12 Days

Our 12 Days of Christmas series.

Christmas Special: Bookish Decorations

Hello! Our Christmas Special returns – this time with ideas for bookish decorations. There’s still a bit of time left to decorate, so we hope these images and posts will inspire you!

 

1. Bookish Ornament from What have I done now? Looks like a fun and easy way to add some bookish fun to your Christmas tree.

2. Christmas Wrapping. Not really a decoration, but these wrapping ideas from Book Riot would look beautiful under the tree. Added bonus -repurpose those copies of books you loathed.

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3. Sparkly Snowflakes. These snowflakes might be a little ambitious for me, but for the really crafty folks, these snowflakes from House Revivals would be a lovely addition around the house.

4. Book Garland. On a budget? Have lots of old books? Ornaments, garlands, and more from Alisa Burke. Here’s another garland from Natalie Bradley. Do the whole house in a bookish style.

5. Snowflake Picture Frame. Love this idea for a nice winter scene from A place 2 call home. Scroll a bit for the instructions.

 

 

And that wraps up this Christmas Special! Try out one or more if you’re feeling crafty. Comment below with your success stories and tips.

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Christmas Special: Bookish Gifts for the Book Lover

This Christmas, we will be re-posting some of our Christmas specials from last year. For the first three Sundays in December, we’ll share a popular post from our 12 Days of Christmas series. This week:

Five bookish gifts for the book lover in your life

1. Simplifying the holidays? Celebrating sustainably? How about creating a redeemable coupon for a trip together to a bookstore, library, or secondhand bookstore? Check your local listings on Google, Yelp … well, you know what to do. If you have little readers at home and yet have trouble finding time to read together, give them redeemable coupons for some reading-aloud-together time.

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On the twelfth day of Christmas…we wish you a safe and happy holiday!

christmas_featureThis marks the last day of our 12 days of Christmas – and I am happy to be able to even put this post up considering my Internet has been down for 2 days. Oh the joys of winter ice storms. But on the plus side, being stuck inside all day, I was able to catch up on some reading and book reviews.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed our first ever 12 days of Christmas and that you’ve picked up some new book recommendations for your to-read pile. Here’s to actually finding time to read over the holidays!

After Christmas day, Stacey and I will be back to our regular review schedule, so stay tuned for some great upcoming books!

On behalf of Stacey and myself, we want to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and as this ice storm has reminded me, be careful on the roads.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, we encourage you to get in the winter spirit with a wintery book

wolvesThe Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Simon & Schuster, July 10th, 2007 (Historical Mystery / Confronting the Wilderness)

My rating: Outstanding adventure!

Jaclyn might not agree with me, but I find a certain majesty and beauty in winter. Sometimes, though, I need a little bit of help to appreciate all this season has to offer.

I borrowed The Tenderness of Wolves from the library as a “winter read,” one that would help me get through the snowy wintery February doldrums.

I did not expect it to be one of my favorite books that year. This book is absolutely mesmerizing.

The main narrator (first-person), is a middle-aged adoptive mother of a troubled teenage boy. Other narrators (third-person) include a young, new Company (Hudson Bay) agent, the local magistrate, the boy himself, the clever daughter of the local magistrate, a dapper sexagenarian in search of a mysterious bone tablet, and a young Norwegian widow, who does not fit into the religious community in which she finds herself. All the narrators are compelling characters, but even non-narrating characters are compelling. Each has their own past, often troubled, and some which intertwine.

The story opens when the main narrator, Mrs. Ross, finds the body of one of her neighbors, the only French man in the town of Caulfield near Georgian Bay, in 1866. (more…)

On the tenth day of Christmas…we dream of warmer places to read

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of winter. I want snow for Christmas and that’s pretty much it. I also like to imagine that I’m more of an adventurous person than I actually am. So, adding on to Stacey’s post of escapist fiction yesterday, I’m going to have some fun and list the places that I’d rather be reading when I’m bundling up this winter. And of course suggest a book that fits the locale.

1. Hawaii

Really, who wouldn’t want to go here. And it’s also where they filmed the helicopter scene from Jurassic Park, which I think would be so geeky and awesome to see.

