Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

engagingI gobbled this book down in one day; it was as beautiful a story as the last one.

<Excerpt from the back cover>

In ENGAGING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson spends and English Christmas with her boyfriend, Ian, expecting that she’ll soon find herself engaged and the charming village of Carlton Heath will be her forever home.
But as word of Miranda’s true identity spreads beyond the family, all of her relationships are soon threatened. Will Father Christmas have a redeeming gift in store for them all?

 


I think you can enjoy this amazing story a lot more if you go blindly just like I did.
I went into this book knowing almost nothing about the plot and I enjoyed it immensely.

Just like the previous one, ‘Finding Father Christmas,’ Robin Jones Gunn’s writing is so beautiful and almost poetic. Her writing possesses the quality of Classic literature, so solid and captivating while being so calm and tranquil.

The pacing is also perfect; it proceeds at a steady pace while maintaining the quiet ambiance. There are some foreshadowings that allude the possible turmoil later in the story, but they are like quiet ripples moving across the surface of the water and they don’t disrupt the pacing of the story.

As for the plot, I found it interesting that there are still some awkwardness between Margaret and Miranda despite the ending of the last book. From Margaret’s last remark in the last book, I was convinced that Miranda was accepted by the Whitcombe family with open arms, but the plot suggested the otherwise – there is still a tangible barrier between Miranda and Margaret, and I thought that’s what turned this story into a page-turner.

The rift may have been the reason why I invested in Miranda’s character so much and wanted to see a reconciliation between those two. Miranda is so compassionate, gentle and unobtrusive. She cares about others and hates to cause trouble for her sake. That’s all the more reason why I wanted Margaret and Edward to acknowledge her as a member of the family.
Her grief and anguish over the revelation of her true identity felt so acutely and I almost cried.

Speaking of crying, we can’t skip talking about the dialogues. They are as stellar as the last ones.
Although I cried only once in the last book, I cried three times in this book. The dialogues got my waterworks once again and I just couldn’t stop crying; leave it to Robin Jones Gunn to make me cry; she never fails. 

Although there are points that I found predictable and I knew something bad and unnerving would happen somewhere because the synopsis on the back cover, I still could hear my heart beating really fast when ‘something’ actually happens. It was so intense and gripping, literally unstoppable. Just amazing.

Having read the two ‘Father’ books, I’m now convinced Robin Jones Gunn is a stellar, amazing writer.
I am now keen to read the latest book in the series, ‘Kissing Father Christmas!’

Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

finding-father

Title: Finding Father Christmas

Author: Robin Jones Gunn

Length: 176 pages

 

Excerpt from Goodreads

In FINDING FATHER CHRISTMAS, Miranda Carson’s search for her father takes a turn she never expected when she finds herself in London with only a few feeble clues to who he might be. Unexpectedly welcomed into a family that doesn’t recognize her, and whom she’s quickly coming to love, she faces a terrible decision. Should she reveal her true identity and destroy their idyllic image of her father? Or should she carry the truth home with her to San Francisco and remain alone in this world? Whatever choice she makes during this London Christmas will forever change the future for both herself and the family she can’t bear to leave.


It was a re-read for me, I read this little novella at this time last year and I remember I was touched a lot.

I just can’t imagine for whatever reason I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars; this re-read reminded me how beautiful and amazing this book is, I’ll definitely give this book 5 stars this time.

Miranda Carson is in her 20s and lives in San Francisco. Being raised by her mother, ‘Eva Carson, the actress,’ she lived in somewhat like a fairy tale-ish world and didn’t even imagine she had a father.
But one day, her life and her world took a 180 – she accidentally found something in her mother’s blue purse that hinted that she actually had a father – her birth certificate and an old family photograph with the name of the photo studio where the photo was taken.
Determined to find her long-lost father, Miranda heads to England and from the moment she sets her foot in a small tea shop ‘Tea Cozy,’ she is swept up in the wheel of fortune…

I really enjoyed Miranda’s journey of discovering the father she has never known.
The writing is amazing and beautiful from start to finish, it has somewhat a poetic ambiance running through. I think the words ‘quiet,’ ‘calm’ and ‘tranquil’ are what best describe my feels toward her writing.
It’s very descriptive and very literary which makes it really easy to visualize each scene.
The image that I had when I reached the Christmas morning scene at the Witcombe manor is deeply etched into my brain; her writing spoke to my heart and soul like snowflakes falling from the sky without a sound – so beautiful and so tranquil. I don’t even know how to put my feelings into words, I’m lost for words.

The story line may seem a bit too fortuitous, yet it’s understandable considering this is a Christian fiction into which the tenet of Christianity is supposed to be deeply ingrained, and once you get into the story, I’m sure you won’t feel that way at all.  The whole story is perfect to portray the power of Almighty God and that there are things that beyond our control however hard we try; things that are in the hands of God.

