Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

My Awesome Library Book Sale Haul

The one thing I love about the Hennepin County Library System is that you’re guaranteed a book sale at a different library every weekend.  And my favorite sale is the one at the Eden Prairie library, which happens a few times a year.  They have a huge selection of books, and I’ve had the best luck there so far.  So when I saw that they were having a sale this past weekend, I contacted my library sale friend and told her we were going.

Eden_Prairie_Library,_November_2011

The usual schedule for a library sale is to open on a Thursday or Friday, and then end on Sunday with a bag sale where you pay $5 to fill your bag.  I usually never go to the bag sales because by Sunday most of the good stuff is gone and I can’t really find anything to fill my bag with.  So when my friend and I went last Saturday, I was just expected to pay the $1.00 per book like I usually do, hoping to find a few books that I want to add to my collection.  But that wasn’t going to be the case…

When we got there at 11:30, we were informed that the library was shutting down for a half hour and reopening at noon to begin a bag sale, limit two bags per person.  A bag sale!  On a Saturday!  I was thrilled!  And pretty confident that I’d be able to fill up one bag.

Well, I didn’t fill up one bag.  I filled up two bags.  These things were PACKED.  Finally after being in there for almost an hour the lady running the sale told me that I had to LEAVE because apparently other people needed to have a chance at getting in and filling their bags.  My friend and I giggled at each other, thinking “Oh my God, we just got kicked out of a library sale for LOVING BOOKS TOO MUCH”, but it was cool.  I was done with my shopping anyway, since nothing else would fit in my bags.

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So, obviously I scored.  I grabbed some books that I’ve already read but wouldn’t mind owning, some that I’ve heard of and have wanted to read, and some that I’ve never heard of that I’d like to read someday.  If it fit, it was mine.  Here’s the run-down of my book haul:

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The group of books that I’ve already read but liked so much that they’re worth owning.

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The books I’ve heard of that I’ve wanted to read / own.

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The books I’ve never heard of but sound interesting.

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And one for my daughter.  Because Eloise is awesome.

I don’t know if I’ll get that lucky at a book sale again, but there’s definitely nothing wrong with trying!  Seriously, if you want to beef up your book collection without spending tons of money, find out when your local library is having a book sale.  It supports both your library AND your crazy habit.  Win-win!!

Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

Board Books for Lovers of Literature

While browsing around the children’s area at the library the other day, I came across an adorable board book (re:  books babies chew on) about colors based on Alice in Wonderland.  The cover made me drool (in my head, people…I’m not that crazy), and the pages – all ten of them – were like works of art that I wanted to rip out and put on my wall.

I returned the book yesterday without thinking too much about it – it was adorbs, and whoever illustrated was no short of a genius.  The end.  But then…BUT THEN…I found more.

That’s right.  This counting version of Alice in Wonderland is not alone in the world.  It’s part of a series – A SERIES! – of classic literature turned into learning board books.  They’re called BabyLit Primer books (website – which you may end up giving all your paychecks to – here), and there are currently six of these beauties sitting on the shelves of your local library and bookstore.  And they are AWESOMEBALLS.

When I spotted two more at the library yesterday, I grabbed them hungrily and held them close to my chest in fear that someone else would spot them and take them before I did.  Okay, well, it wasn’t that dramatic.  But I think I did let out a squeal when I saw the Romeo & Juliet one.  And then maybe an even louder squeal when I saw Pride & Prejudice.

And even though they’re just little counting books – ten pages with less than five words a page – they’re actually pretty clever.  For example, in Rome0 & Juliet number 1 is represented by “1 Balcony” or in Pride & Prejudice we get “3 Houses” .

Alice in Wonderland is such a colorful story already, so it’s a great way for babies to learn colors even if they don’t know anything about Alice’s world.  A sample, if you will:

Another book that teaches counting is the Jane Eyre BabyLit book.  That’s right, I said JANE EYRE.  The library didn’t have this one, unfortunately, but the pictures are most worthy of a squeeeeeeee. 

