Grim Christmas

A Midnight Clear by [Hooker, Sam, Leyva, Alcy, Morrison, Laura, Windwalker, Cassondra, Storm, Dalena, Jane, Seven]Title: A Midnight Clear
Authors: Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, & Seven Jane
Genre: Short Story Anthology (5 Fantasy & 1 Mystery)
Pages: 250
Rating: 3 of 5
Future Release Date: 11/5/19 (Thank you to the authors and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of my review.)

Black Spot Books tapped six of their authors to pull together this short story anthology under the overarching theme of “not-so-merry Yuletide whimsy.” The result is truly a mixed bag [insert lame Santa’s sack joke].

The Good: The opening story by Sam Hooker is far and away the best of the lot. Who knew you could combine a sugary cute version of the North pole (reminiscent of what it’s like in the movie Elf) with a visit to R’lyeh? Laura Morrison’s hellish (yet humorous) riff on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is imaginative and entertaining as well, and Dalena Storm’s dive into Slavic mythology wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t take my theology from any of these stories, but they were a lot of fun to read.

The “Meh”: The other three stories left me cold. In a couple, the Christmas element felt shoehorned in, and they all had the kind of pacing that I associate with lousy Christian fiction: the majority of the page count taken up with the protagonist moping, sulking, or mooning around followed by a burst of action at the very end that may or may not connect well with all the repetitive morbid introspection that came before it. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

Overall, the oft repeated descriptor for short story anthologies is “mixed bag,” and that holds very much true here. If nothing else, you need to read Sam Hooker’s cutesy elf/Cthulhu mythos mashup.

Christmas Reflection

 

El-Gibbor: The Mighty God
Will rule the earth with an iron rod
The Son of Man, worthy of praise
Dominion receives from the Ancient of Days
The Word was God, Creator of all
The Word became flesh, helpless and small
Born in humility, swaddled in cloth
A newborn infant asleep in a trough
The gift so great no words can tell
God with us: Emmanuel

by Joel E. Mitchell
(References: Isaiah 9:6-7, Psalm 2:7-9, Daniel 7:13-14, John 1:1-3, John 1:14, Luke 2:4-12, 2 Corinthians 9:15, Matthew 1:22-23)

The Lord Has Come

The ageless Creator   by angels worshipped,
The serpent-slaying   seed of woman,
Entered the earth   as an infant helpless.
To shepherds was shouted   world-shattering news.

Brilliantly blazed   the blinding Shekinah
As glorious Gabriel   gladly proclaimed:
“Hope is at hand!   All hearts rejoice!
In the village of David   the virgin has borne
The Savior, Messiah,   the Sovereign Lord.”

He is joined in his joy   by angelic armies.
Heaven’s happiness   heard by the earth:
“Glory to God   who is greatly exalted,
And peace to the people   His providence blesses.

By Joel E. Mitchell

Merry Christmas! I originally posted this last Christmas when my blog had maybe 10 followers, so I decided to post it again this year. The companion Easter poem can be found here.

North Polar Bear Steals the Show

Title: Letters from Father Christmas
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Genre: Christmas Fantasy
Pages: 128
Rating: 5 of 5

I’m a total Tolkien fanboy (in case you couldn’t guess from the name and About page), but somehow I had never read this before. It was the book of the month over at the Dewey Decimators book club, so I finally got around to it, and I’m glad I did! Tolkien’s pal C. S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest,” and this book passes that test.

Every year Tolkien would write one or more letters from Father Christmas to his children, and this book collects all 24 years’ worth (1920-1943), complete with pictures of the original letters and accompanying drawings. The first few are little more than simple notes, but they soon include little stories about the goings-on at the North Pole…most of which involve the North Polar Bear getting into some kind of mischief. North Polar Bear adds occasional editorial comments (my favorite part of the letters), and later on so does Santa’s elven secretary Ilbereth.

The overall tone is cute and innocent without being sickly sweet. There are occasional mentions of times being difficult (presumably due to the Great Depression and WWII), but the overall tone is always positive. There is also a bittersweet element to the letters as we see occasional mention of each child getting older and no longer sending letters to Father Christmas or hanging their stocking.

Overall, this is a beautiful little book. I enjoyed it so much that I am now reading it aloud to my children (ages 8, 10, and 13) and they are enjoying it immensely…mostly they want to see what the North Polar Bear is going to get up to next.

The Lord Has Come

The ageless Creator   by angels worshipped,
The serpent-slaying   seed of woman,
Entered the earth   as an infant helpless.
To shepherds was shouted   the world-shattering news.

Brilliantly blazed   the blinding Shekinah
As glorious Gabriel   gladly proclaimed:
“Hope is at hand!   All hearts rejoice!
In the village of David   the virgin has borne
The Savior, Messiah,   the Sovereign Lord.”

He is joined in his joy   by angelic armies.
Heaven’s happiness   heard by the earth:
“Glory to God   who is greatly exalted,
And peace to the people   His providence blesses.”

(by Joel E. Mitchell)