Tuesday, 30 December 2014

And I'm back, with books I received for Christmas, a book review, and feeling better

Well, I'm sorry I missed wishing you all a Merry Christmas last week.  I was very sick with a bad cold for most of it.  It was all I could do to get the Christmas dinner cooked and not just give up and go to bed!  It was very quiet, as we all had variations of this cold.  I was the last one sick with it, and the longest  - not boasting, this is what having a chronic illness does to me.

At long last, yesterday I began to feel better, and today I was able to go outside without that special wheeze I get when I'm sick.  I'm well enough to blog again, which is also a relief after making a valiant attempt to blog every day for the Christmas month.  I enjoyed it, so I'm planning on continuing to blog every day if I can. 

I don't have any lists done yet for this past year.  However I do have two happy things for you: 
1) my pile of book goodness (presents) from this past week.  Included are books from my box of books to myself:
   Still Writing - Dani Shapiro
   The Explorer - James Smythe
   The Echo - James Smythe
    All Mortal Flesh - Julia Spencer-Fleming
    I Shall Not Want  -  "         "           "
    Through the Evil Days - "   "        "
    City of Dragons - Robin Hobb
    Blackout - Mira Grant
    The Heist - Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
     The Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller
     The Dark Lord of Derkholm - Diana Wynne Jones
     Reflections on the Art of Writing - "    "        "
     Young Woman in a Garden - Delia Sherman
      Highfell Grimoires - Langley Hyde
      Autumn, All the Cats Return - Philippe Georget
      Ghost Girl - Lesley Thomson

A very lucky book reader, I think.  Very grateful to be reading a little more now, as time goes and I begin to heal. 

2) I READ A BOOK THIS PAST WEEK!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, a heavenly chorus is singing hallelujah.....and no pun, the book was Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis.
                                     

A quick review:  8 stories are included in this collection. They all feature Christmas, whether the season, or in the case of Inn and Epiphany, taking elements of the religious story of Christmas and retelling it with a modern twist.  Both are among my favourites in this collection.  Now, you may be wondering how I as a pagan can read Christian fiction and like it.  It's simple. I was raised a Catholic, and no matter how far in the spiritual world I go, those stories I first heard are part of me.  So when the story of Mary and Joseph is retold so poignantly (and brilliantly) in Inn, with some kind of time hole opening so that Mary and Joseph are there at the church in modern day USA, in the middle of winter, dressed for the desert, it takes kindness and charity for someone to take them in and find them back on their path.  The ending made me cry.  This is the spirit of the this time of year. 

In Epiphany, Mel is already on the road.  He is a pastor, who upped and left his church when in the middle of a sermon about not knowing when Christ will come again, he has the strongest feeling that Jesus has already arrived, is here, and waiting for people to find Him.  Even though he is Presbysterian and so not supposed to have epiphanies or visions, he cannot shake the intense feeling that he must go, right then, and head west.  Even though he does not know what he is looking for, or whom, or what signs, he starts driving.  Along the way he keeps seeing fair rides on the backs of trucks.  And he stops to help one of them who has run by accident off the road, because it is just after Christmas and everything in Iowa is icy with snow and storms and fog.  Then he meets a woman who keeps turning up wherever he is, who is driving west, and then another person....to say any more would be to ruin the sweet nature of this gentle story.  It is another modern version of part of the holy story of the birth of Jesus/Christmas, and so well done that I didn't catch on until near the end.  He does have a bout of doubt, and I found that I did not want him to quit his quest to keep looking for the coming of Jesus (or arrival).  There is something about faith that I want to see rewarded, and this story is about that. 

Miracle is about the film 'Miracle on 34th St' versus 'It's a Wonderful Life'.  Everyone in the story but two people love 'It's A Wonderful Life', the other two people loving 'Miracle on 34th St'. Of course, the girl who loves 'Miracle on 34th St' doesn't love the guy who also loves it, she wants someone else who loves 'It's a Wonderful Life'.  It takes the special humour and tricks from her guardian angel to show her her true love.  With lots of the little scenes and dialogues that make Connie Willis's writing so delightful for me.

