Reading Through the Super Bowl: A Book-Lover’s Guide

Happy Friday, everyone! I think all of us are looking forward to the weekend, even if that means just a chance to stay indoors–heck, especially if it means that. It’s been a bitterly cold week to trek to school/work (less horrible if you have a wonderful chauffeur like my dad–THANKS DAD! <3), and the prospect of finding excuses to stay nested indoors the entire weekend is alluring. This Sunday will be the Super Bowl, and while for some that may be the most exciting day of the year, for others of us more bookish/less athletic types…it presents a challenge. The energy–and the food!–are exciting in and of themselves, and really, this is a favorite American past-time–it should not be missed. So, have you been invited to a Super Bowl party with family/friends, and you don’t want to be antisocial, but the prospect of watching a ball get passed around for hours is threatening to drive you mad as a hatter?

The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, courtesy of

Fear not! came up with a list of strategies for the book-but-not-football-lover to enjoy this Sunday. The intro below, and numbers 1-4 & 10, are from Quirkbooks, but numbers 5-9 are from me. That means TWO “Top 10” lists on my blog this week–my goodness! Enjoy!


published by Blair Thornburgh on January 30, 2014 – 9:45am

Image via Flickr

Ah, that most American, sportastic of diversions: the Super Bowl! What could be more thrilling, entertaining, and vaguely ritualistic than a bunch of quarterbacks dribbling the ol’ pigskin down the Football Court to make the crucial penalty basket and break the love-love tie?


Okay, so you may have surmised that I don’t know a ton about football.

And while I don’t want to set up any damning dichotomies here, I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy swath of the population who’d rather be glued to a book alone than to the widescreen TV in the company of, you know, other people. Still, just because you’re a bookish type doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Super Bowl party (for one thing, there’s snacks). Here’s some tips for enjoying a good read on the sly.

1. Smuggle in your book: Good options include in a purse, under your jersey (also: get a jersey), or hidden beneath a novelty cheese-shaped hat (Wisconsin fans only). Bad options include under the crockpot full of chili and in your shoes.

2. Pick your location: Use a little strategery to keep yourself out of the major sightlines. Perch on a stool behind the couch, or tuck yourself into the corner between the armchair and the bookcase (bonus factor: more books!) If possible, remove yourself from the viewing room entirely. Someone needs help in the kitchen? Perfect! No seats left? That’s cool, you’ll go listen to the game on the radio, assuming that’s a plausible thing for a football fan to do!

3. Occasionally make noise: Just like reading in the middle of a forest known for higher-than-average Grizzly activity, sharp listening is the key to survival here. Keep your ears pricked for changes in ambient noise, and vocalize accordingly: groan, sigh, cheer, or laugh (commercials only). If your pages are particularly noisy, try to turn them at clinch moments.

Image via Flickr

4. Avoid snack-related page damage: Nothing is more tragic than the flood of sticky, caramel-colored liquid across a virgin page of type, and nothing will be more of a dead giveaway than when you leap up swearing and clutching a beer-sodden copy of Gone Girl. Keep your snax ‘n’ beverages safely clear of your reading material; I suggest designated nourishment breaks at regular intervals to keep your stamina up.

5. Check the score: This works best if you’re reading on an eReader–or, poor thing, a smart phone. Tell your friends you’re checking the score during commercials, then check the more important score of Smaug vs. Bilbo.

6. Use the bathroom: Make a hurried but urgent apology, dashing off to the bathroom so quickly they don’t notice you stuffed your book under your sweater. As an added option for authenticity, consider muttering “bean dip” or “nachos” on your way (bonus points if said items are actually on the spread). Once inside, lower the seat–because you know the guy before you didn’t–prop up your feet on the trash can, and pretend the throne you’re on is made of swords, not porcelain.

The iron throne from Game of Thrones, courtesy of

7. Run out for more beer: Like any ancient fete, you can count on plenty of imbibing and the inevitable tragedy of depleted stores. Luckily for them, they have a hero in their midst, ready to brave the crowded aisles and bare shelves at the local liquor store. Luckily for you, you planned ahead and have an extra 6-pack or two in your trunk, ready to bring in once you’re done with your chapter you’ve read while hiding in the hallway.

