Saturday, December 19, 2015

Advent Reads Day 19: Graphic Novel Review of A Christmas to Remember by D. Morgan

Synopsis: "Shining memories sparkle brightly in every heart, lighting Christmas with beams of peace and joy. Recall the simple pleasures of beig home with whose you love, singing carols and sharing gifts by a cozy, crackling fireplace. Come back to Christmas and all that is sweet to remember."

My Review: This was a lovely little book, it was advertised as a graphic novel, but it is really more like a picture book for adults. It was a combination of little memories and favorite holiday sayings and verses of songs with beautiful paintings to match. You could read it all at once or enjoy just a page at a time.
My Rating: This was a beautiful book but at times the fancy fonts were difficult to read, and it really didn't strike me as a graphic novel. It still had some beautiful holiday sentiments. I give it a rating of Three Paws.

Fun with Munckin: Holiday Cookies & Gingerbread Houses

I have decided to add a new post to my list of things that could happen on the weekends.  As part of my resolutions for 2015, I wanted to do more fun things with Munchkin and as a family.  I will be posting sporadically about some of the fun adventures we are having together.
So I will be the first to tell you I am not a baker. My idea of cookies is those Pilsbury ones that are premade dough and even already portioned out that you just pop on the tray and bake. I do feel like it is something that should be a part of the holiday though, it is always so nostalgic to gather around the warm kitchen making holiday goodies. So thankfully friends and family stepped up to the plate to give Munchkin these memories (and to sacrifice their houses to a preschooler armed with frosting and sprinkles).
First some friends of ours had all their friends with young kids over for gingerbread house decorating. The houses were graham crackers and the trees were ice cream cones all hot glued together prior and then the kids were released with bowls of sprinkles, candies and frosting. Munchkin had a lot of fun making his but I learned he still hasn't gotten over his hatred of being dirty and sticky.

Then the following morning Hubby's Uncle wanted to do something fun with Munchkin and came up with a plan to make cookies. We decided on snickerdoodle cookies (mainly because that was the recipe we had everything for). Munchkin absolutely loves Uncle B and had a blast with every step of the process.
I just love the concentration on his face (and the fact that he is using both hands to stir)

The Double Christmas Tree cookie was his favorite. 

It was certainly fun making these memories with him (and just as great not to have the mess in my house) and with our friends and family. I think one or both may end up becoming an annual tradition.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent Reads Day 18: Bedtime Story: Tractor Mac Saves Christmas by Billy Steers

Synopsis: "The snow builds and so does the worry on Stony Meadow Farm. Where are Sibley the Workhorse, Farmer Bill and the Town Christmas tree? There will be no town tree lighting unless Tractor Mac can brave the blizzard, rescue his friends, and help a lot of new friends along the way."

My Review: You can always rely on a good tractor to save the day, Tractor Mac is no different. A fun story about how everyone works together, with Tractor Mac leading the way to kick off the Christmas season with a tree lighting. It includes many classic traditions that can be introduced to little ones, and maybe read before going to a tree lighting. The illustrations are busy but it kept Munchkin's attention while I read the story.
My Rating: This is a pretty wordy story for a children's book but as I said there is enough going on in the pictures to keep little ones entertained as you read the story. We enjoyed it and give it a rating of Three Paws.
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Beginning Reader Review of Snowball Soup by Mercer Mayer

Synopsis: "What does a snowman like to eat? Snowball soup, of course! Join Little Critter®, Little Sister, and Dog as they make their new friend a tasty treat."

My Review: Again we are big Little Critter fans and Munchkin loves snowmen. This is a great intro to reading for beginning readers. They sentences were simple with familiar and short words to read and sound out. The story was full of winter fun and silliness. Munchkin got a kick out of snowball soup for the snowman and now wants to make some too.
My Rating: Adorable, winter fun and easy reading for those period when the kids have to come in to warm up. I loved this one and give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent Reads Day 17: After Dark Review of Dec the Holls by Jasinda Wilder

Synopsis: "A week before Christmas, and all through office not a soul is stirring, not even a mouse. Holly is working overtime, cold and lonely and broke. Across the hall, Declan is lonely too, and thinking this Christmas is going to be a joke. Then one blustery night Holly’s car won’t start and Declan is there to help with a little love in his heart.

Open this gift from bestselling author Jasinda Wilder to find out if a single mother of two can let herself fall in love with her sexy-as-hell workaholic boss."

