Christmas book?

Somehow this failed to make it into my book haul post, but I realized my mistake last night and took the appropriate photos so I can show off what my husband did with the beautiful encyclopedia we found at a book sale a few months ago:

Why yes, that is a dark chocolate bar inside of my new, handmade book box. :D Did I mention the wonderful old book smell? Mmmmm.


Christmas book haul!

First, a brief explanation as to why there were only two posts last week: I was on the other side of the country playing lots of games, eating lots of cookies, eating lots of good food in general (curry, soup, pork ribs, apple stuffing...), hanging out with a few friends, admiring Christmas lights and enjoying a week with my in-laws, while the macbook stayed at home.

Back to the book haul. This massive stack is a combination of Christmas presents, books bought with Christmas presents (aka gift cards) and a book-for-review deal. The four on the right are actually my husband's, and he does plan on exchanging one of those duplicate copies. :)


end of year book insanity

I discovered this linkup while wandering around the web a few weeks ago and thought heck, why not? Perhaps I'll make some new friends. :) At the very least, it's a good way to wrap up the year.

1. What was your overall favourite book this year? (Yes. Pick one.)
Oh, what a terrible question. Especially to start with. DragonSpell, if I must choose. Technically a re-read, but I received the next three books in the series for Christmas, so naturally I had to refresh my memory. And it was the book that launched me into a full-blown obsession with Donita K. Paul.

2. Favourite debut(s)? (Author must have been first published in 2013.)
Burning Sky, by Lori Benton. Followed closely by The Guardian (C.L. McCourt) and its sequel, The Channel. The first is a Christian historical romance--gasp! yes, I do dislike romances as a whole--and the other two are fantasy novels. No surprise there. :)

3. Which books did you re-read this year?
Ahem. Clearly I didn't read all the questions before starting to write. DragonSpell, First Light (Bodie and Brock Thoene) and Misty of Chincoteague (Marguerite Henry). Oh, and I recently finished Catching Fire again... I couldn't help myself after watching the movie.


The Nativity Story

by Angela Elwell Hunt

Confession: I thought the movie was based on the book, but it turns out the book is a novelization of the movie. Since I only discovered this upon picking up The Nativity Story at the library (I'd placed a hold on it), I went ahead and read my first movie novelization.

It was... ok. I haven't seen the movie in a while, but I remember it as being wonderful--the book fell a bit short, though. Although I generally enjoy fictionalizations of biblical stories (i.e. the AD Chronicles by Bodie and Brock Thoene), this book seemed a bit too personal. Somehow it crossed a line where the movie didn't. I think I need to see the movie again.

Mary's character had quite a bit of depth to her, but Joseph's character was disappointingly lacking. The plot also felt a bit rushed on several occasions. However, I can't dismiss this book as an entire failure, as I did enjoy it enough to whisk through it in about three or four days. It makes the well-known story feel more real, and fits it into a cultural context.

One of my favorite chapters, oddly enough, is the epilogue. This two-page summary outlines in plain, easy-to understand language what occurred after Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, including the division of Herod's kingdom upon his death. On the other hand, feel free to skip the prologue. It's set in present-day and doesn't really fit with the rest of the book.

3/5 leaves

The Nativity Story - A Novel


Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)

by Suzanne Collins

This was definitely a re-read, but after seeing the movie I just had to drop everything else and rip through it again. Catching fire provides a wonderful follow-up to The Hunger Games, and despite being the second book in a trilogy it does not fully consist of fluff. In fact, there is no fluff.

The first two-thirds of the book overflows with glorious character development, though at the same time the plot continues to move forward at a comfortable pace and there is no time or reason to be bored. Warning: make sure you have a few spare consecutive hours before you begin part three in this book. It may be divided into chapters, but you won't even notice. It's full of action and some very intense scenes.

The ending. Oh my goodness the ending. "It won't be as bad, since I'm expecting it," I thought, "I've already read it once AND seen the movie." Nope. It's bad every time. The epitome of CLIFFHANGER (yes, in all caps). On the positive side, the third book has already been published--just make sure you have a copy handy before you finish Catching Fire.

