Monday, 8 December 2014

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb

I already had this book checked out but I didn't plan on reading until later this month. But then I saw the commercial for Lifetime's Wishin' and Hopin' movie while watching A Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever so I moved it to the top of my TBR pile.

Here is the book description:

Wishin and Hopin: A Christmas Story is a fictional novel set in 1964. LBJ and Lady Bird are in the White House, Meet the Beatles is on everyone's turntable, and 10-yr old Felix Funicello (distant cousin of the iconic Annette Funicello!) is doing his best to navigate 5th grade-easier said than done when scary movies still give you nightmares and you bear a striking resemblance to a certain adorable cartoon boy. But there are several things young Felix can depend on: the birds and bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he's never going to forget.

This book was so well written I had a hard time believing it was fictional. I thought for sure it had to have been on some of Wally Lamb's childhood experiences but at the end of the book he says how the stories came from other people. So I guess parts of it was somehwat true.

This novel was such a change from the usual Christian based, overly sentimental, sappy Christmas genre. It was a coming of age story that was politically incorrect, funny, and dirty. There were some dirty jokes, making out, and even do I put this? I'll just say it has to do with boys and their body parts having a mind of their own.

My favorite character in the story was Zhenya Kabakova. I loved her personality and her accent. I didn't realize Russian girls were so progressive! Madame Frechette was my least favorite character. She was annoying and obcessed with making the kids speak French.

The book builds up to this crazy play and live pictures where everyone creates a scene by posing (I can't remember the French name for them). The performance goes wrong in hilarious ways which I will not spoil.

Oddly enough there is a part that while it was funny while it was happening, it does end up being a more serious issue. The reason Madame Frechette does end up becoming their substitute is because their regular teacher has a mental breakdown because of a bat. It turns out this nun is bipolar.

This book was hilarious and great fun. I was sad when it ended. My rating Photobucket

The Movie
I did watch the movie and it was great. It kept most of the dirty jokes and political incorrectness. The actors and actresses they chose were perfect. I think it was one of the best Christmas movies I have seen in a long time. I hope it becomes a classic and is right up there with A Christmas Story. It's definately the same type of movie.

The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere

I love the song The Christmas Shows by Newsong so when I saw this book at my library I knew I just had to read it. I finished it back on November 30 and read it during The Christmas Spirit Readathon but have been crazybusy and am just now getting me review up. 

The book description:

Sometimes, the things that can change your life will cross your path in one instant-and then, in a fleeting moment, they're gone. But if you open your eyes, and watch carefully, you will believe.... 

Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself. Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer. But Nathan and his family are building a simple yet full life, and struggling to hold onto every moment they have together. A chance meeting on Christmas Even brings Robert and Nathan together-he is shopping for a family he hardly knows and Nathan is shopping for a mother he is soon to lose. In this one encounter, their lives are forever altered as Robert learns an important lesson: sometimes the smallest things can make all the difference. The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of serendipity, a tale of our shared humanity, and of how a power greater than ourselves can shape, and even save, our lives.

I feel bad because I honestly didn't expect this book to be very good. I started it wondering if it was just some sort of media tie in to make the song more popular. It was good. So good that I found myself crying during much of it. I cried even though I knew what was coming.

I loved how both families were tied together. Maggie is a wonderful person and mother and it is easy to like her and care about her. All of the characters are likeable...well almost.

Robert is a jerk. He's stubborn and I'm still angry about the way he spoke to his mother. He wasn't too likable but I think maybe that may have been the point. He's a modern day Scrooge and they aren't really supposed to be likable. I did care about him enough to root for him to turn around his life and save his marriage.

The climatic part of the book where he meets Nathan in the store buying shoes didn't disappoint. It was a great scene and I can easily imagine the moment when Robert looked into Nathan's eyes and was a changed man.

What I hated the most was afterwards when his wife asks him "Why have you changed?' Robert actually says "I don't know."

