Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Review of The Christmas Boot, by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

christmas_boot_largeThe Christmas Boot

by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful new Christmas story. As the book opens, we see an older lady out in the snow. She has a hat, coat, and scarf, but her hands are bare.

Deep in the forest on Christmas morning, Hannah Greyweather gathered bundles of kindling wood. For her, this day was no different from any other. As she went about her chores, she chatted to the forest, she talked to the mountains, but mostly she spoke to herself.

“Brrrrr,” she said to the mountain. “Will this winter ever be over? It chills my bones.”

The mountain didn’t answer.

Then Hannah sees a boot in the snow.

“Glory be!” Hannah exclaimed to the forest. “Who could’ve lost this?”

The forest remained silent.

And since her feet were fully freezing, and since it looked to be such a nice boot, she slipped her rag-wrapped left foot deep within it.

“Ahhh,” Hannah said. “That does feel nice.”

It surely must have, for when she slid her tiny foot into the very large boot, it suddenly took on the shape and size of Hannah’s own foot. The boot fit perfectly.

That night, as she goes to sleep, Hannah says, “I only wish I had your mate.”

In the morning, a second boot is standing next to the first one.

Hannah’s so happy, when she goes to gather wood, she makes snow angels.

That night, Hannah placed her boots next to her bed and marveled at her good fortune.

“Such a magnificent find,” she said to the left boot. “Who could have lost such a treasure as you?”

The boot stood silent.

“No matter,” said Hannah. “I’ve made good use of you. If I had mittens as toasty warm, I would be the happiest woman in the world.”

And in the morning, there are bright red mittens tucked inside the boots.

“If the boot is magic,” Hannah said to the mittens, “will it give me more? Will it give me a fluffy feather bed? A fabulous feast? A big fancy house?”

The mittens stayed mute.

“I suppose that is too much to ask,” said Hannah. “I best get about my chores.”

Well, after her chores are finished, Hannah finds her wishes have indeed been granted, though these new ones don’t “fit” quite as well as the first wishes.

But then a man in a red hat and red suit knocks on the door. He is wearing one black boot. Hannah knows where the boot came from now, and she gives it back. When she does, all her wished-for items disappear.

When the man apologizes as the wishes disappear, Hannah says, “It is as it should be. The boot didn’t belong to me, but I enjoyed it while it was here.”

But Santa knows how to make it right.

This is such a lovely book, with very large pages and Jerry Pinkney’s colorful paintings. I especially like about it that Hannah isn’t greedy, and she has such a joyful spirit. She delights in the lovely warm things, but isn’t sad to give them up. And they help her realize that she doesn’t need much to be happy.

So the reader leaves smiling when Santa makes her very modest wishes come true.

With lots of words on each page, it’s appropriate for preschoolers who are good listeners and elementary school kids.

Just a warm and wonderful new holiday story.

LisaWheelerBooks.com
JerryPinkneyStudio.com
Penguin.com/youngreaders

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A New York Christmas, by Anne Perry

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

new_york_christmas_largeA New York Christmas

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2014. 164 pages.

I’ve gotten hooked on Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. They offer a wide variety of situations, and I like some better than others. But all take place at Christmastime, and all offer a quick cozy holiday read – with murder. But justice is always done and they all have an overall message of peace and hope.

My hold on this year’s novella came in just in time for Christmas, though I was already in the middle of another eagerly awaited novel, so I got A New York Christmas read a few days after Christmas.

I particularly like it when Anne Perry uses characters from her other books in the Christmas novels. I don’t know why, since I haven’t read many of her other books (some day), but it gives a sense of a window into a larger world.

A New York Christmas is told from the perspective of Jemima Pitt, twenty-three-year-old daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The book opens with her on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic.

It was December 1904, and she was crossing the Atlantic to New York, where she would stay for at least a month. Mr. Edward Cardew had invited her to travel as a companion to his daughter, Delphinia, who was to marry Brent Albright, the son of Rothwell Albright, Mr. Cardew’s international business partner. It would be the society wedding of the year.

