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December 10, 2016

Review: Rarity From The Hollow by Robert Eggleton

by MK French

November 2016; Dog Horn; 978-1907133060;
ebook & print (284 pages); science fiction
a free ebook was provided for this review

Lacy Dawn lives in the hollow of West Virginia with her mother and father and deals with domestic violence, abuse, and then the death of her best friend. She focuses on her education and her friendship with DotCom, the android that lives in a cave and is determined to teach her about her destiny to save the universe. In exchange for this help, Lacy Dawn insists on fixing her parents and herself

There are a lot of problematic elements that Lacy Dawn lives with: the casual violence, the drug use, the ignorance, the poverty, and the repeated mentions of child sexuality. It's disturbing and disturbingly real, and I had many moments where I wished I could swoop in and rescue Lacy Dawn from her family. There's a distinct shift in the book once her parents are "fixed" via ports and cables she installs in her parents' necks. The actual procedure is hand waved and not described, but the plot veers dramatically toward the intergalactic mall and the strange rules that are placed on the shoppers and then on Lacy Dawn in particular. There is quite a bit of meandering here, and then Lacy Dawn's actual mission to save the intergalactic mall and the universe is revealed.

Robert Eggleton worked with struggling families and abused children in West Virginia, and it certainly shows. Proceeds from the sales of this book are being donated, which is a very commendable and worthy cause. The first part of the book is strikingly drawn, and even with the presence of DotCom and Lacy Dawn conversing with the trees and her friend's ghost, feels hauntingly real. The storytelling style is very offputting for me, however. Most of the time, authors are told to show and not tell, but here it's all telling. We get lists of things that the characters did, without much description to let us know how they're affected by it. Instead, the characters' thoughts are interspersed between the bits of action, likely to be third person omniscient narration. I found it very confusing and distracting. The characters' preoccupation with violence, drugs, and sex organs continued even after Lacy Dawn's parents were "fixed," and often derailed otherwise serious moments. She often was the most adult character in the entire book! The end of the novel was absurd, even by the standards set in the second half of the novel. As difficult as it would have been to read because of the content, I would have much preferred to read a story about Lacy Dawn living in the hollow and overcoming the horrible struggles she faced without the ridiculous and over the top antics. Overall, I really didn't enjoy this book.

Buy Rarity From the Hollow at Amazon


MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 9, 2016

Popular Romance Novels to Read this Winter



Romance novels can be the perfect read this time of year. There is something about the holiday season that makes me want to read about young love and happily ever afters. If you are looking for a romance to curl up by the fire with, check out these popular novels.


cover Everything for Her
USA TODAY bestselling author Alexa Riley's first full-length novel shows just what happens when a strong, possessive man finds the woman of his dreams.

I'll never forget the way she looked, so confident and sure of herself. I watched her from a distance. She wasn't ready for me yet. I didn't approach her and I didn't disturb her, but I never once took my eyes off her.

Mallory Sullivan is ready to start her new life. After graduating at the top of her class, she's landed one of the most coveted internships in the United States. Hard work and determination have gotten her to this moment of living the life she only dreamed of while growing up in foster care.

From the start, I knew that she would be my greatest achievement, so the day I let her go, I set down a path for her. A path to me.

She never expected Oz to be the greatest culmination of those dreams. But sometimes fate determines who you fall in love with. Who makes you lose control. Who owns your soul.

And then you realize it wasn't fate at all…

I've wanted to care for and protect her since the first moment I saw her. I've constructed everything in our lives so that at the perfect moment, I could have her, could give her the life she deserves.

The time has come.

Buy Everything for Her at Amazon


cover The Trouble With Dukes
THEY CALL HIM THE DUKE OF MURDER...

The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse—a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he'll take on any challenge—even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn't the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she's fighting battles of her own. For her, he'll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

Buy The Trouble with Dukes at Amazon


cover Nico
A dangerous proposal

Las Vegas Mafia boss, Nico Toscani, is used to getting what he wants, whether it is having the City of Sin under his rule or a beautiful woman in his bed. But when he meets his match in the gorgeous, headstrong Mia Cordano, the daughter of a rival crime lord, all bets are off. . .

