Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween: An American Holiday, An American Tradition

I'm not gonna lie, when I first picked up this book I was a little skeptical . I'd read "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury, I knew all their was to know about the history of Halloween, how could their possibly be any more to the story? Well, that's where I was wrong. Author, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, painstaking researches the origins of traditions, feast days, and folk lore going all the way back to the Celts, Druids, and Romans. Even though the title of this book boasts the "American History," Bannatyne does her research and takes the reader all the way back to Europe to get a glimpse of the first origins. She then talks about how it was meshed with other cultures and religions (the Roman Empire, Christianity, etc.) through the centuries and how it finally was celebrated on October 31 (November 1 is All Saint's Day or Hallow's Day, so October 31 is Hallows Eve). Once it was joined with Scottish and Irish traditions, it started to more closely resemble the holiday we celebrate now: costumes to blend in with the dead, begging for food door to door, carrying turnip lanterns (pumpkins were a new favorite when they came to America), and playing pranks or tricks on one another (picked up from Guy Fawkes Day). Once the immigrants brought their traditions to the United States, things escalated and by the late nineteenth century, ladies magazines were producing articles on how to throw the best Halloween parties. When the Halloween tradition came to America, it lost a lot of the "communion with the dead" aspects. The Victorian age simply turned it into another reason to party.

Overall, it was a fascinating read. I learned soo much about one of my favorite holidays and I definitely appreciate it even more, knowing the rich history behind the traditions. A must read for any fan of Halloween or things that go bump in the night. It's filled with great poetry, pictures, and drawings to go along with the history. I do wish there had been more about the Day of the Dead and the evolution of costumes (how did they get so slutty?!), but hey, this book is 25 years old, I understand :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Manic Drive - VIP - A CD Review and Giveaway!

You all know how much I dig Christian pop/rock right?....... (chirp, chirp). Ok, ok, you're right. I don't ever listen to Christian music, that is except when I'm at church (but that is decidedly more old school) or I'm doing my 5:00 am cardio workouts with a bunch of young moms at another local church (getting up at the butt crack of dawn to work out is as hard as it sounds). Needless to say my experience with inspirational music doesn't amount to a whole hill of beans.

When I heard about this blogging opportunity, I thought I had to try it out. Worst case scenario, I hate it, and give the CD to my cardio instructor who would probably appreciate it a lot more than me. To my surprise however... I actually loved it! And I'm not just saying that because I don't want to go to hell for hating a Christian band or anything, I really have enjoyed it and have listened to the entire album several times now. Some of the songs have even gotten stuck in my head! Streetlights and Electric are totally catchy (and would make great workout music, it gets your blood pumping!). This album brings me back to my boy band days. I miss Backstreet Boys (as a grown woman I saw them this summer, judge away!) and N'SYNC and New Kids on the Block. Listening to Manic Drive brought back all those memories! Manic Drive is catchy, has great messages in their songs (without being too overbearing), and a must for any boy band lover like myself. How had I never heard of them (by not listening to Christian radio, That's how!)?!?

I'm a new convert and just went to the library to order Manic Drive's last two albums. If they're half as good as VIP I'll love them! The promotional sales pitch sure didn't lie, "I’m sure you and your loved ones will LOVE the upbeat tunes from this God-loving Canadian rock/pop band." I did! And I'm sure you could too! I have another copy of Manic Drive's VIP album to giveaway! If you're interested, just comment below and this Friday I will randomly select a winner!!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Daughter of Highland Hall

Sometimes, inspirational romance can be a little too sappy and melodramatic for me but thankfully, I needn't have worried. This is definitely one of the books that restores your faith in a genre! Carrie Turansky deftly lays the groundwork in this romance and within the first few pages ensnares the reader in her tale faith, romance, charity, and intrigue.

I'll admit I have not read the first story in the "Edwardian Brides" series (this is the second), but I don't feel as if anything was over my head. Several times the past was mentioned and I could clearly form what had taken place in the previous story. So if you can't secure a copy of "The Governess of Highland Hall" don't fret, you can still enjoy this one without missing out on any of the story!

This story follows strong willed Kate. It's her debut season in London and she must make a good impression. If she doesn't secure a wealthy husband she will have no hopes for her future, since her inheritance was given to a cousin. She starts the season excitedly reveling in the beautiful clothes, the parties, the men. But soon she starts to feel that it may not be enough. Is she only looking for a wealthy man so she can belong in society? Could she find true meaningful love, and compatible faith with someone not in her social class? After a scandal shames her family name, she decides to spend her time doing good works and helping in a local free clinic. For once she has purpose and her heart is lighter. Could she learn to live with this? Would it be enough?

