Cover Image: Take a Look at the Five and Ten

Take a Look at the Five and Ten

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This was a very quick read.  Nostalgic, seasonal. Not at all what I expected from this author, but still quite a fun little indulgence
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A cute quick read. Honestly loved the premise and the story but was a bit disappointed in the ending, felt cut off. The overall five and dime story was just adorable to hear and brought back many memories of my childhood shopping at the five and dime with my Grandmother.

I actually have one of these detailed memories of shopping at the local five and dime, so the story felt personal to me.
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If you have a few hours and want something easy to read that ultimately makes you feel less stressed, then this short book will do it for you.  Not at all what I expected but I had never read any of the author’s other books.  Story is predictable but when the grandmother recounts her time working at Woolworth’s you are transported back to a simpler time.  And if you are old enough to remember going to Woolworth’s and eating at the lunch counter you will enjoy this even more.
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"Take a Look at the Five and Ten" is a wonderfully cozy holiday novella featuring many of Connie Willis' favorite tropes.  If you have read much of Willis' work before then this story will feel comfortingly familiar.  

Ori, our narrator, starts the story off by bemoaning the endless stream of awkward family holiday dinners she's forced to attend every year.  One of the main features of these dinners is Grandma Elving, and her endless recitation of details about the Christmas of 1960 when she worked at Woolworth's.  She loves to tell this story, and any tiny thing can set her off.  This year one of the cousins has brought her boyfriend Lassiter to dinner.  Lassiter happens to be working on a neuroscience study about extremely detailed memories that may be hiding trauma.  He is fascinated by Granny Elving and immediately recruits her as his prize test subject.  Granny Elving turns around and immediately hires Ori to accompany her to these appointments, and the story unspools from there.  

Of course since this is Connie Willis there is a lot of repetitive detail used for plot development, and a ramping up of energy around both the research project and Ori's growing feelings for Lassiter.  In tone the story most resembles a screwball comedy from the golden age of Hollywood.  It is light, fluffy, and a lovely little reflection on nostalgia and family.  Try this if you're looking for something short and sweet, with a nice holiday atmosphere.
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This was a wonderfully warm little Christmas love story, perfect for some light reading under a blanket by the fire (or by the Christmas tree!) with a hot cup of tea. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I kept mentally scolding the main character for being such a sour puss about the old lady's story, but everything worked itself out by the end.  I won't spoil the ending but even though I caught on to some things, the end went differently than I had expected!
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And yet,  another gem from Connie Willlis.  She provides in novella length another delightful, heart warming and 
humorous Christmas tale.  Featured is a dysfunctional, amalgam of somewhat related family members interacting during the holiday season.  Our main protagonist is Ori who finds herself invited to a slew of never ending holiday dinners ...  starting with Thanksgiving and culminating with a New Year's Eve buffet..  At age eight her mother was briefly married to Dave ....  and he still considers her, his daughter., and hosts these endless gatherings.   Dave has been married more than six times, and has always made poor choices ... including her mother.  Usually in attendance are the usual suspects.  Aunt Mildred, actually a great-aunt of Dave's second wife and Grandma Elving, the grandmother of his fourth wife.   Aunt Mildred is forever pointing out the failings of the younger generation and the vast superiority of the "good old days" .  Her speeches always turn into lectures and she seems to complain about everything.   While Grandma Elving cannot be deterred from telling the same story
in which as a young woman she worked at Woolworth's in downtown Denver one Christmas.  It seems that anything in the conversation prompts her to spew forth this same tale in florid detail.  
      Dave's current wife is the obnoxious Jillian ( another poor choice) ...  whose baggage includes the stuck-up daughter, Sloane.  Every year Sloane is accompanied by her present boyfriend, who is always blond, tall and going to either law or medical school.   Her present day boyfriend is Lassiter, who is even blonder and taller, and going to med school....  and is actively involved in a research project regarding memory.  At this year's dinner, Lassiter is enthralled with Grandma Elving's never ending story and prompts her for even more details.
There is method to his madness.  His research project involves TFBM ...  Traumatic Flashbulb Memory, and he feels that her story has all the earmarkings of this phenomena and enlists her aid as a participant in the project.  This also engenders the need and commitment of Ori ..  which may have a secondary effect?
      Connie Willis weaves a delightful narrative in almost a screwball comedy atmosphere to reflect on family. friendship, love and joy and happiness.  A wonderful and charming story that all will enjoy in the spirit of Christmas.   Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for proving an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.
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Connie Willis is one of my favorite authors. I really enjoy how she can blend lots of historical details and research with truly comical situations, as in To Say Nothing of the Dog. This novella captured that style on a smaller scale, even if the historical details are the memories of an old woman at Christmas time, rather than time traveling historical researchers.

