December 25, 2014

[Book Review] Baby Santa and the Gift of Giving by M. Maitland DeLand


This eARC was downloaded for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Baby Santa and the Gift of Giving
 is the most recent installment of medical doctor M. Maitland DeLand's Baby Santa series, which I'll admit I didn't realize when I downloaded it. So I'll admit up front that there may be a teensy bit of context I'm missing here, given that it's the fifth book in the series; on the other hand, they're picture books, so I don't imagine there's too terribly much to miss.

In any case, The Gift of Giving is a cute Christmas story about Santa and Mrs. Claus's young son, Baby Santa. It follows the titular character on his journey to New York City to "spread good will and cheer" with a family that sent his Father Christmas a rather atypical letter, offering to help him help others during the holiday season. So Baby Santa and the family in question, the Bonds, spend the course of this short, rhyming picture book volunteering at a community center kitchen, giving gifts to children in the hospital, donating to an animal shelter, singing carols at a senior center, and helping build a house--while, of course, also enjoying their vacation by taking in a show at Radio City Music Hall, seeing The Nutcracker, and getting some gifts of their own.

All in all, it's a pretty cute story with a pro-charity moral, and I'd recommend it as holiday picture book reading for that reason alone. Other things it has going for it include the positive representation of a minority family, as the Bonds are likely intended to be African American (though I will note that it seems a bit tokenish, as all the unnamed background characters are fair-skinned) and a refreshing balance between the oft-anvilicious charity aspect of the holiday and the less selfless relaxation/enjoyment aspect. And for those readers who experience Christmas as a religious holiday, there's a small rhyme and picture involving a Nativity scene, though parents who only celebrate Christmas in a secular fashion and haven't introduced their children to the religious aspects and/or do not wish to do so may find it's not for them.

I think Baby Santa and the Gift of Giving would be a nice, quick holiday read for a young child or beginning reader. It's nothing fascinating, of course, and the poetry isn't exactly Poe, but I imagine it'd be a good way to help get a young, Christmas-celebrating family in to the holiday spirit, at the very least, and there are four more Baby Santa books to check out if you find the need.

December 1, 2014

Blogging Is So Much Easier in the Winter (Or Is That Just Me?)

My desire to blog is a strange and stuttering thing.

When it comes to NaNoWriMo--and I swear this isn't off-topic--I've heard few complaints from participants. But the complaint I hear often is that it occurs during November, which is, for many people, apparently, an extremely busy time of the year. I, personally, and very pleased that November is the NaNoWriMo month, as that works perfectly with when I actually feel capable of spewing out 50,000 words within several weeks. While many people seem to wish the event was a summer ordeal, I cannot be more relieved that it isn't.

Because after two years of blogging here at Amara's Eden, I've learned something now that I didn't know about myself before: when the weather starts getting cold, my creativity and urgency gets kicked into high gear. I want to do things. I want to play all those games, read all those books, and see all those shows and movies that I've been ignoring for the past six months. I want to get back to that writing project I put aside during the summer, and I want to blog about everything that pops into my head. I want to tackle old projects, and I want to start new ones. And for a few glorious weeks in November and December, I actually get some shit done before S.A.D.-like symptoms start setting in around February and March.

On the other hand, I had always assumed that when the summer rolls around, I'll want to do things. I'll feel better. There's warmth and there's sun, and everyone just kind of seems happier when the summer rolls around. Except I live in Maryland, and that is not what happens in the summer. Maryland summers aren't hot, per se. It's rare to hit the triple digits, and while we do make it to the nineties far more than I'd like to be the case, it's bearable. But Maryland summers are really fucking humid. Maryland turns an eighty degree day into a ninety degree day with humidity alone; it's horrible, especially if you, like myself, don't have access to air conditioning in your own home. (I've survived by literally sitting in front of a fan for nearly twenty-four hours a day.) It just feels disgusting to live in Maryland during the summer without air conditioning, and it honestly me truly horrified to think of what it must be like to live in a rainforest climate that would make Maryland's humidity seem like the Gobi desert.

So in spite of the hopes that bloom in my head when the winter months have lost their novelty and left me completely sick of being cold, I always feel too shitty in the summer to have any drive to do anything.

That's where I'm going with this. My blogging schedule completely revolves around the climate, and that's kind of hilarious. I am inspired by the chill in the air during November and December, and I actually get things done. But when I really should be doing things over the summer, my drive all but completely fizzles out. Just look at the archives for the blog, and you'll see exactly what I mean. I get inspired around the end of October (which lead me to create the blog in the first place in 2012), but by the time June rolls around, my posting drops to nearly nothing. It's a trend I probably never would have picked up on if blogging hadn't offered me such an obvious way to track my day-to-day enthusiasm towards one of my hobbies.

Then, of course, there's New Year's. New Year's kind of plays off of my December inspiration. December brings up a slew of typical posts: best and worst this-and-that of the year, reflections on how you measured up this year versus your goals, and promises for how you're going to be better the next year. And while everyone jokes about how it's easy to keep a New Year's resolution for those first few days, weeks, or months, it's easy for me to keep them for at least the rest of January. But once January ends, it become a game of perseverance. This year, I did pretty amazing by my standards, honestly. I posted every day for the first few months of the year... but when the weather got warm, I got lazy, and there went my New Year's resolution.

I guess that's what sums my schedule up: I'm a reasonable blogger in the winter... and in the summer, I am lazy, grumpy, and completely over this entire blogging thing.

So what about you? Do you find that you approach blogging differently during different parts of the year? Or does your blogging perseverance rely on something else entirely? Let me know in the comments below!