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Bizzaro Book Review: Persistent Illusions by Joseph Devon

I remember when I was a kid, I would go to the library and max out their borrowing limit. I would come home with a big bundle of books and read and read and read. Back then books sucked me in and didn’t let me go. Books like Aliens Ate My Homework, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Frank Baum’s Oz books, I devoured them all in big starving gulps, rushing from one page to the next.

I haven’t been there with a book in a while. But Joseph Devon’s book Persistent Illusions took me right back to that to that place where the story took over my mind and wouldn’t let go.

I should start by telling you that Persistent Illusions is a sequel to another book called Probability Angels that I reviewed several months back. Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions take place in the world of the Testers, a group of human souls who have been chosen to stay on the earth and “push” living humans to live beyond their potential.

That’s the setup in the nutshell. But truly there’s more…so much more. The world of the testers is utterly fascinating to me. It is a place where mathematical equations can be conceptualized into objects like cameras and cell phones, a world where top of Mount Everest is covered with the sleeping souls of Testers, and oh yeah…I almost forgot, there’s zombies too. Sort of.

Beyond the magic of the world itself, Persistent Illusions shines out as a sequel. Many series of books I’ve read adhere to the mantra that “status quo is god” meaning that characters are largely the same from one book to another aside from a few superficial changes. Not so with Persistent Illusions.

The near-godlike Epp from the first book has been reduced to a brooding waste of a man, obsessed with what he once was and can no longer be. Conversely Kyo, the totally awesome Japanese Samurai deals with similar changes in a much more positive way. In a smaller sense, Matthew, Mary, and even the villain Hector have all obviously been moved and changed to some degree by the events of the first book. This kind of change in character give the book a striking feeling of authenticity. In the face of adversity the perfect is revealed to be imperfect, and the imperfect is strengthened, just as it is in real life.

I couldn’t write an honest review if I didn’t tell you that this is not a perfect book. I had a few issues with the opening section where the author used a kind of sliding perspective to introduce the major characters all at once without breaking scene, a sort of literary equivalent to opening a movie with a long steadycam shot. Theoretically I quite like the idea, but in practice I found it to be somewhat confusing each time the focus shifted to another character without warning. There are also a number of places where I felt that fairly clear dialogue was overexplained.

But it’s worth noting that these hiccups didn’t slow me down at all. Somewhere in the back of my mind Ethelberth the inner editor was whining, but I was too busy enjoying myself to notice much.

Bottom line? You need to buy this book. First, because it’s awesome and fun, and it sucked me in like no other book has in a while. But second, and possibly more importantly to my mind, you should buy this book because it stands for everything I love about indie publishing. It’s a fantastic story that doesn’t fit into any of the tiny little holes the publishing industry has created and called “genres”. To me, Joseph Devon is the apotheosis of the indepented author, a man with nothing more than his wits and a website, trying to prove that there is nothing more important to a book’s success than a great story.

I hope that you’ll join me in helping to prove him right.

Persistent Illusions is available for Kindle and as a physical book from Amazon.com. Other formats can be purchased from Smashwords. And if you truly can’t afford to buy it from those places (believe me I’ve been there) both Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions are available for free download from Joseph Devon’s website at josephdevon.com.

Seriously people, you’ve got no excuse not to check this out.

Bizzaro Book Review: The Frankenstein Papers by Fred Saberhagen

[Spoiler Alert: this review contains spoilers. However this book was first printed in 1986. I gotta figure, if you haven’t read it yet, you’re probably not going to. Still, if you want the summary of my review without spoilers, I’ll tell you now. You should buy this book and read everything but the last chapter. Trust me. You don’t want to know.]

Before I say anything else about this book, I have to tell you that it pulled me out of a slump. I hadn’t read all the way through a book for more than a month and I was getting a little discouraged about it. Reading has always been important to me, but lately I had been having trouble really getting into it. I got bogged down somewhere in the middle of a book about the philosophy of science called Blast Power and Ballistics by Jack Lindsay and after that failure I was having trouble getting into reading anything at all. Then as I was browsing through the stacks at my local used book store I came across this little gem.

I was instantly intrigued by the unique concept. An epistolary novel set as a sequel to the original Frankenstein, with the monster telling the story in his own words? Count me in.

