Monthly Archives: October 2010

Everything Christmas by David Bordon, Tom Winters

I am someone who firmly believes that Christmas celebration should not start until the day after (American) Thanksgiving. So why am I reviewing a Christmas book in October? I won Everything Christmas as a goodreads giveaway and wanted to review it ASAP.

From goodreads.com

Book Cover of Everything Christmas by David Bordon & Tom WintersOpening this book is like opening a box full of Christmas cheer.

Christmas is a time of celebration and wonder, a time to embrace longstanding traditions and establish new ones. It’s a time for meals made of memories and heartwarming stories shared around the fireplace. It’s a time for worship, reflection, and remembrance of God’s greatest gift.

Everything Christmas brings all the best ideas for the holiday season together in one volume. In this book, you’ll find your favorite classic Christmas stories and a few new ones destined to join them. You’ll discover the most delectable holiday recipes, enjoy the words to treasured hymns and carols, be encouraged by inspirational Christmas poems, and find renewed joy in the Nativity story. From decoration ideas to Christmas trivia and humor – it’s all here!

Growing up, Christmastime was a big celebration for my family. My younger sister and I spent the day after Thanksgiving decorating our parents house for Christmas. This was a massive all-day effort. The Christmas festivity continued on throughout the holiday season. These experiences have made me realize how important Christmas traditions are.

My husband and I will soon be starting our own family. This is a chance for us to start our own holiday rituals. We will borrow from our childhood for some customs, while also trying to incorporate new ones. I found Everything Christmas was a great place to start looking for new traditions.

It was impossible to read this book and not start to feel some holiday spirit. This book is set up to be used as an Advent Calendar. There are 24 chapters in this book, one for each day leading up to Christmas. The chapters each center on things such as holiday recipes, crafts, carols, poems, and holiday stories. The stories were so enjoyable that I had a hard time putting the book down.

The book served as both entertainment and a great Christmas resource. In its pages are the words to most of the classic Christmas Carols, as well as stories of their origins. If you are looking for a recipe for your holiday table, this book has you covered. The craft ideas had me itching for a trip to my local Michael’s to pick up supplies. After reading I was left wishing it was December!

Review: I was a bit uncertain about this book when I won it, but am now very glad I had the opportunity to read it. I enjoyed many of the stories, poems, and jokes found in its pages. My husband and I were inspired by the recipes and plan on trying some for the upcoming holidays. Everything Christmas is the perfect book to put you in the holiday mood.

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Baby Bargains by Denise Fields, Alan Fields

Recently I have been surrounded by pregnant women. I find this great! As a result, I wanted to discuss a book that I think is a MUST HAVE for pregnant moms. Here is my review for Baby Bargains, 8th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! by Denise Fields, Alan Fields.

From goodreads.com

Baby Bargains, 8th Edition Book CoverOh baby! With the average newborn racking up $7,000 in expenses for the first year alone, expectant moms and dads need all the creative cost-cutting ideas they can find. Baby Bargains is the answer. Inside, parents find detailed ratings and reviews of baby gear, plus handy charts that compare brands and models. Since its release in 1994, BABY BARGAINS has sold over 800,000 copies.

The baby supply industry is large and confusing. Walking into any local Babies R’ Us leads to one being ambushed by aisles of strollers, car seats, and bottles. To a first time parent, this experience can be frightening. Baby Bargains is a book that will help ease new parent anxiety about what to buy for their little one.

I love doing research before purchasing something new. This book is the perfect research tool for any baby product purchase. It breaks up the multitude of baby products into easy to follow chapters. Each chapter covers a different category of baby product. For example one chapter covers nursery items, while another discusses feeding the new addition. These categories are further broken down into manageable sections. A look into the nursery section shows discussion of cribs, bassinets, mattresses, dressers and changing tables. This layout leads to easy to read sections full of knowledgeable information.

The best part of each chapter is the in-depth reviews of each brand which sells a product in that category. Some sections–such as those discussing car seats and strollers–review most individual products. Information about recalls and safety tips is included, when relevant. The authors discuss the best places for making purchases or creating a registry. Basically this book contains all the information you need to clothe/bath/feed/transport your child for the first few years of your baby’s life.

This book is also very helpful at letting you know which products you don’t need to buy. Items such as bassinets and changing tables are marketed as “Must Haves” for parents. Reading this book I found cheaper–but still safe–alternatives to these costly items. This was one of the many ways that Baby Bargains helped save me money.

I was initially afraid that I would be overwhelmed by this book. To avoid this feeling, I made sure to purchase this book about a month before I planned on starting my registry. This allowed me to go through the book in small sections. I found it helpful to tag products that I was interested in making it easier to find out which products I wanted to further research. This approach helped me take in all the contents of the book without feeling flooded with information. You can see from the image to the right that my copy was well-read!

Review: This book is a great resource for anyone having a baby. As a first time mother, I was afraid that the process of buying all the items I needed for my baby would send me running. Instead I felt prepared and informed. Baby Bargains provides a great starting point for researching what items you need, and what are just a waste of money. It also serves as an invaluable resource in narrowing down which brands are the best in each category. Any person who has read this book will be equipped with enough information to make smart and informed decisions when deciding what to buy for her unborn child.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

During Banned Books Week I was able to read 3 banned or challenged books. First up for review is Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.

From goodreads.com

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler’s pitch perfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author’s award-winning, widely read work.

