Cover Image: The Present

The Present

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Member Reviews

Thank you so much to NetGalley and BQB publishing for my copy of The Present by Geanna Culbertson in exchanged for an honest review. It published November 3, 2021.
Oh my goodness, in the midst of so many Christmas romances, this was a bright spot in what can start to feel monotonous and predictable in Christmas reading. I was so excited about this book as soon as I read the premise, do not be scared by the page length, it's worth the time!
I loved all the nods to A Christmas Carol, all the Christmas-themed things, and just how it gives you all the Christmas feels!
If you're looking for something aside from the norm, definitely pick this up and have your heart warmed!
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This is a modern telling of a Scrooge-like story that includes realistic aspects (more applicable than Dickens' setting). The story is well-told and includes some interesting characters. I stayed engaged and enjoyed this one a lot. Recommended.

Thanks very much for the free review copy!!
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I was intrigued by the premise but found that the characters and the storyline fell flat.  It was difficult to follow and and I struggled to finish it.
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Thanks Netgalley for allowing me to read this book. Frost has been in the same position for a century. She is getting disenchanted with the world. She is hoping her next clients will make her reconsider. I liked this book.
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Characters: 7/10
Plot: 8/10
Concept: 9/10
Entertainment factor: 8.5/10

Overall rating: 8/10

Have you ever wondered why the season of Christmas has the power to turn even the most Scrooge-like person into someone with joy, merrinesss and a Christmas spirit in their heart? The Present by Geanna Culberston has an answer for that! In the story, we follow Frost Mason, a female ghost who has been dead for a hundred years. Her job? Working at the Christmas Carol Department (CCD for short) as a Ghost of Christmas Present, having already given ninety-nine hand-selected "Scrooges" a personalized Christmas Carol experience alongside a team of two other ghosts (Christmas Past and Christmas Future). Together, their mission is to dig deep into the target's past, present and future, in order to deliver a life-shaking Christmas Carol experience that will change the person's heart for good. Hopefully a change that will last a lifetime, right? 

However, Frost Mason has lost some of her magical joy since she began her work, as many of her priorly Scrooged people have since reverted back to their old, "bah-humbug!" alter egos. Not only that, but this is her last year acting as the Ghost of Christmas Present, since it is her one hundredth mission after which she gets to retire. Her target? Jay Nichols, a politician in his thirties running for governor, who ends up being somewhat unlike Frost's previous Scrooges. Needless to say, this year things will prove to be slightly more difficult than usual. 

I absolutely loved this book's concept! It makes for such a unique and yet still-familiar Christmas story. Not only that, but the worldbuilding and backstories of the CCD, the ghosts, the North Pole, etc. is also top-notch and really immersive. I really enjoyed reading about what the ghosts did in their free time at the CCD and the kinds of activities they participated in. Never have I more wished that I could also stuff my face with all the sugary goods Frost and Bismaad did without suffering the unhealthy consequences. 

Frost was a very likeable character, and her general pessimism was something that I also myself found very relatable. I can only imagine the kind of demotivation one would feel by learning that someone whose heart you changed for the good has decided to revert back to their bad ways. Eesh! 

The actual Christmas Caroling was simultaneously really entertaining to read about and yet also dug quite deep a human's psyche. The way Frost, Brandon and Midori used their magic to try to change Jay's heart was interesting and definitely also prompted some self-reflection on my part. The only minor complaint that I would have is that Jay's story did feel slightly cliche (i.e. spending more time at work than with his family). However, it was still an all-around super enjoyable story. 

Overall, this was an easy and really fun read! Despite the fact that this book is not super short (it clocks in at around 500 pages), the chapters felt like they were whizzing by as I was very invested in the story. A book that is perfect for a Christmas read!
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When I requested this book I thought it would a fantasy exploring the magic of second chances, reminiscent of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Indeed, the book delivered that and so much more.

The Christmas Carol Department (CCD) operates once a year in the month preceding Christmas. At that time Santa’s elves prepare a list of people on the “Naughty List” that are in need of serious intervention to save their souls. For each person on the list, a team of ghosts – representing that individual’s Past, Present and Future – develop a plan to support the person. In other words, this person is “Scrooged” into the opportunity to make new choices.

Frost Mason is approaching her 100th year in saving souls as the ghost of Christmas Present. Not only is her person’s soul on the line, but also her own. After 100 successful assignments, a ghost is given the opportunity to reincarnate, returning to earth in a circumstance of his/her choosing. However, should Frost fail, there will be drastic, if unknown, consequences. Adding to the pressure to succeed is Frost’s wavering Christmas Spirit. 
After so many years devoting herself to the redemption of her assigned people, she is discouraged by the number that have “unscrooged” – reverting back to old behaviors.

What makes this tale so much more than a simple Christmas fantasy is the realistic issues facing both Frost and her assigned person, Jay Nichols. The storyline flows through the rigors and pitfalls of political campaigning, the impact of divorce, the grief associated with loss, and the deep wounding from abandonment. Frost may be a ghost, but she is dealing with the emotional residue from her life as well as Jay’s current struggles with family obligations, career aspirations and ethical dilemmas. There is a wealth of wisdom woven into the story as well as delightful explorations of Santa’s family, the North Pole operations (especially the baby reindeer), the CCD and the magic supporting it all.

My one criticism is that the pacing was bogged down by too much repetition in describing the context of Frost’s mindset and Jay’s strained relationships. Consequently, I deducted one star from an otherwise inspired Christmas novel. I will definitely add this book to my list to read again next Christmas.

My thanks to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for the privilege of reviewing this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This review is being posted immediately to my GoodReads account and will be posted on Amazon upon publication.
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I received an advance copy of, The Present, by Geanna Culbertson.  This is a really nice Christmas story.  I really liked the character of Frost.  Humans are  not always well behaved, and good intentions do not always last long.
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