Saturday Snapshot – Some Favorite Ornaments

I have been collecting Christmas ornaments since I was a little girl. I took pictures of a few to share here.

We love to get an ornament each time we travel somewhere. Also my children have lots of special ornaments that they’ve gotten over the years, too.

One of our favorites is this Charlie Brown Christmas tree one — you can press a button and hear Linus speaking about the true meaning of Christmas.  
If you know us, you know that Disney is one of our favorite places!!


Above (l to r): Tiffany bulb from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Joan Walsh Anglund one I’ve had since I was young, Empire State Building globe that lights up, and an Irish cross we got on our honeymoon.

Eiffel Tower from Paris (another favorite place!), “Beth” – one of my four Little Women ornaments, Disney (again!) and the Disney Cruise ship, and Hershey Kiss Carolers from Hershey Park.

Tree on the left is the children’s tree (artificial) filled with all their ornaments. Tree on the right is the (real) family tree.

Happy Holidays to all who celebrate and Best Wishes for 2016!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted at westmetromommyreads.com.

Please see her site for full participation details.

Two for Christmas!

If you know me, you know I love Christmas! I recently got two books from Net Galley that focus on the Christmas season.

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This is how Net Galley describes A STUBBORN SWEETNESS AND OTHER STORIES FOR THE CHRISTMAS SEASON by Katherine Paterson (one of my fave children’s book authors!):

A Stubborn Sweetness and Other Stories for the Christmas Season is a collection of modern-day short stories by Katherine Paterson, award-winning author of Bridge to Terabithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins—both loved by children and adults for over twenty years. This compilation includes stories of real-life people such as a shopping mall’s night watchman, a lonely widower, a pregnant teenage runaway, a political prisoner in China, a grieving mother, and a privileged American, who have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas because of loss, pain, greed, or circumstances. Through unexpected and uplifting ways, each is reminded of the first Christmas story and the vision of hope and peace it offers the world. They realize that even in the darkness, the light and song of Christmas can be seen and heard.

This heart-warming gift book, filled with stories of realistic people finding hope, courage, and faith amidst life’s circumstances, radiates the spirit of the season and reminds each of us what Christmas truly means. Originally written to be read during her church’s Christmas Eve service, this collection of holiday stories is perfect for individuals, families, and churches to read and share during the season.

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I love, love, loved this compilation of short but touching stories which have as their theme the true meaning of Christmas. I read one each night before I went to bed. Highly recommended for a calming read at night or to give as a thoughtful gift of the season.

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I loved the title of this book and was drawn to it right away. I love not only the Narnia chronicles but C.S. Lewis’ adult writings on faith.

Here’s how Net Galley describes it:

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“Walking into Advent can be like walking through the wardrobe.”

With its enchanting themes of snow and cold, light and darkness, meals and gifts, temptation and sin, forgiveness and hope–and even an appearance by Father Christmas–C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe fits naturally into the Advent season. As the reader seeks a storied king and anticipates the glorious coming of Christmas, these twenty-eight devotions alternate between Scripture and passages from the novel to prompt meditation on Advent themes. Each devotion also includes questions for reflection. The book also provides several resources for churches, including four sessions for small group discussion and ideas for creating a “Narnia Night” for families. Readers will ultimately come to know God better while journeying through Narnia.

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This was a series of devotions and reflections that the author, Heidi Haverkamp, had done, in part, with her own church congregation. What a brilliant idea! While I loved reading this on my own, I would have loved even more having a group to share this with.

As always, thank you for my review copies, Net Galley and Westminster John Knox Press. Both books are available online or at your favorite indie. Merry Christmas!!

Three for Christmas — from the Ho Ho Ho Readathon

I had a great time reading and participating in the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Readathon this past week! I set a goal of three books for myself, and I easily reached it (I also finished two more to review and started a third – guess I had time to read!).

The first book I read was A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry. In this novel (and apparently Anne Perry writes a Christmas novel every year) it is 1904 and Jemima Pitt has accompanied her friend Phinny to New York from England for Phinny’s marriage. Poor Phinny doesn’t have much family and her mother left her while she was quite young under what seems to be mysterious and unfavorable circumstances. Jemima is hardly there when a dead body shows up – Phinny’s long-lost mother – and Jemima appears to be the main suspect in her killing (though with little motive). Determined to prove her innocence, Jemima joins forces with local policeman Patrick Flannery to figure out who the real killer is.

