Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber I've only read a few of Macomber's books, and most of them have actually been Christmas stories. This one made me remem...moreSilver Bells by Debbie Macomber I've only read a few of Macomber's books, and most of them have actually been Christmas stories. This one made me remember how much I enjoy her writing. It was a really sweet romance, fuelled by a matchmaking daughter, and I thoroughly enjoyed it...up until the ending. The novella skipped forward to an epilogue at a really odd moment, and I felt like there should have been at least one more chapter in the novella, perhaps a situation where the hero and heroine had the chance to tell each other how they felt. It felt like their romance was only just starting, to be honest. I didn't need a "I love you" declaration, given how little time they'd known each other for, but even admitting that they'd come to care for each other would have been better than nothing. Given the abrupt ending, I'm giving this novella 3.5*. I really would have rated it higher if it weren't for the weird transition to the epilogue.
The Perfect Holiday by Sherryl Woods Woods is another author who has come highly recommended, although the only book of hers that I've previously read (Stealing Home) didn't exactly blow me away. I liked the premise behind the hero and heroine meeting, with their Christmas plans being organised by Savannah's aunt before she died. Matchmaking beyond the grave! There were a lot of cute interactions with Savannah's daughter, and Trace was a really endearing character (although I wasn't a massive fan of the way he threw his money around. Can't we have more heroes with realistic incomes?) The ending to this story was a little abrupt, too, but not as bad as the first story. My biggest gripe is just that the hero and heroine were incredibly flirty right from the start (which probably wouldn't be my first reaction when a strange man turned up in my aunt's house) and they got physically involved a lot earlier in the story than felt believable (especially given that Savannah was recovering from a bad divorce and her daughter was hanging around). But otherwise, this was an incredibly sweet story, and I found myself wondering if Woods had written any other stories in this setting, because I'd love to revisit the Holiday Inn. 3.5*
Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr I'm not going to lie, Carr's story was the main reason why I wanted to read this book! I'm slowly working my way through the Virgin River series, and I actually read this story out of order as I've yet to request #7 from the library. Thankfully, this is a story you can read without any prior knowledge of the series, given that only two of the main character from the series actually appear in the book. Despite this, this novella was typical Carr, from the setting to the large, sprawling families to the sweet romance between two entirely unexpected people. It's been a couple of months since I last read a Virgin River book, and this made me want to jump back into the series. I'm struggling to think of anything I really disliked about this novella, because Carr seemed to get the pacing just right and include enough detail and secondary characters to add some realism without overwhelming the reader. I think my only issue with this story was that the hero and heroine were discussing marriage after only a few weeks of being together, and I'm not entirely sure how believable this was. Then again, they were both in their early thirties and had experience behind them, so maybe their circumstances made it more understandable? Either way, this is definitely my favourite from this collection. 4.5*(less)
I fairly zooming through my audiobooks now that we're living in Edinburgh and I'm doing a lot more walking and housework. Although this book is a litt...moreI fairly zooming through my audiobooks now that we're living in Edinburgh and I'm doing a lot more walking and housework. Although this book is a little shorter than the other Virgin River novels, I didn't expect to listen to this one in a mere ten days!
I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy a Christmas novel in August, but I didn't want to wait a few months before reading the next book in the Virgin River series. And having just finished this book, I'm glad I didn't put it off. Marcie and Ian were such wonderful, real and sympathetic characters that I think I nearly loved this book just as much as the first one in the series. This story is a bit of a whirlwind romance, but everything seemed to fall into place so perfectly considering the circumstances. Both their backstories were fascinating, and I especially appreciated Marcie's experience of caring for her wounded husband and how how service in the Marines impacted her life. Ian's gradual coming out of his shell and integration into the local community was heartwarming. This would definitely be a great, encouraging, feel-good romance for Christmas, but I got all warm and fuzzy reading it in summer too.
