Sunday, December 4, 2016

25 Days of Christmas Books - Day 4

Day 4:

Today is my mom's birthday! So in honor of her, today's post is about the famous Christmas poem "The Night Before Christmas."

My mom used to read this to me every year at Christmas, and it was one of the first things that I learned how to "read." (Mom thinks I just memorized it!)

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Visit_from_St._Nicholas), this poem was originally published in 1823 as "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," and there was some dispute about who the author actually was. It definitely is one of the most widely-known poems in America, and some say that it contributed greatly to the tradition of Santa Claus becoming as big as it is.

What I like best about the poem is how the great meter and how well it flows. Some poems (especially the rhyming in children's books these days...) don't stick to the meter, and it really bothers me! "The Night Before Christmas" is one of those that has such a good meter to it that it gets stuck in my head....and sometimes not even at Christmas time...!

If you are looking for a good hard cover book copy of this poem and you find one, please let me know! It seems as if it is rather difficult to find the full poem in a children's book form these days. I found one at a dollar store a couple of years ago, but it is a paperback. Most of the hardcover copies I found on Amazon had been edited in some way, and for me, the original is just the only way to go!

Reading this poem has become one of our Christmas Eve traditions, and I look forward to it every year!


But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight-
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

25 Days of Christmas Books - Day 3

Day 3:

Repost from December, 2010.

(Still one of my favorite Christmas books of all time!)

Book Club Review -- "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
For our December book club, we kept it simple and decided to read “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson. I first read this book when I was a kid, and I have read it many times over the years of my childhood. This was the first time I had read it as an adult, and it was just as good as I remembered.
This story is about a rambunctious (okay, just plain mean…) family of six kids, the Herdmans, who constantly terrorize their town and its people. No one ever expected to see them show up at church, but they do, after a promise of refreshments. And then they get mixed up in the Christmas Pageant…
As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed this simple book. I thought it was funny and sweet. As an adult, I still enjoyed it, but I of course found so much more meaning in it. This story is funny, charming, and right on the mark with its account of the true meaning of Christmas and the reality that no one should be counted without hope.
I give “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”…….. 5 BookWorms!!!
 
 
And here is the comment that my husband left on the original post:
 
We read this book together and I really liked it. I had never read it before, so it was neat to here the story that Sara already knew. After reading it I really did some thinking about our Christmas traditions and what they mean. It was neat to hear the Christmas story from the perspective of someone who has never heard it before. Most of us know the Christmas story, but how many of us actually stop to think about it and what was really going on? I know that I seldom do. When you think about it from the perspective of someone hearing for the first time, especially a child, the whole story takes on wonderful new meanings. I can't wait to read this story to Isabella some day. I agree with Sara that everyone should read this book and read it every year. A great read for young and old.
 
 
 
 
 
What was your favorite Christmas book as a child?
 
 

Friday, December 2, 2016

25 Days of Christmas Books - Day 2

Day 2:

This is a repost of a book I reviewed in December of 2011.





About the book:  In this Berenstain Bears® Living Lights™ lift-the-flap book, the Bear cubs search for their collection of beautiful Christmas figures for their Nativity scene.

Thirteen fun lift-the-flaps reveal the many places that Mama has hidden these family 'bear'-looms.





About the authors:  Stan and Jan Berenstain introduced the first Berenstain Bear books in 1962. Mike Berenstain grew up watching his parents work together to write about and draw these lovable bears. Eventually he started drawing and writing about them too. Though Stan died in 2005, Jan and Mike continue to create the delightful Bear adventures from their family home in Pennsylvania, in an area that looks much like the sunny dirt road deep in Bear Country.


My Take:

I don't know about you, but the Berenstain Bear books were among my very favorites when I was growing up. I still have several of these books, and my daughter loves them as well.

So, I was excited to get a Berenstain Bear Christmas book to review! And so was my daughter. On top of it being a Christmas book and a Berenstain Bear book, it is also a lift-the-flap book, which my daughter really enjoys.

