Deck the halls – Christmas book review

Deck the halls

by Mary Higgins and Carol Higgins Clark

cover image of "Deck the Halls' by Higgins & Clark

An adult Christmas mystery book

published by Pocket Books (division of Simon & Schuster), New York, 2000

Age group: mid-teen to adult

Most Christmas books, and certainly the majority of the books we review at Love Santa, are aimed at children but I came across this one and thought it would be fun to review it.

Described as mother “Queen of suspense” and daughter “bestselling author” working together for the first time to “create an exciting and entertaining suspense novel”, I expected to enjoy the story.

The story

In the days before Christmas, private investigator Regan rushes across country to be with her injured mystery-writer mother, just in time for her father and a young mother to be kidnapped. Regan and new acquaintance amateur-detective Alvirah helped the police look the kidnappers and rescue the victims.

Regan and Alviarah are characters in their own series of books, one written by Mary and one by Carol.

My review

Let me start by stating I love reading crime stories and some of my favourite authors are Jo Nesbo, Kathy Reichs, Jonathon Kellerman, Ian Rankin, J D Robb and Kerry Greenwood, so I anticipated a good read blending crime and Christmas!

There are light crime stories and others are more complex and deeper, and Deck the Halls certainly falls into the lighter category.

I found the writing to be very basic and superficial, with obvious points explained as if the reader is not very bright. It did improve as the book progressed so either I got used to it or the writers collaborated better as they went along.

It is suitable for teens as there is no real violence or frightening elements, nor other adult content. And the simplicity of the story would work better for younger teens, perhaps than adults like me.

The Christmas element of the book was low – just the proximity to Christmas Day and one character working as Santa in a department store.

Apparently there are some other Christmas books written by this duo but I won’t be rushing out to find any of them.

So I did finish the book and didn’t hate it, but I can’t truly recommend it for serious crime readers or those who appreciate good writing.

That’s not my elf – Christmas book review

That’s not my elf…

by Fiona WattCover image of 'That's not my elf'
Illustrated by Rachel Wells
published by Usborne Publishing, London, 2016

Age group: baby to toddler

It was my eight year old son who grabbed this book off the shelf last night and begged me to read it. And then demanded to touch the textured part of each page.

So while these may be designed for the youngest of children, it has appeal to many age groups!

The story

A series of Santa’s elves are shown, each with an explanation of how it is different to ‘my’ elf. Each page has a different texture included for little fingers to explore.

My review

In line with “That’s not my reindeer“, this is another Christmas addition to the “That’s not my…” series of books, my children and I enjoyed reading this together.

Sample page from 'That's not my elf'

The pictures are cute and brightly coloured which makes the book appealing to all. I like that these books are interactive and teach young children various adjectives, and think that this should be on every baby/toddler Christmas bookshelf!

Christmas bon bon jokes

How many times did you pull on a bonbon this Christmas?

three Christmas bonbons with Santa and Rudolph faces

Santa and Rudolph bonbons

We had them at two family functions, and actually found different jokes in each set. Not that they are necessarily jokes we haven’t heard before, but at least there was variety!

So to add some post-Christmas cheer (or groans as you may be inclined!) here are some of the jokes I came across this year… and they are all family friendly, too!

Christmas and Santa jokes

What do you call a bankrupt Santa?

Saint nickel-less

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Claustrophobic

Who delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Santa Jaws

What do you call a kid who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus?
A rebel without a Claus

Where does Santa go when he’s sick?
the elf centre

What did the sea say to Santa?
Nothing! But it did wave…

What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?
Hornaments

Boy in Christmas elf costume

Making someone smile makes you feel good too

What do you call a dog who works for Santa?
Santa paws

What do Santa’s little helpers learn at school?
The elf-abet

What do monkeys sing at Christmas?
Jungle Bells, Jungle Bells

What goes OH OH OH?
Santa walking backwards!

Why is it getting harders to buy advent calendars?
Because their days are numbered

Why does Santa love gardening?
Because he goes HO HO HO!

What is the best Christmas present in the world?
A broken drum – you just can’t beat it!

