A Boy Called Christmas(Christmas #1) by Matt Haig

Book Description:

Published: November 16, 2015

Format: Audio

You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.
Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?

Good.

Then let us begin . . .

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

Review –

Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”, because he was born on Christmas Day,—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him.

But his mother has died, and his father, Joel is an impoverished woodcutter. Desperate for money, Joel joins a group of men on a quest to prove the existence of elves, leaving Nikolas with his ill-tempered aunt, Carlotta. Nikolas runs away to find his father, but trudging months through the woods, he faces starvation, freezing, and hopelessness. Then he comes across a reindeer with an arrow stuck in his leg. Nikolas helps him and names him Blitzen, and they continue their journey to the elf village together. Unfortunately, once located, the elves do not offer a warm welcome but instead lock Nikolas in the tower. It’s there that Nikolas discovers, with the help of a drimwick, or hope spell, that he’s become more than just the simple boy he used to be. 

In many ways it’s a coming of age story for Nikolas who has had a hard life and learns who he truly is and what the value of family and love really mean. It’s a story of unlikely friendships between a poor boy, a mouse, a reindeer named Blitzen and a village of downtrodden elves who are struggling to find their Christmas Spirit. But perhaps most importantly it’s a story about the unexpected and impossibility of life and the true meaning of Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. It’s heart warming and a fantastic read.

One feature I particularly loved about this book was the cameos made by well known Christmas figures (i.e. the reindeer etc) and the way we get little glimpses at how today’s much loved traditions came to be what they are. For example, How Father Christmas’ name came to be, where the idea for presents delivered by Santa came from and where the suit itself came from. This feature of the book actually made me take a step back and reevaluate everything I took for granted about Christmas and question it’s origins and it’s made this Christmas in turn all that much more special.

This book came into my possession over two years ago and I don’t know why I let it sit on the shelf for so long. I had the audio and narrator did a fantastic job, but I hear that the book has excellent illustrations and that it would make a great read-aloud.

 

 

 

SweetBitter by Stephanie Danler

Book Description:

Published: May 24, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A lush, raw, thrilling novel of the senses about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant.

“Let’s say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge…”

This is how we meet unforgettable Tess, the twenty-two-year-old at the heart of this stunning first novel. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she’s come to New York to look for a life she can’t define, except as a burning drive to become someone, to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a “backwaiter,” on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she’s pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers—a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan’s ardor.

These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess’s hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment.

Review –

I didn’t think I would like this book but the  longer I listened, the more  I changed my mind.

Tess leaves home, and I don’t think we know where “home” was originally, and goes to New York City to begin a new life. She gets a job at an old Union Square restaurant as a “backwaiter” and is trained about which wines come from which grapes and why flowers are important to wines. She learns which foods go best with each wine and how to persuade a “guest” to purchase a more expensive bottles and  she has to figure out her place in a group of wait staff, bartenders, servers and chefs who’ve been working together for years.

She falls hard for Jake, one of the bartenders, and who is troubled but gorgeous and shares an indecipherably close platonic intimacy with Simone. To me, his description left a lot to be desired but I guess it’s true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Tess says in one place that Jake always had dirty fingernails and didn’t change his underwear for days. Not exactly my idea of a dreamboat.

Soon Jake and Tess fall into a fevered fling, despite the older woman’s disapproval. The relationship seems to be fine but there is always an underlying vibe of co-dependency between Jake and Simone. Tess learns that Simone cared for Jake when his parents died and that their interaction wasn’t always platonic.

Eventually, the bond between the two becomes too much for Tess and the break-up is brutal. It causes Tess to almost overdose and to have to quit her beloved job because if she didn’t she would be forced to move to another of the owners restaurants, a smokehouse no less.  The ending is vague and we never fine out what she plans to do, although it’s a sure bet she will stay in New York City. 

Things I didn’t like: 

I didn’t like that her friends and she (mostly) used alcohol and drug to excess. In one scene I just knew she was going to overdose and die, but she made back to her apartment after having passed out on a street corner. We never learn who took her back to her apartment. 

