder BB gun, confesses adolescent failure in the arms of Junie Jo Prewitt, and relives a story of man against fish that not even Hemingway could rival. From pop art to the World's Fair, Shepherd's subjects speak with a universal irony and are deeply and unabashedly grounded in American Midwestern life, together rendering a wonderfully nostalgic impression of a more innocent era when life was good, fun was clean, and station wagons roamed the earth.

David Sedaris

David Sedaris's beloved holiday collection is new again with six more pieces, including a never before published story. Along with such favorites as the diaries of a Macy's elf and the annals of two very competitive families, are Sedaris's tales of tardy trick-or-treaters ("Us and Them"); the difficulties of explaining the Easter Bunny to the French ("Jesus Shaves"); what to do when you've been locked out in a snowstorm ("Let It Snow"); the puzzling Christmas traditions of other nations ("Six to Eight Black Men"); what Halloween at the medical examiner's looks like ("The Monster Mash"); and a barnyard secret Santa scheme gone awry ("Cow and Turkey").

Other Christmas Titles
The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans
The Gift of the Magi - O. Henry
A Highland Christmas - M.C. Beaton
Hogfather - Terry Pratchett
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
The Little Match Girl - Hans Christen Anderson
Miracle on 34th Street - Valetine Davies
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Robert L. May
The Stupidest Angel - Christopher Moore
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree - Colleen Moore and Michael Glenn Moore

Twas the Night Before Christmas

In lieu of the usual Links and Stuff, please enjoy LeVar Burton reading The Night Before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why I Love... Yuletide Books

Every year at Christmas, holiday books come out of the woodwork. Children's classics. Seasonal romances. Dickens. There are more holiday books than I can keep track of. I have my favorites, like Polar Express, but the idea of a collection of Christmas books is what brings out the feels in me.

Growing up, when my family decorated for the holidays, we put up and adorned the tree, hung stockings, and set-up the train-board. Pretty typical Americana action going on in our house. We also, however, placed a large basket full of Christmas books next to the tree. The basket was large and wicker, usually lined with red napkins, and stuffed with books of all shapes and sizes.

As a kid, this was a magical collection that only appeared once a year. The basket was full of board books and golden books with a couple of Christmas novels thrown in for good measure. I remember rifiling through the treasures and re-reading my childhood favorites every year. It didn't matter if I had the stories and the illustrations memorized, I still read the books each year.

At the end of the Christmas season, this collection disappeared to the North Pole (or the attic) where it waited until the following December.

The basket of books was the Christmas gift that kept on putting a smile on my face, year after year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

What I Read This Week: December 20, 2015

This was my last week of work for the year. I will never, ever complain about working for a university because the vacation time is ah-mazing. In this case, I even tacked two days on so that I could prep for our families' arrival. The Husband and I are hosting Christmas for everyone this year and I've got a shload of cleaning and baking to take care of before they arrive in a few days. I spent the most of this past week tackling as much of my personal stuff (work and otherwise) as I could. I heart weeks that feel incredibly productive because you get to cross off all the little things that have been building up.
  • Magazines
    • National Geographic, December 2015 - The cover story of Mary was pretty darn fascinating. I had no idea how deep her story and character had permeated our culture. The additional stories in this issue were also good, but the only one that stuck with me was the piece on leopards having to live with humans. I mean, leopards are just pretty, big kitties.
    • Good Housekeeping, January 2016 - I kind of loved how this issue was full of ways to refresh (but not totally redo) your home, food, and life - it was the perfect mix of stories for the new year. There was also a fantastic feature piece on the roll of awe in our lives. It's amazing to realize what enjoy the bigger things in the world can do for your mindset. Finally, my gray
      loving heart kind of adored the gray kitchen in the ways to love gray bit. It was so purty.
    • Real Simple, January 2016 - I thought that holiday issues were my favorite because of all the great food and decor ideas... but I'm beginning to think New Year's issues are giving them a run for the money. This issue was chock full of "start the year off right ideas" including giving your closet a makeover (which I will be doing soon), how to prep a week's worth of food on a Sunday, and how to find moments of peace and quiet in your life. I also liked the article on how to handle stress and use it to your advantage. There was also a fun bit on personality tests and how they may (or may not ) be right.
  • Books
    • I finished up Dragonfly in Amber. I power-read through the last 100 pages as if they'd disappear in my hands unexpectedly. Re-reading this book reminded me how much I love this series. I really really really really want to jump straight into Voyager, but I should probably pace myself.
    • On my nightstand now, Titanic: A Love Story by Shannon O'Cork. So far, it promises to be a not good book... but given that it's about Titanic, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. I mean, we know the ship sinks - you gotta know what happens to the character on the boat. It's guaranteed drama.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Friday Find: Christmas Tree

