Book Review: An Advent Carols Countdown: Stories Behind the Most Beloved Music of Christmas by Michael D. Young

Release date: September 6, 2022

Get in the Christmas spirit with this unique collection of the most beloved Christmas carols, from the warmly nostalgic to the majestically solemn and uplifting. The book features one carol for each day from December first to Christmas Eve, and presents both the lyrics and the fascinating stories and interesting facts behind the creation of the songs. Each entry deepens our understanding of the music and enhances our appreciation of why these songs are culturally important and dearly treasured.

From popular, familiar carols to lesser known but cherished hymns, author Michael D. Young combines his musical expertise with information specific to each song.

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” was written by an American preacher, Philip Brooks, after traveling to Bethlehem in 1868 to find peace after the horrors of the Civil War and assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Brooks’s original poem, with one largely unknown final verse, is included along with the lyrics of the beloved carol.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” was voted the best Christmas carol by a BBC survey of experts, but the song was actually created from a poem by Christina Rosetti and did not become a carol until decades after her death when it was paired with music by Gustav Holst. Today, Rosetti is considered one of the most important poets of the nineteenth century, and the carol she unintentionally penned is one of the most haunting and beloved of all time.

An Advent Carols Countdown is a beautiful gift book for the whole family to enjoy along with the music of the holidays. Each entry also features a QR code that will link to an audio or video performance of the carol performed by the choir most associated with Christmas, the world-renowned Tabernacle Choir.

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free copy from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. From the celebration of Christ’s birth to being with family to singing Christmas carols, I enjoy every moment. So, I was happy to read this book. It contains the lyrics to 24 carols and the stories of their origins. A few of the carols are ones I haven’t heard of, but it contains many favorites such as “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night.”

The book is set up to be read during Advent from December 1 to December 24. I plan on reading it again during that time and listening to each song as well. Each song has a QR code that takes you to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s audio or visual performance. I love it!

About the Author

Michael is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Western Governors University with degrees in German Teaching, Music, Educational Leadership and Instructional Design. Though he grew up traveling the world with his military father, he now lives in Utah with his wife, Jen, and their three children, where he teaches in a German dual language immersion program. He enjoys acting in community theater, playing and writing music and spending time with his family. He played for several years with the handbell choir Bells on Temple Square and is now a member of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

He is the author of the novels in The Canticle Kingdom Series, The Last Archangel Series, the Chess Quest Series and the Penultimate Dawn Cycle (The Hunger, The Thirst, and The Longing), as well as the non-fiction work, The Song of the Righteous. He has also had work featured in various online and print magazines such as Bards and Sages Quarterly, Mindflights, Meridian, Nugent Magazine, The New Era, Keeping Tab, Allegory, Liahona, and Ensign. He has also won honorable mention three times in the Writers of the Future contest.

He runs several podcasts, including “Chapter and Verse” and “Songs for All Seasons”.

Book Review & Giveaway: They Called Him Marvin by Roger Stark

They Called Him Marvin by Roger Stark

Publisher: Silver Star (September 21, 2021
Category: Historical Romance, WW2, Family Saga, Based on a True Story
ISBN: 978-0578855288
320 pages

They Called Him Marvin

They were just kids, barely not teenagers, madly in love and wanting to be a family, but WW2 and a B29 got in their way.

Three hundred ten days before Pearl Harbor, buck private Dean Sherman innocently went to church with a new friend in Salt Lake City. From that moment, the unsuspecting soldier travelled a remarkable, heroic path, falling in love, graduating from demanding training to become a B29 pilot, conceiving a son and entering the China, Burma and India theater of the WW2.

He chronicled his story with letters home to his bride Connie that he met on that fateful Sunday, blind to the fact that fifteen hundred seventy five days after their meeting, a Japanese swordsman would end his life.

His crew, a gaggle of Corporals that dubbed themselves the Corporealizes, four officers and a tech Sargent, adventured their way across the globe. Flying the “Aluminum Trail” also called the Hump through the Himalayas, site of the most dangerous flying in the world. Landing in China to refuel and then fly on to places like Manchuria, Rangoon or even the most southern parts of Japan to drop 500 pounders.

