Looking Through Lace

Looking Through Lace (Looking Through Lace, #1)Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed a title beginning with L for a book group challenge and had this on my Kindle. I had also tagged it Christmas – which is tomorrow – so I thought why not? It really has nothing to do with Christmas, except that it takes place on a planet called Christmas, named for the predominant red and green vegetation. It was a fun little diversion – a short story really – so I finished it in two sessions. It’s really quite a polished little piece. The author manages to create a believable world, complete with folk tales. I love languages, so I enjoyed the puzzle of why there is a secret women’s language on this world, and the process of learning about a culture through its language. Not everything is solved at the end (what DID happen to the first contact team?), and there is a sequel.

Description: As the only woman on the first contact team, xenolinguist Toni Donato expected her assignment on Christmas would be to analyze the secret women’s language — but then the chief linguist begins to sabotage her work. What is behind it? Why do the men and women have separate languages in the first place? What Toni learns turns everything she thought they knew on its head. Originally published in Asimov’s in 2003, “Looking Through Lace” was a finalist for the Tiptree and Sturgeon awards. The Italian translation won the Premio Italia for best work of speculative fiction in translation in 2007.

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Miracle and Other Christmas Stories

Miracle and Other Christmas StoriesMiracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will generously give this 3 stars. It was okay, but nothing special. I kind of expected more from Connie Willis. It’s an interesting variety of stories, and even styles, but I think I will be hard-pressed to remember any of them two months from now. My favorite was probably “Adaptation” in which a book-store clerk encounters the ghosts from Dickens’ Christmas Carol. “Inn” was interesting – the plight of Mary and Joseph displaced out of time to the parking lot of a modern-day church. And “Newsletter”, which was a fun spoof of both Christmas newsletters and movies like The Body Snatchers.

Book Description: Connie Willis capture the timeless essence of generosity and goodwill in this magical collection of Christmas stories. These eight tales-two of which have never before been published-boldly reimagine the stories of Christmas while celebrating the power of love and compassion. This enchanting treasury includes:

“Miracle,” in which a young woman’s carefully devised plans to find romance go awry when her guardian angel shows her the true meaning of love
“In Coppelius’s Toyshop,” where a jaded narcissist finds himself trapped in a crowded toy store at Christmastime
“Epiphany,” in which three modern-day wisemen embark on a quest unlike any they’ve ever experienced
“Inn,” where a choir singer gives shelter to a homeless man and his pregnant wife-only to learn later that there’s much more to the couple than meets the eye

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia De Luce, #4)I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This installment in the Flavia de Luce series felt more like a Christmas special than a full-length feature. We get cameo appearances of previous characters (charming but serving no purpose) all thrown together at Buckshaw during a winter storm. The plot is pretty thin, and the mystery seems very contrived. The characters involved are never really brought to life, so the murder and its resolution are relatively lackluster. Oh well. There is still plenty of charm with Flavia and her relationships with her sisters, her father, Dogger, and the Inspector.

Book Description: It’s Christmastime, and Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.