Holiday Review: The Thirteenth Gift

The Thirteenth Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. Copyright 2014.

In the fall of 1999, journalist Joanne Huist Smith’s husband passed away unexpectedly. In this memoir, she details how an anonymous gift left on the family’s doorstep during each of the twelve days leading up to Christmas helped make the holiday season more than bearable for her and her three children. Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, etc., they received one poinsettia, two bags of bows, three rolls of wrapping paper, four gift boxes, five angel gift cards, six holiday cups, seven golden apple ornaments, eight Christmas cookie cutters, nine holiday candles, ten paper doll Santas, eleven candy mice, and on the twelfth day, a miniature Christmas tree with twelve ornaments. Each gift came with a card signed, “Your true friends.”

At first, they tried to figure out who left the gifts, thinking it was someone they knew. Then, they realized the gift giver’s identity wasn’t important. The book has twelve chapters describing each day in the gift-giving scenario. In the thirteenth chapter, the author describes how over ten years later, she met the anonymous donors, complete strangers, who were the second generation of a trend that started back in the 1980’s.

This writer draws the reader into her story. Like Martin Sixsmith, author of Philomena, she writes terrific prose that make you forget she’s a journalist. I also like the way she illustrates the concept of paying it forward during the holiday season. However, I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment. I guess I expected something more spectacular, but this is a true story, and as stated by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, “You can’t make this stuff up.” To learn more about Joanne Huist Smith, go to http://www.13thgift.com/bios/joanne-huist-smith .

Now, click below to hear me sing the song that inspired this gift giving idea. This is one of those songs I can practice until the cows come home and still mess up so I hope you enjoy listening to it.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/12%20days%20of%20christmas.mp3

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Holiday Review: The Mistletoe Inn

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. Copyright 2015.

 

Kim is an aspiring romance writer who lives in Denver, Colorado, and works as a finance officer at a car dealership. She’s not too keen on romance because she was jilted at the altar, and other relationships failed. However, when she attends a writers’ retreat in Vermont during the month of December, she becomes involved with a fellow author. When she’s unable to accept constructive criticism of her manuscript from him, this causes a rift, but then the story has a surprise ending.

I like the way Richard Paul Evans provides Kim’s back story in the prolog and beginning chapters. I always get frustrated when authors start the story in the middle and then go back, although it’s said that’s the best way to hook a reader. Actually, Mr. Evans did a pretty good job of hooking me with the prolog.

I also like the way he illustrates the idea that fame and fortune don’t always make a person happy. He also does this in A Perfect Day which I reviewed on this blog a couple of years ago at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/a-perfect-day/ . I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to give away any more of the plot. If you want to know what I mean, you’d better read the book. In fact, you should read both books. To learn more, go to http://www.richardpaulevans.com/ .

Since The Mistletoe Inn is a holiday romance, click below to hear me sing a romantic holiday song.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/winter%20wonderland.mp3

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Holiday Reading

I was recently invited to read some of my poems at a meeting of Akcita Win. This is a women’s organization that does community service projects and offers scholarships every year here in Sheridan, Wyoming. My grandmother founded this group in the 1940’s, and I didn’t know this until the night of the meeting which was held at the First Christian Church.

My presentation was preceded by a delicious fried chicken dinner catered by a local market and followed by a rousing game of Christmas bingo and door prize giveaways. I didn’t win, but that didn’t matter. It was still a lot of fun. I was invited to join the organization, and I suppose I should since my grandmother founded it, but I don’t have time.

One of the group’s money making projects I remember from years ago was a vending stand at the local fair grounds during our annual rodeo, county fair, and other events. When my brother and I were kids, Dad took us to the fair grounds for whatever event was going on, and we often stopped by the stand where Grandma gave us each a Coke, paying for it of course. At the meeting, I spoke to a lady who worked with Grandma at the stand, flipping burgers, and she reminisced about those days. She told me that too many safety regulations make it difficult for organizations to undertake such money making projects, and that’s too bad. However, it was nice talking about those good old days.

