December 30, 2011

Discoveries of 2011

I initially typed the title of this post as '2011 Discoveries' and then thought better of it. Nobody wants to read a list that long (hardy har). 2011 has been a fairly transitional year for me. It started out okay (settling into new job with the police), progressed toward crappy (started hating job with the police), and then got a whole lot better (quit job with the police and started writing). I'm choosing to focus on the 'whole lot better' and would therefore dub 2011 as a pretty darn good year over all. 

Along the way I made some new discoveries. I'm not talking discoveries like the New World, penicillin, or the fact that gravity exists. I'm referring to all of those little 'Oooo, cool' moments where I've stumbled across something that I absolutely love and can't get enough of. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the booty I've accumulated over the past year. And henceforth this post will be written in pirate. Arrrr! Scurvy dogs, and whatnot! Yeah, that got old quick.

Discoveries of 2011:
1)  Books/Authors
Seriously, this list could go on for ages but I'll try to reign myself in. Especially since I just did a similar list for Road Trip Wednesday with YA Highway. Not all of these books came out in 2011, but that's when I found them. There are others (obviously) but these are the ones that stick out in my mind:

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Anna and the French Kiss AND Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins*
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

2)  TV Shows
Year after year, much of what is introduced as 'new' on TV just seems so 'been done' and lame, that I find myself a little underwhelmed. And really, do we need the plethora of pathetic reality TV shows they keep airing (I loathe reality TV)? Add to that the fact that the shows I do end up liking usually get canned when I'm already hooked (I'm looking at you right now, ABC). Here are a couple that have survived getting the ax (at least so far):

- Downton Abbey on ITV
This is a superbly done British period drama series set in the early-ish 1900s, following the lives of an Earl's family and their servants. This show is movie quality (pretty much the furthest thing you can get from Coronation Street - thank God!) and features seasoned actors like Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville. I pretty much think Julian Fellowes (who also did Becoming Jane) is the man. He's also tackling a TV mini-series of the Titanic which airs this spring to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the ship's sinking. Bonus: Now we can collectively scrub our brains of that Leo & Kate stinkwad circa 1997. That's probably a bit harsh. There were some great things about it, like attention to detail in everything but Jack & Rose's story.

- Revenge on ABC
Purportedly inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, this show is an awful lot better than I was expecting. The show's heroine, Emily Thorne, returns to her former home in the Hamptons (many years after leaving and with an assumed name) to exact revenge on the people responsible for framing her father, which led to his ultimate demise, and her life apart from him in juvenile detention. It would be easy to hate Emily, but the show's writers manage to make her sympathetic despite the people falling like dominoes around her as a result of her vengeful machinations. Side note: Doesn't that poster look like the cover of a YA novel?

3)  Music
I've never been the kind of person who listens to the entire discography of a particular artist or band. All too often I like a song here and there, considering the rest of an album to be filler and nothing more. So I'm always happy when I come across artists with songs to add to my playlist (not usually all of their songs, but a few at least). Here are a couple of finds:

- Florence + the Machine (English Indie Pop?)
I'm not crazy about all of Flo's music, but I am totally guilty of practically wearing out Cosmic Love, Never Let Me Go, and best of all, Shake It Out (was there ever a better song by anybody??). These are the types of songs I will unabashedly listen to on repeat until the count is in the double digits. And the best part: I'm still not sick of them. We'll just have to forgive her for having anything to do with the Twilight franchise.

- Mumford & Sons (British Folk Rock)
Turns out I have a thing for banjo music. Who knew? Well, excluding Dueling Banjos, of course (ewww...Deliverance). Particular favourites on Mumford & Sons' album Sigh No More are Little Lion Man (NB: contains expletives) and The Cave, but there are some other good tunes as well.

It's really nice to find artists like these in a sea of Biebers, Britneys, and Beyonces.