Sexy computer hacker, Mia, struggles to break free of her ruthless father’s Mafia ties…but she can’t resist the powerful and seductive Nico, who will stop at nothing to possess her. With their families locked in a brutal war for control of the city, Mia and Nico enter into a forbidden game. Will they surrender to the passion that burns between them—and risk tearing apart their families? Or will Nico be forced to betray the only woman who sets his blood on fire?

Buy Nico at Amazon


cover Moonshadow
Her past is a blank, her future uncertain….

Recovering from a shooting, LAPD witch consultant Sophie Ross leaves her job and travels to the U.K. to search for answers about her childhood. When she encounters a Daoine Sidhe knight of the Dark Court, she becomes entangled in an ancient hatred between two arcane forces.

He has given his body and soul to fight for his people….

Barred from his homeland along with his surviving brother knights, Nikolas Sevigny is embroiled in a conflict that threatens everything he holds dear. Only by uniting his people’s resources can they hope to prevail against Isabeau, the deadly Queen of the Light Court. He will do anything and use anyone to return home to Lyonesse.

When Nikolas encounters Sophie, he sees a tool to be used. The insouciant witch might be the key to unlocking every passageway that has been barred to the knights of the Dark Court, even as a fascination for her takes root in what’s left of his soul.

Sophie has no intention of becoming anyone’s pawn, yet the fierce Nikolas is so compelling, she can’t deny the temptation that endangers her guarded heart.

As magic threatens Lyonesse, Queen Isabeau unleashes her merciless Hounds, and Nikolas and Sophie become embroiled in a race for survival. Meanwhile, the passion that ignites between them burns too hot to be denied and quickly turns into obsession.

Thank goodness they both know better than to fall in love…

Buy Moonshadow at Amazon


cover Destiny on Ice
"Hilarious and perfectly 'played' sports romance that I devoured in one sitting! I can't wait to read more." -#1 NYT Bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken

Hot hockey superstar Brent Oliver has it all—good looks, charm, dozens of endorsement deals, and a spectacular career.

Uh, nix that last one.

Brent has the talent and skill that should have his career soaring. But something is wrong. He’s lost his hockey mojo and can’t get it back.

Enter Aubrey Shelburne, life coach to the stars.

Aubrey’s worked with some difficult celebrities, but she’s never encountered a guy quite like Brent Oliver.

Or has she?

Seems a reckless night of partying, one that had Aubrey waking up in a strange man’s bed, is about to bite her in the ass. That is, if Brent doesn’t first.

Fighting an off-the-charts attraction, Aubrey and Brent must learn to work together. But it’s not an easy task when they’re at each other’s throats every minute.

Is this relationship a disaster in the making?

Or is it destiny?

Washboard abs and sex toy mishaps aside, Destiny on Ice is a fun and irreverent romp that’ll have you swooning on one page and laughing on the next.

Buy Destiny on Ice at Amazon


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December 8, 2016

Grumpy & Heart-warming?: A Review of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

by Emily Morley

May 2015; Washington Square Press; 9781476738024;
ebook & print (337 pages); humor & satire  
I am so late to the party when it comes to reading this book.

My friends read it before me.

And my sister.

And all of my aunts.

My mom and her book club read it before me.

I hesitated to pick up A Man Called Ove for one single reason: who would want to read about a grumpy—nay, bitter—old man for hundreds of pages? Who would want to write about him for that long? Apparently, Fredrik Backman did, but that wasn’t enough to convince me. I wasn’t going to read it, but my mom was so enthralled by it that she’d read passages to me over the phone and laughed out loud in the process. I had to give it a chance.

Set in Sweden, the novel revolves around Ove, a 59-year-old man who’s recently lost his wife, Sonja, and his job. If this wasn’t grim enough, he also plans to kill himself. What’s the point without Sonja? He has no children, no friends. He’s surrounded by idiotic neighbors—including a new family that moves in next door—and hates them all passionately.

