4+ stars to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a children’s picture book, written in 1957 by Dr. Seuss. I adored this favorite as a child, and I still watch the cartoon ever year at Christmas. I’ve also seen the Jim Carrey movie and will watch that one, too. It’s such a wonderful take of love and revenge…
Most folks who celebrate Christmas must have read or seen some version of this story at some point in their lives. If not, it’s basically a grinch that wants to stop Christmas because he has no heart… but when he sees the heartache he causes on all the children who no longer have presents under the tree (because he stole them), his heart grows bigger… and he returns everything ten-fold.
It’s a feel-good kinda story, when you are down and need something to make you feel better. But it has rhymes and beautiful pictures as well as moral lessons.
Every version brings something new to my eyes and mind and ears. I love this story and would watch it All the “who” people and the way the town celebrates Christmas… it’s May and all I can think about is watching it right now!
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol, a story almost everyone is likely familiar with as early on as childhood. And we’ve all seen some form of this in a TV show, movie or another book, given how familiar the three ghosts of Christmas have become.
Why This Book
I honestly don’t recall how I stumbled upon this book, perhaps by watching one of the movie versions as the first foray. Sacrilegious, I know. But once you see it on a TV screen, the story compels you to want to read it. And when it’s the great Charles Dickens, how can you say no, right? I was 17 when I read the book… the summer before college started. And I often wonder if I missed out by not reading it when I was younger… but then again, the movie had already formed images in my mind and set the expectations, so probably turned out OK.
Overview of Story
A quick summary, as I’m sure we’re all familiar. Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge run a business. Bob Cratchit works for them and several young kids. Marley dies. Scrooge is a penny pincher. He forces Cratchit to work too hard and the man is already so poor and loving to his family. One night, Scrooge is visited by Marley’s ghost, forewarning him to be a nicer person and to listen when “they” come. Scrooge laughs. “Who’s they?” He mocks him. And then it happens… three ghosts visit Scrooge and show him a Christmas from the past, a current Christmas and a future Christmas, all resulting from the way Scrooge and Marley ran their business — essentially, a way to show the old man what his behavior has caused all around him. A reflection pool of the inner workings deep in your mind you’ve refused to hear or see for far too long. And when Scrooge sees poor Timmy, Bob Cratchit’s son, and the maladies surrounding him, Scrooge realizes he, too, must re-learn his lessons.
In true Dickens style, the words are beautiful. The story reads itself, not the reader. And you find such broad strokes of characters and morals within these 100 pages. You learn from it. You open your mind and accept what’s already somewhere in your heart.
None really… mostly when’s the best time to introduce this to children? Too young and you scare them. Too old and you miss out on helping them. It’s one of those books you should read together with your kids.
Read the book before you watch any movies. Then figure out how to help people in your life, just like Scrooge learns to. This book is all about lessons… and every reader can take away something different with their imagination and application to their own thoughts and actions.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 stars to Joanne Fluke‘s Candy Cane Murder, a short novella edition for the holidays between books 9 and 10 of the “Hannah Swensen” mystery series. Given this is only 100 pages, and just a teaser in between full-length books, I adjusted my expectations, but it still fell a little short for me. I’ll keep reading the series, but nothing really changes in the overall series with this book, so if you skip it, not a huge deal.
Hannah’s preparing for Christmas in Lake Eden by volunteering as an elf to help the local department store owner who is playing Santa Claus this season. Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a tightwad who rubs some of his employees and the villagers the wrong way. After the mall’s Christmas party, Hannah finds him face down on the corner of the street in his Santa suit. It’s the tenth body she’s found in about two years (yikes, stay away from her!), but still gives her the frights. Is it his new younger wife? Her friendly brother? An angry employee? Or someone else with a grudge? Hannah dives into the investigation behind Mike’s back and finds herself right in the middle of mayhem. Of course she survives, but the fun along the way keeps readers in suspense in between her normal shenanigans.