8. Call your buddy about that crazy play: Announce that you need to call Tyrion, your football-fanatic-friend, to discuss that crazy play that just happened (wait for cheering/heckling). Go back out into that hallway, book under shirt (they won’t notice–they’re also discussing that crazy play), and read. Every so often, yell out, “I know! Seriously!,” to keep up with your side of the conversation with…On second thought, pick a more normal name.

9. Look up the rules: Like #5, this one works much better if you’re on a smart phone or an eReader. Await a debate about the legitimacy of a play, or spark one yourself (more risky–helpful if you know some key terms–remember that brown egg-shaped thing is a “ball”). Then, be helpful and look up the rules yourself. Do this quickly, announce the results, and then get distracted “reading more about other rare plays,” when someone asks you what you’re doing (which would, in reality, be reading more about fireballs than footballs).

10. Enjoy the game!: The game of pretending you’re watching the game, that is! And remember: you can watch all the commercials on YouTube later.


I hope you found that guide useful, dear readers! I also hope you enjoy your weekend and stay warm–either by the glow of a TV or an eReader. 😉

Top 20 Wintry Reads

This Frozen meme was too funny and relevant not to share. The Elsa/Snow Queen jokes have been flying around as abundantly as the snowflakes here. If Elsa truly is holding out for that Oscar, hopefully we’ll only have a little over a month of this left (seeing as Frozen will DEFINITELY be getting at least one Oscar, right?!).

I’m not usually a fan of winter, but this year has been particularly bad. We’ve seen nearrecord-breaking temperatures and snowfall. This week, my friend’s car stopped dead on the road because a part froze (while she was driving!), and another friend’s pipes froze completely in his house. Luckily, this has generally been the extent of my personal suffering:

One keep-warm tactic that’s popular with bibliophiles is curling up with a good book, perhaps next to a roaring fireplace or space heater. Or this:

If you’re afraid that you’ll miss celebrating the season while you’re between the pages, you’re in luck: the lovely ladies of Epic Reads have again come through for us, this time with a list of Top 20 Wintry Reads, shared below. This way, you can enjoy all the magic(?) of the outdoors from the comfort and safety of your favorite armchair.

Reading in a Winter Wonderland with @EpicReads

01/03/2014 5:04PM | Posted by: TeamEpicReads

This winter, snuggle up with these twenty snowy, icy, frosty young adult books! Each book is set either during winter or in a snowy locale and are the perfect read for when your real world is a little bit frozen. A complete list of all the books (with links to Goodreads) can be found below the infographic!)

A special thanks to all of our Twitter followers who helped us craft this list!

20 Winter-Themed Young Adult Books

––> Click here to view the infographic at the fuller, high-quality size! (Right click + ‘Save As’ to save the image and print it!)

20 Wintry YA Books via @EpicReads

Complete List of Books

(Each link will take you to the books’ Goodreads page!)

First Row

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (HarperTeen)
Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz, Michael Johnston (Putnam)
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (Knopf)
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Ace)

 Second Row

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (Greenwillow)
Trapped by Michael Northrop (Scholastic)
Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)
Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (HarperTeen)

 Third Row

Towering by Alex Flinn (HarperTeen)
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (Delacorte)
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara (Simon & Schuster)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins)
Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher (Greenwillow)

 Fourth Row

Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne (HarperTeen)
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt & Co.)
After the Snow by S.D. Crockett (Feiwel & Friends)
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (HarperTeen)

Thoughts on the list

This list is far and away from being complete. There are so many books we could have included, it was truly difficult to narrow it down to twenty. We wanted to focus on books that have cold, wintry, snowy settings that aren’t holiday related. That’s why these two obvious books, Let It Snow! by John Green and company and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn are left out. We also excluded Harry Potter because that’s kind of just a given. Harry Potter is a given for any and all lists. So what you see here are some books you haven’t read it or haven’t heard of!

