A Boy Called Christmas – Matt Haig

A Boy Called Christmas – Matt Haig

25882558You are about to read the true story of Father Christmas.
It is a story that proves that nothing is impossible.
If you are one of those people who believe that some things are impossible, you should put this book down right away. It is most certainly not for you.
Because this book is FULL of impossible things.

Are you still reading?


Then let us begin . . .

A Boy Called Christmas is a tale of adventure, snow, kidnapping, elves, more snow, and an eleven-year-old boy called Nikolas, who isn’t afraid to believe in magic.

If I was smart, I would have listened to my sister and read this a couple of days before Christmas, but I was busy (I guess) and didn’t get around to it until Christmas Day.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful festive read!

A Boy Called Christmas tells the story of Father Christmas from his humble beginnings as a poor little boy Nikolas. His journey involves all the things you would expect from a Christmas legend: elves, reindeer, a red hat. But rather than making them your usual happy-go-lucky elves, reindeer, and red hats, Matt Haig puts a unique spin on them: the elves live in Elfhelm and don’t like humans; certain reindeer enjoy “weeing” on people when they fly; and the red hat belongs to Nikolas’ widowed father who makes some poor decisions.

There will be a lot of people in your life who will tell you to ‘grow up’ or to insist that you stop believing in magic.

Do NOT listen to these people.

There’s also a mean aunt straight of a Roald Dahl book, a pixie with a penchant for exploding heads that wouldn’t be out of place in a Neil Gaiman children’s books, and a series of unfortunate events not unlike those by Lemony Snicket. In short, this book is an amalgamation of some of the best children’s book authors in history, and if you’re a fan of any of the above-mentioned dudes, you need to pick this one up.

An impossibility is just a possibility you don’t understand.

A quick read, it would work well as a read-along leading up to Christmas for younger children, but most kids could zoom through it on their own in about a day. The only reason I’m docking .5 of a star (well, an interrobang) is because there were a couple of moments that dragged the story down. Highly recommended to get you in the festive spirit!


4 interrobangs

4.5 interrobangs

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

First of all: MERRY CHRISTMAS (and/or Happy Holidays, if you don’t celebrate!). Whether you’re taking a break from crowding around the Christmas tree or doing something else entirely, I hope you’re cozy and warm and maybe enjoying a steaming mug of tea (or hot beverage of your choice) :)

at xmas

Now on to the review:

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

13595639Jack the Ripper is back, and he’s coming for Rory next….

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

I’ve heard a lot about Maureen Johnson but have never actually read any of her books. My sister actually read this one (and the sequel, The Madness Underneath), and told me I would probably enjoy them. So while we were in London, I decided to read a London-based book (all the better to imagine the setting!).

The first thing I noticed was how long it took to start. I realize that, as the first book in a trilogy, it was setting up the broader story, and I completely respect that. However, as someone who’s been criticized for taking too long to get the story started, I’ve come to expect books – especially YA books – to start a little faster.

Once stuff actually began to happen, the momentum picked up and hurtled along nicely. Of course, if you a) read the back of the book and b) have read any book ever in the history of the world, you should be able to guess who the Ripper is, even if you don’t know his motivation. Part of what dragged the beginning of the book down was waiting for Rory to clue into the same thing as you: that she can see ghosts and that that one particular dude is maybe a bit suspicious.

Otherwise, I have to give Maureen Johnson props for spinning an interesting story. There’s a healthy dose of diversity (Boo and Callum), boarding school politics, lots of details about daily life in London (which is one of my favourite cities), plus, of course, ghosts (personally, I’m hoping for more Alistair in the next books). It’s obvious that she put a lot of effort and research into making the story as true-to-life as a ghost story about a Ripper copycat can be, and that’s impressive.

My only other issue was the narrative voice. It sometimes felt stilted or lacking in enthusiasm. I can’t help but compare it to the other ghosts-in-London series I’ve read (and adored), Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co, where the writing is energetic and bursts off the page (and also has a much better ship that this one…I mean, I liked Jerome at the beginning, but he turns into quite the dullard as the story progresses). Unless it’s Johnson’s intention, at times it feels like even Rory has no belief or passion in what she’s talking about, and it’s hard to connect with a character who’s so disinterested in her own story.

I was waffling between 3 and 3.5 interrobangs on this one; given that it’s the beginning of a promising series with a great concept, I’ll round it up and give it a 3.5 (it is Christmas, after all!).


3 interrobangs

3.5 interrobangs

Christmas Time is Here [re-direct to idobi]

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been listening to Christmas music since late November. I even wrote a mini piece for idobi about one of my favourite Christmas songs – and one of the best covers! Click here to read more about Family Force 5’s cover of the Vince Guaraldi classic, “Christmas Time is Here”!

charlie brown christmas

More Like NaNo-NoGo

I’ve failed. Failed to complete NaNoWriMo, even though you’d think I’d have it under control, it being my third year and all (you can read my success stories here and here).