The person responsible for such genius cuteness is Jennifer Adams, whose website can be found here.  She has a degree in English just like me – omg we’re twins – and is currently the senior editor at Quirk Books (ok maybe not twins).  And the illustrator is Alison Oliver, who is far too talented for her own good (but thank God she is).  In addition to the above four books, the two women just released another two books in the BabyLit series.  This:

and this:

Dracula involves counting (duh…anyone who’s ever watched Sesame Street knows that), and A Christmas Carol is all about colors (and ghosts!).  And, of course, they’re way too nice to actually give to babies. 

I wish I could post every single picture from these books on here, but that would be impossible (and extremely time-consuming), so you’re just going to have to find these books for yourself.  I’m heading to a different library tomorrow to look for the ones I’m missing (yep…I’m determined), and then after that I’m just going to go ahead and jot them down on my Christmas list because even if my daughter isn’t interested (she’s too old for counting and colors books, but too young to appreciate the classics), I could easily spend a rainy afternoon looking at each book over and over again.

Also, if you’re suddenly obsessed with these as I am, you can show your BabyLit love by wearing buttons.  Yep – buttons!  They feature Alison Oliver’s amazing artwork, and people will be amazed at how educated you are (or seem) when they see Mr. Darcy and Jane Eyre attached to your purse.

But if you can, please get your hands on these books.  Even if you don’t have kids, but appreciate art and literature, they’re good to have on-hand as coffee table books.  Believe me – they will definitely attract the attention of your guests.  Just be careful they don’t steal them from you.  Because they’re that pretty.

Happy reading!

Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

The Waiting List

If you’ve all been doing your homework, you know that right now I’m currently taking break from my normal young adult lit reading habits and delving back into the world of Harry Potter, the way I always do every fall.  And even though I’m thoroughly enjoying my time with Harry, it’s hard not to notice all the YA books that glare at me at the library, taunting me with their pretty covers, silently begging me to check them out as I painfully pass them by.

Must…resist…the…prettiness.

It also makes cruising the Goodreads website difficult to visit everyday.  This is where I usually discover all the new and amazing books that I want to read, making a list a bringing it with me to the library.  And just to let you know, my criteria for books I want to read is that they usually have to have a Goodreads rating of 3.80 or higher.  Anything lower than that, I usually disregard.  I say “usually” because there are always exceptions.

So I figure that instead of being tempted by the books I’m not reading at the library, now is the perfect time to sit on some eLibrary waiting lists.  I love checking books out on my iPad and having them sent to me in seconds, but a lot of the ones I want have waiting lists.  Normally this would drive me nutso, but since I’m currenly preoccupied with British wizards and witches, I can patiently wait for these books to become available.  Let’s take a look at the list, shall we?

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent is the sequel to the book I finally got my hands on (thanks, Natalie!), the Goodreads Book of the Year for 2011, DivergentDivergent was crazy intense – we’re talking Hunger Games level of intensity – and I devoured it.  Of course – of course – it ended on a cliffhanger, thus creating my need for the sequel.  Well, of course I haven’t seen the sequel available at the library, so I put myself on the eLibrary waiting list.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve moved up quite a bit – I’m patron 75 out of 139.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

I originally heard about this book from Goodreads, a site that I’m impossibly addicted to.  First off, let’s talk about the cover.  GORGE.  The story could be crap, and I would still want to read it because of that AMAZING DRESS.  But fortuntely the story sounds rather intriguing – a sort of Princess-Meets-The Bachelor dystopian story, which is right up my I-have-yet-to-get-sick-of-you dystopian alley.  I am currently partron 45 out of 78.  Sigh.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is another book that I kept seeing popping up on Goodreads, reading amazing review after amazing review.  It’s – surprise – a dystopian novel, this one about a guy who wakes up to find that he doesn’t remember anything except his first name.  Like Jason Bourne.  But minus the Matt Damon.  And then he meets a bunch of other teens just like him.  And then amazingness ensues.  People obviously love this book, which is why I’m still patron 30 out of 64.  Awesome.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