Read…Moloka’i…for a historic setting and coming of age story.

Moloka'i

2. Greece

The Mediterranean is beautiful and it is one of my top places to visit if I were to ever win the lottery. Love the history, love the scenery, I think I could read quite easily here.

Read…Chasing Aphroditeto learn more about the illegal business of exporting antiquities from Greece and Italy.

Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum

3. Caribbean Islands

Do I really need to explain this one? I would love to go anywhere in the Caribbean. Give me a fancy drink, a beach umbrella, and I would be set for the best reader vacation ever.

Read…Sex Lives of Cannibalsfor a the not so idyllic Caribbean vacation.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

4. Costa Rica

Another spot where Jurassic Park was filmed. Really, I’m not obsessed at all with this movie… But on a serious note, it does look beautiful.

Read…Jurassic Park…are you surprised that this is here???

Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)

5. Turkey

Perhaps not the warmest place in the dead of winter, but I’ve seen pictures of the architecture and it looks beautiful.

Read…The Towers of Trebizondfor a funny adventure story.

The Towers of Trebizond

6. Charleston, South Carolina

A place that I’ve actually been! I love the south and I was completely charmed with Charleston and I would love to go back. Reading in an outdoor cafe? That would be lovely.

Read…The Restorerfor a creepy awesome mystery that set in lovely Charleston.

The Restorer (Graveyard Queen, #1)

7. Savannah, Georgia

Yet another place that I’ve been and want to go back. Love the fact that I can walk everywhere and it’s another place with a lot of history, hence a lot of reading material to choose from.

Read…Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil…for a true crime story in the heart of Savannah.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

8. Malta

I once worked with a woman from Malta and it sounds like a perfect vacation spot. Lot’s of down time in a beautiful climate.

Read…The Brass Dolphin…for a historic perspective.

The Brass Dolphin

9. Italy

I hear wonderful things about the Italian coast. I’ve been to Italy but never the “beachy” side of the country. I think you could have the best of both worlds – the beach and lot’s of landmarks to visit. So when you need a break from reading, you’ve got lot’s to see.

Read...Bitter Greens…for a magical look at the city of Venice.

Bitter Greens

10. Egypt

An unusual choice to be sure. However, I’m putting this one on here for when time travel becomes widely used. I’d love to visit Egypt during the early twentieth century – a period that has fascinated me for a long time.

Read…The Other Guy’s Bride…for a fun romp in historic Egypt.

The Other Guy's Bride (Braxton, #2)

And that wraps it up for me! Stay tuned for tomorrow when Stacey moves to a colder climate…

On the ninth day of Christmas, we take you away from it all…

winter getaway titles… with nine books that will have you slavering for white sand beaches, bright sunshine, and hot deserts. Or, they might help you get away from the cold wintery weather you’re probably experiencing.

What follows is a painstaking list (painstaking because apparently I don’t read many books set in hot places or seasons), a somewhat random selection of books that I hope are well-suited to helping readers escape from winter weather and suffering. Runs the gamut of genres, with nonfiction, rom-com, fantasy, thriller, historical fiction, and science fiction. (more…)

On the eighth day of Christmas…we discuss TV

Supernatural TV Show ImageWhile I know it’s not book related, I’m going to have a quick look at the holiday themed episode with three standout episodes. I love Christmas episodes, and I think this is due to my love of subcategories. I’m a fan of a genre within a genre, which is why I love it when things turn to the holidays. This focus always brings a different perspective to the characters that you’ve been following from episode one. And a good show will do more than simply slap up some decorations and have a token Santa appearance. A good show will use the holiday theme to reveal something important about the characters.

Supernatural, ‘A Very Supernatural Christmas’ (Season 3)

This has to be one of my favourite TV shows OF ALL TIME. Yes, it has two rather handsome leads, but there is so much more to love about this show. There’s the exploration of folk lore, fantastic characters, and an intricate, slowly unfolding story arc that spans and builds each season. In this episode Sam and Dean are investigating the murderous god of the winter solstice. So here we have a look at the roots of Christmas traditions and it’s pretty darn creepy. However, what makes this episode great is the flashbacks throughout the episode. These flashback show a Christmas Sam and Dean “celebrated” as kids, and it sheds a little light of why these guys are the way they are now. This was some very effective character development and made this episode more than a hokey Christmas theme.

