I always appreciate it when a genre is fairly easy to describe… say like, Holiday Stories. Well. That kind of covers everything, doesn’t it? And so this time we discussed fictional tales centered around -and for our particular purposes- winter holidays! Ta-dah! On to the good stuff -or what people had to say about the books they read:
Steve: A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic, by Caseen Gaines, is a wonderful look at the making of this classic and its lasting legacy. Originally A Christmas Story was not a big hit at the theaters, but thanks to VHS rentals, and Ted Turner playing it non-stop after acquiring it from MGM’s film library, A Christmas Story is now a holiday staple. The book is full of many interesting stories. Did you know that the actress playing Miss Shields, Ralphie’s teacher, was actually seven months pregnant and wore a body suit to make her look frumpy instead of pregnant? And that the bulk of the film was actually filmed in St. Catharines and Toronto, Canada, and many of the Canadian school kids were used as extras, and paid just $1 for their work? Many more stories await you in this gem of a book.
Megan: My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of short stories, is compiled and edited by Stephanie Perkins. Twelve well-known young adult authors have contributed holiday-themed romances. As with any anthology, some stories are better than others. In most cases the authors have stuck with what they do best, while others have branched out and tried something new, so you might be in for a surprise when you turn to your favorite author’s story! Full of magic, charm, romance and diversity, this holiday book has something for everyone to enjoy.
Ann: In The Christmas Train by David Baldacci Tom Langdon is on his way cross country on the train to meet his girlfriend for Christmas. Langdon is a writer and reporter taking a break from covering the dangerous wars of the world and from his recent writing about gardening and home decorating, and has decided to write a story about a cross country train journey. From the moment Tom steps on the Capitol Limited he meets character after character. There’s Agnes Joe who almost knocks him down the stairs, hard-working, efficient Regina, one of the train’s employees, Father Kelly, the priest, and young Julie and Steve running off to get married. The most astonishing person he meets is Eleanor Carter, his long-lost first love! Then later, when his current girlfriend boards the Southwest Chief train in Chicago, things really get interesting. Throw in an avalanche and you have a Christmas story filled with twists and turns and lots of surprises. Baldacci dedicates this to everyone who loves trains and holidays.
Julie: For a departure from the usual Christmas stories, it’s no mystery what you should grab – The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler. With stories written by Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ed McBain, and many, MANY more, plus categories ranging from traditional to scary, there’s a mystery for everyone!
Emma: The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith is the true story of Joanne and her 3 children grieving the unexpected loss of their husband/father. Joanne doesn’t want to even think about celebrating Christmas when little gifts start appearing on their doorstep. Each day during the twelve days before Christmas someone leaves small presents. Random acts of kindness by “True Friends” help bring this family together at Christmas time. A wonderful story.
Carol: Silent Night: a Lady Julia Christmas Novella by Deanna Raybourn was a quick little read that gave me the perfect excuse to spend a bit of time with the clever Julia and her hunky partner in investigating and love, Nicholas Brisbane. Julia and Brisbane go to Bellmont Abbey to spend Christmas with Julia’s eccentric family and as usual, it’s chaos. Family and animals are everywhere, and Julia and Brisbane barely can have a moment together. Also per usual, trouble follows the two. This time, it’s in the form of missing jewels and a ghost haunting. But don’t worry, Julia will get to the bottom of the strange happenings before the Holidays have ended.
Dori: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, the 12th in Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen mystery series, features Jane as an amateur sleuth. While she, her sister and her mother are visiting their brother’s family for the holiday season, they are invited to spend the holidays at the house of a local wealthy couple. Relieved and excited to be away from the dour, cold and non-celebratory home of their brother, they are enjoying a lovely holiday with visitors from afar, when someone is murdered. Jane’s novelist skills are ideal for the task at hand: to discover the murderer in their midst!
Lauren: In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective is at it again, tested to solve the grisly Christmas Eve murder of family patriarch Simeon Lee. Lee has gathered his family at his home for Christmas, bringing together estranged siblings and a granddaughter no one has met before under the guise of togetherness for the holidays. It quickly becomes clear that Lee has other motives—he dangles his will in front of his children and hints that he may be making changes, relishing in taunting everyone with his mind games. When he is brutally murdered in his bedchamber the list of suspects is eerily short and consisting largely of his own family. This is a fun, quick read that departs from the usual saccharine Christmas book.
Stacey: Petunia’s Christmas by Roger Duvoisin may look like a simple picture book but for me it is one of my most treasured holiday stories, ever. I read all XX pages in just a few minutes, and then I spent hours remembering all the times I’d read this book -this very copy!- in the past. Ah, childhood memories of Christmas… Petunia is a goose who falls in love with a gander named Charles. While Petunia is a beloved pet, Charles is being fattened up to be someone’s Christmas dinner. Petunia is determined to free Charles -and live happily ever after- but first she has to figure out how to make that happen. (It *is* a Christmas story so don’t worry too much, okay?)
Next year (weird to think about that, right?) we’ll start off nice and smooth with some Gentle Reads. If you want to read along with us, look for a charming, easy going story that focuses on the everyday joys and sorrows in small groups of people. Enjoy!