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text 2016-12-05 11:00
I made a list! Heartfelt Christmas stories
A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings - Charles Dickens,Michael Slater
The Christmas Day Kitten - James Herriot,Ruth Brown
The Christmas Angel Project - Melody Carlson
A Christmas With The Dodger - Charlton Daines
Letters from Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien,Baillie Tolkien
The Cat Who Came for Christmas - Cleveland Amory,Edith Allard
An Irish Country Christmas - Patrick Taylor
The Magical Christmas Horse - Wendell Minor,Mary Higgins Clark
A Dog Named Christmas - Greg Kincaid
A Redbird Christmas - Fannie Flagg



As it's December, I thought a list of feel good Christmas books was due. Some of these I've read and enjoyed myself while others have been recommended to me by people I trust and I hope to read as many as possible before Christmas.


What they all have in common is leaving you with that warm feeling of the holidays.

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text 2016-11-06 09:32
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Task the Sixth: The Hanukkah
Eldest (Inheritance, #2) - Christopher Paolini
The Valley of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Complete Sherlock Holmes (The Heirloom Collection) - Bill & Martin Greenberg (eds.), Ian Fleming, Leslie Charteris, John D. MacDonald, W. Somerset Maugham, Peter O'Donnell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Erle Stanley Gardner, John Jakes, Edward D. Hoch, Cornell Woolrich, William E. Barrett, Bruce Cassiday, Mic
Even Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin
Letters from Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien,Baillie Tolkien
Letters From Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien
Reading: Let the dreidel choose a book for you:

נ  Nun (miracle): Christopher Paolini - Eldest (audio version read by Kerry Shale)

ג Gimel (great): Arthur Conan Doyle - The Valley of Fear (audio version read by Simon Vance)

ה He (happened): Ian Rankin - Even Dogs in the Wild

ש Shin (there, i.e. Israel): J.R.R. Tolkien - Letters From Father Christmas



So, it'll be Arthur Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear!


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review 2015-12-27 21:19
Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
Finding Father Christmas: A Novella - Robin Jones Gunn

Finding Father Christmas

Robin Jones Gunn

Hardcover, 176

Published October 11th 2007 by FaithWords (first published July 2nd 2007)

ISBN:  0446526290 (ISBN13: 9780446526296) 


I try to read one or 2 Christmas stories each season and this was one of them this year.Miranda, alone at Christmas, decides to go to England to search for a father she never knew. This is an enjoyable read about the importance of family during holidays. The author sets most of the story in small town England, so some of the traditional English traditions were fun to read about as well. 






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review 2015-12-26 07:47
Tolkien makes it feel like Christmas even in NZ summer
Letters from Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien,Baillie Tolkien

This is the first Christmas I've had where I wasn't with my family and there wasn't snow on the ground. It's been weird to say the least and overall hasn't really felt like Christmas. But I came prepared. One of the few books I brought with me down to New Zealand was Tolkien's Letter's to Father Christmas. 


I made reading this a sort of present to myself. Once December began and I started my new job at Hobbiton I picked this up, even though there were lots of other "more adult" books that I could've given my attention to. If you don't know the premise of the book, basically it is a collection of letters Tolkien wrote to his children as if he were Father Christmas because he's a BA like that. The letters are hand-written in a flourished, albeit trembling, font accompanied with illustrations. 


Like his other works of fiction, there are many characters in these letters, not just Father Christmas. You meet FC's helper North Polar Bear, his elf secretary Ilbereth, as well as the Snow-elves, Snow-men and less savory characters. Copies of most of the original letters are included, along with typed versions of the text, and most are paired with the related illustrations. 


Reading through the books is actually a bit sad. The letters start out simple. Not too long, nothing too descriptive. The earliest letters are addressed to John, the eldest son, and as more of Tolkien's children are born, their names appear in the text. And just as new names are added, old names begin to fade away. The children grow up and out grow Father Christmas. They no longer hang up their stockings. 


The stories begin to become more detailed and we learn more about Father Christmas' friends as the years go on (he continued to write the letters for over 20 years). Many of the tales Father Christmas relays are about Polar Bear's misadventures and skirmishes with the goblins. All the stories are fun and light-hearted and sometimes tinged with sadness. 


I think I love this book so much because it is such a gosh darn cute thing for a father to do for his children. So there. Another thing that makes me love Tolkien. 



