Book Review: Forever Christmas

forever ChristmasIn Forever Christmas by Robert Tate Miller, Andrew Farmer is quickly moving up the ladder as a literary agent. But his frequent travels and need to move away from their home town have been hard on his wife, Beth. She could endure it all, however, if they still had the closeness they used to, but Andrew has been busy, distracted, and distant. Andrew has to travel again just before Christmas, and when he gets back on Christmas Eve, they argue over a misunderstanding. When Beth goes for a walk to cool off and clear her head, Andrew goes after her. He sees a taxi speeding toward her, but is unable to reach or warn her in time.

In his grief, he is met by a mysterious stranger named Lionel, who offers him a gift: the opportunity to do the last three days over. Beth will still meet her fate, but Andrew has the opportunity to give her a different kind of send-off, to let her know that he truly does love her. Andrew accepts, but his attempts just seem to show up how out of touch with his wife he really is.

Along the way we learn some of their back story and Andrew discovers that old issues, like his hatred and unforgiveness of his father, who left his family when Andrew was young, are affecting his ability to love now. Will he be able to work out his issues, get past his ambitions and self-centeredness, and truly learn how to love before it is too late?

I wouldn’t say this is exactly a Christian story. In fact, there were a couple of statements I strongly disagreed with, like Andrew’s remembering his grandmother saying, “When all earthly endeavors have been exhausted, there’s always God” – as if we should only consult Him if we’ve tried everything first and can’t make it instead of asking for His guidance and help from the beginning. And “The universe is harmonic, Andrew. If your life isn’t harmonious, it’s because you’ve chosen disharmony.” I would disagree with that on more levels than I can go into at the moment.  But there is a subtle underpinning of faith, the need to pray, the need to forgive. It’s not a story I would send someone to for doctrine, but as a basic story of the need for self-sacrifice in love, it shines. Miller writes the gut-wrenching emotional scenes quite well, and keeps the story moving without dragging.  It’s not a long book – only 169 pages. I started and finished it in one evening, which is rare, but I was staying up late waiting for my son to come home, so that helped. 🙂

I thought this sounded a lot like a movie I had seen ads for, and after a bit of research I found that Miller had also written the script for one with the same characters and plot called Three Days. In this case it looks like the movie came before the book. I have not seen it but I might see if I can find it online some time. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought of it.

This is the kind of book I like to read during December – touching and heart-warming without being sappy.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Book Review: Merry Humbug Christmas

7d4cb-merry_humbug_christmasI picked up Merry Humbug Christmas by Sandra D. Bricker when it was on sale for the Kindle app (at the moment it is 99 cents, but that could change at any time) mainly because I enjoyed her The Big 5-OH! a couple of years ago.

This is a two-part story of two friends. The first, Joss Snow, was born on Christmas day, and her parents in a burst of holiday and  new parent inspiration decided to name her Merry with her middle name as Christmas. Merry Christmas Snow. “Her name had come to seem like a Before and After puzzle from Wheel of Fortune.” By adulthood she’d had enough of the jokes and wisecracks such a name brought out, and she had it legally changed to Jocelyn, going by Joss. When a family tragedy occurred on Christmas Eve, she was done with the holiday. “She’d made a decision long ago not to ask too many questions about the why of that turn of events. Instead of turning on God, she’d turned on Christmas.” She not only did not celebrate it, she went out of her way to avoid it along with her best friend, Reese Pendergrass. This year she’s found the perfect getaway for herself and Reese: a Bah Humbug Cruise that promises no festive seasonal vestiges. The only problem is that Reese drops a traitorous bomb on her: her boyfriend has just proposed and she is going to meet his family at Christmas.

Joss decides to go alone, only to discover when she arrives to board the ship that her cruise has been canceled and she has been rebooked on the “12 Days of Christmas Fun Cruise.” It takes a certain suspension of disbelief to accept that that would happen without her having received some notice beforehand, and that she would find herself actually on the ship, deciding to disembark only after it was too late. But setting that aside, Joss soon meets “a walking commercial for Christmas at Dollywood” in the platinum blond, overly adorned and talkative Connie, and steels herself for a miserable time tucked away in her room. Connie, however, won’t let her get away with that, and in the course of events Joss also meets a potential client for her business and a handsome guy with an Irish brogue.

Meanwhile, Reese is nervous about meeting the seemingly idyllic family of her fiance when she herself comes from a non traditional hippie-ish family. An accident in which they hit a deer on their way and have to finish their journey on foot in the snow sets off a series of disasters which makes Reeses doubt she will ever be accepted by the family.

In one scene Reese thinks that it’s like they’re in the middle of a cheesy holiday movie, and, yes, the book did have a TV holiday movie feel about it. I did wince at Reese’s calling her fiance, Damian, Damie, and Joss calling some guy gorge, as in gorgeous (I had never heard the latter before – is that a thing now?) But overall the book is full of Bricker’s trademark humor and is a light, fun holiday read. I especially enjoyed the interaction of the two friends at the beginning and end of the book. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas book without Joss realizing that Christmas is “not really so bad…under the right circumstances.”

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

Christmas Book Giveaway

I have accumulated a pile of Christmas books, and some of them I am not likely to read again. So I thought I’d offer them to you. 🙂

I will list what I have with a link back to my review, if I have one for it. If you are interested in any, let me know in the comments on this post (not the posts of the book reviews). If you have one in particular you’d like, mention that title, and if you are the only one who wants it, you will get it. If two or more people want a book, I will use random.org to draw a winner. If you want to list a first, second, and third choice, that’s fine: if you don’t care which one you get, that’s fine, too.

I will draw names the Friday after Thanksgiving and will send them at the cheapest rate, but they should still get there in time for some Christmas reading. I’m sorry, but I will have to restrict these to US addresses due to shipping prices.

So here are your choices:

Wreath of Snow

A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs

Christmas at Harrington‘s by Melody Carlson

Treasure of Christmas, a collection of three stories by Melody Carlson (The Christmas Bus, Gift of Christmas Present, and Angels in the Snow).

Snow Day by Billy Coffey. One reservation with this one, but otherwise it is good.

25 days

25 Ways, 26 Days to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins.

If I have linked everything correctly, clicking on the title should take you to my review (some of them are grouped together in shorter reviews), and clicking on the book image will take you to Amazon if you’d like to learn a little more about the books.

The giveaway and comments are now closed. And the winners are……

A Wreath of Snow: Brenda

 Christmas at Harrington’s: Kaycee

Treasure of Christmas: Abi

Snow Day: rcblibrary

26 Days: Michele

I am sending an email to notify each winner. If I do not hear back from them with their address by the end of the week, I will draw a new winner.

Thanks so much for entering!

Book Review: The Christmas Dog

Christmas DogBetty Kowalski is having trouble obeying the Bible’s command to love her neighbor. Her neighbor isn’t making it any easier, with a heated dispute over a fence between their properties, a pile of rubbish in the yard, including her former neighbor’s prized pink toilet, remodeling noise all hours of the day and night, and now his dirty, pesky dog doing his business on her dogwood tree.
Add to that an unexpected visit from a troubled granddaughter, an upset in her son’s family, and a promise to help with a friend’s 50th anniversary celebration, and Betty has her hands full.

Christmas books can sometimes be overly sentimental, but The Christmas Dog by Melody Carlson was a delightful surprise. I figured I knew where things were headed with the dog, given the book’s title, but Betty’s transition from curmudgeon to caring Christian was both heart-warming and convicting.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)