It’s hard to like Ove at first. His harsh sarcasm feels like teenage melodrama. No one can do anything right. Everyone is an idiot. Why can’t anyone learn how to do things properly? I get the feeling that Backman was striving for an attitude akin to Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1205489/) but misses the mark. These thoughts—grumbling about virtually everything—swirl around Ove’s head like a dark storm for much of the novel.

They’re also the thing keeping him alive.

Whenever he gets close to killing himself, he worries about what people might think, or broods about the injustice of life, or burns with the ever-fresh hatred of his rival and nemesis, Rune.

It takes a long time, but Backman does reward readers with more insight into Ove. It’s not the “break open the shell to see the big softie inside” bit that we’re familiar with. Ove may have a shell, but he’s not that soft on the inside. Life has made him tough all the way through.

I have to admit putting this book down halfway through. The story felt stale to me. If Ove was growing or changing in any way, I wasn’t seeing it. He’s so guarded that even the narration only hints at his true feelings. The other stumbling block was my lack of knowledge about Swedish healthcare and social services. It’s quite different than the policies in the U.S., and profoundly effects Ove at the end of the story. I can’t complain too much since Backman is, in fact, Swedish, and the novel was first published there, but it did slow me down.

Still, this novel left me feeling a bit let down. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t bad. From all the rave reviews, I was just expecting it to be great.

Buy A Man Called Ove at Amazon


Born and raised in Michigan, Emily Morley is an artist and aspiring author who’s been writing and illustrating books since she was six years old. She gravitates towards fantasy (hello, fellow Harry Potter fans) and books about complicated characters overcoming the impossible. She’s also an avid traveler who’s managed to read on six continents and hopes to add the seventh soon. When she is home, she likes to curl up with a huge cup of steaming tea and a good, thick book. 


Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 7, 2016

Review: The Next One Will Kill You by Neil S. Plakcy

by MK French
November 2016; Diversion Books; 9781682303016
ebook & print (268 pages); mystery
a free ebook was provided for this review

Angus Green had wanted more than a boring desk job, so he joined the FBI and was assigned to work in Miami. As a rookie, he didn't expect to work visible cases, but he happened to be participating in a strip trivia contest at the gay bar colleagues were supposed to meet an informant. Because Angus knows that crowd best, he was then reassigned to help them with the anti-terrorism task force. Through people he knew or were able to approach, he not only found out what happened to the missing informant, but also discovered ties to drugs, trafficking, medical fraud, and jewel theft. Not bad for a first serious case!

As the opener for a suspenseful police procedural, Angus does a very good job of being an approachable and likable protagonist. There is enough depth to his character to make him believable, and Angus also has his selfish moments and blunders to balance out the fantastically beneficial timing he has. He gets along well with a number of the FBI colleagues he works with, and enough of the procedures and lingo is explained in a fluid way so novices can understand what Angus is doing. There are subplots involving his brother Daniel and mentions of other law enforcement officials that are woven into the main story without distracting from it, though it certainly distracts Angus. Likely these characters will show up again in later books and have a much larger role. Miami was as much a character as the people Angus met or interacted with, and the setting was very vividly described. All in all, a great first book in a series that makes me want to check out future cases.

Buy The Next One Will Kill You at Amazon

MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 6, 2016

An Early Christmas Present from Mary Alice Monroe

A Lowcountry Christmas (Lowcountry Summer #5)

October 2016; Gallery Books; 9781501125539;
ebook & print (384 pages); holiday romance
a free book was provided for this review
     
A Lowcountry Christmas is book 5 in Mary Alice Monroe's Lowcountry Summer series but instead of being a continuation of the story, it's a prequel and can be read as a stand-alone without any confusion.

