Two More Christmas Ebooks

Two years ago I shared about two Christmas-focused ebooks. We’re well into Holiday Planning Season, so I’ve got two more I recently read that I recommend if you’re in the market for their specific topics.

101 Days of Christmas101 Days of Christmas101 Days of Christmas: 101+ Recipes & Crafts for a DIY Holiday by Mandi Ehman by Mandi Ehman

Why read it? If you want a ton of DIY ideas for Christmas. Crafts, gifts, food – it’s got almost anything you could want.

There are some delicious sounding recipes, and I appreciated that most of the crafts included full instructions in the text, rather than requiring you to click through to the website. It drives me crazy when ebooks do that – I disabled internet access on my Kindle, and want all the specifics included in the book itself. Extra info? Sure, include a link, but don’t force me to click through. There were only a couple where the full procedure wasn’t included, and for more crafty people, that might not be necessary at all. I’m not very crafty so I tend to need lots of details, and pictures are helpful too. :)

The ebook is a compilation of two years of Christmas-themed posts, so the content isn’t original. However, it’s all organized into a useful structure, so it may be worth buying even though you can find it all online. And if you can’t get enough of DIY Christmas, she runs the 101 Days series every year – 2014′s is going on right now.

You can get it in either a PDFor Kindle101 Days of Christmas: 101+ Recipes & Crafts for a DIY Holiday by Mandi Ehman version. While I usually love Kindle versions as they’re easier to read on my actual Kindle, in this case I like the better printing-capability of the PDF version.

A Simpler SeasonA Simpler SeasonA Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher by Jessica Fisher

Why read it? Because it includes ideas for the entire holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Planning sheets, recipe ideas, and more.

If you’re looking for a book exclusively focused on Christmas, this won’t be the one for you, but I enjoyed the coverage given to Thanksgiving and New Years as well. There are lots of budget-friendly ideas, and the book is much longer than a typical ebook – over 200 pages! I liked the planning pages and kid-focused ideas, and I especially liked the recipes and menu planning suggestions.

Surprising no one who knows me, my other favorite part of this book was the list of children’s holiday books, and suggested activities to do after reading those books.

This is also available as a PDF or KindleA Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher version, and there is the option to buy the printables only if you’ve bought the PDF (it’s priced to take that into account as well.)

(And if you’ve got young children, the Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands devotional I mentioned previously is still the best, easiest thing I’ve found to use. I was too miserably pregnant last year to do it with my kids again, but this year I’m getting the printable ornaments and will make it easy on myself. I love this devotional!)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Homeschooling Update: Back in the Groove. Maybe

Homeschooling October updateSince my last real update in August we’ve:

  • Started back at Awana (yay for that! Thank you all Awana volunteers, you are so appreciated.)
  • Made more “official” progress than I expected as far as our schedule goes, and that’s the whole reason I got an early start on it. We did school almost all summer long, so a mid-August to mid-September break is no big deal, and still keeps us on track to finish this year well before we need to.
  • Finished All About Reading Level 1, and are about a quarter of the way through Level 2.
  • Began All About Spelling (and so far, it’s a hit).
  • Started RightStart Math (the first edition, level B).
  • Passed the halfway point of our Sonlight core.
  • Had a baby, the reason for bullet point #2. :)

We’re now getting back into our school routine. We’re doing better when I just give G a handwriting page and tell him to work on that while I get ready for whatever we’re going to do next/finish cleaning up from breakfast/feed the baby/get H started with something/take care of some other need of the moment. He does it, and then we move on with the rest of the routine.

I’ve been trying something new as far as the rest of our routine goes – prompted in part by something I read on the Sonlight forums, which gave me an idea for how to modify it for us. I took five index cards and labeled them “reading,” “math,” “spelling,” “table work,” and “mama reads.” G gets to pick the order, and while we always do “mama reads,” the others may vary. He has to pick two cards for each day we do school (usually he picks three if not all four), and we do each one for at least 15 minutes. Some days it’s a lot longer than 15 minutes for each area, but that keeps him from getting aggravated/bored/what have you when all it has to be is 15 minutes.

(And he can’t continually pick the same two – whatever gets picked is “retired” until he goes through all four areas, then it’s up for grabs again.)

We’ve been trying out a new math program, so lately that’s been the first thing he wants to try, whenever it’s an option. Then it’s spelling or reading. Table work (which is the Developing the Early Learner workbooks and his geography workbook - things he does like once he gets started on it) is his last pick. The DEL books used to be his first choice, so it’s funny to me how things change.

Read alouds (a.k.a. “mama reads” happen on the couch, and the timing is almost entirely baby-dependent. It’s a lot easier to read while feeding/holding her, so when she’s napping is when we’re trying to do the other areas. I’m sure this is the sort of thing that will change as she gets older and becomes mobile.