For the longest time I was getting this author mixed up with Veronica Roth, author of Divergent and Insurgent, which is actually how I found Under the Never Sky.  It has a 4.13 Goodreads rating, which is pretty damn good in my book.  I don’t really know exactly what it’s about – it sounds like it’s about a girl who lives “on the outside”, alone and always in danger by cannibels and storms.  I guess it’s because I don’t really know the plot but because it’s dystopian that I want to read it.  And it looks like I’ll get to read it before the others – I’m patron 9 out of 16.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

I have a few trusted friends on Goodreads – people whose reviews I know I can take seriously and who are honest in their reviews.  Ten has a slightly lower rating than the above books – 3.89 – but it still makes the cut, and the people I follow really spoke highly of this book.  It’s a horror book (re:  not dystopia) – like one reviewer described it, “Just like my favorite slasher movies from the nineties. All the tropes, all the angst and dramz, and all the mystery.” – and sounds like a good read for a stormy, October evening.  And it looks like I’ll definitely get it in October – I’m patron 1 out of 1.

So, waiting for books that you really want to read is hard to do.  But if you’ve got something to keep you busy in the meantime  – like 4224 pages of Harry Potter – then waiting isn’t so bad.  And because you’re on the list for so long, you’ll probably forget that you were even on the list to begin with, making that “You’re book is now available” email just like getting a surprise Christmas present!  Drinks all around!

Happy reading! (and waiting)!

Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

It’s That Special Time of Year

Like many other people in this world, I love fall.  The colors, the smells…it’s all so beautiful and wonderful and such a nice change from summer.  If you live in certain parts of the country, fall is usually when you switch out your t-shirts for sweatshirts, your swimsuits for parkas, your flip-flops for boots.  And if you’re me, fall is usually when I switch out my young adult books for Harry Potter.

I read the Harry Potter books once a year – more specifically, every fall.  It’s like every time September 1st rolls around (it is, of course, the day the Hogwarts Express leaves for Hogwarts), I get the urge to read Harry Potter.  I’ve stated before how during the fall I tend to resort to what I call “comfort reading“, and reading Harry Potter is the ultimate comfort read for me.  And then once the holidays are over, the urge disappears and I usually go back to reading my normal young adult fare, not picking up another Harry Potter book until next fall.

This year, however, I’m going things slightly different.  Because I’ve read my books so many times, a little bit of wear is starting to show.  I even think a couple of pages in my hardback copy of Prisoner of Azkaban are coming loose.  THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.  These books are prized possessions of mine, and I’ll be damned if they ever get ruined!  So this year I decided to check the books out from the library.  I figure since I have no attachment to these particular books, I don’t have to be uber careful with them the way I am with my own.

Last week I checked out the first two, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.  It was a bit weird opening an unknown copy – you know when you’ve read a certain book so many times that you’ve memorized everything about that copy.  The edition of Sorcerer’s Stone I checked out was the 10th Anniversary edition from 2008, and I noticed right away that the lines were slightly closer together than my first edition copy I have, it didn’t smell the same, and it just felt different in my hands.

I know all this may sound weird to some people.  It’s just a book, right?  It’s not like the words are any different, or the story has changed.  But one of the reasons why I love reading these books every year is for the experience of reading them.  They’re my favorite books in the world, and I’ve come to treasure every little thing about them.

But once I got past the whole “this book doesn’t feel like mine” issue, everything was cool.  I’m about halfway through Chamber of Secrets, and it doesn’t even faze me that I’m holding a library copy that hundreds of other people have held before me.  Rather now I’m thinking that the last person who held this book could have been reading it for the very first time.  What did they think of it?  Did they love it?  Will it mean as much to them as it did – and still does – to me?  Will they go on to read the whole series?

Tonight I head to the library to pick up Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire if it’s there, and although it’ll still feel a little weird checking out books that I already own (seriously, I feel like I have to defend myself to the librarian), I’ll know that at least my cherished copies are safe atop my bookshelves, simply looking pretty.

Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

Go to the Library In Your Pajamas

I think we can all agree that going ANYWHERE in public while still wearing pajamas is unacceptable.  Whether it’s Wal-Mart (I’m looking at YOU, people of Wal-Mart) or the movies or Starbucks, you should at least put on something that you didn’t sleep in before stepping out on the town.  Even if you’re really comfortable in those baggy sweat pants and ratty t-shirt from college but you want to go to the library, either get dressed or skip the library.

