Aleah's book review: Molly Saves the Day: A Summer Story ( American Girl Collection) by Valerie Tripp

This was a really great book!

In this book, Molly spends two weeks at Camp Gowonagin and loves it. She loves it up until the camp director announces the beginning of the color war. Molly and Susan are on the blue team and Linda is on the red team. So, they're enemies and friends! When all the blue team except Molly and Susan are captured, Molly finds a way to save the day.

What I like about this book is the part where Molly and Susan find worms and put them in Linda's hair to distract her so they could free the other teammates on the blue team. I thought this was a really funny part.

Aleah's Rating

Overall: 5 stars

Book Review: Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

Did you know that the fairytale of Cinderella is actually a Chinese folktale that dates back to the ninth century? It is essentially the same story as the Italian version, but predates it by eight hundred years. I found this an interesting little piece of information that made this book even more fitting of it's title.

Chinese Cinderella is memoir of a childhood that is far from perfect. Adeline recalls many instances of being either neglected or even punished by her step-mother and father. She was an unwanted Chinese girl, who was blamed for her mother's death ( her mother died after giving birth to her). She was smart and did well in school. She was determined to grow up and move away and make something of herself. Through hard work and a little good luck, she was able to to do this.

I enjoyed this book. It is written for a young adult audience, so it is a quick read. I think that Falling Leaves, another memoir written by this author, is a little more detailed and written for an adult audience. But, anyway, it was interesting to read about her life experiences growing up in China in the 1940's and 50's when communism was at it's beginning. I love memoirs, and I love to read about the asian culture, so I really expected a lot out of this book. I wasn't too disappointed. I did wish that I could have felt more for her. There seemed to be some distance that was created by her writing style. That being said, I think that it was clean, positive and encouraging. I think it is one that I will want my girls to read, it has that "you can do anything, and be anything" sentiment to it.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars

Objectionable Content: none, I would let my 10 year old daughter read this book.

Join Me

My mother and I will be reading The Undaunted by Gerald Lund over the next little while. Please join us if you have a copy, or can beg or borrow a copy. It should be a really good book. (I love anything having to do with the pioneers) I may post my thoughts and feelings on it as I am reading along.

Book Review: Death Be Not Proud: A Memoir by John Gunther

Why in the world read a book like this? I don't know for sure. I voted against it when it was presented as a possible book selection for my book club. I didn't want to read a book that could only be mournful and dreary. For some reason though, I was curious about it.

This is the story of Johnny. Johnny was very bright and charismatic. He had been sort of a child prodigy while attending schools both abroad and in the US. He loved science. His goal was to be able to study Chemistry and Physics at Harvard. During his junior year of high school, he developed a few symptoms that sent him to the school infirmary, then to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and even though they operated immediately, medical science in the 1940's was still in it's infancy in this area. Johnny valiantly battled this cancer for fifteen months before death finally took him.

His father, John Gunther, writes this thoughtful memoir, that includes some of Johnny's letters and diary entries during the time of his illness. He does a good job portraying his son as the perfect child ( I don't want to pick too much at this book, but it is a little bit hard to believe in some instances). Johnny either doesn't understand how sick he really is, buries this fact in the far reaches of his mind, or is unbelievably optimistic. He continues to live his life, never letting go of his dreams. His philosophy of life is as follows from his diary:

Gunther Philosophy
1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you but don't love God with all your heart, mind, soul. To really believe in first you don't need second. Good is an axiom.
2. No immortality.
3. Live while you're living then die and be done with - never refuse challenge - never give up trying etc.
... (pg.202)

I find this way of looking at life very sad. He was a very good person, despite the fact that he did not believe in God. His mother seemed to be trying to help him find something to hold onto, exposing him to all different religions and ways of thinking. Johnny writes his own prayer during this time that he calls an "Unbeliever's Prayer". Maybe he does want to believe?

Almighty God
forgive me for my agnosticism;
For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical,
nor a bad influence.

And O!
if thou art truly in the heavens,
accept my gratitude
for all Thy gifts
and I shall try
to fight the good fight. Amen.

I thought this was quite profound for a sixteen year old to write. I wish I could know more about how he felt. Even though there are a number of letters and diary entries, I wasn't able to get to "know" Johnny. I did find this book to be enjoyable to read though. It was not mournful or dreary like I had first thought, instead it left me feeling that life is worth living. We can live courageously even in the worst of circumstances.