We’ve done science projects once since having the baby, and that’s something I do hope to get back to semi-regularly soon. Right now the weather’s still been nice enough for the kids to play outside most afternoons with the neighbors, so I’m encouraging that. I can imagine some of that time will go to science and art projects once the weather keeps us inside later.

I got away from a true afternoon quiet time during the pregnancy, instead relying on the television to keep them occupied while I rested. I’ve got energy back now (usually) and am working to re-establish that habit. It’s going better than I expected! While I do have to police them a bit, generally they play quietly in a room for 45 minutes now. We started with 10 minutes, so stretching it to 45 has been good progress! I’m hoping to get it to 60, and have that really be 60 minutes of quiet time, not quiet time with lots of “is quiet time over yet?” questions plus interruptions where they fuss at each other in the doorways/stealth raids into the other’s room when they should be in their room etc. We’re getting there! And if I can someday get their quiet time to coordinate with the baby’s nap time, that would be glorious. She doesn’t have a good routine yet so I’m not even trying to match them up yet. I’ll just concentrate on getting the big kids to an hour of true quiet time first and then try and get it timed to M’s sleeping times!

The Mislaid Magician

The Mislaid MagicianThe Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years AfterThe Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After (The Cecelia and Kate Novels, 3) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

The final book in the Cecelia and Kate trilogy that begins with Sorcery and Cecelia, and continues with The Grand Tour.

I am a huge fan of this series, and hesitated to read this one for quite awhile as I was so scared that the book wouldn’t live up to my hopes for it. Book one was so good, and book two didn’t quite match it. How would book three fare?

What I didn’t like so much about the second book is that Cecelia and Kate are together, so the epistolary format seems much more contrived. They’re writing in their journals, or writing an account of events for the authorities. In book one they’re writing to each other, and their voices are much more believable in that sort of structure than the other.

Happily, in book three they’re separated, so they’re writing each other again. New this time is that their husbands are also writing letters to each other. That’s one weakness of the book – their voices aren’t that distinctive, and their writing style didn’t feel “right” for them in the same way it does for Cecelia and Kate.

No matter, I still enjoyed the book tremendously. If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous books, please do read this one – it’s fun to meet back up with them both ten years later. I would highly recommend reading the other books first however – you’ll spoil yourself for events in them, and also miss out on getting to know the characters.

Publisher’s Description:
Now married with children, Cecelia and Kate must face a threat to the wizarding world

It’s been a decade since Kate and Cecelia foiled Napoleon’s plot to reclaim the French crown. The cousins now have estates, children, and a place at the height of wizarding society. It is 1828, and though magic remains at the heart of the British Empire, a new power has begun to make itself felt across England: the steam engine. As iron tracks crisscross the countryside, the shaking of the locomotives begins to disrupt the workings of English magic, threatening the very foundations of the Empire. A foreign wizard on a diplomatic mission to England vanishes, and the Prime Minister sends Cecelia’s husband to investigate. In order to accompany her husband to the north of England, Cecelia leaves her children in Kate’s care. As Cecelia and James fight for the future of magic, Kate is left with a no less daunting problem: how to care for a gaggle of disobedient, spell-casting tots.

Book Details

Title: The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years AfterThe Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After (The Cecelia and Kate Novels, 3) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Author: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
My Rating: 4 Stars

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Twitterature: Recent Re-reads

recent reads, twitterature-style

For various reasons, I’ve reread several books recently. I wrote full reviews of two of those re-reads (Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate PotSorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (The Cecelia and Kate Novels, 1) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer and The Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation RegaliaThe Grand Tour: or the Purloined Coronation Regalia (The Cecelia and Kate Novels, 2) by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer), but the others are getting highlighted here:

Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in DisguiseGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. Day 31 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads by Ruth Reichl

Why did I reread it? It was book club pick’s for October, and I wanted to refresh my memory on the specifics.

How was it as a reread? Excellent.

Our Only May AmeliaOur Only May AmeliaOur Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm by Jennifer L. Holm

Why did I reread it? Trying it as an audio book.

How was it as a reread? Terrific – and it worked really well as an audio book. Highly recommended! Although I have some cautions if you’re considering it for your children – sensitive readers beware. (It’s still a great book, and I’ll spoil events if I explain more.)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the PieThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce NovelThe Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley by Alan Bradley

Why did I reread it? Book club’s December pick, and I read it so long ago that I’m a bit shaky on the details.

How was it as a reread? Great, and I listened to the first quarter or so, before having to return the audio book. It was a wonderful audio book with a fantastic reader!

Murder in the MaraisMurder in the Marais: An Aimee Leduc Investigation, Vol. 1Murder in the Marais: An Aimee Leduc Investigation, Vol. 1 by Cara Black by Cara Black

Why did I reread it? Trying again for a novel set in Paris. Not a fan.

