Today’s Month of Faves topic is actually favorite books read this year. However, I’m still reading, and one of the two books I’m currently finishing could make that list. So instead, today I’m going to talk about how we celebrated Jólabókaflóð (Yule Book Flood) that I mentioned in my #AMonthofFaves This Is How I Holiday Away From Home post. This can either be categorized as a part two of that post OR as fitting the day/weekend in the life post that I missed because I was grading non-stop.
Here was the plan for Jólabókaflóð.
Everyone (me, my best friend Fernie, her husband, and the four kids–“kids” even though three of them are grown) are all going to put our names in a hat, draw a name, and then go to the used bookstore and pick a book for that person. Then, we’re going to make hot cocoa and sit around and read on actual Christmas Eve.
Here’s what we actually did based on ideas we all contributed as we tried to work out logistics. As a reminder, there were seven of us in total participating.
December 23 — The Day Before
First, we all filled out an index card with our name and the types of books we like or want to read OR with specific titles and authors we were interested in. This was a collaborative process. On our drive over to lunch before heading to the bookstore, we commented on what we knew each other liked (or didn’t!) to read as well as gave each other suggestions for how to describe those things. We talked about books we had already read and what it was we liked or didn’t like about them. This worked out really well because by the time we got to lunch everyone had an idea of what everyone else wanted in a book.
One of the things we all decided is that we wanted it to be a mix of Secret Santa and blind date with a book–meaning that who we chose and the book we got them would remain a secret until we opened our books.
At the end of lunch, Fernie folded all of the index cards the same way, put the person’s initials on the outside of the card and then put them in the hat. The initials on the card would let us know quickly if we pulled our own name out of the hat and had to do a re-draw. We also decided that if one of the last three people to go pulled their name out of the hat, we would start from the beginning to make sure no one knew who their person was. Success! No one pulled their own name, so off to the bookstore we went.
The bookstore is huge, so we all split up to find our respective books. As the resident über-bookworm who loves giving book recommendations, I helped one person find some options for their book recipient and was prepared to help others. Alas, no one else needed nor wanted my help.
I had N for my person and had decided I was going to get her A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty because it is my duty to indoctrinate the world into loving that book series as much as I do. But do you know what happens when you go to a giant used bookstore that is basically a warehouse two days before Christmas? You can find book two and book three in a series but you cannot find book one nor can you find an employee to help you figure out where else that first book may be or if it’s even in stock. You are then left wandering the entire YA section, desperately hoping someone put the book in the completely wrong place and then realize that even if they did, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.
So, anyway, I got her The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson instead.
Okay, then it was time to check out. But how? See, we were all using a voucher Fernie and her husband got for turning in a bunch of books to the store which meant they all had to be checked out at the same time. Someone in the group (I just asked Fernie and neither of us are clear who but we know it was one of the kids) decided we would all stand in line, go to the register one by one, have our book scanned and then get out of line with Fernie’s husband going last, so he could redeem the credit without seeing what books got chosen by anyone else or who picked them thereby avoiding getting spoiled for his possible gift and gift giver. The cashier was very gracious, and the plan worked perfectly. The cashier even made sure to give everyone a bag to cover their book so no one would accidentally reveal their purchase. We were quite pleased with ourselves when we got back in the van for having pulled off such a trick.
When we got back to the house, the next thing we had to figure out was how to wrap and label the books so that the recipient couldn’t guess who picked their book by the handwriting on the label. Writing each other’s labels was out for two reasons: (1) we didn’t want to reveal to anyone whose book we picked and (2) Fernie’s family has great wrapping paper, but no actual gift tags so used Post-its instead. (I AM STILL NOT OVER THIS. We were right in the store by the gift tags, and I was told they were not necessary only to get to the house to find out we were sticking non-holiday themed BRIGHT PINK Post-its all over festively wrapped gifts.)