There are so many things that are right about this story. Firstly, and most important to me, it is well written. Fred Saberhagen does a wonderful job of recreating the voice employed by so many Victorian era epistolary tales, and that adept handling of the prose really helped to draw me in to the verisimilitude of the novel.

The story too is well handled, for the most part. Its focus on the monster’s quest to understand his true origins drew me in, making me share in his burning desire to know from whence his consciousness came.

The bulk of the novel consists of entries in a journal made by the monster himself. If you’re surprised that Frankenstein’s monster can read and write, it may be that you’ve been watching too many movies.

The monster’s journal is interspersed with a series of letters from the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin to his father. Franklin’s son is investigating the rumors of the monster’s existence at his father’s request. These portions of the book are pure genius, in my opinion, because they give Saberhagen the opportunity to pick at the niggling threads of the original story, plot elements which make very little sense when given closer examination.

By pointing out these inconsistencies, Saberhagen is then able to make the leap into claiming that the entirety of the original manuscript is untrustworthy, a fabrication plucked from the clutches of the truth by nefarious men with a dark purpose. The monster is not a killer, Frankenstein is not dead. All these things are made up by men who desperately hope to capture the monster and divine his secrets.

Saberhagen begins by calling tiny details into doubt, but gradually his rationalistic probing widens its scope calls into question the most important detail of all: could Frankenstein really create life? Could a Victorian era doctor truly hope to call a ghastly assemblage of corpses into renewed being?

Of course the answer is no. At first this might seem unfair. The story is about the creation of the monster. No matter how improbable it may be, that is the drive of the narrative. But on closer examination such a question of the doctor’s abilities bring about the books greatest moment of genius.

Frankenstein has not created life. But he believes that he has. He believes that he has called a soul into his rotting assemblage of corpses. And he believes he can do it again.

The pathos evoked by Frankenstein failing again and again to bestow life upon dead flesh while the apparent evidence that he is capable of doing so lurks outside his window is powerful stuff. The image of limbs rotting away on his operating table while Frankenstein endlessly attempts to shock them into life is profoundly disturbing.

But, you’re asking, if Frankenstein did not create the monster where did it come from? This, this is the book’s failing. The question unanswered throughout the narrative, the burning drive in the monster’s own heart: “Who am I? What is my name?”

The answer? He’s an alien.

No. I’m not making that up. It makes sense (sort of) in context. But it totally shatters the mood of the book. For three hundred pages Saberhagen weaves a classic Victorian tale of grotesque monsters, revenge, and betrayal. Then he slashes it to ribbons by having the last chapter of his novel being written on board a flying saucer. I understand what he was trying to do, but…

It just



I feel bad about ending on a negative. In spite of the failings of the ending, this book is really a great read. Saberhagen clearly studied the original source material thoroughly and he spends a lot of time layering in details of the era that make the book seem remarkably vivid and believable. This isn’t a bad book. It just has a bad ending.

I would happily recommend that you read it in spite of its few failings. The book is out of print now, which makes me more than a little sad, but you can pick up the used copies cheap from Amazon.

Bizarro Book Review: Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

I consider myself to be something of an explorer in the ebook world. Ever since I got my eReader I’ve been scouring the internet for out of the way oddities and unsung gems, and every once in a while I’ll stumble across a fantastic book it seems like no one else has ever heard of. Whenever this happens I just want to shout the news from the housetops, but the last time I stood on my neighbor’s roof and started screaming about how great Joseph Devon’s Probability Angels was I almost got arrested, so I’m just going to write this blog post about it instead.

Probability Angels is a book about these supernatural beings called the Tempters, people who at the moment of a loved one’s death wished for themselves to die instead and got their wish. In return they must walk among the people of earth “pushing” them to achieve something beyond their normal potential. There’s more to the mythos, but that’s the basic gist of the thing.

This book is fun. It just is. It takes the threads of the world it inhabits and uses them to weave a strange and fantastic story. It’s got fantastic fight scenes, it’s got epic heroes, it’s got zombie angels, and… You know what? That’s all you need to know. This book has zombie angels in it. What more do you need?