Not long after arriving, a murder happens, and Jemima is the primary suspect. The wealthy family she’s been staying with seems extra eager to place the blame on her. Can she use what she’s learned from her father to find out who is the actual killer? And where can she find help in New York City? And why did Miss Cardew’s mother abandon her child so many years ago? If Jemima can find out about the murdered woman, she thinks she might be able to figure out who did kill her.

It’s after Christmas now, but this story makes cozy reading at any time. This is now Anne Perry’s twelfth Christmas mystery, and it’s never too late to start a holiday tradition.

anneperry.net
ballantinebooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of A Christmas Hope, by Anne Perry

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

A Christmas Hope

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2013. 197 pages.

I do love Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. I caught the latest a few days after Christmas, but still in time for a good holiday adventure. A Christmas Hope is set in the same world as her William Monk series (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), featuring a woman who works at the clinic with Mrs. Monk.

This woman, Claudine Burroughs, is at a Christmas party, trying to keep up appearances with her husband and make the right contacts. Bored with the party, she goes out to the terrace and is surprised to meet Dai Tregarron, a Welsh poet. Here is how he introduces himself:

“I would say ‘at your service,’ but I do little of use. Poet, philosopher, and deep drinker of life . . . and of a good deal of fine whiskey, when I can find it. And I should add, a lover of beauty, whether it be in a note of music, a sunset spilling its blood across the sky, or a beautiful woman. I am regarded as something of a blasphemer by society, and they enjoy the frisson of horror they indulge in when mentioning my name. Of course, I disagree, violently. To me, the one true blasphemy is ingratitude, calling God’s great, rich world a thing of no value. It is of infinite value, so precious it breaks your heart, so fleeting that eternity is merely a beginning.”

Claudine doesn’t prolong the conversation and goes back inside and does her duty at the party. But then the party is interrupted by a young man with blood on his clothes. He comes in from the terrace, saying that Tregarron attacked a young woman and the young man and his two friends tried to stop him.

The young woman dies, and the police are looking for Tregarron. Claudine can’t quite bring herself to believe that the gentlemanly poet would be so violent. But what business does she have interfering in such a mystery?

I like all the variation in Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. No two are quite the same, but they all present a good puzzle, and people who want to do the right thing. They all have an uplifting theme, perfect for Christmas.

anneperry.co.uk
ballantinebooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/christmas_hope.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of A Christmas Garland, by Anne Perry

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

A Christmas Garland

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2012. 194 pages.

There’s nothing like a nice murder mystery for Christmas! Reading Anne Perry’s Christmas mystery has gotten be a tradition with me. I was sorry to miss last year’s, since I was judging the Cybils Awards. This year, I’m a second-round judge, so I was able to make up for lost time and read last year’s.

This one is historical, which Anne Perry does so well. We’re with British soldiers in India in 1857, during a large mutiny, shortly before Christmas. Lieutenant Victor Narraway has just arrived in Cawnpore, and he’s given an assignment:

Latimer smiled bleakly. There was no light in his face, no warmth of approval. “You will be aware of the recent escape of the prisoner Dhuleep Singh,” he went on. “And that his guard, Chuttur Singh, was hacked to death in the course of Dhuleep’s escape?”

Narraway’s mouth was dry. Of course he knew it. Everyone in the Cawnpore station knew it.

“Yes, sir,” he said obediently, forcing the words out.

“It has been investigated,” Latimer’s jaw was tight, and a small muscle jumped in his temple. “We know Dhuleep Singh had privileged information regarding troop movements, specifically regarding the recent patrol that was massacred. We also know the man could not have escaped without assistance.” His voice was growing quieter, as if he found the words more and more difficult to say. He cleared his throat with an effort. “Our inquiries have excluded every possibility except that he was helped by Corporal John Tallis, the medical orderly.” He met Narraway’s eyes. “We will try him the day after tomorrow. I require you to speak in his defense.”

Everyone is sure Tallis is guilty. As the Colonel said, the matter was investigated. But they want to uphold the rule of law and be sure he gets a fair trial. So Narraway is to defend him. A daunting task for Narraway, and one which he can’t win, and which no one wants him to win.

When he talks with Tallis, the man claims he is innocent. He was sorting medical supplies and no one saw him, but he did not kill the guard. Narraway likes him and wants to help, but it certainly looks like he will hang.