This particular book doesn’t have a lot of story to it, but it is still a really cute book. The Bears search all over their house to find the different pieces of their Nativity scene. (This kind of reminds me of my own search every year for Christmas decorations in the basement…but not in a fun way!) Each piece is hidden behind a flap, and my daughter (she’s 2 ½ ) delighted to find all of the pieces to the manger scene. ***Wow - how time flies! My daughter is almost 8 now!***

I really appreciate that there are many Berenstain Bear books out there that include God and biblical truth in them.

When I asked her what she liked best about the book, my daughter said, “All of the pictures.” On the last page, she said, “They are playing with the manger scene!” I am not sure if she was excited about that or if she was afraid they were going to get into trouble for playing with it!

Since this book is simpler than other Berenstain Bear books, I would recommend it more for preschoolers. It is a nice, fun book for the Christmas season.

I will give The Berenstain Bears Get Ready for Christmas ... 3 ½ BookWorms.




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

25 Days of Christmas Books!

As you can probably tell, I've been a little bit busier this year, and I haven't posted to my blog as much as I would have liked.

To get me back on track and hopefully ramp up for a new year of getting back to the books, I'm going to be hosting a 25 Days of Christmas Books here on the blog.

To get us started, I'll repost the review of one of my favorite Christmas books of all time. Not only does the story take place at Christmas, it also takes place right in my backyard in Lafayette, Indiana! I absolutely adored taking a look back at Lafayette during the 1940s, especially since so many of the spots still exist today.



25 Days of Christmas Books

Day 1:

The crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime  
Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories,
filled with the wonder of Christmas
 
Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America's involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.
 
In Cara Putman's White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements---until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.

Abigail's brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin's I'll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete's friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he's no longer the bully she once knew?

In Tricia Goyer's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, "Merry" to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that's precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The Turner family believes in God's providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ's birth and His plan for a future?

Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/BwVP9
 
 
 
 


TRICIA GOYER is a prolific author of nearly forty books, including Chasing Mona Lisa, and is a speaker and blogger. 
 
Website, Facebook, Twitter

CARA PUTMAN is the author of twenty books including Shadowed by Grace. She is the winner of the 2008 Carol Award for historical fiction.
 
Website, Facebook, Twitter

SARAH SUNDIN is the critically-acclaimed author of the Wings of the Nightingale series, the Wings of Glory series, and the forthcoming Waves of Freedom novels.
 



My Take:
When I found out that two of my favorite authors were teaming up with a new-to-me author to write a book of three historical romance novellas taking place at Christmastime, I was so excited. Add that to the fact that the stories were to take place in my hometown, and I was literally jumping up and down!

Sarah Sundin has quickly become one of my favorite historical fiction authors over the last few years that I have been doing book reviews. Her attention to the historical details is the best, and she always writes a story in which the characters experience a tremendous amount of growth. I also enjoy reading books by Tricia Goyer, and her “Big Sky” series is one of the best I have ever read. Cara Putman is an author who is new to me, but I was excited to find out that she lives in Lafayette, Indiana! (OK – so I technically live in West Lafayette, but it’s just right over the river!!!) 

I think one of the best things about this book was how each story fit together with the others. You could tell that each was written by a different author, but the book as a whole was seamless. It is just amazing to me that three authors with varying styles could come together and create three stories that fit together so nicely.

I don't know if I could say which of the three novellas was my favorite. I liked the detailed setting of Lafayette in Cara Putman’s White Christmas,  I appreciated the growth of the characters in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and I adored the right-in-the-thick-of-things storytelling in Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. But if I had to choose -- I think I liked Cara Putman's story the best. It set up the rest of the book so well, and her detailed description of Lafayette really sold it for me.

On the whole, this book was really good, and it was perfect for Christmastime. I will admit that I am a bit biased towards it since I live in West Lafayette. I know that fact affects my review and rating at least a little bit. These stories are very much on the romantic side and could even be considered hokey by some. While there are some realistic components and excellent historical details, the stories are definitely fiction. Of course everything is wrapped up nicely with a big Christmas bow at the end. But isn't that what we all want with a collection of Christmas novellas anyway?!

Where Treetops Glisten has all of the things that I love about Christmas stories – a great setting, interesting characters, and the warmth and love of the holiday season.
 
