Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book recommendations from our Christmas & Epiphany stash...

Morning all! I had a better overnight and wake up this morning, my second day of being back to work post-holiday break. Sunday night, I woke up every 60 minutes, looking at the clock in a panic. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS. Last night was much improved, even after staying up a little later than planned with Mike and my glass of wine to catch up on Downton Abbey.

But I digress (no surprise there...) Before I get on with the main topic for today's post, I wanted to mention the lovely write up Cam has over at A Woman's Place for an Epiphany blessing for your home. There is a link for the prayers to bless a piece of chalk with Holy Water and then bless your house with it, and you can do this yourself in the absence of a priest. Today *is* technically the feast of the Epiphany, although the Church observes it on the Sunday following the feast of the Holy Family. I printed all of the prayers, and so long as I can scare up some Holy Water and a piece of chalk tonight, I plan to do this with the kids!

Ok, so books. I wanted to mention some of the books that I received this Christmas, and some that I gifted this Christmas and Epiphany, since I'm so pleased with them. And yes, I did an Epiphany gift for each child this year! We're celebrating all 12 Days of Christmas over here in our efforts toward incorporating the liturgical year into family life more. Fun. :)

Here are the books that I wanted to mention, figuring that one or more of them might capture your attention as well. I'm going to get all librarian on you and organize them into categories, it's a regular Readers' Advisory over here..

*adjusts bun*


I love dance memoirs (I absolutely raved about Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet several months back), and my sister gifted me Dancing on Water: A Life in Ballet, from the Kirov to the ABT:

 This one is intriguing enough to warrant including the description from Amazon:
Dancing on Water is both a personal coming-of-age story and a sweeping look at ballet life in Russia and the United States during the golden age of dance. Elena Tchernichova takes us from her childhood during the siege of Leningrad to her mother’s alcoholism and suicide, and from her adoption by Kirov ballerina Tatiana Vecheslova, who entered her into the state ballet school, to her career in the American Ballet Theatre.

As a student and young dancer with the Kirov, she witnessed the company’s achievements as a citadel of classic ballet, home to legendary names—Shelest, Nureyev, Dudinskaya, Baryshnikov—but also a hotbed of intrigue and ambition run amok. As ballet mistress of American Ballet Theatre from 1978 to 1990, Elena was called “the most important behind-the-scenes force for change in ballet today,” by Vogue magazine. She coached stars and corps de ballet alike, and helped mold the careers of some of the great dancers of the age, including Gelsey Kirkland, Cynthia Gregory, Natalia Makarova, and Alexander Godunov. Dancing on Water is a tour de force, exploring the highest levels of the world of dance.
Yes? I can't wait to read it. I also used a gift card to download a book concerning a sub-category of dance fascination to me, Nutcracker Nation: How an Old World Ballet Became a Christmas Tradition in the New World:

The Nutcracker is the most popular ballet in the world, adopted and adapted by hundreds of communities across the United States and Canada every Christmas season. In this entertainingly informative book, Jennifer Fisher offers new insights into the Nutcracker phenomenon, examining it as a dance scholar and critic, a former participant, an observer of popular culture, and an interviewer of those who dance, present, and watch the beloved ballet.

Fisher traces The Nutcracker’s history from its St. Petersburg premiere in 1892 through its emigration to North America in the mid-twentieth century to the many productions of recent years. She notes that after it was choreographed by another Russian immigrant to the New World, George Balanchine, the ballet began to thrive and variegate: Hawaiians added hula, Canadians added hockey, Mark Morris set it in the swinging sixties, and Donald Byrd placed it in Harlem. The dance world underestimates The Nutcracker at its peril, Fisher suggests, because the ballet is one of its most powerfully resonant traditions. After starting life as a Russian ballet based on a German tale about a little girl’s imagination, The Nutcracker has become a way for Americans to tell a story about their communal values and themselves.
Tradition, dance, Christmas?! *swoons* I'm planning to start this this weekend when Mike and I are away on our second honeymoon trip. :)

Pioneering & Other Historical Classics

I've been into a pioneering theme lately, and Mike bought me the new annotated Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography, Pioneer Girl:

It's on backorder at Amazon, so I haven't received it yet, but I'm super excited to read this when it comes.

