Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas by Ace Collins

You know these songs by heart. They’re the “greatest hits” of Christmas. But do you know the fascinating, inspirational stories behind them—who wrote them and how they came to be? In his latest book, Ace Collins reveals the stories behind the greatest hits of Christmas—all the songs you have enjoyed for generations. For example, as the story goes, jazz great Mel Torme wrote “The Christmas Song” after visiting a friend in California, who, longing to escape California’s heat for the cold winters of his New England, doodled these now-famous phrases on his spiral pad: “Chestnuts roasting … Jack Frost nipping … Yuletide carols …” Torme saw those words and one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time, first recorded by Nat King Cole, was born. Within these pages, you’ll discover the origins of such famous Christmas songs as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “White Christmas,” “Little Drummer Boy,” “Feliz Navidad,” “O Holy Night,” and two dozen others. Although not yet as famous as the Christmas songs of which he writes (he’s working on that), Collins’s many books have sold tens of thousands of copies and have become treasured family classics, read and enjoyed by young and old alike. His new book is a treasure-trove of the kind of magic that makes Christmas the beloved holiday it is. This is Ace Collins at his storytelling best … which means it’s sure to become a “greatest hit” with your family, too.

My review:
I have all of Collins' books in this line of books, and as with the others, it is is obvious he has put a lot of research into this one. He takes 34 of the most popular Christmas songs of all time, religious and secular, and tells how they came to be written, along with information about the writer.

Each song is a separate chapter, making this a great book to read over a period of time. Collins has a writing style for this type of book that makes it easy to read, and very interesting. I was familiar with the origins of a few of the songs in the book, but still enjoyed reading about them from his writing.

Christmas is over, but this, along with his other books in this line, make a great read for Christmas, or any time during the year. I highly recommend it and the others by him.

About the author:
Ace Collins is the writer of more than sixty books, including several bestsellers: Stories behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Stories behind the Great Traditions of Christmas, The Cathedrals, and Lassie: A Dog’s Life. Based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, He continues to publish several new titles each year, including a series of novels, the first of which is Farraday Road. Ace has appeared on scores of television shows, including CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.

Author Website:

Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Digitalis by Ronie Kendig

Step into the boots of a former Marine in this heart-pounding adventure in life and love. Colton “Cowboy” Neeley is a Marine trying to find his footing as he battles flashbacks now that he’s back home. Piper Blum is a woman in hiding—from life and the assassins bent on destroying her family. When their hearts collide, more than their lives are at stake. Will Colton find a way to forgive Piper’s lies? Can Piper find a way to rescue her father, trapped in Israel? Is there any way their love, founded on her lies, can survive?

My review:
I have been looking forward to this second book in the Discarded Heroes series by Ronie Kendig, and it was worth the wait. I started reading it last night and got totally caught up in the story. I was surprised when I looked at the clock when I was getting close to the end, and it was 1 am. And yes, I finished it, so this book definitely gets the "read-in-one-sitting" status I give books such as this.

This book also deals with PTSD, but in different ways than the first. In some ways, this book was even better than the one that precedes it. It focuses on another member of the Nightshade team, Colton Neeley, and we learn much more about him. I love the work that Ronie puts into developing her characters. You learn a lot about them.

In this book, there is a lot of action and suspense just as the first, but even more, and there is also a lot more of the romantic element. Don't let that scare you away guys. This, just like the first book, will definitely capture male readers' interest. There is a lot of action, guns - all the stuff that the average man is interested in, yet women should and do enjoy these books also.

I have never used stars or numbers when reviewing books, but if I did, this would get the highest star, which is usually 5 stars. Ronie has hit a home run with this, and I am looking forward to reading more in this series and finding out more about the other members of the Nightshade team.

About the author:

Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children and a Golden Retriever. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Ronie can be found at .

Check out the website for the series:

Digitalis, and the first book in the Discarded Heroes series is available from Barbour Publishing.

Thanks to Barbour for the review copy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tyndale contest

To enter, visit the NLT Facebook page by clicking here.

There are several levels of prizes you can win, here are the details:

With the Give the Word Bible Contest and Giveaway:

• Ministries win: Each time the NLT Facebook Page reaches a fan count milestone, votes will be tallied and the three ministries will receive cash donations from the New Living Translation and Tyndale House Publishers.

