Friday, October 7, 2022

Happy Holidays...Wait...What?! by Jenn McKinlay

JENN MCKINLAY: I admit it. I am one of those curmudgeons who loathes walking into stores and seeing the Halloween stuff facing off with the Christmas stuff! I keep expecting the green blow up witch and the jolly inflatable Santa to either have an epic battle or a torrid affair. Shocking, I know!



Of course, it wouldn't be a problem is everyone would stay in their designated holiday lane. Halloween stuff from Oct 1st through Halloween and then Thanksgiving (remember that one?) in November, followed by Christmas/Winter stuff from Dec 1st through the New Year's Day. Why is this so difficult?

That being said, there is something we need to talk about. I saw a post from an independent bookstore that said because of shipping, printing, and distribution issues, if you have books you want to give as gifts this holiday season, YOU SHOULD ORDER THEN NOW so they get to you or your intended recipient on time! 


EEK!


Naturally, that sent me into a panic, and I thought I’d share my anxiety, because I’m generous like that.


To help us all out, I polled the Reds about what they're giving for holiday books this year to get us all ahead of the situation. You're welcome :)




JENN McKINLAY: Here are three of my top picks to give away this year.


Lessons in Chemistry to every young woman in my life. Fave book of the year, hands down. I read a description that called it compulsively readable and I have to agree.
OTHER BIRDS by Sarah Addison Allen is one of my other wonderful reads this year. She writes magical realism, but her use of language to me is truly what's magical about an Addison Allen book. 

Of course, my own cookbook Fairy Tale Cupcakes created with my chief baking officer Christie Conlee because of course I am. Why wouldn't I? I have a ton of copies :)


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Eurgh, I have books picked out for all my kids, but the girls read JRW, so I’ll have to skip those. The sailor doesn’t however, so I can pass on what I’m getting for him. LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD: The Story of the Syracuse 8 by David Marc. Spencer loves basketball and civil rights history, and this tale of the integration of the SU Orangemen in 1969 hits both of those sweet spots. I’m also picking him up S.A. Cosby’s RAZORBLADE TEARS, because he loved BLACKTOP WASTELAND. Cosby has a third novel coming out, but not until June, darn it.


For your favorite science geek/action-adventure lover, I’d suggest CHILD ZERO by Chris Holm, which came out in May but is still the best thriller I’ve read all years. For your friend who loves English Village mysteries, may I suggest Jessica Ellicott’s Beryl and Edwina series? There are six in print with the next coming in Spring, so if you get your friend hooked, you’re set for gift ideas for a while.


And for the elementary school child on your list? D.B. Johnson’s Henry series. I’ve given HENRY HIKES TO FITCHBURG and HENRY BUILD A CABIN to so many birthday boys and girls over the years. These beautifully illustrated, gentle stories are interpretations of Henry David Thoreau’s work, with thoughtful Henry Bear enjoying nature outside Concord, MA, and interacting with his friends Emerson and Mr. Alcott. 


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I have THREE Fairy Tale Cupcakes I’m giving! Perfect gifts. 


Not sure what I’m buying, that always turns out so spur of the moment, but you all be on the look out for WRONG TIME WRONG PLACE, a brilliant brilliant thriller about a women who sees her teenage son murder someone, but why? And then she wakes up the next day, it’s the day before the murder. And the next day is the day before that. AHHHH! How did Gillian McAlllister pull this off? ( And it’s also a moving study of parental guilt and responsibility.)

THE STORYTELLER’S DEATH  by Ann D├ívila Cardinal. About a young half-Puerto Rican woman who realizes she’s inherited the gift/curse of being a cuentista. When a member of her family dies, she has visions of a moment in each of their lives, as if SHE lived it. And then she has to…well, read it.

And MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW,  by Katie Gutierrez, about a woman who has two husbands–and one of them kills the other.

Oh, classic spy movie buffs will devour December 1941 by William Martin. A German spy plots to kill Roosevelt on Christmas Eve at the White House. It’s DAY OF THE JACKAL meets North by Northwest.

One more–The Appeal, by Jancie Hallett. ALL in emails and I tell you, it is FABULOUS. Amazing. (Actually, intimidating. She is so good.)

And get gift cards! Pre-order! (A pre-order is a GREAT gift!) Because in March, I think, WIlliam Landay (Defending Jacob) has a new book! ALL THAT IS MINE I CARRY WITH ME  is beyond amazing. BEYOND!