I love Mary Alice Monroe's books and I really enjoyed this series so I was thrilled that there would be another book in the series. This is Taylor's story about his life before he married Harper. When Taylor returned from Afghanistan, he had PTSD and couldn't cope with life. His younger brother was afraid of him and his moods and inaction were making life difficult for the family. What the family thought would be one of the best Christmases ever because Taylor was home, quickly turned into one of the worst for his 10-year-old brother Miller.  Their dad's shrimp boat was docked and their mom was working two jobs and all Miller wanted for Christmas was a puppy.  He was told that there was no money to feed a dog and when Taylor received his service dog, Miller was really angry.  After Taylor received a service dog from Pets for Vets (a real group who helps vets), his life and his attitude toward life began to slowly change.  But would he be able to help Miller and his family have a good Christmas??

As always, Mary Alice writes lovingly about the South Carolina Lowcountry. When you read her books, you can smell the ocean and feel the ocean breeze. She is also an avid conservationist and this is reflected in her books. Her love of animals shines through in her descriptions of Thor, Taylor's service dog.

I loved this book. I highly recommend it and think that it will put the readers into the Christmas spirit and make them believe in the miracles of love and family.

Buy A Lowcountry Christmas at Amazon

Other books in the Lowcountry series:
The Summer Girls
The Summer Wind
The Summer's End
A Lowcountry Wedding  

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.


Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 5, 2016

December Reading List #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber




I still have 15 books to read in order to reach my goal of 75 books read this year. I was hoping to have a Christmas related story on my reading list this month, but I haven't found one yet that I want to read. Do you have any suggestions?

Here's what I've read, reading, and up next....

Finished:
cover The Guest Room
From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes the spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room, two women are on the run from police, and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night.

In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

I always enjoy Chris Bohjalian's books. He does a great job telling a story in such a realistic way that it feels more like truth than fiction.

Buy The Guest Room at Amazon

I also finished a book I've been reading off and on since September - Unlocking Worlds by Sally Allen.

Currently Listening To:
cover The Hobbit
Tolkien’s famous saga, the prelude to the Lord of the Rings, has all the ingredients of fantasy and adventure: dwarves, elves, goblins and trolls, a fearsome dragon, a great wizard, a perilous quest and a dramatic climax. At the centre is the unsuspecting hero Bilbo Baggins, a home-loving unambitious Hobbit who is suddenly thrust into the biggest, indeed the only adventure of his life. The radio dramatisation of The Hobbit became a classic when it was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1968 and it continues to delight today.

I'll admit that I've never read The Hobbit (or any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). I was intrigued by this being the radio show broadcast and thought it would be a fun way to listen to the story. And so far I'm right. If you love The Hobbit and enjoy radio shows, then I recommend trying this one.

Buy The Hobbit at Amazon


Currently Reading:
cover This is Sarah
When Colin Leventhal leaned out his bedroom window on the night of May 12th and said goodbye to his girlfriend, he never expected it would be forever. But when Sarah Evans goes missing that night, Colin's world unravels as he transforms from the boyfriend next door to the main police suspect. Then one year later, at her memorial service, Colin makes a phone call that changes everything. Is it possible that Sarah is still alive? And if so how can he bring her back?

As Colin struggles with this possibility, across the street, Sarah’s little sister, Claire learns how to navigate the strange new landscape of life without her sister. While her parents fall apart, Claire remains determined to keep going even if it kills her.

This is Sarah serves as a meditation on loss, love and what it means to say goodbye.

This is one of those ebooks that got "lost" on my ereader (I really need to find a better system of keeping up with ebooks for review). Since I'm looking for short books to read so I can meet my goal, I went through and found the shortest book on my ereader and This is Sarah fit the bill. So far it isn't your typical missing person story. It's interesting, but maybe not as engaging as I had hoped.

Buy This is Sarah at Amazon


Up Next to Read:
cover Hitwoman plays chaperone
Maggie Lee’s done a lot of questionable things that have made her question her own sanity. Chaperoning her niece’s class trip is one of them.

Not only must she attempt to corral a bunch of energetic kids, but at the same time she has to argue with the talking lizard in her bra, avoid a mysterious doppelganger, and chase down runaway horses!

And that’s just the beginning.