My Rating

Overall: 3 stars. Although well written, I didn't feel any real emotion. His father wrote from a distance and Johnny didn't seem real most of the time.

Objectionable Content: none

Aleah in the limelight

I thought I'd give my daughter a chance to have her own weekly feature on this blog. She loves to read (especially fantasy, and some historical fiction) and she got excited when I asked her if she'd like to write some book reviews. I think it will be fun for her to see her writing "published" on this blog, while at the same time she will be developing her writing skills. So from now on I think I'll dedicate Tuesdays for her reviews.

Aleah's book review: Dr. Amelia's Boredom Survival Guide by Marissa Moss

I think this is a very funny book, like all of the other Amelia books (these are in "notebook" style and are an American Girl series).

This book is about Amelia who is being dragged to her sister's doctor appointment. She is extremely bored, but lucky since she brought a little notebook with her. She comes up with 50 things to do when you're bored. Here's one of her ideas:

Thing to do #29
Make up your own jump rope songs. Use tunes you know, or make up the tune, too.

When they are done at the doctor's office, they get in the car. Amelia hopes there's a lot of traffic, because she wants to use her new Boredom Survival Guide.

Aleah's Rating: 5 stars

I'm sure there must be a name for this phobia.

So it was years before I realized that my husband had a strange phobia. I'm sure that there is a name for this, since there seems to be a name for even the rarest of phobias. I don't think his fear of the tainted "bathroom book" is that rare though. I think I recall a certain Seinfeld episode where George can't get rid of a book because it has been flagged as a "bathroom book."

At first I thought he was crazy. I mean, think about it, he won't go to the library to check out books. Used bookstores are out of the question. Bookmooch? No way! That pretty much leaves him with buying his books new at the bookstore. I don't mind browsing at a bookstore, but that can get expensive real fast.

As for me, I'm kind of a germaphobe anyway (just ask my kids), so this is kind of a sticky subject . I can see his point of view (you can't tell me that there isn't some sort of reading material in your bathroom). I could probably join him in rejecting all used books, but I guess I have just decided to turn a blind eye. I don't want to think about it, so in ignoring it, I've put the fear behind me. I still use the library and appreciate any hand-me-down books that come my way.

As an aside, I just remembered an experience that I had when I was in the sixth grade (Mom if you're reading I'm sure you'll remember this, I think you set it up for me). I lived in a small town and went to the little library often. I needed to complete a requirement for a church achievement program that I was working on. I think that I needed to do some sort of service. So, one Saturday, I was dropped off at the library to spend an hour or two cleaning the covers of books in the children's library. It was amazing to see how much dirt and scum accumulates on the covers of library books. I don't know if my "service" did any good, but it is fun remembering, and funny in light of this whole subject.

Book Review: Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

My first impression of this book was that it was very formal and pretentious in style. I decided that since I had heard that it was a good book, a modern classic, that I would continue on and not be too judgmental right off. Harriet Doerr was awarded a National Book Award for this work of fiction, so it must have some merit. After about the first chapter, I had settled in and her style then became more familiar and I could feel her talent for telling a story.

In Stones for Ibarra, an American couple in their forties, decide to reinvent their life by moving down to live in a small, rural Mexican village. Richard has been told that he only has roughly six years to live. In that time, they reopen an old copper mine that Richard's grandfather had owned and operated. Life in Mexico is not as idyllic as they had anticipated, but they make a sanctuary for themselves from which they can observe their surroundings.

This book is told through character sketches or really short stories. Each chapter is a portrait of one of the villagers. The plot is advanced, but it takes a kind of a backseat to what is happening overall. It is within the short stories that the author is able to shine. She shows us how even the most insignificant of subjects cannot escape the hand of fate.

I think that it is a book that will grow on me over time. I can see it's beauty now, but I know that I don't fully understand it. When I started it, I was just looking for a good story to read and didn't know it would be more than that. It is a great piece of literature. With that said, it was frustrating to me at times because I just wanted to know more about Sara and Richard. I wanted more about them. I also wanted her to discover religion of some kind. I finally just had to accept it to enjoy it.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 It's hard for me to rate this book. It wasn't my favorite in terms of a great story, but I recognize it's literary value. It should probably get 4 stars.

