#ChristmasReads Book Review | “The Crooked Christmas Tree” by Damian Chandler

Posted Saturday, 23 December, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, starting with FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of [2015] and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Crooked Christmas Tree” direct from the publisher FaithWords (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why this story was one I thought I’d enjoying reading this Christmastide:

I almost laughed out loud – in the middle of the night – whilst reading the opening to this delightful Christmas story! Why dear hearts, did I find the laughter ready to burst out of me? Despite the hour and the darkness encroaching outside whilst I prayed for colder weather this Christmas instead of the traditionally humid stink of bright sunshine intermixed with forest fire smoke billowing into the skyline? The congested air is the worst – especially as whilst others are braving non-controllable burns – my county chose to have controlled burns which pollute the toxicity of the local air space during Christmas week (of all times!) adding to the absence of Christmas Spirit in our towne. You don’t have to look far to see someone saying something snarky – to find a cheerfulness during Winter is quite rare these days – which is one reason I surround myself with uplifting Literature – both fiction and Non-Fiction – whilst finding the simpler joys in life itself. To give of my own spirit to those who might not reciprocate but that’s their walk, not mine.

I read this story the week our car ran out of gas in the middle of the parking lot – right in-line with heavy traffic, negative comments from passerby (of whom judged the situation out of hand) and a genuine sense of “Lord, you know I’m not going to be able to move this car an inch – pray then, what am I going to do?” Out of sight behind me, a good Samaritan had arrived – a woman in flip-flops with a heart of gold – who was as immediately surprised as I was we could ‘move’ said stalled car out of the main lane of traffic, dodge a car who cut us off and volley between pushing in the front & rear of the car to make it into a ‘safe parking space’. She left to purchase an emergency can of gas before we could say anything other than ‘thank you’ and when she returnt to help us fill the tank, we only had time enough to give her hugs and a hearty ‘thank you’ before she disappeared back in queue to head off to where she was heading before her path intersected with ours.

Less than three days later – our car didn’t overturn, the battery was dead – we had to walk to make an appointment and blessedly had a kindness of a return trip back home given to us. The battery itself? Supposedly covered under warranty but only to the person who purchased it – if you have a used car, the total replacement cost of a battery which if installed improperly would kill the ‘brain’ of said car was not an option in a family who relies on the work life of their Mum. Getting the estimate was a test of faith in of itself – the fact we could run the car off the ‘emergency jump’ our insurance paid for was incredible – we travelled throughout our towne to seek out prices for batteries, a free test to confirm the dead state it was in and perhaps, if there were resources for help with dead batteries which need replacement. It was a long, long day – by the time the car finally was turnt off we were ready for comfort food and a Christmas movie (we chose a Bing Crosby film). Mum was only expecting a few days off but now has closer to five – as we await replacing the battery. That’s a walk of faith in of it’s own – she woke up this morning feeling quite ill – we hoped it wasn’t the seasonal flu everyone keeps telling us is horrid – which affected her hours at work but now – with a dead battery, we are drawing closer to hearth and home; encouraging each other knowing this new bit of strife shall pass and blessedly, even at Christmas – things could be far worse than they appear.

So you see, as I was reading this story – it came at a point in time where I needed some ‘extra’ Christmas cheer, a healthy dose of humour and a humbling account of another person’s insight in how even without our awareness, we are being guided through life lessons which help shape who we are and who we are becoming. In regards to the trials of the car – even at the height of the uncertainty of realising your car won’t turn over – either due to needing gas (there is a back-story about how we ran out) or needing to replace a battery; you find ‘the helpers’ Mr Rogers infamous quotation about the random acts of kindness strangers give to us throughout our lives. You’ll have a lot of naysayers and a lot of snark but then, if you look a bit closer – you’ll find the ones walking as humbled of a path as you are – where sometimes a person who stops their car in the middle of a parking lot, flashers ablaze and refuses to move their car until you can get yours parked is a reminder we’re all someone’s hero blessing each other with empathy and compassionate sympathy for life’s unexpected moments of adversity.

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#ChristmasReads Book Review | “The Crooked Christmas Tree” by Damian ChandlerThe Crooked Christmas Tree
Subtitle: The Beautiful Meaning of Jesus' Birth
by Damian Chandler
Source: Direct from Publisher

In this real-life Christmas fable, when a Dad decides to let his kids select the family Christmas tree, he gets an unexpected lesson about God's love.

