How are you celebrating?

Whether in Times Square watching the ball drop, or at Sydney's famouus harbor where over 80,000 fireworks will be set off, New Year's Eve is a time to look back and forward.

If you're throwing a party, check out some great hors d'oevres cookbooks: Mastering Hors d'Oeuvres by Jan Weimer or Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook by guess who?

If you're a nostalgia buff, you can watch the Jack Benny Holiday Hour, especially the episode where he turns down a party invitation for a date that never happens. Or for "Friends" aficianados, check out the episode in Season I, disc 2, in which Ross arrives at a new Years Eve party with a monkey.

Wonderful Holiday Reading in Two Hours

Letter to a Godchild: Concerning Faith, the spiritual autobiography of author Reynolds Price, is wonderful holiday reading, a wise little book that can be read in maybe two hours. Perhaps most memorable is the author’s recollection of being shown a Very Big Picture when he was still a very small child: "In a single moment, I was allowed to see how intricately the vast contraption of nature... was bound into a single vast ongoing wheel by one immense power that had willed us into being." Price also writes eloquently about his second mystical experience, right before surgery for spinal cancer that made him a paraplegic in his fifties. The author started to write this book in 2000 following the baptism of Harper Peck Voll, the son of long-time friends. Harper is a lucky child, and we readers are also lucky to share Price’s stories and advice.

Stompin' at the Savoy by Bebe Moore Campbell

Mindy is afraid that she will fall during her jazz dance recital. A visit by a magic drum takes her to the Savoy where she hears Benny Goodman and joins the crowd of dancers. Her dancing Aunts take front stage in the dance competition and a slip by one of their partners shows Mindy that happy feet keep dancing no matter what. Stompin’ at the Savoy is an upbeat rhythmic book that celebrates one of Harlem’s most famous ballrooms.

Energy Savings

It is always time to start thinking about saving energy, but even more so since winter is here.

The Home Energy Diet shows how to calulate how much energy you are using and how to reduce it. One of the easiest things to change is to use a Compact fluorescent lamp(CFL) they last longer, use less electricity for the same amout of light. The Incandescent light bulb uses techology that is over 100 years old and produces more heat than light. A 23W CFL produces the same light as 100W incandesent light bulb. A recent sighting of a 23W CFL at a local big box store was about $8.00. At ebay I bought 15 CFL bulbs and the total with shipping came to under $2.00 each. At that price wny not do the whole house. For more materails on saving money and energy click here

Sleepy Sleepy Time

So Sleepy Story
Award winning author/illustrator Uri Shulevitz creates the perfect simple storyline and illustrations to make you want to crawl into bed under a nice warm blanket and shut your eyes for just a minute... Sleepy Sleepy House. Sleepy Sleepy Tree. Sleepy Sleepy Dishes... Just thinking about the book is enough to make y- zzzzzz..zzzz...zzzz...

2006 Michigan Notable Books

The Library of Michigan's annual selection (annotations are from the Library of Michigan list):

Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma by Bob Butz. Lyons Press. Are there really cougars roaming the Michigan wilderness? Complete with local folklore, scientific analysis, political maneuvering and bureaucratic struggles, the author tirelessly searches for the elusive truth that has confounded biologists, wildlife experts and nature enthusiasts alike.

Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink by David Margolick. Alfred A. Knopf. Set against the politically charged 1930s and the rise of Nazi Germany, this book explores the two historic boxing matches between Detroiter Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. Louis’ crushing victory in the 1938 rematch, only after his stunning defeat in 1936, shattered the myth of Aryan racial supremacy, reverberated throughout the world and provided an impetus for the nascent U.S. civil rights movement.

Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans by Thomas Lynch. W.W. Norton & Company. While rediscovering his Irish roots in County Clare, the Milford-area writer takes us on a journey of personal discovery, glimpses into ancestral tales and traditions, and offers poignant commentary on our world, and its people, places, and institutions. Lynch is the 2001 Michigan Author Award winner.

Soldiers at War on Christmas

God Rest Ye Merry, Soldiers: a True Civil War Christmas Story by James McIvor
On the eve of the Battle of Stone River near Murfreeboro, TN in 1862, the Union band played the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the Confederate band answered with Dixie. The Union band then played “Home Sweet Home” and both sides started singing the verses.

Silent Night: the Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
Across the trenches in 1914, the soldiers spontaneously came together, singing carols, exchanging letters and gifts, eating, drinking, playing soccer, until the commanders ordered them to start shooting. The soldiers returned to the trenches and, for at least one night, intentionally aimed high over the enemy.

11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944 by Stanley Weintraub
From the German loudspeaker: “How would you like to die for Christmas?” From General Patton’s diary: “a clear cold Christmas, lovely weather for killing Germans, which seems a bit queer, seeing whose birthday it is.”

Spare a prayer for soldiers this Christmas and for “on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14 (King James Version)).

Stories and Poems from the Soldiers

Operation Homecoming is a compilation of writings from soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan. The soldiers were asked to put their experiences into words and the best submissions were compiled into this book. On NPR you can read a sample poem and listen to NPR's report on the book.

Books to Films (Holiday Releases)

Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, and Michael Caine starred in this adaptation of P. D. James’ The Children of Men, set in near-future London when all human males have become sterile. Historian Theo Faron is asked to join a band of revolutionaries--a move that may hold the key to humanity's survival. (December 25th)

Perfume: The Story of A Murderer is about one man’s pursuit of the perfect perfume, but the indulgence in his rare gift and greatest passion - his sense of smell - leads to murder. Based on the 1986 acclaimed bestseller and international sensation by Patrick Suskind. The novel is a brilliant, powerful, and gripping page-turner. (December 27th)

Zoë Heller’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel What Was She Thinking?:Notes on a Scandal is beautifully captured in this film adaptation.
When Sheba Hart's love affair with an underage male student comes to light, school teacher Barbara Covett decides to write an account of the affair in her friend's defense, in the process revealing not only Sheba's secrets, but also her own. The film boasts a stellar cast with Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett. (Limited release December 27. Watch the papers for local release date.)

The Painted Veil is a remake of the 1934 Greta Garbo film, inspired by W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece.
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, it is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane (Naomi Watts), who is forced to accompany her husband (played by Edward Norton) to the heart of a cholera epidemic, where she reassesses her life and learns how to love. (December 29th)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #45

If you just cannot get enough of the religious suspense genre, here is another one for you.
Oh yes, the Knights Templars are again in the thick of things.

In Julia Navarro’s Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud, when the unidentified body of a tongue-less man turns up in the ashes of a suspicious fire in the Turin Cathedral, home of the Holy Shroud of Turin, Marco Valoni, Director of the Italian Art Crimes Department, investigates.

Soon he is sure several shadowy, anonymous groups of powerful and wealthy men with ties to Legend of the Knights Templars are somehow involved, while his only suspect is already in the Turin prison. More importantly, a far more shocking crime is about to happen. It is up to Valoni and his crack team of investigators to stop it.

Julia Navarro is a well-known Madrid-based journalist who is currently a political analyst for Agencia OTR/Europa Press and a correspondent for other prominent Spanish radio and television networks. Her second novel is due out in 2008. Brotherhood is already a bestseller in Europe.

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