#AMonthofFaves: The Top Ten Books That Blew My Mind This Year

I'll be hopping in and out of #AMonthofFaves this month with some book-related and not-so-book-related content. Today's prompt: The Top Ten Books That Blew Your Mind This Year.


I've already written about my favorite non-fiction and fiction picks, but using some different criteria, here are the ten books that truly blew my mind this year (and the reasons they did so). Note: These are books read in 2015, not necessarily books published in 2015.

I Got You This Very Special Christmas Present

I got you this very special video for Christmas this year, and I promise it's worth 5 minutes of your time.

May all your Christmases be, um, slightly less stressful than this one.

(And yes, that's my sister. Isn't she great?)

On Christmas Eve, We Feast on Seven Fishes

It's Christmas Eve, which means you can bet your bottom dollar this post is pre-scheduled and is going live while I am elbow-deep in pounds of crab meat, salted cod, smoked salmon, octopus stew, and fish, fish, fish. It's the Feast of Seven Fishes for this Italian Family, and we'll be celebrating in style--with fish and with wine and with the company of good friends.

Bon Appetit, in writing about "How to Celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes," acknowledges that there is no hard and fast way to go about this particularly Italian/Italian-American tradition:
What fish should be included and how they should be prepared can vary. Some people cook seven courses; some choose to make 12 (in deference to the 12 apostles). Some just put a bunch of seafood in a stew and call it good. Many families keep their own traditions, but everyone who celebrates can agree: Seafood should be prepared and consumed on Christmas Eve. Preferably with wine.
We adhere to a full seven(plus)-course meal (my father, and his mother, and probably her parents before that insist that one stew with seven fishes is cheating) in our family, and this year's menu promises not to disappoint:

#AMonthofFaves: Year-End Updates on Reading Challenges, Resolutions, and Goals

I've been hopping in and out of #AMonthofFaves this month with some book-related and not-so-book-related content. Today's prompt: Year-End Updates on Reading Challenges, Resolutions and Goals.


This was both a wonderful year and a terrible year for reading challenges for me. In a landmark move, I fully completed my first ever reading challenge that requires a set number of books (Book Riot's 2015 Read Harder Challenge). In every other challenge, I failed miserably:

  • Clean Your Reader (hosted by myself, even!): I read a mere 3 e-books over the course of a month.*
  • 2015 TBR Challenge: Miserable fail. Though I read plenty of books that technically were on my TBR pile before 2015, only of them were on my official TBR challenge list.
  • Classics Club: I read only two classics this year (and DNF-ed 2 more)

Picking the Best of the Best: Awesome 2015 Non-Fiction Books

Of the 137 books I picked up this year (inclusive of DNFs), 36 were non-fiction--not actually as many as I would have expected, given how many of those slim pickings were truly stand-outs. Perhaps I've just gotten better at picking what non-fiction will work for me? Regardless, here were a few of my favorites:

Week in Reading: December 21

IT'S CHRISTMAS WEEK, YA'LL. I'm counting down the days until I get to feast on seven fishes. It's a pretty quiet week at work (what with half of the people I communicate with regularly being out of the office all week), so I'm catching up on some work-related reading during the days and powering through January and February--yes, February!--releases at night.

For work, I've been slowly getting into Switch for a while now (it's the theme for an upcoming non-profit training day I'm helping with, so I want to get it read). I've also just picked up No Such Thing as a Free Gift, which promises to be interesting, and I'm hoping to get to Project Fatherhood this week or next (before it's due back to the library).

For review deadlines, I'm enjoying The Illegal so far--though it's set in a fictional country, it's got some striking parallels to the reality of the immigration debates across the world today. Timely and well-written: these are a few of my favorite things. On the February stack, I'm eying Young Blood, a novel of the Iraq War, and The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America. So, yeah, some really light reading there.

On my headphones, I've got the tail end of Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (it's good, ya'll, go listen to it), and Rules of Civility, a re-read of a book I remember loving but otherwise recall very little of.

And somewhere in there, I've still got to go see Star Wars.


Psst... it's still not too late to join in on the 2016 Clean Your Reader Challenge! Starting in January, read the e-books you own but always forget to read. Easy peasy. Sign up here!

Reflecting on 2015: A Year of Too Much Yes

I opted out of New Years Resolutions last year in favor of focusing on One Little Word. The focus of my year was light, and I'd say I was moderately successful in reminding myself to be light, find light, embrace light throughout the year.

I unloaded a lot of physical stuff when we moved in January, and focused on not acquiring new things we don't need (or have a place for). I've placed my workspace in a spot with natural light--and I've made a valiant effort to get out into the sunlight on days when I am down, or when the hours of daylight are limited, or when I just need a break from the computer screen.

But in the world of personal and professional responsibilities, I have not been light. I have been heavy: heavy with to-do lists, heavy with competing deadlines, heavy with a lack of prioritization that leaves me anxious and sleepless and unable to efficiently handle my daily workload.

The 2016 #ReadHarder Book Challenge

The ever-brilliant Rachel is back on Book Riot again this year with another round of the Read Harder challenge... and I'm in!

The 2015 Read Harder Challenge was one of the first challenges I've ever actually completed in my entire time as a book blogger (ok, well, I technically haven't finished yet, but I'm 1.5 books away with 2 weeks to go and I WILL DO THIS THING), and I loved the diversity of the tasks. This year's list is, of course, no disappointment.

I'll be keeping track of my progress here throughout the year, with updates for each category as listed below. And because I'm also participating in Andi's #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks movement, and of course my own #CleanYourReader reading challenge, I'll be aiming to read as many of these as possible from my existing collection. Which, at first glance, actually should not be that hard.