I hate that when she went to talk to Howard, the restaurant manager, to see about moving up to a server position, he suggested she come back at one am(this should have been a red flag) and she did and let him have sex with her. I felt she knew that’s what he wanted and did it anyway. Soon after this scene she had to quit her job. 

Truly, I felt bad for Tess during the whole book.

Summing up – I didn’t like the book and I did like the book. Makes no sense, but there it is!

 

 

 

 

Paper Towns by John Green

Book Description:

Published: September 22, 2009

Who is the real Margo?

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew…

Review –

It seems that everyone loves this book except for me.  I thought it was just okay.  Maybe I’m too old and far removed from the lives of high school Seniors, but I don’t think that’s it at all. I remember my teenage years very fondly but these kids just seemed too immature, particularly Ben. If I had to hear (I had the audio version) him say “honey bunnies” one more time I think I might have thrown up. Margo got on my nerves because she was so full of herself, even Quentin got on my nerves for acting so gaga over Margo. Radar was the only one that was reasonable.

I’m glad I listened/read it because I do like the author, John Green, and have another of his books on the top of my TBR pile.

The movie of PAPER TOWNS is out now but I won’t be wasting money on a ticket any time soon.

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The Soulkeepers, Weaving Destiny and Return to Eden by G.P. Ching (The Soulkeepers Series)

Book Description

Publication Date: June 24, 2011 | Series: The Soulkeepers
When fifteen-year-old Jacob Lau is pulled from the crumpled remains of his mother’s car, no one can explain why he was driving or why the police can’t find his mother’s body. Made a ward of his uncle and thousands of miles from home, a beautiful and mysterious neighbor, Dr. Abigail Silva, offers to use her unique abilities to help him find his mom. In exchange, she requires Jacob to train as a Soulkeeper, a gifted warrior charged with protecting human souls. He agrees to her demands, desperate for any clue to the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. But soon Jacob finds himself trapped in a web of half-truths, and questions Dr. Silva’s motives for helping him.

Book Description

Publication Date: August 29, 2011 | Series: Soulkeepers
Book 2 in The Soulkeepers Series Malini Gupta thought Jacob Lau was her destiny. But after months of failing to decipher how she fits into the Soulkeepers, frustration threatens to tear their relationship apart. And it doesn’t help that a new Soulkeeper named Mara is ready to stop time itself to earn Jacob’s love. When Malini faces her worst fears, and even death, she learns a funny thing about destiny. Fate is a tapestry of choices, and she has the power to weave hers.

Book Description

Publication Date: March 2, 2012 | Series: The Soulkeepers
Book 3 in The Soulkeepers Series. Dr. Abigail Silva has waited over 10,000 years for redemption and a chance at a real relationship with the angel she loves. But when you’re made from evil itself, it’s hard to remember if salvation is worth the wait. With Lucifer’s plan coming to fruition, she must decide if God’s offer of humanity is all it’s cracked up to be, or if a deal with the devil is the more promising solution.
Review –
Since I read these three books in The Soulkeepers Series almost back to back I thought I would present them this way and forgive me but it’s been awhile since I’ve finished them (I’m way behind in my reviews) so this will be short and sweet. 
The first book was offered free for my Kindle and it was a very fast read and I loved it so much that I paid for the next two in the series.  Although the books are written for young adults anyone  liking paranormal fantasy mixed with good vs evil with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure will love this series.   Give them a try.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book Description

Publication Date: February 28, 2012 | Series: Divergent Trilogy

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review –

Once I started this book I could not put it down, although I did to prepare dinner but once finished I was back at it and finished it last that night.  FIVE STARS.   I rate this book FIVE STARS.   Although it takes place in the future it just as easily could have been adapted to the people of TODAY.   Look around and you will see the same factions addressed in the story although they are called by other names.  Our daily lives are a balancing act between these factions and at the end it’s only important how we did.  I loved the characters and their relationships and rivalries and I’m looking forward to the next installment called INSURGENT.