(Fernie would like me to tell you that I’m being overly dramatic and you can just write on the actual wrapping paper. However, I would like to remind you that they did not have any Sharpies or other markers with ink that showed up on the wrapping paper so resorted to BRIGHT PINK Post-its instead. But I digress.)
ANYWAY. One of the children pointed out we could use the index cards the person had written as the gift tag since it would not only keep the gift giver’s identity a secret but also remind the receiver of what they requested to see if the giver was on the right track. So, yes, the children are brilliant.
December 24 — Jólabókaflóð
When we woke up, we were all very excited. “It’s book Christmas!” I said.
“When are we opening our books?” N wanted to know.
“Later,” Fernie said. “We’re going to do some cooking and prepping for tomorrow first.”
“If it’s book Christmas, why do I have to wait until later to open my book?” a very salty N replied.
So the day was not off to a promising start. But we did set a specific time for opening the books, which satisfied all of us.
Finally, it was time. All the books were passed out. Each person opened their book and then read the blurb so we could all know what the book was about. Then, we all guessed who we thought got us our book. Once everyone was done, we reminded each other of our guesses and then revealed ourselves. Three of out of seven of us guessed correctly, and the married couple (Fernie and her husband’s son and daughter-in-law–I told you four of the “kids” were grown) got each other, which they were very cute about.
Then it was time for the brewing of the hot chocolate and the reading of the books. I started my book but because I had already started a new book earlier that day (Fernie: “Why would you do that?” Me: “I finished my other book last night! Was I just supposed to not read anything?”), I went back to the first book to make more progress on that. The junior marrieds read the book they had already started. (They have, and I kid you not, started what they call their book club in which they read the same book so they can talk to each other about it. They are the only two members of the club, in case that wasn’t clear.)
We all wound up reading together for about four hours with a short break to update each other on what was happening in our books and how we felt about them so far.
So, all in all, the event was a success. It was super fun even for those among us who are not voracious readers. In fact, the daughter-in-law said that was the only time she had gone in that bookstore without getting bored, and she was very excited about reading her gifted book. Everyone loved the book that was chosen for them or was at least super intrigued by the premise of their book and what they had read so far.
N finished the book I got for her in three days and immediately wanted to get the next in the series. Fernie loves her book and said it was perfect. Her husband says his book is vey well-written and has been reading it at every chance he gets.
As for me, since it’s Monday, this is also the day I typically do my reading update, so I will tell you that I’m currently making my way through the book I was gifted, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena.
I am completely in love with the cover.
I also finished two books: the one I finished the night before Jólabókaflóð and the one I started the morning before I opened my gift. Here’s what I thought of both of those, respectively.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
These books are so stressful because I just want Nova to do the actual right thing and I just want Adrian to be safe, and these jokers just do not cooperate AT ALL. So you know, that kept happening in this book as well.
I read this pretty quickly, and I was pretty satisfied with the ending, though I do wish Ace (view spoiler).
Loved the epilogue, and, really, I should have seen it coming because of course.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
2.5 stars, rounding up
So, the thing about this book is that I thought the first half was a bit of a mess, but the second half was pretty good. Also, everything in the first half set up the second half, but all of the first half stuff felt so rushed. Basically, the whole thing is very oddly paced.
I love (I mean, LOVE) the fake dating trope, and I do like how Yoon tried to complicate it, but, again, the rushed pacing in the beginning means the payoff wasn’t that great in that particular trope, though I do like the complications he added with the family stuff. I wish the novel were either longer so Yoon could have slowed down some of the action to develop the characters and relationships more (esp. Brit and Joy and their relationships with Frank) or more–poetic, I guess is the right word. And what I mean by that is that I wish there had been an economy of language to better convey what he was telling the reader so he could show the reader instead if the novel length is the length he wants it to be.
Also, if you are a person who loves precocious teen speak (i.e., in the style of John Green and/or Dawson’s Creek), you will love the dialogue in this novel. For me, at times, it became a bit too much, but that’s usually how these things go.