December 22, 2014

HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA EVENT - CONCLUSION



First of all I want to say a huge THANK YOU to every single book blogger and every single author who took time to write a guest post or donated their beloved books to the giveaways.  You truly made the event special!

I have a wrap-up here for you in case you missed anything during the 27-Day Event!  Please read the posts that the bloggers worked so hard on and please feel free to enter any or all of the giveaways!  They will be open until the end of December with daily chances to increase your odds of winning!


GUEST POSTS




Shannon of River City Reading - Favorite Cozy Reads

Marie of The Boston Bibliophile - Christmas Baking and Cookbooks

Carolina of A Girl That Likes Books - Christmas in Colombia

Ryan of Wordsmithsonia - My Love for Christmas TV Specials

Tamara of Traveling with T - Christmas Memories and Traditions

Jennifer of The Relentless Reader - Christmas Baking Traditions and Recipe

Emma of Words and Peace - Top 10 Books for Santa

Katie of Words for Worms - Ornamental Enthusiasm

Allison of The Book Wheel - Christmas Memories

April of The Steadfast Reader - It's hard to be an Atheist on Christmas

Lisa of Books in the Burbs - Top 5 Reasons to Read a Blogger's End-of-Year List

Leah of Books Speak Volumes - Christmas Bookish DIY Projects

Suey of It's All About Books - How the Grinch Stole My Heart

Michelle of True Book Addict - To Believe: An Original Christmas Story

Ruth of Booktalk and More - Christmas Mysteries

Sheila of Bookjourney - All About the Holidays

Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves - Christmas Traditions: Portica Recipe

Tanya M. of Mom's Small Victories - Season's Eatings in Our Multicultural Family

Kristen of BookNAround - Spirit of the Season

Litha of Victorian Soul Critiques - Make Your Own Bookish Christmas Tree Ornaments

Michele of A Reader's Respite - A Very Dickens Christmas

Jennine of My Life in Books - Christmas Book JOY

Susan of Susan's Literary Cafe - Celebrating Chanukah

Cindi of Utah Mom's Life - The Children's Book Christmas Advent Calendar

Rachel of Bookishly Witty - The Best Present is a Book Present

Sarah of Sarah's Book Shelves - My Husband's Inner Clark Griswold

Melissa of The Book Binder's Daughter - It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Roman Style

Mandy of The Narrative Causality - A Rough Guide to an Australian Christmas


GIVEAWAYS




Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase

Redeeming Lainey by Kaitlyn Hoyt

Dethroning Crown by Lila Felix

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

The Memory of After and Chasing Before by Lenore Appelhans

Three Books by Indie Author J.D. Nelson

The Power to See by Jennifer Anne Davis

Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Much Ado About Jack by Christy English

Crane by Stacey Rourke

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

Songbird by Syrie James

Hansel Trilogy by Ella James

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Owlet and Eyrie, both by Emma Michaels

On Christmas Hill by Nichole Chase

Contact by Laurisa White Reyes

Soulless by Amber Garr

Dead of Night by Carlyle Labuschagne and Thrown to the Wolves: Epilogue by Veronica Blade

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Blackbrooke Trilogy by Emma Silver

Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig

Nest. Flight. Sky. by Beth Kephart

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen



What were your favorite parts of the Holiday Extravaganza Event?

December 21, 2014

A Rough Guide to an Australian Christmas by Mandy R. of The Narrative Causality

Christmas in Australia is a different affair from the Northern Hemisphere. For us Christmas falls in the middle of summer, so we have endless heat (sometimes heat waves) and storms. Australia at Christmas time also means natural disasters. We have had cyclones, floods, earthquakes, droughts, heat waves and bushfires devastate our landscape in an epic way over the Christmas period. The most famous Christmas disaster in Australia is Cyclone Tracy; it hit early in the morning of Christmas Day in 1974, while the inhabitants of Darwin were sleeping. 71 lives were lost as the city was obliterated by a category 4 cyclone. Until only recently it was Australia’s worst natural disaster. However we don’t let this hold us back from celebrating.



Two major department stores in Australia (David Jones and Myers) for decades have been dressing up their street front windows in a Christmas theme. Every year is an elaborate beautiful window. Families will go in from all corners of the city to view the windows and sometimes (like us) when on holidays will go and view the windows. It is quite a lovely tradition that I hope will continue for many years to come.

Fake Christmas trees are all the rage in Australia and in fact I don’t think I have ever met an Australian family who use a live tree. This year was the first time I saw an Aussie post a picture of a real cut Christmas tree they were putting up and I suspect this is more because they have only just recently moved back to Australia from England so were probably feeling nostalgic. Real trees just aren’t the done thing in Australia because quite frankly our local pine trees are pretty sad looking (not the nice thick bushy ones you get in the northern hemisphere) and can you imagine a live cut Christmas tree in our Aussie heat? But our Christmas trees are creative. With coloured trees (like white, black, and pink) becoming increasingly popular. Some people even decorate palm trees or gum trees. I have to say a palm tree can look pretty cool in tinsel and with baubles.