With her relationships and alliances in flux, Maggie is uncertain of what her next steps should be. Caught between the family drama caused by the return of her sister, Darlene, and her own efforts to save an innocent boy, Maggie struggles to make the right decisions and protect lives that hang in the balance.

Can Maggie navigate these latest landmines, or will relationships, or even a life, be lost?

I love the Hitwoman series and they are always fun, quick reads. The perfect read during the holiday chaos.

Buy The Hitwoman Plays Chaperone at Amazon


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.


Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: http://eepurl.com/mHTVL. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 4, 2016

Flash Fiction: Anti-Santa

by Chris



Dear Santa,
For Christmas I would like a Dreamy Donna Doll, a new notepad to draw in, a bright blue bicycle, and a surprise. I promise I have been very good this year, as my parents will tell you. I have told them everything I want, and they promised they would get them, so please, Santa—don’t take them away! I will leave mince pies and whiskey for you, and a carrot for Rudolph, and if you want to take one of Billy’s presents, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind (he has too many already). But I didn’t get any presents last year, and I really think I’ve been good this time, so please, please leave me something.

Yours truly,
Sally.

“Have you finished your letter to Santa, Sally dear?”

Sally nodded. “Yes, Mummy. It’s all ready to leave under the tree.”

“And what about Santa’s treats?” asked Daddy.

“I had trouble pouring the whiskey,” Sally admitted, “but the mince pie is all ready for him! And the carrot for Rudolph.”

“That’s okay,” Daddy patted Sally on the head. He took the whiskey and poured two tumblers—one for Santa, one for him. Santa, it seemed, didn’t need as much.

“Run along now,” Mummy said. “You and Billy had better get into bed before Santa gets here. You know what’ll happen if he catches you out of bed!”

Sally nodded, and Billy followed her with wide eyes. Billy was only four. Together they brushed their teeth, put on their PJs, and slipped under the covers of their beds. They shared the small bedroom, which Sally was not strictly happy about, but she never complained—not once, all year.

“Mummy,” said Billy, “can you tell us the Christmas story?”

Mummy came into their bedroom, her own glass tippling around in her hand. “Do you mean the one about Harry and Santa’s helpers?” Billy nodded. “Of course, dear. It’s an important one. You remember your brother Harry, don’t you?”

Billy shook his head, but Sally had a vivid memory of a young boy, perhaps a few years older than herself, with bright orange hair and freckles covering his chin. She was certain she had once played with Harry, but it seemed so long ago, it was hard to tell the difference between memory and imagination. Was Harry real? Mummy certainly said so.

“Well, you both had an older brother Harry once, who was not nearly as well-behaved as you two darlings. And one year for Christmas, he threw an especially nasty tantrum right on Christmas Eve! Can you believe that? Well, the next morning, what should he find but that all the presents that your mummy and daddy had bought for him were gone! Yours were there, Sally” —she nodded to Sally— “and you, of course, weren’t here yet, Billy, but Harry … well, we certainly thought he had learned his lesson.”

“He didn’t though, did he, Mummy,” said Billy.

Mummy shook her head. “No, he didn’t. The very next day he threw another tantrum. And the day after, and after that. All the year long. And then, do you know what he said come the following Christmas?”

Sally, of course, knew this story by heart and knew exactly what Harry had said.

“He said, ‘I don’t believe in Santa, and I think you’re just mean old parents!’ It just broke Mummy’s heart to hear, but come Christmas morning, Sally was up, and Mummy and Daddy were up, and the presents were all there … but there was no Harry. He was gone!”

“Where did he go, Mummy?” Billy asked.

“Santa took him,” she said soberly. “He didn’t learn his lesson when his presents were taken, so Santa took him instead. And now he works for Santa, day in and day out, making the toys that you two” —she smiled at them— “are getting from your mum and dad tomorrow.”

“You mean you get the toys from Santa?” asked Billy.

“Well of course, silly. You didn’t think we got them from the toy store, did you?”

Of course they didn’t, thought Sally. That was only where spoiled children got their toys.