Obviously their is plenty of romance, but their is also faith, scandal, and historical details that may bring new readers to inspirational fiction. Another splendid work by Carrie Turansky.

I received this book for free from Litfuse Publicity in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Frankenstein

Great book, but I picked horrible timing on reading this. Note to anyone interested in reading this: do not read during/after a break-up. It will make you even more angsty than normal. At times it was legitimately painful to read this because Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are such miserable, wretched creatures and I was too! Too much angst and misery!

This book discusses the classic struggle between man and monster, but as Mary Shelley points out in this vivid read, who is more monster; the man or the monster himself? It's not very clear, one wants to pity them both because they both suffer. Dr. Frankenstein suffers because the monster whom he created is so terrifying and supposedly wants to kill his family. The monster suffers because he is so alone and everyone is scared of his scary size and appearance. He does not wish to be alone, but Dr. Frankenstein refuses to make him a companion so he vows vengeance by killing of his creator's family.

Eloquently written, and still powerful. This is a read that will resonate with readers long after they've read it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Covered Deep

Fans of historical and inspirational fiction may find themselves a little disappointed in this novel by first time author, Brandy Vallance. But before any of you vindictive Christian bloggers bite my head off (you know who you are!), let me explain the pros and cons of this book and how I reached my decision.

What I enjoyed about this book:
The premise was pretty unique; it's 1877, a naive young Ohio woman wins the trip of a lifetime to go abroad to the Holy Land with a carefully selected group of travelers. In the beginning, I even enjoyed the strangeness of Sir Adrian, the eccentric millionaire who creates the contest looking for unique and compatible travelers to journey with him to Jerusalem. The little historical touches were also educational and fitting with the story. It helped bring the travelers and their surroundings to life.

What I could have done without:
Bianca is far too naive and suddenly loses all common sense when journeying to the Holy Land. Walking around the garden in just her nightgown, walking alone with men, letting her hair out, and begging to be kissed are just a few of the things she does that are sharply in contrast to her naive pure, Christian nature which she embodies elsewhere in the book. Her lover, Paul, is thankfully not so pure. He has a dark past filled with stealing and adultery  which he has to somehow has to get Bianca to understand and forgive. Of course, Bianca can't wrap her head around it (can you blame her?) or forgive him so their short relationship is doomed. Speaking of short relationships... Love at first sight? Really?! It was like instant love. Bianca meets Paul and thirty seconds later she's wondering what their children will look like. They both fall head over heels in love and within a week they're talking about love, marriage, and what Bianca's father will say. Thankfully, things don't get too passionate because Paul has awesome timing and etiquette for bringing up his sordid past (yes, that was sarcasm). Finally, the last thing I could have done without was the hidden planning/game of Sir Adrian's. Really? Get a life mister. I can't believe some crazed millionaire would really plan for two years to find the perfect match for Paul just to see if he would confess his dirty past, thus being a true Christian.... I just don't see it. It's not even that exciting. The story would have been much better without all those weird little schemes, that didn't really go anywhere.

Overall, it wasn't awful, but it wasn't great. I enjoyed the historical aspects of it and the writing was eloquently worded but... that was about it for me. For a first novel though, Brandy Vallance has nothing to be ashamed of, this was at least readable and at times, enjoyable, which is more then I can say about most first time authors. I wish her well in future works and look forward to reading any of her upcoming novels :)

I received this book for free from Worthy Publishing in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fiddler on the Roof

Reading this made me want to watch the movie so bad! This book is the complete script for the original musical, it's awesome. I found myself humming along to the songs while I was reading. Reading the script made me appreciate how brilliant this musical really is. It's timely and continues to speak to people. The human drama and raw emotion shown in the dialogue and songs are still prevalent today nearly fifty years after it debuted on Broadway. Full of historical drama, Jewish identity, tradition, and love this tale will continue to last for many decades more.

For fans of the original musical, American theater, and Jewish history.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in return for my honest, unbiased opinion.

Horrorstor

They say never judge a book by its cover, but have you seen this cover?! It's brilliant, eye catching, and funny; how could I not pick it up?! It's a parody horror story set in an ikea knock off store. Mysterious things keep happening after hours so the store manager recruits a few employees to stay overnight and see what in tarnation is going on. That's essentially, the whole story. There are some creepy moments, some funny moments, and some great pop culture references, it's just meant to be fun. It's a quick fun read, definitely made even more worthwhile by the great cover art, inside illustrations and layout.

For fans of parodies, cult classics, and affordable furniture.