Out of this situation, Anne Perry creates a riveting mystery which ends with nice warm Christmasy feelings. Perfect for the season.

AnnePerry.net
ballantinebooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/christmas_garland.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Aunt Dimity’s Christmas, by Nancy Atherton

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Aunt Dimity’s Christmas

by Nancy Atherton

Viking, 1999, 214 pages.

I read one more Christmas mystery for the holidays, and found it charming and uplifting.

Lori Willis is getting ready to celebrate a lavish Christmas now that she has inherited a cottage in England. Aunt Dimity, who left her the cottage, never actually left, and still communicates with Lori by writing in a journal, and helps her solve mysteries.

Their Christmas mystery hits when a tramp collapses in the snowy lane outside their house. He’s alive, but in a coma in the hospital. Who is he, and why was he going to their house? Perhaps he knew Aunt Dimity?

When Lori visits the stranger in the hospital, she’s haunted by his face. Then she hears more and more stories of good things he has done. But some other things were very eccentric? Is he perhaps a mental patient? Or an angel in disguise?

Between these investigations, her husband going to a funeral in Boston, and her father-in-law playing Joseph in the Christmas pageant, Lori’s Christmas turns out nothing like she planned, but truly memorable still.

A pleasant story with interesting characters that will put you in the mood for Christmas.

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Review of A Christmas Promise, by Anne Perry

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

christmas_promiseA Christmas Promise

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2009. 193 pages.

There’s nothing like a cozy Christmas murder mystery to put me in the mood for the holiday!

Seriously, I’ve come to enjoy Anne Perry’s Christmas offerings. They are short and quick to read. They have just a hint of sweetness, but no overt sentimentality, and enough tension and mystery to provide a puzzle and a sense of relief when the danger is past.

Two poor girls in Victorian England are the focus of A Christmas Promise. Thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps comes across little eight-year-old Minnie Maude, looking for Charlie, her Uncle Alf’s donkey. Minnie Maude insists that her uncle was murdered, and that Charlie must be lost and frightened because he didn’t come home.

Gracie’s compassion for the little girl quickly gets her involved. But what can two girls do if Uncle Alf was murdered?

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Review of Christmas Letters, by Debbie Macomber

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

christmas_letters.jpg

Christmas Letters

by Debbie Macomber

Mira, 2006.  269 pages.

I read one last Christmas book to finish up the season.  I actually read most of this book waiting at the dentist office, which was a very good time to have something to laugh about!  Christmas Letters is a true romantic comedy.

The book opens with a Christmas Letter from Zelda O’Connor Davidson.  She says, “Let me warn you — this Christmas letter won’t be as clever as last year’s.  My sister, Katherine (whom you may know better as K.O.), wrote that one for me but, ironically, she hasn’t got time to do this year’s.  Ironic because it’s due to the popularity of that particular letter that she’s managed to start a little business on the side — writing Christmas letters for other people!…

“This year’s big news, which I want to share with all of you, has to do with a wonderful book I read.  It changed my life.  It’s called The Free Child and it’s by Dr. Wynn Jeffries.  My sister scoffs at this, but Dr. Jeffries believes that children can be trusted to set their own boundaries.  He also believes that, as parents, we shouldn’t impose fantasies on them — fantasies like Santa Claus.  Kids are capable of accepting reality, he says, and I agree!  (See page 146 of The Free Child.)

“So, this Christmas will be a different kind of experience for us, one that focuses on family, not fantasy.

“Zach and the girls join me in wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas.  And remember, a free child is a happy child (see page 16).”

After reading this letter, when we meet K.O., we easily understand her aversion to Dr. Wynn Jeffries and his philosophies, which she feels have turned her twin nieces into holy terrors.  Maybe she’s a little over the top in her reaction.  Perhaps she shouldn’t have ranted at a customer buying Dr. Jeffries bestseller and gotten herself banned from a local bookstore.  But we do understand her hesitation when she learns Dr. Jeffries lives in her building, and her sister wants her to get his autograph.  She decides to do it, but then give him a piece of her mind.