LUCY BURDETTE: If you have kids to buy books for, take a look at Sean Rubin’s stuff–he’s a brilliant illustrator, but also a writer. He’s quite New York-centric, but I gave his books to all our grandkids and great nephews last year. Also, looking for a copy of Carol Ryrie Brink’s old book, THE HIGHLY TRAINED DOGS OF PROFESSOR PETIT. And Jacques Pepin has a beautiful new cookbook out about chicken, including a lot of his artwork–he’s wonderful! Plus something to do with our trip to Scotland (I’m being perfectly vague in case the getter is reading–but ask me offline and I’ll whisper it to you:)


HALLIE EPHRON: Thanks for the kid-book recommendations, Lucy - We love great illustrations and my grands LIVE in NY. So what could be more perfect.


For me, I’m hoping Santa drops of a copy of Richard Osman’s THE BULLET THAT MISSED (A Thursday Murder Club Mystery) - and I can share it with the eight million people to whom I’ve recommended the series. Also Kate Atkinson newest, SHRINES OF GAIETY, because, well, Kate Atkinson.

 

I’ve also been trying to find a copy of SPEAKING OF HARPO - by Harpo’s widow, Susan Fleming Marx. And SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memories of Mary Rodgers by Mary Rodgers. I love theatre and movie memoirs, and a woman’s perspective at a time when women were pretty much shoved to the corners.

 

Got to get a copy of Jenn’s WAIT FOR IT for my daughter who loved PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA and shared it with her friends.And Rhys’s WHERE THE SKY BEGINS for the person in my family who reads and rereads Jane Austen. And I plan to pack an assortment of Lucy’s Key West mysteries to take with us on a family vacation to… Key West this winter. 


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, yikes, Christmas already? How is this even possible? The only thing I know for certain is that I'll be buying at least three copies of FAIRY TALE CUPCAKES! Contemplating a copy of BLACKTOP WASTELAND for my daughter (shh, don't tell) and also LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY. And loving all the children's book suggestions for Wren! 


I highly recommend the new Richard Osman, THE BULLET THAT MISSED, and Natalie Jenner's BLOOMSBURY GIRLS, which is historical/literary rather than mystery and was one of my favorite books of the year.


RHYS BOWEN:  Holiday books now?  I have no idea. My two sons-in-law are great readers and always get books from me. Tom is a big fan on Daniel Silva so recommendations please! Tim is very much a spiritual type of guy so any help there would be appreciated too

The only ones I am sure of are:
Jenn’s cupcakes. Who could resist those? I know who is getting one but they may read this column. Also, a gluten-free cookbook for a daughter who has suddenly become allergic to gluten after Covid and a vegan cookbook to a daughter who has become vegan. Again recommendations please!
Normally I would have shopped for books in UK, but I was a prisoner of Covid so I’m just starting to get my act together. Maybe everyone will get my new Peril in Paris!



How about you, Readers, what are you giving for books this year?

66 comments:

  1. The dinosaur kid is getting DINOSAURIUM by Chris Wormell and Lily Murray . . . his sister is getting Severine Vidal’s touching THE COAT . . . Also on my list of books to give: THE REMEMBERING TREE by H.R. Mason . . . THE STAR IN THE EAST byJohn Adcox . . . Justin Cronin's THE FERRYMAN . . . and FAIRY TALE CUPCAKES for the happy bakers in the family . . . .

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  2. A book by Susan Fleming Marx? I wrote her a fan letter about Harpo in the 1970s, after I'd not only read his own (ghost-written) autobiography but encountered him in the autobiographies of everyone in his NY/LA circle from the 1920s to the 1960s. At the time, Groucho had been fawned over by Dick Cavett and others and become almost a cult figure — and then, as he declined in health, the center of a tawdry public court battle. Even as a teenager it was evident to me that Groucho had been clever, insecure, and cruel. Harpo had been gentle and beloved by all, now including me. I wrote to Mrs. Marx that much as I regretted Harpo's death, I was glad he was not there to see his little brother's sad final days. She wrote me back a long, long letter of appreciation. I will want to read her book.

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    1. I didn't know any of this. Harpo was always my favorite - his guest appearance on I Love Lucy is in my top five fave Lucy episodes.

