Happy New Year, everybody! I almost made a resolution to blog more this year, but I’m crap at resolutions, so I didn’t. At least I have our very own SuperLibrarian Wendy running TBR Challenge 2014, to get me posting at least once a month.
This month’s challenge was a novella or short story; easing us into the TBR is a smart plan, Wendy! I dug out a Christmas novella from last year, Jennifer Ashley’s A MacKenzie Family Christmas. It was sitting TBR because I have lagged behind in this series, and I had delusions of catching up before reading it. (I’ve read books 1 and 2, and this is 4.5, according to the author’s web site.) I figure once a whole year has gone by without me buying or reading a book in the series, I’d better go ahead without worrying about spoilers for books 3 and 4.
I enjoyed reading it; it’s warm and cozy, since almost everyone is happily paired up and it’s a joyous family Christmas gathering. The book is sort of an epilogue for the first four books (see the happily ever after in action!), and a prologue for the book that follows (which I was intrigued by enough to buy, so I guess it worked). There’s very little real conflict, and there are a lot of plot moppets, um, children.
For me, the best part of revisiting the MacKenzie clan was all the interaction with Ian, whose book The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie started the series off back in 2009. Ian has an autism spectrum disorder, and I really appreciate the way it’s dealt with. First, Ian is always a person to the reader — he’s never just his disability, and characters who treat him as if he were are invariably shown to be shallow and wrong-headed. But he’s also not a saint; his disability makes life challenging for him and for those who love him, and that has to be dealt with. He isn’t cured of his disability by being in a loving relationship, although his marriage to Beth has helped him find new coping mechanisms and to feel more centered in dealing with others. Like most high-functioning people with ASD whom I have encountered, he can be very funny (although not everyone gets it), he’s wicked smart about the things he cares to study, and his view of the world isn’t wrong, it’s just different. I love the moments in the book where Ian’s way of looking at something makes more sense than anyone else’s, or where his thoughts on a subject cause others (including this reader) to take a whole new look at it.
If you haven’t read the series, this novella is not a place to start. If you’re not a fan of epilogues, characters from previous books who hang around, or following a couple into their happy ending, you should definitely not read this. But although it got a bit treacle-y in places, I am glad that I read it — there are a couple of scenes that were so funny and insightful that they more than balanced the sappy stuff.