It is also worth nothing that The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is not technically a young adult novel, but it is a classic fantasy novel that we highly recommend young adults and adults alike read. Finally, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson is on this list but the book doesn’t go on sale until July 1st, 2014. We wanted to include it because Team Epic Reads is overly obsessed with Jodi’s books and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy. So keep this one on your radar!

We hope you enjoy the list!

What other wintry YA reads would you add to this list?

(Show us your #WinterYA reads –– snap a photo of your collection and upload to Instagram and use that hashtag so we can see!)


What do you think, dear readers? Did your favorites make the list–what would you add? The Bitter Kingdom, Shiver, and Shadow and Bone have all been on my to-be-read list, but after seeing this list, I think I need to add more!

I hope you stay warm and well-read! ❤

Top 16 Most-Anticipated YA Books of January 2014

Hello, dear readers! I hope the week has been treating you well. Mine has been busy, interesting, productive, and even fun, so I suppose I couldn’t ask for a better mix. 🙂 I hope to share some stories with you about it soon.

For now, though, it’s time for this week’s Top Ten post–except this week, it will be 16! Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s fun young-adult literature online community, posted a list of this month’s most-anticipated YA book releases. I’m glad they did, because I hadn’t heard of a lot of these, and my to-be-read pile has grown even larger (can’t wait for that new seven-foot-long bookcase…). I’m especially excited for Cruel Beauty (#9), a dark reimagining of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast; Infinite, a fantasy dystopia; and Defy, a fantasy adventure that was a runner-up for the “Top 15” list. Click the titles to take you to their Goodreads entries, where you can read more about them as well as purchase them. (Blurbs are from Epic Reads and Goodreads.)

The 16 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing In January

(Most anticipated = most YA books added on Goodreads as of December 12th, 2013 when we collected the data. View the entire list and see how the rankings have changed here.)

1. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

On sale January 28th

Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent series, Veronica Rossi’s trilogy has been called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “incredibly original” ( Brimming with romance and danger and building to a climax that will leave you breathless, Into the Still Blue brings this “masterpiece” trilogy to an unforgettable close (

2. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

On sale January 14th

In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.

3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

On sale January 21st

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

4. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

On sale January 28th

From New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan, Uninvited is a chilling and suspenseful story about a girl whose DNA brands her as a killer, perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

5. Enders by Lissa Price

On sale January 7th

Someone is after Starters like Callie and Michael – teens with chips in their brains. No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

6. Infinite by Jodi Meadows

On sale January 28th

The stunning conclusion to the Incarnate trilogy, a fantasy series about a girl who is the first new soul born into a society where everyone else has been reborn hundreds of times. Romantic and action-filled, the rich world of Infinite is perfect for fans of epic fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, while Ana’s courage to expose the cracks in society and fight for what is right is ideal for fans of dystopian novels.

7. Unhinged by A.G. Howard

On sale January 7th

Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through Alyssa’s art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind. If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

8. Erased by Jennifer Rush

On sale January 7th

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last page is turned.

9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

On sale January 28th

The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

10. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

On sale January 28th

Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

11. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

On sale January 28th

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

12. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

On sale January 7th

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

13. Avalon by Mindee Arnett

On sale January 21st

For fans of Josh Whedon’s cult classic television show Firefly comes a fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi thriller from author Mindee Arnett, about a group of teenage mercenaries who stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens the entire galaxy. With pulse-pounding action, a captivating mystery, and even a bit of romance,Avalon is the perfect read for hard-core sci-fi fans and non–sci-fi fans alike.

14. Vitro by Jessica Khoury

On sale January 14th

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw. Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

15. Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

On sale January 23rd

In a stunning story about the beauty of fate and the power of secrets, Mary Lindsey returns to the world of Shattered Souls with a breathtaking thrill-ride of a novel. [The author notes Shattered Souls takes place one month before this book’s plot, but is not a required read for this one–same world, different story lines.]

16. Defy by Sara B. Larson


A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?


So, dear readers, did you add any of these to your “to read” shelves? Which debuts are YOU most excited for?

