A Rare Nativity

A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (Images by Nina & Terral Cochran)

Blurb:
“We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and we’ve all seen the traditional Christmas crèche. Now, author Sam Beeson and photographers Nina and Terral Cochran combine these two classic Christmas icons to create A Rare Nativity. Upon reading the first lines of the book, it’s clear the narrator holds a bitter grudge as he sends his enemy crude and discarded gifts…Night after night the “gifts” pile up–shards of glass, rusty nails, gnarled twigs, and more. What the narrator’s enemy decides to do with each of these odious gifts is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. The photographic creation of the rare nativity at the end of the book is both a work of art and a wonder to behold. Forgiveness is something we all need to give and receive, and A Rare Nativity opens our eyes to the act of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a universal message to be shared with readers of all ages. Christmas is a season for giving. Make it a season of forgiving.”
My Review:
I have to admit that this book was not at all what I imagined when I opened the cover. When I think of Christmas books, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I think of angels and wise men, and I think of happiness and joy. I think of children smiling, of carols, and of family. I also think of yummy treats. When I opened this book I expected to find those things, or things that are similar. Especially thinking of the nativity, I think of Joseph and Mary with their baby in the stable. I think of angels, wise men, and shepherds. That is not what I found when I opened this book, and it definitely surprised me. This book is very different from every other Christmas book I have ever read, and I’m still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. It opens with the line, “On the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tanglewood tree.” This includes a picture of a burr-like thing; I’m assuming it’s a briar. It goes on like that for many pages, with the narrator giving his enemy all these awful things. In the end, there is a good moral, it all comes together, and you understand. However, I felt like it focused way too much on the negative gifts and the enemy. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, but I just felt like it was 90% negative and 10% positive, and even though the positive was good, it wasn’t enough to win me over. It’s still a good book, and it’s a good lesson to teach my kids, but unfortunately it will not be my new favorite Christmas book. If you’re looking for something different this year, then A Rare Nativity will be just the book for you!

Rating: G (It’s clean)

Recommendation: Everyone

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Gift

The Gift by Richard Paul Evans
Blurb:
“Nathan Hurst hated Christmas. For the rest of the world it was a day of joy and celebration; for Nathan it was simply a reminder of the event that destroyed his childhood until a snowstorm, a cancelled flight, and an unexpected meeting with a young mother and her very special son would show him that Christmas is indeed the season of miracles.”

My review:

Wow. This book is full of emotions: happiness, sadness, hope, love, relief, nervousness, and belief. I like the writing style in this book. It’s easy to read and just sucks you into the story. The characters are developed well and are realistic. I liked Nathan at first, but the more you get to know him the more you learn about him, and the more you like him. I liked Addison a lot. She just seems like a normal, everyday mom who works hard and is trying to make the best of the situation she is in. I liked Collin and Elizabeth too, especially Collin. He is so sweet and giving. I really liked Miche as well. She’s awesome. This story is a little cheesy in parts, but it’s okay! It’s a good, sweet cheese that melts your heart. It’s a wonderful story of learning to accept who you are, forgive others and yourself, and move on after tragedy strikes. It’s a story of enjoying life and not taking the people in our lives for granted. I enjoyed being drawn into this world. There are so many lessons to be learned, and it definitely makes you hug your family a little tighter. I got this book at the library for Christmas (Yes, I’ve had it since Christmas…..it took me awhile to get to it.), and my 13 year-old son read it. He kept saying I had to read it, so I finally got to it. I’m glad I did. I do wish I had read it before he did because there are some heavier topics that I would have liked to discuss with him, but he seemed to do okay with it. It is kind of a Christmas story, but is also not a Christmas story, so it can be enjoyed at any time throughout the year.

There isn’t any profanity in this book (thank you!), there isn’t any “intimacy” either. There is one domestic violence scene that involves some yelling, pushing, and a small cut. There is also a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment. It’s not too detailed.

Rating: PG+ (No profanity or “intimacy,” but there is a slightly violent domestic violence scene and a scene where a man is confronted about his sexual harassment.)

Recommendation: 12-13 years-old an up. You may want to read it before your kids do, just to make sure your child is mature enough. My 13 year-old didn’t like the ending, but did fine with it.

Book Review of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We all know the story. Scrooge is a mean spirited old man who doesn’t like Christmas or anything happy, for that matter. He works with Bob Cratchett, and will not allow him enough fire to stay warm. He pays him very little and detests that he wants one day off for Christmas. He used to have a partner, Marley, but he passed away. Christmas eve Scrooge goes home and Marley’s ghost comes to visit him. Marley’s ghost carries heavy chains and tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts that night. So the ghost of Christmas past comes, then the ghost of Christmas present, and then the ghost of Christmas yet to be. Scrooge sees the Cratchett family with Tiny Tim, he sees himself dead, and he sees many of his good past memories. These memories and feelings are enough to give Scrooge the motivation to change his life.