Each mission had its challenges, minus fifty degree weather in Mukden, or Japanese fighters firing away at them, a close encounter of the wrong kind, nearly missing a collision with another B29 while flying in clouds, seeing friends downed and lost because of “mechanicals,” the constant threat of running out of fuel and their greatest fear, engine fire.

Transferred to the Mariana Islands, he and his crew were shot down over Nagoya, Japan as part of Mission 174, captured and declared war criminals.

Connie’s letters reveal life for a brand new mother whose husband is declared MIA. The agony for both of them, he in a Japanese prison, declared a war criminal, and she just not knowing why his letters stopped coming.


Guest Review by Sal

“These American boys were rowdy, reckless, full of wonder and curiosity. They sought adventure with bravado, patriotism, and testosterone. They were volunteers to a man. They came to the army in the years before World War II. They didn’t need to wait. Some would become men of oversized destiny, charter members of the “Greatest Generation.”

Over the course of World War II, countless soldiers were taken as prisoners of war by the axis powers and were never able to return home to their families. This is the story of one such soldier, Lt. Dean Sherman– a pilot, a father and a husband.

Sherman married the love of his life Constance ‘Connie’ Baldwin when the two were just teenagers, only a small handful of months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. What, at any other time in history, might have been a simple love story between two young people was complicated by the war.

Soon after the two were married, and Connie realized that she was pregnant, Dean was sent overseas to pilot a B-29 aircraft in and around China and Japan. The two communicated through letters during that time, many of which are reprinted in the book.

Reading the simple, loving letters between this couple provides a very human perspective on a terrible war and gives a look into the lives of the normal men and woman living in this unprecedented time. Readers will appreciate the tender nature of the love between Dean and Connie, as well as the factual information about the war and the perspective of the Japanese soldiers of that time.

Roger Stark’s writing is not only captivating but imparts a lot of research without bogging down the narrative. ‘They Called Him Marvin,’ is a genre-defying, heartfelt story of family and love in the theater of war.

About the Author

Roger Stark, by his own admission, is a reluctant writer. But there are stories that demand to be told. When we hear them, we must pick up our pen, lest we forget and the stories be lost. Six years ago, in a quiet conversation with his friend, Marvin, he learned the tragic story of his father, a WW2 B-29 Airplane Commander, shot down over Nagoya, Japan, just months before the end of the war.

The telling of the story that evening by this half orphan was so moving and full of emotion, it compelled Roger to ask if he could write the story. The result being “They Called Him Marvin.”

Roger Stark’s life has been profoundly touched in so many ways by being part of documenting this sacred story. He prays that we never forget, as a people, the depth of sacrifice that was made by ordinary people like Marvin and his father and mother on our behalf.



This giveaway is for 3 print copies, one for each of 3 winners. This giveaway is open to the U.S. only and ends on June 24, 2022, midnight, pacific time.  Entries accepted via Rafflecopter only.

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Now is the Month of Maying

Now Is the Month Of Maying
by Thomas Morley.
Artist bijde_hansje

Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing, fa la,
Each with his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass. Fa la.

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness, fa la,
And to the bagpipe’s sound
The nymphs tread out their ground. Fa la.

Fie then! why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing? Fala.
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak
Shall we play at barley-break? Fa la.


Book Review & Giveaways: Mimi the Mynah: It’s All Mine! by Mother Melania


Book Title: Mimi the Mynah: It’s All Mine! – Teaching Values to Children in a Fun Way by Mother Melania Salem
Category:  Children’s Fictions (ages 3-7), 36 pages
Genre:  Children’s Picture Book
Publisher:  Holy Assumption Monastery
Release date:   November 2021

Content Rating:  G – This is a wholesome children’s book.

Book Description:

​Mimi knows two words – “me” and “mine.” When disaster strikes the Duck Pond, will she finally learn a new word?

add to goodreads

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from iRead Book Tours. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

Everyone at the Duck Pond pitches in when something needs to be done. Everyone except Mimi the Mynah. The only two words she knows are “me” and “mine.” When disaster strikes, though, after she is saved by some of the other animals, she realizes the importance of helping.

