Challenge Wrap-Up: 2009 Holiday Reading Challenge (5/5)

December 30, 2009 at 3:10 am (Challenge Wrap-Up) ()

Nely at All About {N} hosted a 2009 Holiday reading Challenge!

Though I didn’t win any of the goodies offered during the length of this Holiday Reading Challenge, I definitely enjoyed it. Yes, I cross-posted three of the reads with the Christmas Challenge, but I still read a number of excellent holiday related books–and also have plenty to choose from next year.

Holiday Books Read
1. The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
2. Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder ed. by David G. Hartwell
3. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford
4. A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales, ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
5. Shivers for Christmas, ed. by Richard Dalby

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Challenge Wrap-Up: Christmas Reading Challenge (3/3)

December 30, 2009 at 3:10 am (Challenge Wrap-Up) ()

Over at The True Book Addict, Michelle hosted the Christmas Reading Challenge.

christmas reading 2

The Christmas Reading Challenge:

I love themed reading and challenges, and I love Christmas, so how could I resist? Handy for those with very busy holidays, The Christmas Reading Challenge was only three books long. This was by far the quickest challenge I’ve participated in, but then, I do get enthusiastic about the holidays.

Christmas Challenge Books
1. The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
2. Christmas Stars: Fantastic Tales of Yuletide Wonder ed. by David G. Hartwell
3. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

Some books I considered included
Christmas Forever (SF anthology)
Christmas Stars (SF anthology)
A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales (SF anthology)
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (old favorite)
The Joyous Season by Patrick Dennis
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Shivers for Christmas ed. Richard Dalby (horror tales anthology)

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Shivers for Christmas

December 29, 2009 at 4:45 am (Horror, Short stories, Victorian literature) (, )

Shivers for Christmas ed. Richard Dalby

Shivers for Christmas edited by Richard Dalby
Thomas Dunne, 1st edition, 1995
250 pages
Genre: Christmas stories, horror, short stories

Synopsis & Review: There’ll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

When I was ten, my mother bought two volumes of Richard Dalby’s Chillers for Christmas, a collecton of macabre and dark short stories with Christmas themes. She gave one copy to my eldest sister for Christmas, and kept the other, and since then, it’s been an integral part of my Christmas reading. I’ve read it nearly ever year since then, unless I was away from home or it was packed away due to space constraints. Since I’ve enjoyed Chillers for Christmas so many times, I decided to check out some of Mr Dalby’s other collections, and found Shivers for Christmas just in time for the holiday reading challenges.

Regrettably, Shivers is a lesser volume than Chillers; perhaps it’s simply my nostalgia for the latter that makes it superior to my mind, or it could be that Mr Dalby had simply exhausted his resources with his many other collections—I cannot say. Or perhaps it’s just that the title is apt: these are stories to induce shivers, a delicate frisson of horror, rather than the chilling and sometimes terrible stories found in Chillers. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales

December 18, 2009 at 5:13 am (Fantasy, Science fiction, Short stories) (, )

A Yuletide Universe ed. Brian M. Thomsen

A Yuletide Universe: Sixteen Fantastical Tales ed. by Brian M. Thomsen
Aspect, 1st edition, 2003
255 pages
Genre: Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction, short stories, Christmas

Synopsis & Review: The Christmas season (which for me lasts from just before Thanksgiving till January 7th) is an excellent one for indulging in short stories. For one, you’ve got the longstanding tradition of stories told ‘round the Yule fire. For another, many of us are so busy that we cannot quite commit to long novels, and a good anthology of short stories provides merriment or scares in small but satisfying doses in between shopping expeditions and baking extravaganzas, house tidying and decorating.