Just a note about the movie, since some of you may be wondering. I loved it, my husband loved it and even my brother loved it (who is studying film and is a pretty reliable movie critic). Naturally, there were a few parts it left out that I wish it hadn't, but otherwise it stayed pretty true to the book. And the cinematography was sooo much better than in the first movie.

5/5 leaves

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)


The Night Before Christmas... The Gift

by Linda Crosland

This picture book tells the story of the birth of Jesus using the same rhyming style of the traditional 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. It's a fun way to read the well-known story to children, though the rhythm doesn't always flow as well as it could.

The illustrations are bright and colorful, and almost all of the text is on images of scrolls. There are a few pages that may not make a whole lot of sense to young children, but could spark some important conversations about Christmas, Jesus and what it means to be a Christian. On the other hand, the last few pages dragged on a bit, almost as if the author couldn't decide how to end it or had an agenda to get across and wanted to present it in as many ways as possible.

I wasn't a huge fan of this book, but I'm neither a child nor a parent of children, so take my review with a grain of salt (as you always should!). :)

2/5 leaves

The Night Before Christmas... The Gift

(I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)



we say the gifts are "just for fun"
--the joy of giving, making spirits bright--
that we know the meaning behind it all

but is Christ forefront in our hearts
as we race for parking spots and
shove (politely) through malls?
it's rude, we say, not to give,
as fingers fasten paper and curl bows

and yet the paradox remains that
the greatest gift of all came wrapped
in poverty


alternative giving (share the love this Christmas)

If you're anything like me this year, you've only done about half of your Christmas shopping thus far. I found myself perusing a few websites that I had nearly forgotten about until this morning, and thought I'd share some ideas. They're all more "alternative" gifts, which means you donate to a non-profit instead of giving a present to someone who already has everything, or you buy something from an organization that supports a good cause.

Better World Books is an online bookstore that sells both new and used books and supports world literacy programs. They recently started a Book for Book program: for every book purchased, BWB gives one to someone in need. Buy a book or gift certificate, or donate to this wonderful company! When buying books online, I always check here first.

New Community Project is a Christian organization dedicated to "promoting peace through justice, care for creation, and experiential learning." Their alternative gifts page provides links to fair trade partners offering jewelry, stationary, bags and t-shirts. You can also choose to give a donation to NCP to support their global projects in girls' education, women's development or reforestation. I spent a summer as an NCP sustainable urban gardening intern a few years ago, and can attest to what a great organization it is!


Oh Holy Night: The Peace of 1914

Michael C. Snow (author) and Annie Berzovan (illustrator)

Oh Holy Night tells of the events that occurred on Christmas of 1914 in the trenches of WWI--how for one day, enemies met in no man's land as friends. It's mostly a compilation of soldiers' letters home, with relevant hymns and biblical passages woven in and black-and-white drawings scattered throughout.

Honestly, I found it a bit dry, and the organization didn't flow well enough for my taste. However, I'm neither a fan of non-fiction nor of history (although I do like historical fiction...), and this is both of those things. I did enjoy and was moved by the story told in Oh Holy Night, but got tripped up in some of the details and by the fact that I never really paid much attention in history class.

I think this would be a great gift for history buffs, particularly those interested in WWI. Oh Holy Night not only tells the story of one day, but weaves it into the larger picture of the whole war, and even how it relates to the second World War.

3/5 leaves

Oh Holy Night: The Peace of 1914

(Thanks to Michael Snow for sending me a free ebook in exchange for an honest review!)


A Trivia Game to Rule Them All

Classic Ramblings

Here are 25 fun trivia questions for you to answer! Some of these questions apply to the movies, some only to the book, and some apply to behind-the-scenes content from the movies.

My answers/guesses are listed at the end. The correct answers will be posted to Classic Ramblings on Friday.

