Tuesday, January 19, 2010

'Tis the season--Holiday Books 2009

Despite the fact that Christmas is nearly a month over now, I did some holiday reading in December and want to get at least some mini-reviews up. Perhaps you can decide to add them to your holiday reading/gift giving list for 2010.

I won a copy of Wishin' and Hopin' in a book blog contest. I was excited to win a copy because the book sounded interesting enough that I wanted to read it, but didn't grab me so much that I actually want to purchase the book (is that terrible?!). And I was pretty right about my initial assessment.

Wishin' and Hopin' describes 1960's life through the eyes of ten-year old Felix Funicello (cousin to Annette). I found this book to be only a so-so holiday read. It takes over half the book to even get to Christmas. Quite a bit of the story is the school year leading up to the holidays. While I love nostalgic holiday movies and books, this one did not hit the jackpot for me. It was mildly entertaining but Felix as a protagonist seemed younger than his age and I just didn't care for it that much. However, if you grew up in the 60's and attended Catholic school, you may have a greater appreciation for Lamb's story than I did. It also bothered me that the book ended with the family eating a holiday dinner at a Chinese restaurant (um....did Wally Lamb just finish watching the holiday movie "A Christmas Story"? Not very original, in my opinion).
Source disclosure: won in a blog contest

If you're looking for a nostalgic Christmas story, I don't think you can find a better book than Dave Barry's The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. I first read this book two years ago, borrowed from the library. Barnes and Noble had it as a bargain book this Christmas so I just had to snatch up a copy of it and read it again. It did not disappoint, I loved the story just as much the second time.

I would definitely recommend this one over Wally Lamb's Wishin' and Hopin'.
Source disclosure: I purchased this book.

Secrets of the Christmas Box by Steven Hornby had sooo much potential. I really really REALLY wanted to LOVE it! However, it fell quite a bit short of my expectations. Cleverly written in 24 chapters, this middle-grade book could be read aloud each night from December 1st until Christmas. Secrets tells the story of Christmas ornaments come to life and the adventure that awaits them beyond the Christmas tree. However delightful the book synopsis sounds, this is actually quite a dark tale. Larry the snowman ornament's brother appears to be missing after the ornaments are all placed on the tree. Larry and his good friend Debbie along with a new toy solider ornament go off in search of Larry's brother. They discover along the way that things may not be as they seem in their little Christmas tree world.

I thought this would be a cute little tale to read to my children at Christmas each year, but I think it may be too dark and scary for younger children (with an evil Tree Lord and tree lights that hunt down and attack other ornaments) and perhaps a bit too young in subject matter for older kids who could actually read the book themselves. I'm not sure Hornby found the right audience for this one. In short, LOVED the idea of the book but was disappointed with the reality of it.
Source disclosure: Received a copy from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

Susan May Warren's Christmas novella was quite entertaining at times and delivered a nice holiday message. I believe this would fall into the Christian Fiction category, but not too overtly. It didn't get too preachy and actually some of the church-related scenes were amusing to me.

The story follows Marianne Wallace as she plans to have her large family all together for one last holiday before her youngest goes off to college and her children all start to lead their own lives. Of particular interest to me is that the story takes place in Big Lake, Minnesota where Marianne cheers on her son as a football player for the Big Lake Trout. It's always fun to read books that take place in your home state. The Big Lake Trout and their drive to get to the state championship play a large role in this story, especially when the team mascot has a heart attack and Marianne is cajoled into donning the Big Lake Trout costume to cheer on the team. The description of her trying on the costume truly made me laugh. And as a mother, you realize there are all kinds of things you'll do for your kids that you never dreamed you would even consider! I really enjoyed the town and its characters and could identify with Marianne as a future version of myself. I would recommend this one as a fun holiday read (though I don't think it would top my all-time best holiday book list).

Source Disclosure: Received a copy from the publisher by contacting the author's website.

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