My Review: This was a great, quick Holiday read. With Wilder you expect a good bit of steam, and you certainly get it with this book but you get so much more. We don't really get to know Declan all that much but we do get to know Holly. Obviously with a short story things move along quicker than in your standard stories (and way faster than in real life) but it was still very enjoyable. I did like how the kids were involved in the story, so often they get mentioned but then not considered again. I really did enjoy how this short read managed to squeeze so much in and still keep it moving along smoothly.
My Rating: This book was rather enjoyable, it could have been short like it is or even a little longer and I could have been happy too. Definitely one to warm you up on these winter nights. I give it a rating of Four Paws.

Pen to Paper: Letter Folding

How are all of you doing in this crazy holiday season? Did you find any of the quotes from last week particularly inspiring and sending you in search of a pen and some paper? I sure hope so!
Anyway, today I thought I would talk a little about some ways to make your pen pal letters a little more fun. I have noticed a trend as I have been doing research for these posts in making pen pal letters a little more creative and fun than just your standard written letter on some lovely stationary. One thing I saw that I thought would be fun (and honestly a little nostalgic to my junior high and high school years) was letter folding.
I test out a few methods on some stationary paper I wasn't planning on using (it was in one of the subscriptions and just wasn't my style at all). It was fun and it was surprising that some how I started remembering a couple of ways I used to fold notes in school.
Here are the pins from Pinterest I used to fold these letters:
Top letter (they called it old fashioned style)
You can also find tutorials on youtube if the pictures don't make sense. And there are obviously a lot more different ways to fold your envelopes.
Some simple tips to have success with folding your letters:
~ Fold the same sized paper to test it before writing your letter.
~ On your test make note of the side that shows when folded so you can make sure your writing is on the inside.
~ Crease your folds with the cap of a pen to keep them nice and crisp (it will help as the folds get thicker)
~ Use a little washi tape to hold it all in place when you are done if it tries to pop up. The wonderful thing about washi tape is that it will peel off without damaging your letter.
I hope that you have a chance to get a little fun and creative with your pen pal letters. I will have a few more creative things to do with your letters coming up in January!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent Reads Day 16: A Cherry Cola Christmas by Ashton Lee

Synopsis: "Christmas is coming to the small town of Cherico, Mississippi, and there’s no better way to prepare than with the Cherry Cola Book Club’s feast of good food, good books—and good people… Cherico’s newlywed librarian Maura Beth Mayhew is back from her honeymoon and she and Jeremy McShay are settling into married life. Maura Beth’s father has even given them the down payment on a charming cottage. But as the holidays approach, Cherico’s economy is struggling. Beloved local shops have closed, jobs have been lost, and there’s even a mysterious crime spree afoot. Amid the gloom, Maura Beth decides what the community needs is a healthy dose of Christmas cheer—which means a special meeting of the Cherry Cola Book Club...

Along with the delicious potluck offerings everyone has come to expect, Maura Beth has invited members and the public to share their most uplifting stories—and share they do. From poignant stories of grief and renewal to joyful stories of love and new life, Cherico’s residents infuse the gathering with so much hope and courage they just might inspire a culprit’s confession, and conjure a holiday miracle that could save the town—and Christmas…"

My Review: I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is one of those books in a series that you really have to read all the preceding books for it to make any sense whatsoever. You are dumped right into the turmoil of a bunch of characters mid storyline. Usually by a third of the way through a book like this I can manage to straighten things out in my mind and get involved in the story but I was really unable to with this book. I had some issues with the main characters, Maura Beth, it sounds like she is supposed to be in her late 20s or early 30s but the way her character acts and her personality in the book sets her to be in her late 60s. I also found the storyline to continually forced back to her, making her the center of the book, which in the long run made for a rather dull read. Over the years I have read several small town, team work to save it, type books, but this one fell a little flat, it wasn't really the town coming together but rather dumb luck that led to the end events.
My Rating: I definitely did not enjoy this book the way I had hoped, maybe if I had read all the previous books I would have had a better connection with the characters, but it just didn't work for me.  I give it a rating of Two Paws.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent Reads Day 15: Froggy's Best Christmas by Jonathan London

Synopsis: "Froggy has never celebrated Christmas; usually he's taking his long winter's nap. But not this year! Froggy's best friend, Max the beaver, wakes him up to join the fun. Soon, Froggy's gotten into the swing of things: finding a tree, wrapping presents, singing carols, and enjoying a holiday feast. Join Froggy as he celebrates his very first, and very best, Christmas!"