I have heard the story before, I’ve seen a few different movie versions, and I actually acted as Mrs. Cratchett in third grade. So I like the story a lot; however, I have never read the real Charles Dickens’ version. I really enjoyed it. I love the language in many of the classics. I love the attention to detail, the descriptions, and the feeling of this book. It did take a minute to get back into the language, but I loved it. I love the message of this story. I love that it teaches living life to the fullest and the importance of families. I love that it teaches that it’s never too late to change. This is the perfect story for Christmas time. I think I’ll make it an annual read, and maybe read it to my kids next year.

Rating: PG  (It’s a great clean book for all ages. It might be a little scary for the little ones.)

Recommendation: Everyone can read and enjoy this book!

This review was originally posted on 12/24/11

The Santa Claus League

The Santa Claus League by Stephen Miller
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Twas the night before Christmas…Julia Martin is the most incredible girl in school, and Mason Howell is hopelessly smitten by her. Julia is in charge of the local Charity Christmas party and she’s pleased at how well everything is going…until her Santa Claus calls in sick. In a panic, she begs Mason to help her by wearing his grandfather’s heirloom Santa Claus suit. Mason agrees, to impress the beautiful girl, but things don’t go as planned…as soon as he puts on the suit, he gets all the powers of Santa Claus! Together with John Patton, Mason’s best friend, they learn his grandfather was a member of an ancient league of men and women dedicated to helping St. Nicholas use Christmas magic to save the world. The three of them could become the newest members of the Santa Claus League…if they can learn the secrets of Christmas magic!”
This book is so much fun! I really enjoyed it. It is a fast, easy read (I read it in a couple of hours.), and is a lot of fun. The characters are well done and mostly believable. There are a few minor things in their characteristics that aren’t fully realistic, but it didn’t distract from the story. Mason and John have a good relationship and I liked both of them. I liked Mason’s sense of humor and John’s excitement for life. I thought Julia was a really cute character and was the perfect fit with Mason and John. This book takes a lot of questions regarding Santa Claus and explains them….in a fun and exciting way. It is great for both boys (lots of action and getting away from bad guys) and girls (Julia is sweet and there’s some kissing action going on). There is a hint of a Christian theme in the book; they talk about prayers at meetings and things, but it is not overpowering and is not a part of the main story line. I love how it explains Santa and I love the Santa Claus suit. I loved the descriptions of the smells and sounds surrounding Christmas, and how each person had an individual scent and feeling surrounding him or her. John’s car is amazing and so creative, and I loved the Rudolph explanation as well. This book doesn’t give away any Christmas magic, but it explains it well, so it is safe for believers and non-believers alike.  I’m going to turn it over to both my boys (12 and 10) and I think they will both enjoy it. I am glad it’s clean and that the characters purposefully try not to hurt anyone. This is a great Christmas book and I recommend it. It is entertaining and fun.
Rating: PG (Some minor violence, some scary bad guys, and some kissing)
Recommendation: 4th grade and up (If that 4th grader is ok with some kissing. The characters are 17.)

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

*This review was originally published on 12/9/13

This is the Turkey

This is the Turkey by Abby Levine
This is a fun story! It’s written in rhyme, which is always fun, and it’s actually well done. It is clever and full of some fun surprises. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and so cute! I love the expressions on the faces. I love that, although exaggerated a bit, it is real. Life with family on Thanksgiving never turns out perfectly, and instead of getting upset and angry, you just need to learn to roll with it. Also, we all make mistakes, and it’s okay. We shouldn’t “cry over spilled milk,” but be thankful for what we do have. I think this book is so cute!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone

Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving

Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving by Peter and Connie Roop
We got this book a few years ago in a book order from the school, and I actually like it. It has some very good information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. It isn’t a fictional story, it is facts and information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans involved in that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony in 1621. I love that they tried to make it accurate. The Pilgrims did not wear black and white clothing, and the Native Americans did not live in teepees. It talks about the Mayflower, the hardships that the Pilgrims faced, how Squanto and Massasoit fit in, how the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims, and what they probably ate at that first Thanksgiving. As far as I can tell, the information is accurate with what I have researched myself. So that part is great for the parents! Then there are fun jokes and fascinating facts interspersed with all the information to make it more fun for the kids. For example, “The Mayflower traveled at a speed of 2 miles an hour. That is about 48 miles a day.” And, “If a Pilgrim threw a pumpkin into the air, what came down? Squash!” Hahaha….. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they are well done. They are still cartoony (is that even a word??), but they try to be more accurate than most illustrators do. I also like that they talk about different Thanksgiving celebrations around the world, and that there were a few Thanksgiving celebrations before the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.
I like the accurate information in this book! I like that the authors took the time to do the research and teach the children correct information. I love the illustrations! We talked about Thanksgiving last night in our family, and my 11 year-old son kept giving all these correct answers. When I asked him where he learned it (because I’m sure he didn’t remember it from last year, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t learn all of it in school), he said it was from this book. Yay! Love it!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone!

Mayflower

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
This book describes the events that happened before the Mayflower left England, during the voyage across the Atlantic, and after the Pilgrims decided to settle Plymouth. It describes the ever-changing relationships between the Pilgrims and the Natives, in great detail. Philbrick spends a lot of time describing King Phillip’s War of 1675-1676, of which I did not even know. This war was devastating to both the English and the Native Americans alike, and yet it is not very well publicized. The book takes you into the early 17th Century and debunks the common myths about the first Thanksgiving and even Plymouth Rock.
I really liked this book. Both my husband and I come from Pricilla Mullins, a young girl who traveled on the Mayflower, and who was orphaned early on. The book does not go into a lot of detail about each individual on the ship, which is what I was expecting, but more the main characters and the situations they went through in general. Philbrick’s writing is not as captivating as David McCoullough’s, but is good and I felt as if I too suffered through that first winter. He is really good at not taking sides, or showing too much of a bias. I felt for the Natives and the English alike. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyone involved. I enjoy history books, especially when they involve my ancestors, so even though it took me a long time to read (I renewed it three times at the library), I learned a lot and was glad I had read it. I would recommend this book for high schoolers and adults. I was really glad to learn the truth about what happened, instead of the fluff and sentamentality that we now seem to take as truth.
Rated: PG-13+ (war atrocities)
Recommendation: High School and Up
*This post was originally published on 11/23/09

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Summary:

“‘I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.’ A summer evening’s ghost stories, lonely insomnia in a moonlit Alpine room, and a runaway imagination–fired by philosophical discussions with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley about science, galvanism, and the origins of life–conspired to produce for Mary Shelley this haunting night specter. By morning, it had become the gem of her Romantic masterpiece, FRANKENSTEIN. Written in 1816 when she was only nineteen, Mary Shelley’s novel of ‘The Modern Prometheus’ chillingly dramatized the dangerous potential of life begotten upon a laboratory table. A frightening creation myth for our own time, FRANKENSTEIN remains one of the greatest horror stories ever written and is an undisputed classic of its kind.”

My Review:

I have read this book a few times, and I reread it today because I realized that I haven’t ever reviewed it, and I thought it would be perfect for Halloween. This is definitely a classic. I love the language and the rich vocabulary in this book. It does take awhile to get back into it, after reading many current novels, but I love it. Mary Shelley did a great job with this book. Although it is well known, the current trend is to call the monster Frankenstein, when in reality, it is the scientist that is named Frankenstein. The creature is never given a name, except for Fiend, Monster, and Creature. This book is morbid, if you think about it. And, even though technology may eventually be to where we could possibly create life, I hope we never do. The creature that Frankenstein creates is a very interesting character. He begins his life with hope and joy and innocence. The more humans that revile him, the more angry and fiendish he becomes. At times you feel sorry for him and at other times you are repulsed by him and his behavior. There are many human traits discussed in this book, and many of them are still with us today. This book is well written. The characters are very well developed and come to life on the page.

There are a few swear words, but they actually aren’t really used as swear words in the book. There is no “intimacy,” but there are several murders. There is also the ethics of giving life to a monster. I actually really do like this book, even though it is morbid.

Rating: PG 13+ (Several characters are murdered)

Recommendation: 14 and up

It’s Halloween

It’s Halloween by Jack Prelutsky
There are lots of children’s picture books for Halloween, but this one is fun because it’s a little longer and even has chapters! It’s great for the second/third graders who want to read something a little more than a picture book. It’s written in lyrical form, which is so fun, and it’s all about the kids on Halloween. There are ghosts and goblins, jack-o-lanterns and witches. There are some tricksters, some goblins, and even a scare or two. The illustrations are cute and fun, and it’s a story all the kids will love.
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone (Silent Read: End of first grade, second grade, third grade)