These are my three favourites from the 8 stories, followed by Newsletter which is hilarious as a young woman finds something strange is happening to people when they suddenly begin wearing hats in the weeks before Christmas. Are they being taken over by aliens?  I had read this story in another collection before, and it is just as good in the reread.  Willis has an ear for dialogue, comical scenes, and wry comments that make me burst out laughing time and again.  It was so good to laugh this Christmas, and I have a feeling I have a Christmas collection to reread for every holiday season now. 
 5/5 Perfect for Christmas 
  Relief that  I read a book for Christmas: priceless

Dr Who Christmas Special
Oh, and I have to say:  Wasn't that Doctor Who Christmas Special wonderful?  I loved it. Dark, scary, funny, brilliant.  One of the best Christmas specials ever for Dr Who. A dream within a dream within a.....featuring Santa, Rudolph, and scary dream creatures.  LOVED it.  How do you wake yourself up from a dream?
                                         
So, may I wish you a belated Merry Christmas, and be the first to wish you happy preparations for the new year.  It's almost 2015! 

16 comments:

Sam Sattler said...

Glad that you're better. Happy New Year to you and yours...and onward to 2015.

Belle Wong said...

I'm so glad you're feeling better. And what lovely books you got for Christmas! I really enjoyed Reflections on the Art of Writing, and I have Still Writing on my list of books to get. Also The Year of Reading Dangerously, which sounds like a good read too.

I missed the Doctor Who special! Hopefully I'll be able to catch up with it online somewhere.

Ana S. said...

I got The Dark Lord of Derkholm for Christmas too :D Also, I read Miracle a few Christmases ago and it was great <3

I'm glad you're feeling better and Happy New Year!

brideofthebookgod said...

So glad you're feeling better Susan! And I really hope you enjoy the James Smythe books, I loved them and am dying to know what you think!

raidergirl3 said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Glad to hear you are feeling better and got some good reading done. I enjoyed that Willis book as well.

Nan said...

So very happy to hear your heart is healing.

Literary Feline said...

I am glad you a feeling better, Susan. Now my house is battling the big bad cold. At least it came before I am back at work?

Your new books sound so good! I got five books from a Secret Santa and a few Amazon cards.

Miracle and Other Christmas Stories sounds perfect for this time of year.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Glad you're feeling better and I wish you and your family a Happy New Year!

Kay said...

I wanted to stop by and say hello to you. It's been a long time since I was active in the blogging sphere. I've missed friends and talking books. So sorry to read that your life has been difficult this past few months. 2014 was not a great year for me either. Will be thinking of you and looking forward to reading what you've been doing and reading.

I have a new blog - kay's reading life - and would love it if you'd stop by and chat for a bit. Please take care and know that I am thinking of you. Happy New Year!!

Susan said...

Sam: Thank you, Sam. Happy new year to you and yours, too. I'm glad you back to blogging, too, again.

Belle: Reflections on the Art of Writing looks so good! The Year of Reading Dangerously is good so far! I'll be posting about the bit I've read, shortly. Very interesting book. Have you see the Dr Who special yet?

Ana: Yaay, we got the same book! Now we have to read it :-) lol Happy New Year to you, too, my friend. I hope January blahs go by quickly for both of us.

Bride: I got the James Smythe books because of you! lol So as soon as I read them, I'll post and let you know. I've already kind of started The Explorer anyway, peeked a few pages into it. Very interesting.... :-)

raidergirl3: Merry Christmas and Happy New year to you too! Did you review the Willis book? I'll link to it if you did. The stories were good and so much fun to read over the holidays. I love her writing.

Nan: Thank you. It is. Slowly, time and patience and nature are healing me :-) Hugs.

Literary Feline: Oh no, I hope you are all feeling much better now. It's hard to get sick right after recuperating from your operation, isn't it? Though I did find that I learned to go a little slower, that nothing was so urgent that it had to all get done at once. I hope you have the time to get well,and enjoyed a good holiday all together. Hugs from here, where the cold is finally edging out the door.....

Margaret: Thank you so much! Happy New Year to you and your family also :-)

Susan said...

Kay: I am so delighted! As soon as I saw your comment I went right to your blog so I could welcome you back. I've missed you!

I hope 2015 is happier for all of us :-)

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