• Everyone wins: Everyone who enters on the Bible Contest website wins a free download of Matthew West reading the Christmas story.

• Daily NLT Study Bible winners: Vote on the NLT Facebook page and you will be entered to win two NLT Study Bibles—one to keep and one to give away. A new winner will be chosen every day.

• Weekly Give the Word Locally winners: Tell us about a deserving local ministry on the NLT Bible Contest website and they could win five NLT Study Bibles and $250 worth of NLT products.

• One Grand Prize winner will enjoy a unique trip customized just for them and their family (or three guests of their choice), to Wycliffe Bible Translators world headquarters and the WordSpring Discovery Center where they will experience firsthand the exciting world of Bible translation. The Grand Prize winner could also choose to donate the value of the trip--$2000--to Wycliffe instead.

Enter here.

Tabitha's Travels by Arnold Ytreeide

Following in the footsteps of the immensely popular Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage, this captivating story will take families through Advent to Christmas as they share in Tabitha’s adventures. Curious, competent, and courageous Tabitha is the daughter of a shepherd who is taking his family on caravan to his birthplace. Along the way, she meets and becomes friends with Jotham and Bartholomew, watches as Romans take her father prisoner, spends time with Zechariah and Elizabeth, helps Mary and Joseph just before Christ’s birth, and ends her travels at the stable in Bethlehem. With day-by-day readings, reflections for family devotions, and advice for making Christmas a meaningful season of worship, Tabitha’s Travels continues the beloved tradition of celebrating Advent with your family.

My review:
I was familiar with these books, but had never read any. This is getting pretty close to Christmas, but if you aren't familiar with the books, it might get you interested for next year.

Tabitha's Travels is a story, but it is split up into the four weeks of Advent, and has a chapter of a few pages for each day of that week. First is the story part, then a short application of what was just read.

The book starts out with an explanation of Advent customs and some ideas on how to observe it.

The story is interesting, and the author's applications and insights are very helpful. A great tool for the whole family. This is a book I would highly recommend to start a new Christmas tradtion.

About the author:
Arnold Ytreeide is a fine storyteller who cares deeply about spiritual growth in families. Ytreeide is the founder of Storyteller Productions and lives with his wife and two children in Nampa, Idaho.

Tabitha's Travels is available from Kregel Publications.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Books... the best of 2010

I read and reviewed a lot of books in 2010, so I decided to compile a list of the ones I liked the best. I tried to do a "top 10", but after cutting down my fiction list, got stuck with 12, so  here they are in no particular order, my top 12 fiction favorites, and top 10 non-fiction favorites:


  1. Nightshade by Ronie Kendig
  2. Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury
  3. The Right Call by Kathy Herman
  4. Don't Look Back by Lynette Eason
  5. Judgement Day by Wanda Dyson
  6. The Bishop by Steven James
  7. Frenzy by Robert Liparulo
  8. Predator by Terri Blackstock
  9. Rooms by James Rubart
  10. In Harm's Way by Irene Hannon
  11. Forget-Me-Not by Vicki Hinze
  12. Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Carroll

  1. Bond of Brothers by Wes Yoder
  2. Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic
  3. Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef
  4. Everything Christmas by David Bordon and Thomas J Winters
  5. What Your Son Isn't Telling You by Susie Shellenberger and Michael Ross
  6. The Life Recovery Bible
  7. Crave by Chris Tomlinson
  8. Word of Promise New Testament
  9. Going Rogue by Sarah Palin
  10. Washed And Waitng by Wesley Hill

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Carol by Bob Hartman

Jack O'Malley hates shopping. He hates snow. He even hates Christmas. All three at once is Jack's idea of a very bad day. Storming into Starbucks to escape, Jack almost knocks someone over. Someone quite beautiful. And mysterious. And his entire life--what he once was, who he is now, and who he could become--flashes before him. This contemporary retelling of Charles Dickens's classic story A Christmas Carol is funny, moving, and thought-provoking.

My review:

This is a cool book. It isn't long - 96 pages, so it doesn't take long to read it. In it, the author does a modern day retelling of Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol which is entertaining, humorous, and makes you think. It was a fast read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if it were not for the lenghth, this would be a read-in-one-sitting book, which is exactly what I did.

