Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Novels

Time To Snuggle Up With Some Books! 
Christmas Book Reviews: Part One

Stocking Fillers: Twelve Short Stories for Christmas
By Debbie Young

In my annual gathering up of my Christmas and winter collections of novels, I was delighted to find Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young. This was one of those treats that you find that was tucked away and forgotten. I finished this collection of short stories in one day! Not only did I enjoy this book but I sent a copy to a friend via amazon to enjoy.

Debbie Young has an amazing gift of storytelling and has a remarkable talent for capturing the reader with often her first line. For example in the short, True Cost of Christmas, Young immediately hooks the reader with the line, “If I catch your mother doing that again, I’m am going to slap her.” Who hasn’t has that familiar guest over during the holidays that inundates you with advice? I laughed at the list of giver’s names with the estimated cost behind each item and on the flip side what dear mother in law spent on each giver. It is this real life plausibility that makes Debbie Young such an enjoyable read. Readers can relate to the spoiled child, the unsatisfied husband who is either controllable or indifferent, the lonely elderly woman next door, or extravagant dinner parties.

My favorite two short stories in Stocking Fillers are “Park and Ride” and "Do You Believe?" In Park and Ride, a traditional “real” Santa is on a bus with the “store hired” Santa. I love the deeper meaning that the author evokes on judgement, insecurity, and the old vs. new. To be able to take these underline themes in such a short story format is brilliant. I also very much enjoyed, Do You Believe? The ending really has you wondering if Jerome is being sincere or playing a joke. With that in mind, Debbie Young gives the reader room to imagine and not give a closed ending in her novels.
I highly recommend this “Five Star” novel and encourage readers to read other works by Debbie Young.

Christmas Present: A Chronicles of St. Mary's Short Story (Audible Audio Edition) 
By Jodi Taylor

This was my first story that I have read by Jodi Taylor. I really enjoyed this futuristic time traveling modern tale. Taylor's use of humor and engaging plot kept me hooked till the end. I especially liked the use of historical fiction as a tool to reunite lovers.

The narration was well done and the pace was good. I plan on reading more from this author in the future.  Highly recommend.

Little Donkey: A Short Story 
(Audible Audio Edition)
By Jodi Taylor
Pull out the ginger biscuits and tea for a wonderful story story. Jodi Taylor creates a funny story with an emotional ending. My favorite part was three men giving a donkey a bath in an porcelain tub while the girls ate cake and drank tea. The humor was spot on and Lucy Price-Lewis gives excellent voice in her narration.

I highly recommend Little Donkey.

Festive Treats
AA Abbott, Justin Lee Anderson, James Brogden, David Croser, Margaret Egrot, Katharine D’Souza, Simon Fairbanks, Heide Goody, Iain Grant, Hilary Mortz, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Suzanna Stanbury, R E Vance, A Stuart Williams, and Debbie Young

As, I mentioned above,  I recently just finished a book called Stocking Fillers by Debbie Young and after I left my review, I was pleased to see that this book was offered on Amazon as a free download. I have only read one of the authors above. This was truly a gift and an opportunity to try out several new authors.

First, I want to commend the variety of stories and layout of Festive Treats. It contains stories that range from fantasy to humor to downright heartwarming goodness. I honestly have a hard time with picking a favorite story in this collection. Yet, I will begin with Margaret Egrot. Egrot is writes well and has a talent for imagery. One could not only feel the emotions of the main character Mary McCarthy but I felt as if I was inside her home and spent the day with her. From the details of the market to Jane’s kindness this story will have you going instantly to Egrot’s amazon page. I immediately purchased her novel about Alex.

This leads me into Katharine D’Souza. After reading her story, I purchased even more books! I really appreciate how D’Souza has you guessing up until the end. I must admit that I thought the mother had pulled a fast one over her daughter. However, the ending was not only pleasing for this reader but gave just enough space that the reader’s imagination was allowed. I also felt that this story was well paced and captured the reader’s attention.

I did have a bit of a problem following the story line of Hark by Iain Grant. In some areas it was a bit choppy and the author had a slight case of too much, “And” “So” and “LY.” However, I did enjoy the humor and the imagination of the four archangels. I also appreciated his plot of something different than the usually plotted themes that many writers follow. Grant is able to think out of the box even if the jokes have you rolling your eyes a bit. Alas, I have told several readers now the minced spy joke. I plan on reading this author in the future.

R. E. Vance is another author that is able to think outside of the box. His mixture of poetry and story was well thought out. Furthermore, his intelligence and culture is a pure delight for this reader. For example, the use of the Jinn, Penemue (The curer of stupidity in men), Astarte (A Middle Eastern goddess worshiped during the Bronze Age), and a mother-in-law add to a very interesting and thought provoking cast of characters. Each were well developed and rather clever.

David Croser, A. Stuart Williams, and Justin Lee Anderson each held my attention and provided me with a very pleasurable read. Anderson really provided much action and had me to the very end. I think my blood pressure might have even rose a bit. The Askari are some rather scary creatures. Williams has a gift for science fiction. Croser really amazed me with his ability to capture the modern Christmas short story. I was disappointed that he didn’t have a second story in this collection. I wanted to read another one. However, I downloaded his Rice Pudding Reality. Oh and yes, I wanted a mince pie after reading his story.

A Partridge in a Tree by Simon Fairbanks was a treasure to read! A favorite and really reminded me of A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. As a matter of fact, we read this story as a family and it will be shared with my library book club. We all fell in love with the character Nicholas and every teen in my area will want parents like his. Possible to take over the drone. I really believe that Fairbanks would connect with the young adult audience. Furthermore, High school teachers could use his writing a great example for grammar and form.

Lindsay Strawberry Flynn really did a great job with a different approach to the birth of Jesus. She really was able to use just the amount of words for a captivating read.

A.A. Abbott also had a great story titles A Country Christmas. I really enjoyed how Abbott was able to show the change of character development with Ciara and Ben. I almost felt like Abbott is able to balance the reader with a historical tale but modern enough to please readers of a different fiction genera. This is very difficult to do because some only want the classic but some wish for the modern details such as video games in a story line. Abbott is brilliant at this.

Heidy Goody had me laughing in her story, Elf Service. Her light and humorous writing had us so inspired that we almost decorated a scale for a cat loving elf in our neighborhood. I also followed her on Amazon. Hilary Mortz really touched me with her story. She created a beautiful emotional story that really taught the spirit of friendship. I also felt that Mortz writes from a deeper place than some of the other short stories. I could really feel her passion with word choice and I felt this story was a bit more personal.

Now as for Mrs. Debbie Young, I was disappointed when I saw the story was The Owl & The Turkey. I have this story already on my kindle. I even fussed a bit because I wanted something new from her. As a reader, it is frustrating to download a short story collection with a favorite author and see a story you have already read. However, these collections give you a taste for what the author is like. Yet, she did give me something new. Several new authors to read and best of all a great selection of short stories to read. I highly recommend Festive Treats.

What have you been reading? Oh and I just came home with another stack of Christmas/Winter books from the library. Fireplace is on and I am all snuggled up!


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