Now it just isn’t Christmas without the Christmas day dinner and lunch. The majority of Australians do a cold type lunch and dinner which usually involve seafood, cold meats, salads, and bread. BBQ’s are as close as most of us get to a hot Christmas dinner. There are a rare few families who do the traditional roast dinner but they are far and few between. It is interesting to note that around Christmas our news reports fill up with the price of prawns and their availability because come December the demand and price of them sky rockets and they become rarer then hens teeth.

We normally spend Christmas outdoors at the beach, park, lake, pool, creek/river, bush, back yard, you name it and it’s outdoors an Aussie is probably there on Christmas day. Unless it rains, which in the far north, can be fairly common especially if the monsoon has arrived. In fact I like a good rain storm on Christmas Day as it doesn’t really feel like Christmas to me without it. So being outdoors also involves sport like playing Cricket, Rugby, AFL, Soccer, Swimming, and pretty much anything goes. If you are not playing sport then you are probably sitting on your butt relaxing and drinking your beverage of choice (though you could be playing sport and drinking too). Unless you are manning the BBQ or setting up the table/food but then you are probably doing that with a class/can/bottle of something in your hand anyway. We are great multi-taskers like that.
Finally Santa when visiting Australia does not get boring cookies and milk.

Australia is one of the first countries he visits on his epic one world yearly trip, and it really is hot (I have mentioned that before right?) plus we Aussies like to do things different and spice it up for him. He gets cold beverages such as beer or soft drink (which are the most common but have heard of a chocolate thick shake once).Food wise he gets chocolates, chips (known in other parts of the world as crisps), tim tams (chocolate covered biscuits) and cake, to name a few. Anything goes really, but the junkier the food the better. In my home growing up Santa would get a block of chocolate, Cheese and Onion chips (Crisps) and diet coke. To be honest I would be surprised if Santa didn’t make it out of Australia on a drunken sugar rush. It’s lucky you guys only give him milk and cookies which should help dilute the alcohol and sugar content in his system.

There you have it a rough guide to an Australian Christmas. The only real rule to remember is ANYTHING goes and pack your bathers as you will find yourself in water at some point.


Thanks, Mandy!  So interesting!  Visit Mandy at her blog, The Narrative Causality!


December 20, 2014

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Roman Style by Melissa of The Book Binder's Daughter


One of my favorite times of the year from the perspective of being a teacher is the holidays.  There is something that is just magical between the time Thanksgiving ends and the holiday break begins in December.  Even though I teach high school students, they are still children at heart and get very excited to celebrate a holiday.

When I started teaching I wanted my classroom to reflect the magical atmosphere at this time of year but I also wanted my decorations to fit into a lesson and teach something to the students.  Since I teach Latin classes, the most logical lesson for the students would be to teach them about the holiday that the Romans celebrated, called Saturnalia, and point out the similarities between this ancient holiday and our own.


The Romans celebrated Saturnalia around December 17th and original it was only a day or two in length.  But as the popularity of this holiday grew, it was eventually extended to last for 7 full days.  Saturnalia was meant to honor the agricultural god Saturn to whom the Romans prayed for a successful growing season.  They chose December because it was the end of the fall harvest season and they could honor the god and thank him for a successful harvest and ask him to bring them a season rich in bounty for the next year.

The Romans would give each other gifts during Saturnalia, much like we do during the holiday season.  Some of the popular gifts that Romans would give, according to the author Martial, were writing tablets, dice, a hat, perfume, books or other items of clothing.  This list is very similar to the types of gifts we give nowadays for Christmas.

The Romans also liked to decorate their homes with garlands and candles to celebrate Saturnalia.  They would usually gather at their festively decorated homes and have a big feast, with all the trimmings.  The idea behind Saturnalia was to spend the holiday with friends and family which is what we usually do around this time of year.

So if you stop by my Latin classroom between the end of the Thanksgiving and the beginning of Christmas you will see lots and lots of lights, garlands and Saturnalia signs and cards.  You will also see a little exchange of gifts for Saturnalia.  The students are a little more merry, a little more happy to be in school, and a little more willing to learn some Latin.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Io Saturnalia!

Melissa



Thanks for sharing, Melissa!  Visit Melissa at her blog!


GIVEAWAY 27 of 27: Holiday Extravaganza Event


Every day through December 20th, I'm hosting a new giveaway on the blog in addition to the guest post. Each giveaway is in complete thanks to the author.  The giveaways will all end December 31st and the winners will be chosen in the next week.  Happy Holidays!

Today's giveaway is a SIGNED print copy of Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen!  Thank you, Sarah!