“All right,” said Mummy, “lights out—it’s time for a good night’s sleep. And in the morning, let’s hope all your toys are still there!”

It wasn’t long for Billy to fall fast asleep, but for a while, Sally lay awake. She had seen the boxes in silver wrapping paper under the tree, and the large package that looked suspiciously like a bicycle. She knew that last year, Santa had come and taken all her presents. She didn’t want Santa to take her away this year.

But she couldn’t sleep. Soon, she heard the familiar sounds of Mummy and Daddy going to bed, and before long there was silence all through the house. The lights on the tree blinked slowly on and off; the streetlamp outside cast an eerie glow through the window.

It was then, in the deepest, darkest part of the night, that Sally heard it: a faint jingle from above. The sounds of hoofs on the roof. A sliding through snow. Sally’s heart stopped in her throat.

Then came the sound of dust and soot falling in the chimney, and a log rolled across the parlor floor. Sally held her breath.

And then there was nothing but silence for a time. Ever so slowly, Sally began to think that perhaps Santa was gone. Perhaps she had in fact imagined the whole thing. But how could she be sure?

There was only one way to find out. With dry palms and tingling feet, Sally slid the covers off of her and crossed the carpeted floor to the bedroom door. The door had been left ajar, and she peeked out. From here she could see down the hall, but not into the parlor itself. The walls blinked on and off with the tree.

Ever so carefully, she tiptoed down the hall, back to the wall. She didn’t know why she did this; it wasn’t like Santa couldn’t take her anyway. Foot by foot, inch by inch, the parlor doorway grew closer. Finally, she peeked around the corner.

She nearly shrieked: there was Santa, big red boots and long white beard, sitting in Daddy’s armchair, whiskey in hand, staring straight at her. He was really there; he was really real! She knew she was doomed.

Santa let out a loud grunt, and stood—clearly with effort. “Ho, ho, ho,” he said softly. Sally swallowed.

“Are you little Sally?”

Sally could only nod.

“I hear you think you’ve been good this year,” he said, again in a soft, soft voice. “You think you deserve your presents.”

Sally nodded. Then she shook her head. Then she nodded again.

“Well?” asked Santa. “Which is it?”

Sally opened her mouth and shut it again. Finally, she croaked, “I … I thought I was.”

“Then why are you up so late, little Sally?”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

Santa nodded slowly. “Couldn’t sleep. Hm … very good.”

Finally, Sally plucked up the courage to ask, “Santa … have you come to take me away?”

And then, for the first time, Santa seemed suddenly kind, and he leaned down close to Sally. “Do you want me to?”

Sally shook her head.

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to make toys for all the other girls and boys,” she whimpered.

“Is that what you think will happen?”

“That’s what happened to Harry.”

“Harry? Who’s Harry?”

“Santa?” Sally could hardly hold back the tears. “Why are you here?”

Santa bobbed his head, his beard waggling. “My dear Sally … I haven’t come for you. Oh my no, not at all! Sally … I’ve come for your parents!”

In her shock, Sally could only sputter, “Have they been naughty?”

Santa’s eyes widened, and he grinned. “Oh, so very, very naughty.”

And Santa kept his word. In the morning, the tree was still up, the stockings were hung, and all the presents were there. But there was no Mummy and no Daddy. At first, Sally was scared, but then she thought that it was somewhat more peaceful without Mummy crying that all the presents were gone, and Daddy shouting about why he had such naughty children. And the bike was a beautiful, gorgeous shade of teal. Perhaps it was better this way, she thought. Perhaps she hadn’t been naughty at all.

In the end, a new Mummy and Daddy came, and they took her and Billy and said that they would come to live with them, in a place where presents were never taken away, and bad behavior was talked about and not punished. Sally never had to pour whiskey again, and every Christmas ate all the mince pies she could stomach. She never did see her old Mummy and Daddy again and wondered if they had been put to work making toys for the children in Santa’s workshop.

She never did know what happened to Harry, though.

Chris, features writer. Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris' creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art, and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of ErĂ¢th. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgment that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at http://satiswrites.com.


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