By keeping the count of characters smaller, we are treated to more in-depth relationships among Hannah’s sisters and boyfriends (yes, she has a few). The plot has subtle humor and it gives readers readers something to noodle over among the villagers we’ve come to know and love. And there are good recipes!
It was rushed and Hannah didn’t even pretend to let the police track the killer. It felt too much like writing a long short story to keep fans entertained rather than release a full-length complex story that would make them wait a few extra months. It took me less than 90 minutes and while I was entertained, it was too basic.
If you’re just looking to read more about Hannah and don’t need a lot of substance in your mystery, then jump on in… but if you want intrigue and complexity and a big ole’ candy cane to chew on, don’t expect much. Worth the read because Hannah is just a fun character, but go in with your eyes open.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4+ stars to Vicki Delany‘s We Wish You a Murderous Christmas, her second novel in the “Year-Round Christmas Mystery” cozy series. Whether it’s Christmastime or not, you need to unwrap this gift and dive into the great fun packaged into this holiday treat.
Rudolph, New York, also known as America’s Christmas Town, is home to the famous Yuletide Inn which has been a staple of this adorable village for years. When one of the owners has a heart attack, his son Gord moves back home to help take care of his father and the Inn until he recuperates. Unfortunately, Gord hasn’t changed since he was a kid growing up in Rudolph and still has a ruthless, money-hungry attitude which leads to one of his enemies stabbing him with a knife from the Yuletide Inn. Gord was secretly looking for ways to cut costs and make the Yuletide appear even more profitable for a potential buyer.
Merry Wilkinson, daughter of Rudolph’s previous mayor, also moved home recently but she came back full of Christmas spirit hoping to help revive the town and grow their tourist industry. When her father (also known as the town’s Santa Claus) is suspected of murdering Gord in support of his long-time friend who had a heart attack, Merry is on the case. She conducts her own “off the books” investigation working closely with her friends and family to try to uncover as much about Gord’s life back in California before he moved home to Rudolph.
With a cast of at least 6 to 8 suspects, including a rival town that hopes to sink Rudolph so they can be the tourist capital of upstate NY, Merry has her hands full trying to figure out who is telling the truth and who lacks all Christmas spirit. Add a few side stories (blossoming romance with 2 suitors, a hunky new chef who’s lusting after her best friend, a Santa Claus being fired from his job due to being the primary suspect and the on-going battles with the current mayor and a rival shop owner) and you’ve got quite a mystery to solve.
In the end, Merry of course solves the case with her friends and family’s help, but it ends in a risky unexpected confrontation where someone pulls a weapon with intent to harm Merry and her family. She survives, helps the local police capture the criminal and also walks right into the next mystery about to unfold in the third book to launch in this enjoyable series.
1. The cast of characters is dynamic and complex. Sometimes an author will create too few characters or cast too wide a net such that you can’t keep track of all the options. Even with 6 to 8 potential suspects in this story, each person is well-described, has distinct motives and pops up throughout the stories in all the right places. It’s easy to keep track of everyone which also makes it very easy to figure out who you like and who you don’t like.
2. Who doesn’t love Christmas? Ok, so if you don’t, then why are you reading this book? Nevertheless… it’s the perfect balance of story and backdrop setting: you can enjoy the story without realizing it’s all about Christmas or you can totally immerse yourself in the drama and mystique of the holiday. The settings and descriptions really add to the story and help you believe in a town that thinks about Christmas all year long. You want to run out now to visit it even though it’s Halloween (OK, it is for me when I just read the book)… but you also want to meet the people and see the village store windows.
3. The story is complex. It winds around in all the right places. And it drops tons of red herrings not only in this book, but back in book 1. (If you haven’t read book 1 in this series, you MUST read that one first and then read this one – you’ll enjoy it even more knowing what you missed previously).