Forecasts are predicting chilly temperatures and more snow (at least for the weather-battered Midwest!), so stay warm and check back this weekend for more posts. I hope you have a lovely weekend, yourself!

Warming Up, Mom’s Birthday, & Top Ten: New Year’s Resolutions from Fictional Characters

Good evening, dear readers! I’m happy to report the temperature has been rising slowly, since my last post. Today, it reached a warm 16° F, which unleashed a carefree zeal in many drivers, to which my coworker commented, “It’s still below freezing, people…you’re still driving on ice.” Well, she was mostly right, except that sometimes, it was more spinning than driving. Luckily, I had my fabulous chauffeur driving me again, so my commute was carefree and chatty, even if he wasn’t. 😉

Tonight was my mom’s birthday–happy birthday, Mom! ❤ We celebrated with Lou Malnati’s deep dish veggie pizza (YUM) and tuxedo cake from Costco (DOUBLE YUM). We are extending the birthday celebration because we still don’t have her gifts yet (it is the curse of a birthday close to the holidays, as I suffer myself–although not as badly as her). We did give her cards tonight, though. After a full day of writing and editing, I really let loose with being verbose, to the extent that she was reading the outside of the card while I was still finishing the novella within:

Dear readers, can you believe it’s already been one week since the calendar page flipped over to 2013? Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions (or are you reconsidering the ones you did make)? I’m still forming mine–something about cleaning my room and office, as well as finishing writing a book or two. 😉
If resolutions like these seem too humdrum to you, how about those of our favorite epic literary characters? Barnes & Noble put together a clever list that some popular literary characters might have made in our modern society. Perhaps these will give you some ideas of your own. 😉

11 Fictional Characters’ New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by  × January 2, 2014 at 4:48 pm

New Year's champagne cork

It’s 2014! (Thankfully Aeon the aging time vulture didn’t kidnap the baby New Year.) As the light of the dawning new year hit your holidazed face, you might have been invigorated enough to make a few resolutions, varying in the degree to which you mean to keep them.

And you’re not alone! We’re all in the same boat, even your favorite fictional characters. We surveyed some literary titans, and here are a few of their goals for the bright, shiny new year:

Narrator (The Tell-Tale Heart)
“Find lodgings nearer to that yoga studio. More deep-breathing exercises. I must, I must!”

Dr. John Watson (The Complete Sherlock Holmes)
“Get that blasted leg wound sorted. Or was it a shoulder ailment? Bugger, I can’t remember. Holmes!”

Robert Baratheon (A Game of Thrones)
“Lose that pesky 10 pounds…bobbing about on Cersei’s shoulders. HA HA HA. You, mummer, bring me more prostitutes and wine! And that turkey leg.”

Thranduil (The Hobbit)
“Invest in home security system improvements.”

Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter)
“Why, find new and inventive ways to mortally imperil my students, of course! Maybe lodging the sword of Gryffindor inside a giant talking spider, perhaps. Oh yes, that’s very good. Very good indeed, Alby.”

Rose of Sharon Joad-Rivers (The Grapes of Wrath)
“I’m bound to get an idear if I think long enough. Oh, I know, there’s that Groupon for the family therapy I figgered we should put to use. And I reckon I ought to write to that feller from the barn.”

Winnie the Pooh (The House at Pooh Corner)
“I would say I have to agree with Rabbit’s resa…reso…I agree with what Rabbit wants. Extremely. Undoubtably. Did he say he hoped to have more honey? Oh, well then I shall want to add that as well.”

Polonius (Hamlet)
“I plan to make time to get that shabby tapestry cleaned. Such filth, particularly on the back side, not that I would know what that looked like, of course…methinks that’s enough now.”

Rincewind (Discworld)
“No adventures. I resolve to have a nice, quiet, simple year with the Luggage. Absolutely no trifling about in dungeon dimensions or anything of the sort. Did you hear that? Um.”

White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
“Remember, remember, remember all my appointments. Day planner—a day planner, that’s the ticket!”

Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye)
“Resolutions are for phonies. And so are posthumous manuscript publications. Phonies. But I would like to find out where ducks go in the wintertime.”

What’s your resolution?

Happy New Year! Top Ten: Historical Cures for Hangovers

Happy New Year, dear readers! I hope you had fun ringing in 2014. Lindsey hosted a party in her lovely condo for our friends (the same ones you’ve read about here, here, here, and almost every post with the “friends” tag). We had snacks and drinks, including Kara’s delicious brownies, Lindsey’s dips, cookies, and walnuts that Erik expertly (frighteningly) cracked. We played several games, which alone would have ensured my having a blast (I LOVE games and can’t ever play enough), but the added talking, silliness, and electronic dancing cat all made for even more fun.

Clockwise from left: Kara, Erik, Megan, Lindsey, me, Jennifer, Warren, and Jeremiah

Jennifer’s long arms are expertly equipped for group selfies! 😉

Oreo would like to give everyone a New Year’s kiss: muah! ❤

Cheers to 2014! Health, happiness, prosperity, love, and friendship for the New Year! ❤

Despite our midnight toast, dear readers, the first day of January did not start with a hangover for me, I am happy to say. However, I’m sure much of the rest of the world was not so lucky. It’s been a problem through the millennia, apparently; today, the National Museum of American History made a timely blog post exploring the creative “cures” people have come up with throughout history. Mallory Warner, of the museum’s Division of Medicine and Science, compiled this collage of historical hangover cures in the museum’s collection for us to view online, even if we can’t visit the museum itself. I found it so fascinating that I decided to share it for this week’s Top Ten list.

Hopefully, none of you are still experiencing hangovers, but perhaps you will find this interesting in a retrospective “glad I didn’t try that…” or even a “maybe next time…” way. 😉

(Dear readers, I must ask you to drink responsibly so you don’t cause any injury worse than a headache. Always use a designated driver. <3)

I hope you enjoy this glance at the seedier side of history as much as I did. 🙂

Top Ten: Historical Hangover Remedies
From: The National Museum of American History

January 01, 2014

How do you cure a historic hangover?

On this first day of 2014, many of us will be looking forward to the New Year. Others will just be looking forward to recovering from the after-effects of endless holiday parties. As you come out of your post-holiday fog, take a look at some of the curious cures for “over-indulgence” in food and alcohol in our collection.

"A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink"

1. Brioschi, after 1907. “A pleasant, quick acting, effective antacid relieving upset stomach, hyperacidity, fullness, sour stomach, heart ache and forms of distress due to over-indulgence in food or drink.”
Display box of Garfield's Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”

2. Display box of Garfield’s Seidlitz Powders, 1930s-1940s. “For that dull headachy feeling often caused by intestinal congestion…”
Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”  This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.”  Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.

3. Pluto Water, between 1903-1971. “It may be depended upon to actively flush the intestinal tract in constipation or after over-indulgence in eating or drinking.”This product was sold with the cheeky tag line, “When Nature won’t—Pluto will.” Pluto, Roman god of the underworld (the source of spring water), served as the brand’s mascot.
Emerson's Bromo-Seltzer , after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion”

4. Emerson’s Bromo-Seltzer, after 1906. “Remedy for nervous headache, neuralgia, brain fatigue, sleeplessness, over-brain work, depression following alcoholic and other excesses, mental exhaustion.”
Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. ”For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”

5. Percy Medicine, 1996-1999. “For the relief of diarrhea, sour stomach, acid indigestion, heartburn, and upset stomach associated with overindulgence of food and drink.”
6. Laymon’s Bromo-Chaser. “A pleasantly saline effervescent antacid and sedative…Do not take more than the above dosage. Excessive use of bromides may lead to mental derangements or other serious troubles.”
7. Bromo-Lithia, after 1906. “For headache, biliousness, rheumatism, mental strain, worry, excessive smoking, eating or drinking.”
8. Alka-Seltzer advertisement, 1939. “Because your dinner was so good, I ate too much no doubt. That’s why I Alka-Seltzer-ize to straighten matters out.”
9. Bromo Soda, about 1900. “For sick and nervous headache, indigestion and insomnia, sleeplessness, excessive study, dyspepsia, acute migraine, nervous debility, mania, depression following alcoholic and other excessives, mental and physical exhaustion. Brain fatigue. Sea sickness.”
10. De Angelis Effervescent with Citrate of Magnesia, after 1904.