4)  New Interests/Loves
I've always loved reading, baking, and doing crafty things (but not crafty as in plotting-to-take-over-the-world crafty). At some point I suspected I might also love writing but, as I've mentioned here before, I was always too chicken and just didn't make the time to give it a try. Earlier in this post I said that 2011 progressively improved for me. A big part of that improvement came through discovering these new interests/loves:

- Writing
I started writing (with the intention of working toward a book) in June of this year and have since almost completed the first draft of one story (YA Science Fiction) and am well on my way with a second story (YA Romance). It has opened up a whole world to me and allowed me to feel as though I could actually create something that people might actually be interested in. Only time will tell, but in the meantime I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

- Blogging
This blog was born in August of this year (we're both August babies) and I can't express how much fun it has been. I've met a lot of really encouraging, interesting, and informative people through this blog, and for that I am beyond grateful. Confession: I always thought blogging was kinda lame...until I tried it myself. What a jerky thing to think. Anyway, I got a little fiddly with my blog yesterday and decided that it needed some lightening up. I liked the old background and banner but it felt a little dark to me. January is such a gloomy month, so I figured I'd do away with the gloomy colour scheme here. Plus, I feel like this new look reflects me a little better. Hope the new look doesn't scare anyone off.

5)  Book Dealer
I suppose it's a tad inappropriate to be using junkie terminology in reference to where I get my books, but if the shoe fits....

- The Book Depository
I have heard many of you mention this source for books and I always assumed it was just another place that I didn't need to check out because I had Amazon and Indigo already. Boy was I wrong! Free shipping on everything to pretty much everywhere, but more importantly, to Canada?! That, my friends, is what I call a dream come true. Oh, and the books are a good $3-$4 cheaper than the other online sources (at least in Canadian dollars). What I like is that I can order a single book and still get free shipping (ordering one book - like that ever happens *snort*). I will definitely be making use of these guys if I ever do a giveaway again. As soon as I no longer feel guilty about ordering books so soon after Christmas, I'll be placing an order with this site. 
Fun Fact: The Book Depository is based in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. That makes at least two awesome Channel Island exports that I know of. Henry Cavill (AKA Mr. Yummy) comes from the Bailiwick of Jersey (how cool is the word 'bailiwick'?), the other major island in this archipelago. What's hotter than Henry Cavill? Henry Cavill with a book in his hands. Am I right?

Well, I need to quit babbling and get something else accomplished today. Though with that picture just above I'm tempted not to (lol). My new piano just arrived so I think that's a good place to divert my attention. Of course, the Christmas tree needs to come down so that the piano can go where it currently is (*sigh*). Ah well, it all needs to be packed up and put away until next year anyway.

If I don't remember later, I'd like to wish all of you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and nothing but good things (with a few very minor crummy things to keep you grounded) in 2012! Be safe!

* My first taste of straight up YA Romance, so I have to credit this wonderful lady for making me want MORE, and for diverting me from my obsession with all things dystopian (for a while at least).
(I just remembered that I forgot to mention Pinterest. Pinterest, you are such a vortex of neat-o stuff. I'm sorry I neglected to mention you in this discovery list.)

December 28, 2011

RTW: Best of 2011 Reads

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic: 
What were your top five favorite books of 2011?
This list literally took me a grand total of two minutes to compile. There are some books that are just SO good that they pop into your mind immediately when asked this question. Here's hoping 2012 has just as many awesome reads as 2011! Here's my list:
1)  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
2)  Anna and the French Kiss* by Stephanie Perkins
3)  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
4)  Divergent by Veronica Roth
5)  Across the Universe by Beth Revis
I cannot WAIT for the sequels to all of the above listed books! How about you? What were your favourite reads in 2011?

* I just remembered that this book didn't come out in 2011, but since I read it in 2011 (the day before Lola) I'm cheating a little. I'm sure I could come up with others, but I just love these books so much I couldn't resist.