Or consider this alternative.

As the owner of an iPad, which supports both Kindle and Nook apps, I’ve been known to purchase a few eBooks when they’re on sale for $.99.  And as I’ve stated in a previous post, having books available on an eReader is pretty convenient, especially when you’re traveling and you want to take more than one book with you.  But I’m not one to typically buy the books I read unless, of course, I find them for dirt cheap on Amazon or at a library sale.  Which is why libraries are so awesome, right?

I have a feeling there’s no kids’ section here, though.

Of course there are some downsides to libraries:  Their hours can be somewhat limited.  Some aren’t open on Sundays, and most close early on Fridays and Saturdays.  I usually find that the time I want to go to the library the most is when they’re closed.

Also, when you have an active, somewhat stubborn four-year-old like I do, it’s hard to get in the book-browsing that you really want to get done.  I try to sneak in the Teen Fiction aisle only to get dragged away to the children’s section, leaving no chance for me to find anything for myself.

Fortunately I have recently discovered an alternative to both of those problems:

The eLibrary!

If you have an awesome county library system like I do, then they probably have an online eBooks section on their website where you can check out eBooks and have them sent to your eReader INSTANTLY.  Seriously!  All you need is a library card and a Kindle or iPad, and you can spend your nights in your pajamas searching through thousands of books to check out and read thirty seconds later.  You know how sometimes you think of a book you want to check out the next time you go to the library, only to completely forget about it while you’re there?  Well, now you can check it out (given it’s available) the moment you think of it.  I’ve spent many late nights and lunch hours doing this, and I tell you, it is BRILLIANT.  You still get three weeks to keep the book, and instead of the stress of having to return it on time without any late fees, the eBook simply disappears from your eReader as soon as the three weeks are up.  EASY PEASY.

Of course, as with brick-and-mortar libraries, the eLibrary has its downsides as well.  They don’t have as much selection as regular libraries.  They have a lot, but not always what I’m looking for.  Popular books have long waiting lists.  For example – and this in no way implies that I actually want to read this book; I was simply CURIOUS – the book Fifty Shades of Grey currently has about 1000 people on the waiting list.  Yes, you read that correctly.  ONE-THOUSAND.  At that point you’d think that if someone wanted to read it that badly on their Kindle, they’ll just pay the $9.99 and get it on Amazon that day.

Or you could actually go read something good.

It also takes a while for new books to become available to check out.  You’ll probably have much better luck just going to the actual library and getting it there a few of months after it’s released in stores.  And again, the waiting list for new-ish books is really long.  It just all depends on how badly you want to read it.

But if you’re just looking for books to read and don’t have anything specific in mind, this is definitely a convenient way to do it.  I’ve found a lot of books I had never heard of by just browsing on the website, and because I’m not losing anything by checking it out right then, I can do it.  If I start reading it and decide I don’t want to continue (which happens sometimes), then I can just go to Amazon’s website where is says “Manage Your Kindle” and return the book.  Bam.  Gone.  This comes in handy because through my library system I can only check out 15 items at a time.  If I find a book I really want but I’ve already maxed out my items, I can quickly return one of them at that moment and check out the new one.  No running to the library involved.

An unknown that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, I’m only excited about this new discovery because of its convenience.  It will never replace going to the actual library, and I don’t think it ever will.  There’s still something about walking through aisles and opening books to read the inside flap and flip through the pages.  But if it’s late on a Friday night and you decide you want something new to read besides the books on your shelves that you see everyday, then you know where to go.

Posted in Checking Stuff Out, Reading Books

The Library: A Constant Friend

Since I’m writing this post from the coffee shop at my new local library, I felt it appropriate to share my love of libraries.  The one I’m sitting in right now has since been remodeled from the last time I was here over ten years ago, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.  In a time when libraries are being closed because of lack of funds and all that crap, it’s refreshing to see that a whole county system of libraries are being invested in and turned into even better libraries.

