Friday, January 20, 2012

Not-So-Rave Reviews

Matchless: A Christmas Story by Gregory Macguire

Every year, NPR asks a writer to compose an original story with a Christmas theme. In 2008, Gregory Maguire reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic "The Little Match Girl" for a new time and new audiences.

An easy, fast and mostly forgettable retelling of a fairy tale.  Made for an interesting evening read, but wish I hadn't spent money on it.

The Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor

Snow is falling all across the Midwest as James Sparrow, a country- bumpkin-turned-energy-drink-tycoon, and his wife awaken in their sky- rise apartment overlooking Chicago. Even down with the stomach bug, Mrs. Sparrow yearns to see The Nutcracker,  while James yearns only to escape-the faux-cheer, the bitter cold, the whole Christmas season. An urgent phone call from his hometown of Looseleaf, North Dakota, sends James into the midst of his lunatic relatives and a historic blizzard. As he hunkers down to weather the storm, the electricity goes out and James is visited by a parade of figures who deliver him an epiphany worthy of the season, just in time to receive Mrs. Sparrow's wonderful Christmas gift. 

Supposed to be allegorical or having "clear parallels to Dickens's A Christmas Carol", but I just found it strange and full of characters I wanted to get away from.  Once again, should have saved the money.  The lesson here: Do not get sucked into buying Christmas books in the grocery store check-out isle.

Son of Stone by Stuart Woods

After an eventful trip to Bel-Air and a reunion with his sophisticated (and very wealthy) former love, Arrington Calder, confirmed bachelor Stone Barrington is looking to stay in New York and cash in on his partnership at Woodman & Weld.  But Arrington has other plans for Stone, and his life is about to take a turn he never imagined...

Totally emotionless.  Three hundred pages of detached recitation on the life of the uber-wealthy and privileged.  Murder, abortion and confrontation with an armed killer don't cause any of the characters to bat an eyelash, much less display an emotion or even have interesting dialog.  It reads as though even the author was indifferent to his characters and what they were experiencing - as long a there was plenty of money and luxury to spread around.  Yale admission, millions of dollars, yachts, cars, multiple homes, servants, business success, passing the bar - all are obtained without a shred of effort and received without a shred of enthusiasm.  Even the teenagers in this book are docile, polite and dispassionate.  

I have enjoyed Mr. Woods' previous books, but perhaps he's become too complacent with his own characters. I gets two stars ("it was ok") rather than one ("didn't like it") out of respect for earlier works and because I can't work up enough emotion about it to dislike it.  It's just - there.


  1. That fact that two are Christmas-themed books just reinforces why I don't like those kinds of books to begin with!

    1. You've got a good point, but I'll still be sucked into the next Pretty-Picture-Christmas book I see. I'm hopeless!