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”.

Holly by Andrew Blakemore

I love this!

Holly
By ANDREW BLAKEMORE
Artist Alida Akers

At the edge of the field in a hedgerow so tangled,
So thick and so dense where the holly does grow,
Berries of scarlet are caught in the sunlight,
Its leaves sharp and shining and all is aglow.
The birds make their home inside
Safe and secure there,
They rest in peace and harmony
And all should do the same.

I cut several sprigs there to take home for Christmas,
To lay by the candle the season of love,
The berries the symbol the blood of our Saviour,
And life that he gave for all glories above.
The leaves like the crown he wore
Upon the wooden cross,
They mirror his eternal light
Beneath the burning flame.

At the edge of the field in a hedgerow so tangled,
So thick and so dense where the holly does stand,
The snowflakes start falling and rest on its leaves now,
So pure and so gentle like God’s loving hand.
And I turn and I head for home
For now the day grows cold,
And look upon my holly sprigs
Such passion they do hold.

via

Book Review & Giveaway: The Living Christmas Tree by Kristin Sponaugle

Book Title:  The Living Christmas Tree by Kristin Sponaugle
Category:  Children’s Fiction (ages 3 to 7), 38 pages
Genre:  Children’s Book
Publisher:  Mascot
Release date:   September 2021
Content Rating:  G.  Suitable for everyone.


***** 2021 Family Choice Award Winner *****


Book Description:

During the day, the Miller family’s Christmas tree stands tall in their living room, sparkling with lights and ornaments. Little does the family know that their Christmas tree is anything but ordinary. Each evening, the magic of Christmas brings their tree to life—much to the delight of Hannah and William Miller. Follow along as Hannah and William experience the magic of Christmas in a whole new way.


Buy the Book:
Mascot
Amazon  ~   Barnes and Noble  ~  Target

My Review

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

The Millers have a Christmas tree whose ornaments come to life when everyone is in bed! On Christmas Eve, Hannah snuck into the living room to see if she could catch Santa but what she saw was talking and moving ornaments!

The Living Christmas Tree is a fun story for parents and children to read during the holidays. The illustrations are bright and colorful which will keep children’s interest. It also encourages children to use their imaginations. I’ll be reading this book with my grandsons next week!

About the Author

Kristin Sponaugle was born in Butler, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Duquesne University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in health sciences and her master’s degree in physician assistant studies. Kristin had always dreamed of becoming an author, and made that dream a reality with her two published children’s books, The Princess Puppy and The Living Christmas Tree. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cross-stitching, and playing with her Maltese dog, Rosie. Kristin lives with her husband, daughter, and Rosie, and resides wherever the Air Force sends them.

Connect with the Author: website ~ facebook ~ instagram

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of The Living Christmas Tree
(one winner/USA only)

Gleam

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Nov 26 – Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting – book review / author interview / giveaway
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 My Bookish Bliss – book review / giveaway
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 Rockin’ Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
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Dec 10 – All Booked Up Reviews – Instagram – book review

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Dec 17 – Cover To Cover Café – book review

Book Review & Giveaway: The Christmas Blanket by Ed Damiano

Book Title:  The Christmas Blanket by Ed Damiano
Category:  Children’s Book (ages 3-7), 38 pages
Genre:  Picture Book
Publisher:  Mascot Books
Release date:  December 2018
Content Rating:  G suitable for all readers

Mom’s Choice Award Winner!

Book Description:

What is the meaning of Christmas? That’s what eight-year-old EJ wants to know. The other kids say it’s about getting toys‚ but is it, really?

​One evening, EJ’s mother takes him to the Rockefeller Center to see the lighting of the most magical tree in the world, and EJ meets someone who teaches him what Christmas is truly all about.

Buy the Book
Mascot Books ~ Amazon

My Review

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

This is a sweet story about EJ who wants to know the true meaning of Christmas. A bully from school tells him it’s about the presents and anyone who thinks otherwise is dumb. When EJ tells his mom that he wishes that a homeless man they saw could have a blanket, she explains to him that that is the meaning of Christmas. He wishes for something someone else needs rather that something like toys for himself.

Being selfless is part of Christmas but I was disappointed that nothing was mentioned about Jesus. Christmas is supposed to be about His birth and so many people have lost sight of that. The watercolor illustrations were different, but I liked them especially since the colors were so vibrant.

I plan on reading this to my grandkids but will stress that it’s only part of what Christmas is about. I think they’ll like it.