In the book, jack Malley runs onto a beautiful woman in a bookstore. He is ready to hit on her, but he discovers she is not what she seems as she takes him on a journey into the past, present, and future to show him that he needs to change some things in his life. A great book.

About the author:

Bob Hartman is a popular children's writer and performance storyteller, a regular at festivals including the Spring Harvest Christian festival in the UK and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He also works as a youth pastor for a Baptist church in Pittsburgh. His books include the best-selling Lion Storyteller Bible, The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and the highly acclaimed Wolf Who Cried Boy. Total sales of his books for Lion are now in excess of one million copies.

Carol is available from Kregel Publications from their Lion Hudson imprint.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.

What I like about winter

It is well known that I hate winter. I don't just dislike it - I hate it. I have friends who love it, and though they are my friends, I think they border on insanity for loving it.

I blogged a sarcastic post recently about what I love about winter, which was actually things I don't like. Some of my friends are trying to get me to see the good about winter, so I am taking up their challenge and making a list of what I like about winter. I repeat - this is a list about what I love/like about winter. Your list may differ from mine. OK, here I go.......

1) Christmas

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our God Is With Us

This is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. Our God Is With Us by Steven Curtis Chapman

Verse 1
One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains,
And we’re left all alone;
One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave,
Oh and we’re left all alone.
But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness
There comes a great announcement - we are never alone -
For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take
Has come to earth and given hope it’s birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel.
He’s come to save us, Emmanuel.
And we will never face life alone
Now that God has made Himself known,
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Verse 2
He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire,
But no one had seen His face;
Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire,
And left His rightful place;
And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken,
As God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart.
And with love that conquers loneliness, and hope that fills all emptiness
He came to earth to show our worth.


So rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come!
And our God is with us, Emmanuel.
He’s come to save us, Emmanuel.
And we will never face life alone
Now that God has made Himself known,
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.
Our God is with us, Emmanuel!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giving for the right reasons

*Names have not been used to protect the "guilty". :-)
** I would rather get a Christmas photo card or "send out card, than nothing" :-)
*** I really, really do despise Christmas letters/brag letters...

I know someone who frets and worries that they will get a Christmas card from someone they didn't send one to. They have sent out a card at the last minute because Great Aunt Freda sent them one this year.

Someone else I know informed me that this year, they are only sending cards to people who send them one first.

Now, both of these people are important to me, but it amuses me, and I am not criticizing or knocking them, for all to many of us are guilty. Whatever happened to giving because it is the season to give, because God gave us His Son - which is what Christmas is all about. Are we really that shallow that we can only give to those who are going to give us? Had God done that, I am afraid there never would have been a Savior sent to the world. No virgin birth, no king born in a manger.

For varying reasons, my card giving is down this year. I am pretty much sending cards to people I don't see often. And yes, two of those people sent me a card, but I was already planning on sending them a card.

So why do we give? Just to reciprocate a gift given to us, or because we know a gift will be given? Do we give out of duty? It is expected that we give a gift to our brother-in-law, though we hate his guts.

I have given out of duty, out of reciprocation. And sometimes it is necessary, but it is sad. Giving should be done in love, because the person means something to us and we want to show them that.

I guess that is why I am not a fan of photo cards, Christmas letters, or the new "in thing" - send-out-cards. Anything mass-produced just doesn't cut it for me. I'm sorry. I received a card this morning at church that made my day. Inside, it wasn't just signed by the givers of the cards. They wrote "love and prayers_____" and then the good part: "You are a special guy and we appreciate your friendship." I feel good all over again typing that. I didn't give them a card yet, but was planning on it - but they gave me a card and wrote a nice message in it and made this guy feel very good. Not sure where they got the idea I am special, but it made my day.

So this Christmas, let us put aside the giving out of duty or reciprocation -and give for the right reasons. Give a gift or card to someone who most likely will not give you one back. Better yet, give a gift to someone anonymously, Toys for Tots, or the Angel Christmas Tree thing. I could be wrong, but when we give to someone who we are not expecting something back - I think that is when we nail down what this season is all about.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Christmas List

I'm bored and in the mood to blog. Those two things can be a bad combination, but I won't do one of my famous rants. Instead, I will blog my Christmas list. I should hope for peace on earth and all that lovely stuff, but we know that ain't gonna happen, so will be realistic. For the most part. I would like a new president and Sentae majority leader. And a new VP also.......

