Rating: 2* of fiveThe Book Description: Connie Willis loves Christmas. "I even like the parts most people hate--shopping in crowded malls and reading Christmas newsletters and seeing relatives and standing in baggage check-in lines at the airport. Okay, I lied. Nobody likes standing in baggage check-in lines," she writes. Willis knows it's hard to write good Christmas stories: the subject matter is limited, the writer has to balance between sentiment and skepticism, and too many fall into the Victorian habit of killing off saintly children and poor people. Here she presents eight marvelous Christmas tales, two of which appear for the first time.The stories range from "The Pony," about a psychotherapist who doesn't believe that Christmas gifts can answer our deepest longings, and "Inn," in which a choir member rehearsing for the Christmas pageant becomes part of the original Christmas story, to "Newsletter," where an invasion of parasitic creatures causes unusually good behavior in their hosts, and "Epiphany," a story of three unlikely Magi following signs through a North American winter toward the returned Jesus Christ. "Miracle" is a comic romance echoing Willis's favorite Yuletide movie, Miracle on 34th Street, and "Catspaw" is a homage to the traditional Christmas murder mystery with a sly, science-fictional twist. The collection also includes "In Coppelius' Toyshop," in which a bad guy is trapped in Toyland, and "Adaptation," a Dickensian story about what it means to keep Christmas in your heart.My Review: How very handy! Another sales blurb that one-lines the stories, freeing me to offer my opinion of the collection.Which is negative. Damn it all.Yuletide is a favorite season of mine. I like cold weather, and fires in fireplaces, and decorating with all sorts of shiny, tacky thises and thatses all lit up by teensy white lights festooning the entirety of my living space. I like street lamps hung with snowflake-shaped flags, and wreaths on truck grilles, and peppermint ice cream. Especially peppermint ice cream.Stories about Christmas aren't my usual atheist fodder, but I've heard so many good things about this collection...and I'm never willing to let a set opinion ossify without challenging it...so "try some more Willis" whispered the Personification of Evil, in a bid to render my holidays hideous. It worked. The humor here is forced, the wit is witless, and the shiny, tacky bright baubles that stories often are have been cracked by being dropped on the hard floor of ~meh~.Connie Willis and I don't fit. I love her ideas, and I like some of her sentences, and I would deeply appreciate it if she stopped screwing things up by writing them half as well as they deserve. (This knock also goes for Neil Gaiman.) In fact, I would like some sort of legislative action to compel this sort of writer to generate ideas and then give them to others to execute.As that is impracticable, I resign myself to the one course available to me that doesn't infringe on anyone's civil liberties: I'll avoid further contact with the irritant, in this case Willis's ~meh~ execution of wonderful ideas.