Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: An Old-Fashioned Christmas

An Old-Fashioned Christmas
by Ellen Stimson

Why I chose this book? one can never get too much Christmas!
When I read this book? November 2015
Who should read this book? readers who love all things Christmas
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of An Old-Fashioned Christmas from Goodreads
With its trademark snow, piney forests, sleigh rides and woodsmoke curling out of village chimneys, New England was practically invented for the Christmas postcard. It’s got your Christmas goose and the maple syrup with which to glaze it. It’s most of the reason author Ellen Stimson made Vermont her home. Here she shares recipes that have been in her family for generations, mixes up a cocktail or two, and invites readers to make their own traditions.
My Review

I’m not even sure where to begin my review. This book is such a comfy-cozy immersion into Christmas! From the first page, I knew I would love this book when I read this quote:

“We are the kind of people who decide where the Christmas tree might go before we buy the house. (Doesn’t everyone?)”

I know I do. The first thing I look for is where I will put the Tree and the next thing is where I will hide from the tornadoes — something I think the author could relate to. You see, the other thing that made this book such a comfortable read for me was the mentions to places the author had spent time that I recognized; Elsah, Illinois, Famous-Barr Christmas displays, and the ‘little steel town’ she grew up in just “east of the Mississipi.” I’m pretty sure I know which one that is, since there are only two that I know of, and the one I grew up in would be better described as a ‘manufacturing town with a steel mill”. But I’ve been to hers many times.

I loved how this book was set up, with each section beginning with a small family anecdote about Christmas. This led to a larger story with more detail about her family Christmas traditions and how they came to be. And then of course….the recipes! I’m not sure how many I will actually make, but just reading through them is a pleasure! And the are beautifully illustrated, as is the entire book. I get a warm feeling as I read about one of her soups and sitting by the fire! She also does a wonderful job selling the New England Christmas experience!

If you are a lover of all things Christmas, you will want to add this book to your collection. Then get ready to take a magical leap into a real Old-Fashioned Christmas!

About Ellen Stimson

Ellen Stimson is a bread-and-butter homecook…possibly more butter than bread. Her table is usually overflowing with friends, family, and folks who have come just to listen to her stories. Some of those tales made it into her bestselling memoir, Mud Season. She cooks and writes from a farmhouse in Vermont.
Visit Ellen at her website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

My Rating:  ★★★★1/2   4-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by
TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Ellen’s Tour Stops
Monday, November 9th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 10th: (Never) Homemaker
Wednesday, November 11th: Bibliotica
Thursday, November 12th: Under My Apple Tree
Friday, November 13th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach
Monday, November 16th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, November 17th: Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, November 18th: Majorly Delicious
Wednesday, November 18th: Open Book Society
Friday, November 20th: Full Bellies, Happy Kids, cross posted at  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, November 23rd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Tuesday, November 24th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, November 25th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Friday, November 27th: Joyfully Retired
Monday, November 30th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, December 2nd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Friday, December 4th: A Chick Who Reads
TBD: The Things We Read

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Comments on Commenting....

I just need to make a quick post here to apologize. I am having a commenting problem and I don't know what to do about it. If you have commented on one of my blog posts, there is a good chance I've visited your blog, and I've probably left a comment. HOWEVER, I am having an issue with my comments getting swallowed in cyberspace, and I don't know what to do.

It started, or at least I first noticed it, about three months ago. I'd commented on a post on Doing Dewey.  I later went back to leave a second comment and noticed there was no sign of the first comment. The second comment didn't appear either. So I asked about it to see if for some reason I'd been blocked. Not only had Katie not blocked me, but in checking she discovered there were no comments from me since sometime in April. And I KNOW I've commented frequently.

On further investigation, I've noticed it seems to happen on on WordPress based blogs. When I type a comment, everything looks good and it appears to be accepted. I get no warning notice or error message. And yet the comment never appears on the post! Very recently, I've discovered that if I omit the step of leaving my URL, the comment appears just fine. But then of course, it makes it really hard for someone to find my blog and respond if they want to browse some of the reviews I've mentioned.

So I came up with a workaround that I am sure is almost as bad as no URL. I started a second book blog with ONE POST ONLY! That post contains a link to my REAL blog so people can find me. It has to be inconvenient, but is better than nothing, I guess.

Here's the real head scratcher.....

If I don't realize I'm on a WordPress blog and leave my real URL, the comment disappears into cyberspace. If I then leave a second comment with my 'pretend' URL I get an error message telling me it is a duplicate comment. So I have to change what I wanted to say, or just decide it wasn't really important! It's almost like their is some master WordPress list that has my URL blocked!

Bottom line — I am not leaving nearly as many comments as I would otherwise. It doesn't mean I don't read and appreciate your blog though! I just don't know how to fix this. If you have any ideas about what might be going on, I'd really REALLY appreciate your sharing them!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Nonfiction November Week 3: Nontraditional Nonfiction

We’re halfway through Nonfiction November! This week our event is being hosted by Becca at I’m Lost In Books! This week our topic is Nontraditional Nonfiction!