Really? You don't know? Now I didn't expect him to tell his wife about the encounter in the store. I can understand why he might want to keep that to himself but I felt like he was lying to Kare when he says he doesn't know.

My favorite part of the book was the ending. I don't want to spoil it but I will say Robert and Nathan's paths cross again and it was the best part of the book.

My rating  Photobucket

This book was also made into a movie but I have yet to watch it. Hopefully I will get that done this month and write a movie review.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Spirit Read-a-thon Info and Reading Challenge Info

Once again kicking off the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge (the 5TH year, I might add!) at The Christmas Spirit, it's the Christmas Spirit Read-a-Thon...and this year it's a week long. Yay!


Read-a-Thon dates: Monday, November 24 at 12:00am CST until Sunday, November 30 at 11:59pm CST (adjust your time zone accordingly)

You do not have to be signed up for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge to participate (but I sure would love for you to join us!)

I am not requiring that you read only Christmas/holiday books during the read-a-thon, but I hope you will pick up at least one holiday tale, even if it's just to read some children's books with your kids or some holiday short stories

To check in on Twitter, we'll use hashtag #CSreadathon

As usual, you do not have to have a blog to participate...feel free to link up and check in from Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, etc.


Challenge will run from Monday, November 24, 2014 through Tuesday, January 6, 2014 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany).

Cross over with other challenges is totally permitted AND encouraged!

These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time...a children's Christmas books level!

 --Candy Cane: read 1 book
 --Mistletoe: read 2-4 books
 --Christmas Tree: read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level...LOL!)
 Additional levels:
 --Fa La La La Films: watch a bunch or a few Christmas's up to you!
 --Visions of Sugar Plums: read books with your children this season and share what you read

 *the additional levels are optional, you still must complete one of the main reading levels above

Lifetime’s Miniseries “The Red Tent,” Based on the Best-selling Novel by Anita Diamant

Lifetime’s miniseries “The Red Tent,” based on the best-selling novel by Anita Diamant, premieres December 7 and December 8 at 9/8c. “The Red Tent” is a sweeping tale that takes place during the times of the Old Testament, told through the eyes of Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob. Airing over two nights, the all-star cast includes Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Minnie Driver (“Return to Zero,” “About a Boy”), Emmy nominee Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”), Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (“The White Queen”), Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones”), Will Tudor (“Game of Thrones”) and Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Debra Winger (“Terms of Endearment”).

The miniseries begins with Dinah’s (Ferguson) happy childhood spent inside the red tent where the women of her tribe gather and share the traditions and turmoil of ancient womanhood. The film recounts the story of Dinah’s mothers Leah (Driver), Rachel (Baccarin), Zilpah and Bilhah, the four wives of Jacob (Glen). Dinah matures and experiences an intense love that subsequently leads to a devastating loss, and the fate of her family is forever changed. Winger portrays Rebecca, Jacob’s mother while Tudor stars as Joseph, Dinah’s brother.

 “The Red Tent” has sold millions of copies worldwide and has been translated in 28 languages. The novel is a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly Top Ten Best Seller.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister series) by Courtney Milan

It's funny how in the last review I said when it comes to books I'm more a HBO than a Lifetime kind of girl, because that is the kind of book that I chose this time. It was like Sex and the City meets the 19th century and I postively loved it.

But first the book description: 

Miss Lydia Charingford is always cheerful, and never more so than at Christmas time. But no matter how hard she smiles, she can't forget the youthful mistake that could have ruined her reputation. Even though the worst of her indiscretion was kept secret, one other person knows the truth of those dark days: the sarcastic Doctor Jonas Grantham. She wants nothing to do with him...or the butterflies that take flight in her stomach every time he looks her way. 

Jonas Grantham has a secret, too: He's been in love with Lydia for more than a year. This winter, he's determined to conquer her dislike and win her for his own. And he has a plan to do it. 

If only his plans didn't so often go awry... 

A Kiss for Midwinter is a historical romance Christmas novella in the Brothers Sinister series.

