Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #48: A Christmas Snow by Jim Stovall

ChristmasSnow_book_lgThis was a quick read and a nice Christmas story, which was precisely what I was looking for. It has some problems. The choppy, simplistic, sometimes repetitive sentence structure was grating at first, but I finally got into the rhythm…or it got better. I’m not certain. Another issue was the fact that the author incorrectly used the word “myriad” annoyed me, as did using the wrong word to describe carefully going through paperwork (it should be “poring over” not “pouring over”…cause shit like that jolts me out of the story). The last problem I had was that Stovall seemed too keen on cliches towards the beginning. All of these things combined had me wondering if I wanted to finish the book at all, but by the time Chapter Ten rolled around, I was too engrossed to return it to the library.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. The story is one of hope, love, forgiveness, changing, growing, and leaving the past behind you, where it belongs. The main character, Kathleen, has been emotionally distant and additionally crabby about Christmas ever since her dad walked out on her when she was ten. Fast forward to now, Kathleen has a boyfriend with a very…precocious (re: persnickety)…ten-year-old daughter named Lucy. Kathleen and Lucy get snowed in together when Lucy’s dad has to go out of town on business but has nowhere else to drop Lucy off because their current babysitter just quit. So she winds up at Kathleen’s house…along with a strange older guy that Kathleen almost run over in the grocery store parking lot. The bonding that happens was hardly a surprise, but the way it all plays out was quite entertaining and heart-warming.

In the end, Kathleen remembers what really matters (family, food, and good times) and acts accordingly. She also goes to visit her mother for the first time in over a decade. I like that it didn’t end in Andrew proposing to her, as if that’s the only way for him to “get” her. I’m curious how the movie is. The last 15 minutes of it that I saw on TV the other night led me to believe it was pretty faithful, so that’s cool. I look forward to seeing that. The story here is nice, I just think it could’ve been better written.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #36: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Adapted & Illustrated by P. Craig Russell

coraline_graphic_novelI’m not sure if it’s a credit or detraction to Mr. Russell, the adaptor and illustrator of this graphic novel, that I came away from reading it thinking, “I need to read more Neil Gaiman.” I suppose it could be considered both, but to be honest, it mostly stemmed from the fact that I liked the novel better and was reminded from that feeling that I need to read more Gaiman.

It’s not that this graphic novel is bad. It follows the same story of a bored girl who is looking for someone to play with, something intriguing, and also, people to respect her enough to call her by her real name instead of what they think it is (Caroline). She finds a mysterious door in her family’s new house and then finds a key to the door and goes through it. There she finds the Other world, which is a mirror image of her house, family, and neighbors, but…off. Other Mother has black button eyes, long spindly fingers with razor sharp nails, and just wants to love and adore Coraline and give her lots of rich foods and play with her. At first, this seems mostly cool to Coraline, who’s been looking for this kind of attention, but she soon realizes that getting what you think you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when she tries to go home, she can’t find her parents. Turns out, her Other Mother has stolen and hidden them. The rest of the story is spent with Coraline trying to free them and get her real parents, a black helper cat, and herself back home.

The illustrations are quite creepy of the Other Mother and the Other side, in general, but I found that the way Gaiman described things left me more unsettled than the actual illustrations. The initial charm and subsequent oddness and ultimate fear all kind of blended to me. Seeing how jarring the Other Mother looked right off the bat was something that I think was a little too much for me.

The one thing I did really like was the intricacies in Coraline’s facial expressions. I think Russell did a great job with bringing her to life throughout the book, which is a definite plus since she’s, y’know, the main character. I think my lack of appreciation for the illustrations may just come down to personal preference. But I came away with it wanting to read more Gaiman, and really, that’s never a bad thing.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #14: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

What’s it like living in the shadow of your father, a genius Shakespearean scholar and professor in the prestigious, yet small town institution of Barnwell College? How do you overcome the stereotypes and seemingly predestined sisterly roles of eldest, middle, and youngest? When is it time to admit that you’re a failure, go home, and start over? Probably about the time your mother discovers she has breast cancer and could use help and support of family.

As I’ve said before, I really love reading sister fiction. I’m blessed with a very close relationship with one of my sisters and don’t really know my other all that well. But still, there’s this…weird bond. Sisterly relationships are endlessly fascinating to me. Nurturing, competitive, mentors, rivals, friends, and so much more. The sisters at the heart of this novel are all those and more, as well.

All the sisters are named after Shakespearean women, given their father’s singular obsession with the Bard. Eldest is Rose (Rosalind from As You Like It), three years younger is Bean (Bianca, The Taming of the Shrew, and three years younger than her is Cordy (Cordelia, King Lear). My Shakespearean buff ex-husband would’ve probably been better apt to pinpoint the Bardic mistakes that other reviews have picked at, but I mostly found the peppered references either innocuous or well-placed.
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