1. Read a horror book 
2. Read a nonfiction book about science 
3. Read a collection of essays
4. Read a book out loud to someone else
5. Read a middle grade novel
6. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
7. Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel 
8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born 
9. Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award 
10. Read a book over 500 pages long 
11. Read a book under 100 pages 
12. Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender 
13. Read a book that is set in the Middle East 
14. Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia 
15. Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 
16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color 
17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years 
18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.
19. Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes 
20. Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction) 
21. Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
22. Read a food memoir 
23. Read a play 
24. Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness


Who else is in??

#AMonthofFaves | A Few of My Favorite (Christmas Tree) Things

I'll be hopping in and out of #AMonthofFaves this month with some book-related and not-so-book-related content. Today's prompt: Favorite Holiday Festivities -- or, in my case, favorite Christmas Tree decorations.


I know many think that Christmas trees--particularly real, needle-dropping, sap-sticky trees--are a pain to put up (and break down) each year, but honestly, it's one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Here are just a few of my most favorite ornaments, hanging besides more Patriots candy canes than I care to admit:

#WeekendReading: Picking Favorites from This Week's #AMonthofFaves

I'll be hopping in and out of #AMonthofFaves this month with some book-related and not-so-book-related content. Today's prompt: Weekend Reading -- Picking Favorites Shared through A Month of Favorites this week.


I didn't participate in the "This is How I Blog" prompt this week, but I learned about a ton of new blogging resources from others' posts. In particular:

Andi also has me even more excited than I already was about the forthcoming The Lifechanging Magic of Not Giving a F**k, which is out from Little, Brown in December. Cannot. Wait.


reading challenge, e-book challenge, ebook challenge, ereader challenge, tbr challenge

In non-Month of Faves news, it's not too late to sign up for the Clean Your Reader challenge this January-March. The premise is simple: focus on reading all those unread e-books lurking on your e-reader accounts somewhere. I hope you'll join us!

Linked Short Stories

This post originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

There's something about linked short stories--not quite a novel, but not a traditional collection--that speaks to me. Perhaps it's because the form allows authors (and therefore a reader) to explore two kinds of writing at one time; perhaps it is because I view life and stories as a series of snapshots, so the approach resonates with my way of thinking about the world.

Review & Giveaway: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge

I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone.

This is Ebenezer Scrooge's solemn promise to the Spirits at the end of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol--a promise that Charlie Lovett has set out to explore in more depth in his follow-up to the classic holiday tale, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge.

#AMonthofFaves: Five for Winter Survival

I'll be hopping in and out of #AMonthofFaves this month with some book-related and not-so-book-related content. Today's prompt: 5 Must Haves for Winter Survival.


It's been a shockingly mild winter here... so far. But I know that could change at any minute, and I've got five winter essentials on stand-by for the moment the temperatures start to drop it like it's, er, cold:

Review: Ashley Bell, by Dean Koontz (and an interview!)

This review originally ran in a Maximum Shelf issue of Shelf Awareness.

Despite her somewhat frivolous-sounding name--or perhaps because of it--Bibi Blair, the 22-year-old protagonist of Ashley Bell, is determined to make it clear that she is fierce and dauntless. Engaged to a Navy SEAL currently on an unspecified mission in an unspecified country, she's learned a thing or two about what it means to be strong. And as an author, she understands the power of imagination in shaping a story--even when that story might be her own. These are traits that serve her well when she is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and told she has less than a year to live.

At first, her response to this statement--"Really just one year? We'll see."--appears to be little more than wishful thinking in the face of a horrible prognosis. But it quickly becomes clear that, unlike her laid-back parents--both California surfers--Bibi does not subscribe to the "it will be what it will be" way of life. "She loved her parents, but she was not them. Fate did not rule her. She was master of her fate, the captain of her soul. She would not quit. SURRENDER was not a word that could be made from the lettered tiles of her name."

Week in Reading: December 7

decked the halls christmas decorations pets
My halls are decked. So are my pets.

'Tis, as they say, the season: to be merry and joyful (falala)*, to deck the halls, to be jolly. I know there are lots (and lots) of folks out there who find the whole Christmas thing more a burden than a joy. There's all the work associated with getting the tree and decorating the tree and hanging the lights and vacuuming up the tree needles (for days) and making cookies and holiday parties and sending Christmas cards and let me just tell you, I love every. damn. second. of it all.

So today, I'm sitting here typing this post wearing a Charlie Brown Christmas sweatshirt, sipping coffee with a spot of egg nog in it, thinking about where we'll go tonight to pick out our first tree in our first house, wondering what Christmas-themed reading I'll find in this week amidst a few January deadlines. On my stack:

Bookworm Gift Guide: Subscription Boxes

The subscription box has taken off, ya'll. You can get subscription boxes of sample-sizes beauty products, dog toys and treats, runner goodies, you name it. Below are a few of my favorite bookish subscription options (all of which would make excellent gifts for the bookworm you don't know how to shop for this holiday season...):

Looking Ahead: December Books

December is not traditionally known as a heavy publishing month, but that's not to say there aren't a few gems on the horizon...

age of reinvention, ashley bell, dean koontz, life-changing magic of not giving a fuck

The 2016 Clean Your Reader Challenge: Join Us!

clean your reader, ebook challenge, ereader challenge, 2016 reading challenge

Come one, come all, to the 2016 Clean Your Reader Challenge.

The goal is simple: read as many (or as few) e-books from your e-reader as you like over a three-month period (January through March 2016). Because I'm not great at hosting (or participating in) challenges with lots of rules and regulations, that's all there is for structure, but here are a few guidelines and suggestions: