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Oh Hey, Read-a-thon!

20 Apr

Somehow, the spring 24 Hour Read-a-thon completely crept up on me this time around. But I’m super excited that it’s falling in the scant two weeks between my Spring semester and Summer semester at school. (Yes, my summer semester starts on April 30th.) I am absolutely participating – in fact I had plans for tomorrow and canceled. That is dedication, people.

Because I’ve had so little time to prepare myself, things are going to be a little less formal around here. I’m not going to be able to read for charity this time around (though I may change my mind), and I’m not really setting out with a list of books set aside for read-a-thoning.

Oh who am I kidding? I’m definitely starting with a list of some kind. This is what I’ve got on the docket as options.

This time around, it’s going to be all about the pleasure of the read. I’ve got a good selection from across genres, with some faster reads throw into the mix of the more hefty books. I really wish I could read all of these in the next day, but I don’t think anyone is that fast!

I’ve got some chores to do in the a.m. but that’s what audiobooks are for right? And then its going to be breezy for the rest of the day. My mom is even going to participate, though she’s not doing the full 24-hours. I’m going to escape my buzzy group house and take full advantage of her air-conditioning and full fridge.

I’ll be updating throughout the day, with a sticky post up top, so come say hi!


51 days and counting!

10 Nov

First off, yes, I suck. I haven’t posted here in a very long time. Between school, work and Book Riot responsibilities, I’ve been a neglectful blog owner. So my apologies. Some of you still visit me, so I hope you’ll forgive the absence.  In completely related news, I haven’t really read much since the read-a-thon, and I’m going through serious withdrawal. I did go on a cross country flight last weekend, but because I’ve been horribly sick with a death cold, I spent most of the flights sleeping or reading for school. ::Sigh:: is it a normal response to grad school to want to quit because you miss your books? That happens right?

I have been posting on Book Riot:

  • First a look at how chick lit is changing (or dying) in the recession age.
  • I also posted a reading pathway to one of my favorites, John Irving. Want to work up to A Prayer for Owen Meany? Follow this guide.
  • In honor of the beginning of Movember, I posted a list of the best literary ‘staches.
  • And today, one I’m particularly proud of, The Write Stuff, a look at presidential campaign books.

But back to the topic at hand!

There are just over 50 days left in the calendar year. I know, right? Where did 2011 go??

But it also means that the major book sites are starting to post their Best of 2011 lists. While I think it’s a bit premature, even though they’ve read all the pre-release galleys for anything coming out in the next 50 days, I’m gobbling up the lists, anyways. I likely won’t publish my own “best of” until Christmas time. Though knowing my schedule around the end of the year, it might even be after the New Year that I get around to it. I finish classes and school work for the semester in mid-December, but I’m already figuring out the best use of my reading time from now until 2012. I’ve got to read 15 books by the end of the year to make my goal of 60. I don’t anticipate that being a problem, but it’s going to be a race, that’s for sure.

I’m actually really tempted to draw my last 15 books (well, 14 – I’m almost done with Practical Jean by Trevor Cole) from Amazon’s Best of 2011 list. As much as I dislike buying from Amazon, the list isn’t off the mark at all and I could easily pull my last 14 reads from books I already own. How’s this list sound for a final push toward 2012? (And yes, I’m linking to Powell’s no Amazon. It is #IndieThursday after all.):

And then taking into account the books I don’t own but want to buy:

That’s 15 books. And about a million pages. Okay actually, according to Goodreads’ page counts, it’s 7,007 pages.  Someone send reinforcements. Or liquor.

Summer Reading: High School Lists

6 Aug

I am missing my 10-year high school reunion this weekend. Since I now live in DC, and I went to high school in South Carolina, it’s a long trip to make and I just couldn’t justify it with the ubiquity of Facebook.* But thinking about the reunion, it did make me wistful for high school, especially after I read yesterday’s post by Meg (of write meg!) about summer reading that didn’t suck and one of her commentor’s posts, The Best Books I Read in High School. I was thinking about my own favorite summer reading, and just for the hell of it, decided to check out my high school’s website for their summer reading lists.

Notably, Pat Conroy makes an appearance in several grades and for a couple of reading levels – I guess reading a local author is important but I don’t know that I would’ve wanted to read the Prince of Tides when I was 16. Otherwise, I love the list of books for what would’ve been my reading level (AP Literature and Composition) when I was a senior:

Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man, James Joyce
Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad
Sanctuary, William Faulkner
Moby Dick, Herman Melville
Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis
Hard Times, Charles Dickens
Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
Possession, A.S. Byatt
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Madam Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The assignment is to read three books from that list. I know when I was in high school, I probably would’ve chosen five or six if not more. I love seeing one of my favorites, All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque, on this list, as well as some newer selections. I somehow feel like I didn’t get assigned much modern fiction in high school.

And the AP Language and Composition Summer Reading List is even better!

British Literature-Choose two from this list.
1. Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen
2. Heart of Darkness-Joseph Conrad
3. The Power and the Glory-Graham Greene
4. The Picture of Dorian Gray—Wilde
5. Brave New World—Huxley

Nonfiction-Choose one from this list.
6. A Walk in the Woods—Bill Bryson
7. Mountains Beyond Mountains—Tracy Kidder
8. The Perfect Mile—Neal Bascomb
9. Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption—Laura Hillenbrand
10. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in Boom-Time America—Barbara Ehrenreich

I’m sure the Summer Reading tables at the book stores will be picked over this weekend as students (myself included) get ready to start school in a few weeks. I’ve linked the IndieBound logo below to this complete booklist with each of these titles, in case you want to make a last-minute attempt at your own summer reading. I’ll expect oral reports and accompanying essays on my desk by Sept. 1st!

*Sidenote: I wonder how many people of my generation make this same justification. Is there a need anymore for traditional reunions if we’re all so connected online?

Review: Faith by Jennifer Haigh

28 Jul

During the early part of this century (that would be 2000’s), nothing rocked the country in a post-9/11  era like the priest sex-abuse scandal, especially in its epicenter of Boston. There was a sense that the trust inherent in the priesthood – of course you can leave your children alone with a priest! – shifted dramatically. And the expectation of innocence was shattered. Confidentiality was no longer a privilege and secrets became dangerous things in the Catholic church.

It’s hard to imagine a book with more secrets in its pages than Jennifer Haigh’s new novel, Faith: A Novel. Set during the scandal in Boston, Faith is narrated by Sheila, the half-sister of an accused priest and told as an epilogue to the unfolding of Father Arthur Breen’s tragic fall. Sheila knows only what she’s been told – by her and Arthur’s mother, by Arthur, by her other brother, and by the clergy secretary that worked for the priest (who is also the grandmother of the victim). She doesn’t live in Boston, though she grew up there, and her geographic distance creates an actual distance from the events of the book. As a reader, I also felt that distance which allowed for a bit more objectivity when judging Father Breen’s innocence or guilt. Sheila for her part believes that her brother is innocent. Until the moment that she almost doesn’t.

Let’s be clear: this isn’t Doubt. In John Patrick Shanley’s play (and in the subsequent Oscar-nominated movie), you just never know if the accused priest is guilty or not; you’re right along side the everyone else who suspects, but cannot prove, guilt. Haigh’s major conflict is not about abuse – though you do always feel a twinge in the process of reading it of not being sure; the central conflict is about trust. No one in the book doubts that Father Breen has been a dedicated member of the clergy and has served his community in the way that the very best priests can and should do. There’s a niggling feeling, like, maybe…no…no…well…maybe. Father Breen is an upstanding guy, but there a few things that make you wonder. Or at least make you understand how he could be accused of such a horrible thing.

Haigh handles each revelation of information – by both the narrator and by Father Breen – so carefully and precisely that you never see the bombs coming. It is such a skillful way of constructing a story. The suspense is inherent though you’re never sure whether Haigh is actually going to reveal whether Breen is guilty or not. But the beauty of the story and the way she writes it is that it almost doesn’t matter. I just kept turning pages – not to find out guilt or innocence – but to find out the fate of this man and his family. It is absolutely captivating, in a very real and human way.

One of the things that struck me about this book is the way it stays with you. I have said before about books as soon as I finished them, Oh this will be in my top five of the year. And then two weeks later, I’ve forgotten them. But this one, it’s haunting, and I’m still churning it over and over in my head. One thing that’s risen to the surface in all that tumbling is a reflection on the way that popular sentiment has a way of convicting people before they even get a chance to say a word. It’s heartbreaking that, throughout Sheila’s narration, we get everyone else’s opinion or verdict before we hear from Arthur. Even Sheila, who believes to her core that her brother is innocent, can’t bring herself to ask him out right. We’re so used to condemning the accused in the public eye before official judgement is given – and that is as much a lesson of this novel as anything else. I was reminded of this book once again when the Casey Anthony verdict was handed down. That is the mark of a successful novel, in my opinion. One that makes  you think about your place in the world, and how you treat everyone else in it. Beautiful, remarkable novel. I can say with certainty, this is going to be in my top books of 2011. Highly recommended.

Read-a-thon – over?

10 Apr

So I definitely didn’t have a spectacular read-a-thon this time around. I got slightly distracted around hour 11 because my roommate had a bunch of friends over for poker night and they were playing in the kitchen…right outside my room. Loud boys. Then! When most of them had left, a few were still hanging out and my roommate yelled at me to come out and have a beer. Which of course I had to do. And then I had two more, and then we all went out for Mexican food. And Coronas. I fully expected to come home and stay up reading. But that so didn’t happen.

But I am happy to report that before that distraction, I finished another book: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce. Which also counts towards my Once Upon a Time Challenge books as well. So it wasn’t a completely unproductive read-a-thon. Here are the final stats:

Books Read: 2

Pages completed: 495

Money raised: $49.50 (but I feel like a slacker so I’m going to round that up to $50).

Not too bad. How did you do Read-a-thoners?

Challenge: Once Upon A Time

5 Apr

I know I said when I made my resolutions at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t going to do any challenges (or very few). But I stumbled upon Stainless Steel Droppings’ Once Upon a Time Challenge and I really liked the idea of getting back in touch with some of the genres I’d discovered and fallen in love with while I was completing my kid lit certificate. Essentially the challenge asks you to read books from these four genres: fantasy, fairy tales, folklore and mythology. You can take on the challenge in a variety of ways, but I’ve decided to do Quest the First which is to read five books from any combination of these four genres. You don’t have to read one of each, just a total of five. I don’t have any particular folklore-ish books on my TBR list, so I thought I’d take this approach and be able to read a variety of books without feel pressed to read from a particular genre I’m not that interested in. The challenge runs through spring, from March 21st to June 20th. A solid three months to break me out of these reading slump.

If you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed that my #fridayreads book has been the same for the last month. I’d been hoping that, by sticking with the book I was reading (review to come!), I’d just snap out of it. But alas that hasn’t happened, and instead of reading when I normally would, I’m choosing to do other, less productive things instead. Like playing Angry Birds. Until 2am. Not helpful for anyone. So I’ve decided to abandon that book, and try to kick start my reading interest again. And these kinds of books are a guaranteed slump-breaker. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to read, but I think these will definitely be on the list as possibilities:

A little fantasy, a fairy tale and quite a bit of mythology.

Obviously I’m excited for A Game of Thrones: Book One of A Song of Ice and Fire before the HBO series starts. It’ll be a re-read, as will the rest of the series before book #5 is released (hopefully) this summer, but it’s been so long since I’ve read it that I think it’ll be a lot like reading it fresh for the first time.

I’m seriously hoping that a little bit of fantasy can knock me out of my funk. Things are starting to get seriously un-bookish around here and it’s scaring me ;). Maybe I’ll pick up one of these to sink into for Read-a-thon this weekend.

What are your favorite fantasy, fairy tale, folklore or mythology books?

What do you read to break out of a reading slump?

Book Expo America + Book Blogger Con 2011

21 Mar

It feels irresponsible to post this when I’ve got so many unreviewed books waiting for my attention, but I started to look into attending BEA and BBC again this year in May. I had such a fabulous time last year, and was super-enthused by the amazing atmosphere and community I got to be a part of, especially at Book Blogger Convention.

But I don’t know how I’ll be able to go this year. I hadn’t been saving at all (hoping that I would actually be living and working in NYC by then) and now I’m looking at four weddings plus moving into my own place and – oh yeah – paying rent. I think the only way I could pull it off is with roommates. So here’s my official plea – any book bloggers out there looking for roommates?? Any friends in NYC that wouldn’t mind me crashing on your couch for 5 days?

I cannot fathom not going again this year, but I truly don’t know how I’ll make it work. Any suggestions?

Spring Read-a-thon!

7 Mar

Hooray! Dewey’s Spring 24 hour Read-a-Thon has been announced!

The dates for this spring will be April 9-10 and I’m already marking my calendar.

You can sign up to participate here

2011 Oscar Picks

27 Feb

I know this is a last minute post and we’re down to a matter of hours before the award ceremony, but I still wanted to get my picks and predictions posted here. As of today, I will have seen 55 of the 56 nominated films. The lone wolf: The Tempest, which is nominated for Best Costumes and is just un-gettable. But I can see the pictures of the the costumes online. Save that film, I’ve got them all watched. It feels like such an accomplishment than no one cares about except for me – hey, we’ve all got to fill our time with something, right?

So here we go, my picks – what I think should win – and my predictions – what probably will win, along with a bit of commentary. I think I get some commentary since I can actually make qualified statements having seen pretty much everything. It’s my party, I’ll spout if I want to.

For the record, I’m actually not attending an Oscar party this year – I kind of wanted to throw one, but the time just got away from me. But I’m not attending in small part because I just know I’ll be that asshole that wants to talk about all the movies in a category – which is fine when it’s Best Picture or Best Actress – but when you want to talk in depth about all the Documentary Short Subject nominees, people start to get annoyed.

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech — Will win
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit — Should win
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

*Weaver’s nomination in this category baffles me. I saw so many, significantly better supporting actress performances in movies that were nominated in other categories, like Julianne Moore in The Kids Are All Right and Lesley Manville in Another Year.

Christian Bale, The Fighter — Will win, Should win
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech

*Yes, Bale’s got some tough competition – Rush is always a power-house in awards season – but I expect this will finally be the year that Bale is recognized for his beautifully acted performance. And as this is his first nomination, the win might also be in part a recognition of all the previous work he’s done that he wasn’t nominated for, like American Psycho and The Machinist.

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan — Will win, Should win
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

*This is an unpopular opinion – most people expect Natalie Portman to win here, but most people think Annette Bening should win instead. I thought Portman’s performance was terrifying and raw and incredibly truthful. The fact that I have said about Black Swan, “It’s a movie I’m glad I saw, and one that I never want to see again,” is testiment to her acting talent and how believable she was as a young woman going through a psychotic break. Which is exactly what that was — textbook.

Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech — Will win, should win (I think)
James Franco, 127 Hours

*Ugh, I’m still undecided. This is a huge category to be undecided on, but I am. I adored Firth’s performance, and I completely believed his stutter, but Franco’s performance was the entirety of 127 hours and I couldn’t stop watching his emotional peaks and valleys – I even watched him cut off his arm – and it was engaging the whole time. But this is one of those few categories where I’ll be happy no matter who wins – unless Jeff Bridges wins. His Rooster was just The Dude on Cowboy Boots – no stretch there.

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network — Should win
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech — Will win
David O. Russell, The Fighter

*I really, really hope that I’m wrong about Hooper winning this. I want this year to be the year that breaks the Best Director/Best Picture standard – I want Fincher to win Best Director, but I don’t think The Social Network deserves Best Picture. But Oscar voters like what they like and it’s likely they’ll give both nods to The King’s Speech. If we’re really talking about who should win, my vote goes to Christopher Nolan for Inception. Stupid voters.

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech — Will win
The Social Network
Toy Story 3 — Should win
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

*I don’t care. I loved Toy Story 3 and not a single one of the other Best Picture nominees made me cry like Pixar’s film did. And I think that counts for something. Add in the fully-formed, complex characters, the plotline, and the amazing animation, and I was sold. I’m a sap, sue me. Also of note, Winter’s Bone was one of my favorite films this year, not to be missed.

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3 — Will win, Should win

*My only commentary here is about how disappointed I am that The Illusionist got nominated over Tangled and Despicable Me. I absolutely HATED The Illusionist; I was angry when I walked out, and including it over those other two was one of Oscar’s biggest snubs for me. Also I loved How to Train Your Dragon. I watched it twice.

Hors la Loi (Outside the Law) (Algeria)
Incendies (Canada) — Should win
In a Better World (Denmark)
Dogtooth (Greece)
Biutiful (Mexico) — Will win

*Biutiful is going to ride the publicity given to it’s Best Actor nominee, Javier Bardem, to the win, but Incendies was masterful and I encourage everyone to seek it out when it gets a wider release this spring. I was haunted by it for days, weeks, and I get very angry at people who didn’t try to understand it’s beauty because they were so horrified by the violence in the film. Even the violence was well-handled and I didn’t feel affronted by it. I will say – understanding that I haven’t seen Dogtooth yet – all of the nominees were incredibly strong and I loved all of them.

Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right — Will win
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson, The Fighter
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Christopher Nolan, Inception — Should win
David Seidler, The King’s Speech

*This is going to have to suffice for Nolan – and I’m actually just guessing on what will win this category, so I hope they agree with me that he deserves a golden man for ANY part of creating Inception.

Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Joel & Ethan Coen, True Grit — Will win
Debra Granik and Anne Roselini, Winter’s Bone
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network – Should win

*I’m such an Aaron Sorkin fan that I have to root for The Social Network. His style is so distinctive, and in some places it’s well-suited, like in The West Wing and The Social Network. In some places, not so much, like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But I digress. True Grit will most likely win this because the Coen bros actually adapted from the book, not the movie that was adapted from the book. Smart move and also well-handled. I’m still rooting for Aaron though.

Alice in Wonderland
Happy Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1
Inception — Should win, will win
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Black Swan — Should win
The King’s Speech — Will win
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland — Should win, will win
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland — Should win
Inside Job — Will win
Waste Land

*I was pretty impressed with every single one of this year’s documentary nominees, and I had a tough time making my picks. Each of these would be worthy of the win (except maybe Exit Through the Gift Shop – good movie, but I wasn’t entirely sure what point the filmmaker was trying to make – or who the filmmaker was).

127 Hours — Should win
Black Swan — Will win
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
The Social Network

Barney’s Version
The Way Back — Should win
The Wolfman — Will win

127 Hours — Should win
How to Train Your Dragon
The King’s Speech — Will win
The Social Network

“Coming Home,” Country Strong
“I See the Light,” Tangled
“If I Rise,” 127 Hours
“We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3 — Should win, will win

Toy Story 3
TRON: Legacy
True Grit

The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

*I’ll be honest, I have no clue what sound editing and sound mixing are. Or what makes a movie have good editing and mixing. So I’m not making any picks here.

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1
Inception – Should win, will
Iron Man 2

*It would be a travesty if Inception doesn’t win this category. And great as the effects were in the rest of the movies, Inception was all about the effects.

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More — Should win, will win
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

*I love all of these films but Strangers No More was the one that has stuck with me well after the fact.

Day & Night — Will win
The Gruffalo — Should win
Let’s Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

*Day & Night is a Pixar creation so there’s a good chance they’ve got it in the bag; however, The Gruffalo, based on a children’s book of the same name, was absolutely my favorite and the animation was fantastic.

The Confession — Should win, Will win
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

*Again, all five of these movies were excellent, and to be honest, each of them has a good chance at winning, but The Confession was my favorite.

So there we go. I wrote most of this post before I’d seen all the movies I needed to, but this end part, I’m writing after seeing all 55 that I could. It’s been a commitment, that’s for sure, but I love all the fantastic films I’ve seen (and some of really odd ones too).

How about you? How many of the nominees did you see? Any big plans for the awards?

Wishlists and Shopping Trips

1 Dec

It’s officially post-Thanksgiving, which means its time to shop! I love the holidays and normally I cannot wait to make my wishlist and my shopping list, because inevitably, it’s a chance to ask for those volumes that I didn’t want to buy for myself during the year, and to spread the love for books I couldn’t get enough of. But I find myself in a bit of a quandry this year, bloggy friends. Normally, I have a hard time putting anything other than books on my wishlist. And there’s always a stack of distinctively shaped presents under the tree every year. But this year, I’ve only got one book on my wish list, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. No joke, I gave my mom my wishlist and she felt my head for a fever (granted, I was actually sick over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend but sadly, this was not a symptom).

I have several theories about why there’s a serious lack of books on my list: 1) Around this time last year, I hadn’t yet dipped into the world of Advanced Reader Copies. I was still acquiring books after publication and in hardcover or via the library. But now, I’m pretty well stocked in terms of books I want to read (or have the energy/time to read) from now until next Christmas (or Christmas of 2050). I’ve also got a lot of newer releases and forth-coming books because of this. I own…so…many….books; 2) I’m overwhelmed. I read lots of reviews of books, both on other book blogs, and on more traditional news outlets, and I’ve gotta say, it’s so hard to narrow down the books that sound good into a list that I actually want to own. I can’t be the only book blogger out the with this problem, can I? 3) If I really want a book that bad, chances are, I bought it for myself already. I’m impulsive; sue me.

So there we are.

I don’t know what to ask for. I’ve been perusing the NYT 100 Notable Books of 2010 and Amazon’s Best Books of 2010 list, but I’m lukewarm. That’s where you come in: recommend books to me. What should I wish for? (You can look at my Goodreads shelves here if you’re wondering what I have already.)

It’s an intriguing problem though isn’t it? Shouldn’t I want books as gifts? I do of course, but there are so many on my shelves now that I haven’t read, and I would feel guilty owning more that will wallow on my shelves, loved but still un-read. What’s on your wishlist?

Despite my admitted book-owning apathy, I’m excited to give books this year. Topping my list of best books to give as gifts include:


And prettiest of all, the Millinium Trilogy Box Set by Steig Larrson. If I didn’t own these three books already, I’d ask for that myself:

What are you giving this holiday season?