Christmasy Books: A Christmas Carol, Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, & What Light Reviews

Tis the season! What, you say? It’s not the season? In fact, it’s about a month out? I know. I’m sorry. But I’m still trying to do group reviews in order to pretend I can ever catch up on posting here and it just made sense to do a Christmas post. So here we are.

There are three books here (A Christmas Carol, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, What Light) and in classic Emma fashion, I didn’t like two of them and did like one. (Feels like I’m constantly working at that ratio lately.) I know probably no one is interested in this – I mean, a collection of reviews AND a post that is entirely out of season? I’m asking for it. But can you pretend maybe? For my fragile ego? Thanks guys.

Synopsis of A Christmas Carol: In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family’s meagre income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favourite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill.

With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge’s eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warm-hearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England’s greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

Review of A Christmas Carol: 3.75/5

This was a cute read!

I’ve been warned a million times about Dickens’s wordiness (occupational hazard of being an English major who hadn’t, until now, read Dickens). In addition to that, it’s also just kind of a fun fact that people toss around. It is kind of cool that he wrote elaborate sentences to get paid more, since he got paid by the word. Still, is it physically possible for people to discuss Dickens without mentioning that?

Anyway, the point of saying all that: after the absolute odyssey of literary small talk I have overcome to get here, I had no problem with Dickens’s supposed wordiness. Maybe it’s because I share that problem in writing. (Every peer review I’ve ever done, my biggest problem has been a lack of clarity and sentences that “sound too complicated.)

I guess my main issue was just that it never grabbed me. I never really wanted to pick it up – but at the same time, I never minded reading it. It was slow-ish but so beautifully written. It made for an interesting combo.

It’s also so familiar. There are a bajillion adaptations of this book. (Community theater! Mickey’s version! etc etc.) So it’s nothing new, but that’s not one hundred percent a bad thing. Especially since it’s not its fault.

Bottom line: This is a definite read-before-you-die book. Check it out for sure!

Synopsis of What Light: From Jay Asher, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, comes a romance that will break your heart, but soon have you believing again. . . .

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

Review of What Light: 2/5

I know I say this all the time, but I really mean it: I wanted to like this book so badly. True, the average Goodreads rating isn’t high, but the reviews I’ve seen from you guys have been for the most part great (and I trust you guys more than I trust Goodreads in general). But I had so many problems with this book.

Let’s start with the good stuff, though! I really liked the first part. I started reading this late last night/early this morning and stayed up even later to read it. I’m obsessed with the idea of Christmas tree farms, and the setting was done well. Most importantly, this book felt Christmasy. Which is obviously the most important aspect of a book featuring the best month of the year.

I wish it was all positives, but that’s about all I liked. This book’s only 250 pages long, and around page 100 things started falling apart for me. Let’s start with the characters. (Y’all know that’s what I care about most.) Caleb is so vanilla for me – just one of those snoozefest male characters who are ~handsome~ and nice kinda and that’s it. Bor-ing. But Sierra is the one who really grinds my gears. She’s a YA fantasy-esque object of obsession – every guy who sees her is hopelessly in love with her, causing all sorts of hijinks to ensue. She’s just that beautiful, guys. But she’s a total control freak who tries to fight all of Caleb’s battles for him LONG before she’s even kissed him. (They’re essentially in a committed relationship WAY before they get to kissin’.)

But the worst part of Sierra? She’s, like, the worst friend ever. She skips her her friend’s first big role in a play (which is her dream) just to get more time with Caleb. She prioritizes Caleb over one of her best friends who she only gets to see one month a year, even though this might be the last of those months. When she finally gets around to apologizing to the former, she talks extensively about Caleb in the same text. She doesn’t help her parents with the tree farm, and they have to hire workers to replace her – despite the fact that she endlessly bemoans the potential loss of her winters at the tree farm.