Usually I start a review post by discussing my thoughts on the book. I feel it is best to take a slightly different approach this time. For this book, my thoughts are closely related to some of the points made by those challenging it. As a result, I think it is best that I start off with some information on that topic.

From Marshall.edu

Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County (KY) High School, but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained have complained [sic] about five novels that contain foul language and cover topics – including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse – deemed unsuited to discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college prepetory classes. The superintendent removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission.

I gathered three main points from the above quote about why this book has been challenged. The first is for foul language. The second is the age appropriateness of the topics–sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse–covered in the book. The third is the fact that parents don’t find Twisted intellectually-challenging enough at a college preparatory level.

I have very little to say on the first point. In my opinion, the book contained language no harsher than anything you would hear in a typical high school. It is silly to pretend high school students have never heard these words.

I don’t feel qualified to discuss the third point. With no background in education, I am ill-equipped to talk about what is or isn’t rigorous enough for a high school honors class. If anything the “2” I received on my AP English test shows that I’m probably less qualified than most to discuss the topic.

The second point is the one I would like to focus on in this post. My first impression on completing of this book was how realistic it was. I have read many YA stories in which teenagers engage in dangerous situations–such as underage drinking–with little to no consequences. Often the worst that happens to these teens is that they get caught and grounded. To the young adult, this punishment is brutal, but in reality it is far from harsh. Watching the news on any weekend can show you the real impact of underage drinking. Often the teens discussed in these news stories are left facing criminal charges. Anderson could go the route that many other YA authors travel and skip discussing these real-life consequences. Instead she created a book that addresses these issues in a way that makes it a powerful read for teens.

The situations discussed in this book are ones that could happen to any teenager; the consequences are just as real. At some times the truthfulness of the book can make the reader uncomfortable. That fact just contributes to a realistic story. Some parents feel that it is best to protect their children from the events in Twisted by not allowing them to read the book. Adults think it will ensure these things do not happen to their kids. This could end up having the opposite effect than desired. When parents keep their children in the dark about the topics covered in this book–and therefore their consequences–children won’t know what do when faced with those situations. A teen that has been educated on such scenarios will know to avoid them.

Anderson herself talks about why shielding a high school student from the negative things in life can be harmful.

Because readers who can experience those decisions – by reading about them – and appreciate the consequences of those actions – by seeing those consequences affect the lives of a book’s characters – are less likely to do the stupid, dangerous and occasionally horrifying things themselves.

She also goes on to discuss the feedback she has gotten from many teenage readers. These letters all talk about how this book helped them through situations similar to those the characters in Twisted encountered. To me, this demonstrates the real-world applicability of this novel. Students in high school are at the age when this subject matter may be most relevant. As a result, parents should be encouraging students to read this book, not stopping them.

Review: Anderson does a great job telling the story of Tyler Miller. I felt as if I was living his live along side him. His journey of ups and downs made the book far from predictable. I was always interested to see what happened next. This lead to a book that was very enjoyable and hard to put down.

Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

It’s time to review another book for the Chick Lit Challenge. This time I’m discussing Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.

From goodreads.com

 Mini Shopaholic (Shopaholic #6) by Sophie Kinsella Nothing comes between Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and her bargains. Neither act of God nor budget crunch can shatter her dreams of wall-to-wall Prada. Every milestone in her well-shopped life (travel, long-lost sister, marriage, pregnancy) inspires new vistas to explore in the name of retail therapy. But now she faces her greatest little challenge yet: Becky’s two-year-old daughter, Minnie.

While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be—Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers—adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “MINE!” and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five.

Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop—not Becky’s personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it’s time for Becky to step in—with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone’s woes. At first.

Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke’s unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.

Sophie Kinsella has written six books in her Shopaholic Series. The first three books were cute and endearing. Becky’s various dramas and inability to save money were amusing. Her skill at finding a way to fix everything at the last minute had you rooting for her throughout the story. I found these books to be quite enjoyable.

The last two books in the series were a different story. Becky showed little growth as a character. Her antics–which started off as funny–became repetitive. When I’m reading a story, I hope to see the main character grow and change; something Becky seems unable to do. Her lack of growth led to books that felt repetitive and formulaic.

This disappointing pattern is not broken in Mini Shopaholic. The only difference in Becky’s latest adventure is the addition of a two-year-old accomplice. Becky is now able to excuse her shopping habits by passing them off as her daughter’s. This small addition is not enough to make the plot interesting. I struggled to get through the first half of the book. I kept hoping that the “How does Becky get herself out of trouble this time” storyline was enough to continue reading. Luckily it was worth the wait.

The first half of this book was mostly a tale of self-indulgence and reckless behavior. By contrast, the second half was interesting and moving. I enjoyed how the relationship between Luke and his estranged mother was explored. This story grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading. The storyline did not entirely save the book, but made me glad I stuck with it.

As always, the book ended as a setup for another addition in the Shopaholic series. I would be interested in reading this next book to see what is in store for Luke and his mother. Unfortunately I feel this followup story will again focus primarily on Becky and her flighty tendencies. I would have hoped by now that she had learned something, but clearly not. Perhaps the next tale will be the one in which we finally see Becky grow as a character.

Review: I feel as if this book would be more enjoyable to someone unfamiliar with the series. As a standalone story, the plot is interesting. As part of a series, it feels recycled. There are only so many times I can read about Becky’s repeated mistakes before I start wondering why she has yet to learn anything. For fans of the series, I suggest this as a library read. It is OK but not worth the $13.50 purchase price.