Goodreads Link

Julia and Michael meet in high school in their small, poverty-stricken West Virginia hometown. Both products of difficult childhoods -- Julia’s father is a compulsive gambler and Michael’s mother abandoned his family when he was a young boy – they find a sense of safety and mutual understanding in each other. Shortly after graduation they flee West Virginia to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar,Washington D.C. home. From the outside it all looks perfect – Julia has become a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has launched a wildly successful flavored water company that he sold for $70 million. 
But one day Michael stands up at the head of the table in his company's boardroom -- then silently crashes to the floor. More than four minutes later, a portable defibrillator manages to jump-start his heart. Yet what happened to Michael during those lost minutes forever changes him. Money is meaningless to him now - and he wants to give it all away to charity. A prenuptial agreement that Julia insisted upon back when Michael's company was still struggling means she has no claim to his fortune, and now she must decide: should she walk away from the man she once adored, but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his near-death experience - or should she give in to her husband's pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?


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December 19, 2014

My Husband's Inner Clark Griswold (from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) by Sarah of Sarah's Book Shelves

When Becca asked me to write a guest post for her Christmas Extravaganza, I was at a bit of a loss because Suey from It's All About Books had just written about my favorite Christmas book (Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas)! So, I thought movies. A big one in our family is "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". It's hilarious, irreverent, and heart-warming. Plus, what's not to love about Cousin "that there's an RV" Eddie?! And, of course, Aunt "Do you hear it? It's a funny, squeaky sound" Bethany.

My cousins had a tradition where all four of them spent every Christmas Eve in the same bedroom and watched "Christmas Vacation" (this tradition continued until the oldest in the family got married and her husband looked at her strangely when she announced she wasn't planning to spend Christmas Eve with him). On Christmas Day, when our extended family traditionally gathers, "Christmas Vacation" quotes often surface...to tear inducing laughter. This has been going on for years.

My little family (not including all the aforementioned cousins) is spending our second Christmas in the suburbs after moving from New York City. One of my favorite things about the burbs is having an actual house, which can contain an adult sized Christmas tree that actually sits on the floor (not on a table)! My husband's favorite thing about the burbs is having an actual house to adorn with lots of lights and other Christmas paraphernalia. Now, my husband is a very organized, "let's consult the spreadsheet" type of guy...so, I never would have expected that I had a closeted Clark Griswold on my hands! Well, now that we're in the burbs...he is out! And, I love this newly discovered quality about him.

Last year (our first experimenting with outdoor Christmas lights), he was so proud of his handiwork and brought the kids outside to watch him turn on the lights...a la Clark Griswold. Unlike Clark's, our lights did turn on when he plugged them in, but the kids were not adequately impressed. 

After a few days, one strand of lights inevitably went out. I looked out the front window and saw my husband stomping around our porch in lacrosse shorts, a T shirt, and flip flops muttering about the lights. I think there was snow on the ground (a safe guess considering last winter). I obviously thought of this...





This year, we're back even brighter than last year! Although, I'm a little ticked that we don't have a huge, blow-up Santa Claus lawn ornament....there's always next year. And so far, there haven't been any light snafus or underdressed Clark Griswolds stomping around the porch...

Note: I would have provided a picture of our decorated house, but thought better of that given the whole Kathleen Hale blogger stalking debacle!

What's your favorite Christmas movie? Have you ever adopted a holiday tradition from a movie?


Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your DH's inner Griswold with us!  Visit Sarah at her blog, Sarah's Book Shelves!



GIVEAWAY 26 of 27: Holiday Extravaganza Event


I'm hosting a Holiday Guest Post and new giveaway on the blog for the next two weeks. Each giveaway is in complete thanks to the author.  The giveaways will all end December 31st and the winners will be chosen in the next week. Happy Holidays!

Today's giveaway is thanks to Beth Kephart!  She is giving away to you her e-book Nest. Flight. Sky.

Goodreads Link

In Nest. Flight. Sky: On Love and Loss, One Wing at a Time, award-winning memoirist Beth Kephart returns to the form for the first time in years to reckon with the loss of her mother and a slow-growing but soon inescapable obsession with birds and flight. Kephart finds herself drawn to the startle of the winter finch, the quick pulse of hummingbirds, and the hungry circling of hawks. She discovers birds in the stories she tells and the novels she writes. She hunts for nests, she waits for song, she seeks the stories of bird artists, she waits. Nest. Flight. Sky. is about the love that endures and the hope that saves us. It’s about the gift of feathers. 

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of 16 books, an adjunct faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania, a frequent memoir workshop leader, and the strategic writing partner in a boutique communications firm. Small Damages, a young adult novel that takes place in southern Spain, was named to many best of 2012 lists and is a Carolyn W. Field Honor Book. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir has received starred reviews and was featured in O magazine. Kephart is a National Book Award finalist, a National Endowment for the Arts grant winner, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts winner, a Speakeasy Poetry Prize winner, and a featured author in the Philadelphia Literary Legacy exhibition. She has written reviews and essays for the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Tribune, Salon.com, Millions, the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal Speakeasy, and many others. She writes a monthly column on place for the Philadelphia Inquirer and has an award-winning blog. 


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