Three Christmas Stories

Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
Remembering Christmas by Dan Walsh

These are the three new (to me) Christmas books that I found time to read this year. There's never enough time to read in December, still every year I make a list of titles and look forward to some lovely, relaxing time with my books. Then every year I'm disappointed when time runs out. You'd think I'd learn, but hope springs eternal. I did re-read a couple of books: An Island Christmas Reader by David Weale and Old Christmas by Washington Irving. For me both are as much a part of Christmas as the turkey and the tree.

I'll warn you that there are spoilers in the following paragraphs, but, really, they're all holiday stories, so there could only be one ending, right?

Christmas at Harrington's was ok.  I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of Melody Carlson's writing, but I wanted something light and seasonal and that's what I got. I didn't find the characters very convincing, but the story line wasn't too bad. It's about a middle-aged woman getting out of prison for a crime she didn't commit and looking to start a new life in a new town where nobody knows her. Harrington's is the retail store where she goes to work and of course she gets to know the owner's family (and their sick little girl) and things turn out well in the end and it's all very sentimental and Christmassy. If the story doesn't do it for you, the pretty cover might put you in a festive mood.

A Redbird Christmas was a little better, with more convincing characters and more depth. While I can't say I loved it, I did enjoy reading it and was able to feel some connection with the characters. This one is about a man who has just been given a terminal diagnosis and he travels to a small southern town to rest and think. The town is filled with friendly, generous people who take him into their community and their lives. A little girl, with a Tiny Tim-like physical disability, enters the story and captures our hero's heart. It's sentimental, with a predictable ending that's a bit over the top, but the writing wasn't too bad.  

  Remembering Christmas was somewhere between the other two on a "how-good-was-it" scale. It, too, is sentimental and predictable, but that's what I expected when I bought it. In this one the main character is a man returning to his home town to help with the book store his mother (with whom he has a strained relationship) and step-father run. The step-father, of whom he has never been a fan, is in critical condition with an aneurism. A pretty young girl, with the requisite child, works at the bookstore - so you can see where that's headed. All relationships are good by the end of the story.

 So that's the wrap up on my Christmas reading. I think next year I may just re-read some of my favourites. Dickens' A Christmas Carol is always good and I have a couple of Christmas readers that I didn't get time to read through this year. I'll try to be disciplined enough to not buy any new ones this year, but "Christmas" in the title gets me every time. My inexplicable optimism that there are still great Christmas stories being written is costing me way too much in shelf space.

Hope you had time to indulge in some lovely holiday reading this year. Happy New Year one and all!

My Christmas...

...attending The Nutcracker at the Capitol Theater with my eldest grand-daughter, taking the younger one to see The Hobbit, re-reading "An Island Christmas Reader" and "Old Christmas", making sugarplums for the first time, our book club Christmas evening, listening to Handel's Messiah, the whitest of white Christmases, tires spinning, people pushing cars everywhere, every branch and twig encased in ice, a winter wonderland, six inches of slush in parking lots, soft snowfall on Christmas Eve, waiting for family to arrive safely on slippery highways, a spectacularly beautiful Christmas day, diamonds in the snow, hot chocolate, candles, our first artificial tree and not hating it, old ornaments poignant with memories, the moving poetry of old Christmas carols, reading The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, reading from Luke chapter 2 on Christmas morning, sleepy teenagers, a new book, chicken bones, enough chocolate to sink a ship, easy laughter, a few tears, cosy blankets in front of the tv fireplace, the smell of turkey roasting for 6 hours, cranberries, the glorious mess in the living room, friends dropping in, the best caramel corn ever, the warm glow of Christmas lights,
towers of dirty dishes, settling back in the recliner with feet up, shortbread cookies, ice on the river, a red fox brilliant against the white snow in the back yard, taking Christmas treats to the neighbours, our big new tv, mocha cakes made by my husband, the shining star on top of the tree, my friend Ellen's fruit cake, corny Christmas movies, missing the days when my children were young, dropping an old and cherished ornament and hearing it break on the floor, the friendliness of people in the grocery store, pretty holiday napkins, After Eights, those lonely moments Christmas inexplicably brings, two snowstorms and an ice storm and a dying snow blower all in one week, a dvd of old Andy Williams Christmas shows, Christmas dinner with my mother who - frail and elderly - had a good day, remembering past Christmases, glittering Christmas cards, glasses of eggnog, exhaustion, winter boots and wet feet, power outages messing up the computer, a warm house, friends, family and gratitude for everything I've been blessed with.

So tell me about your Christmas...

What's On Your Christmas Reading List?

Now that the shopping and wrapping and cooking are done, it's time to haul out the Christmas books. I have at least two new ones to read and I have a few old favourites that I try to read every December because it just doesn't feel like Christmas without them.

I've just started Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson. I'm not really a Carlson fan but thought I'd give it a chance. Our book club read Christmas on Mill Street by Joseph Walker this month, a book I love and highly recommend. It reminds me a little of "A Christmas Story", set in the same time period about a boy who wants just one special thing for Christmas. It's a short book, but funny and poignant, not too sappy, and worth reading.

I'll be posting some of my favourite holiday reads here as I get to them.

How about you? Are you trying new books this Christmas or do you like to re-read seasonal favourites? Do you find time to read at Christmas at all? If you come across any good ones please share the titles as I'm always looking for a good Christmas story. What's on your Christmas reading list?

"Literary Lapses"

Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock

I find Leacock very entertaining usually but I couldn't seem to get into these stories right now, so I'm going to set it aside and read it again later. I guess I have to be in the right head place to fully appreciate the irony - and he is a master of irony. 

Some of the stories/essays in this collection:
 -  Boarding House Geometry
 - How to Make a Million Dollars
 - Men Who Have Shaved My Head
 - Hoodoo McFiggan's Christmas
 - On Collecting Things
 - An Experiment with Policeman Hogan
 - Winter Pastimes 

If you've never read Leacock you are missing out on some serious entertainment. His writing is smart, imaginative, funny, and altogether quite enjoyable, so in spite of the fact that I was too distracted to appreciate this book right now, I do recommend it.