About the Author

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Damiano has a passion for creativity, and his stories always contain a positive message. He wrote The Christmas Blanket, which earned him a Mom’s Choice Award. In The Christmas Blanket, his character EJ realizes the true meaning of Christmas, which is not about getting presents, but about giving back to others.

Connect with the Author:  ​goodreads

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of THE CHRISTMAS BLANKET! (one winner/USA only)

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Nov 26 –Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
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Nov 29 –Splashes of Joy – book review / giveaway
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Book Review & Giveaway: Bruce the Spruce by A.A. Cristi

Book Title:  Bruce the Spruce: A New York City Fairytale About the True Meaning of Christmas Trees by A. A. Cristi
Category:  Children’s Fiction (ages 3 to 7), 56 pages
Genre:  Children’s Picture Book
Publisher:  Mascot
Release date:   November 2021
Content Rating:  G.  Suitable for everyone

Bruce the Spruce has Christmas all wrong.

Thanks to his fancy decorations and adoring admirers, this artificial spruce tree doesn’t just wear a star at Christmas, he IS the star. But when his longtime family gets a new tree, it sends Bruce on a holiday adventure through New York City.

From a party in Brooklyn, to a run-in with rats, to a revelatory visit to Rockefeller Center, Bruce the Spruce takes an unforgettable journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas trees!

Buy the Book:
Mascot
Amazon ~  Barnes and Noble

My Review

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

Bruce the Spruce loves Christmas and the attention it brings him. After 20 years as a family’s Christmas tree, his is thrown away for a new one. His heart is broken but not because of the memories or the joy he brought the family, but because he’s no longer admired by everyone who sees him. After a few mishaps, Bruce the Spruce learns from the most famous tree in New York City that he’s got Christmas all wrong.

Bruce the Spruce is a cute story with vibrant illustrations that teaches children that there’s more to Christmas trees than the glitz and admiration. A couple important things of Christmas are the memories and the joy which are represented by the trees.

About the Author

A.A. Cristi was born and raised in the world capital of Christmas trees and musicals – New York City. By no small miracle, she has managed to make a living writing about both topics. When she is not dreaming up fantastic adventures for inanimate objects, she is covering the Broadway industry as a journalist and editor at BroadwayWorld.com. Though writing is her calling, her true passion is playing mother to a neurotic wiener dog named Jack and Aunt Rah Rah to two truly remarkable kids.

Connect with the Author:  Author’s Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of Bruce the Spruce: A New York City Fairytale About the True Meaning of Christmas Trees by A. A. Cristi! (one winner/USA only)

Gleam

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Nov 22 – Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
Nov 22 – Laura’s Interests – book review / giveaway
Nov 23 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
Nov 23 – Splashes of Joy – book review / giveaway
Nov 24 – Bigreadersite – book review / giveaway
Nov 24 – The Pen and Muse Book Reviews – book review / giveaway
Nov 26 –A Mama’s Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
Nov 26 – The Momma Spot – book review / giveaway
Nov 26 Sefina Hawke’s Books – book spotlight
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Nov 29 – Pick a Good Book – book review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 30 – Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting – book review / guest post / giveaway
Nov 30 – Westveil Publishing – book review / giveaway
Dec 1 – Kam’s Place – book review
Dec 1 – icefairy’s Treasure Chest – book review / giveaway
Dec 1 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 2 –
 Gina Rae Mitchell – book review / author interview / giveaway
Dec 2 – Lisa’s Reading – book review / giveaway
Dec 3 – @twilight_reader – book review
Dec 6 – I’m Into Books – book review / giveaway
Dec 6 – Bound 4 Escape – book review / giveaway
Dec 7 – The Phantom Paragrapher – book review
Dec 8 – Sandra’s Book Club – book review
Dec 8 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
Dec 9 – Chit Chat with Charity – book review / author interview / giveaway
Dec 9 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
​Dec 10 –
 Writer with Wanderlust – book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 10 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book review / giveaway

Book Review: Joy to the World!: Christmas Around the Globe by Kate DePalma

Explore Christmas traditions from 13 different countries! Rhyming text and detailed illustrations make the book accessible to younger readers, while educational endnotes about the 13 celebrations add interest for older children. Gold ink and festive illustrations capture the joy of the season and make this book a beautiful gift in itself. Engaging and informative for anyone who wants to learn about the holiday. Features Christmas traditions from: *Ethiopia *Colombia *Australia *Italy *Serbia *Mexico *India *Iceland *Egypt *Argentina *Philippines *Lebanon *Canada.