Objectionable Content: There were a few sexual references. Nothing explicit.

and the winner is...


The winner of the first ever giveaway on this blog is Adaire. She will be mailed a copy of A Christmas Parable by Boyd K. Packer (hopefully it will get there before Christmas).

A Little Christmas Story

I received this story in an email this morning. I don't know who the author is, or I'd certainly give credit where credit is due. It reminds me of a Little House on the Prairie episode, very sweet and thoughtful. I hope you enjoy it.

Christmas Wood

Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn't been enough money to buy me the rifle that I'd wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn't in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn't get the Bible; instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn't figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn't worry about it long though; I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. "Come on, Matt," he said. "Bundle up good, it's cold out tonight." I was really upset then. Not only wasn't I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We'd already done all the chores, and I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this

But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one's feet when he'd told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house. Something was up, but I didn't know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn't going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn't happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. "I think we'll put on the high sideboards," he said. "Here, help me." The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood---the wood I'd spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all Fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. "Pa," I asked, "what are you doing?" You been by the Widow Jensen's lately?" he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I'd been by, but so what? "Yeah," I said, "Why?" "I rode by just today," Pa said. "Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They're out of wood, Matt."

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it. Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smoke house and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. "What's in the little sack?" I asked. "Shoes. They're out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning. I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn't be Christmas without a little candy."

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen's pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn't have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn't have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn't have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, and then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, "Who is it?" "Lucas Miles, Ma'am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?"

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp. "We brought you a few things, Ma'am," Pa said and set down the e sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children---sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn't come out.

"We brought a load of wood too, Ma'am," Pa said. He turned to me and said, "Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let's get that fire up to size and heat this place up." I wasn't the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn't speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I'd never known before filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference. I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone's spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn't crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. "God bless you," she said. "I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us."

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I'd never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true. I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get. Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen's face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug. They clung to him and didn't want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, "The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We'll be by to get you about eleven. It'll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn't been little for quite a spell." I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, "Thank you, Brother Miles. I don't have to say, "'May the Lord bless you,' I know for certain that He will."

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn't even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, "Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and I have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn't have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and I were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand."

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen's face and the radiant smiles of her three children.

For the rest of my life, whenever I saw any of the Jensen's, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night; he had given me the best Christmas of my life.

The Next Generation?

I love the internet. I love my laptop. I love my cell phone. In fact, I think that it would be hard for me to give up any of these things. Modern conveniences make life so much easier and have replaced so many things. They have become a part of my daily life and now I've found that I can't live without them.

You would think that I would welcome a new piece of technology if it claimed to be like a personal library that I could hold in the palm of my hand. I'll admit that it sounds pretty cool. I could take this device with me wherever I go and download the newest book in 60 seconds. I could read this book on a screen that has paper-like quality and not have to worry about recharging the battery for a week. A device like this really could change my life I suppose.

If you haven't already guessed what I'm going on and on about, you can go ahead a take a look for yourself. It's the Kindle.

Like I said before, I think I should like a Kindle, but maybe it is a little too "next generation" for me. I'm not going to say never, but for now I think I'll just stick to the real thing. I like books and everything about them. I like holding a book and turning the pages ( I even like the smell, unless it's one of those cheap paperbacks where the paper smells like newsprint). I like to use a bookmark to chart my progress. I like to be able to see the familiar titles lined up on my bookshelf.

Do you feel the same way I do, or is the Kindle on your Christmas wishlist?

12th Day of Christmas Book Review

The Bible Christmas Story

Luke Chapter 2, King James Version

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."

"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in their fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child."

"And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. "

There really is no point in doing a review of the Bible. It is one of the most sacred books on the earth. It contains the word of God, and it will bring us peace and joy this holiday season if we take the time to read it together with our families.

11th Day of Christmas Book Review

The Christmas Sweater (the picture book)

by Glenn Beck, Kevin Balfe, Jason Wright, and Chris Schoebinger
illustrated by Brandon Dorman

Did you get that? How many authors does it take to change a light bulb, oops! - I mean to write a book? It makes me think that Mr. Beck might not have written this book, but since he has a big name, this book was sure to sell if his name was on the cover. Well, this is just my guess, I don't really know. What I do know is that it is just a mediocre Christmas story.

