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Momo – :
Love it!!! Andi is so amazing. I love how all her main characters usually have good productive jobs! I was looking into the book thinking it was going to be some boring old christmas story but I should have known better then to believe Andi was capable or the norm! Kudos! It was a great read and I suggest this for anyone! Don’t shy away from it just because it isn’t your normal read. IT IS WORTH IT!!!
Cynthia Corral – :
This book is so sweet and charming, I loved it. It’s a lesbian themed update of A Christmas Carol, and this revision is about as simple as can be, but that is good. A Christmas Carol is a classic because it has a message for everyone, and even though we know exactly what is going to happen in this story, I was still drawn in and emotionally tied to Robin’s journey.
I also loved everyone involved with The Bureau much more than I loved the original Ghosts. Full of personality and sass, we get to read their reports on Robin’s progress after each visit.
There’s nothing complicated about this story, it’s just a retelling of the original, and it works. I loved it and I was charmed by it, so it gets 5 stars for being exactly what it is supposed to be.
Thank you to NetGalley and Ylva Publishing for giving me the opportunity to review this short, sweet little book.
Marcy – :
This was one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a while and will become a yearly Christmas tradition going forward. The author does an amazing job of storytelling in this book. Taking a traditional storyline that has been used in many books and movies over the years and making it her own, adding some twists that were very fun. I loved all of the ghosts but Christmas Future was the winner! The minute I read the business card I bust out laughing as it was totally unexpected.
When I was part way through the book and already getting to the last of the visits, I wondered what she was going to do for the last half of the book and it just got better. I enjoyed following Robins journey through the book and watching her grow and learn through the story. All of the characters were well developed and left me wanting more. I would love to see a yearly book or short story follow up with the Bureau cast where we learn more about them and new case assignments.
I’ve read other books by this author (Sleep Hollow, Hat down and Boots Up) and they were equally enjoyable and engaging.
parsec71 – :
A charming reinterpretation of Dicken’s classic. The Christmas Past part moved me to tears. Excellent narrative.
jeep28 – :
The Bureau of Holiday Affairs is Andi Marquette’s next offering in what appears to be a line of vintage re-tellings. In her adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Irving Washington, I saw great promise in her ability to create a fresh version of the spooky classic. I had hoped for a similar intriguing concept when Marquette announced she would be writing a new twist on the beloved A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
Re-imagining such an iconic work must contain a fine balance between old and new ideas. I applaud Marquette for finding that harmony as she produced completely new characters and gave the work a modern-day feel set in the world of emails versus the land of cobblestones. The overall premise is the same, but there is no curmudgeon pondering over assets. Instead we have a woman concerned more with selfies than coinage.
Robin Preston, the troubled main character, is visited by three wildly different spirits who highlight her life during various times. And in lieu of a deceased former business partner, we have Senior Agent Elizabeth Tolson working for The Holiday Bureau to set things on course.
While I can completely appreciate the creativity poured into constructing a new spin, this version left me disheartened at the missed opportunity for a new holiday favorite. When reading a book, you want to empathize with one or more of the characters. You want to cry with them, cheer for them, and even fall in love with them. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single character to even care about.
The spirits’ personalities were all ridiculously overdone to the point of overkill. Since they’re already dead maybe overkill is the wrong word? But their characterizations were outrageous and often distracted from the story. I can understand wanting the ghosts to have colorful personas, but for almost every character in the book to embody standard stereotypes is repetitive. In addition to the outlandish ghosts, there is an all-boys club of colleagues that hates dykes, a salacious executive’s wife who seduces women, and a mousey assistant who is actually intelligent.
But my main dislike was for Robin. This is the character to make us believe in absolution, but I was so tired of her constant ignorance that I wanted to help the Ghost of Christmas Future dig the grave.
I could never fully understand what her job entailed, but she held some vague top position at an ambiguous company. She is supposedly a high-ranking corporate shark, but I have met janitors with a more professional decorum than the one she presents. The strong female character promoted in the summary of this book is absent from the story.
If we are to believe Robin is up for a CEO promotion, then I would assume her to be somewhat well mannered, highly educated, affluent in her dialogue, and have a polish above reproach. Honestly though, a bar of soap should replace Robin’s toothpaste.
In chapters 1-3 alone, there were several variations on the word “fuck” and almost 50 curse words total. She refers to near everyone as a “dick” or implies their intentions towards her as “dick moves.” Robin’s inner dialogue is just as disappointing as I found her horribly crass.
Not only was Robin’s vocabulary unprofessional, but so were her actions. She allows co-workers to speak to her on a first-name basis and her wardrobe (band tees, snake rings, skull-and-cross bone earrings) was better suited for a groupie at a KISS concert than a businesswoman. Also her office sounded terribly untidy with empty food containers, used coffee cups, and shoes tossed about.
It’s these details that instantly make the character and setting unrealistic. We have been told that the company’s culture stands against anything progressive, thus her informalities, wardrobe choices, and disorderly office would never be allowed.
In order for the character to have a redemption arc, then she must have something other than poor communication skills to be redeemed from. Robin’s only faults are that she doesn’t make time for her brother and she sleeps with a married woman. In my opinion, these actions do not constitute someone in dire need of three ghostly visits.
To make her look somewhat callous, the author has Robin fire an employee only to find out later, via the Ghost of Christmas Present, that the guy lives in hovel and has an asthmatic child. I couldn’t find Robin terrible for this because people get fired every day and her actions were even backed up by meeting the bottom line of the company. It was business, not personal. Besides, the guy obviously needs a better job if working for her only pays enough to live in deplorable conditions.