I will give Where Treetops Glisten … 4.5 BookWorms*
 
 


 


 *Extra half rating given because of the setting of Lafayette, Indiana! J
 
  
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Litfuse Publicity. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
 
 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Cold-Case Christianity for Kids" Blog Tour


Cold-Case Christianity for Kids (David C. Cook, October 2016)

Between the ages of 8 and 12, kids often start to wonder if Christianity is true.

In Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, detective J. Warner Wallace draws readers into the thrill of high-stakes investigation by showing them how to think rather than telling them what to think. In this children’s companion to the bestselling Cold-Case Christianity, detective Wallace gets kids excited about testing witnesses, examining the evidence, and investigating the case for Christianity. Includes author illustrations and links to a website where kids can download activities, fill in case notes, and earn a certificate of merit.





Learn more and purchase a copy.


{More About J. Warner and Susie Wallace}

J. Warner and Susie Wallace have been training young people in the church setting for over a decade. J. Warner is a cold-case homicide detective who has been featured on Dateline, FOX News, Court TV and other crime-related television shows. A former atheist, he is the author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith. He has a master’s degree in theology and is the founder of ColdCaseChristianity.com. Susie has a master’s degree in speech pathology and co-writes (and edits) all the kids books in this series. J. Warner and Susie have four children and live in southern California.



Find out more about J. Warner and at http://www.coldcasechristianityforkids.com.


My Take:

Logic. Reason. Faith.

Can these three things ever go together?

According to Cold-Case Christianity for Kids - and the original book for adults - the answer is yes.

With an easy tone that is both conversational and compelling, J. warner and Susie Wallace take kids through a fascinating look at the evidence for Christ, His life, His death, and His resurrection.

My daughter is seven (the book is recommended for ages 8-12), but she thoroughly enjoyed this book. She liked how there was a mystery-type tone to the book and that she got to think for herself about something that she has mostly just been told about. We talk about God and Jesus and the Bible every day. We teach our daughter about faith and about how there are some things that we were just never be able to understand here on Earth. But this book allows kids to dig deeper and discover Jesus in a new way that relies very much on logic and reason. It really put everything into perspective - how the logic, reason, and faith very much go together in the Christian life.

There is always a danger with children that they respond to the truths of scripture only because they have been told to by their parents and other adults in their lives. Cold-Case Christianity for Kids challenges kids to explore and embrace the love and salvation from Jesus for their very own.

My husband and I really enjoyed going through this book with our daughter, and I'm sure we will be referencing it in the future. I would love to see other books of this type for kids!


Giveaway:

Encourage your kids to investigate the case for Christianity by entering to win a faith examination kit and a copy of J. Warner and Susie's new book.

cold-case-christianity-400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 4. The winner will be announced November 7 on the Litfuse blog.

cold-case-christianity-enterbanner



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Berenstain Bears "God Made You Special" Review

Quick Overview:
 
Brother, Sister, and the Bear family meet a young cub named Tommy and are reminded that God has made all of us special in our own way.
 
 
Mike Berenstain grew up watching his parents, Stan and Jan, working together to write and draw these lovable bears. Eventually he started drawing and writing about them, too.
 
 
 
Get more information and purchase this book here: http://www.zondervan.com/the-berenstain-bears-god-made-you-special


 
The Berenstain Bears God Made You Special
Mike Berenstain
Zonderkidz Publishing
24 pages
Ages 4-8
 
 
My Take:
 
We love the Berenstain Bear books at our house. Even with our daughter reading more chapter books lately and leaving her picture books behind, we still pull out the Bears books regularly.
 
This particular book addresses special needs and how everyone should be treated with care and respect. It emphasizes how everyone is special and unique. I can see how this book could be used to help younger children understand that not everyone is that same and how that should be celebrated.
 
This Berenstain Bears books does feel a bit different from previous Bear books. I have actually noticed this in some of the more recent publications of the Bear family. The stories seem to be more "sugar-coated, Sunday School-type" stories rather than the humorous, playful, real stories that I grew up with.
 