I don't think there was a lot that I didn't like about this book. There was the requisite sex scene that I fast-forwarded through, but otherwise this book was pretty clean, much more so than the previous Virgin River books. If I had to complain about anything, it would be that the ending felt a little rushed, and I wished Marcie had dealt with her issues with her sister. She seemed so controlled by her older sister, and although she talked to Ian and Mel about why Erin was so protective over her, Erin was still freaking out and giving orders to Marcie when she was heading home at the end of this book. Apparently Erin has a book of her own later in the series, so maybe the issues will be dealt with then, but their relationship definitely wasn't healthy. But then again, I'm just not a big fan of family members controlling each other, so maybe others won't be so bothered by this.
All in all, an excellent addition to the Virgin River series and a great feel-good read for Christmas, or any other time of year. 4.5*
Also, the narrator of all the Virgin River audiobooks--Therese Plummer--is fantastic. I definitely recommend her. (less)
Although I'm a reader, writer, reviewer and historian of Christian Fiction, I've barely read any novels written by Karen Kingsbury, who is apparently...moreAlthough I'm a reader, writer, reviewer and historian of Christian Fiction, I've barely read any novels written by Karen Kingsbury, who is apparently "America's #1 Inspirational Novelist". Part of this, I believe, is because I discovered Christian Fiction through the Amish and Historical genres, and have only just started to branch out into contemporary novels. Although, technically, Karen was one of the first Christian authors that I read, long before I was truly aware of the scope of the Christian Fiction genre. I read another of her Christmas novellas, Sarah's Song, back in 2009. It was what I would describe as an easy read, a sweet story for Christmas, but not one that particularly stuck with me after I'd finished it.
But I was prompted by many of my online friends who were big fans of KK to try one of her full-length novels, and checked Like Dandelion Dust out of the library early in 2012. Unfortunately, I wasn't terribly bowled over by this book either, although it is one of the books that her fans typically cite as being among her best works. Like, Sarah's Song, this novel was an easy read, but as much as I liked the concept of the story, I found it very preachy. I love reading novels about how Christians struggle with realistic, contemporary issues and how this challenges their faith and how their faith strengthens them. But I'm not a big fan of conversion stories, partly because I don't get the same kind of encouragement from reading about previously unbelieving people coming to Christ as I do from reading about people who are already Christians (like myself), but partly because I feel like some of these books present an unrealistic idea of what conversion is really like. A lot of emphasis is placed on the moment of conversion, both in Christian Fiction and in many Christian denominations, and this is something I've never had as I grew up in a Christian home and probably made a personal commitment to Christ when I was about seven. But my husband didn't grow up in a Christian family and didn't become a Christian until he was at university. Neither of us can pinpoint the specific time or date when he became a Christian, because the growth of his faith was a gradual experience, that came about through attending church, praying and becoming friends with other Christians. He has a very strong faith, but there was no dramatic conversion moment in his life. I'm sure that some people do have a "conversion moment", and I know that some of these people won't believe my husband's faith is genuine because he came to believe in Jesus gradually, rather than having one giant moment of repentance. I don't doubt that he repented of his sins as he came to believe in Jesus, but I feel like a lot of Christian novels put pressure on people to have a great conversion story, which isn't always the case.
But despite my struggles with Like Dandelion Dust, I endeavoured to give KK another try, especially since my local library system stocked several of her books, which is unusual in the UK. One of my friends from my hometown mentioned that her local library had stocked The Bridge, so on the off-chance that my library had done the same, I looked the title up and was surprised to find that they'd ordered three copies for our region! Since I'm a firm believer in giving an author at least three tries - especially when she's been as influential to the Christian Fiction genre as KK has - and since my library actually owned her latest release, I decided to reserve a copy and give her another shot.
My first surprise when this book arrived was at how large the font was. I don't have brilliant eyesight, and unless I'm reading from my Kindle, I normally have to wear my glasses when I read. This wasn't the case with The Bridge, and I actually felt self-conscious reading this book on the bus as I was sure the people across the aisle from me could read my book because the font was truly that large! My husband commented that the book looked like a children's book because of the font, and I know what he means. So although this book technically has 232 pages, I think it would probably be more like 150 if the font was a more typical size. Factor in the Acknowledgements, and the blank pages between each chapter, this book isn't that long, even for a novella. Even so, the story felt a little padded-out.
