Fantasy Fiction

The Present (ARC Review) by Geanna Culbertson

I’m trying to get back into the swing of writing! You guys may have seen me posting about this book already, as I participated in the cover reveal before and shared my first impressions!

It took me forever but I finally finished The Present. Leading up to the holidays, now seems like a perfect time to share about the book.

Are you looking for a cute and meaningful take on a classic Christmas story? This is an adult (but with clean content) retelling of A Christmas Carol

So there is an agency of ghosts that Scrooge people every winter. The goal is to help the people who have lost the spirit of Christmas and goodwill to redeem their souls before they squander the gift of life

You can also search the author, Geanna Culbertson, on my website as I have reviewed a few of her Crisanta Knight books, and also featured an interview!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Present
  • Author: Geanna Culbertson
  • Publisher & Release: BQB Publishing, 11/3/21
  • Length: 527 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ yes for fans of slow burning holiday stories and A Christmas Carol

Here is the synopsis:

A mystical agency exists that is responsible for creating Christmas Carol scenarios with preselected targets every December.

Employees of the agency work in either the Past, Present, or Future department and each year they are assigned a person on Earth in need of being “Scrooged,” as it were, so that person can reform and embrace the potential for goodness, love, and humanity they have in their hearts.

Frost Mason has worked in the Present department for almost a century and this Christmas is her 100th soul to save. The problem—Frost’s belief in the miracle of Christmas and what her agency does has started to fade because while many people commit to reforming after the “life-changing” experience of being Scrooged, human beings rarely change permanently and Frost has watched countless former Scrooges backtrack and return to their old ways once time has passed.

Frost must find a way to deal with her disenchantment over humanity’s potential to change while also working with her team to save the soul of this year’s Christmas Assignment: a young, up-and-coming political star running for governor.

I have to say that I was immediately sold on the synopsis! The author is known for morally rich, clean fiction, and I knew I wanted to read this one.

What I liked most about the theme was the idea that no matter what, it’s never too late to save yourself. It’s a great concept and so full of the Christmas spirit. Other themes include the importance of family, having loved ones and letting people in, friendship and more, including found family in a big way.

The book is funny at times, featuring baby reindeer and good cheer, and also sad at times as we watch Jay’s family life fall apart.

The best part is definitely the world building and magic. I love her envisioning of the ghostly realms and magic of christmas, which becomes a physical thing. The North Pole and even the headquarters of the CCD are well imagined and described. It’s a bit of a shock for the readers and the ghosts alike to learn about their afterlives and fate, and in all it’s again a great concept. Elves, penguin, reindeer, Santa and family, plus Spectre One and all the other ghosts – you will get lost in this magical world.

The characters are great too, Frost is redeeming herself as well as her Scrooge and it was a hard parallel. There are Claus’ and friends and a dog too. I liked the Child ghost that Frost was Paired with, their team was so mismatched! Jay tries to be likeable, I had mixed feelings but never truly disliked him.

So… Why only 3 stars? The hard part for me was that I think for adults, the level of breakdown and analysis into the moral points went way past what is required. It became repetitive and drawn out, bogging down the book, and I ended up in the 3 star range. The author does this in her middle grade/YA books as well and I think I was expecting less, not more in a book meant for adults where generally we can come to our own moral decisions with less prodding.

That said, I truly appreciate the jolt of christmas spirit that I received because I needed it.


Holiday magic ✔ cheer ✔ baby reindeer ✔ Dickens Quotes ✔ more ✔

Definitely a slow burn but worth it in the end, and I recommend for anyone looking for a wholesome Christmas story!