That being said, this Bear story fits a real need in our current world, and I know kids will still enjoy it.
 
I will give The Berenstain Bears God Made You Special ... 4 BookWorms.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Some Luck" Review


About the book:

1920, Denby, Iowa:

Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm. He will be the oldest of five.
       
Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children. With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s, we watch as the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis. Later still, a girl we’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own. 
       
The first volume of an epic trilogy from a beloved writer at the height of her powers, Some Luck starts us on a literary adventure through cycles of birth and death, passion and betrayal that will span a century in America.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Anchor Publishing
416 pages


About the author: Jane Smiley (born September 26, 1949) is an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres (1991). Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Community School and from John Burroughs School. She obtained a BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), then earned an MA (1975), MFA (1976), and PhD (1978) from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a Professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



My Take:

Some Luck was a selection for my book club for this year, and I was looking forward to reading a new-to-me author. I actually like family saga stories, and it had been a while since I had taken the opportunity to read one.

First of all, you can tell the author is very talented when it comes to the English language and with the structure of the writing. The structure and function of the words were well put together, and the descriptions of the land and the areas did put a fairly good picture in your mind.

But as a story it left something to be desired.

This novel almost seemed more like a diary or a family photo album/scrapbook rather than a novel.

<Showing the album> "Oh, this is the year that so-and-so got married." <Turn the page> "This is the year grandpa died." <Turn the page> "Remember when we lost all the wheat in that storm?" <Yawn>

It just never grabbed me and drew me in as a story. It was like I was looking in on the outside of some other family and just being told what happened to them. Even the "love" scenes or tender moments felt forced.

I also just didn't care about the characters at all. By the end I couldn't even keep up with who the characters were anymore. As the characters kept getting married and having children, it became impossible to remember them all - especially when a specific character hadn't been mentioned for several chapters.

***SPOILER ALERT***

***

***

***

I actually almost stopped reading this book when the little baby girl died. I just can't handle stuff like that in books, and that really almost made me put the book down for good. But since I said that I would review it, I kept going. I think I should have just stopped...

***SPOILER OVER***

***

***

***

Overall, I just thought this book was depressing. I read for entertainment, and this just felt more like a documentary. I also find it hugely ironic that someone with the last name of Smiley wrote such a depressing book!

I will say that the tone of this book very much portrays what the book is about. If that was what the author was going for, then it was done very well. The book plods along much as a farmer plods along day to day while farming. I almost think that the author captures the humdrum life of an Iowa farmer a little too well.

To me this book just didn't seem to have a lot of depth. Even the characters we spend a lot of time with - Frank, Joey, Rosanna, Walter - I didn't really feel as if I truly knew them. And ultimately there is just no hope. There is no real love or family relationship. There is nothing to keep me reading the rest of this series.

I hate writing a mostly negative review for a book, but I just can't find much about this book that was redeeming or that I can recommend.

I apologize for doing this to a Pulitzer prize-winning author, but I have to do it. (Maybe I should try to read the book that actually won the prize...)

I will give Some Luck... only 1 BookWorm.








Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, July 1, 2016

"Moonlight on the Millpond" Review

About the book:

This first book in the Tucker Mills Trilogy from beloved author Lori Wick follows Jace Randall as he leaves his childhood home to help his Uncle Woody Randall run the saw mill in Token Creek. Jace diligently focuses on work until he meets the visiting niece of local storekeepers. Jace pursues her until she finally agrees to attend a picnic with him and take a chance.

But before the relationship has a strong foundation, the couple separates because of gossip fueled by Jace’s sister. Later, when she admits her wrongdoing and shares her testimony of a new faith, the couple must decide whether to try again. Will the sister’s example of faith and transformation be enough to restore broken dreams?





Moonlight on the Millpond
by Lori Wick
"Tucker Mills" #1
Publication date: March 1, 2005
Harvest House Publishers
285 pages
Audio CD read by Barbara Rosenblat


My Take:

I read this book years ago, but I needed something to listen to in the car during the off season from football. (ESPN radio is my listening choice during football season!!!)

The audio CDs were available at my local library, so I decided to give this another read (or listen!)

