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.