1. Who first identifies correctly the flock of Crebain that flies over the Fellowship?

2. What battle gear does Eowyn try to block the Witch-King's blow with?

3. What four-legged creature does Gandalf say has been his friend through many dangers?

4. Who did Elrond lead to the Mount Doom abyss after Sauron's long-ago defeat?

Lord of the Rings blog party!

Classic Ramblings

The ladies over at Classic Ramblings and Inklings Press are hosting A Short Cut To Mushrooms: An Unexpected LotR Blog Party, in anticipation of the upcoming Hobbit movie. Naturally, being a huge LotR fan myself, I couldn't help but join in the fun. :)

Nine tag questions to rule them all...

1. What was your first introduction to Lord of the Rings?
After hearing various people gush about them for several years, I finally decided to watch the movies sometime in high school--after they'd all come out.

2. Have you ever read the book?
All of them, of course!

3. Which version of the movies do you prefer – the extended version or the theatrical release?
Definitely the extended version. I actually saw the extended version first, so when I finally saw the theatrical version, I felt like there were parts missing.


blessed Elizabeth

nine months in a silent house
five in self-prescribed seclusion

did she know the full meaning
behind her husband's stiff tongue,
could she read the truth 
in his steady gaze (his hands, his face)?

nearly half a year alone
in praise, joy, worship--
or in quiet meditation?
did she join Zechariah's silence?

she knew, at least, about Mary
for one word from the young girl's lips
and John--six months in the womb--
recognized the sweet voice of his savior's presence

and Elizabeth knew
she was blessed

I wrote this poem after reading the first chapter of Luke--it's mostly based off of verses 23-45. I don't remember having noticed the five months Elizabeth spent in seclusion before, but it really stood out to me this time. Zechariah tends to take the spotlight in the first pages of Luke, followed quickly by Mary with a brief mention of Elizabeth in-between. But I find her untold story fascinating, especially in comparison (and contrast) to Mary's.


Fire Storm review, author interview and GIVEAWAY!

Fire Storm by Mackenzie Dare

“But we have no enemies!”… Why would a young mother, happily married and safely nestled amongst the cornfields of small town Illinois suddenly start finding murder attempts around every corner? 

A fireman, Jim thrives on danger, that is until it creeps closer than he ever expected – not to him, but to the one he loves more than life itself – his wife. Who and why? How can the “protector” keep his most cherished possession from this unseen killer? 

Totally innocent – untouched by evil, Jess cannot explain or understand the incidents threatening her very existence. Holding on to her husband and clinging to her knowledge of a powerful God, she can only strive to keep trust in her soul and a smile in her heart, as the icy fingers of death lurk, coiled behind every corner. Safe in innocence, secure in love – marked for murder! God bless our home – if it doesn’t blow up!


words borrowed from Wendell Berry--a correction

Back in May I posted a poem by Wendell Berry (as I am wont to do), but the other day a fellow blogger also posted it, and I discovered that I had only had snippets of the whole glorious poem. Guess I should've done my research. In any case, here is the poem in its entirety.

Listen to Carrion

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.


Strangers at My Door

by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

What would happen if you moved your young family to a ‘dangerous’ neighborhood and opened the door to everyone who knocked? What if, instead of a homeless drug addict, you saw Jesus standing on the front porch? Jonathan and his wife, Leah, moved to the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC, to start a hospitality house where the fatherless, widows, hungry and homeless could become a part of the family.

Jonathan does not preach through this book—he doesn’t tell us all to go out and start our own hospitality houses. Rather, he simply strives to share the lessons he’s learned about Jesus and our broken society through the people he’s met on this journey. There are meals shared, stories told, prayers lifted and struggles overcome. But there are failures among the victories, because no family is without faults. Laptops are stolen, trust is broken and friends disappear.

I devoured the first half of this book in one sitting, and then stretched the rest over the following three or four days, working it in around other commitments. For some of you that may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve finished a book in less than two weeks. Which, of course, means Strangers at My Door is a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.

4/5 leaves

Strangers at My Door: An Experiment in Radical Hospitality

(I won this book in a Goodreads first reads giveaway! All opinions expressed above are my own.)