“It is most efficient for stomach disturbances, acidity and gas. Best suited to reduce weight.”


I hope you enjoyed that interesting and slightly scary list as much as I did, dear readers. 😉

Join me later this week for a surprise announcement and other fun posts. By the way, if you haven’t visited my actual blog page lately (like if you’re an email subscriber), you might want to–Jell-Jell is currently decked out in his Christmas best, courtesy of Jennifer, and snowfall dusts over the page as you read. 🙂

Merry Christmas: Top Ten Holiday-Spirit Books

Merry Christmas, dear readers! I hope those of you who celebrate it are having a fun time. My family, friends, and coworkers have slowly been celebrating it all month long, and yet I miss it already, and it’s not even over yet! Last night, my family, a couple of coworkers, and I went to the Christmas Eve Mass at the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters’ chapel–the commute from work was fantastic (it’s in the same building…). It was a lovely event with candles, carols, and a nice sermon.

But who’s ready to be done with the Christmas spirit? Not I! The Huffington Post shared a list of their top 12 picks for books that will get you in the holiday spiritI thought that was a wonderful idea, so I also polled my friends as to their top picks. Below, I am posting a conglomeration of their picks. I will note where each is from.
(All pictures are from Amazon. Click to purchase and read summaries.)

The festivity won’t end today, not on this blog! I will continue to sprinkle holiday-related posts through the New Year, so don’t put away the holiday sweaters just yet.

Top Ten Holiday-Spirit Books

1. Winter Dreams, Christmas Love by Mary Francis Shura

Recommended by my coworker Erin

“It is a little-known, wonderful young adult love story,” says Erin. I’ve never heard of this one, but I’d like to check it out. (Used copies of this one may be more affordable than new.)

2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Recommended by my friend Chris

This children’s book is a hit with all ages, and if you’ve only seen the movie, you owe it to yourself to read this book and experience the quiet majesty in the pages.

3. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

Recommended by many people–one our dad used to read to Jennifer and me each year on Christmas Eve ❤

This book captures the ageless excitement and anticipation of Christmas, making it more of a family book than a children’s book.

4. The Jesse Tree (by Catherine Fournier) & The Bible

Recommended by my fellow blogger friend Misty

“It is a daily activity starting on Dec 1 that you do with the kids that covers little Bible stories leading up to Jesus’s birth,” Misty explains. “So our main Christmas book would be the Bible. You make handmade ornaments that the kids hang on the tree to help them make a connection with each different story. It’s been really fun this year!” Sounds like a meaningful way to have fun this season. 🙂

5. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Recommended by my friend Amy L.

I couldn’t describe this better than Amazon’s own description: “The Velveteen Rabbit is a timeless tale of friendship, love, acceptance and honesty. When the world seems uncertain, Margery Williams’s classic story reminds all of us what really matters. The Velveteen Rabbit’s journey through love and loneliness to become who he was really meant to be is a story that inspires us all on our own journey to Real.” I cried at this story when I was little; I’m not sure I could even make it through at my age now, since I somehow broke “growing up” and am more sensitive now than when I was younger. 😉
The Christmas theme comes in here because the titular Rabbit is a Christmas present. ❤

6. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Recommended by my friend Amy L.

Amazon’s description is lovely: “No book has captured the magic and sense of possibility of the first snowfall better than The Snowy Day. Universal in its appeal, the story has become a favorite of millions, as it reveals a child’s wonder at a new world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever.” Misty says she reads this to her schoolchildren every year. 🙂
We certainly have been having a lot of snow in our region this year, and I will say I miss viewing it with childhood fondness vs. adult frustration. Although, we have been enjoying it this year a bit, with my coworkers throwing the occasional snowball at each other outside, as well as my sister and I having plans to build a real-life–snow version of this, our contest entry for her office’s Christmas party:

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Jennifer (right) and I love our Olaf (recreated from Disney’s Frozen)

7. The Mitten by Jan Brett

Recommended by my friend Amy L.

