The Magical Christmas Horse: by Mary Higgins Clark

This captivating children’s book centers around a young boy named Johnny, who has one wish for Christmas.  He wants to give his little brother brother Liam the old wooden horse he remembers as a child at his grandparents house in Connecticut.  Johnny, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, has not celebrated Christmas with his grandparents in years.  However, this year he and his family are preparing to visit his “heart home”.

Although he lives in Arizona, Johnny’s heart is in New England with his fond memories of sharing the holiday seasons with his grandparents. His grandfather even tells him “You’re a born farmer, Johnny”…”This will be yours someday, if you want it.  It wasn’t right for your dad”.

When Johnny gets to Arizona he receives some very upsetting news.  To his dismay, his grandfather informs him that the wooden horse he wanted to give Liam had gone missing after it was lent out as part of an antique show.  Then Johnny recalls a book his mom read to him when he was a little boy and said to himself “I’ll wish, and I’ll wish, and I’ll wish”…”and maybe someone will bring my horse back”.  Johnny goes into the attic and finds some old articles of clothing, and stumbles upon the old wooden horse.  However, poor Johnny is disappointed yet again, when he finds the horse is broken in several pieces. On Christmas morning, Johnny is quite surprised to find his Christmas wish had come true.  “It’s a magical horse”.

This little story is heartfelt and filled with warmth.  It is perfect read for this holiday season.  The painted illustrations by Wendell Minor make the story even more touching by bringing the words to life.  This book is recommended for ages 4-8, but truly is great for all ages!

The Magical Christmas Horse Written by Mary Higgins Clark, Illustrated by Wendell Minor

Paula Wiseman Books: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Publication Date October 25, 2011 ISBN 9781416994787 $17.99, Ages 4-8

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and Modern World

Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and Modern World, is written in understandable terms, and accomplishes the goal of answering that question.

Randall’s exposition deals with many modern concepts of physics and introduces them to the reader with ease.  A preliminary background in science is given with a discussion of Galileo, his concepts, and theories.  A brief history and discussion on molecules as well as atomic theory is given, up to the present day, leading to a discussion in modern science and physics, specifically the LHC, short for Large Hadron Collider. The LHC is discussed in great length along with its hope to discover information on the origin of mass.  Conflicting concepts of science versus religion are also briefly touched upon as well.

Randall’s book not only discusses several difficult scientific concepts, but she skillfully conveys scientific information in a way in which the general reader can understand.  It is well-written, and gives the reader a lot of information not only about science, but the scientist also.

There are several illustrations, which make for a useful tool to further explain some scientific concepts.  Randall proves her writing skill in aiming this book for the general reader without losing the complexity of the concepts she discusses.  Randall tackles some of the misconceptions associated with some theories in present day physics.  However, Randall’s adept knowledge combined with her writing, allows the reader to glean into the future so as to see the potential in the field of science, in particular physics, and makes for an enlightening and exciting read.

Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Fahrenheit 451 Goes Digital

Ray Bradbury, author of the classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, as well as The Martian Chronicles, and the Illustrated Man has succumbed to the age of technology. Bradbury has been a long time critic to digital technology, including ebooks, however, at 91 years of age, his hesitance to have Fahrenheit 451 published in ebook format has come to an end.

The novel published in 1953 is about a dystopian society where books are outlawed and the United States has banned owning or reading books. Firefighters are commissioned by the state to confiscate and burn any books in an individual’s possession, and they are subsequently guilty of committing a crime. The novel sold over 10million copies since the time of original publication.

The rights for the author’s book were about to expire. In order to commit to a new contract, ebook rights were inevitable, and therefore incorporated into the deal. In the United States, publishers Simon & Schuster are releasing the ebook at $9.95 on November 29, 2011.

Although the age of technology can be viewed by some to be a contributing factor to the disintegration of the newsprint industry, one must first determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. The potential ramifications of entering the digital age may have many cons, but the benefits may be well worth it. I must honestly admit that while I do enjoy the physicality of book reading as well as the emotional ties that can sometimes be made with a particular book, the generation of ereaders and the ebook format certainly does offer extreme potential. Despite Bradbury’s opposition to this format, he should take pleasure in the fact that the novel can reach a broader audience, and remember the significance of the words he once spoke “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them”.

Sources: CBC, The Guardian (UK)

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The Night Circus

The Night Circus is the magnificently written debut novel by Erin Morgensten.  She eloquently tells the tale of the constantly moving, unique circus that “…arrives without warning” beginning at dusk and continuing through the night.  Unlike most circus-going experiences, this nocturnal adventure is different.  “He had expected it to be a show.  Something to sit in a chair and watch.  He realized quickly how wrong he was.  It was something to be explored.”  Many tents are available to explore, each with its own theme.

A competition is underway.  For years, Celia and Marco have been training diligently for the challenge for which they were inducted by their trainers, neither one knowing that they were the adversary.  A world of mystery, magic and illusion; Morgenstern easily draws the reader into the nocturnal world of Le Cirque de Reves.  What the competitors do not know is that in order for a winner to be determined, only one can be left standing.

The Night Circus provides the venue for this competition to take place.  Celia and Marco didn’t expect to fall in love with one another, which makes their challenge much more difficult.

I truly enjoyed this novel, down to the artwork of the book keeping with the color theme.  The Night Circus draws you into its magical world and leaves you with a feeling of hope, and the desire to dream as any majestic fairy tale would accomplish.  Completely captivating, mysterious, romantic, and a dream-like fantasy in bound into one book!

Morgenstern is quite successful in this, her debut novel, craftily written, and providing a truly unique reading experience.  It would be wonderful to see this book go to film, for the magical scenes Morgenstern so brilliantly expresses and conveys are vividly seen by the reader.  She achieves all of the goals a writer wishes to achieve as she takes you on the journey of The Night Circus.  Well done!