I have read many of Lori Wick's books. In fact, Lori Wick was one of the authors who first got me reading more Christian fiction. I had read this one before, but it turns out that I didn't really remember much of it.

To start this book was interesting, and I liked getting to know the characters. I really liked the supporting characters in Jace and Maddie's lives. Jace's Uncle Woody, the housekeeper Clara, Maddies aunt and uncle Cathy and Doyle, the pastor and his wife....I loved them all.

As novel kept going, however, I started to not like Maddie as must as I did at the beginning of the book. It kind of just got boring after a while, especially when so many things kept keeping the two of them apart. It almost seemed sometimes that they spent more time apart than together! (And how many times can you use the plot device of someone getting accidently drunk and not remembering what they did the night before?)

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT***

I also wish that the ending could have been wrapped up a bit more quickly, and I really wanted to actually experience the conversion of the characters rather than it just being implied. I felt like I invested so much in their spiritual lives and then was just left hanging at the end.


***SPOILER OVER***

I will say that the narrator for the audio book was pretty good. Her voice was kind of rough-sounding, but it gave an interesting effect to the male voices.

Overall, I thought this book had potential but that ultimately it didn't really go anywhere. If you want to read something by Lori Wick, I recommend her "Place Called Home" series.

The audio book made for something nice to listen to in the car, though, and I will definitely pick up another audio book in the future.

I will give Moonlight on the Millpond ... 3 Bookworms.








Friday, June 17, 2016

"Skip Rock Shallows" Review

About the Book: Lilly Gray Corbett has just graduated from medical school and decided to accept an internship in the coal camp of Skip Rock, Kentucky. Her beau, Paul, is doing his residency in Boston and can’t understand why Lilly would choose to work in a backwater town. But having grown up in the mountains, Lilly is drawn to the stubborn, superstitious people she encounters in Skip Rock—a town where people live hard and die harder and where women know their place. Lilly soon learns she has a lot to overcome, but after saving the life of a young miner, she begins to earn the residents’ trust.

As Lilly becomes torn between joining Paul in Boston and her love for the people of Skip Rock, she crosses paths with a handsome miner—one who seems oddly familiar. Her attraction for him grows, even as she wrestles with her feelings and wonders what he’s hiding.
 
About the Author: Jan Watson won the 2004 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest for her first novel, Troublesome Creek. Her other awards include being named the best Kentucky author in 2012 by Kentucky Living magazine, a nomination for the Kentucky Literary Award in 2006 and second place in the 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice Contest sponsored by the Faith, Hope, and Love Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Jan has published six novels. As a registered nurse for 25 years at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, she incorporates her nursing experience in the hospital's mother/baby unit into her novels. Jan resides in Kentucky.
 
My Take:
 
When I first read the summary of this novel, it struck a chord with because it seemed to be similar to the famous Christy novel by Catherine Marshall. While Christy is the story of a young female teacher journeying to the mountains of Tennessee to educate the people there, Skip Rock Shallows is about a young female doctor going to a Kentucky coal mining town. Both of these women face opposition from the townsfolk – an outsider coming to their town to supposedly help them, and a female at that.
 

The issues and troubles that Lilly encounters in Skip Rock Shallows keep the story moving for the most part, even though it didn’t become really gripping until closer to the end. The secondary characters help in this aspect, as they were engaging and were able to keep things interesting. That was what was most fun for me in this novel – the adventures and people that Lilly encountered during her ‘doctoring.’ I always enjoy a fish-out-of-water tale.
 
However, the relationship and romance between Lilly and Joe felt kind of forced to me in this novel. I felt as if the reader was sometimes left out of the loop in that relationship. So, while the medical and community aspect of this book was interesting, one of the main plot points – the romance – sort of fell flat. I also thought that the writing was disjointed at times. There were times when I felt as if I had missed something, especially when large periods of time were skipped.
 
I did appreciate the author’s use of scripture in this novel. That is something I really liked to see in Christian historical fiction.
 
Overall, this novel was an easy read that was a bit slow-moving but did have an interesting plot and conclusion.
I will give Skip Rock Shallows … 3 BookWorms.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."