My Review: This may not be the best book for bedtime, it is a very loud and very exciting book for little ones. All the animal friends get together to enjoy their first Christmas (since they are all hibernating animals). I wasn't too keen on the fact that everything is loud, the friends shout, yell, etc. nearly everything throughout the book. It does have a lot fun holiday happenings for kids to compare their own adventures with and they will probably enjoy that, but Munchkin wasn't too into the story or the images of this one.
My Rating: This wasn't our favorite holiday story, especially for bedtime. It is cute and it would be a great book for kids who love frogs.  We give it a rating of Two Paws.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Reads Day 14: Picturing Christmas by Jason F. Wright

Synopsis: "New college grad Aubrey Porter is a gifted photographer ready for the world. With a degree and a dream, she's heading to New York City to start a new job and a new life. She can't wait to experience Rockefeller Center and to take a thousand pictures of her first Christmas in the city.

But before she's even on the ground, she loses the job and learns her parents are divorcing.

Can Aubrey find her way in an unforgiving city? Can she find love, or at the very least, a real friend? Most importantly, with her first holiday in New York fast approaching, can she create the kind of Christmas she always pictured?"

My Review: I was shocked to find I didn't instantly love a book by Wright! There were no tears, no pounding hearts, no connection really at all. The story was good, just didn't have the normal emotional power of his other books. Maybe it is because I can't relate to Aubrey's situation. As with all of his books, it does still have a lovely message about making Christmas about others and not yourself.
My Rating: This wasn't quite up to the level I expect from Wright, I always expect tears, even with his short stories but this one didn't bring them. It is still a good Christmas story.  I give it a rating of Three Paws.

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review
A Christmas Jar for Santa by Jason Wright
A Cup of Cozy by Various Authors
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
In from the Cold by Meg Adams
Baby, Its Cold Outside by Various Authors (After Dark)
The Little Light by David Wadsworth (Bedtime Story)
The Christmas Bake-Off by Abby Clements
Jake and the Gingerbread Wars by E.G. Foley

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

Friday Night Lights = 5pts
Magicians = 3pts

Currently Reading:

 Books to be Read Soon:

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg - Mount TBR/ Reading Across the States
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Mount TBR
Dark Sun, Bright Moon by Oliver Sparrow - Requested Review


Total Points Earned
  206 + 8pts earned = 214 points

Pages Read/ Time Listened
55,445 pages read (773 read this week)
198:04 listening time

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



Another week of absolute chaos around here. The office is nuts, we are still struggling to get used to the new schedule at home and now both Munchkin and I are sick. I swear, some year I will have a nice smooth and enjoyable December. I am still plugging away on my reading. I am determined to finish at least all of my challenges this year.  The one fun thing is that I have most of my books for next year's challenge lined up on my shelves and I can't wait to get started!

Munchkin and I are having to stay out of the house on Saturday and Sunday mornings so we have had some fun adventures while Hubby is resting. I will have to try to get some of them posted this week.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent Reads Day 13: Jake and the Gingerbread Wars by E.G. Foley

Synopsis: "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men…and Gingerbread Men?!

After his harsh beginnings as a rough-and-tumble orphan on the streets of London, Jake Everton takes his rightful place as the long-lost heir of an aristocratic family with magical powers – his personal quest, to follow in his slain parents’ footsteps as a Lightrider in the age-old battle of good versus evil. In the fantastical nooks and crannies of the Victorian Age, Jake and his friends (including his pet Gryphon) find no shortage of adventure – righting magic-related wrongs, solving supernatural mysteries, and exploring wondrous new worlds. Now it’s Jake’s first Christmas with his eccentric magical relatives, but trouble never takes a holiday…

Santa’s Horrid Little Helper

Wanted! Humbug, the disgruntled Christmas elf.
Reward: One Christmas wish granted, courtesy of Santa.

Humbug hates being a Christmas elf. Instead of making toys, he’d rather make mischief. Angling for a new job in Halloween Town, he sets out to prove he’s frightful enough for the task by ruining Christmas for as many people as possible - until Jake and his friends capture him. The kids set out on a rip-roaring adventure to the North Pole to hand the troublemaker over to Santa and collect the reward. But the way is fraught with danger, leaving them to wonder if they’ll make it back in time for Christmas…or if they’ll even make it back alive!"

My Review: This was a fun little book for the holiday season. It is great for those Harry Potter fans or even those too young for it yet. It had a wonderful combination of fantasy, magic, adventure as well as several classic holiday stories and beliefs. It is said to be a stand alone book that can be part of the series, but it would definitely be helpful to read the first three books in the series first as some of the events that take place in those books are mentioned and the backstory on the characters would have been helpful as well, but it wasn't necessary to enjoy the book.
My Rating: This was a lot of fun to read, and gives you such a wide variety of ideas and genres in one little book. It may be a little advanced for young Middle Grade readers but I think they would still enjoy it. I give it a rating of Four Paws!