I expected Robin to be someone who had caused significant anguish or had shunned every emotion other than greed from her heart, but that was not the case. I kept reading, hoping that I would find a portrayal of a truly soulless creature in need of holy water to validate the Bureau’s presence in her life but it never came.
I also continuously became aggravated with her lack of common sense.
When Agent Tolson arrives at Robin’s office, she asks her: “Who the hell are you?” even after Agent Tolson has identified herself. What professional businesswoman would greet another professional businesswoman with such a salutation?
Tolson begins to tick off a few facts such as Robin’s birthday and college degree. Instantly, Robin retorts: “How do you have all of that information on me? That has to be illegal. You’ll be hearing from my attorney…”
Um, ok, you can find out more than that from a person’s Linkedin account.
The amount of uncertainty Robin has must make picking out socks a Herculean morning effort. Throughout the book we learn: She isn’t sure why she still has her old clothes or jewelry. She isn’t sure why she easily slips back into art vernacular at a showing. She isn’t sure why her stomach keeps clenching. She isn’t sure if this was all a dream. She isn’t sure why she picks up a note pad and pen. She isn’t sure if she means it when she says “take care.” Honestly, this woman isn’t sure about anything.
Four times the Ghost of Christmas Future had to tell her there are different and infinite possibilities for the future. Four times. And we’re only talking within a chapter or two. If she’s up for the CEO promotion, then I’m selling my stock.
Another grievance I held with this book was the constant scenario of being told not shown by the author.
Example 1- …always climbing the corporate ladder.
This phrase is repeated several times, yet we don’t learn how she has been furthering her career.There is practically nothing about late nights at the office, the extreme wooing of clients, the various business trips, the times she volunteered for projects or any examples of her spearheading leadership teams on corporate campaigns.
Example 2- Both were going at it hard.
Once again, show us. Describe the slick bodies sliding in tandem, the swell of breasts rubbing rhythmically, and the rumpled sheets lying on the floor. Now would even be a good time to implement all of those curse words wandering about the pages so freely.
The editing in this book also felt bewildering. In most cases it was the amount of repetitive words and phrases which had me gift-wrapping thesauruses. The word “mist” appears over 20 times in just the first 22% of the story, the word “sugar” is repeated 14 times in a single chapter, and the word “sparks” is used constantly to travel down thighs, fingers, and spines.
But I also found that the sentence structure was all over the map. Sentences were either a combination of fragments, extremely short and choppy, or they became run-ons exceeding in 30-50+ words. At one point I was reaching for an inhaler.
Robin brushed Jill’s lips with her own, a brief, gentle touch, and then Jill’s hands were in Robin’s hair, and Jill kissed her slowly and deeply, and Robin’s hands were on Jill’s face, holding her in place until she pulled away, her grip dropping to Robin’s shoulders and then to the remaining buttons on Robin’s shirt.
A patrol boat cruised past. Robin watched it. That would be an interesting job, probably. Hard, but sort of cool.
She was about to go get something to eat when her desk phone rang. Mary from HR. Robin answered. It made her feel more human, more like she’d felt years ago. Pause.
And when Robin would travel, there would be others in the scene who, while not crucial characters, were still relevant enough to the story that they deserved names.
• “What do you think?” dress woman asked. “I love it,” black pants responded, and Robin started.
• “Have you combined them?” Trust fund leaned in, interested. “Not really, no,” funky hipster said.
Additionally, there were an absurd amount of references to The Matrix. It was unfortunate because not everyone has seen the movie, therefore the numerous “red pill” mentions were lost on me. It’s one thing to reference a film, but to use it as a trope fails if your reader cannot make the connection.
And the ending of the novel was somewhat mysterious. Anyone could have missed the meaning of it if they hadn’t paid extra attention to a handful of character Jill Chen’s quotes earlier in the book. I’m sure it was meant to be clever, but it may end up as a missed revelation to some.
I do not fault the author entirely for the above points. A beta or an editor should have caught some of these critiques but I am convinced everyone was out drinking eggnog with the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Granted, there are places in the novel where Marquette’s ability to weave a tale shines beautifully. It is just unfortunate that those places are amidst vast amounts of poorly constructed paragraphs.
With all my being, I wanted to like this story. I have read one other book by Marquette and several enjoyable blog posts by her, yet the skill-set of this work is not comparable.
Marquette is one of publisher Ylva’s most esteemed authors so I can only surmise it was the rush of a Christmas deadline that affected the content of this novel. While I am not sold on this particular book, there is no doubt Marquette’s imagination is a delightful place to be and I look forward to the future works she will produce.
NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of a review.
Enrico – :
Maybe it is a strange thing to say, but reading the Bureau, I realized an entirely new meaning of Dickens’ novella.
I used to think it was an old Christmas fable about an old avaricious man, regaining his integrity at Christmas time. A nice, fantastic, moral story for children.
But I was missing the point. I was missing the archetypes, the essence.
The change of perspective of this book, makes the new Scrooge to have the features of Robin Preston, a relatively young and pretty woman, rich, but not at the top of her business company and yes, with her baggage of errors, but looking closely, indeed a very nice lady.
Following Robin’s process to find herself again, I understood that Scrooge is not only a caricature, but a symbol of each one of us, whose wounds from the past and prolonged errors of the present prevent our happiness now and in the future. And that (message of hope!) this state of things is reversible by deep self-analysis and determined will to correct ourselves.
Other than that, this is a very nice, sweet and happy romance, very much in tune with the holiday season. A charming feel good story.
I asked myself why I love the “defrosting ice queens” subgenre so much. It is because the person we discover under the external strata of errors and all the self created armors, is really sweet or even candid sometimes. And that’s a lovely contrast to read.