What nationality is Santa?
North Polish

What do you get when Santa stops moving?
Santa Pause

Why is it getting harder to buy Advent Calendars?
They’re days are numbered

Who is Santa’s favourite singer?
Elf-is Presley

Other jokes…

What is green and goes camping?
A Brussel Scout

What’s the difference between a boogie and a Brussel spout?
Kids don’t eat sprouts

There were lots of non-Christmas and non-Santa jokes in our 2014 bonbons if you want some more to read or share!

 

Swap old or unwanted presents?

So how many unwanted presents did you get for Christmas?

Most of us try hard to give gifts someone wants to get, but not everyone gets it right so we sometimes (often?) get gifts that are not useful or not suitable for us.

Christmas presents under a tree, caption 'dealing with unwanted presents'

What do you do with unwanted presents?

Seriously, what do you do with those presents? Let us know in the comments as we all come across this issue from time to time!

I can’t say I’ve tried all of these, but here are some ideas for those presents when you can’t openly improve the situation…

  1. take them to a shop and exchange them – particularly useful for swapping clothing sizes/colours or book titles.
  2. regift them if someone else would truly appreciate the gift
  3. swap the item with someone who wants it – maybe they got a present you would like!
  4. go to a swap shop session where the community can exchange unwanted gifts, such as run in Stevenage, UK, for Christmas 2015
  5. put them in a cupboard to collect dust – not my preferred option and not really a good use of resources…

Merry Christmas!

It is now Christmas Day and we wish you a wonderful day filled with love, laughter and friendship.

If you’re in a heat wave like us, remember to drink plenty of water and stay cool.

Merry Christmas Australia!

 

two young girls in front of a Christmas tree

Enjoy your Christmas with the excitement of a child 🙂

Second last day of advent calendars…

Collage of 2016 lego Advent Calendars

Day 23! That means we’re almost finished our advent calendars and Christmas is almost here…

The Lego City calendar produced a sleigh tonight –  to which the husky from last night can be attached to pull it along.

Lego sleigh pulled by husky dog

We have Santa’s sleigh – now we just need Santa and his sack of presents!

My daughter discovered a snowman in her Lego Friends calendar – one that looks quite different to those already discovered in the City calendar this year or in the 2015 Friends calendar. Given it’s shape and size, I’m now wondering if last night’s table was meant for the Christmas pudding, or as a stand for the snowman! What do you think?

A Lego snowman holding a guitar in front of a CHristmas tree

A Friends snowman who can play guitar!

SO it is looking like Santa will arrive in Lego City on Christmas Eve – but will he also arrive for Naomi and Emma?

And if you are keenly following along with our advent calendars, you can do back to day one or sneak back to read what happened in 2015.

22nd December advent calendar review

Collage of 2016 lego Advent Calendars

Day 22 – the big question from now on is ‘where is Santa?’ With only three flaps left in advent calendars, there are not many more options for when Santa appears! Logically, it will be on Christmas Eve 🙂

Neither calendar provided Santa or anything Christmassy… again, my daughter was upset at the non-Christmas element and was in tears because “a table is boring!” I explained the table suited last night’s Christmas pudding, but she remained disappointed.

The City calendar contained a husky dog, some bones and a water trough with bucket.

Lego Husky and water trough

Finding and building a water trough for the husky

Three days to go in advent calendars!

2016 Lego advent calendar collage

Wow, we’re onto day 21 so there are only three more flaps to open – and school has now finished for the year around Australia so the excitement is definitely building now 🙂

Lego City now has a Christmas tree, complete with a star on top and some lights.

Lego Christmas tree with star on top and present beneath

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…

Our Friends advent calendar now has a Christmas pudding to add to the feast – and it looks pretty good!

Lego Christmas pudding in front of a Christmas tree

Time for Christmas pudding with some Lego Friends!

Advent calendars are up to day 20…

2016 Lego advent calendar collage

Day 20 of the Lego Friends calendar showed up a stove and a big chicken leg – even the chicken had to be put together in Lego fashion!

a Lego stove, chicken leg and fry pan

A Lego stove and chicken leg to go with the cooking utensils!