Christmas is right around the corner. If you haven't decorated yet, might I suggest putting up a cute book tree?

If you don't like this style, there are plenty to be found on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Book 28: Dragonfly in Amber [Re-Read]

TITLE: Dragonfly in Amber
AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon
STARTED: October 21, 2015
FINISHED: December 16, 2015
PAGES: 947
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I woke three times in the predawn.

SUMMARY: [From BN] For twenty years, Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to the mysteries of Scotland’s mist-shrouded Highlands. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as shocking as the events that gave it birth: the secret of an ancient circle of standing stones, the secret of a love that transcends centuries, and the truth of a man named Jamie Fraser—a Highland warrior whose gallantry once drew the young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his. Claire’s spellbinding journey continues through the intrigue-ridden French court and the menace of Jacobite plots, to the Highlands of Scotland, through war and death in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves.

THOUGHTS: Oh man... when I picked up this book, I thought it was going to be a simply re-read. Ha! The book decided it needed to hit me in the feels all over again.

When I re-read Outlander at the end of last year, I enjoyed myself but I found a few faults (review here) and I was expecting to experience the same thing with Dragonfly in Amber. I did not get that at all. Instead, I was reminded why I fell in love with this series and its characters in the first place. It's not about the writing (which is far better than I thought it would be this time around); it's about the characters, their emotions, and the dramatic journey everyone takes in this book.

Le sigh. I want to re-read Voyager, the next book in the series, immediately. But I won't. I'm going to pace myself. But this re-read reminded me of why these books are so darn good.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Links and Stuff: December 17, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What I Read This Week: December 13, 2015

Happy Anniversary to us! Today is The Husband and my's one-year wedding anniversary. Where did the time go?

We opted to celebrate by hosting our usual holiday party yesterday. We made a lot of appetizers and desserts, and enjoyed quite the pleasant evening with our friends. Today, we lounge and watch football. A great way to celebrate our first year, if I do say so myself.
  • Work
    • College and Research Libraries News, November 2015 - I mainly skimmed this issue, but I did pause to read the short piece on liaison librarians. 
    • College and Research Libraries News, December 2015 - I also gave this issue a hearty skim. It was mainly year-in-review stuff, but I did stop to read about submitting proposals to the next ACRL conference. I have an idea for a session, I just need to find the right conference for it. 
    • American Libraries, November/December 2015 - There were some pretty good trend pieces in this issue - I particularly enjoyed the one about libraries hosting adult coloring events. I also liked the article on the changing librarian stereotypes. Turns out the article is based on a book. I shall be adding that to me reading list.
  • Magazines
    • National Geographic, November 2015 - This issue was all about climate change and how we need to fix it. It was a pretty in-depth issue and I'm glad my reading was roughly timed with the climate talks in Paris. I am all for renewable energy, and it was interesting to see what could be on the horizon in that field.
    • Real Simple, December 2015 - More gift ideas... even a few I may use in the future. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the article on service dogs.
  • Books
    • Last weekend I thought I was a few days away from finishing Dragonfly in Amber. When I did the math, it turned out I had 300 pages left. Gabaldon's books always throw of my perspective. I'm still nearly done, and I am very happy to have re-read this book. It will be hard to not immediately start the next book in this series. I should probably time that re-read to the release of the third season of Outlander (if they greenlight that).
  • Other
To many more happy years of kisses under the mistletoe.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Friday Find: Warmth

You can never go wrong combining reading with a hot beverage. I prefer coffee or tea... or cocoa in the winter. Kate Spade made and uber-cute travel mug that is both perfectly themed and will keep your your beverage warm.

