Book Review: Homeless for the Holidays

HomelessIn the novel Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright, Jack Baker’s future looks bright. He has a lovely family, a great job, and expectations of a good Christmas bonus and possibly a promotional. His boss is a bit demanding, calling him nights, weekends, even Thanksgiving. But if Jack can hang on til he gets the promotion, everything will be better – so he tells his wife.

As the Bakers prepare for Christmas, they stuff shopping carts, max out credit cards, competitively search for the last of the “hot” toys. And when encountered by a child seeking donations for a charity or a Salvation Army bell ringer, Jack begrudgingly hands over the spare change in his pocket and gripes about people who don’t work for a living.

Then the unthinkable happens. A mistaken label on one of Jack’s company’s products creates a hazard. To save face, Jack’s boss makes Jack the fall guy, placing the responsibility for the fiasco on his shoulders and firing him. Jack’s boss promises Jack that once the hoopla has died down, Jack can have his job back.

In the meantime, Jack’s search for a job proves fruitless and bills start piling up. One by one his family loses services, then their car, then their home.

The book’s tag line says, “One family learns what is truly important when they lose it all and find they have everything.”

Overall it is an enjoyable book. You feel the characters’ fear and angst as the walls close in and the losses pile up and then as they discover that having all the “stuff” doesn’t matter as much as time for each other, humility, faith, and compassion. There’s a telling exchange when Jack’s wife tries to apply for food stamps and runs into all kinds of weird rules.

The one factor that keeps this story from being just another “learning the true meaning of Christmas” tale is that it is based on true events from the life of scriptwriter George Johnson. George eventually produced a movie based on his experience called Homeless for the Holidays, which released in 2009. In the back of the book George tells about his own situation and how the movie came to be.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

 

 

Advertisements

Literary Christmas Reading Challenge

 

e7f96-a-literary-christmas-banner-2017

Tarissa hosts the Literary Christmas Challenge in December: actually, it started in November, but I like to hold off on Christmas reading til after Thanksgiving. The main rule: read Christmas books! And link up your posts about them (via a blog, Goodreads review, etc.).

Tarissa is giving away this cute Christmas ornament, and participating in the Literary Christmas challenge is just one way to enter to win it.

aliterarychristmas-sweetberrygifts-2018

Here’s what I am planning to read this month:

Finding Christ in Christmas by A. W. Tozer (99 cents for the Kindle app as of this writing. Tozer always makes one think.)

Tozer Christmas

 

Homeless for the Holidays by P. S. Wells and Marsha Wright.

Homeless

Christmas Stitches by Judith Miller, Nancy Moser, and Stephanie Grace Whitson. I’ve read many of Judith and Nancy’s books, so I am looking forward to this Christmas collection.

Stitches

Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Susan May Warren

Cold Outside

I’ll Be Home For Christmas: Four Inspirational Holiday Novellas by Lenora Worth, Belle Calhoune, Jill Kemerer, and Allie Pleiter. This is not showing up on Amazon anymore, but you can read more about it on Goodreads here. I’ve not read any of these authors, but I used to follow a blog that Lenora contributed to, so that’s probably what prompted this purchase.

Home

If I should finish all these and I’m not tired of Christmas stories at that point, I’d love to get Terri Blackstock’s Catching Christmas and Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, Twelve Days at Bleakly Manor and A Tale of Two Hearts. I’m trying to read what I have already accumulated through sales before I add any more.

And that’s it for this year! Do you plan to do any Christmas-themed reading this month?

 

Book Review: Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas

father-christmasAfter reading Pam’s engaging post on the difference between the Hallmark and written versions of Robin Jones Gunn’s Finding Father Christmas, the novella sounded so charming I had to look it up. I found it bound with its sequel, Engaging Father Christmas. I’ve enjoyed some of Robin’s Sisterchicks novels and I think maybe one or two others, so I was glad to read her again.

In Finding Father Christmas, Miranda Carson is a single working woman who grew up as the only child of a single actress. She knew nothing of her father: in fact, in her youngest years her mother told her fairy tales of how she came to her, so she didn’t think she even had a father. Miranda had an unconventional childhood hanging out around theaters while her mom practiced and performed, and they lived in cheap hotels. One day Miranda discovered an old blue velvet purse of her mother’s and opened it to find her birth certificate, a photo of a boy sitting on the lap of Santa Claus, and a playbill for The Tempest. From that time on, realizing that she had been deceived by her mother, she lost any love for fairy tales and vowed never to go to the theater again.

Miranda’s mother died when Miranda was 11, and she was taken in by a friend. When that friend died, Miranda falsified her age and struck out on her own, choosing an accounting career because numbers were more reliable than words.

But the longing to know her father caused her to take vacation time in England, where the photo in her mother’s purse had been taken. She only had the name of the photo studio and a street to go on, but arriving in the village of Carlton Heath, she entered a shop called the Tea Cosy and met its proprietors, Andrew and Katherine MacGregor, and started from there. Once she found the information she was looking for, she then had to decide the best way to deal with it.

I can’t say much more without revealing too much of the plot, but I enjoyed it quite a lot. The setting, the characters, Miranda’s journey all were every bit as charming as Pam made them sound. I very much appreciated that Robin was not afraid to deal specifically with Miranda’s spiritual journey as well: Miranda had little to no spiritual context and didn’t even realize her need of or longing for God as her Father until she encountered Him. In a day when so many Christian authors handle spiritual matters lightly (if at all) lest they come across as “preachy,” Robin proves that you can deal with them realistically and naturally within the context of the story. I loved the many literary references as well.

In Engaging Father Christmas, Miranda comes back in England for a visit about a year later. A romance blossomed with a man she met right at the end of the first story, and she’s hoping this visit will result in an engagement ring and the making of Carlton Heath her longed-for home. But her idyllic Christmas plans are threatened by serious obstacles.

One of my favorite passages occurs between crises as she views a beautiful nighttime scene:

Was everything around us more or less a fixed snapshot that alluded to a greater beauty? A deeper mystery? A hint of what was to come? How many unknown layers were there to life–to the eternal life that was hidden in Christ? What glorious surprises awaited us in the real land of which this earth was only a snapshot? Let heaven and nature sing

These novellas were the perfect Christmas reads: clean, warm, lovely, and heart-stirring. There is a third in the series just out recently, Kissing Father Christmas. I’ll have to look out for that one next year.

Genre: Christian Christmas fiction
Objectionable elements: None.
My rating: 10 out of 10

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books and Carole’s Books You Loved)

Books you loved 4

 

Save

Save

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.)