Like Supernatural? Read Club Monstrosity.

The OC, ‘The Best Chrismukkah Ever’ (Season 1)

This show is a guilty pleasure of mine. While the show had it’s low moments, it was a fun teen drama full of angst. Of course this popular show had to do a Christmas episode (and then a New Years, and so on). However, in a show that you wouldn’t really expect there to be much depth to a Christmas episode, this one was surprising. In season one Ryan has first joined the Cohens in their home, and Seth explains the dual holiday in an inter-faith household. It had a nice holiday message and was completely heart warming and served as a way to bring Ryan into the family.

Like The OC? Read Isn’t She Lovely.

Haven, ‘Silent Night’ (Season 2)

While this might not be the strongest contender of the list, I love Haven so it had to make the cut. What made this episode stand out for me was the fact that Audrey is thrown for a loop when Christmas decorations start appearing in July, so for her it’s not Christmas at all. This was an interesting way to approach a Christmas episode and I loved it for it’s uniqueness.

Like Haven? Read Wide Open.

And that’s a wrap for my top three favourite Christmas themed TV episodes. What do you think of holiday episodes? Love ’em or hate ’em?

On the seventh day of Christmas – I share seven of my favorite holiday movies!

lifeIn no particular order, some of the holiday movies I make an effort to watch every year.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life

Just about the best feel-good movie ever, with great scenes and acting and wonderfully quotable lines, this has been my favorite holiday movie since I first saw it. Every year, it reaffirms my determination to be the best person, to find meaning in the little things. Jimmy Stewart struggles with responsibility and duty that keep taking him away from what he really wants to do – have adventures. And discovers that what he has is worth more than he thinks.

Remember, George: No man is a failure who has friends.

2. Love Actually

Such a happy endings movie – there’s not just one, but at least half a dozen! Colin Firth and Hugh Grant play cute, awkward characters, there’s a hilarious bit about an aging pop star recording a Christmas single, and Emma Thompson steals the show with her strong performance. Watch out for the portrayal of Americans. And along that vein, here’s a different (and interesting) take on the movie. She’s spot-on about the airport.

Love actually is, all around.

3. The Holiday

Even better than Love Actually, this one, with Kate Winslet (amazing), Jude Law, Jack Black (fantastic), and Cameron Diaz (ignore her, focus on Jude Law), is a great one for nervous travelers about to get away/visit family for the holidays. Winslet, trying to get over a (insert strong language equivalent of “jerk” here), and Diaz, taking a step back from romance (or so she thinks) swap their houses in Surrey and LA. Hijinks and laughter and love follow.

A woman should be the heroine of her own life!

4. White Christmas

Hello, classic musical! Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are showmen and WWII veterans who do meet two traveling and singing sisters (one of whom is Rosemary Clooney!). Sparks fly as they set up a holiday show for their old commander, who is down in the dumps.

We came up here for the snow. Where’re you keepin’ it?

5. Home Alone

Honestly, I haven’t seen this one in ages. But I loved it as a kid, and I’m going to watch it again to see if I still love it. The title says it all, if you haven’t seen it already – Macauley Culkin plays a young boy left at home for the holidays. To make it interesting, thieves try to rob the house.

This is my house, I have to defend it.

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On the sixth day of Christmas…we celebrate with…SPIES!

7720480The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig
Dutton, October 28, 2010 (Historical Mystery, Historical Romance)

The Mischief of the Mistletoe is book seven in Willig’s Pink Carnation series, and it just so happens to be my absolute favourite holiday read.

Arabella Dempsey is a young woman that has decided to take the post of teacher at a young ladies’ academy. She can no longer stay with her aunt and is needed to support her family. On her first day as an instructress she is forcefully reacquainted with Mr. Fitzhugh – also known as “Turnip.” I think you have to know right then that when your romantic lead’s name is “Turnip,” you’re going to have a pretty zany and fun read – and Mischief in the Mistletoe doesn’t disappoint in that arena.