This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction.  Nonfiction comes in many forms  There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.  We want to hear all about it this week!

I have to admit, I do so much of my reading on my iPad that I don’t even count an e-book as ‘nontraditional’! I do use the internet a LOT to learn more about what I read — Wikipedia and history websites. But I have two favorite nontraditional ways to ‘read more about it’. One of those is to watch documentaries on PBS, Netflix, Hoopla, or DVDs from the library. A few years ago, my book club chose to read A Perfect Union by Catherine Allgor, a nonfiction book about Dolly Madison. While I was excited about the book, we made the mistake of making it a selection just after the holidays, and it was a well-researched by hefty book. I just didn’t have time to read it. Luckily for me, PBS had created a documentary based on the book, and I was able to watch it and pick up enough information to participate in our discussion.

Another example is of how I used Hoopla to supplement my reading. I read The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice for review. I really didn’t know much at all about Coney Island, so I decided to do some research before I read the book. I found that PBS (yay PBS!) had produced a documentary about Coney Island and that it was available on Hoopla. Now I have to stop and give a plug for Hoopla! It is like Netflix, available through your local library (if your lucky!) The collection isn’t nearly as extensive as Netflix, but it is FREE with a library card, and includes audiobook, music and ebooks!

The second nontraditional nonfiction resource I use extensively is podcasts. I LOVE podcasts for learning. They are so easy to listen to when I am driving or folding laundry. As an amateur genealogist, I have two favorite genealogy podcasts I listen to regularly; Genealogy Gems from Lisa Louise Cooke and The Genealogy Guys with George G. Martin and Drew Smith. I also have a favorite that I go to for history, Stuff You Missed In History Class with Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey. After reading I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe, I listened to their podcast about Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy. And after I read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, I listened to their podcast called...wait for it...Orphan Trains!

Your turn! Do you watch documentaries and/or listen to podcasts to supplement your reading? Which ones do you recommend?
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: The Crescent Spy

The Crescent Spy
by Michael Wallacei

Why I chose this book? Civil War era fiction
When I read this book? November 2015
Who should read this book? readers of Civil War fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of The Crescent Spy from Goodreads

Writing under a man’s name, Josephine Breaux is the finest reporter at Washington’s Morning Clarion. Using her wit and charm, she never fails to get the scoop on the latest Union and Confederate activities. But when a rival paper reveals her true identity, accusations of treason fly. Despite her claims of loyalty to the Union, she is arrested as a spy and traitor.

To Josephine’s surprise, she’s whisked away to the White House, where she learns that President Lincoln himself wishes to use her cunning and skill for a secret mission in New Orleans that could hasten the end of the war. For Josephine, though, this mission threatens to open old wounds and expose dangerous secrets. In the middle of the most violent conflict the country has ever seen, can one woman overcome the treacherous secrets of her past in order to secure her nation’s future?

My Review

If you read my blog often, you know how much I like Civil War era fiction and especially how I like reading about the women of the Civil War. This one has a little bit of everything — Civil War, a strong woman, adventure, a history lesson, and even a bit of romance!

I’ve read a lot of historical fiction about the Civil War, but almost all has been set in the east; Virginia, Maryland, etc. I think this is the first time I’ve ever read about the fall of New Orleans. I found the details of the river battles fascinating and I enjoyed reading about the military strategies. I found the concept of the fire boats launched ablaze to set the enemy vessels on fire particularly interesting.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and the characters. Josephine was a strong lead character for the most part, but she did have weaknesses and at times that endangered the people around her. She had a background that gave dimension to her character. If there is one thing I didn’t like, and you’ve heard this from me before, is that I would like to know ‘what happens next’. I would have liked an epilogue set at some time in the future, after the war, to know what became of Josephine and the people in her life. There are hints of potential, but I am left to my imagination to end this story.

If, like me, you are interested in learning more about the fall of New Orleans after you finish this book, you may be interested in the following links.

And if you would like to WIN a copy of The Crescent Spy, you are in luck! I have one copy to giveaway. Just click the link below to fill out the entry form. Winners will be picked November 19, 2015.

About Michael Wallace

Michael Wallace was born in California and raised in a small religious community in Utah, eventually heading east to live in Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition to working as a literary agent and innkeeper, he has been a software engineer for a Department of Defense contractor programming simulators for nuclear submarines. He is the author of more than twenty novels, including the Wall Street Journal bestselling Righteous series, set in a polygamist enclave in the desert.

My Rating:  ★★★1/2   3-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Michael’s Tour Stops
Monday, November 9th: Life is Story
Monday, November 9th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, November 10th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, November 11th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, November 12th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Thursday, November 12th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, November 16th: 100 Pages a Day
Monday, November 16th: FictionZeal
Tuesday, November 17th: Book Babe
Wednesday, November 18th: Reading Reality
Thursday, November 19th: Bibliotica
Friday, November 20th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, November 23rd: It’s a Mad Mad World
Tuesday, November 24th: Historical Fiction Obsession
Wednesday, December 2nd: Mom in Love with Fiction

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