December 24, 2011

Bang-Your-Head-Against-the-Wall-Bad Christmas Carols

Okay, I lied. I'm back. The hubby and I were on our way back from the in-laws and fell into a discussion of THE worst Christmas carols to grace the planet. It's a little funny and alarming all at the same time just how quickly a person can actually come up with a list like this. Put it this way: If you've worked in any type of customer service, food service, or retail type position at all in your lifetime, you probably have a list as long as Santa's beard of Christmas carols that you want to Chuck Norris roundhouse kick into the stratosphere. Here's a small sampling of the carols that pretty much guarantee me a seat aboard the Crazy Train. And just to share the crazy with you, Dear Reader, I've linked every single stinker to a video on YouTube!:

1)  Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town by the Jackson 5 [HERE]
I have nothing against the Jackson 5 normally, but once you've listened to little squealing Jacko a million times on a Holiday from Hell loop, you just can't take it anymore. Believe me.

2)  Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney [HERE]
There are pretty much no words to describe how much this song makes me crazy. It's awful. Just awful.

3)  Last Christmas by Wham! [HERE]
Okay, this band's name is basically the sound of my head smacking against the pavement whenever I hear this unspeakably terrible song.

4)  The Little Drummer Boy by Pretty Well Anybody EVER [HERE]
My husband hates this song about as much as I do. He does, however, think that the Bing Crosby & David Bowie version is decently tolerable. I beg to differ. There is no such thing as a 'good' or 'tolerable' version of this yuletide stinker. Pa rum pa pum pum?!? I just got stupider typing those words out.

5)  I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas by Gayla Peevey [HERE]
The first time I heard this little song I thought, "Aww, that's cute"...until it was still stuck in my head DAYS later. And lucky us, here in Canada one of our major cellphone service providers uses this earworm annually in their Christmas ad campaign, complete with an actual hippo. Oh, and I know that by even mentioning this song here you're now going to have this stuck in your head. You're welcome.

6)  Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid [HERE]
I cannot hear this song without being reminded of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia. I'm like Pavlov's dog. I hear this song and I instantly have Ethiopia on the brain. I suppose that's all fine and good since we should be thinking of those less fortunate at this time of year. But then you listen a little harder to the lyrics and you get this:

     "And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
      Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you (say WHAT?!<--my addition)..."

I'm sorry, you lost me at clanging chimes of doom. And it's a good thing really, because the next line pretty much makes me simultaneously face palm, shake my head, and snort with derision. They actually have the gall to say 'Poor them, but thank Gawd it's them and not me. Phewf!'  (*face palm*). Unreal.

7)  Blue Christmas by practically anyone, but especially Celine Dion [HERE]
You thought Celine Dion was bad? Well, wait 'til you hear this one in particular. It's not just terrible, it's borderline yodel-y terrible. Need I say more?

8)  All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey and...[drum roll] the Biebs [HERE]
I have never been and will NEVER be a Mariah fan. Or a Bieber fan, for that matter. So this little holiday pairing is tantamount to the ninth circle of Hell for me. I had the serious misfortune to see the video of this number and I'm not sure what disturbed me most:
  • Mariah's skeezy little outfit that hopes to be a dress someday when it grows up.
  • The lusty little glances between the Biebs and old-enough-to-be-his-mother Mariah (I did the math and with only a few more years, it would be possible for her to actually be his granny *full body shudder*).
  • The fact that there were several points in the song where I lost track of whose high-pitched girlie voice I was listening to - "It's, wait...I think it might be Bieber?" - eerily similar.
  • Just that they even felt the need to redo this song with these two in the first place. Worst. Idea. Ever.
9)  Go Tell It On the Mountain by Anyone, Anything, Anyhow, Anywhere [HERE]
This wouldn't be such a terrible song if it wasn't for the fact that EVERY SINGLE year growing up we were forced to sing it in our church's Sunday School Christmas pageant. Every year, without a word of a lie. This is the sound of yuletide torture right here. To this day it makes me cringe.

10)  (It Must Have Been Ol') Santa Claus by Harry Connick Jr. [HERE]
It really pains me to say it, because I love Harry Connick Jr. He's just a class act. Unfortunately, this song is like a holiday Lamb Chops Play-Along (sorry, Tracey), or The Song That Doesn't End, or the Barney theme song. Earworm central. Happy Ho Ho Ho to you too, Harry.

