Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Finn, once a gourmet chef, now subsists as a disgruntled cab driver, currently in a bind to pay his rent. Sydney, a first-year lawyer, is in a bind to win a no-win case, lest she lose her job. And Callie, Sydney’s grandmother, is on a mission to make this Christmas special for Sydney—and maybe for Finn, too—in Catching Christmas by author Terri Blackstock.

First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how precious this squarish little hardback is to hold. I laughed with joy as soon as I picked it up.

Next, concerning my expectations for the book: snatches of chatter in the wind pretty much had me anticipating a “feel-good romance.” As touching a tale as this is, there are too many tears in it (and not happy tears) for me to personally think of it as feel-good.

I also wouldn’t call it a romance, genre-wise. That’s partly because the man and woman in question don’t know or have much to do with each other until about a third or almost halfway through the book. It’s also because the stronger love story here may be between the crabby, guilt-ridden cabbie and the sweet, iron-willed elderly lady he has to drive around town.

Indeed, Finn’s unlikely relationship with Callie is what I love about this story. Those two tugged on my heart!

But I’ll admit I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. Once the romance gets underway, it escalates rather fast, as if in a rush to get the couple to a certain level by the holiday. Also, the tragic nature of events later in the story nearly left me feeling more morbid than Christmassy.

As a whole, though, with its mix of hard times and humor, affection and redemption, this tale is as precious to read as the hardback is to hold. Such a cute book cover, too.

 

The Redemption of Evalisa Trooge: A Christmas Carol Story by Lauren M. Flauding

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Redemption of Evalisa Trooge: A Christmas Carol Story by Lauren M. Flauding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Victorian Village thrives every year at Christmastime, even though its owner—tightfisted, bitter, friendless Evalisa—hates the holiday. In fact, she plans to sell the village to Past, Present, and Future Investments this Christmas and go off to live in seclusion, with cash as her companion. But she has no idea what the holiday has in store for her in The Redemption of Evalisa Trooge: A Christmas Carol Story by author Lauren M. Flauding.

Yes indeed, I read this story through the eyes of a Christmas enthusiast and a longtime fan of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. You do have to appreciate that classic to fully appreciate this modern take.

I’ll admit, I often steer clear of retellings of classic fiction because I’m disappointed if the adaptations don’t do justice to the originals. I figure, if you’re going to butcher or water down a story that’s already standing the test of time, why come out with a weaker version of it?

So I’m happy to say I found this book to be downright delightful. It’s a little old-fashioned in its style in places, aspects that would’ve felt overdone to me if I didn’t know the story is a reflection of an oldie-but-goodie.

Some of the events are a bit rushed, and, no, not everything that happens is the most realistic. But the account of Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t all about realism either, so, hey. This would have been an absolutely stellar read for me if not for the number of errors I ran into, especially where dialogue tags and some punctuation are concerned.

Nevertheless, I found the story itself to be an entertaining, humorous, touching twist on a timeless tale I’ve loved for years. Even with no previous knowledge of Flauding or recommendations from other readers, this is one of my top, surprising finds among holiday reads.

 

With Love from Miss Lily: A Christmas Story by Jackie French

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

With Love from Miss Lily: A Christmas Story by Jackie French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A year earlier she had been so full of energy, founding her hospitals, organising supplies. The war would end, and there’d be peace and a return to life and joy…
But even President Woodrow Wilson had not been able to negotiate peace, only a ceasefire.

Sophie Higgs had anticipated a different kind of Christmas than this one in 1918 war-torn Europe. Supplies are running low in the hospital she directs, and Spanish flu is killing off patients quickly. But a dying woman in Ward Three, determined to finish a knitting project, may know something Sophie doesn’t in With Love from Miss Lily: A Christmas Story by author Jackie French.

I stepped into a series mid-river when I picked up this booklet, which is sandwiched between two historical fiction novels I haven’t read. The story gives you an intriguing idea of who Miss Lily is but doesn’t spell it out.

Yet, even without all the background information, the heart of this tale paints a complete enough picture to send a poignant, compelling message. Sure, it’s got a soft, inviting, Christmassy cover, and the story’s style is lovely, but the dark, harsh backdrop of wartime desperation is clear. This is an account of resistance, of espionage, and of the sharp ingenuity that comes to the fore when ordinary people find themselves in the most critical of circumstances.

A quick, impactful, hopeful Christmas story indeed. I’m sure it’s meant to whet one’s appetite to read more of the series, and for me, it’s done just that.

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Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies Series

  

 

The Pink Lemonade Charade by Cynthia Blair

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

The Pink Lemonade Charade by Cynthia Blair

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Teenaged twin sisters Christine and Susan Pratt are thrilled to be going on a spring tour of Washington, D.C. with their schoolmates. The highlight of the trip will be their chance to meet young members of a ballet company from Moscow. But when Chris’s new Russian friend, Natasha, asks for help to defect to America, the twins undertake their most dangerous caper yet in The Pink Lemonade Charade by author Cynthia Blair.

Well, now. This seventh Pratt Twins book is the fifth for me. So I was prepared for the excess of italics and exclamation points, plus the pretty corny flair to it all.

This isn’t the only book of the series to have a modest share of flat moments. But it’s the first where I got to thinking the real story here could have been told in significantly fewer pages, though it’s not a long book as it is. Some short stretches here and there feel like filler.

Nevertheless, this is still a good old-fashioned, fun YA read. Certainly the most serious situation I’ve seen Chris and Sooz in. (Hahaha, “Sooz in.” Susan! And the italics and exclamation point are mine this time. You’re welcome.)

While I wouldn’t recommend that real-life teens face something like the former Soviet Union’s KGB on their own, I still can’t help but to like the Pratt sisters as heroines. They’re plucky, they’re thinkers, and they’re doers. This adventure gets rather touching, with a standout, powerful display of true, empathetic friendship in action.

Six more books follow this one in the series. We’ll see if I go on to watch the twins finish up high school and advance to the postsecondary phase of their lives.

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Here’s my review of Book One in the Pratt Twins series, The Banana Split Affair.