A warm, sometimes-silly Christmas story.

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An angel’s adventures serve to illustrate the spirit of Christmas.

Debut author Cuccia’s trilogy follows the life of Shiny, an angel. The book’s opening story, “A Christmas Tale,” borrows heavily from It’s a Wonderful Life, and is the strongest of the collection. As in Frank Capra’s film, an angel is dispatched to Earth on Christmas Eve to bring goodwill to men in order to win his wings. That angel is Shiny, a character named for his bald head who is often mocked by his fellow angels for his lack of both hair and wings. But after delivering a message from God to a blind man, a child in a hospital, and an old man in the midst of a crisis of faith, Shiny rises from the laughingstock of heaven to an archangel respected by his peers. The second story, “A Christmas Lullaby,” ventures into more theological territory. Jesus sends Shiny from the Garden of Eden to “eternity past” in order to facilitate Jesus’ own birth at the Annunciation. The section successfully draws the reader’s attention to the holiday’s religious history, but it’s overloaded with scriptural trivia. We learn, for example, that the seraphim guarding the gates of Eden have six wings instead of two. The work rebounds in the third section, “A Christmas Miracle,” where Shiny and his new friends inspire a religious revival. The excessive scriptural digressions and cringe-worthy puns—“These aren’t just any sunglasses, these are S-o-n-glasses”—might drive some readers back to the classics, but Christian families looking for something new will find a heartwarming book for the holidays.

A warm, sometimes-silly Christmas story.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-4392-8

Page Count: 210

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2017

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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