I had my eye on this one from the start of the holiday reading challenges. Boasting luminaries such as Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker, how could I not enjoy it? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Man Who Invented Christmas

December 18, 2009 at 4:10 am (Biography, Classics, Literature, Non-fiction) (, , , )

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s [sic] A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits byLes Standiford
Crown Publishers, 1st edition, 2008
237 pages
Genre: non-fiction, Christmas, biography

Synopsis & Review: In 1843, Charles Dickens’ popularity seemed to have plateaued and he was near bankruptcy. Rather than succumb to despair, he sat down and penned one of his most personal stories, and had it edited and published in six short weeks—just in time for the Christmas season. Though he first made little profit on A Christmas Carol, it went on to restore Dickens’ popularity, and became not only his most popular work, but one of the most widely read in the English language in the nineteenth century. Adapted myriad times for stage and screen (beginning nearly immediately; the first opened 5 February 1844), it remains one of the most enduring works of fiction, known in detail even to the many people who have not read it. Les Standiford argues that A Christmas Carol is not merely a holiday entertainment staple, but is also the “reason for the season,” and that Charles Dickens did not simply celebrate Christmas and the benevolence and goodwill it engenders, but resuscitated a dying holiday.

I’ve actually never read A Christmas Carol, and I’ve never managed Dickens. I’ve tried Great Expectations a few times, but then I wander off and read something worthwhile like a Christopher Pike book, or perhaps Gone with the Wind for the umpety billionth time. This makes me feel inadequate, as though I am lacking some fundamental Dickens appreciation spot in my brain. (I can usually assuage that feeling with the knowledge of my overlarge Zola appreciation spot, but it’s not always a comfort.) So I read this essentially on a whim, selecting it while looking for possible books for my two holiday reading challenges. I like Christmas after all, and I like books on cultural history. Unfortunately, this book didn’t really satisfy. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Boyfriend School

December 9, 2009 at 2:26 am (Pop lit/Fiction lite, Romance, Satire) (, , )

The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird

The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird
Pocket Books, 1st printing, 1990
309 pages
Genre: Fiction, romance, chick lit

Synopsis & Review: Gretchen Griner is an underpaid, under appreciated photographer for the Austin (that’s Texas) Grackle, part-time lover of Peter Overton Treadwell III (known as “Trout”), and major consumer of Cup O’ Soup. That is, until she meets Lizzie Potts—otherwise known as Viveca Lamoureaux, romance writer extraordinaire. Lizzie has a plan for Gretchen’s life—and it includes Lizzie’s brother Gus. But Gretchen has her own plan, and it does not feature a “wispy goon” named Gus. Of course, fate also has a plan for Gretchen, and it doesn’t care what Gretchen wants. So Lizzie will give Gretchen Gus, Gus will give Gretchen the man of her dreams, and among this oddball cast of marvelous misfits, someone just may discover the secret to true romance. (Jacket copy)

The Boyfriend School might have been the only worthwhile thing to come out of my seventh grade science class, other than my ability to flip my stool over while sitting on it and fall very hard without getting hurt. That sort of skill does come in very handy in life. I honestly don’t recall learning anything in the class, though I did get a kick out of the seventies anti-drug films they occasionally showed us (If you do goofballs, then you’ll die under a bridge. I still don’t know what a goofball is. Glue-sniffing?). But I also borrowed Sarah Bird’s The Boyfriend School from my BFF Tina’s friend Jennifer during that class, a really amusing and fun novel about appearances, romance, and a whole lot of meta-fiction about romance novels.

Gretchen gets assigned to cover the Luvboree, a Romance Writers’ Convention replete with multiple pen names and women in Southern belle costumes. Set to mock the women and the genre, Gretchen instead is befriended by Juanita Lusader (contemporaries and family sagas as Johni Lewis, and historicals as Lunita St John) and Lizzie Potts (Viveca Lamoreaux, medieval historicals), who expose her to romance and what it can mean for the women who read and write it. This opens the door for some discussions and asides on the value of the romance genre, and how it affects feminism; I especially enjoyed Gretchen’s reflections on the sisterhood of the genre, and how much that meant to her. Inspired and empowered by what she saw at the Luvboree, Gretchen sets out to write her own romance novel, Gain the Earth. Eager to transcend the genre and still suffering from condescension, she stumbles, and Lizzie and Juanita are there to help her understand the mechanisms of romance–both real and imagined. Read the rest of this entry »

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