In this thoroughly contemporary holiday story, a father lets his children choose the family Christmas tree. To his surprise, the kids pick one that is crooked. As he tries one thing after another to make the tree look right, he rediscovers the power of God's love. He begins to understand Christmas in a new way, particularly when his family decorates their tree and crown it with a star, never even noticing the crookedness he spent hours in the garage struggling to hide. The tender and laugh-out-loud narrative of real-life relationships propels the reader through the most un-generic Christmas story. This upbeat and comedic treasure refreshes the Christmas message of love and faith.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to Riffle

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781478918370

Genres: Christmas Story &/or Christmas Romance, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Short Story or Novella, Spirituality & Metaphysics


Published by FaithWords

on 3rd October, 2017

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 144

Published by: FaithWords (@FaithWords)
an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (@HachetteBooks) via Hachette Nashville

Formats Available: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook

Converse via: #INSPYbooks & #ChristmasReads

About Damian Chandler

Damian Chandler Photo Credit: Asun Olivan Photography

DAMIAN CHANDLER was born in Toronto Canada and raised on the island of Barbados. His ministry journey started in a small church housed in the basement of his uncle's home. With only nine members, the burden of the ministry fell equally on the shoulders of all, including 16-year-old Damian. That small church created his spiritual hunger and formed the foundation of his call to ministry.

He holds a Masters of Divinity; founded Impact Youth Ministries, an urban youth ministry focused on developing teens with a contagious and fearless faith; and has served churches in Seattle, Huntsville, and now Sacramento, where he is senior pastor of Capitol City SDA Church.

Damian is passionate about ministry but he is even more passionate about family. After years of dedicated pursuit, God gave him the desire of his heart and a partner in life, his wife Tanzy Chandler. They later added to their partnership daughter Zoe and sons Salem and Levi.

Photo Credit: Asun Olivan Photography

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 My Review of the crooked christmas tree:

I have observed a lot of Christmas Spirit in unexpected ways this year – I’ve been cheered in joy by the stories I’ve been blogging about (either read or highlighted ahead of reading) or through the conversations I’ve hosted by authors of Christmassy stories I hope to read next year. However, this week – reading about one father’s internal conflict with having a ‘crooked Christmas tree’ renewed the smile my soul has felt all season. Mostly as sometimes we all need ‘wake-up calls’ – little instances of taking stock of something we never knew we needed to address and/or we were lacking an experience which might re-humble our walk. You never know why something happens until afterwards – perhaps it wasn’t to affect your own life but someone else entirely – (ie. remember who saves whom on the bridge in “It’s A Wonderful Life”) for my family, this week we felt the main reason our car stalled from needing petrol was to meet the lovely lady who helped us. Her spirit needed a boost and we love sharing our joy with others – the circumstance was a unique one, but it led to conversation – even Dad enjoyed the reprieve chatting with someone new and sharing bits of our stories together.

I think Mum needed a proper rest – she’s been working so many long hours this year (ie. for most of the first half she worked seven days a week without any days off), plus, we never had a respite from emotional stress after Dad left the hospital last December – he was in for eight days and you can read the fuller scope of what happened by my two posts where I outlined a few things: Not Your Traditional Thanksgiving and an Update about my Dad. We were looking forward to Christmas Eve services this year, celebrating the milestones of what Dad has achieved as a stroke survivor without the added worries we had last year of being out of the hospital a few short weeks to where we were still in the ‘monitoring’ stage of his first month of discharge back home. Whether or not we make it this year now seems unimportant because sometimes you hit little ruts in your road – little obstacles which feel like mountains at the time but could be happening for a reason outside your understanding in the immediacy of its occurrence.

For me – Mum needed more time to rest, the car can stay parked without a running battery and despite the hurdles this will cause next week, we are still looking forward to eating black eyed peas and ringing in the next chapter of our lives as 2018 greets us at midnight. Through it all – we have had our faith – even if we have doubted what we could accomplish – like a long walk with heavy traffic, our faith has sustained us and rallied us. We push through – we meet everything head-on and we try to remember it is okay to ask for help along the way, if we can and if there is a way to seek help for the crises of life.

This year during the holiday season, I found I could re-focus again on reading the stories I knew would encourage me when life felt weighed down – last year, I was blessed with uplifting Romances (see also #MidnightChocLit) – this year, I went back to my roots to find stories (in fiction and Non-Fiction) which are rooted around Christmas and the personal enlightenment we all experience at different cross-roads of our lives. Hence why I felt like chuckling in the middle of the night!! This ‘crooked Christmas tree’ was similar to having to deal with a dead battery – at a point where it’s awkward and troublesome; it lends its own grief of worry but in the end – perhaps it had a purpose, too?

Whilst following along Pastor Chandler’s internal conflict of seeking understanding for the reason this tree was placed in his life – it re-affirms how we all struggle sometimes to accept what is going on in our life. Little things trip us up inasmuch as the bigger things – like a non-functioning car during Christmas – we strive to seek a reason for such things, even if on one level we’re simply meant to experience them. Enlightenment can come lateron – a deepening awareness of why our paths go down certain corridors of angst can actually be a strengthening tool we might need to sharpen – but most of all, sometimes you have to take logic and reason out of life – embrace the moment, take something away from it and keep moving forward with a cheerfulness of remembering your blessings.