I love just about everything about Christmas, but songs like the ones listed above can turn a festive mood foul in a split second. How about you? Any carols that nearly push you over the edge?

December 23, 2011

Christmas Greetings

Just a quick post to wish you and yours a VERY Merry Christmas and all the best to you in the New Year! I'll be back on the blog very soon, I hope. Until then enjoy your holidays and be safe!

"From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another 

The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other."
~%~ Emily Matthews~%~

December 21, 2011

RTW: Book Dealers For This Book Junkie

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
Where do you buy most of your books?

I get my books from a variety of sources depending on a) convenience, b) price, and c) my level of impatience:

1) OR 
There's something so fun about browsing online, ordering enough books to get free shipping (only $25 now), and having those books arrive in the mail. I like getting parcels and it's always a little bit like Christmas no matter what time of the year when a box of books arrives in the mail. Amazon won't be getting much of my business anymore as they ship to Canada with UPS. The last time UPS delivered a parcel from Amazon (with books, blu rays, and video games purchased for Christmas) they decided to leave it in my recycle bin on my back porch where it sat overnight and got completely covered in snow. I was home all day and didn't hear a knock on the door. Not a happy Jaime, let me tell you. Fortunately, nothing was wrecked or stolen.

2)  Indigo (aka Chapters aka Coles)
I buy books at Indigo/Chapters/Coles when the prices are reasonable, when I'm wanting a particular book NOW, or when I'm just in the mood to buy a book. The thing about Canada - and I've mentioned this before - when we pay the listed price on a hardback book we're getting hosed. Big time. Even when our money is at par with the U.S. dollar or doing better, we still pay a few dollars more for a book than our American neighbours. It makes me a little hesitant to buy books when they first come out in store.

If you're unfamiliar with bookcloseouts (there's an American site too), it's just basically a bargain book dealer. When publishers are trying to clear out excess inventory, they send new books to bookcloseouts. Sometimes the books can be a little dinged up, but mostly I've gotten nothing but quality from them. And here's the beauty of it: they're dirt cheap. I recently bought a box of 10+ books and paid around $30 total and that includes shipping. I suppose this makes me a bit of a cheapskate, but if you saw the amount of books that I own, you'd maybe understand. 

4)  Walmart/Costco/Superstore
I know, I know. This does nothing to help keep brick & mortar bookstores afloat. That makes me feel a teensy bit bad, but at the same time I'd really like to know why our big box bookstore (Chapters) sells books for the hefty price that they do, when their own website lists them cheaper and all of these other big box stores sell them cheaper as well. And we're talking a good 30% cheaper. That's fairly substantial when you're talking paying $20 for a hardback book at regular price. 

5)  Kobo Store
This is where the convenience and impatience factor comes into play. I purchased a Kobo e-reader in the Spring before heading to Mexico on vacation. I figured it was a million times more convenient having an e-reader than a stack of books in my luggage. Since then I tend to buy ebooks when I want a book right now and can't or don't want to leave the house. I die a little inside every time I read a book on an e-reader, though. I hate to think that with every ebook purchase I make I could be furthering the ultimate demise of real, honest-to-goodness, paper books. A little dramatic, sure, but still.

6)  Used Bookstores OR Used Book Sales
This is not something I do very often anymore, but every now and again I purchase used books. There are a couple of fundraisers or charities that collect used books to sell, putting the proceeds toward their cause (ie. the Symphony, Servants Anonymous, and Raise-a-Reader). These are all great causes and I love riffling through mountains of used books anyway. The books I buy at these kinds of events are not usually at the top of my TBR list, but they're good finds all the same. 

How about you? Who's your favourite dealer for your book habit?