“Grandmother knits snow-white mittens that Nikki takes on an adventure. Readers will enjoy the charm and humor in the portrayal of the animals as they make room for each newcomer in the mitten and sprawl in the snow after the big sneeze.” -The Horn Book. Sounds adorable. 🙂

8. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

Recommended by me

I loved this even before it was a Disney movie. It’s one of my favorite fairy tales, and it holds cultural significance all around the world. It’s especially appropriate during the holiday season, not only for the snow, but also for its feel-good themes. As Amazon describes: “Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, the classic tale of friendship, love, and bravery, is full of magic and wonder.”

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Recommended by the Huffington Post

From my last post, you already know how integral this book has become to Christmastime world-round. This classic tale of greed and careful isolation turned to generosity and open love–and the love we get back–is an important reminder to people of all ages about the true meaning of Christmas.

10. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Recommended by the Huffington Post

This classic takes place in a land of eternal winter, frozen scenery and frozen hearts. Ironically, although “it’s always winter and never Christmas,” the themes and triumphs evoke Christmassy feelings.
This is sort of a children’s book, and sort of not. The language, scenery, and plot are accessible for children, and it’s an enjoyable adventure. The deeper symbolism, though, tells of sacrifice, courage, truth, and love–and it’s one of the truest “Christ stories” I’ve ever read.
(A “Christ story,” for lack of a better term, refers to a genre of literature that mirrors Christ’s journey of miraculous birth–or sometimes miraculous rebirth–spreading goodness and love throughout the land. I bet you’ve read many Christ stories without even knowing it–Frank Herbert’s Dune is another example.)
This story will always be special to me because it’s one of the first I read after my Traumatic Brain Injury, and it was inspirational and magical to me. 🙂


I hope you enjoyed the list, dear readers, and maybe you will consider capping off your Christmas with one of these before bed. Check back on my blog over the next couple of weeks for some more holiday/winter-themed posts. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

Top Ten: Words for the Christmas Season

TGIF, readers! For many of you, today was the last day of school or work before a holiday break. But that doesn’t mean that the learning has to stop! 😉

While I was doing my usual perusal of’s articles, which I thought was a totally normal thing to do until Jeremiah told me otherwise (I’m still not convinced), I noticed some festive entries too good not to share.

In particular, I was drawn to their slideshow, Crack the Christmas Code: Carols Demystified. It caught my eye for several reasons: First of all, earlier this week, several of my coworkers and I had the enjoyable experience of caroling for our annual Patient Christmas Party–more on that later, as it deserves a whole entry to itself. Secondly, as you already know, I am fascinated by etymology. I couldn’t keep this festively entertaining and educational list all to myself. Below, please enjoy my compilation of’s list of six Christmas Carol word explanations, followed by four seasonal terms from other articles on their site (which I will denote). And please visit throughout the next two weeks for more festive blog posts, perhaps between wrapping gifts and sipping on egg nog. 🙂

Ten Festive Words, and an Etymology in a Pear Tree

1. Wassail

[wos-uhl, -eyl, was-, wo-seyl]

“Here we go a wassailing among the leaves so green!” If you’ve ever heard a caroler sing this phrase and thought, “What the heck is a wassail?” you’re not alone! A wassail is a toast made to wish good health. From the Spanish salude to slainte in Irish Gaelic, many languages wish good health when glasses clink. Wassail is an Old English toast, adopted from the Old Norse ves heill meaning “be healthy!” In the 1600s the word became synonymous with carol singing, though it can still denote a hearty swig.

2. Wenceslaus


“Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen…” Good King WHO? Wenceslaus the First was a duke of what is now the Czech Republic. Sainted and dubbed “king” shortly after his death in 935, he was known for his piety and generosity to the poor. The carol “Good King Wenceslaus” is traditionally sung on Saint Stephen’s Day (Dec. 26), which honors one of the earliest Catholic saints. The carol depicts a cold Saint Stephen’s night in which Wenceslaus journeys into the snow to help an old man.