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For Always

For Always is the debut novel of Danielle Sibarium. In this young adult novel, Stephanie feels that death haunts her. Too many circumstances in the past have caused her to feel like she is a magnet of death, and she feels socially ostracized until she develops a friendship with an older boy named Jordan.

As Stephanie and Jordan become closer, their age difference becomes an issue. Stephanie knows in her heart that Jordan is the one, and waits for him until he can see it too. Then tragedy strikes in more ways than one. Stephanie feels broken and defeated. The emotional roller coaster of Stephanie are effortlessly correlated, and the reader therefore, can feel nothing but empathetic.

Sibarium does an enormous job in reaching out to her audience. The emotional conflicts, along with the intensity of the emotional ups and downs of adolescence, are brilliantly conveyed through her writing. There were several points in the book when Stephanie’s story caused me to look back and reminisce about my own adolescent years.

Sibarium truly drew me in from the beginning. The story takes place in Brooklyn where I have lived half my life, so it was familiar. I have lived on Staten Island the past several years, but it was nice to read a story taking place in my old neighborhood. It made it that much more real to me. While I am not a big young adult reader, I found this novel really touching, emotional, and relatable. Her characters are not only well developed, but also credible. I found myself turning page after page, enticed by the story and curious for the outcome. In the words of Danielle Sibarium, “live, love, dream!”

 Disclosure:  I received this book free from the author for the purpose of a book review.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT:

Danielle Sibarium grew up as an only child of divorced parents in Brooklyn, New York. Her imagination was developed at an early age. Surrounded by stuffed animals and imaginary friends, she transported herself into a fantasy world full of magic and wonder. Books were the gateway between her play world and reality. On any given summer afternoon she became Snow White sweeping and cooking for the dwarves, or Cinderella waiting for the prince.

Danielle always loved dialogue and in elementary school began writing plays and short stories. This is when she began to understand she could not only bring her fantastical world to life for herself, but she could enchant others as well. And so she wrote. She wrote and wrote and wrote.

Sadly the first piece she ever sent out for publication of any sort was a letter to the editor of The Home News Tribune. It was a piece thanking the first responders for their bravery and selflessness on Sept 11th. It was chosen as letter of the week.

In 2007 Danielle collaborated with Charlotte Doreen Small to write songs for her CD More. Danielle wrote the lyrics for Take My Hand, and Goodbye, while Charlotte contributed the melody.

Danielle graduated from Farleigh Dickinson University with honors, and currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children.

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J.R.R. Tolkien

The Christian Encounters Series is a collection of short biographies of literary and historical figures published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  In this short biography by Mark Horne, he explores the life of John Ronal Reuel Tolkien.  In addition, Horne attempts to demonstrate how Tolkien’s faith and life experiences shaped his creativity and influenced his writing.

There were several interesting facts that were brought to light when reading this book.  J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on 1/3/1892.  He lost his father at a very young age.  Subsequently, his mother relocated the family back to England, where “Tolkien discovered the beauty of the English countryside – his first “shire”.”  His mother had a significant influence on his faith, being a Christian and participating in regular worship of Anglican and Catholic background.  Tolkien consequently lost his mother at the age of 12.  Another interesting fact about Tolkien was his love of language.   

Apparently his mother had taught him Latin and French.  He learned Greek at school, after which he learned some Finnish in order to read a book called the Kalevala, which was purported to have greatly influenced him.  Tolkien was also a war veteran, having lived through World Wars I and II.  He spent three and half months in a war-zone.  Most of his battalion was either captured or dead. 

Fast forward several years, Tolkien became an English professor and was appointed to work at Leeds.  His passion for Norse tales led him to start a club called the Viking Club, where he met C.S. Lewis.  It was interesting to me that Tolkien influenced C.S. Lewis with respect to Christianity and not vice versa.  They shared many similar interests and remained friends throughout their adult life.  C.S. Lewis died in 1963. Tolkien died in September of 1973. 

It was endearing to recall about the first time C.S. Lewis had read the manuscript of The Fellowship of the Ring and writing to his dear friend that “all of the long years you have spent on it are justified”. 

Although Horne is brief in his biographical account of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, he did convey the message that Tolkien’s writing greatly influenced all those who read it.  “…true courage to do what was right even at great cost, Tolkien portrayed a fantasy world that could not only entertain us but could also challenge and inspire us.”

 Disclosure:  I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://booksneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> :  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Iron Man: My Journey Through Hell and Back With Black Sabbath

Tony Iommi is the lead guitarist for the band Black Sabbath.  Considered by some to be the father of “heavy metal”, Black Sabbath has had an enormous influence on the music industry, giving birth to the genre of “heavy metal.”  In his memoir, Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell With Black Sabbath, he recounts the events in his life that lead him to form the band, as well as tells of how certain events impacted and influenced his life.

From early points in his life, such as the domestic violence between his parents, to events such as the death of former lead singer Ronnie James Dio, Iommi discusses his experiences as well as his struggle with other former band-mates.  Some other memorable accounts of Iommi’s experiences on the road while the band was on tour, and the struggles each of the band-mates faced during the times Black Sabbath songs were on the charts are also recounted.  

Iommi discusses his intimate relationship with the band members, the effects that drugs had on all of them, his relationship with singer/guitarist Lita Ford, and the bands rivalry with other successful bands of the time, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple.

On March 13, 2006, Black Sabbath was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  All in all, Iommi concludes, “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.  We spawned a whole new generation of music, of players…It’s extremely rewarding.” “I enjoy where I’m at now, I really do.  It’s a good place”.  There is talk of a Black Sabbath tour in 2012, I for one, am looking for to that!

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