*     *      *
In other personally exciting news:
I seem to be a little bit lucky this week. Maybe Katy Upperman's crazy good luck is rubbing off on me. I just won a pre-ordered copy of YA Highway's Kristen Hubbard's upcoming book WANDERLOVE which is due out in March 2012 (Thanks!). And earlier this week, I won an ARC of Marissa Meyer's CINDER from the super awesome Rebecca Behrens' Festivus Giveaway (Thanks!!). I'm thinking I should maybe consider buying a lottery ticket. Just sayin'...

December 20, 2011

Holiday Favourites (Day 5)

Well, this could end up being the last HolidaFavourites as time is rapidly running out (I'm not a fan of prolonging Christmas once Christmas day has already come and gone), but you never know. I cannot believe that Christmas is later this week. Where the heck did December go??? 
Today's HolidaFavourites I've decided to call 'Tartan Tuesday'. Why, you might ask? Well, I love anything Scottish, particularly kilts with men in them, and I can't get enough of the bagpipes. Seriously, one of the greatest things I've ever heard was a group of well over a hundred pipers playing together, surrounded by mountains on all sides in Canmore, Alberta (right near Banff). In a word: Amazing. In my mind the two greatest sounds in the world are: 1) the Scottish accent (especially if it's Glaswegian), and 2) the bagpipes. Feel free to disagree, this is just my opinion. Now on to the favourites...

The Christmas Stories of George MacDonald by George MacDonald. Many or all of the short stories in this book are abridged as George MacDonald wrote most of his works (all?) in Scotch dialect. It's really neat reading his stuff in the old Scots for a while, but you start to get a headache if you keep at it for too long. This is a small sampling of what I'm talking about. This little segment below is not by MacDonald but gives you the same idea (and is just full of Scottish goodness):

"Noo thair war, in the same launs, shepherds bidin in the fields an keepin gaird ower thair flocks by nicht. An see! an Angel o the Lord cam til them, an the glorie o the Lord glintit roon aboot* them. They war sair feart, but the Angel said tae them, 'Be-na frichtit, for I bring ye guid tidins o muckle joy tae the hale warld. For thair is born tae ye this day in Dauvid's toun, a Saviour wha is the anointit Lord." (from A Scots Gospel by Jamie Stuart).

Anyway, this book is full of great stories and poetry by a man who influenced C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Madeleine L'Engle, and many others (not too shabby!) with his writing. My favourite is the poem, 'The Angel's Song' but the others are just as delightful.

It's a Wonderful Life
This movie is not Scottish but the lead actor is James Stewart - a totally Scottish name - so I'm saying it works. Plus, it's my all-time favourite Christmas movie. If you haven't seen it you definitely should because it has a great message and because it has Jimmy Stewart (need I say more?). It's kind of like A Christmas Carol in that we get to see what George Bailey's life has been like (similar to seeing Ebeneezer Scrooge's past, only a lot more positive). Unlike Scrooge, George gets to see how things would have turned out for those he knows and loves had he never been born in the first place. His life may not be what he had hoped for, but it is nevertheless rich and full of love, family, and friendship. As Clarence writes in the copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer he leaves George: 'Remember no man is a failure who has friends' - a great message to take from this holiday classic. Oh, and even though I have this in both colour and B&W, I always watch it in B&W.

Oddly enough, this is the first year ever that I've baked shortbread cookies. We've always had them in the house at Christmas, but my mom always baked them. I was pleasantly surprised at just how easy these things are. This recipe actually comes from the side of the corn starch box and it makes the best melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies. Yum!

I Christmas and I bagpipes, so I can think of few things better than combining the two. One of my favourite Christmas albums is Highland Christmas by The McCallans. It has many of the familiar old Christmas carols, but includes others that are a little less familiar but also great. And of course the whole thing wraps up with Auld Lang Syne, written by one of the greatest Scots ever, Robbie Burns (incidentally, this is also how It's a Wonderful Life wraps up).

' 'Twas Christmas broach'd the mightiest ale;
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.'

~%~ Sir Walter Scott~%~

* Ha! Apparently, 'aboot' is an old Scots thing and not a Canadian thing. Take that, mockers!