I have not read The Christmas Sweater (the novel), that this book is based on. It has many good reviews. With this in mind, I should be able to read the picture book and understand what is going on without any previous knowledge of the plot. I think I mostly get it, but it seemed too condensed and shortened. It was a bit hard to follow.

I think the message is good for kids. You don't always get what you want for Christmas, but it is the thought and love put into a gift that count. So, it does have worthwhile content. It's just not my favorite book.

My Rating

Overall: 2.5 stars. I'm a Glenn Beck fan, but this book just didn't do it for me.

Objectionable Content: none that I noticed.

The 10th Day of Christmas Book Review

Gingerbread Baby
by Jan Brett

This book isn't necessarily a "Christmas" book. I would probably categorize it as a fun winter book. It kind of gets you in the holiday mood though, or at least wanting to bake something with your kids in a warm, cozy kitchen.

Do you remember the story of the gingerbread man? He chants, "Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man." I don't know when I first heard this story, but I remember imagining the little cookie running and running, hoping that he would escape. ( I guess that he does get eaten by the fox in the end, but I think that as a child I must have blocked out this gruesome detail from my memory. I thought it had a happy ending!) In this rendition of the classic tale, the gingerbread baby is cunning and sly and outwits everyone, except a young boy who finds the perfect way to capture him.

It is a fun story, but the real reason for recommending this book is the art work. Once you pick up this book to read you'll see what I'm talking about. Jan Brett is a true artist. I love all of her illustrations. They are so detailed that you can spend several minutes on each page just looking at all of the pictures.

She has many other books that you might like to "look" at:

The Hat
The Mitten
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Hedgie's Surprise
Who's that Knocking on Christmas Eve?
The Wild Christmas Reindeer

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars. The story was fun but not great, but the illustrations made up for this.

Objectionable Content: none

Take My Button

Since this blog is still fairly new, and I am learning as I go, I would love feedback. Please feel free to comment and post your ideas. I've got lots of ideas and things that I want to try (like an online book club and weekly features). I'm trying to get out there and get a real audience, so I'd really appreciate it if you would "take my button" that is on the left side of the page and paste it anywhere and everywhere.

9th Day of Christmas Book Review

What is Christmas?

by Michelle Medlock Adams
illustrated by Amy Wummer

Everyone loves the Christmas season with all of it's festivities. We want our children to experience and enjoy snow, Santa, Christmas trees, parties, gifts, caroling and more. With all of this hustle and bustle and having fun, children may have a hard time figuring out "what Christmas is all about."

As a Christian parent, I want my children to understand why we celebrate Christmas. It is about the birth of our Savior. This little board book can really help explain how all of the other "stuff" that we associate with Christmas relates to the true meaning of the holiday. Even the youngest toddlers will love this little board book.

My Rating

Overall: 4.5 stars only because I wish the artwork was a little more spectacular.

Objectionable Content: none

Don't forget to Enter to Win!

I will be giving away a copy of the book

A Christmas Parable
by Boyd K. Packer

on December 15th by random drawing.

To enter please leave a comment here or on the original post telling about what your favorite Christmas book or story is. Please also include your email address, so that I can contact you if you are the winner.

8th Day of Christmas Book Review

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens

Well, I've debated about posting a review of A Christmas Carol. I don't want to be too boring or cliche, but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most people have probably seen some movie version of this book, but have never actually read it. That was me until last year. Now I can proudly check it off of my "I really should read that some day since it's a classic" list. So, if you've got any inclination to read it, go a head and give it a try (it's quick read after all).

Since everyone knows the basic plot of this story, I won't go into any details here. I just want to put a plug in about how this really is a sweet story. There is a lesson to be learned from reading it. For me it was if everyone could have a true change of heart like Ebenezer did, the world would be a better place. We need to let go of the materialism and just appreciate each other and live today.

Now I should probably hurry up and read the other Christmas stories that accompany the the main title. They are: The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 stars? It's hard for me to rate this book, since I'd seen movies based on the book before I had read it.

Objectionable Content: none

7th Day of Christmas Book Review

Small Camel Follows the Star
Follow the Star
by Rachel W. N. Brown
illustrated by Giuliano Ferri

The original title of this book is Small Camel Follows the Star. The copy that I own is called Follow the Star. I really don't have any idea why this is, but they are the same book.

