Estelle: The Glass Collectors by Robert C. Tabb

The Glass Collectors by Robert TabbThe Glass Collectors by Robert C. TabbSparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Publication Date: April 28, 2012
Publisher: Self-published.
Pages: 212 pages
Keywords: holidays, 5th grade, gifts, bad luck
Target audience: Middle grade; certainly a family read
Format read: eBook sent to me from author. (Thanks!)

Summary: Nothing seems to go right for Emerson. He can’t pass the tests in his fifth grade class nor can he show up for school on time. With the holidays around the corner, Emerson is soon obsessed with the idea of creating beautiful glass candleholders for his mother… by collecting each piece of glass by himself. In the meantime, classmate Walt deals with much more responsible than a 5th grader should and Wheels, a huge baseball fan who is stuck inside during recess because of his wheelchair, is looking for one reason to WANT to go to school.

Do you remember when you were in fifth grade and every decision, every move felt like it was a life or death?

Indie author Robert Tabb expresses this urgency and invincibility quite well in The Glass Collectors. At first, I thought the characters had quite mature voices for their age but then I remembered, oh hey I used to talk and think like that too because everything was so mega important back then.

Lead character Emerson seems to be behind on the eight-ball most of the time. His mom works a lot, his dad has left, and he sort of takes care of himself (in what I’m assuming is a safe, safe town). He’s late for school, he can’t pay attention in class, and he’s always concocting some kind of outlandish plan — like making his mother a Christmas present. As a reader, there’s no way I thought a 5th grader collecting glass and gluing it together was a good idea but Emerson thinks it’s genius and will stop at nothing to get it done.

You have to admire his tenacity.

In the meantime, his peers, Walt and Wheels, are facing some real predicaments. Walt is stuck caring for his younger sisters, after his mom jumped ship and his dad is unable to deal. His Mr. Mom routine is very cute and very admirable, but I couldn’t help but feel saddened by it. He needed help. And Wheels doesn’t have many friends due to his disability disabling his social life.

There’s a lot going on. The characters jump back and forth pretty quickly, and I think The Glass Collectors would have benefited from a layout that pointed out the switch in POV a little bit better. I would have liked more development in the lives of Wheels and Walt as well; the connection between the three would be that much stronger. (A detail I did love was the sarcastic 5th grade teacher.)

The Glass Collectors, set in 1989, certainly illuminates with nostalgia (who else remembers those annual gift shops with the #1 Dad merchandise? My dad still has some of it.) and the spirit of the holiday season. Emerson reminds me of a walking disaster with a whole lot of heart, and you can’t help but wonder how his plan is going to turn out.

While the pace certainly picks up as you get further and further in, Tabb ends too prematurely and the impact is not as great as it could be. In fact, instead of an epilogue, I would have loved for the story to end in 1989 with the future left untold. Despite a few of my qualms, I could definitely picture a parent reading this to their children before bed for a few nights in a row or an older reader plowing right through it.

It’s certainly a feel good holiday story with a good amount of charm and utter silliness. Think A Christmas Story meets Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

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Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews Song Pick

 

 

The nostalgia, the young crowd in the book = “Linus + Lucy” instrumental by Vince Guaraldi Trio from one of my personal favorites, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Estelle: The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise PlummerThe Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Publication Date: September 1, 1995
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Pages: 192
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: holidays, siblings, family, romance
Format read: Used copy bought online.

Summary: With the help of a romance novel handbook, Kate launches into her own holiday love story: complete with competitive best friends, a beautiful visitor who may or may not be dating the man of her dreams, and fights over Christmas trees.

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman is actually one of my favorite books from when I was a kid. I’m not sure when I initially read it, but if I had to guess I would say it was around eighth grade. I was really like Kate back then — I wore glasses, I wasn’t exactly Miss Popular, and I was pining away for the most unattainable guy on the planet.

I know it gave me hope that a girl like me — bookish and all — could have her love story too.

Now almost 15 years later (ack! I am having a mini heart attack typing that), my original copy is long gone (be careful about lending your books out, people!) and I am out of college, working, and married. When I saw this book mentioned somewhere last year, I was automatically hit by how much it meant to me back then and I ordered a used copy.

Did it hold up?

From the very beginning, we know that Kate has somehow reached her own happy ending. The fun part for the readers is piecing together how all of that came together, and Kate helps us out by using her handy-dandy romance novel-writing guide to tell us how it really went down. The style isn’t perfect (it gets a bit clunky at times) but it’s definitely refreshing to experience a new style in young adult every now and then. Kate is also sure to include “revisions” to further explain some of the characters and talk through some of the plot and characterization problems. This is where she was at her funniest, and we got to learn more about Kate as a character.

So basically it’s the most romantic time of the year, her best friend has a boyfriend, and Kate’s brother comes home from school with his wife (they married young), Richard (her brother’s best friend who she has loved forever), and Fleur (who she assumes to be Richard’s beautiful girlfriend but instead turns out to be pretty awesome). Will Richard ever see Kate than more than just his best friend’s kid sister? As a leading guy, we don’t get to know Richard all that well… in fact I kind of picture of him as a classic stud, sort of like a young JFK Jr. He’s smart, accomplished, handsome, and funny.

What I love about Kate is that she is completely real. She’s definitely self-conscious but she knows who she is. And while she watches Ashley repeatedly throw herself at Richard (despite that boyfriend of hers), Kate is also left to question the worth of their friendship and if Ashley has ever had her best interest at heart.

Like any teenage romance, there is plenty of drama to go around and while Louise Plummer may let some people off a bit too easily at the end, it’s nice to see the too-tall girl with the bad eyesight win out and not feel like she has to be big-boobed, overly made up to find happiness.