1) a full time job

2) my own place, or at least out of my parents' place

3) A hippopotamus
4) a slimmer waist

5) the Talley Trio's new CD

6) A snuggie

7) Sarah Palin's new book

8) Sarah Palin for president

9) a date with Ann Coulter

10) a cruise to the Bahamas

11) a sword like Peter had in the Narnia movies

12) Mario games for my Wii

13) the energy of a young kid

14) a new friend

15) a cure for baldness

16) $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

17) another battery charger for my Wii remotes

18) another niece or nephew

19) a hat that would look cool on me

20) lower gas prices

21) a new car

22) meeting George W Bush

23) meeting Sarah Palin

24) meeting an honest Democrat who is conservative and actually cares about our freedoms

25) a trip to Indiana to visit my friends

26) a life

27) a place to belong

28) meeting Ann Coulter

29) chocolate

30) a green, snowless winter

31) Sarah Palin for my mother-in-law

32) Wii Sports Resort

33) $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

34) a house sitting job in a warm climate

35) a vacation

36) spray on cologne or body spray

37) shampoo and other hair care products

38) a new bed

39) a recording contract

40) a book deal

41) a new winter jacket

42) more time in my day

43) bourbon chicken from Asian Chao

44) the chance to smack the stupid out of Nancy Pelosi

45) gift certificates

46) $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

47) meeting Karen Kingsbury

48) an end to my depression

49) a skinny gene

50) my own bookstore

Ok, not all of those were serious, obviously, but I entertained myself, at least. :-)

20 ways to be a kid again at Christmas

  1. go caroling in your neighborhood
  2. go to a bookstore and read Christmas picture books in the kid's section
  3. build a snowman
  4. throw snowballs at the neighbor's car
  5. decorate sugar cookies, and be sure to make an absolute mess
  6. go to the mall and see if you can buy 5 gifts with $10
  7. shake every box under the Christmas tree and guess what is in each one
  8. ask everyone you meet how many more days til Christmas
  9. get your picture taken with Santa
  10. put at least 5 marshmallows in your hot chocolate - the big ones
  11. go sledding
  12. watch a different Christmas movie every night
  13. get up at 6 am on Christmas morning
  14. leave cookies for Santa
  15. go through a toy catalog and tear out everything you want for Christmas
  16. jump with joy on your last day of work before the holidays
  17. write a letter to Santa
  18. shovel driveways and collect donations for the local homeless shelter
  19. make a Christmas tree ornament. Get creative with construction paper, glitter, and pine cones
  20. after Christmas, write thank-you notes. Be sure to include lots of colorful stickers

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

"The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey" is a story of love, redemption and above all, hope. When a broken hearted boy loses the treasured wooden nativity set that links him to his dead father, his worried mother persuades a reclusive, ill-tempered woodcarver to create a replacement, and to allow her son to watch him carve it. The commission takes their relationship to unexpected places as the young boy makes greater and more difficult demands of the woodcarver’s ability, and as Christmas approaches, the three of them struggle to come to terms with each other, their painful memories and the process of putting their unhappiness behind them. Outstanding performances, stunning CGI visuals and a brilliant score make this compelling, funny and ultimately, very moving adaptation of one of America’s most loved and award winning children’s books a must-see family movie experience.

This movie was first a book, and I first heard it several years back at our candle light service. The wife of the pastor we had at that time told it, and had a carved Nativity set she used as she told it. I loved the story, and eventually bought the book, and also got a copy for my nieces and nephews.

The movie intrigued me. Sometimes a movie made from a book isn't what you expect - or are impressed with. This one was great. They did add some things and expanded the story, but that just made it better in my opinion. The movie is 100% clean - no cursing, nothing inappropriate.

So if you're looking for a good Christmas family movie to watch this year, get this one. is selling it for $5.99 - a great deal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

CSN Stores......A review

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I received the oppurtunity to review a product of my choice for CSN stores. I had never heard of them, but after I was given an gift certificate to work with, I started exploring. They have 200+ websites with things like furniture, housewares, home improvement, baby and kids, outdoor living, office supply - you name it.