The first 100 pages focus on the backstory of the four characters - Molly, Ryan, and Donna and Charlie, who own the bookshop. Ultimately, I actually found Donna and Charlie's story the most interesting, mainly because I found their pain of losing their bookshop more compelling than Molly and Ryan each reminiscing about their time at college seven years ago. I struggle with stories that focus on characters who have been kept apart for years due to miscommunication and the dreaded Big Misunderstanding, which is honestly my ultimate least favourite plot device. I know that some people will rationalise Molly and Ryan's separation by saying that they were young and immature and only at college, and people their age make mistakes. If that helps more mature readers to enjoy this book, I'm glad for them. But as a college student who got married, wrote a book, became the Fiction Editor of a Christian e-zine and managed a household while finishing up her degree, I can safely say that we're not all like that. Because of our differences, I struggled to relate to Molly and Ryan simply because I would have handled their situation so incredibly differently. But because miscommunication and misunderstandings are such commonly used catalysts in romance novels, I have to assume that I lot of people make mistakes like Molly and Ryan, and therefore a lot of readers probably can relate to them a lot better than I did.
After the first 100 pages passed and the entire backstory for the novella had been summarised, the story actually got started. Before this point, I was so tempted to give this book 2*, and I actually had to push myself to keep reading. It really just didn't grab my attention. But once the story got started, I actually rather enjoyed it. It's predictable and everything gets tied up neatly in a little bow at the end, but it was a sweet, heartwarming Christmas novella, and I can see the appeal of that. There's not a lot to say about the actual plot, as you know everything has to work out well in the end - it's a Karen Kingsbury Christmas novella, after all! But I do wonder how many people would struggle to get past the first 100 pages of backstory and actually get into the plot itself.
This story was cute, but very forgettable. And from the reviews I've read, it seems like this isn't actually a typical KK novel. So where do I go from here? I've read a couple of Christmas novellas and one of her standalone books (which are apparently her best works) and I'm still not overly impressed with KK. I feel like I want to give her yet another chance, to see if something does speak to me. She's obviously touched the lives of a lot of readers with her "Life Changing Fiction" (I'm sorry, but who trademarks that kind of phrase? It seems a little odd!) but I've yet to find any of her books much more than sweet, easy reads. I'd like to be able to just catch a glimpse of what makes her such a popular writer with Christian women. As it stands, this book didn't really do that. 2.5*
This was a really sweet story, if a bit contrived in places. I actually ended up walking a partially-blind friend home last night (his sight is affect...moreThis was a really sweet story, if a bit contrived in places. I actually ended up walking a partially-blind friend home last night (his sight is affected by light, so he can see well in daylight but not at all at nighttime) and I think this book gave me a better appreciation for what it means to be blind. I definitely preferred this book to the other one I've read by this author, An Amish Christmas, but I still found it a bit predictable in places. But I did like reading about all the secondary characters who had appeared in previous books and would like to go back and get to know the other characters better someday. All in all, a sweet book if you don't mind a bit of predictability. 3.5*(less)
PROS: Realistic emotions displayed as characters come to terms with their new lives
CONS: Christmas is barely featured; plot...moreRATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 - GOOD
PROS: Realistic emotions displayed as characters come to terms with their new lives
CONS: Christmas is barely featured; plot is a little contrived
A Plain and Fancy Christmas has a similar balance of Amish and English characters, but I doubt that many readers will be able to relate to the characters in this novella as much as they did with An Amish Christmas. The story centres around two young women, one Amish and one English, who discover that they were accidentally swapped at birth in the hospital where they were born. Rachel Yoder has always felt slightly out of place in her Amish family, but she decides not to act upon the letter that informs her of her true parentage. Following the death of her husband, her eleven-year-old daughter, Katie, is the most important thing in her life, and she doesn’t plan to uproot Katie from the community she was raised in. Ellie Lawrence, on the other hand, can’t help but be curious about her real parents, and leaves her home and high-flying career in New York to visit Lancaster County. What follows is an exploration of the emotions each family faces upon the news that their daughters are not really their own, and how they go about integrating their newfound family member into their lives. Ellie finds relief away from the stress of her city life, but knows that she couldn’t ever become Amish. Rachel’s family is worried that visiting her biological parents in New York might provide dangerous temptations, and as much as she comes to care for her new family, she doesn’t know if she’s doing the right thing by exposing Katie to such a different world from the one she knows. Ultimately, Ellie and Rachel have a lot of soul-searching to do in order to figure out who they truly are.
A Plain and Fancy Christmas is far more fanciful than An Amish Christmas, and although I’m sure this storyline has been attempted before in many other genres, this was my first experience of the switched-at-birth plot. I was pleasantly surprised at how the author handled the emotions of Rachel and Ellie, and their respective families. I felt like I got more insight into Rachel’s family members than Ellie’s, but there was a lot of exploration into Ellie finding out who she really was, and that made up for the lack of development of her family members. Naturally, I have no experience of how to deal with the sudden realisation that someone who has been part of your family for twenty-eight years isn’t related to you, and that you have another child you never knew about. But I did feel that the emotions displayed by each family seemed realistic, considering the circumstances. They still considered the child they raised to be their own, but they wanted to welcome the other child into their family, despite how awkward it might feel. I could understand Rachel’s jealousy at how well her mother got on with Ellie, and Ellie’s parents desire to show Rachel all the exciting things about their life, without realising how many of the things they wanted to share conflicted with her beliefs.
I will admit that some of the situations in the novella felt rather contrived, but in a way, they seemed necessary in order for the story to progress. This simply wouldn’t have been a terribly interesting novella if Ellie hadn’t been struggling with her fast-paced city life and been in need of an escape, as was provided by her family in Lancaster County. How much fun would it have been to read about an English woman who was bemused by her Amish relatives and retreated to her life in New York, having no contact with her other family besides the occasional Christmas card? Although Amish novels that feature Englishers getting respite on an Amish farm could be said to project the image that fast-paced city life is bad, and everyone should leave it all behind and become Amish, there simply wouldn’t be these novels if authors didn’t write about characters who are struggling with life in the English world. And I’m sure there are plenty of young women, like Ellie, who are struggling to keep up with the pressures of today’s society. Although my life is very different from Ellie’s, I imagine that there will be some readers who can relate to her desire to escape their fast-paced careers and attempt something different, without becoming Amish. The situations presented in this book may be entirely implausible and a little contrived, but the emotions displayed by the characters made me care about the outcome of their difficult situations. Although not as relatable to the general reader as An Amish Christmas, A Plain and Fancy Christmas was an enjoyable, escapist read. Although I must warn potential readers that very little of this novella takes place in winter, unlike An Amish Christmas, but it does conclude with a Christmas scene.
Novellas are always really hit or miss for me, especially Christmas-themed ones. Sometimes they can seem a bit too trite or forced in their messages,...moreNovellas are always really hit or miss for me, especially Christmas-themed ones. Sometimes they can seem a bit too trite or forced in their messages, and other times the characters just aren't developed enough for the short length of the story. Given that I picked this book up for free on Kindle, I was exceptionally pleased to find that it didn't fall into either of these categories.
A few people have commented that the story is predictable, and given that it's a simple romance with a Christmas message, it's probably true. But Amanda Cabot takes a well-worn romantic storyline and makes it endearing and compelling with characters that you can't help but care about, as well as a small-town setting that fits the sweet message in this book. There were just enough secondary characters for the town to feel real, but not too many that they felt like cardboard cut-outs. Celia's obsession with roses and the descriptions of her boarding house made it feel like home by the time I finished this book.
Celia's personal conflict wasn't quite as interesting as Mark's, but the interplay between them was compelling. I did worry that Mark's spiritual struggle would become a bit cliche, as it seemed to be fitting the typical "I've lost my faith because a bad thing happened to me" mould, but the way in which he regained his belief in God and the beautiful sermon at the end of the story were definitely original and believable.