This book tells the story of the wise men as told from a camel's perspective. Small Camel is still very young when the bright new star first appears in the night sky. He doesn't think that he will be able to go, as his master, Balthazar prepares a caravan to follow the star. He is sad that he will be left behind, while is mother leads the train of camels. At the last minute, Balthazar loads a small wrapped package on his back and tells him that he will be carrying something special. Small Camel gets very tired on this long journey. He is told that they will be presenting a gift to a baby king. As they approach the city where the star shines above a small house, he doesn't understand. How could a king live here?

I think this book was very well done. The story is told easily and simply. I felt like Small Camel personified a young child perfectly. He was trusting and meek, but also curious and impatient (on the journey he would ask the age old question: "Are we there yet?"). In the end, all of his questions haven't been answered, but he feels happy and knows that baby Jesus is a king.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars

Objectionable Content: none

6th Day of Christmas Book Reviews

Christmas Jars
by Jason F. Wright

I know a lot of people are quick to criticize this book, and I'll be honest, it is not great literature. The writing style is immature and the story is predictable. It was a best-seller for a reason though. People like tear-jerkers with happy endings. In this case, it also has a really nice Christmas message.

It is kind of a story within a story. Hope Jensen, a young journalist, is looking to solve a mystery and in doing so, finds answers to her own past. She also gets to know people sho understand the true meaning of Christmas, and have made a difference in other people's lives in significant ways.

If you are looking for a short, sweet book to read this might be just the book for you. It may very well leave you wanting to start your own Christmas jar tradition.

My Rating

Overall: 3.5 stars

Objectionable Content: none

Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle
By Jason F. Wright
illustrated by Ben Sowards

This is a brand new children's book that Jason F. Wright just came out with this year. It is based off of the original Christmas Jars book.

While I think it is a good idea to make a children's book with the same message, I don't think this is a favorite of mine. I felt like unless you had read Christmas Jars, you wouldn't really pick up on what was going on in this story. It was condensed too much. I did like the art work though. I read that Ben Sowards used his children as models for this book. I'm not sure the technique he used for his pictures, but they were realistic, yet soft.

My Rating

Overall: 2.5 stars. Maybe this is harsh, you'll have to judge for yourself.

Objectionable Content: None. It is a feel good book.

Jason F. Wright has also written some other best-sellers that you may or may not have heard of:

Wednesday Letters
Christmas Jar Reunion (I wonder about this one, if you've read it please leave a comment.)
Recovering Charles (on my wishlist)
The James Miracle

5th Day of Christmas Book Review

The Twelve Prayers of Christmas
by Candy Chand
illustrated by James Bernardin

This book is beautifully written and illustrated. I was drawn to it at the bookstore. I actually stopped, thumbed through it, and then had to read it. I thought it was spiritually uplifting to read what might have been in the hearts of Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men, shepherds, and even the animals that were witnesses to Christ's birth. Each page is a prayer of a different individual, each with a unique perspective on the happenings of that first night. I would highly recommend it to families as a Christmas Eve read aloud.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars for sure.

Objectionable Content: none

This is a brand new book published this year, so it may be a bit hard to find (I'd look for it in a bookstore instead of the library.)


I will be giving away a copy of

A Christmas Parable by Boyd K. Packer

on December 15th by random drawing.

To enter leave a comment telling me what your favorite Christmas story is, along with your email address so that I can contact you if you are selected as the winner.

4th Day of Christmas Book Review

A Christmas Parable
by Boyd K. Packer
illustrated by Boyd K. Packer

Wow! If you are looking for a truely inspiring book, don't over look this little gem. I think that it has sat on our bookshelves for literally years until today when I was actually looking for another book and came across it. I didn't remember reading it, and for some reason decided to read it immediately. (It took all of ten minutes, it's very short.) I don't like books that are preachy, but this one was told in parable form, so it was easy to digest. It's meaning is profound. It talks about the true meaning of Christmas, but in a way that I really had never pondered or thought about that deeply. There is also a poem at the end of the book. It is very beautiful and conatins the same spiritual message as the story.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars. This would make a great gift or might be nice to read together as a family.