How was it as a reread? I shouldn’t have bothered, or stuck with it.

Simple Scrubs to Make and GiveSimple Scrubs to Make and and Give by Stacy Karen

Why did I reread it? Skimmed it as I got ready to write about a package deal of which it’s part.

How was it as a reread? Fine – it’s hard to get as excited about a nonfiction book like this one, but I do like it and think it’s got good information.

For more peeks at what people are reading, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Delancey

DelanceyDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a MarriageDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg by Molly Wizenberg

I loved Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life, and hoped to enjoy this follow-up just as much.

High expectations are tough – I think this one suffered just a bit because I hoped for so much from it. And it’s a good book, it just doesn’t have the same emotional component the first one does.

It also doesn’t have the most fantastically wonderful chocolate cake recipe like the first one does, so perhaps that’s playing a role in the whole which-book-is-my-favorite thinking. :)

If you’re wanting a perspective on what it’s like to open a small restaurant as inexperienced business owners, this is a good take on that. If you’re really wanting to get to know Wizenberg and her husband the way you do in her first book, this one is less personal (despite the promise of the subtitle). The book is appealing, but not as ultimately satisfying as A Homemade Life.

In addition, it’s not really a food memoir the way her previous book was. There are recipes included, but there is very little connection between the chapters in the book and the recipes which follow. They often feel tacked on, and that lack of a connection made me less inclined to try them.

Recommended, but not as heartily as I’d hoped. [Read more...]

Read This, Not That: Productivity Advice

Manage Your Day-to-Day168 Hours

Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative MindManage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series) by Jocelyn Glei by Jocelyn Glei

Manage Your Day to Day has gotten some glowing reviews by readers I trust, so I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t all that crazy about it. It’s not that the advice in the book is bad, it’s just that it’s all information I’ve read before, often multiple times. In addition, many of the essays read like promotional material for the writer’s other books, or blog, or seminars.

My favorite essay was probably Gretchen Rubin’s, and there were a handful of others that I liked to varying degrees. As far as life-changing or modifying ideas though? Not here, at least for me. Lots of familiar advice and some platitudes, packaged for quick consumption.

Instead of this pick, go for Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Or one of the more targeted books she wrote using the principles she describes in 168 hours, such as What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend or What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings–and LifeWhat the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings--and Life by Laura Vanderkam. [Read more...]

Book Stacks and My Current Reads – More #31BookPics

Clearly I’m not going to manage a picture every day, but I’m still doing some #31BookPics. This week I’ve got some of my current reads, and a book stack.

current readsWhile I usually have a huge stack of “real” (i.e., physical) books in progress, right now I’m almost exclusively reading ebooks. It’s so much easier to hold a Kindle or my phone while nursing, and that’s my main reading time right now.

I know that eventually I’ll get back to all forms, but for now I’m just grateful for the electronic option (and my library’s extensive collection that I can borrow!) I love how it’s easy to have so many options on one device – I can easily fit a book to my current reading mood. :)

book stacksThe book stack is what’s planned for my son’s 1st grade year. Except we’ll be getting to it sooner than that – as soon as he finishes his current curriculum (and I use that word very loosely) we’ll move on to this.

He doesn’t know about summer breaks, and this way I can take breaks whenever we need them without concern we’ll fall behind where he should be. Plus he loves school and I love the structure it gives to our days. It doesn’t hurt that I’m excited about reading almost all of these titles, and he’s excited about the ones that are for him to read himself!

Check out more #31BookPics at The Quirky Bookworm’s linkup!

Recent Readaloud: Dinosaurs Before Dark

Dinosaurs Before DarkDinosaurs Before DarkDinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne by Mary Pope Osbourne

I can’t remember if I found this on a list of recommended read-alouds, or if it was just that the author was familiar to me, or if someone recommended it specifically.

No matter how it came to my attention, I’m glad that the series did. While this entry in the series wasn’t the best fit for us (something about outer space would have likely been more appealing), the overall format seems like it’ll be a success, and it’s another good bridge between picture books and longer chapter books. This one is a chapter book, but the chapters are all short and there is one illustration for each chapter.

Anyone who has read it, does it make a difference if you read it in order, or can you skip around to pick titles covering specific topics? This one was the first in the series which is why I started with it, and if I was just going on content the next one I’d try would be #8.

My verdict:
It’s fine, but a different topic would probably interest my kids a bit more. Dinosaurs aren’t their favorite.

The kids’ verdict:
H liked the pictures, but got bored by the story. G liked the story, but it hasn’t been one that he’s desperate to have me reread again and again. [Read more...]