It took me a while to decide, but I finally picked an item to review. I had  a lot left to spend, so I got a second item to review.

First off, the shipping was very fast, and was free. They offer free shipping on a lot of their items, which is very cool, and since they ship very fast, there is still time to order before Christmas and get your items on time.

The first thing I picked was the quilt pictured below.

Features are:

Homestead collection

•Material: cotton

•Bed and home decor

•Finest quality cotton product, hand layered and hand quilted

•Machine washable, line or flat dry only

•Overall dimensions: 50" W x 60" L

   I really like the quilt. It is made well - good quality, and though not quite big enough to use for anactual quilt, it does make an excellent throw. I have curled up under it in my lazy boy on a few cold days, and love it - and it is very attractive to look at.

I bought it from CNS store's site,, and the brand name is Patch Magic.
Next up from the same store and brand is a pillow.

•Toss pillow

•Natures Splendor collection

•Material: cotton

•Bed and home decor

•Decorative, quilted pillow

•Machine washable, line or flat dry only

•Overall dimensions: 16" W x 16" L

   I really like lodge type decor, and they have a lot of that type of thing here on this site. The pillow is very cool. It looks hand-made and has a cool scene on it, as you can see from the picture.

The pillow is soft, and the the outer part easily removes for cleaning, which is very convenient.

I am very happy with the products I picked, and recommend shopping at CNS stores. Fast shipping - free in this case, great selection, and quality products. Check them out.

Thanks to Caitlin from CNS stores for the oppurtunity to review these products.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Truth of the Matter by Andrew Klavan

Book description:
Charlie is certain that if he could just regain his memory, the chaos around him would make sense. But the truth of the matter is even more incredible than he could imagine.

Charlie West was an ordinary high school kid who went to bed one night and woke up in the clutches of terrorists and wanted by the police for murder. He also woke up with no memory of the events of the past year.

Now Charlie has found the one person who knows what happened . . . and who can help him remember. But remembering is painful--as well as dangerous--and figuring out what to do with this new knowledge may be Charlie's toughest challenge yet.

My review:
I love this series. Though aimed at young adults, they capture my attention and are very suspenseful. The first two books had Charlie running from everyone - the police and the terrorist organization he seemed to be part of, but couldn't remember amything of the past year, including being part of them.

In this book, a lot comes to light: how and why he became part of the Homelanders, the events surrounding his best friend's murder, and how and why he lost the memory of those events in the first place.

This may be the best of the three books so far, but they are all so exciting and gripping that it is hard to decide.

This book seemed to have more of a Christian message than the first two, but regardless of that, they are clean, curse-free, sex-free and are great books for teens - or adults. My fifteen-year-old niece loves the books.

So this book - and series - gets my whole-hearted approval and recommendation. And of course gets my "read-in-one-sitting" status.

About the author:
Andrew Klavan wrote his first novel, Face of the Earth, in 1977. He then moved to Putnam County, New York, where he worked as a reporter for a local newspaper. His experience covering local crime later formed the basis for his novel Corruption.

After Face of the Earth was published, Klavan returned to New York, where he took a series of jobs (as a script reader for Columbia Pictures and a news writer for WOR Radio and ABC Radio Networks) while writing mysteries and freelance book reviews. During this time he wrote The Scarred Man using the pseudonym Keith Peterson. Klavan's book, The Rain, won an Edgar Award for Best Original Paperback.

Klavan went on to write such international bestsellers as Don’t Say A Word, which was filmed starring Michael Douglas, and True Crime, which was filmed by Clint Eastwood and Empire of Lies. He also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Simon Brett's novel A Shock to the System, which starred Michael Caine and the horror film One Missed Call.

Klavan and his family moved to London, where they lived for seven years. Returning to the United States, they settled in Southern California. While still writing thriller novels for adults, Klavan says he’s excited to be writing his first novels for younger people. “I’ve always tried to write stories that move like lightning but still deal with big ideas,” he says. “I’d like to bring that skill to a younger market.”

Visit the author's website at and the Homelander's website at

The Truth of the Matter, The Last Thing I Remember, and The Long Way Home are available from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.