I say the story is great, and it is to a point, but really the characters are really what make Probability Angels so engaging. First on the roster is a Tempter named Epictetus, and he is awesome. He’s basically the pinnacle of what all the other Tempters want to achieve. He’s been around for thousands of years; he’s learned every trick in the book and written a few books of tricks himself. When he shows up, look out. It’s about to get real. Then there’s Kyo, a unique Tempter with no powers, but he’s a samurai which is really the BEST POWER EVER.

This isn’t the kind of book that requires a lot of deep thought. You can enjoy it just for the coolness of the whole thing if you want. But there is more there. One speech in particular that Epictetus gives toward the end of the book had a big impact on the way I think about life in general and writing in particular.

You were nothing special. For god’s sake I am so sick of that mentality. That you have to be special to be special. The biggest anchor on the progress of all humanity is the notion that good comes with clear signs, that greatness can’t possibly exist within the confines of an ordinary existence. I saw nothing special in you, Bartleby. I only saw that you existed, and so you had a right to be better than you are. That is it, and that is why I did what I did. The only thing holding you back was you and I was sick of it!”

You are nothing special. So go out and do something unbelievable anyway. That’s a lesson that we all need to learn, and its as good a reason as any to read this book.

In the end, Probability Angels is not a perfect book. It has its flaws, particularly toward the end when the plot becomes less nuanced and more standardized, but in spite of not being perfect it’s still a great read.

Read Probability Angels. Read it for the action. Read it for the heroes. Read it to learn something about life. But read it.

You can download several formats for free here, or you can buy it for $2.99 from the Kindle store.

Bizzaro Book Review: Bye Bye Baby by Allan Guthrie

It’s my belief that, in a way, every story is a mystery. In a romance the mystery is, “How will our romantic leads end up together?” In an adventure the mystery is, “How will the hero get out of this alive?” In general we keep reading because we want to know how that mystery is going to be resolved.

Allan Guthrie’s book short story novelette Bye Bye Baby is a little different. In Bye Bye Baby the mystery is “Which one of these mysteries is real?” Bye Bye Baby is a mystery about mysteries.

When the story opens like a fairly standard mystery story: a police officer is called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young boy. Only it quickly becomes apparent that the real issue at hand isn’t the missing boy at all. Or is it?

This is a book with twists and turns out the wazoo, and I don’t want to spoil a single one of them for you. In fact there are so many twists that the narrative almost begins to feel cluttered. Almost. Guthrie does a fantastic job of keeping his narrative threads straight, meaning that while the mystery itself it confusing, the story is perfectly clear.

Guthrie’s style is simple and understated. Slightly too understated for my tastes actually, but not so much that it detracted from my enjoyment of the story. He delivers his story almost completely ungarnished, inviting us to savour the natural flavours within.

But the characters are what make this book truly remarkable. They are the glue that holds the story together. The mystery by itself with all of its improbable complexities might appear contrived and stale if not for the strikingly believable characters that inhabit it. This is not a long story, and there are a number of players that take the stage for mere moments before being whisked away again by the next plot point, but somehow none of them feel contrived or flat in any way. They all shine through as believable and complete people whose part in the story is only a fragment of a larger more complete life.

All in all Bye Bye Baby grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. It managed the trick of being both cerebral and intense, which is why I am awarding it [&] out of [%] stars.

You can (and should) buy it here for the paltry price of one dollar.

Bizzaro Book Review: The Devil in Chains by Adam Christopher

Today’s book review comes with something of a caveat. I started doing this weekly feature in order to showcase unusual types of stories, as well as quality self published works. However when I read The Devil in Chains by Adam Christopher I was faced with something of a dilemma.

The problem is this. I do not love this book. That’s not a snide way of saying that I hate it. It’s just a simple statement of fact. The problem is I’m a little squeamish about being critical of self published works. After all, these authors don’t have the luxury of a fat paycheck to cushion the blow of criticism. I’ve felt the sting of criticism myself and I know how badly it stings.

I could take the “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” way out, but that feels somehow disingenuous to me. The thing is, there were some things I did quite like about this book, and I want to be able to tell both the good and bad, and let you decide for yourselves. So here goes.

Starting with the bad.

If I had to sum up my main problem with this book in one word it would be this: flat.