This was a fun read – and very quick for me (a few hours – less than 200 pages). Call me stupid but I never could figure out exactly WHY the murder took place and what it served. It seemed to stir up a lot of trouble, that’s for sure.

This was my first Anne Perry book, but she has a legion of fans and several other Christmas stories.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy!

Next I read CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard. This was a children’s picture book that I got a pdf of from Net Galley. It tells the story of the WWI Christmas truce in fighting between the front lines of British and German men. This was a beautiful (and true) tale, with lovely illustrations by Wendy Edelson. Great for a read aloud to children!

Finally, from Blogging for Books, I got The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. I just loved this book. This author lost her husband unexpectedly in the fall of 1999. They had three children, aged 10 to 17. That Christmas was incredibly painful and difficult for them. This true story tells how some unknown “true friends” delivered to them small surprise gifts each day leading up to Christmas and, in essence, helped them to feel the spirit of Christmas again. Not only was this a heart-wrenching read, especially because the grief was so poignant on these pages, but it was so inspiring to read the end and how the whole 13 gifts tradition got started, why, and how. What a beautiful and inspiring story — truly a favorite Christmas read for me.

Getting Cozy! Two Reviews: “Hiss and Hers” (Agatha Raisin) by MC Beaton and “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” (Royal Spyness) by Rhys Bowen

As you all know, I love my cozy mysteries! I recently read two new ones: one which I got at my library and one which I received from my husband for Christmas.

“Hiss and Hers” is the latest Agatha Raisin mystery. I just love cranky yet vulnerable Agatha! In this installment, Agatha, along with half the village, has a mad crush on the local gardener. Sadly he turns up murdered. Agatha is determined to figure out who killed him, but as she investigates she learns that just about every but her had been sleeping with the victim. There is no shortage of suspects, along with a couple of subplots as well. While I do love these Agatha mysteries, this one had me a bit befuddled in its quick wrap up and in the number of people I was trying to keep track of, though I had guessed the murderer early on. The “hiss” refers to the murder “weapon” – poisonous snakes.

For Christmas I received “The Twelve Clues of Christmas”- the latest Royal Spyness mystery. I do so love reading historical cozy mysteries (this one is in the early 1930’s in England). Georgie Rannoch, our heroine, has just the right amount of spunk, intelligence, and awkwardness to make her likable. For this story, Georgie is staying at a manor house and serving as a hostess during their “Aunthentic English Christmas” event. Unfortunately, locals start turning up dead on a regular basis. Georgie joins forces with the dashing Darcy to uncover just what is happening in this sleepy little town. One thing I loved about this book is that Georgie and Darcy’s relationship is finally progressing – yeah! I thought this novel was cleverly plotted – though perhaps a bit far-fetched. It was an enjoyable read. And can I just say how much I love the character of her maid, Queenie?

Quick Review: A Miracle Under the Christmas Tree by Jennifer Basye Sander

Another Net Galley find, this collection of true short stories focuses on the meaning of Christmas. Some of these stories were quite touching and inspiring. Some were better written than others. Each could be read in a short space of time. It was the perfect “quick read before I nod off” choice for this time of year!

Thanks, Net Galley and Harlequin Non-fiction, for my copy!

Review: “The 13th Day of Christmas” by Jason Wright

I’ve received a few Christmas books to review this season through Net Galley, and “The 13th Day of Christmas” by Jason Wright is one of them. This book, which I would classify as Christian Lit, tells the story of the friendship between Marva, an elderly but still spunky widow, and Charlee, a nine-year-old whose family has fallen on tough times since her dad lost his job. Their special friendship brightens both of their lonely lives, and Miss Marva shares with Charlee the special Christmas tradition of her advent calendar and the twelve days of Christmas – with the thirteenth day being a very special one. In the course of this story both Marva and Charlee develop cancer, and it is their special friendship, along with the true message of Christmas, that helps them to keep going in the face of hardship.

If I say any more I’ll give it all away!

I did enjoy this book and really loved the characters of spunky Miss Marva – with her aprons for any occasion – and Charlee, a little girl who refused to let her situation crush her spirit.

Great Christmas reading – or actually any time of the year!

Thank you, Net Galley and Shadow Mountain Press, for my copy.