You can find it on Amazon.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Links and Stuff: December 10, 2015

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Why I Love... End of Year Lists

It's that time of the year when publications and those-in-the-know put together their best of the year and gift lists. I always look forward to seeing what others consider the great reads or great gifts. This time of the year gives me the chance to look into books I missed. I always find myself adding one or two or a dozen books to my TBR list.

I think one reason I like this time of year is because it all happens at once. I'm swimming in lists to read, and the abundance of choice reminds me of all the great books there are. The lists also give me a chance to see trends - what book was the most recommended, what genre is floating to the top, what debut authors are going to have an impact. So, it's not just the books I learn about, it's the information about the publishing industry and writing trends.

Also, I love lists. Simply put - give me a list and I will mentally check-off what I have read and what I need to read.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

What I Read This Week: December 6, 2015

I spent this week reading and thinking about all the things we have to do before Christmas. I'm that person who loves making lists, so all of this planning is right up my alley. I'm actually excited about all the baking, cooking, and cleaning that is headed my way.

This week was also spent shopping for presents and wrapping said presents. I am pretty much done with my holiday shopping. I only have one present left to purchase, and that comes down timing more than anything. Woohoo!
  • Magazine
    • Cooking Light, December 2015 - We're hosting both a friends Christmas party and Christmas with our family this year. This issue must have known. The apps and holiday ideas made easier features were both right up our alley. I don't know if we'll put any of those to direct use, but I did enjoy the tips. I also enjoyed the tasty looking slow cooker recipes. Ours gets much use in the winter and we like to mix things up when we can so we're not eating the same thing all of the time.
    • HGTV Magazine, December 2015 - Wow! This was quite the colorful issue. It was fun to see how many color palettes you can actually use for the holidays. The Husband and I like our red/white/silver scheme, but it was fun to see all the other combinations that don't normally come to mind. Gift ideas are always helpful to file away - and this issue had plenty. The magazine also featured a house tour of a Victorian style home in Chicago with modern decor. It was stunning. I would like to move into the library/den. I also like how all the "regular" columns in this magazine were given a Christmas spin.
    • Food Network, December 2015 - *singing* Oh cookie pile... oh cookie pile... thisissue had tons of cookie ideas. I might even use the thumbprint cookie recipe this year. My mother-in-law only requested one cookie recipe this year - thumbprints - and I'm excited to try something new. Beyond the cookies, there were several fantastic holiday mains and sides. (Why are the holiday issues always the best ones?) This issue had pages and pages of gift ideas for foodies. I'm pretty much done with my shopping, but several items may be making an appearance at future gift situations. 
    • Good Housekeeping, December 2015 - I read this the day it arrived in my mailbox. Progress! It was full of gift ideas and holiday tips and food, but nothing too special jumped out at me. I did notice that my mom made a breakfast casserole recipe from this issue during Thanksgiving. She must havereceived her issue a few weeks before I did. It was tasty.
    • Real Simple, November 2015 - This was a pretty typical holiday issue (food and tips), but there was a feature piece that jumped out at me: the article on guest etiquette for parties. I agreed with almost every bit of advice (one bit I did not agree with... giving a hostess something other than wine. I will never turn down wine!). We're hosting our friend Christmas party next Saturday, so I was definitely bobbing my head at certain points (coughRSVPetiquettecough). I also liked the article about how a town came together to help a family in need. It was very touching and makes you think about the community in which you live.
  • Books
    • I'm still chugging away at Dragonfly in Amber and I think I might actually finish this guy before Christmas. I had seriously forgotten the majority of what happened in this book. It's almost like a new read to me.
  • Other

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Friday Find: Tea Please

It's the season of hot beverages. Of cocoa. Of tea. Of hot toddies. Why not drink them out of this uber-cute mug.

You can buy this from Society 6.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Links and Stuff: December 3, 2015