The main character for instance seems to be something of a puppet, a mannequin being moved through the various plot points on a track the author had set up for him. He is given a history within the story, but only as an explanation for his knowledge of the dark arts. There is one moment when the protagonist experiences a flashback to a darker time of war and death, but it is a tiny island of color in a still gray sea.

The book is narrated in a very Victorian style of prose which is beautifully executed. However the detached style serves to distance the reader from the plot. For instance when the protagonist is fighting his way through the dark cave to face the eponymous devil in chains he is set upon by a great swarm of insects. While the idea of such an attack is terrifying enough, the calm manner in which it is related feels completely at odds with the true terror of the situation. When reading this passage I found myself wanting to hear the air thrumming with the wings of the cicadas. I wanted to feel a thousand insectile feet crawling across my skin. But instead I was left with a bare description of the facts.

The book is set in a fairly standard steampunk universe which is rendered well enough, but in by end I was asking myself, “Why?” The setting did not appear to be truly central to the plot in any way. In a way it detracted from the terror one might feel if such a story were told in a more familiar and believable setting.

It also had me scratching my head a bit. The story is set in an alternate universe in the year 2001. However every aspect of the culture is a carbon copy of the Victorian era. This left me asking myself, “How is it that the culture could have stagnated for two hundred years while so many technological advances were being made?” I contend that it would have been far more fascinating to see classic steampunk technology set in a world with a society similar to our own.

Now, for the good.

This is not a bad book. I am sure that statement may sound dubious after reading the previous paragraphs, but it is completely true. The author’s command of his prose is both masterful and polished. Despite my problems with the detached feel of the Victorian style prose, the fact that the author was able to slip into that mode so completely is a testament to his skill.

Likewise, the story was enjoyable on the whole. In spite of my earlier complaints about flat characterization, I found the actual events of the story to be completely engrossing. In particular I found the supernatural antagonist’s ability to create an army of facsimiles from the bodies of the newly dead villagers to be terrifying on a very primal level. One of these facsimiles, the Lambert-thing, may be one of the most unsettling villains I have yet encountered in literature.

In summary, in spite of its failings, The Devil in Chains is a truly unique variation on classic horror themes and it deserves to be recognized as such. At only 25,000 words it is a fast and engaging read. And since it is available for free download from the folks over at Smashwords, the price in unbeatable.

I give it ^ of ! stars. Go and check it out and decide its merits for yourself.

Bizzaro Book Review: Room by Emma Donohughe

The problem with writing a review of Emma Donoghue’s book Room is that it’s so hard to know where to start.  There is so much here, so many great and terrible wonders within these pages that it seems that to start with one would do disservice to the others. Room is a book of such scope and such brilliance that any overview of it would necessarily fall far short of what the work deserves. But because I am writing a review, and since I can’t fit it all in here I’m going to have to start somewhere.

Room is a book about identity. It tells the story of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand his place in the world. But the world as he knows it is far different from our world. His world is Room, a small space inhabited by him and his mother and visited every night by the mysterious Old Nick. In five years of life it is the only thing he has ever known.

Room is a book about love. It tells the story of one woman fighting against the darkness and pain in order to make the world an interesting and joyful place for her son. It is a story of the ultimate human triumph over fear, and it demonstrates that in the darkest places the light of the human soul shines brightest of all.

Room is a book of unparalleled voice. The five-year-old narrator feels real and alive. His words arrange themselves in the strange and wonderful patterns of a mind still learning the complexities of language. It is the voice above all that gives Room it’s strength. It allows the reader to fit himself inside the mind of a child and see the world through different eyes. It gives us a glimpse of a psyche still forming itself, trying to make sense of a world that does not make sense.

Room is a book that makes you want to believe. The characters are fully realized with flaws and foibles that color them with the dusty tones of reality. These are people you’ve met before. The overwrought mother, the precocious child, the frighteningly believable old man holding both of them prisoner. All of them come to life in a way that few fictional characters can dare to grasp at.

Room is a triumph of storytelling. Nothing else I’ve read recently comes close to touching the gut wrenching emotion that Room managed to pull out of me. By the time I got to the end I was nearly in tears.

