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.

______________

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.

___________

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

 

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

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.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

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

They’d been tamed beyond their wild nature…and I knew that capture had damaged their souls.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered every time. “We were meant to be free.”

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by author Patti Callahan: the story of Joy Davidman and the man who would one day be her husband, C. S. Lewis. Or Jack, to those who knew him.

Yes, it was my recognition of Lewis and his works, my fondness for Narnia, and my remembrance of A Grief Observed that drew my attention to this fictionalized account. But no, I wasn’t looking for a novel romanticizing or idolizing Davidman and Lewis as if they weren’t real, flawed human beings, more than just their well-known literature. To that point, I’m glad this isn’t a historical “romance.”

Even so, it’s one of those rare times when I can’t accurately rate how I feel about a book–and not only because I decided not to finish it (though I did read most of it.)

This author’s style is seasoned, unrushed, and rich, and there were moments in the reading that gave me wonderful pause. Joy as a girl, empathizing with lions in captivity. The idea that we wouldn’t get where we are without what we’ve gone through. Observing Joy, her children, and Jack, then going back to look at the dedication in one of my copies of Narnia and saying, “Ooohhh.” Contemplating a life beyond one’s own captivity: “What on earth would become of me if I should ever grow brave?”

And, of course, my writer self understanding so much about characters who are writers.

Yet, though I do enjoy dense novels when I can, this one was hard for me to keep pushing through. I found much of it depressing. A resolution here but then more despair there. Continual, increasing longing, going unfulfilled. I can appreciate stories of people slowly growing in love, but when it’s a moral dilemma, a constant struggle against a character’s conscience, it’s like reading about a whole lot of feelings that feel wrong. Once I got to Joy and Harry, I couldn’t push on much further.

I’m not sorry I gave this novel a chance, though.