Then her best friend, who has been taking a class to develop her psychic powers, sees Katherine’s future in the kitty litter.  LaVonne believes that K.O. and Wynn Jeffries are made for each other.  She finds a way to set them up that they can’t refuse.

It all adds up to silly, heartwarming fun.  Perfect for holiday or after-the-holiday being cheered up at the dentist’s, for example.

This book is set on Blossom Street in Seattle, but we only see in passing the characters from Debbie Macomber’s other Blossom Street books (at least the ones I’ve read).  Still, it’s fun to be in the same setting, feeling like you’re among friends.  A cozy, feel-good, lighthearted Christmas romance.

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Review of Silver Bells, by Luanne Rice

Monday, January 5th, 2009

silver_bells.jpg

Silver Bells

A Holiday Tale

by Luanne Rice

Bantam Books, 2005.  274 pages.

http://www.luannerice.com/

http://www.bantamdell.com/

Here’s another Christmas story.  Oddly enough, I tried to read this book last year, and simply couldn’t get interested.  It felt predictable and sentimental.  This year, I picked it up, read past the beginning, and found it sweet, poignant and even unexpected.

Christopher Byrne is a Christmas tree farmer from Nova Scotia.  Every year, he sells his stock, commanding high prices, in New York City.  Last year, however, his 16-year-old son, Danny, decided to stay in New York City instead of coming back home.  This year, Christy and his young daughter Bridget want nothing more than to find Danny.

Meanwhile, librarian Catherine Tierney lives near the Christmas tree lot, but has a hard time with Christmas.  Three years ago, she lost her beloved husband to melanoma right at Christmastime.  However, Catherine tries to help people in memory of Brian, and all year a certain homeless boy has been wanting access to the private library she tends.

Yes, Christy and Catherine’s lives intertwine.  Yes, this story is about waking up to romance and about Christmas miracles.  The story is very nicely done.  I found that once I was in the right mood for it, I was treated to a heartwarming holiday tale.

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Review of The Handmaid and the Carpenter, by Elizabeth Berg

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

handmaid_and_the_carpenter.jpg

The Handmaid and the Carpenter

by Elizabeth Berg

Random House, New York, 2006.  153 pages.

I’ve been reading Christmas novels, so here’s a novel about the original Christmas.

There was a time when I couldn’t really enjoy novelizations of Bible stories — I would get upset over quibbles where they didn’t quite line it up with the Bible text, or the characters would not act as I had imagined them to act.  But perhaps I’ve outgrown that.  I’m quite sure this is not how I would imagine Mary and Joseph, but I did enjoy these characters.

What would it have been like to give birth to the Son of God?  And how would your betrothed react?  Elizabeth Berg does pull us into the story, in all its wonder, yet with a nod to the reality of dirty straw and a long journey and a village reacting to the story of an angel announcement.

This isn’t a dramatically in-depth novelization, but it gives you a taste of what that first Christmas might have been like.  Definitely good holiday reading.

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Review of Santa Cruise, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Monday, December 29th, 2008

santa_cruise.jpg

Santa Cruise

A Holiday Mystery at Sea

by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Simon & Schuster/ Scribner, 2006.  261 pages.

I have enjoyed some of Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark’s earlier Christmas mysteries.  So I picked up this Holiday Mystery for some fun Christmas reading.

To start up his new cruise ship, Commodore Randolph Weed launches the “Santa Cruise” — a free trip for people who have done good in the world.  He even includes ten department-store Santas to cheer the crowd while enjoying the cruise.  Alvirah Meehan and her husband Willy are among the honorees, and Alvirah invites her friend, private detective Regan Reilly and her husband Jack, as well as Regan’s parents, Nora and Luke.

What the Commodore doesn’t know is that his nephew Eric is using the cruise to make some money on the side.  Eric has agreed to take two convicted felons on board and drop them off on an island in the Caribbean without an extradition treaty.

Right from the start, Eric’s plans get thrown off.  He has to give his large room to Alvirah and her husband, so the felons don’t have a convenient place to hide.  Good thing there are lots of Santa suits available.

Santa Cruise has lots of coincidences and never really works up to much feeling of suspense, but it does provide some light-hearted fun in a holiday setting.

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