Room is a book you need to read. But it is not without its flaws. For me the most important problem was that the second half of the book lacked much of the primal punch the first half of the book delivered. In the first half of the book the story is focussed on escaping from Room, while the second half of the book is focussed on our protagonists trying to adjust to normal life after the escape. The central conflict of the first half of the book is visceral and basic, while the conflict of the second half of the book finds itself in far more cerebral territory. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why Donoghue wanted us to see the aftermath of escape. In spite of being less tangible, the problems faced by mother and son in the second half of the book require the same strength of will to face as their imprisonment. The continuing conflict within serves as a potent reminder that every happy ending is really the beginning of another story.

In the end there simply aren’t enough good things I can say about this book, so I will summarize with this: read Room. It will shock you. It will amaze you. It will change you.

Bizzaro Book Review: Irregular Creatures by Chuck Wendig

Once upon a time I went to a local bookstore and the guy behind the counter asked me what kind of books I liked to read.

I said, “Weird ones, mostly.”

He got the strangest look on his face.  I’m sure he’d been expecting me to say, Mystery or Horror or some other easily defined genre.  At last he said, “Well we’ve got some Steven King stuff over there.”

I’m not sure why “weird” isn’t a genre by now.  If I was running a book store it would have a section labeled “Weird Stuff,” You’d go over there and find books like Three Bags Full, House of Leaves, The Beasts of New York, and the Thursday Next Series.  And if you went a further down the row, nestled somewhere between Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede and When Graveyards Yawn you’d find a little book by Chuck Wendig called Irregular Creatures.

Reading this book was a strange experience for me.  See, when I was a kid we used to go to the creek and swim. I remember dipping my toe into the freezing water, and then my feet, and then my legs.  Finally, I’d take the plunge and sink my whole body into the water.  After a minute or two I was wondering why I had been so freaked out by a little cold water.

Getting into this book was a lot like getting into that creek.  It took me a while to acclimatize to the style of prose Wendig employs to deliver his stories.  At first it struck me as overly simplistic and far too direct.  But gradually as that first story slowly unfolded I began to understand.  From that point on there was no turning back.  I plowed forward through each increasingly weird tale and loved every minute of it.

There are books that you will read for the sheer beauty of the sentences, the perfect poetry of the prose.  This isn’t one of those books.  This book takes every hint of artificial adornment and crushes it beneath its hobnailed boot; it spits upon subtlety, and gleefully defenestrates that worn out old saw that the writer must show and not tell.

If Chuck Wendig wants us to know that he hates Mondays he does not muck about with an entire paragraph describing the process of waking from a fitful dream only to realize that the cat has peed on the floor and the alarm clock reset itself in the night culminating with a final horrified glance at the calendar.

When Chuck Wendig wants us to know that he hates Mondays he writes, “I [bleep]ing hate Mondays,” and moves on with the story.

And I for one am fine with that.  In fact that’s part of the beauty of this book.  Because what Wendig has to say is far too important to let it be overshadowed by how he says it.  It is clear from the get-go that the stories are the stars of the show in this book and they are amazing.

I will not do you the disservice of summarizing the tales, but I will say they’re probably unlike anything you’ve ever read.  The best of the bunch is a tiny tale called “Beware of Owner.”  Reading this story is like having someone slide a rusty machete into your belly and then twist it hard.  And I mean that in a good way.

The other stories are good too, though some better than others.  One in particular, “The Auction” had a fantastically well-developed setting that felt as if it could contain an entire novel’s worth of action, but the story itself didn’t quite live up to the incredible world that had been created for it.  Also when reading “Lethe and Mnemosyne” I got slightly confused.  Even after looking up the mythological characters of the title I still didn’t get what any of it had to do with a giant killer chicken.  If any of you know I would love to be enlightened.

But anything critical I can say would be insignificant compared to the wonder and the awe contained in this oddly charming menagerie of monstrosities.  Irregular Creatures is a fantastic book, fully worth the pittance of a price its author is asking.  So slap your three dollars down on the digital barrelhead and prepare to be amazed.

Irregular Creatures will take you on a journey you will never forget.


Still don’t believe me?  Seriously?  I’m hurt.  Okay, well if you need extra incentive, you can check out some of the stories from this book including my favourite, “Beware of Owner,” here.

Once you’ve gotten the cat feathers out of your brain you can buy the Kindle version of the book from Amazon.com here or the PDF direct from the author’s website here.