A few things happened right at the end of the book regarding Mark's family that felt a bit rushed, so because of that and the fact that Celia's conflict was a bit weak, I think I'd give this book 4.5 out of 5 rather than full marks. In spite of its flaws, Amanda Cabot crafted a sweet, endearing Christmas story with relatable characters and a original take on an oft-told message. It's definitely one of my favourite Christmas reads of 2013.(less)
Annie Yoder is happily married to Samuel and excited at the prospect of their first child being born in the new year. To make matters more joyful, her...moreAnnie Yoder is happily married to Samuel and excited at the prospect of their first child being born in the new year. To make matters more joyful, her sister-in-law is also expecting—and due to have twins just before Christmas! In the midst of Annie’s fervour to prepare a quilt for Leah’s babies, she fails to see that Leah and her husband are having difficulties, which are exacerbated by Leah’s hard pregnancy. When Leah is rushed to hospital with complications, Annie decides to stay in the city with her sister-in-law, since she spent her rumspringe training as a nurse in the English world. As Leah gets accustomed to spending the rest of her pregnancy in an English hospital, she and Annie finish the babies’ quilt, telling each other stories based on the fruits of the spirit. As Leah ruminates on the various character qualities, she comes to see how she can improve her relationship with her husband, Adam. But will Adam—forced to remain at home in their Amish community for most of Leah’s hospital stay—feel the same? Will this time of trial pull them further apart, or cause them to appreciate each other more than ever?
A Simple Amish Christmas was the first novel I ever reviewed, and as such, it has held a special place in my heart since I read it in 2010. I recall remarking that Vannetta should write a sequel to Annie and Samuel’s romance, or at least another novel set in the same community. Three years later, my wish has been granted, and I’m sure many other fans will be just as pleased at this latest offering from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love line.
That said, bear in mind that it’s been over three years since I read this novel’s predecessor. It took me a few chapters to fully remember who all of the characters were, even though summaries were provided to bring new readers up to speed. I did initially feel like I’d been plunked into the middle of a story that was already in progress, and it took me a while to get back up to speed on the different characters and their relationships and family ties. If you have time, I definitely recommend reading A Simple Amish Christmas before starting The Christmas Quilt. If not, stick in there for the first few chapters, even if you feel a little bit confused.
Once I was brought back up to speed, I was fully immersed into Annie and Leah’s story. Given that so many Amish novels are romances, it was a pleasant change to read a story that focused on a relationship between two sisters-in-law. Samuel and Adam did have their parts to play in this novel, but I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Annie and Leah passed stories backwards and forward while working on their quilt. Although I don’t have any sisters (and neither my brother nor brother-in-law are married) their relationship felt realistic. I was encouraged by the support Annie provided her sister-in-law in her time of need, and the various secondary characters (family members and staff at the hospital) all gave me hope that Leah would make it through her hospital stay with little trouble. It might sound a little predictable, but I do love the sense of community that comes across in Amish novels, and The Christmas Quilt was no exception.
This novel may be difficult to read if you’re currently pregnant—especially if you’re as far along as Leah—but I also think this book will appeal to any woman who is a mother, or hopes to have children of her own someday. The bond Leah felt to her unborn babies and her worries and hopes for each of them felt incredibly real, and at times I just wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug. Annie, Samuel and Adam’s fears and concerns about becoming parents were also touching, and it was interesting to see the different dynamics play out between the members of each family. Parenthood is a time of change—whether you’re Amish or English, having a home birth or on bed rest in a hospital—and The Christmas Quilt did a fantastic job of presenting the different emotions that expectant parents go through. I may have even got a little teary eyed on a few occasions.
The Christmas Quilt isn’t a standard Amish romance, nor is it your typical Christmas story. Vannetta manages to craft a touching story that will pull at your heart-strings without being manipulative or overbearing. The wonderful friendships and community ties in this novel are perfectly suited for the Christmas season, and the stories that Annie and Leah share while in hospital provide a gentle, spiritual thread that is woven throughout the entire book. If I could only recommend one Christmas book to read this season, it would be The Christmas Quilt.
Maybe I was just in a particularly sappy or Christmassy mood today when I finished this book, but I think this is probably the best in the series so f...moreMaybe I was just in a particularly sappy or Christmassy mood today when I finished this book, but I think this is probably the best in the series so far. I think it's got to the stage where all of the characters and families are developed enough that I'm starting to really care about them. I realise that Camden Falls is totally idealised, with their cute Christmas celebrations and how close-knit the community is, but it makes me wistful for times when communities were like this. I think this would be a great novel for a parent to read with their daughter at Christmas. I'm still not sure how a child would cope with the number of different characters and storylines going on in this book, but it's not all that different from the Baby-Sitters Club series, which I started reading when I was eight.