Ever since I was a kid, the library was a place I used as an escape, a place where I could forget all about my day and just lose myself in hundreds of books.  It became part of my life, part of my routine, stopping at the library every Monday night after my piano lesson and checking out Sweet Valley Twins books and Alice in Wonderland (seriously, I think I checked out that book more than any other).  I counted on this to get me through the week.

And then I hit high school, and going to the library didn’t seem important anymore.  It didn’t fit into my “busy” high school schedule.  I learned to love the library again when I went to college, but only in the summers when I worked at the front desk of one of the dorms and I needed something to pass the time.  Mind you, this was before the age of cell phones and iPads and stuff like that, so I didn’t have crap like Words With Friends to kill my days.  So I would go to the Eau Claire Library and check out tons of books, particularly Brian Jacques’ Redwall series.

A great way to spend the day without technology.

One of the first things I did when I moved to California after college was get a library card.  During times when I was homesick, I felt the library was the one constant thing that could comfort me.  I got a card for the Studio City branch of the Los Angeles County Library system, and even applied for a job there but was turned down because I was “overqualified” (which is total B.S., but I digress).  Then when we moved to Pasadena I got a card for their library, which is still one of the prettiest libraries I have been in.

I would walk to that library every Saturday morning as a way of de-stressing from the hellish week at my mortgage company job.  It was only thing keeping me sane, and my husband should be forever grateful for that.

When I got a job in Arcadia, which is about 15 minutes from Pasadena, I worked a block away from the library there.  So it only made sense to get a card there so I had a place to spend my lunch breaks.  And then when we moved to Torrance, well, you can guess what happened: I got not only a Torrance Public Library card, but a Palos Verdes one as well.  I came to love the P.V. library so much that I volunteered at the gift shop there for a whole year.

By the end of my ten-year California stay, I managed to collect a total of ten library cards.  And a lot of them were being used at the same time, so much so that you would think some of the books or CDs would get mixed up and returned to the wrong library.  Well, it happened once.  And only once.  And I caught it in time where it hadn’t been put back into circulation yet, so I consider my record clean.  My library organization system was immaculate.  And slightly Type-A.

So when I moved back to Minnesota and my life felt completely out of sorts, what do you think I did as soon as I found something with a current local address?  I went to the freaking library.  And I immediately felt at home.  That was two weeks ago, and while I only have one library card at the moment, more will come.  Trust me.  Because library cards are like shoes and purses:  a girl can’t have just one.

Happy reading!

Posted in Checking Stuff Out

SWAG From My Local Closing Borders

Since I had the day off today – and a couple hours of ME time – I decided to swing by my local closing Borders to a) see how much percentage I’d be getting off books, and b) see if there was even anything left.  Well, there was still a lot left – probably due to the fact that they’re still only taking 30% off books, and a lot of people – like me – are waiting for bigger cuts before they start buying books.  Normally 30% off is awesome – when the Palos Verdes Borders closed last April, I bought a ton of books when they were 30% off.  But being as my husband is still unemployed, I have to be careful.  Must hold back and wait for 50-70%.

But just because I’m waiting for crazy discounts doesn’t mean I didn’t walk out of that store without some SWAG (Stuff We All Got).  I did some serious bargain book shopping in the oh-so-awesome Bargain Books section.  I mean, when books that are already only 2.99 plus 30% off, you don’t walk away empty handed. No, you just grab what you can.  And here’s what I grabbed today:


I’ve never read these Thirst books before, but I have read Christopher Pike.  I mean, I grew up in the 80s and 90s.  Of course I’ve read Christopher Pike.  He was the one who wrote such YA greats like Witch, Remember Me, Chain Letter, and Last Act.  If I wasn’t reading R.L. Stine’s Fear Street books, I was reading Christopher Pike.  So when I saw that I could get two volumes of his vampire series (a total of six books) for a really good price, I couldn’t pass it up.  And those prices were?  $2.09 each.  Pretty sweet, eh?

Next up….angels.

Now, I actually have no idea what Hush, Hush is about other than the fact that it has angels in it and it’s written by Becca Fitzpatrick, whom I follow on Twitter. Why do I follow her on Twitter?  I have no idea.  But I pretty much follow every author that has written a young adult book, and it’s only fair that I read at least one of their books.  Hush, Hush is no doubt about a fallen angel with a dark past and a will-they-won’t-they romance, so it probably can’t be that bad.  And it was only $2.09, so…yeah.  Good deal.