December 14, 2011

Holiday Favourites (Day 4)

Day 4 of sharing my HolidaFavourites with you is aimed at bringing out the kid in all of us. Christmas is still mostly fun as an adult, but nothing beats the excitement we experienced as children waiting for Christmas to roll around. So how about a little trip down memory lane?

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett
Here's the Goodreads description:
Little Teeka thinks she has to be firm with the reindeer to get them ready for Santa's important flight, but when her bossy yelling only gets their antlers tangled up, Teeka soon tries another way.

This is a cute story with beautiful Scandinavian style illustrations that make me want to go out and buy chunky knit sweaters. I'm not even joking about that. In fact, I just got one the other day that looks like it could have come from the pages of this book. The little illustrations in the wide margins feature Santa's elves, toys, animals and so on and let the reader know what day in December it is in the story. Very cute!

In keeping with the reindeer theme, I give you one of my favourite Christmas movies of all time: Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerIs it cheesy? You betcha. Is the animation so dorky and out-dated that you can't help laughing? Most definitely. This is another Rankin/Bass creation (like Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, and Frosty the Snowman) that even after all these years makes me grin like a fool. Seriously, an elf who wants nothing more than to be a dentist? Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable? The Island of Misfit Toys and the Charlie-In-A-Box*? Epic. 

This recipe might sound a little odd at first (crackers?) but it tastes really great and has been a Morrow family favourite for years now. I made a bunch of different treats for the first time ever this year and still my husband headed straight for the Cracker Candy. 

So I'm not sure I even want to mention the fact that my parents have somewhere in the ballpark of 28 John Denver records (vinyl). Not a fan of JD, but the John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together album is nothing short of awesome. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Who doesn't love the Muppets? I can't even hear any version of the The Twelve Days of Christmas without Miss Piggy's voice singing "Five golden rings" in my head. Great album with mostly good songs and a whole lot of Muppety flair. Check out Christmas Is Coming featuring the sweet vocals of Miss Piggy below:

'Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!'  
~%~Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, 1836~%~

*I have a brother named Charlie, so this was always more than a little funny.

December 13, 2011

Partridge in a Pear Tree Winner!

And no, this doesn't mean you're going home with a slightly used, slightly scruffy, and altogether weird Danny Bonaduce (sorry). Sadly, the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway & Blog Hop doesn't award its loyal followers washed up members of the Partridge Family cast (*sniffle*).

One lucky person IS, however, the winner of Marie Lu's Legend. That same lucky somebody will also 'instantaneously appear more attractive...worldly...sophisticated' and will be able to 'momentarily class up a friend' or a 'neighbor's baby' with his/her package of delightfully silly Fingerstache Tattoos (I couldn't make this up if I tried - it came off the back of the package).

And that lucky person is...[drum roll]... Sophia Rose!

(Please send me your mailing address to argylethistle[at] gmail[dot]com and I'll get your swag shipped out right away!)

Good for you! ☺

Go ahead and do a little celebratory dance, we don't mind. In fact, we 
really wish you would. 

Anyhoo, congrats again to Sophia Rose and thanks a million to all of you who took part in this giveaway. It's been great having all of you new folks join and leave comments as well as hearing from all of my earlier followers. I love what you have to contribute! I especially enjoyed hearing about your holiday traditions and all of the ways that some of you are giving back this Christmas season. As my dad always says: You never get dizzy doing good turns (though if you stare at these animated gifs for too long, you just might).

Don't forget to check out the lucky winners on all of the other eleven blogs (as well as Sarah Belliston's Santa's Special Surprise Giveaway on Dec. 25th!) taking part in this blog hop. You can find those links [HERE].

'May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.'
~%~Ada V. Hendricks~%~

December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway & Blog Hop

Just a reminder (again) that today is the last day to enter the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway & Blog Hop. Entries will be accepted until midnight and then we start announcing winners! 