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text 2015-12-25 17:28
Christmas Nostalgia
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson
Father Christmas - Raymond Briggs
Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (Picture Puffin) by Briggs, Raymond (1995) Paperback - Raymond Briggs


For those of us who celebrate this holiday, you really can't go back to recapture those feelings you had as a kid on Christmas. I have found that, as the years go on, I'm having less of a connection to the holiday season in general. While my real love still focused on Halloween, as a kid, the glitzy, frenzied season of Christmas was always fun, too, of course, especially with our family get togethers where my sister, my cousin, and I all shared our new toys and ate all the tasty treats, fragrant tangerines and orange flavored chocolate. Our mom's new perfumes we bought for them mixed with the piney smell of the Christmas tree to make the smell of Christmas. Of course, the commercialization of the holiday may have added to this feeling rather than detracted from it.


The closest I can come to recapturing the feeling, I think, is by reading some of the books I enjoyed for the holidays as a child, the books we made into quiet, little traditions to reread as we were decorating the Christmas tree, riding home from Christmas shopping at the (long defunct) Conservatory in downtown Minneapolis, baking cookies. These three were our favorites.



Somewhere, my parents obtained a cassette copy of this audiobook, and it became a tradition for the reminder of childhood to listen to it in the car while Christmas shopping. On a recent family gathering, I decided to revisit this Christmas tale, using my iPhone this time. It did not take long for the memories to come flowing back, courtesy of the expressive and memorable voice work by the late Elaine Stritch. Running at less than an hour, the story is fast paced, funny, and even a little heartwarming, if you're into that; “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” has not lost its ability to deliver rambunctious laughs and even some messages. Barbara Robinson definitely endows her narrative with a humor that still has kick and characters who will remain with you.

For those who did not have the pleasure of listening to (or reading) this classic as kids, it revolves around a small town terrorized by a local family of little ruffians, the Herdmans, known equally for their perfidy as well as their cunning. They burn down small buildings, shoplift, smoke cigars; why, they even take the name of the Lord in vain. Oh my GAWD! I know! Really, the worst juvenile delinquents a small 20th century American town could possibly face, right down to their mailman intimidating cat. The narrator, a “normal” girl and her “normal” family considers Sunday School the one place in town safe from the depredations of the Herdmans, until her mother takes over the dead boring annual Christmas pageant and her brother accidentally lets it be known that free refreshments are to be had in church to the Herdmans (a lie that takes on a life of its own).

The setting is a little bit dated, and was even in the early nineties, (what with the cigar smoking and lack of “No Child Left Behind” testing) and the Herdman’s insults can come off lacking many modern niceties but still holds onto a lot of universal feelings, fears, and desires of childhood. The depictions of the unsupervised, impoverished Herdman kids may, at first blush, seem a bit harsh by themselves, but both the “normal kid” narrator and her reactions to the Herdman kids and as well as the adults and fellow children in her life, also present the sanctimonious and conformist middle class citizens of the little town a bit less sympathetic light herself; reminds me a bit of a Lake Wobegon with bite. 

I guess it does have a pretty Christian, specifically Protestant, message, but it does present it pretty tongue in cheek and the message of accepting people no matter their backgrounds is appropriate for people of any (or no) religious background; the humor, too, knows no faith.


                           Father Christmas - Raymond Briggs                       


This pair of short comics by the British cartoonist Raymond Briggs became great favorites of my sister and I. I don't recall how long we actually believed in Santa Claus, but this quintessentially English version, with a solitary and grumpy Father Christmas just getting his job done seemed a lot more understandable to us. An elderly man living in a lonely but well appointed house drinking a good pot of tea (somewhere in Northern England?), pining for warmer climes and happier with a good cognac than cookies. It was very interesting to see the way they celebrate Christmas in the UK explored here, with the puddings and stockings hung on the bed instead of Christmas tree shaped cookies and stockings on the mantelpiece. Sometimes it feels like our favorite things as kids were actually from England! Now, I'm craving a nice workman's lunch like Father Christmas brought with him on his rounds of a cheese and mango chutney sandwich!


Things are even more amusing as Father Christmas goes on holiday, visiting France, Scotland, and Las Vegas and spending all his money on cuisine, new outfits, and a little gambling. We found it particularly fun to see "Santa" acting the tourist and having troubles with his tum, his ability to locate sauces, and where to board the reindeer were very funny to us, especially in the beginning of a long Minnesotan winter. Happy blooming Christmas! 


*Entry theme music: "Christmastime is Here," cover by Dark Dark Dark

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