My reading lasted about twenty minutes. I sang a few songs, a Capella, incorporating them into my poems, finishing with a parody of “White Christmas” that I wrote. I then sang the original words with everyone joining in. The audience loved it, and I passed around business cards. I brought copies of my poetry books, but nobody seemed interested.

I was able to record my program, and you can click below to hear it. Because of the file size and limited Dropbox space, this recording is contained in a zipped folder so you’ll need to download and extract it. If you’re not sure how to do this, please leave a note in the comments field, and I’ll try to help you. Be sure to check the appropriate box so you’ll receive my reply by email. Enjoy! Happy holidays.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/akcita%20win%20reading%2012-1-2015.zip

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Holiday Review: Dashing Through the Snow

Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber. Copyright 2015.

 

Four days before Christmas, Ashley and Dash, who barely know each other, end up sharing a rental car from San Francisco to Seattle when no flights are available. Ashley, a graduate student, hopes to surprise her mother for Christmas, and Dash, a former military intelligence officer, has a job interview in Seattle. Along their journey, they pick up and abandoned puppy, encounter a motorcycle gang, petty thieves, and a strange character who calls himself Stan the Man, and become involved in a case of mistaken identity. One thing I like about this author’s books is that everything turns out all right in the end, and this one is no different.

I downloaded this book from Audible. Although Debbie Macomber doesn’t narrate it in this recording, she reads the introduction at the beginning in which she explains how this story was inspired by her husband Wayne saying that he hated flying and wished he were on a no-fly list. I thought my imagination ran wild at times, but this story takes the cake. It never occurred to me that an ordinary U.S. citizen could be mistaken for a terrorism suspect. Since I plan to fly to Florida in March and perhaps California in April, I hope there are no terrorism suspects running around with my name. I also hope that after reading this, Wayne is re-thinking his wish to be on a no-fly list. To learn more about Debbie Macomber and her books, go to http://debbiemacomber.com/

Since one of the main characters in this story is trying to get home for Christmas, please click below to hear me sing a song that echoes this sentiment. Wherever you are, I hope you can be home for the holidays, if only in your imagination.

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Vote for my new book idea.

 

A Cardinal Holiday

I know Christmas has come and gone, but recently, I read a delightful book, A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, and you know what? This book can be enjoyed any time of year.

In Chicago, Oswald T. Campbell learns that his emphazema is getting worse, and unless he leaves the windy city, he may not last through Christmas. His doctor gives him a brochure for a resort in an Alabama town called Lost River. However, when he tries to get a reservation, Mr. Campbell finds out that the hotel burned down in the early 1900’s, but through a miraculous twist of fate, he finds someone in the town willing to rent him a room.

The rest of the story centers around an injured redbird named Jack. Taken in by Lost River’s general store owner, he learns to do tricks and becomes a fixture in the community who is mourned by many when he dies unexpectedly. Other characters besides Mr. Campbell’s landlady and her feeble mother include the postmistress, mailman, and a private investigator/process server, to name a few. The author takes us through events in these characters’ lives over the course of a year until a Christmas miracle allows a little girl with a serious birth defect to walk again. I was lucky to run across a recording of the book read by the author, and that was a nice touch.

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, The Whoopee Girls. At nineteen, she started writing and producing television specials. She later wrote for and appeared on Candid Camera. She then became established as a writer and actress in television, movies, and the theater. She even wrote the script for the movie adaptation of her book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and it was nominated for an Academy Award and a Writers Guild of America Award and won the Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. She lives in California and Alabama. To learn more about her and her books, visit http://fannieflaggbooks.com/ .

I’ve read many of Fannie Flagg’s books including Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. Her characters are funny and provocative, and everything turns out well in the end. Although her plots my not be realistic at times, it’s fun to escape into the worlds she creates. I recommend A Redbird Christmas and other tales to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and a heartwarming story. Happy New Year!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and selected Poems

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