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  3. Ack about the supply chain, but great recommendations! My little great goddaughter goes to Walden Pond a lot, so the Henry books for her. Storyteller's Death for the Puerto Rican almost daughter-in-law. Jenn, is Chemistry Lessons appropriate for a high school age (almost 17) young woman? I will pick up Leveling the Playing Field for her younger brother who is crazy about both basketball and history.

    I already have a signed copy of Back to the Garden for the d-i-l who loves her books, and am thinking about books for sons and for Hugh. Any well-written political/history non-fiction or biographies out there?

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    1. Chemistry Lessons has a decided feminist flavor, Edith. There is only one part of it I can think of that's especially mature, but it is centered on an issue almost all women face at some point.

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    2. Edith, what is your 17 year old friend's life experience so far? If she volunteers at a domestic violence center or something like that, then maybe the book will be ok? Content warning: There is a Rape Scene. LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY got many great reviews. I know a few who did Not like the book.

      Diana

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    3. Thanks, Diana and Karen. She is pretty sheltered so far. I think I'll wait until she's in college.

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    4. I think an almost 17 year old can handle it. It's really a fascinating story about a woman's journey - the good and the bad.

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    5. Edith, try history bks by H W Brand or Megan Kate Nelson or 3 bios by Andrew Roberts--The Last King of America (George III) or his bios on Churchill and another on Napoleon. Marjorie

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  4. Wait, Rhys... your family males are Tim, Tom, Dom, and John? No wonder you're so sharp, keeping track of these similar-sounding names all these years.

    Listening to Sean Cosby talk about the origins of Razorblade Tears at Bouchercon made me really want to read it, but I'm worried about the potential for violence. I scare easily. However, I might get it for my son-in-law in Africa, who was a cop in a former life and who is always looking for a new author.

    I'll be giving Susan Fleming Marx's book--to myself! The Mary Rodgers one, too. Steve will enjoy reading both of them, too, I suspect.

    Anyone have an idea for a good read for an extremely well-read 17-year old? Zak has devoured all the usual series, and now that he's older I'd love to introduce him to a new and more thoughtful direction. Maybe Neil Gaiman?

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    1. Neil Gaiman, absolutely!

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    2. Gaiman is always a good choice!

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    3. Or Philip Pullman! Starting with The Golden Compass.

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    4. Karen in Ohio, the Marx book sounds good to me. I think I will get a copy for myself.

      Diana

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  5. I'll be getting books for two little guys--ages 7 and 8. The 7-year-old is into dragons and swashbuckling adventures, his cousin is a huge Pokemon fanatic--so it should be fairly easy to find books they'd enjoy. Older nephew can always use another collection of piano music--maybe Debussey or Rachmaninoff this year. Youngest nephew--I'd like to find a book on the history of country music. This past Sunday he had a solo tour of Loretta Lynn's homeplace in Van Lear, Kentucky. His tour guide--Loretta's niece Connie Webb--allowed him to fetch his guitar from his car, and he played one of Loretta Lynn's songs for her, of course he did! She recorded it on her phone and I wish she'd share, what a tribute from a fan to a great lady!

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    1. Flora, have you read Loretta Lynn's book, Me & Patsy, Kickin' up Dust? It's about her friendship with Patsy Cline, and how they changed country music together.

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    2. Karen, no, I haven't seen it. I'll look for it. Thanks!

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    3. Wow - that is amazing. I have to tell my Hub - he'll love that story.

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  6. I just can't go there yet. I haven't even bought a pumpkin--maybe this week for that! We don't have any littles in our family (hopefully some day!) and for the past few years, we've just been doing stocking stuffers for each other, which is a low pressure and fun way to celebrate. I love all the book recommendations though!

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    1. We live by the four gift rule for the holidays - something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Made it much less stressful when the dudes were young!

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    2. Jenn, that is a great rule! Kait, with ya on timing! x

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  7. Clare: Rhys, don’t forget the Molly Murphy Christmas bundle for anyone new to the series. A gluten free cookbook would be great. Tim already said that my gluten free banana bread was better than the normal flour one we always make!

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    1. Clare, I would love your recipe for a gluten free banana bread. Diana

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    2. A set of books is always fabulous!

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  8. The best gluten free baking books I’ve found (in years of GF baking) are the series by Gluten Free on a Shoestring creator Nicole Hunn. I have made cinnamon buns! Really good cinnamon buns! (Maybe you have to live gluten-free for a while to really appreciate the enormity of that statement.) Isa Chandra Moskowitz writes terrific vegan cookbooks too - highly recommended.