Amazon

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.

This is a great book to read during the holidays. The first few pages have gorgeous illustrations that are bright and colorful. Each pair of pages have four rhyming lines about a different country. This part of Joy to the World! will definitely appeal to all ages.

The next section explains what Christmas is and then has more information about Christmas in each country. I found this part interesting, and I learned a lot from it. I knew different countries celebrate Christmas in their own way, but I didn’t know many specifics. Imagine living in the Philippines where the Christmas season lasts for almost five months!

I definitely recommend Joy to the World! for Christmas-time reading.

Example of the additional information of one of the countries:

About the Author

Kate DePalma loves making gingerbread houses, decorating the Christmas tree and reading “A Visit from St. Nicholas” aloud by the fire. She has written many books for children, including Let’s Celebrate: Special Days Around the World and Children of the World, which she coauthored with Tessa Strickland. She lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

Sophie Fatus has warm childhood memories of making Christmas puddings in silly shapes and putting toy elephants inside her family’s Nativity scene. She has illustrated many beloved Barefoot Books titles, including Yoga Pretzels, If You’re Happy and You Know It! and My Big Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words. Sophie lives in Florence, Italy, with her partner and two cats.

Book Review & Giveaway: Keeping Christmas Magic by Anna and Gunnar Counselman

Book Title:  Keeping Christmas Magic by Anna and Gunnar Counselman
Category:  Middle-Grade Fiction (Ages 8-12), 38 pages
Genre: Children’s Book
Publisher: Mascot
Release Date: August 2021
Content Rating:  PG – It is a book about how to keep Christmas alive when your kids find out the truth about Santa.

Book Description:


​Shhhh, don’t tell! Keeping Christmas Magic reveals the true story of Santa Claus, asking you to become a Christmas Magic-Keeper.

Buy the Book:
 Mascot 
 Barnes and Noble ~ Amazon
add to goodreads 

My Review

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

Keeping Christmas Magic is a great way to explain Santa Claus to children who are at the age when they’re questioning his existence. It explains that Santa lived a thousand years ago and made presents for local children but as the need for presents grew, he couldn’t keep up. Parents volunteered to help Santa which is how the tradition began.

The reader of this book is asked to sign to keep the secret of Christmas before finishing the book. Then they are asked to keep the Christmas Magic going and not to tell the secret to younger siblings. It’s a great idea with a good story and colorful illustrations.

My grandkids aren’t quite old enough for this book, but when they start asking questions, I’ll be ready!

About the Authors

Anna and Gunnar are the husband-and-wife team behind Keeping Christmas Magic. Anna immigrated from Russia at age 12 and began her American journey in Swampscott, MA, attending Boston University before moving out to California to pursue her entrepreneurial career which has culminated in her co-founding Upstart, an AI lending platform. A third-generation Marine, Gunnar grew up pretty much everywhere there’s a Marine base before going to Cornell for undergrad, deploying as a Human Intelligence Officer to Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Bosnia before attending Harvard for business school. Gunnar’s entrepreneurial career has focused in education software and services where he’s founded and invested in a handful of companies including his most recent company, Array. When their then-six-year-old son Tristan started asking hard questions about Santa, they didn’t have good answer. Wanting to keep Christmas as magical as possible for as long as possible they looked for a children’s book to help and when they couldn’t find one, they wrote it. Originally, the poem was just for Tristan and his baby sister Sasha, but some close friends convinced them to submit it for publishing and the more they worked on the story, the more they felt like it needed to be told. They hope that the book does for parents around the world, what’s it’s done for them, help make an otherwise difficult conversation a beautiful experience instead.

connect with the authors:  website ~ goodreads

Giveaway

Enter to win a signed copy of KEEPING CHRISTMAS MAGIC
(one winner/USA only)

Gleam

Follow the Tour

Nov 26 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Nov 26 – The Momma Spot – book review / giveaway
Nov 29 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – book review / giveaway
Nov 29 – Splashes of Joy – book review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 29 – I’d Rather Be At The Beach – book review / author interview / giveaway
Nov 30 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
Nov 30 – Laura’s Interests – book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 1 – Chit Chat with Charity – book review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 1 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – book review / giveaway
Dec 2 – Bound 4 Escape – book review / giveaway
Dec 3 – StoreyBook Reviews – book review / giveaway
Dec 6 – @twilight_reader – book review