I think I must warn you – this book is such a tear-jerker in the end. The anguish which bears on Miranda’s mind once she discovers her father’s identity and what ramification the revelation could have just broke my heart.
I swear I heard my heart was pounding while reading the last several chapters. It was just amazing, beyond reproach.

The dialogues are also stellar; in particular, the dialogues between Edward and Miranda are what left me in a sobbing mess. I was positively destroyed with tears streaming down my cheeks, I had a hard time reading because the print became blurry with my tears.
The last several chapters are spectacularly good and emotionally evocative, they made this book definitely worth a read.

This re-read made me realize what a masterpiece this book actually is, at least for me.
A masterfully, beautifully written great story. I will definitely read it again when Christmas comes around next year and most certainly beyond.

O Little Town by Don Reid

o-little-townTitle: O Little Town

Author: Don Reid

Published: October 1st, 2008

Publisher: David.C. Cook

Length: 304 pages

 

It may have been a bit too early to pick up this book; having finished reading it, I am now convinced this book would make a fantastic holiday read.

The story takes place in a small town, Mt. Jefferson back in 1958, with an intense scene depicting a shoplift by a teenage girl in a department store just a few days leading up to Christmas.
The description is so gripping and excellent that I was completely swept by it in an instant. It makes a perfect entrance to the story that beautifully entwines the secrets and angst of three families and the unforgettable memories which Walter Selman holds deep down his heart over the span of fifty years.

Nothing extraordinary or far-fetched happens throughout the book; it involves normal people whom you may find in your everyday life – those with secrets which can never be confided in to others, or those having affairs and are constantly afraid of having their relationships exposed.

Everything barely hangs on a perfect balance. Yet they are, at the same time, at constant risk of being unearthed. With the bad news involving Walter, the seams start to fray and the characters desperately try to patch them up, attempting to keep them under wraps as they have been .

Like I said, the description is just superb and compelling. Although the story involves some inner turmoil and anxieties, the writing never gets over-exaggerated; something like tranquility runs through the entire book and it also heightens the sense of suspension by closing the chapters with many unanswered questions up in the air, leaving us wondering “what?! What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen next??!  Brilliant.

I may be giving the wrong impression about this book; it’s defintely NOT all about dark secrets or skeltons in the closet; it’s also a story of forgiveness and redemption. The sermon scene in the church best describes that aspect.

To be honest, I wasn’t expected to be drawn by this book so much; it is compelling, riveting, I simply couldn’t wait to wrap up work and go home so that I’d get to read it.

The epilogue particularly jumps out and I let out a cry of surprise when I found out who the narrator was.  Again, it came as quite a surprise, but I will keep it under my hat here – you must figure it out on your own.

This is arguably one of the most entertaining books that I have read this year. I highly recommend it.

 

この本を手に取るのはちょっと時期がちょっと早すぎたかもしれません。読み終えて、この本はクリスマスの時期にぴったりだなと確信しました。

ストーリーは小さな街 Mt. Jeffersonでを舞台に、クリスマスを数日後に控えたデパートでの10代の少女による、緊張感溢れる万引きのシーンから始まります。
このシーンの描写がもうとにかく素晴らしくて、あっという間に引き込まれてしまいました。3家族の抱える秘密や苦悩、そしてWalter Selmanがずっと50年もの間胸に秘めていた忘れがたい思い出を絡めて描いた物語への始まりにピッタリでした。

取り立てて尋常じゃないことは起こりません。毎日の生活で私たちが見かけるようなごく普通の人々を描いていて、例えば誰にも打ち明けられない秘密を抱えた人とか、許されない関係が明らかになるのを恐れている人とか、そういう人たちが主人公です。

全てが絶妙なバランスでなんとか持ちこたえている感じなのですが、でも常にそういった秘密はバレるかバレないかの瀬戸際で、Walterに関する悪い知らせをきっかけにその秘密がバレそうになります。で、登場人物たちは何とかして穏便にことを済ませようと奔走します。

先ほど書いたように、その描写が本当に説得力あって、引き込まれます。登場人物の内面の葛藤や不安な気持ちを描いているのに、表現が全然大げさにならず、なんかこう静けさみたいなものがずーっと流れています。で、章が時々後一歩で謎が解ける、というところで終わったりするので、それが一層こうサスペンス感というか「え、どうなるの、どうなるの?」みたいな気持ちを高めるというか。ほんとに素晴らしいです。

なんかこの本について間違った印象を与えそうなので念を押しておきますが、この本は暗い秘密と人様には言えないような家庭の秘密とかそんなんばっかりじゃございません。これは償いと赦しの物語でもあります。教会での礼拝シーンはそれを物語ります。

正直言って、ここまでこの本に引き込まれるとは思いませんでした。本当に釘付けになっちゃいました。仕事をさっさと切り上げてさっさと帰宅して続きを読みたい!って待ちきれませんでしたしw

エピローグはとりわけ素晴らしい。語り手が誰かが分かった時、思わず驚いて声を上げてしまいましたから。
でもここでは内緒にしておきますね。ぜひご自身で読んで確かめてください。

この本はおそらく間違いなく、今年読んだ中で最も楽しめた本の1つに入ります。おすすめです!

Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania

love-find-you-in-hersheyTitle: Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania

Author: Cerella D. Sechrist

Length: 347 pages

 

I was a bit iffy about this book in the beginning; with a lingering strong impression that I had from reading (listening to) the previous book, I might not have been able to throw myself into the story completely, but its introduction didn’t leave much of an impact on me.

I don’t usually give up on a book so easily. So, while constantly debating whether I would eventually like the book or not, I just kept reading.

The descriptions of mishaps that Sadie, the main character, or her daughter Kylie cause are a bit over the top; it seems a bit hyperbole to me and it kind of goes on and on thus I got a bit sick of it.
Another reason why I was not quite sure about this book was the very main character, Sadie.
In most part of the book, (maybe around 70 percent of it) she is described as unlikable – she’s self-centered, obsessive and she wants to win all the games that challenge her.

With hard, bitter times and memories she had with her husband and her mother’s passings along with her volatile relationship with her father, she’s always been afraid of losing something she cherishes. She hasn’t learned the lesson to let things go that are beyond her control and be content with what she’s already possessed.

And her unwillingness to do so invites an unimaginable catastrophe in her life and blows a hole in her heart.

When she finally learns important lessons of forgiveness and cherishing others as well as herself- I suppose this is where the essence of Christian Fiction’ comes in – I got intrigued by how things go. I found myself drawn to the story and couldn’t stop reading.

The last 10 percent of the book describes Sadie’s redemption and how her perspective changes. It is quite cleansing to read how people can change if they open their mind and are finally ready to listen to what their hearts demand.
It was a compelling, beautiful read and I actually found tears rolling down my cheeks.

As I mentioned, I was a bit skeptic about this book in the beginning, but if you have a faith “things couldn’t be that bad,” then you may be rewarded with a surprising (maybe predictable but heart-warming) twist 😉

 

この本に関しては最初はちょっと不安でした。その前に読んだ(聴いた)本の印象がまだ強く残っていたので、ひょっとしたら自分を完全に物語の世界へ浸せなかったのもしれませんが、冒頭はあまり強い印象が残らなかったのは確かです。

私は本をそう簡単に諦めるタイプではありません。なので読みながら常に本当にこの本が気に入るかどうか葛藤もあったのですが、ひたすら読み続けました。

主人公のSadieとその娘Kylieの巻き起こすドタバタの描写がまずやりすぎな感を受けました。大げさ過ぎるように感じてしかもそれが結構続くのでちょーっと嫌気が差してしまったんですよね。
もうひとつの理由は、主人公のSadieです。本の大部分(70%くらい)はどうにも好きになれないタイプに描かれています。
自己中心的で、のめり込むタイプで、なんでも自分が上に立ちたいタイプ。

夫の死去とそれに続く母の死を受けての辛い苦しい記憶と父親との不安定な関係のせいでSadieは常に自分が大事にするものを失うのを恐れているんですね。彼女はまだ自分の手に及ばないこと諦め、今自分が既に与えられているもので満足する、という大事なことを学んでいなかったんです。

そして彼女の意固地な側面が彼女の人生そのものに悲劇を呼び込み、心にぽっかりと穴が空いてしまうんです。

ついに彼女が寛容さと相手を、そして自分を思いやる心を学んだときーここでクリスチャン・フィクションの要素が入ってくるんだと思いますがー私はこの本にのめり込んでいるのに気づきました。事がどう進んでいくのか興味が沸いて、止められなくなった。

最後の10%くらいはSadieのやり直しの過程、そして彼女のものの考え方がどう変わっていくかが描かれています。人が心を開き、自分の心の声に耳を傾けることでどれだけ変われるかを読むのは非常に心が洗われる気がしました。実際に読みながら泣いてしまったほどですw

最初に書いたように、この本にはちょっと「どうかなぁ」と不安な点もありましたが、でも「そんなに悪いわけないでしょ」と信じて読み進めれば、驚きの(まぁ見え見えかもしれませんが、心温まる)展開が待っていると思いますよ^^