If you haven't already entered my giveaway, you can do so HERE

What I'm Giving Away:

A copy of LEGEND by Marie Lu (Nov. 29th, 2011)

Here's the Goodreads description:
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.
Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Along with:
A pack of 19 Fingerstache Tattoos. Why? Because they're stinking hilarious, that's why.

Can't grow a stache? Not to fear, the Fingerstache is here! Featuring 19 mini moustache temporary tattoos to 'stache out your finger.

And don't forget to check out the other 11 days of Christmas:

Two Turtle Doves: Tessa Elwood 
Three French Hens: Lisha Cauthen
Four Calling Birds: Morgan Shamy
Five Golden Rings: Rachel Bateman
Six Geese A-Laying: Carrie Butler
Seven Swans A-Swimming: Jessica Grey
Eight Maids A-Milking: Charity Bradford
Nine Ladies Dancing: Athena Franco
Ten Lords A-Leaping: Michael Offutt
Eleven Pipers Piping*: Cherie Stewart
Twelve Drummers Drumming: Suze Reese

Sarah Belliston will be doing a Santa's Special Surprise Giveaway on Christmas Day (over and above the twelve other winners).

So check back tomorrow to see if you're the lucky winner of my giveaway and each of the next 11 days after that on the above listed blogs.

December 9, 2011

Friday Fives: Favourite Christmas Stories

I've already been sharing some of these with you as part of my HolidaFavourites, so some of these might feel a bit repetitive but oh well. 

These are my FIVE favourite Christmas stories:
1)  The actual CHRISTmas story 
I would be remiss if I didn't include the whole Reason we celebrate this festive occasion in the first place - the birth of Jesus. It's not me, me, me, or gimme, gimme, gimme but so much more than all that. I hope this doesn't make you uncomfortable, but His name is after all in the title of this holiday (<--literally, 'holy day'). To read the Christmas story, you can go [HERE] and [HERE]. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
2)  The Legend of Holly Claus by Brittney Ryan
When young Christopher writes a letter to Santa Claus, he poses a question no one has ever thought to ask before: Dear Santa Claus, What do you wish for Christmas? Miraculously, Santa's longtime wish comes true, and a baby girl is born—Princess Holly Claus. But just as the Land of Forever joyously celebrates her arrival, far away an evil is unleashed. A curse is placed on Holly, freezing her heart in ice so her future will be bound by a world of darkness. And with the Gates of Forever now locked, Santa can no longer spread the magic of Christmas to children everywhere. As soon as Holly finds a way to make a daring escape, she begins an astounding journey to the Empire City, determined to free herself and, once and for all, bring back Christmas. (from

This is the shortened picture book version of the novel by Brittney Ryan. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is both magical and very, very Christmasy.

3)  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A "classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions" (from imdb, oddly). Who doesn't love this story? It's especially good with Sticky Date Pudding, FYI. You can check that out [HERE] if you're so inclined. No lead up to Christmas is complete for me without somehow incorporating this story into my yuletide routines and traditions. Whether reading the story, seeing it performed live, or simply watching one of the great movie versions, I make sure it's included every single Christmas.

Not creepy at all.
4)  The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman
I am particular to the Nutcracker ballet, but the story had to come from somewhere and that somewhere is E.T.A. Hoffman's mind. There are any number of versions of this story and just as many are beautifully illustrated. This copy on the left is adapted by Aliana Brodmann and illustrated by the amazing Gennady Spirin. Don't let the nightmare-inducing cover fool you - the illustrations are just gorgeous! As for the familiar Tchaikovsky music (wow, I totally spelled his name right the first time!) wrote for the ballet, it's wonderful and something that never fails to make me feel Christmasy. 

5)  The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (and now I want a chocolate bar)
One dollar and eight-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure -- her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift. (from

"The magi, as you know, were wise men - wonderfully wise men - who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents." 
~%~O. Henry, from The Gift of the Magi~%~

These are only some of my favourites. There are far too many to count, including Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (not really Christmas, but does have Christmas in it), How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, and so many more.