Objectionable Content: NONE.

3rd Day of Christmas Book Review

A Redbird Christmas
by Fannie Flagg

If you are like me, you will immediately recognize the author of this book. She is well known and loved for her lively southern tales. Come on, you know you know some of them:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: A Novel (I remember loving the
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man: A Novel
Standing in the Rainbow
Welcome to the World, Baby Girl: A Novel
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel

Anyway I knew I would like this book right away. It is a good book for a lazy afternoon, or even while waiting at the doctor's office ( which is what I did). It is an engaging read from the very beginning. You are immediately pulled into the story, by finding out that Oswald only has a few months left to live. You don't know who Oswald is yet, but you certainly want to find out.

The characters in this book really shine. They come to life and you feel like you would know them if you saw them on the street. The story is woven together nicely and although you may be able to guess how it will all end up, there are still a few surprises. The ending was satisfying and I'm glad I read this book.

My Rating:

Overall: 3.5 stars. I think that it was a nice story, but it wasn't a great piece of literature, or earth shattering in any way.

Objectionable Content: It only had a few places where the Lord's name was taken in vain. I thought it was a very clean read otherwise.

2nd Day of Christmas Book Review

Jingle Babies
by Tom Arma

I read this book just today to my 9 month old son. He loved it! Of course it's the pictures that captured his attention. Each page has an absolutely adorable baby on it. Some are dressed as reindeer, some as snowmen, angels and so forth. It just doesn't get much more cute than this. The words have a nice rhythm and rhyme. It is a book that you won't mind reading over and over again (because believe me, you will).

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars

Objectionable Content: none

1st Day of Christmas Book Review

Little Porcupine's Christmas
by Joseph Slate and
illustrated by Felicia Bond

I decided to start this series of book reviews with one of my very favorite children's Christmas books. This is the story of little porcupine and his loving mother who always tells him that he is "the light of her life."

Little porcupine wants to be in the school Christmas play so bad, but his class mates don't think that it is such a good idea. Even though they tease him and he only gets to work backstage, his mother always reminds him that he is "the light of her life." The story ends with a touching turn of events and leaves you wanting to give your child a hug. It really is a great book.

My Rating

Overall: 5 stars

Objectionable Content: None. This is a great family book.

If you read many children's books you may recognize the illustrations. Felicia Bond has also done the art for these books as well:

If You Give a Pig a Pancake
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies (a Christmas book)
If You Give a Pig a Party
and many more!

The author, Joseph Slate, has also written other books that I've read. Some of them are:

What Star is This? (a Christmas book)
Who is Coming to Our House? (a Christmas book for young children)
The Miss Bindergarten series

Books that my book group has read (part 1)

I've been a member of a book group for about three years now. Each member gets a turn choosing a book and hosting the club about every six to eight months. You would think that it would be easy to pick a book, but it becomes a daunting task when you want to find one that everyone will enjoy. The other consideration that needs to be made is if the book is clean and in good taste, we are a church group after all. I usually chose a book that I have already read so that I know it will not be disappointing.

If you are looking for a book to read for your book club, I've made a partial list of some of our picks.

The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
The Robe by Lloyd C Douglas
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Physick Book of Deliverace Dane by Kathrine Howe

I will be posting reviews on most if not all of these books at some point. I liked them all, but a few of them had some objectionable content. So, if you need to know more about any of these, please leave a comment and I can answer your questions.

Book Review: Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Morag Punty

After her recent wedding, Tressa is not sure that she has married "the one." Dan is a great guy, but she knows that she doesn't love him. She wonders if at thirty-eight she has "settled," just so that she won't be lonely. She wants the perfect marriage that her Irish grandmother had. As the story unfolds, we learn that grandma Bernadine was not as happy as she appeared to be.

In this book, the reader gets to read about both marriages, as the narration alternates back and forth from Tressa to Bernadine. The other fun thing is all of the recipes (I have to admit that I read through all of these first before I started the story). These are the old Irish recipes that Bernadine taught Tressa how to make when she was a child. Each of these recipes are kind of used as object lessons or as a comparison of different difficulties in marriage and how to cope with each. There are plenty of nuggets of wisdom throughout this book. I thought it was a good mixture of fiction and good old common sense.