I loved the passage he wrote about the expanse of the cosmos – I’ve been contemplating Space myself this Winter – courtesy of trying out two new (to me) Science Fiction series: “Firefly” (which was a hard starter) and “Farscape” (which is as addictive as “Doctor Who”!). We’re the family boycotting Abrams version of Star Wars – hence why we’re going retro with our Sci-Fi love in recent years. Pastor Chandler did say something quite incredibly true – for the vastness and the depth of Space itself – for everything within our conceptional understanding of Space and Beyond – how is it then, this particular planet and inhabitants are the ones keenly focused on by Him? And, rightly so – why does He love anomalies as much as He does?

I have a crooked trunk. Condition.

I am a crooked tree. Label.

And that is all I will ever be. Destiny.

It leaned. I threw my hands up in surrender.

I would no longer strive with something that had seemingly given up on itself.

-quoted from “The Crooked Christmas Tree” with permission of the publisher

Or had it? This speaks to how we perceive our lives and the moments we live within our hours and how they really are in the reality of things. Is a crooked tree without purpose or is the person seeing the crookedness of its trunk missing the gift it has to share? You could equate this outside of the tree itself and look at all the differences between each of us – how many of us see only ‘conditions’ and ‘labels’ when we view others? How many allow medical conditions to set the standard of what is perceived capable of someone to do something you might consider outside their reach? Prejudice comes in all forms and can happen even within the heart of someone whose open-minded – there are trappings of doubt everywhere – whilst being too quick to judge someone or something ‘out of hand’ is a personal test of us all.

The worth of someone and something is not always readily seen, known or understood. Sometimes you have to look harder, look deeper and see the spirit and soul of someone or something to fully understand ‘who’ and ‘what’ they are. Nature isn’t any different than humanity on this accord – how many dismiss a lot of the natural world for misunderstanding their purpose in our lives and how part of being in harmony with Earth is finding harmony in nature? How have we become so far removed from our origins of understanding this cycle?

I’m a tree girl – I find solace in watching the upper boughs bend into the high winds, of the leaves shaking down to the ground and of the acorns being pelted by cheeky squirrels or berries being chucked by birds – there is a treasure of joy in trees. They are a lesson in ecology all of their own – from the myriad amount of life they take under their ‘wings’ (ie. branches) and how patient they are to accept all who frequent their presence. Trees are givers of life, too – without the oxygen they help produce, where would we be then?

Thus, I have my own fond memories of selecting live Christmas trees – a tradition I look forward to resuming again one year – along with the wreaths – the only difference being, all of us – Mum, Dad and I were all like kids again – moving in and out of the Christmas tree farm like we were selecting a new favourite piece of candy or chocolate – unable to decide what to pick and being in rapt awe of the selections! Each tree we stood back to gaze in pure joy of its size and in the the girth of it’s reach – it’s branches stretching like arms and it’s needles like fingers – encouraging you to ‘visit’ and observe. We never really went for the best of the best – we went for the tree which spoke to us somehow to let us know, the tree and our family were united in one purpose: to celebrate Christmas, to observe a tradition and to be the caretakers of it’s health whilst it was standing at attention in our living room. Whilst this was well and good – we did overtake our ceiling clearances on two separate occasions – where in the end, the top branches did lean trying to off-shoulder the gap in height and weight – brushing the ceiling in needles and making us laugh in the happiness of knowing we brought home the tree which made our soul happy.

I was a bit surprised then, as I read Pastor Chandler’s initial reactions to how to select a proper Christmas tree – it wasn’t about finding the tree which ‘spoke to his heart’ or ‘gave his soul a smile’ to praise the tree’s integrity and natural beauty – nor to observe the legacy of years the tree had within it’s trunk – all those memories of being a respite for animals and fowl; of bracing wind and climate – only to hopefully seek out a family who will sing joy round it’s branches for Christmastide. His quest was limited to superficial reasons – of what tree bested it’s cousins for Top Tree of the Year, as if trees were competing each other for some reward of good breeding and density of healthful habits in growth patterns. He has a cheeky way of describing all of this too – it’s so fitting to our world – of how we process information and how some observations are rooted in conversational topics of pop cultural references. Not just limited to entertainment – but to all aspects of contemporary life – of stores and items for sale, of quirky habits and of the commercialism of material possessions, too.

This tree had come into his life for a reason alright – even if at first, it was to re-trigger his memories of his ministry and outreach – of seeking ways to connect to people others might only view as lost souls or people who chose to live against the principles they live by themselves. They forget to see the humanity – to see the person and not to see the lifestyle or the choices they were making in order to survive the day they were struggling just to live; to get by. People have a way of labeling each other – and of suffocating themselves on the labels because they don’t see past them; at least, not hardly long enough to hear the person whose trying to speak to them. It’s easy to dismiss those who are different from you – it’s quite another to listen and try to make connections.