Along this theme, I have become obsessed with a series I discovered in early December for children ages 4-8. They are the My First Little House books, and I absolutely LOVE reading these to Anne. I got her several for both Christmas and Epiphany, including Winter Days in the Big Woods:

I plan to add to her collection at Easter. I think Anne looks a lot like the illustrations of Laura, and she agrees. *heart*

My sister Shauna'h bought Anne Ox-Cart Man, an absolutely charming story about a year in the life of a farming family:

And at the last minute, I ended up purchasing  A Little Women Christmas for Anne, and I am SO glad that I did:

The illustrations are absolutely breathtaking, and the story heartwarming. Every morning I find this book in Anne's bed, as she wanted to look through it via her nightlight before falling asleep. :)

Cozy Fiction

This is always a favorite category of mine, and I can't wait to read the new Mitford novel, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, which my in-laws gave me:

For those who haven't read this series:
           After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors.

            While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion.

            His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.

            All this as Wanda’s Feel Good CafĂ© opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?
As well, I received as a gift Last Wool and Testament: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery:

AND I'm going to be reviewing it tomorrow as part of a new series!

Catholic Young Adult Fiction

You all know that I'm a big fan of Catholic YA books, and my in-laws gave me Olivia's Gift to add to my collection:

You may remember that I reviewed Nancy Carabio Belanger's The Gate back in July and just loved it.  I'm very excited to read one of her other books.

Relatedly, I heard about the latest John Paul 2 High book, Near Occasions (John Paul 2 High Book 5), the other day and immediately used my gift card to download it:

I've written about these books before, I just adore them. I'm looking forward to diving into the latest installment.

Dot-to-Dot Books

For Henry, he's been really into challenging dot-to-dot books, so I picked up several for him including The Greatest Dot-to-Dot Adventure Book 1:

These are perfect for kids his age and he's working his way through them at an alarming clip. :0 I have two more on order for him as a late Epiphany gift from the Greatest Dot-to-Dot Book in the World series. 

And lest you think dot-to-dot puzzles are just for kids, 1000 Dot-to-Dot: Cities,was one of Mike's gifts:

 ...and he LOVES it! Each one takes him days to do, so challenging they are indeed.

Saints for Middle Readers

Henry is a huge saint story fan, and he has several books that I've bought him over the years. He had a few books in the St. Joseph Picture Books series, and he told me that those were his favorites. Thus, I decided to complete his collection so that he now has all 12 books:

We read a story each night before he goes to bed, it's become a lovely tradition.

Well. This post certainly got longer than I intended, but I hope it was helpful and gave you some ideas for yourself or your kids! Did you get any new books for Christmas? Do let me know in the comments. :)


  1. I highly recommend the My First Little House Books. We've checked the winter/Christmas ones out from the library. I've also found some really great simplified versions of The Lion, the witch, and the Wardrobe. I wish there was some simplified version of the Hobbit (or the Lord of the Rings) but I haven't come across any. No reason not to slowly introduce series of great literature to young children. Even little kids like the stories, but it is hard for them to sit through the heavily worded for-older-kids original versions. Movies are great and all, but it's better if they get the story through a simplified book.

    1. These books are WONDERFUL. Anne now has 5 of them! Even *I* enjoy reading them! I made a decision prior to Christmas: no more frivolous "character" books (Dora, etc) that are expensive and absolutely terribly written, simply because the child likes the character. I will look into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

  2. I got Near Occasions (John Paul 2 High Book 5) for Christmas. I enjoyed it although it took me longer to get into than the others. Perhaps because it has been awhile since I read book 4. The end of the book kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. The biggest question I have is who is the shooter and how many more books will there be before we find out.

    1. oohhh, good to know! Yes, it's been at least a year since I read books 3 and 4, maybe I should go back and re-read.


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