I chose this book because it was a novella on this Goodreads list of Christmas and winter novellas. In all honesty, I don't particularly like historical romances especially those in the time period of the 19th century because well...they seemed pretty uptight when it comes to all matters regarding sex.

This novella describes Jonas Grantham which may well be the most progressive doctor to have ever fictionally lived in the 19th century. He's also the wittiest and has an amazing dry sarcastic sense of humor. Exactly the kind of man I go for. Maybe that's why I loved the book so much and tweeted that I didn't want it to end. Jonas Grantham is my type.

He's not every one's type though. He is obnoxious, crude, has questionable social skills, is far too forward, and offers advise about the use of prophylactics including the Dutch cup (cervical cap) and French letters (condoms). Yet all of these reasons are both why Lydia hates him and is drawn to him. She has to walk a careful line with him. She wants nothing to do with him but at the same time he knows a secret that could ruin her. 

Because of this she humors him at first and then agrees to a bet that just may get rid of him permanently. It's a 19th century version of Arianna Grande's lyric "I'd have one less problem without you." As the story progresses, she starts to wonder if she really does want to be rid of him.

My favorite love stories are those where the couple starts off hating each other. What's that saying? Hate is passion too. Or something like that. Whatever it is I loved this book and was disappointed when it ended. 

The book also had a surprising subplot. Jonas has to deal with his sick father who is a hoarder. The story explores the complex issue of having to deal with a loved one who suffers from hoarding. Since hoarding is caused by the mental health condition of obsessive-compulsive disorder, this book qualifies for the Mental Illness Advocacy Reading Challenge.

I will be reading more from this author in the future. She made me like historical romance and that's saying something. My rating is an enthusiastic Photobucket

The Christmas Cat by Melody Carlson

Let me begin by saying this is not the kind of book I normally read. There's just something about most Christmas novels that feel like Lifetime movies. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I'm more of a HBO kind of girl.

Despite that I did enjoy The Christmas Cat. Here is the book description:

After years abroad, Garrison Brown returns home to Vancouver to build a new life. When his beloved grandmother passes away a few weeks before Christmas, Garrison goes to her house to sort out her belongings, including six cats who need new homes. While Garrison hopes to dispense with the task quickly, his grandmother's instructions don't allow for speed. She has left Garrison with some challenging requirements for the future homes of her furry friends--plus a sizeable monetary gift for the new owners. Garrison's job is to match the cats with the right owners without disclosing the surprise gift. Along the way, he may just meet someone who can make him stay. 

Humorous and heartwarming, this latest Christmas story from bestselling author Melody Carlson is the perfect gift for pet lovers and anyone in whose heart Christmas holds a special place.

I suppose I probably enjoyed this book so much because I am a cat lover. I have four of them. I also really liked that the story was told from a guy's point of view. That rarely happens in romance novels.

I also liked that Garrison was not a super rich, perfect kind of guy. He was an "average joe." It was refreshing to read about the kind of guy I might meet at the grocery store instead of one that I would only bump into if I was in the Hamptons. Even though he was returning to his hometown he wasn't walking around thinking he was better than all the small town folk and about how backwards they were. Garrison truly knew and respected his roots.

The one thing I didn't like about this novella is that I wish Garrison had told more stories about his experiences in Africa. It was such an interesting backstory but Carlson didn't do much with it. I also wish she would have gone more into Garrison's adjustment to being back in the United States. He was gone for nine years. Can you imagine being in Africa for nearly a decade and then coming back home? Things would be so different.

It was a little disappointing that I could predict how the story was going to end by page 100 but it is a romance story. Besides the biggest love story in this book is not between Garrison and Cara but involves a small four legged hairy beast. And that was my favorite part of the book. My rating Photobucket

Saturday, 8 November 2014

My Selfie for the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-a-thon

A photo posted by Julie Cornewell (@juliecornewell) on

You can find the "Holiday Reading Selfie" Mini-challenge at The Book Nympho