This short story (about 120 pages) is sweet and engaging, and very Christmasy. It's like a cozy peppermint latte in book form. I laughed a couple of times, and I wanted to see where the story went next. I really liked Ori, Lassiter, and Grandma Elving. It's a cute and quick read, and the Subterranean Press book looks gorgeous (love the cover art). If you like Connie Willis's holiday fic, and you're in a holiday mood, you'll love this one.
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Take a Look at the Five and Ten by Connie Willis

I love Connie Willis. She is my favorite living author. She may be my favorite of all time. I still remember the first book of hers that I read - I got a copy of Doomsday Book from the science fiction book club when it came out on the 90s. It took my breath away. Her books make me laugh and make me cry and I wish I hadn’t read them all already because reading one off her books. for the first time is a singular treat. 

I have had the pleasure of meeting her twice at conventions and I treasure those moments. 

So I was thrilled when Subterranean Press and NetGalley approved me for an eARC of Take a Look at the Five and Ten, her new holiday novella. I had already preordered a hard copy from Subterranean, but I was happy to read it early! 

I didn’t just read it - I devoured it! It was so good! It had all the hallmarks of a great Connie Willis story - scientist just trying to get some data, two people falling for each other who don’t realize it, irritating relatives, and people who genuinely love Christmas. 

As a Non-Christian married to a Christian person, I have a very nuanced and off view of Christmas. But I love how Connie Willis loves Christmas unashamedly and how she infused her love and joy into all of her works. 

I cannot recommend this enough.
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A motley collection of tenuously connected relatives is forced to gather for holidays each year. From the point of view of the narrator Ori, who is the daughter of a woman who was married to the host several wives ago, “ you can see why I start dreading Thanksgiving dinner some time in July.” At each of these dinners, Grandma Elving (it doesn’t matter whose Grandma she is) recounts the story of the Christmas season of 1960, during which she worked at Woolworth’s. Lassiter is the date of one of the relatives. He is a neuroscience student studying exceptional, highly detailed memories just like Grandma Elving’s. The theory is that such memories are caused by repressed trauma. He proceeds to make Grandma Elving his prized test subject and enlists Ori’s help in ferreting out the trauma. 

I don’t like Christmas and I don’t read Christmas stories, but I found this novella to be completely charming. Maybe my reaction was due in part to nostalgia. By the end of the book I sure was missing Woolworth’s and snow and Christmas lights. I think the book may have damaged my brain. This is a lovely little story. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
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Well this was my introduction to Connie Willis, and will definitely need to track down more books by her. A Christmas tale, that was really enjoyable. Great characters and a great story. Plus, I love novellas as introduction to authors, as they are quick reads, and definitely let you know if you will enjoy the author, And I definitely enjoyed.
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I love Connie Willis, and actually had no idea she dabbled in Christmas-y fiction! Color me pleasantly surprised when I saw this book pop up. This is the perfect read for those who appreciate science fiction and Christmas things, but are not on board with the relentless Hallmark schmaltz available in the holiday-read genre. It perfectly captures the frustration of family at holiday dinners, the relentlessly repeated memories of some of the older among the crowd, and the pure nostalgic joy of snow-globe like Christmas memories and feelings. This book gives you all of that but layers it under a scientific study of memory. For anyone looking for a holiday read that is more complex than formulaic holiday Hallmark movies, but still gives you the nostalgic Christmas feels, this little book is for you.

Perfect for reading in an hour by the fire, warm cup of cocoa, snow outside, and the smell of holiday cookies in the oven.
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A cutesy, predictable Christmas tale. Likeable enough but not extraordinary. Sort of like a Lifetime movie.

Suggestion: read in December.

I was given a free ARC from Netgalley.  This is my honest opinion.
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Jingle bells, jingle bells...what too early? Well so was this book. I am the first person reviewing this and quite prematurely too, I recommend saving this one until December. This is one of the two relatively slim Christmas themed volumes from the Subterranean Press that have just turned up on Netgalley. Wish I knew just how Christmas themed, I’d have saved it for December. For an October read it still had a certain charm, but not quite enough of one. It reminded me of the movie Last Christmas (also watched out of time in July), the same sort of romantic silliness. In fact, it’s very easy to imagine actress formerly known as Khaleesi mugging and stumbling her way through this one as Ori, the main protagonist. Ori has a stepgrandmother who never quits talking about a magic winter of 1960. Might she have a traumatic repressed memory that’s to blame? Do you remember Woolworth’s stores? The discount chain empire before the wealth divide got so dire, that there was no place for it in the market of exclusively high or low end goods. Well, Grandma Elving has never forgotten it, it’s etched into her memory in the sort of fine detail once usually reserves for revenge plots of sex fantasies…and of course, this isn’t that sort of a story. This is a heartwarming quaint story about the power of joy. And it features a hasty snowflake romance just in time for Christmas. From a charmingly grandmotherly looking author a story about a charming grandmotherly character. It’s suitable for the season, but outside of it, doesn’t really do much, the charm is fairly vapid, much like a romcom. Seems pretty light for a press with a name like Subterranean, doesn’t it. But at any rate, it reads so quickly, maybe 45 minutes or so, that you won’t mind it either way. Great cover. Thanks Netgalley.
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