My Rating

Overall: 3 stars

Objectionable Content: Watch out! This book is not one to read if you are offended by foul language. It was hard for me at times. Also, there are a few mild sexual "scenes."

Do you have a year's supply of books?

Do I horde books? The answer to that question would have to be YES! Don't you? Does this make me strange? Well, I guess that would depend on who you ask. It's not like you would know this about me if you came to visit me, I have them all neatly (mostly) put away. The thing of it is this: having books makes me feel safe and comfortable.

I have a stash of books (I haven't counted, but if I had to guess probably 100) that I haven't read. It is my personal library that I can access whenever. They are all books that I have handpicked, so I know that there's a good chance that I'll like many of them. This is comforting to me. It's not always easy to get out to get a book when you need one. Having a ready supply of books eliminates this problem. So when my husband jokes around about my little library, I tell him that at least I'm prepared.

This picture represents a small portion of my personal library (they are double stacked, so you only see the front row).

So now that my little secret is out, you would probably think that I'd feel embarrassed or something. Really I don't. I'm just glad I have plenty of books to keep me happy.

For those of you that are straining to read the titles of some of these books, here are a few of them to get you started:

gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
The Last Cato by Matilde Asensi
Enemy women by Paulette Jiles
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelo
State of Fear by Michael Crichton
The Handsome Road by Gwen Bristow
Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen

Book Review: Yarn Harlot: the secret life of a knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Whoa! I love to knit and all, but in the world of knitters (I guess that would be Knitter with a capital K), I just don't compare to this woman. She is obsessed. She is totally addicted to fiber and not afraid to admit it. Throwing caution to the wind she will take on any project on a whim. Where does this lead her you might ask? Well, this book is full of her humorous knitting escapades.

I was mildly entertained by this lighthearted read. I wanted to laugh out loud, and maybe some do, but alas, I guess I lack the ability to fully relate to her all consuming knitting disease. So, for those "die hard" knitters out there, don't take my word for it. Go ahead and give it a try. I seem to be in the minority in my opinion of this book. It has a 4.07 average rating by 825 readers on Maybe these people all have the disease?

The other little tidbit of information that I'd like to pass on to potential readers of this book is that there are two sad stories. One in particular almost made me cry. So, if you are merrily reading along, you may consider just skipping over these to save yourself from the wave of emotion that I was caught up in.

My Rating

Overall: 2.5 stars

Objectionable Content: A few unwelcome words sprinkled throughout the book.

Book Review: The Fiction Class by Susan Breen

November 14th, 2009

Arabella teaches a once a week fiction class. It is the kind of class that has attracted all sorts of wannabe writers. There’s a middle aged woman that seems to be afraid of her own shadow, a wealthy bachelor, a young, beautiful blond, and a myriad of others who are trying to find their “voice.”

After each Wednesday class, Arabella visits her ailing mother in a nearby nursing home. She seems to have a few unresolved issues with her mother. She does however, try to “teach” her mother how to write, and her mother unbeknownst to Arabella, writes a very poignant story.

This story is fun to read because it alternates chapters, going from the fiction class to visiting her mother and back. There are also Arabella’s class writing assignments at the end of the chapters. I liked this because I would pause to think of what I might write. I was able to pick up quite a few tips on how to improve my own writing.

I think the overall theme for this book might be that people are not always what they seem. We need to not always let first impressions ruin our ability to look a little deeper. People have the chance to enrich our lives, and we may help others without even knowing it.

My Rating

Overall: 4 stars

Objectionable content: Some offensive language scattered throughout the book. Mention of porno and transsexuals. The main character does “sleep” with someone outside the bonds of marriage.

Book Review: Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

November 13th, 2009

Have you ever had the thought that all of the time, energy, and money spent on “doing” up the holidays right just isn’t worth it? Maybe you’re a staunch traditionalist. That’s fine, but you’ve got to admit that just forgetting it all and going on a cruise may sound tempting. Right? I had to read to find out if the Kranks were really able to pull off this crazy idea.

This was a short, sweet story that made me chuckle quite a few times. John Grisham does a great job of describing his characters and their thoughts. You really feel for these characters. I have to admit that as with most “Christmas tales” it was a bit cheesy, but cheesy in a good way.

My rating

Overall: 4 stars

Objectionable content: none