Even after all these years, The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman still holds up as one of my favorite holiday reads. It has the quirky family, the swoony romance, and the perfect dose of Christmas spirit.

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Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews Song Pick

 

 

Okay, this is one of my absolute favorite holiday songs. I used to blare it in my car on my way to college while thinking of cute boys and spending the holidays with them.

Christmas of Love by Little Isidore and the Inquisitors

Estelle: Ex-Mas by Kate Brian

Ex-Mas by Kate BrianEx-Mas by Kate Brian ( @ Twitter )Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Note: Kate Brian is the pseudonym of author Kieran Scott. Familar? 🙂
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 224
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Christmas, popularity, exes, siblings, road trip
Format read: Bought used online.

Summary: Lila has been prepping to through the biggest winter break party forever, in hopes of securing her position as the most popular in the high school hierarchy. But when her parents catch on about about the party from her noisy little brother, her plans go down the drain. As if her brother didn’t ruin her life enough already, he disappears with his best friend and the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she’s pretty much written off completely.

At first sight, I really disliked Lila. All she cared about was showing everyone just how popular she was, so proud of how she ditched her uber-curly hair, her love of singing, and ratty wardrobe for all the beautiful things. I was pretty much muttering to myself how this book was doomed if Lila didn’t buck up a little bit. A whole 200 pages of her queen bee personality was going to send me over the edge, even if it was a holiday-themed book.

But in an almost Scrooge-like twist, we got to see the true Lila, even if it took a few detours to get there. Thanks to the crazy antics of her brother and his best friend, who also happened to be the brother of her ex-boyfriend, Beau. Beau la la. (Get it?) A Loner musician type with muscles! Way back when, Lila and Beau were best friends who fell in love. Unfortunately, their relationship took a nosedive when Lila’s reputation to be the coolest, awesomest gal in town started to take precedence over everything. She started dating an upperclassman turned college boy, landed a best friend in the popular crowd, and said goodbye to everything Beau meant to her.

In a Pacey and Joey-like scenario, two people who want nothing to do with each other are forced in a car together, looking for their brothers, two kids who would do anything to save Santa Claus — even run away from home. Though Lila and Beau make a pretty terrible team in the beginning, there’s still a hint of something between them… and it’s a whole lot of fun and havoc watching it all pan out.

Just like the Let it Snow short story collection did for me last year, Ex-Mas was adorable and funny and got me rightfully pumped for the magic and romance of the holidays. And despite its fluffy nature, it still does a great job of tying up loose ends and working through all the minor plotlines. A bonus!

And if Santa made all dreams come true… this book would be on its way to being a feature flick on ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas! Someone get on it! (And I guess if that doesn’t happen… I’ll just have to re-read it again next year.)

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Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews Song Pick

I have two for this Ex-Mas… I always liked Bette Midler’s version of Winter Wonderland because she bases it in L.A. + also for a fun romantic Christmas song, I’m obsessed with Huckapoo’s Wild Christmas and have been for about 10 years now. (Ignore the Miley Cyrus montage.)

Estelle: Kissing Snowflakes by Abby Sher

Kissing Snowflakes by Abby SherKissing Snowflakes by Abby SherSparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Publisher: Point
Pages: 256
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: winter break, skiiing, stepmoms, boys!
Where I heard about it: Ashley Loves Books
Format read: Paperback from the library.

Summary: Sam and her brother are off to a ski lodge for their dad’s honeymoon to a cute, spunky lady (who, of course, Sam can’t stand). Trying to distract herself from being away from her best friend during her winter break and watching her dad make puppy dog eyes at his new bride, Sam decides she is going to find a boy on this trip.

This is the perfect book to curl up with when you have a few hours to spare and some peppermint mocha at your side.

It’s not a holiday book, exactly. Sam’s family is Jewish and they are spending winter break up in the mountains. But there is snow, hot chocolate, karaoke and cute boys.

While Sam is on the prowl for her first real kiss (and maybe a little more than that), she is also coming to terms with her dad being married to someone she hardly knows and watching the two being so much more affectionate than she has ever seen him and her own mother. Sher is spot on with the changing dynamic in Sam’s family, and while sometimes she is over-dramatic when it comes to certain aspects of this remarriage, I totally understand where she is coming from.

One thing that really surprised me was how open this book was about sex. From the fluffy title, I had no idea sex would be so openly discussed but I really liked how Sam was not shy with us readers about how she felt, what she wanted, and who else was doing it.

Enter Drew, the hot ski instructor, who is totally interested in Sam. The shared moments between the two range from sizzling to uncomfortable, and I really liked how Sam handled herself in this situation. I certainly had a hunch where all of this was going but I was proud of the way that Sam was able to come into her own and be herself.

One missed opportunity in the book is Sam’s brother, Jeremy. He’s two years older than Sam, and would rather watch wrestling than hang out with some cute girls. That was odd to me because he is 18 and I could swear I nailed his storyline but Sher left him hanging and Jeremy (sadly) remains a mystery.

Unexpected drama from back home manages to wiggle its way into Sam’s trip, and practically collide with all of the misadventures she’s experiencing on and off the slopes. It may be pretty predictable but it is fun nonetheless. With a picturesque lodge, lively main character, and some risque moments, Kissing Snowflakes is a guaranteed speedy and sweet read!

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Sparklejollytwinklejingley Holiday Winter Book Reviews Song Pick

 

 

 

Someone I  knew once said, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” Now, trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing so instead I’m going to pick a tune by someone much more talented than me that best fits the winter/holiday book I’m reviewing. Today I’m going for something sweet, sexy, and chilly. So how about the soulful sounds of Boyz II Men crooning “Let It Snow”?

Source for image used in graphics comes from ShowMeOKC.