As I was reading this story – other stories came to mind – such as The Giving Tree – of how trees have a clever way of speaking to us, even if we refuse to hear their messages. Wisdom comes in all packages – being open to finding wisdom is part of our individual journeys. Children on the other hand help us remember our innocence and of seeing life from innocent eyes – where judgment is generally absent and where we embrace more of our lives through unconditional love and everyday blissitudes.

My heart grew sad when I read Pastor Chandler struggled with accepting his box of ornaments – as recently as we have been watching our collection of Christmas movies on dvd – we try to pick up new ones every so many years – adding to the fever of joy to ‘watch all of them’ before the year closes in exchange for a new one – I remember the line “memories on branches” or something similar – in regards to ornaments. I lay thought to that line one of the characters spoke and I realised, in recognition with my memories of past Christmas’s – this rings true for me, too! Ornaments hold keys to unlock the memories we might forget without them – similar to pictures and knick-knacks, the ornaments we choose to hang on our trees hold bits of ourselves in their essence. They have a part of our hearts in their design – of stories which can become re-activated in our re-tellings each year we trim a new tree and of how beautiful the stories enrich our Christmas Season for bringing back the past into our present.

A lot of the under currents of the story within The Crooked Christmas Tree are dealing with heady issues such as self-shame, self-doubt, lack of self-esteem, self-confidence and self-advocacy – of seeing a more negative spin on your life’s experiences – the guilt of bad choices, the mistakes of regret and the unease of not ‘letting go, and letting God heal one’s heart and spirit’. Of holding onto the memories which pain our souls and of the triggers of memory’s long reach of hurtfulness which seek to destroy us. It’s a story about an internal insurrection of removing one’s humanity from one’s spiritual walk – of having trouble accepting one’s imperfections and the unease of finding a lot of life is full of imperfect acts and moments; of where things are not set to a common standard of equal acceptance in the worth we feel they ought to contain.

There are footnotes to re-route the readers to Scripture – however, I did not take that route – not because of the time involved but because I liked how Pastor Chandler re-wrote the commonly known histories of our faith (ie. Christianity) without the need to re-read the original canon. He also tucked in insightful truths through living histories of his own living memories – of spinning out the truths of the Season and of the purposefulness of why we celebrate Christmas – as keeping a firm Light of Focus on why Christmas is as special as it is to each of us who Believes. In this, he has garnished a lovely story to re-read each holiday season – similar to why my family re-watches beloved Christmas movies – it’s the small reminders of both faith and humbled joys which give us a firm grounding of our reasons for being alive.

a glimpse of how damian chandler embraces the Christmas spirit:

I love DC #unionstation

A post shared by Damian Chandler (@damianchandler) on

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This book review is courtesy of:

FaithWords

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comI’m sharing this whilst participating in #WYChristmasReadathon

Christmas Readathon graphic provided by Writerly Yours and used with permission.

via @writerlyyours | writerlyyours.com

I personally love reading #ChristmasReads during the holiday season, I started a bit earlier this year as I tucked inside the anthology of stories by Ms Carla Kelly as well as hosting guest features for a lovely array of new releases feat. the following authors: Linn B. HaltonPatrice WiltonHelen J. Rolfe, Erin Greendiscussing ‘Christmas in a Small Town’; spotlighting Regina Scott as well as interviewing Ms Rock about ‘Christmas at Cade Ranch’; whilst reading ‘Last Christmas in Paris’ and spotlighting Evonne Wareham‘s Romantic Suspense novel set during Christmas!

Even when I’m highlighting a novel I want to read (via a spotlight) I share my notes & reasons why I am keen on reading it. I welcome you to visit me during this festive holiday season to seek your next #ChristmasReads for next year! Merry meet and blessed New Year’s to all.

Here is what I have been reading:

my review of A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Vol. 3

+ my review of Kissing Father Christmas

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “The Crooked Christmas Tree”, book synopsis, author photograph of Damian Chandler and author biography were all provided by the publisher Hachette Book Group Inc. via their Bloggers Portal and used with permission. Quote from “The Crooked Christmas Tree” was selected by Jorie and used with permission of the publisher Hachette Books (as well as permissible per the copyright notice about quotations in reviews). Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. #WYChristmasReadathon badge provided by Priya of Writerly Yours and is used with permission. Instagram Photos were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Instagram. YouTube Intro by Author was embedded due to codes provided by YouTube. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

I’m a social reader | I tweet as I read

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WYChristmasReadathon

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 23 December, 2017 by jorielov in 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Christianity, FaithWords, Family Life, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Modern Day, Non-Fiction, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Spirituality & Metaphysics, Vignettes of Real Life




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