Please Pass the Brain Bleach: A Review of “The Professor and the Madman”

Last year I read  The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester which is a book about a man who removes his own genitalia with a pocket knife. That’s mostly what I remember about it anyway.  I got to that chapter I just kept screaming, “No, No, No, No, NO!  No.  No, No, NO, NO, No.  I….No!  Dear God in heaven No! No. NO!”

There was also something about a dictionary in there?”

In all seriousness though, if you haven’t read the book it’s about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the strange relationship that formed between the man heading the project and a man in a mental institution who assisted the creation of the dictionary through correspondence.

If you’re not familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary…well you should be.  Because the Oxford English Dictionary is recognized the world over as the final authority on the complete meaning and etymology of English words.  How complete is it? Let’s put it this way: Look over at the dictionary on your shelf.  Now multiply by twenty.  That’s how long the Oxford English Dictionary is.

And this gargantuan compendium of English etymology was created over a period of seventy years, from 1858 when the idea was first hatched, until 1928 when the final volume of the dictionary was released.  It would be an epic achievement for any time, but in the era before computers such a thing should have been nearly impossible.

The Professor and the Madman is in part Simon Winchester’s love letter to the Oxford English Dictionary, but more importantly than that it is a fascinating character study of the eponymous professor and madman, and Winchester could scarcely have picked two more interesting men from any era of history.  The “Professor” of the title is James Murray, an amazing self-taught etymologist, and completely brilliant man.  The “mad man” is W. C. Minor, a man who suffered from persecutory delusions, and had been imprisoned for killing a man he believed to be a spy.  I’ll let you guess which one of them ends up cutting off his own genitalia with a pocket knife. No. No, NO, NO.

Argh.  Focus.

Bottom line: I recommend the book.  It’s a fantastic tribute to two amazing men and one incredible dictionary, and it has my stamp of approval.

Also, I hear there’s a movie in the works soon, so if you want to be able to say, “Well, the movie was okay, but I read the book first,” then you need to get on the ball.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go bang my head against the wall, and scream to myself for a while.  Maybe then I can stop thinking about pocket knives and -No, No, NO, NOOO….

Ignore Everybody (Except Me)

Sounds like a plan to me.

Just before Christmas, I was browsing the remaindered shelves at my local bookstore when I came across a thin little book with a cute cartoon guy on the front called Ignore Everybody.  I took this book home, started reading it, and didn’t stop till I had finished.  When I put it down I was a different person.

Specifically, I was Archibald Seeling Concord III, who is kind of a snob and has a bit of a gambling problem, but his golf swing is tremendous.  Luckily, with a small amount of therapy, I became myself again shortly thereafter.

But reading Ignore Everybody was a revelation.  Generally when I read a book about creativity and the craft of creating, I expect it to fall into one of two attitudes:

Attitude 1: Creating is hard.  You will have to work your fingers to the bone, and even then you can’t be certain of achieving anything.  If you’re not successful yet, it’s probably because you’re a lazy good-for-nothing slob.  You should probably stop reading this book right now.

Attitude 2:  Creating is wonderful.  We’re all just fantastic little bundles of ideas and you should feel good about yourself for even trying.  Immerse yourself in the joy of creation and feel the voice of the universe speak through you.

But somehow Ignore Everybody manages to split itself perfectly between the cynical and the optimistic sides of creating art.  It’s message is this: Yes, you must blaze your own trail, do your own thing, and make your own way.  But do remember that the trail you blaze probably won’t have a Denny’s built next to it, and you’re going to have to eat somewhere.

You have to read this book.  Go and buy it from your bookstore.  Get it out of the library.  Break into my house and steal it if you must, but somehow you have to get your hands on this book.  It will encourage and enlighten you no matter what it is you want to accomplish in life.

Not convinced yet?  Go here to read the first 25% of the book on the author’s website.  The book is thin and has a lot of pictures so it won’t take you all that long.  Even if you don’t pick up the rest of the book I promise you’ll be better off for having read the portion I’ve linked to.

Don’t do it for me.  Do it for yourself.


And now, since Christmas is past and New Year’s is on the way, I feel it only appropriate for me to provide you this link to a lovely little story about completely different holiday altogether.