Turnip is visiting his younger sister at the very girls’ school that Arabella will be teaching when he accidentally knocks Arabella to the ground. He’s not good with names, so he has no recollection of Arabella, but when a Christmas pudding carries a nefarious message, at least according to Turnip’s sister, Turnip decides that Arabella is just the person to assist in the mystery and keep his sister out of trouble.

While Turnip and Arabella join forces to prove Sally and her friends that there are no spies operating out of the ladies’ academy, it seems that they will be the one’s to be proven wrong. In fact there seems to be something “not quite the thing” at the ladies’ seminary, and it’s up to Turnip to save the day and convince Arabella that spies are indeed at work. He would also be happy if he vanquished the foe and wins the girl.

For me, the real highlight of this holiday read is Turnip. He’s just such an endearing character. He’s not your typical hero, he’s not particularly smart, he’s more brawn than brains, but his heart’s in the right place. The lengths he will go to protect Arabella are rather exuberant, but Arabella needs a little of this in her cautious life. And Turnip needs a little bit of Arabella’s steadiness in his. These two ultimately balance the other out and I found that to be most appealing in this short novel. You wouldn’t think Turnip, who readers have met in previous books in the series, could carry his own book, but I really was surprised at how much I liked this story. Like Arabella, you can’t help by love Turnip’s personality, it would be like kicking a puppy.

As for Arabella, she was a much quieter character. She’s had a harder time of things than Turnip. Her aunt married the man that Arabella thought to marry herself and she’s had to return home because of that. When she finds herself in cahoots with the handsome Turnip, she certainly expects nothing to come of it and worries that it may even tarnish her reputation at the girls’ school. Luckily for Arabella, these Christmas pudding carrying spies make it impossible for Arabella to make a clean break from Turnip.

While this is my favourite holiday read, I should mention that the Christmas theme is not overpowering in this book. The Christmas stuff that does happen is more historical in context, meaning that there are sleigh rides, yule logs, mistletoe and what sounds like an absolutely disgusting food: Christmas pudding. I loved these little details and I like the fact that Mischief in the Mistletoe was not overtly Christmas-ey – that way I can enjoy it all year round.

All in all, if you’re looking for a lighthearted holiday read, I highly recommend this book. It was funny, the mystery was light and the romance was very tame, and there were, of course, spies!. It’s the perfect read to read by the Christmas tree with your hot drink.

And finally, as a quick aside, Willig has also written a short sequel to Mischief in the Mistletoe, called, Away in a Manger. It’s free from the author’s website. And lastly, it seems that the next installment in the Pink Carnation series is to feature Turnip’s sister, Sally. Personally, I can’t wait to read that book, Sally is hilarious and I’m sure that she get herself into lot’s of trouble and I can only hope that her brother and Arabella will make a cameo appearance.

Happy Holiday Reading!!

On the fifth day of Christmas, we give you five ideal reading spots!

armchairIt’s the holiday season, which means lots of social events, parties, and family gatherings. If you’re just too tuckered (or peopled) out, when there are too many people at home, or at the party, or wherever you are, where do you go to get away and read? I don’t know about you, but the holidays have descended upon me like an avalanche down a mountain. Suddenly, finding a time to read has become incredibly challenging. But places? Well, keep reading for some of my favorites.

1. Your bedroom – As mundane as this suggestion is, it really benefits from the facts that a) it’s designated your territory, b) you can close the door to keep out unwanted intruders, and c) others might figure you’re taking a nap, and leave you alone (you could even use that as an excuse!). Your bedroom is quite the easiest place to get away from the hustle, bustle, sounds, and smells with a good book.

2. A book-friendly nook – I’m not talking about a couch, or the armchair that sits next to the couch, because in a family or living room, those are both highly trafficked areas, and besides, isn’t that where your TV slash fireplace is? But there might be a cozy reading chair in an upstairs hallway, or in a guest bedroom, a study, or even a home library, if you’re lucky. If it’s got a comfy chair (NB: can you drag a comfy chair there without too much effort slash noise slash scratched floors? Do it!) and is out of the way of the the main gathering spots, you’re golden! (more…)