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    1. Sandra, thank you! I will look for these. Hope they are dairy free too. Diana

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    2. My nephew has Celiac - I will pass this along!

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    3. Brilliant. Thank you Sandra. ( Rhys)

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  9. Yikes! I cannot believe they would start the Christmas decorations before Halloween, Jenn. Though there has been no sightings of that in the shops I have been to recently. I have not gone into any shops except for grocery shopping and the local independent bookstore since the first of October.

    What am I giving for Christmas? Cozy mysteries by JRW authors (you) and suspense mysteries by JRW authors (you) for family members and friends who love these novels. Clare, I would love to find a great gluten free cookbook that is also dairy free too! Jenn, the fairytale cupcakes cookbook sound yummy. I also loved WAIT FOR IT.

    THE SIGN FOR HOME by Blair Fell is a book that I am going to gift for Christmas. Mixed feelings about LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY. Someone asked if it was appropriate for a 17 year old. Well, it depends on the 17 year old's life experience. Content warning: There is a Rape scene. A friend was raped and had PTSD flashback when reading that in the book.

    LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE by Kimberly Brock and the HENNA ARTIST by Alka Joshi are wonderful gifts for friends who love historical fiction.

    THE MAID is another wonderful novel. And I also have some books that I plan to gift and I am not mentioning these in case some of the people who will receive my gift are reading this blog. Ha ha.

    There are too many novels. I confess that I have not read many new books this year because I've been so focused on writing my novel in progress.

    Love the Christmas season. Though I am not a fan of Christmas displays in the shops before Halloween, I have to come clean. All year I have my Christmas decorations up. I never bothered to take them down. And I rarely buy Christmas trees these days so I do not have to worry about bringing them to recycling by a certain deadline!

    Diana

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    1. Christmas decorations all year - you are ahead of the game, Diana!

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  10. Coralee still in Tampa!October 7, 2022 at 10:45 AM

    Not going to rain on anyone's parade. I wish I knew my littles well enough to buy books for them. Alas not this year. On the other hand, I thought the Grinch truly is the morphed symbol of Hallomas? no?

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    1. I never thought of it that way! The Grinch will always appear differently to me now.

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  11. No supply chain issues for me. I bought all the books for my holiday gift giving at the Savannah Book Festival last February. And I even remember where the stack is stashed!

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    1. Brilliant! My mom is notorious for giving Christmas presents in July that she found after hiding them. LOL.

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    2. That's the part that always gets me! Somewhere in my house is a Disney Belle costume bought at 75% off at the official store (those costumes are beautifully made) perfectly sized for 5-year old Youngest. Maybe I'll unearth it in time for a granddaughter.

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  12. This weekend, I'll be putting up some Halloween decorations and going to Hallmark's ornament debut (second round of releases from them). Next week, I'll be reviewing A Quiet Place Part 2 and a Christmas ornament. Okay, they will have a book in between them, but still. Holidays can exist peacefully side by side.

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    1. I like the intermingling of stuff. Still, I fear I am a purest or perhaps just lazy?

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    2. I think mixing stuff together is a bit more lazy than keeping them separate.

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  13. WOW - Christmas already?!? What about all those great books due for release between now and December? No, stop the Christmas train. I'm doing gift cards this year both for shopping ease and to ease supply chain delays.

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  14. I don't want to celebrate Christmas early - or any holiday early - but it is good to be thinking about what to give and keeping an eye out. Last year, I was very pleased with myself - I had done almost all of the shopping in November and wasn't panicking about maybe-on-time Amazon deliveries.

    Jenn, I liked your gift formula. In our house, Santa brings everyone candy, socks, a book, a movie and one fun thing. Now they're all adults, Mom gives one gift per person. It really simplifies, and no one needs to haul a ton of stuff back home (although Christmas 2020, I gave Youngest's Very Handsome Boyfriend a kettlebell. Holy cow, that was a struggle!)

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  15. Yikes! I haven't thought about it. I'd like to receive, however, audio and e-books because I have to seriously downsize soon. As for holiday preparations, I bought Halloween candy and ate it.

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    1. Priscilla, a woman after my own heart! I'm all about the candy! :-)

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    2. That sounds like perfect Halloween decorating to me!