Plus, all of the obstacles are really easily overcome. Example: None of the teenage tree farm workers are allowed to even talk to Sierra, or they’ll be sentenced to cleaning the outhouses. But when one of them asks her out and is so furious about being rejected he takes to trying to ruin her relationship with Caleb? We’ll just have to deal with it, I guess! And the timeline in this book is so confusing. Some entire days are just skipped past, and some days will be filled end-to-end with events.

Also, Sierra begins her interest in Caleb after being told he tried to stab his sister with a knife. Am I the only one who thinks that’s a touch too wild?!

Bottom line: boring, annoying, etc. etc…..but Christmasy, at least.

Synopsis of The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily: Dash and Lily have had a tough year since they first fell in love among the shelves of their favorite bookstore. Lily’s beloved grandfather suffered a heart attack, and his difficult road to recovery has taken a major toll on her typically sunny disposition.

With only twelve days left until Christmas—Lily’s favorite time of the year—Dash, Lily’s brother Langston, and their closest friends must take Manhattan by storm to help Lily recapture the unique holiday magic of a glittering, snow-covered New York City in December.

Review of The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily: 1/5

200 pages has never felt more like 400. (And this is a sequel, too.)

For background on my history with the first book: I read it for a middle school summer reading list the year it came out. (Six years ago.) I think I liked it but I was 13 and can’t hold myself to that belief. The other thing about it being six years ago is it really seems like a sequel is unnecessary. Especially one that takes place a mere year after the first. But I was on a quest for Christmasy books and I saw this. So I picked it up.

Unlike my last attempt at a festive read, What Light, I doubted this one from the start. It started off rocky, improved a bit, went further and further downhill and lasted forever. In short, I would have DNFed this if not for the fact that this was 200 pages. But God help me if it didn’t feel way longer.

As always, the characters are the main part. (Disclaimer: I can’t speak to whether they’re worse than in the first, because I don’t remember the first.) Let’s start with Dash, since he comes first, title wise. He’s, on paper, a male me – loves reading, grumpy, anti-love. Luckily, I was spared even the short-lived belief he could be a new book boyfriend by the fact that the first chapter is in his POV. And his POV sucks. “He” thinks in long, gaudy sentences without point beyond making him sound smart. And he’s boring. He doesn’t have much of a personality beyond the aforementioned list and his obsession with Lily, and even that isn’t followed much.

But unfortunately, he’s not the worst part. Because Lily? Lily goddamn sucks. (Follow-up to the disclaimer: I’m pretty sure she’s significantly worse than in the first.) Here’s a list of adjectives I angrily applied to Lily while reading: childish, attention-starved, b*tchy, bratty, unsatisfiable, selfish, annoying, and – God I hope – unrealistic. The entire book is Dash’s hopeless attempts to get her back in love with him/cheer her up – because she refuses to have an actual discussion with him.

But the book doesn’t end once they FINALLY stop with the irritating, unnecessary, unrealistic lack of communication. No, more bone-chillingly-annoying hijinks ensue. They each try to express their love for the other, but – get this! – it’s not that easy! Hahaha! Isn’t that fun! (Is the sarcasm coming through? Because I couldn’t be more sarcastic if I tried.) At this point, I was so fed up with both of their characters that seeing them have ooey gooey grand gestures of romance made me feel physically ill.

This book doesn’t even have the Christmasy feeling that redeemed What Light to two stars. No, this book doesn’t make me feel jolly or festive at all, let alone inspire the need for a candy cane that W.L. did. I could be reading this in August and have it feel equally appropriate.

Bottom line: Everything that happened in this book was so pointless and avoidable, and I didn’t even have a nice character or Christmasy feeling to help me cope. I can’t speak to the first book, but I can say that I couldn’t stand reading this one.

Man, that made me miss Christmas. As Justin Bieber once sang in the American classic “Mistletoe” (the titular mistletoe in the life-changing album titled “Under the Mistletoe”), “It’s the most beautiful time of the year.” Excited for December 2017 already.


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