3. Tidings


If you’ve ever been baffled by a caroler bringing you “tidings of comfort and joy,” your confusion ends here. Derived from the Old English tidan, meaning “to happen,” a tiding is a new piece of information or an announcement of an event. You can think of it as news rolling in on the tide. So whether your carolers come in on a surfboard or a sleigh, the correct response to “glad tidings” is “thank you.”

4. Figgy pudding

Have carolers ever camped out on your porch and demanded “figgy pudding” making threats like “we won’t go until we get some!” Don’t be alarmed. You’re not caught in a protest; it’s just Christmas. A distant cousin of the fruit cake, figgy pudding is a traditional fig-based cake common in England the 1600s. The carol “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” re-popularized the dessert in the 1900s, and now countless carolers ask for it every year.

5. Holly


Have you ever been instructed to “deck the halls with boughs of holly” and then looked up a decorator named Holly? Look no further. Holly is actually a tree with glossy green leaves, whitish flowers and red berries. From American Holly to English Holly, the “boughs” or branches of this tree are a traditional Christmas decoration. The word itself is a shortening of the Old English holegn for the same evergreen plant, which has represented rebirth on the European continent for centuries.

6. Yule tide


Confused by carolers yelling something about a “yule tide?” Fear not! As is the case with “tidings” the yule tide signifies the coming of the holiday season. Yule comes from the Old Norse word jol, relating to the pre-Christian winter feast. After the advent of Christianity, the term was adopted into Old English as geol to represent the Christmas season.

7. Xmas

The history of the word “Xmas” is actually more respectable — and fascinating — than you might suspect. First of all, the abbreviation predates by centuries its use in gaudy advertisements. It was first used in the mid 1500s. X is the Greek letter “chi,” the initial letter in the word Χριστός. And here’s the kicker: Χριστός means “Christ.” X has been an acceptable representation of the word “Christ” for hundreds of years. This device is known as a Christogram. The mas in Xmas is the Old English word for “mass.”  (The thought-provoking etymology of “mass” can be found here.) In the same vein, the dignified terms Xpian and Xtian have been used in place of the word “Christian.”

8. Magi


(This and the next two entries are from’s “Language of the Nativity” slideshow)

Though Jesus’ birth got off to a rough start, things definitely started looking up once the Magi arrived. Outside the Nativity story, Magi refers to a class of Zoroastrian priests in ancient Media and Persia, reputed to have supernatural powers. The word is thought to originate as moyu in the ancient Persian language Avestan. Within the Christmas story, the Bible depicts these Magi or “Wise Men of the East” as presenting gifts to the baby Jesus. But today magi can also mean astrologer.

9. Myrrh


Though the exact number of Magi present at the nativity is unknown, biblical scholars assume that there were three based on the number of gifts they brought. One of these was myrrh, a bitter-tasting resin gum made from small thorny trees of the genus Commiphora. Exodus 30:23 cites myrrh as a key ingredient in the holy anointing oil used to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests. Myrrh as a gift of the Magi symbolically anointed the infant Jesus as a religious leader.

10. Frankincense


From perfuming the sanctuary in Exodus 30:43-38 to aiding prayer in Revelations 8:4, frankincense makes numerous appearances in both the Old and New Testaments. What is it? Frankincense is a gum resin made from Boswellia trees native to Asia and Africa. It can be burned as incense or used directly on the skin as perfume. Etymologically, frankincense is from the Old French, franc- which means “noble or true” referring to the purity of the “incense” it describes.


Well, dear readers, I hope this list has left you enlightened you–in a “star of wonder” type of way. 😉

Best wishes to you in managing that elusive balance between insane busyness and holiday cheer. I hope you have many moments of peace, joy, and love this holiday season. Please join me throughout the next couple of weeks for more festive posts, including more lists, as well as reflections on what Christmas means to me.