The back of Ally Carter’s Heist Society reads that it’s an “edge of your seat caper with more twists than Ocean Eleven and cooler gadgets than Casino Royale.  Also, cuter guys than either one.”  Well, I can’t really go wrong with that, right?  They’re making a huge claim comparing it to those two movies – and to George Clooney and Daniel Craig – but I’m willing to take the $4.19 risk.  And the cute guy’s name in the book is Hale, which just sounds like a cute guy name.  There’s nothing worse than reading a book about a cute guy whose name is, I don’t know…Abner.

And lastly…

Gail Garson Levine is another author I’ve read before.  Ella Enchanted, which won a Newbury Honor Award, is a favorite of mine (and waaaaaay better than the movie).  And Fairest – a retelling of Snow White – is pretty good as well.  I haven’t read Ever, but it sounds interesting, since Levine created her own mythology for it rather than retelling another fairy tale.  It’s more about gods and myths and omens than princesses and castles, which sounds kind of cool.  And check out the dude on the cover!  Pretty cute, even if his name is Olus.

So in total my purchase came to $14.74 including tax and the book of paper dolls I bought for my daughter.  Not bad, especially if you consider that it all would have cost me more than $50 were I to buy them at regular price.  So yes, I’m totally sad that Borders is closing.  I’ve spent a lot of time there over the past five years, either browsing around looking at books or sitting in the cafe writing whatever story it was I was writing at the time.  And it just sucks for books in general that brick-and-mortar is becoming less important for sales.  But I can’t deny that I can get some great deals because of the closing, and I will continue to take advantage of those deals until those doors close.

Happy reading!

Posted in Checking Stuff Out

Impromptu Borders Run

Deciding to take full advantage of having some much-needed mommy time, I popped into the only remaining Borders in the South Bay (insert tears) to check out their always tempting Bargain Books section.  I usually end up not buying anything, telling myself that I can get the same thing for FREE at my local public library, but today I was feeling good, having just ingested a Trenta Iced Tea from Starbucks, and picked up a couple of items.

I was delighted to find the sequel to the current book I’m reading for only $4.99…just two dollars more than the iced tea I just gulped down.  I probably won’t get to the book for while, seeing as how my “must-read” list has an unusual number of books before it, but that’s the beauty of owning it:  it’s not due in three weeks, therefore I can let it sit on my shelf for three months and not have to worry about handing $.25 over to my local public library.

And then I found this…

…which I highly DO NOT recommend, as it involves Dora the Explorer, a girl whose constant yelling about which bridge she should take to get to the Green Mountain is about as comforting as a bed made of fire.  But I do have a three-year-old daughter, a girl who thinks Dora is some kind of geographical genius, and the fact that in this particular book Dora is wearing a freaking CROWN on her head, well, I could only imagine the look on my daughter’s face.  Pure and utter joy.  Plus it was only $1.99, a dollar less than my iced tea, so…what the hell.

Whenever I’m at Borders, I usually get the iced tea they sell in their cafe, which happens to be from Seattle’s Best Coffee.  Now, I don’t know if their coffee really is the best, but I do enjoy their iced tea.  A lot.  So much that I’ve even rated them above Starbucks, even though Starbucks is my drink of choice on a daily basis (only because it’s more convenient).  Maybe it’s because I don’t drink Seattle’s Best everyday that I prefer it…or maybe it’s because whenever I’m drinking Seattle’s Best, I’m also looking at books, therefore making the tea that much more enjoyable.  Whatever the reason, if you find yourself inside one of the few remaining Borders stores on a really hot day, get the iced tea.  And please, for the love of dentists, do not put any sweetener in it.  It adds unnecessary calories to the tea, not to mention cuts down on all the healthy stuff in there (actually, I don’t know if that’s true…I just made that up.  But it might.).  And to me the sweetened tea doesn’t taste as refreshing.  But…to each his own.

Happy drinking!