1. The character of Jackie… I’m a little uncertain of how I feel about her. In the first book, I liked her even when she occasionally rubbed me the wrong way in how she treated Merry, her boss. I blamed it on her boyfriend’s (Kyle) influence; however, in this book, Jackie supported Kyle too much over the whole replacement Santa storyline. I am not sure if I’m supposed to like her or dislike her – and I’d like to figure that out sooner rather than later. Perhaps she’s being saved for a future book, which would be fine – but I’d like to see a different balance here — either good or bad. There are already a few other women who are part love / part hate (Betty, Sue-Anne, etc.)
2. I want more of Merry’s siblings! We hear about the three of them but never see them. Get them to Rudolph soon please…..
As far as cozies go, this one is very good. You can immerse yourself in the entire book and really feel as if you are part of the story and the setting. If I had to pick a cozy series that would help get more readers to the genre, this could be an option. Readers would have to be good with a “Christmas” theme, but as far as characters, plot, setting, romance, fun, et al, this is at the top. If you read book 1 and were on the fence, you must check out book 2. If you haven’t read this series, start with book 1 (Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen) and then read this one. It’ll take a few hours for each book and it’s well worth it.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
3 1/2 stars (rounded up to a 4) to Vicki Delany‘s Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen, her debut novel in the “A Year-Round Christmas Mystery” series. Some people love Christmas so much that they need an entire book series dedicated to it; and if you’re one of those people, you’ll enjoy this one even if you’re reading it at Halloween!
Rudolph, New York, a small town on the southern shores of Lake Ontario near the Canadian border, was named for someone who turned out to be not-so-name-worthy in the end. The town mayor, Noel Wilkinson, suggests telling everyone it was named after the famous reindeer and thus, Christmastown is born — except, there are a few of these towns across the country and the neighboring towns aren’t always thrilled when their town is suddenly considered second rate. When a semi-famous writer stops in Rudolph to publish a piece in a widely-read magazine about all the wonders of the Christmas village, he quickly sets the town a buzz… but when he turns up dead after eating at a local restaurant, Rudolph gets a bad reputation. Was it a neighboring town hoping to steal the glory? Was it a current resident with a unknown grudge? Or was it a personal vendetta from some outsider that just happened to occur in Rudolph?
Merry Wilkinson and her family and friends of Christmas-loving lore are on the case so they can protect their income and their town from utter disaster. Along the way, we meet her opera-loving mother, Santa Clause double dad, best friend who is accused of the murder, two eligible bachelors for Merry to choose from, a former frenemy police officer, the newly transported Chicago detective, a quirky mayor, a bitter neighboring store owner, a rival-politician and the fun-loving staff of Merry’s high-end Christmas decor shop. With a few side-stories about each of the main character’s personal lives, a new series all about the wonderful world of Christmas is born. In the end, Merry solves the case and makes friends with the police so she’s ready to solve another one in the future.
For a debut novel, it gives a really well-rounded summary of the town and characters. For readers new to the cozy mystery genre, it will be the perfect intro. Characters and setting are clear and vivid. Multiple suspects for the whodunit. Several backstories dropped with different angles to continue on in the future. And if you’re a fan of holidays, this one will make you smile. I was slightly worred that the Christmas theme could be annoying (I love Christmas but an entire book series?); however, Delany offers a good balance of story and setting so you can tune out or in as much of the descriptions as you want.
There are a few holes in the story or pieces of the plot that should have been more tightly addressed. Merry doesn’t quite seem like someone who would give up her life in NYC and come back home just because of a situation with her boyfriend and job. I would have expected her to try to find other jobs in NYC but this whole area is covered a bit too quickly. When she does come back home, it seems like everyone just forgets she left Rudolph and everything picks back up again. I understand small town atmosphere, but I think a little more focus could have been added here.
There are a lot of mystery fiction books and authors to choose from, and once you settle into the cozy sub-genre, you still have a lot that could spark your interest. This one has a very clear theme that will either hook the audience or it will not. If you are a fan of holidays or Christmas or anything that comes with it, then you’ve got a good series to get started with. The author has just published the second in the series and I will be reading it later this week. Definitely worth continuining on…