This is an adorable book with great illustrations, which are bright and colorful. Even better, it teaches children about helping and sharing with others rather than being selfish like Mimi.

About the Author

Mother Melania is the Abbess of Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, CA. She grew up in a house that always had tons of children around, her poor parents had to read to her till they were hoarse, and from the moment she learned to read, she always had her nose in a book. So, it was only natural for her to grow up to write children’s books. In her books, she strives to teach virtue in a fun, non-preachy way.

connect with the author: Amazon 

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May 2 – Working Mommy Journal – books spotlight / giveaway
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May 3 – Splashes of Joy – book review of CAPERS AND HARRY: HIGH CLIMBING / giveaway
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Book Review: Jokes for Retirees and Seniors (That You May Not Want to Tell the Boss) by Bohdan D. Shandor

Retirement is very much a “good news-bad news” event in one’s life. The “good news” is that you’re retiring – the “bad news” is that you’re retiring.​

How the story of retirement unfolds depends on how each individual person looks at retirement. We at DOWNSIDE UP™ think retirement is a positive event because it is the beginning of a new chapter in one’s life that has yet to be written and YOU are the one writing the book, screenplay or narrative – whichever metaphor you prefer.​

At DOWNSIDE UP ™ we believe that no matter what the lifetime event is, the glass is always full– frankly, we don’t even know what an empty glass looks like! One reason for this view is the overwhelming importance of laughter. How one views life is very much a question of perception; and, humor and laughter can and do affect perception in a very positive way. This is in fact the reason why DOWNSIDE UP™ was formed as a publishing firm specializing in Joke Books.


My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I’m closing in on retirement and to being labeled a senior, so I had a feeling I would enjoy these jokes. Not only was I right, but I was pleasantly surprised. Some of these jokes are laugh out loud funny. I’m sure anyone will like this book, senior and retired or not.

This author has written several joke books. I like this one so much, I may have to check out more of them. If you like to laugh, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Book Review: Mindfulness Makes me Stronger by Elizabeth Cole

If you are a parent of an absent-minded and anxious child, this book is a great way to introduce your little one to the concept of mindfulness. The story will suggest the ways to get rid of the distracting thoughts and will teach your child to stay focused and present.

Parents often struggle to explain their children how to deal with distraction, sorrow, and angry feelings. This mindfulness book for children is your best assistant to calm your children and to show kids’ exercises, which will help them to feel happy, focused, and calm.

When little Nick starts to miss everything that happens around him, his dad teaches him to deal with worries in a fun and playful way. By using kids’ breathing techniques and other helpful tips, Nick learns to control his big feelings and becomes mindful.

This picture book is suitable for preschool kids as well as children ages 6-10, it contains lovely hand-drawn illustrations and charming rhymes. With an extra coloring page inside, this book will help your children:

  • to enjoy every moment and all the things surrounding them;
  • to use their senses and meditation in order to get rid of anxiety;
  • to share kindness and empathy towards others;
  • not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet;
  • to use mindful kids’ activities in their daily life.

My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

I have read a few of Elizabeth Cole’s books, so I was pretty sure that this would be another great children’s book.

Nick is quiet and brooding. When his dad asks him what’s wrong, he says he didn’t do well on his history test, and he’s worried about a couple of things taking place soon. His dad tells him that there’s nothing you can do about the past and that you should deal with the future when it happens. It’s important to live in the here and now.

This story is told in rhymes and the illustrations are cute and colorful. It encourages children to use their imaginations as well as teaching them ways to stop worrying such as deep breathing and exercise. I liked the exercise Nick’s dad chose because it made exercising fun.

About the Author

Being a mother of two kids Elizabeth Cole very well understands that childhood is a great period of life filled with a tremendous amount of different and often changing emotions. Since the time Elizabeth received her master’s degree in psychology from University of New Orleans in 2008, she fully devoted herself to the research of kids, understanding their needs as well as their true emotions. Her five years period of working as the school teacher very much improved Elizabeth’s knowledge and motivated her even stronger. Finally, all of her experience inspired Elizabeth to write a series of children’s books.

Learn more at or email Elizabeth at!