And day 20 of the Lego City calendar produced two presents – very different ones to those in the Friends calendar on day 17.

Two Lego presents under a decorated tree

Two Lego presents under a decorated tree

Don’t forget you can go back and read day one of the advent calendars from this year, or from 2015!

We’re into the last days at day 19

2016 Lego Christmas Advent Calendars

Day 19 of advent calendars…

As predicted by my son, the bakery stall now has an oven 🙂

Lego City bakery stall and oven

Interestingly, the Friends calendar produced a second turntable and three party hats (one each for Naomi, Emma and their pet!)

Lego Friends turntable & party hats

Christmas at the Zoo!

On Saturday night we were lucky enough to be amongst the Melbourne Zoo members who attended their Christmas party.

It was a lot of fun!

Visiting Santa

For our turn with Santa, a Christmas fairy greeted us and took us into Santa’s cave for a personal chat with Santa then a chance to take a photo. Each child also got an early gift, but only if they could answer a special question from Santa (like “how many reindeer pull my sleigh” and “name two of my reindeer other than Rudolph“.)

Santa at Zoo Member night 2016

Winter Wonderland

Within the winter wonderland, there were multiple snow machines, a couple of craft activities, a silent disco (we spent ages in there!), a family photo scene (complete with snow covered mountains and a Rudolph statue) and a chance to pose with the Penguins of Madagascar.

A jungle gym, festooned in tinsel and bells was very popular, as was an inflatable maze. There was also a little kids area with Christmassy playthings and dressups.

Zoo animals

We were at the zoo, so of course we also walked around to see some animals before enjoying the Christmas activities. Unfortunately, many of the animals had decided to have a nap or otherwise stay out of view so we didn’t see many, but it was nice to walk around in the evening and experience a different sort of atmosphere at the zoo.

Giraffes & zebras at Melbourne Zoo

Entertainment& other activities

To keep us all entertained outside of Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Cave, there were various entertainment options provided.

  • on the main stage, the Party Animals played three sets of mixed songs
  • children were able to write to Santa – there were child-sized tables and chairs, simple letter templates, pencils and a large red letterbox for mailing the letters
  • train rides around the zoo
  • wandering characters stopped and talked to children and had photos takes, and waved to other children as they walked around
  • some performers on stage interacted with children, including teaching them dance moves and handing out prizes

Christmas entertainment images from teh melbourne Z00 2016 party

The naughtiest reindeer at the zoo – Christmas book review

The naughtiest reindeer at the zoo

by Nicki Greenbergnaughtiest reindeer in zoo

Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2013

Age group: primary school

The story

It’s Christmas Day and a family heads of for Christmas with Granny and Pa. Much to the children’s horror, the parents won’t let them take Ruby the reindeer with them after the trouble she caused last year, so she goes to the zoo for the day instead.

My review

I really enjoyed this story book. It is Christmassy but has a very different story that is fun and keeps the kids wondering what will happen next.

The zoo animals are feeling sorry for themselves as they get lonely on Christmas Day (which led us to talk about the fact that Melbourne Zoo is open and has keepers on Christmas Day). Ruby had an idea of letting the animals mingle and party, which seemed to go ok at first but then the inevitable problems arise.

Sample page from 'The Naughtiest Reindeer at the Zoo'

Ruby sees Santa’s sleigh go past and asks for help, naming all nine reindeer.

My kids reacted to “I don’t think [Santa] even believes we exist” – my six year old just could not understand how anyone could not know about zoo animals – and “Good tidings, good cheer! Mind the elephant poo!” (they may that hysterical, of course!)

The book rhymes throughout which delighted my seven year old and adds some rhythm and fun to the experience, too.

Pictures throughout are colourful and simple, matching the story perfectly. And some sparkly texture on the front cover makes it all a little bit more special, too. It’s all good fun and I recommend it.

Greenberg has written another naughtiest reindeer book and some others, and based on this one, I’ll be keeping an eye out for them 🙂

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