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I was determined to finish a manuscript, and I got stuck and couldn’t get unstuck. Partly because I know next-to-nothing about British law enforcement and sports, and guess what my WIP is about? BRITISH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SPORTS. So I was constantly pausing to research, and therefore only hit 29,000 words. My other problem is that I like talking about the characters, but I sometimes ignore the plot. My bad.

Plus I wrote 13654320 other things for this blog and Mind the Gap, and spent the rest of my time job-hunting, grumbling about job-hunting, decorating for Christmas, sleeping, and, I don’t know, probably eating.

food sleep

Instead of dwelling on my failure, I’m using this as a learning experience and I know that I will have to better manage my time next year. And, as a positive, I’ll be home for half of December, so I can work on my manuscript then (hopefully)!

I do think, however, that I wrote 50,000 words this month anyway (just not in my WIP!). The following is a list of posts I published in November:


Library of Souls review
5 Seconds of Summer mini-review
TTT: Book to Movie Adaptations
Book Blitz: Sugar Skulls
Anne & Henry review
Blog Tour: Every Word
The Real Neat Blog Award
Andrew McMahon concert review
The Universe Versus Alex Woods review
A Thousand Nights review


WCW: Lynn Gunn
Every series review
Why We Love Neil Gaiman
Orphan Black season one review
Tea-riffic Recommendations
Why We Love Andrew McMahon
NaNoWriMo (ironically, I didn’t follow my own advice!)
Soulless review
Why We Love Harry Potter
Community season five review
Holiday Music
Don Broco


Friday Night Lites review

And here’s a list of upcoming posts (written but not yet published) that I’ve been working on, since I’m going to London next week and won’t be home to write them! You can click the links now, but they won’t be live until the date listed in parentheses.


TTT: Top Ten Books of 2015 (Dec 15)


Victor Frankenstein review (Dec 2)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dec 4)
All I Want For Christmas (Dec 5)
My Favourite Christmas/Holiday Episodes (Dec 8)
London (Dec 10)
Holiday Movies (Dec 12)
All Time Low (Dec 14)
WCW: Emma Stone (Dec 16)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight review (Dec 18)
Celebrating the Holidays (Dec 19)
How I Met Your Mother season nine (Dec 22)
Best of 2015 (Dec 26)

You could also maybe sign up for the Mind the Gap newsletter (on our homepage), so that you can keep up with these posts every week (but only if you want to!).


My Christmas Letter to All Time Low/You Me At Six
Un(Covered): Christmas Time is Here
Un(Covered): Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

For anyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, how did it go? And for the rest of you: how was your November?

Christmas time is here…

On today, the eve of Christmas Eve, I want to talk about CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Because I LOVE Christmas music!

I decided to pick 5 of my favourite Christmas songs (I didn’t repeat any artists, because if I allowed myself to repeat artists, I’d end up writing a post that says: “LISTEN TO FAMILY FORCE 5’S CHRISTMAS PAGEANT IN ITS ENTIRETY. YOU’RE WELCOME.”).

So here it is (this was so difficult to choose just 5!)

“Fool’s Holiday” – All Time Low

The first time I heard it, my heart grew 3 times its normal size. It’s incredible. Every time I hear it, I have to stop what I’m doing and sing along at the top of my voice, play air guitar, and whip my hair back and forth. If you like this, check out ATL’s other holiday song (from 2011), “Merry Christmas, Kiss My Ass“.

“Ho Ho Hopefully” – The Maine

 IT’S PERFECTION. JOHN O’CALLAGHAN LOOKS SO YOUNG BUT HE’S STILL SO CUTE. Their entire Christmas EP is adorable, but this song is my favourite!

“Carol of the Bells” – Family Force 5

Impossible to pick a favourite off of FF5’s Christmas Pageant album. It was a battle between this, “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (for which Ro and I have an epic interpretive dance that may or may not involve sliding across the living room floor and a lot of jazz hands).

“Santa Baby” – Madonna

One of my all time favourite Christmas songs. It never gets old. The Michael Buble version is pretty spectacular too.

“Mile High Christmas” – Breathe Carolina

Because who doesn’t want to make like Kyle and scream “PRESENTS! LET’S OPEN THIS SHIT UP” on Christmas morning?

BONUS: “Winter Passing” – The Academy Is…

It’s not specifically a “Christmas” song, but it’s wintery and he mentions the holidays and it’s just one of those songs that make you want to curl up under a blanket with a mug of tea and a single tear running down your face. For me, anyway.

For (pop)punk fans, make sure you look up the two holiday albums from Fearless Records: 2011’s (digital-only) ‘Tis the Season to be Fearless and 2013’s Punk Goes Christmas.  There’s also the aforementioned Christmas Pageant (2009) by Family Force 5 and the …And a Happy New Year EP (2008) from The Maine, plus the somewhat heart-wrenching-because-it-was-one-of-the-first-songs-he-wrote/recorded-after-his-cancer-treatment song, “The Lights and Buzz” from Andrew McMahon (released as a Jack’s Mannequin song) (I’m tearing up just thinking about the “it’s good to be alive” lyric).

There are so many songs and so many versions, I couldn’t list all of the ones I love without this post going on for days! But it’s almost Christmas, and I have work to do and cookies to eat, so…