My only main qualm with this book was that, as sweet as it was that Flora, Ruby and Olivia conspired to give Nikki's family an amazing Christmas, I can't help but think they're giving Mae the wrong impression about Christmas being the time when you get everything you want. I always had wonderful Christmases growing up, but I knew I'd never get everything on my Christmas list and I knew not to ask for presents that were really expensive. Also, although Mae got everything she wanted this Christmas, does this mean everyone in the town is going to have to club together to buy the family presents year after year so as not to disappoint Mae? Maybe I'm overthinking this part of the book, but it did make me wonder if this book was giving the wrong message about what Christmas means.
However, despite my little concern over Mae's ideas of Christmas, this was a lovely story. I think I may have to buy the next book in the series. 4.5*(less)
GENRE: HISTORICAL/CHRISTMAS PUBLISHER: WATERBROOK PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 01, 2012 RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 – NEAR PERFECT
PROS: Uplifting without being chees...moreGENRE: HISTORICAL/CHRISTMAS PUBLISHER: WATERBROOK PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 01, 2012 RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 – NEAR PERFECT
PROS: Uplifting without being cheesy or contrived; realistically flawed characters; ending implied hope even if the characters still had issues they needed to work on
Meg Campbell took the first opportunity she had to leave her family home in Stirling, and has spent several years working as a teacher in Edinburgh and caring for her elderly aunt. It takes a lot of guts to force herself to return home for Christmas in 1894, especially knowing that her crippled brother, Alan, will be as embittered as ever. Seeing her parents submitting to Alan’s every whim and fancy, regardless of how it impacts the rest of the family, is too much for her to bear, especially when he turns on Meg, angry that their aunt left her home to Meg and not him. Upset with her brother’s harsh words and her parents’ refusal to take her side, Meg, boards the next train back to Edinburgh. Little does she realise that an unexpected snowdrift will bring her into contact with the one man who might be able to help her family move on from the incident that ruined Alan’s life.
As much as I love Liz Curtis Higgs, I was cautious about reading A Wreath of Snow. It might seem a little odd coming from someone who mostly reads romance novels that end in happily-ever-afters, but I’ve found a fair few Christmas novellas to be too optimistic and contrived, even for a romantic like myself. So forgive me if I doubted whether Liz could pull off an engaging, realistic story within the space of 224 pages without resorting to clichés or forced situations. This is definitely one of the best Christmas novellas I’ve read.
Haters of perfect characters, rushed romances and neat endings, you may put your pitchforks down. This isn’t a novella about a girl who meets a boy on the train and marries him on Christmas Eve. Nor is it a story about a grumpy brother who reforms himself once he hears God’s Word. The characters in A Wreath of Snow are flawed human beings who won’t be changing their entire personalities overnight, but they do at least admit to some key faults in their life over the course of this short book.
I was slightly worried that the moral of this story might be about putting up with your family’s flaws, even when it hurts you, since Alan initially seemed incapable of changing. Although I know you can’t force someone to change how they behave, I hated the thought of Meg having to put up with her brother’s selfish behaviour every time she visited her parents. Then I began to wonder if this might be the sort of book where Alan went through a miraculous recovery or personality change, just in time for the family to celebrate Christmas together. Thankfully, neither of my fears about this book came true, and I was actually a little surprised at the turn the book did end up taking. Like I said, the ending of A Wreath of Snow isn’t tied up neatly like some novellas, but it did provide more insight into Alan’s character and make him seem more realistic and less like a stock character whose only purpose was to force Meg to get on the train at the start of the story.
I think one of the things I loved most about this book was that, although there was a hint of a future in store for Meg and Gordon, this wasn’t overtly a romance novel. Looking at my highest rated Christmas novellas, they’re mainly stories where romance doesn’t drive the plot. Perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to write a believable love story that takes place over such a short period of time. Liz doesn’t rush her characters into falling in love, but you’ll still be rooting for Meg and Gordon to work together to help Meg’s family.
