Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Reading: Part 3

Christmas may be over, but I'm one of those people that doesn't mind letting the holiday spirit linger a bit. After spending so much time and effort preparing, I hate to let it just disappear in a day. If you remember, I'm also very stubborn about not letting Christmas creep in until I've thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated Thanksgiving, so that is definitely a contributing factor. Lucky for me, the Christmas Spirit Challenge runs through Little Christmas/the Epiphany in early January, so I don't feel completely odd squeezing in one last holiday post in the midst of everyone else doing year-end wrap-ups and whatnot. You may not want to read any of these now (I did read them all before Christmas), but there's always next year!

You Better Not Cry, by Augusten Burroughs
Series? No
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Date: 2009
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

This one was just OK, but I do wonder how much of my indifference can be attributed to the narration of the audiobook. I typically love when an author reads their own work, but I found myself wanting to rip my hair out as Augusten stretched out each word and sentence to an absurd degree as if speaking to someone he is not quite sure can understand him -- or is perhaps hard of hearing. It got a bit better in the later stories, but it really was infuriating. And ironically, an additional production problem was not leaving enough extra seconds of silence at the end of each story. Each new one began with a title, but it ran so quickly from the story before that it was sometimes difficult to realize we had moved onto a completely different topic. For example, a bewildered Augusten waking up to realize he'd had a tryst with an elderly Santa directly followed a story from his childhood and it took some rewinding and replaying to realize just exactly where one story ended and a (completely!) different one began. Despite the irritating narration which was in full force for the very first story, it is actually one of my favorites -- Augusten as a child confusing Santa and Jesus was truly hysterical.
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The Worst Noel, by collected authors
Series? No
Publisher: Harper Audio
Date: 2005
How did I get this book? purchased
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

As I'm finding with many other humorous holiday collections, this one is a bit hit and miss. Taken as a whole, it was quite good, but there were only a few real stand-out stories. Having just finished my own Christmas cards, I absolutely loved the one by Marian Keyes about this particular holiday tradition which is approached with a mix of nostalgia and obligation. It's a bit sad to realize just how true it is, but the truth is what makes it so damn funny. Another story that really had me laughing was one in which a young artistic couple realize they don't know each other very well when they exchange presents they each hate. There were more Jewish stories about Christmas than I anticipated, but that is not necessarily a bad thing -- just unexpected. Of all the Christmas humor books I've read this year, this was definitely my favorite.
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The Father Christmas Letters, by JRR Tolkien
Series? No
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Date: 1976
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Publisher

This was a lovely little treasure I found out about from Riv over at Bookish Realm. It is a collection of letters Tolkien wrote to his children as Father Christmas (with illustrations) and would be an excellent addition to any child or family's Christmas collection. Each year Father Christmas shared a bit about his life at the North Pole and relayed what happened during the year. The North Polar Bear is his greatest helper, but also a bit of a nuisance and a trouble maker. There are goblin wars and all kinds of other adventures. The letters do not exactly portray the North Pole as I remember it from stories and legends, but it was nice to find a new perspective after all these years -- especially one that actually dates back to the 1920s & 1930s!
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The Christmas Kid and other Brooklyn Stories, by Pete Hamill
Series? No
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Date: 2012
How did I get this book? borrowed from library
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

Be warned, this book is NOT all Christmas stories. Other than the title story, there are very few that actually are related to Christmas, but I still think this was a wonderful book to read around the holidays since it is brimming with nostalgia. I never lived in Brooklyn, but my grandmother did and I've grown up hearing stories from her life there. Many of the stories collected here are heart-breaking or even downright depressing, but certainly not all. The title story was truly fantastic and I completely understand why it was used as such. There is a bit of vigilante justice and violence, but there is also plenty of love, friendship, camaraderie, and community. There are stories from several different eras and I really enjoyed the mix. The narration was excellent (complete with Brooklyn accents) and I will definitely be listening to this one again.

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These books count toward my reading goals for:
2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

13 comments:

  1. The first review is exactly why I steer clear of audiobooks - I just wouldn't like someone reading to me, much less someone I don't actually know so therefore am unfamiliar with.
    I love the idea of JRR Tolkien's Christmas Letter book. I'll have to try and get my hands on that one next Christmas. Also, I'd like to try and read a book with multiple stories like The Worst Noel - perhaps that one even.
    Thanks for sharing all your holiday reads with us Christine!
    I hope you had a lovely Christmas and I wish you all the best for 2014!
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. Luckily disappointing narration seems to be the exception rather than the rule, but I am still extremely picky about what kinds of books I like on audio. For the most part, my experience has been quite good. I definitely stick to humor, non-fiction, & memoirs for audio though. I do occasionally enjoy a fiction audio, but only as a re-read where I am already familiar with the story.

      Tolkien's book really is an excellent children's Christmas book (and so short!) I hope you enjoy it :) And collected stories is a really excellent format holiday reads, I think.

      Hope you had a lovely Christmas as well & best wishes for the new year :)

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  2. You read (listened) so many Christmas books! Impressive. Also I'm a bit jealous that you read The Father Christmas Letters (and that I didn't), I'll definitely get this one myself for the next year.

    I'm glad you had nice holidays!

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    1. Thanks Riv! I hope you enjoy it next year -- it was such a lovely little Christmas book from such a classic author :)

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  3. Nice post....I usually don't read seasonal.

    You did well.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Happy New Year.

    Elizabeth
    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth & happy new year to you to!

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  4. I feel the same way about Christmas too! I have a few more Chirstmas books to review and they won't be posted until 1/6/14. That will be the day after I take down the Christmas tree. I love to leave it until the the weekend after the 1st. For me I would be Crazy Christmas lady if I left it up any longer. LOL! Happy New Years!!

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    1. PS I see that your Feedly button works. Mine isn't and I have no idea why. I followed the instructions but something isn't working. Any tips?

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    2. It makes me so sad when I see Christmas trees out for trash/compost pick-up just a few days after Christmas :( Glad I'm not the only one still with decorations up!

      As for feedly, I just used their own wizard/widget to set it up here and it looks like your feed URL is http://feeds.feedburner.com/mylittlepocketbook -- so you would just need to copy that in for step 2. When I tried to click on your button, I looked like it was linking to an outdated or incorrect feed URL, so I think that should do it. Hope that helps & Happy New Year to you too!

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    3. CHRISTINE!!! YOU ROCK!!!! It worked. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

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    4. You're welcome - happy to help! One resolution crossed off the list already :)

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  5. I love Christmas books and am a sucker for anything with a holiday themed cover. I added the Christmas Kid and the Fathers Christmas Letters to my list of reads for 2014. I use to read from Thanksgiving to Christmas but with ARC's I started in early November and finished up around the 15th of December. So glad you enjoyed your holiday reads :)

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    1. Thanks Kimba -- I hope you enjoy them, too :)

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I'd love to hear what you think :)