Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book Review: Over the Holidays

Today, I bring to you one of the latest Pocket Book Releases, Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper!

Title: Over the Holidays

Author: Sandra Harper

Pages: 325

Recieved From: publisher


It's only December 1, and Vanessa Clayton has been dreading Christmas since she spotted tinseled trees at her local mall in September. Thankfully, she and her husband, JT, can't afford to drag their twin boys across the country to New England for the annual celebration at her stuffy sister-in-law Patience's home. Not that Vanessa has prepared a proper Christmas for her family in years, and she has less time than ever since she agreed to consult on the script of a local play. Her older sister, Thea, is no help -- she'd rather make art and flirt with surfers than babysit her nine-year-old nephews. Then Patience drops a holiday stress bomb: Her family will come to California instead.

In between "baking" cinnamon rolls for the school potluck and overbearing Patience testing her patience, Vanessa can't stop thinking about the difficult but charming playwright at work. Meanwhile, Patience's teenage daughter, Libby, obsesses over a college boy she has met by the pool, and Thea searches desperately for the meaning of Christmas -- for her latest installation, of course. As their holiday plans go comically awry, these four women discover the true spirit of the season is hidden in every festive surprise.

I'm not sure what to say about Over the Holidays, as I've had very little (read: zero) experience with chick lit/holiday fiction. Reading the premise, I assumed it would be a quick little family dramedy that's meant to warm one's heart and, you know what? That's exactly what it was.

Vanessa as a character is pretty spot on as an overwhelmed mother of twins with a dwindling bank account and a dead-set hatred of the holidays. From the decorations, to the "charities" and the school potlucks and, most importantly, the annual get-together with her in-laws. Imagine her delight when she discovers--whoops!--she and her husband don't have enough money for the air-fare! After continously denying financial assitance from her loathsome sister-in-law, Patience, the family decides to fly over to LA and spend the holidays with Vanessa and her family. Wackiness ensues, my friend.

I'm sure we can all agree that this just screams bad ABC family TV movie. And, in a way, it sort of is. Compared to what I usually read, me reading Over the Holidays is like Satan slapping on a tutu (yes, I compare myself to Satan. Make of it what you will). In fact, bringing it to school brought perplexed stares and snorts of disbelief heading my way. But, really, I didn't care. You wanna know why? Over the Holidays was like my Santa Baby II. Not that I'm comparing Vanessa to Jenny McCarthy by any means (I am not cruel), but I am saying this book was like a guilty pleasure you can only indulge in ten days from Christmas in the midst of those manaquin tv commercials (or those creepy ones with the little girls dancing..."hey mom and dad, guess what? I love my comfy sweater...I love my comfy sweater" no? I digress) Some good, by-the-fireplace fun about family and all the dysfuncion they can bring, but you will never, ever admit to anyone you enjoyed (well, I won't, at least. I am dark and depressing and bahumbug, damnit)

In all seriousness though, I really did enjoy Over the Holidays. It was cute and sweet and perfect for the holidays. Though the fluxating female narrators (third-person, Vanessa, Thea and Patience) all came across as trite and a bit similar, I don't think Ms. Harper is really looking to make the Next Great American Novel. I loved the whole individual bitterness each narrator has edged in their thoughts, how Christmas at times seems to be nothing more then a buisness transaction. But it never quite made it into the "depressing" zone, which just might have been this book's greatest success.

Rating: 8 out fo 10


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