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  16. These are all wonderful recommendations, and I love to give books for gifts. I would also like to recommend some of my own books: For children, Dragonella, The Carnival of the Animals, and Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls (involving Sherlock Holmes. For adults who like cozy mysteries, two that are set in Portugal: Deadly Vintage and Deadly Verse.

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    1. Thank you both so much. I think you will enjoy them. Meanwhile, this blog is my favorite; I read it first thing each morning. I'm so glad to have all these new cozy series to read, bit by bit. I stumbled onto Jungle Red Writers via being a fan of Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy series, but now it's like a whole panoply of good reads has unfolded . . . .

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  17. Jenn, your video was terrific! So impressed with your skill!

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  18. My holiday decorations are usually in full swing by this time, with Halloween normally being out by the end of September at the latest. This year, things are a little bit behind. I don't have a good reason. But most of the Halloween decorations are out now. I have a few to add today. I like to have the Christmas tree up and a good number of Christmas decoration out by Thanksgiving because we have Thanksgiving dinner here and I like it to be festive for my granddaughter.

    Every Christmas, I give myself a bag of books. It's so much fun collecting the books that will go into this bag. The trouble with this year is I've been buying so many books all along, especially mystery/crime. But, I'll put a few fall books in my bag from mystery, like Rhys' Peril in Paris, The Buried by Sharon Bolton, Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, and Winter's End by Paige Shelton. I'll probably add some republished vintage mysteries, too. For non-mystery titles, I know that Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese, The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell, and The Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner will be there. Also, the Stranger Things Ultimate Pop-up Book has been bought and will be under my tree. I love pop-up books.

    I do love giving books to my family, too, but that has gotten harder, so I try to pick out one book and give a bookstore gift card to go with it. I do know that Jenn's Fairy Tale Cupcakes is going to my granddaughter, with a nod to my daughter who will be helping her in the kitchen. I already have the 5th book in the large Harry Potter Illustrated books, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I'll get some suggestions from my daughter for what she and her husband want to read. Also for my granddaughter, I'll get a list and work on it. She reads so much and so fast, it's hard to keep up with her. Oh, I'd like to interject here that this thirteen-year-old granddaughter won the state of Indiana 4-H writing contest for her age group this year, so I'd love to get her something about writing. Do all the authors in the audience have any suggestions on writing guides for young adults. However, she maybe could use a more adult guide. Her reading, writing, and vocabulary levels are quite high. Suggestions?

    I need to get started on choosing book(s) for my son and husband, too. My son is a reader/thinker (a philosophy major), so I try to find something that relates to past mythology or self reflection. My husband loves history, especially dealing with wars, so I can usually find him a couple of new, good books there. We now have Jocelyn, who lives with my daughter's family and will soon be thirteen, and she's into anime, so I'll have to ask her which ones are she's interested in now. I don't mind giving gift cards at all, and I know my family enjoys receiving them, but I do want at least one book to be a part of my book giving.

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    1. Kathy, many congratulations to your granddaughter for her writing win!!

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    2. Thanks, Flora!

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    3. Kathy: Ann Lamott's classic BIRD BY BIRD is an excellent book about writing. The 25th anniversary edition (paperback) that I have is lovely. 100 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING is plain and simple advice by Gary Provost. Story craft is the topic in Ursula K. Le Guin's STEERING THE CRAFT.

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    4. Congratulations to the grand girl, Kathy! I echo Bird by Bird. And anything by Ursula LeGuin (and then maybe the girl will get hooked on her novels...).

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    5. Thanks, Amanda and Jenn and Edith! I will get Bird by Bird (if I don't already have it, I think I do). And, Amanda, I'll look at the other two books, too. Thanks!

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    6. Kathy: You are very welcome. No single reference book on writing will satisfy a writer's every need, of course. But if you can start your grand-daughter's collection with one or two that fire her writing imagination and give her a couple of helpful hints or techniques, you'd have done such a good thing for her!

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  19. Question for you--can you pre-order as a gift? SO before the holidays, you pre-order a book, and pay for it, and then the site sends it when the book is published?

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    1. Yes, I have pre-ordered gifts from bookshop dot org and they offer the option of a gift card for them to write for you. It costs very little to add the gift card.

      Diana

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  20. Trying to recall which novel someone suggested that we Pre-Order??

    Thanks,
    Diana

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