The Blood of Lorraine and The Missing Italian Girl

Blood of LorraineMissing Italian GirlThe Blood of LorraineThe Blood of Lorraine: A Novel by Barbara Corrado Pope - book two in the Bernard Martin series and The Missing Italian GirlThe Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in Paris by Barbara Corrado Pope by Barbara Corrado Pope

Sequels to Cezanne’s Quarry, and if you didn’t like the first book I wouldn’t recommend reading more in the series. The books are all very similar in their overall tone and structure, only the specifics of the plot and setting have changed for each one.

I picked these up because I was looking for a fiction book set in Paris to read for my book club’s retreat – we’re all reading a “book flight” with the overall theme of Paris. Two nonfiction books were assigned, and then the fiction book was the choice of several options. I’m ridiculous about reading series in order, so before I could get to The Missing Italian Girl (the one set in Paris), I had to read the first two in the series.

Honestly? The series isn’t worth it. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s not compelling at all. I advised against anyone else selecting it as their pick, and was disappointed at how little the Paris setting mattered. The first two in the series seemed like the setting was much more important to the book, while for the third it was the time period that mattered most.

If you’re a die-hard historical mystery fan, and want something in this time period you may want to give it a try. For anyone else, I’d give the series a pass.

Publisher’s Description for The Blood of Lorraine:
In the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, the murder of two Jews in Nancy reveals the darker side of human nature.

In the wake of the Vernet murders in Aix-en-Provence, magistrate Bernard Martin moves to the town of Nancy in Lorraine, France, along with his pregnant wife Clarie, who is as fervent about Republican ideals as her husband. They are not in Nancy long when an infant boy is found dead, his tiny body mutilated. The wet nurse and mother say that this was a case of “ritual sacrifice” by a “wandering tinker,” or Jew.

Yet as Bernard delves deeper into the different personalities surrounding the case, he struggles to reconcile his Republican beliefs with the subtle nuances of Nancy’s Jewish Diaspora, all while balancing the racial tensions and politics within the courthouse. Meanwhile his beloved Clarie, now reeling from the death of her own child, seems to be falling prey to the propaganda being spewed throughout town, forcing Bernard to acknowledge the frailties of the human psyche. Fearing a vigilante mob sparked by the church, Bernard must unveil the murderers before Nancy experiences her own pogrom.

Book Details

Title: The Blood of LorraineThe Blood of Lorraine: A Novel by Barbara Corrado Pope - book two in the Bernard Martin series and The Missing Italian GirlThe Missing Italian Girl: A Mystery in Paris by Barbara Corrado Pope
Author: Barbara Corrado Pope
Category: Fiction / Historical Mystery
My Rating: 2.5 and 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Naked and Marooned

Naked and MaroonedNaked and Marooned: One Man. One Island.Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island. by Ed Stafford by Ed Stafford

This is a hard one to review – my feelings towards it are decidedly mixed. I … kind of liked the book – it was interesting in a can’t-look-away kind of way. It was also pretty gross at times, and I can’t recommend it without some strong cautions. I’ve been wanting to read his Walking the AmazonWalking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. by Ed Stafford book, and this account makes me want to read that one even more, but this book didn’t make me want to rush out and tell everyone I know that they need to read it.

Why should you read this book?

Why should you pass?

  • You don’t want to read multiple accounts detailing Stafford’s intestinal distress, and how it was an indicator of his overall health and well-being.
  • You’re not a fan of “stunt” journalism – this is a contrived experiment, rather than a true survival story.
  • You don’t want to read some fairly graphic passages, such as one describing how he killed a goat. It’s gruesome, and if you’re squeamish you’ll want to skip that part.
  • You want an account with nonstop excitement. This gets a bit repetitive at times – not surprising, because so much of his time was spent doing the same sorts of things. Hunt for food, look for water, work on shelter, etc., repeat repeat repeat.

The epilogue is excellent however – I really appreciated how he didn’t just end it when the experiment ended, but came back to it months later and talked about some of the long-term impact it had on him and his relationships. Fascinating stuff!

Publisher’s Description:
What do you do after you walk the Amazon?

Ed Stafford—adventurer extraordinaire and Guinness World Record holder for walking the length of the Amazon River—likes a challenge. Casting about for an adventure that would top the extraordinary feat he recounts in Walking the Amazon, Stafford decides to maroon himself on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific. His mission: to survive for sixty days equipped with nothing—no food, water, or even clothing—except the video cameras he would use to document his time. Detailing Stafford’s jaw-dropping sojourn on the island of Olourua, Naked and Marooned is a tale of unparalleled adventure and of one man’s will to push himself to the outer limits—and survive.

Book Details

Title: Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island.Naked and Marooned: One Man. One Island. by Ed Stafford
Author: Ed Stafford
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley to review, but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!