I know that there are going to be some readers who are disappointed that this book doesn’t have the complex plots and characters of Liz’s full-length books, but I’m trying my best not to judge this book in comparison to Liz’s novels. Writing a novella involves different skills and techniques from writing a full-length novel, mainly because of word count limitations, and the fact that many novellas take place over a short period of time. If you do decide to read A Wreath of Snow, try not to compare it to Here Burns My Candle or any of Liz’s other books. This novella does contain realistically flawed characters, and a wealth of historical research, but if you’re going to compare it to any other book, let it be another Christmas novella.
I don’t often read the author’s notes or reading group questions at the back of novels, but I was glad I did so with A Wreath of Snow as it was fascinating to learn of the inspiration behind this book, and the alternative old Scots use of the word “wreath”. It’s obviously been phased out of our language as I’ve never heard it used this way in Scotland. The reading group questions are very thoughtful and take certain concepts in the novel to a much deeper level.
If you’re looking for a realistic Christmas tale full of relatable characters, but without the contrivance and cheese that often abounds sentimental winter stories, then A Wreath of Snow is definitely the novella for you. This novel has put me in the Christmas mood – although I’m hoping we don’t get quite as much snow this year in Scotland as we did in 1894 – and I hope it will have a similar affect on many other readers.
There are some reasonable ideas on this book, but a lot of them would only work if you a) lived in the US, b) had a tight-knit local community who all...moreThere are some reasonable ideas on this book, but a lot of them would only work if you a) lived in the US, b) had a tight-knit local community who all also worshipped Jesus or c) actually enjoyed putting obnoxious, flashing Christmas decorations on your front lawn. A lot of the ideas I liked were ones I had already decided to do before reading this book, so I suppose that makes them rather obvious. The suggestions for towns to do are obviously rather out of our reach, and we don't have that much control over what our church does at Christmas, so most of the ideas I liked were from the first few chapters.
Here are the ideas I liked: 1. Officially open the Christmas season in your home with prayer.
2. Use Christ-focused Christmas decorations rather than ones predominantly featuring Santa and reindeer. Also #6 for tree decorations.
5. Use an advent calendar that includes scriptures. (Might have to visit the Christian bookstore in Dundee to do this or see if they're sold in the church cafe in St Andrews).
7. Fill your home with reverent and inspiring Christmas music during the eason.
21. Bake Christmas cookies for events. (Suggests using nativity cutters, would have to invest in some). Also #27, to give as gifts.
23. Make purchasing a Christmas tree or wreath a family event. (We got our tree for free from our landlady, and we can't use a wreath, but we are going to purchase special decorations together every year as a couple, and as a family when we have kids. There's a really great store in St Andrews that has a brilliant collection of unique decorations).
26. Have a family Christmas movie night.
34. Before opening presents on Christmas Day read Scripture aloud together and dedicate the occasion to Jesus.
Ideas that I like that aren't plausible right now: 10. Hang a Christmas wreath on front door that includes a scripture or message written on a ribbon. (We don't own our house, so we can't put any nails on the door to hang anything on).
11. Keep a fire going at all times to make a place to contemplate the season, complete with Biblical ornaments. (Our fireplace runs off electricity so this would become very expensive).
24. Make your own ornaments and reuse them every year.
29. Hang a Christmas stocking at the start of the season and fill with small gifts over the month to donate to the needy. (This would probably be for a shoebox campaign or other charity; giving things to a specific "needy" family wouldn't really work in my culture. People don't like to admit they're in need and often reject such offers of charity, unless they are anonymous. I'd like to do this at some point, but it's probably not something we can afford to do until we have an actual income).
33. Attend your church's Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service. (We attend a church in another town and don't have a car, so we can't do this this year as we have no way of getting there as buses don't run at Christmas. We may visit a more local church if we find one suitable).
40. Neighbourhood ornament or cookie exchange. (We don't know our neighbours well enough to do this, having only moved here in August, but maybe good for a church small group or something similar). (less)