jump to navigation

Time to Talk Turkey About Thanksgiving Movies and Books November 18, 2017

Posted by Dori in Book List, Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Movies, Uncategorized.
add a comment

When you work in a library, you usually have at least one display up that corresponds to a current holiday. Thanksgiving is always the difficult holiday; there are just not many books or movies that revolve around Thanksgiving which is surprising, considering that it’s ripe with potential to explore family issues.

Here are a few titles that either take place during Thanksgiving or have a special or funny scene devoted to the holiday:





Wishing you and yours a very peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving –

~ Dori




2016 Favorites – Top 12 Edition December 16, 2016

Posted by Dori in Book Awards, Book List, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Holiday Books, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2016, Uncategorized.
add a comment

2016 was a book lover’s dream – I was like a kid in a candy store. Between reading and listening, I managed to finish a lot of literary fiction, and a few science fiction and suspense titles, but I have some catching up to do into 2017. Here are the books that I relished in 2016, in no particular order:

laroseLaRose by Louise Erdrich
Erdrich is a writer that I never miss and this book sums up what I love so much about her writing: devotion to characters, insightful commentary on American culture, family love and exploration of the mystical.


undergroundThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Deserved winner of the National Book Award, this book is a wildly creative and harrowing look at slavery and its legacy. A must read.



beforeBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Hawley, a screenwriter, deftly takes us through a horrific plane crash, exploring the survivor’s guilt and the investigation into the cause.



mynameMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This small book packs a punch – mother/daughter relationships, poverty, marriage – are all addressed powerfully and in Lucy’s voice – lovely and sad.



vegetarianThe Vegetarian by Han Kang
There’s no doubt that this is a weird book – it’s about a young woman whose choice to become a vegetarian impacts her whole family in tragic ways – but it’s also both mesmerizing and beautiful.



queenQueen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Chee’s historical epic about a 19th century American who becomes a famous Parisian courtesan and opera singer envelops and transports you.



commonCommonwealth by Ann Patchett
This is my first Patchett novel and I may have to read her earlier books based on this one – who doesn’t love a book about a dysfunctional family that sucks you in and doesn’t let go?



multipleMultiple Choice by Alejandro Zambra
Zambra is a Chilean author and his books often deal with memory and choice within the framework of Chile’s recent authoritarian history. This one’s in the form of a multiple choice test



goldenThe Golden Age by Joan London
Maybe my favorite of all, London’s look at how people deal with displacement in their lives takes place during the polio epidemic in Australia after World War II. It’s surprisingly sweet and tender and you’ll fall in love with the characters.



moonglowMoonglow by Michael Chabon
History, relationships, life, love, rockets! – all in Chabon’s signature style.




swingSwing Time by Zadie Smith
I haven’t quite finished Smith’s latest about two young brown girls growing up in London and the different paths they take based on family, race, class and culture, but I’m entranced so far.






A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I always like to dip into some great science fiction and I really enjoyed these first two in a series that take us to fantastic parallel worlds.  No. 3 is up next year!



fieldsThe Fields Where They Lay by Timonthy Hallinan
I chose this book for my Holiday read and I think I’ve found a new mystery series! It’s funny and clever and the mystery unfolded perfectly.




If` I could keep going, I’d throw these in as well: Debuts The Mothers by Brit Bennett and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Yid by Paul Goldberg, To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey, A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl, A Great Reckoning by  master of mystery Louise Penney, The Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood and The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

Don’t be a Grinch… read a HOliday Story! December 5, 2016

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Ho ho ho! We read Holiday Stories! That means the books below could have prominently featured any holiday happening from Halloween to Valentine’s Day -a pretty big window of possibilities, no? Ready to see what everyone selected? Here we go:

Megan: What Light by Jay Asher is sweet holiday story about Sierra, who’s family operates a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year they pack up and head to California to set up their tree lot for the season. Sierra loves this time of year and the chance to see her California best friend even though it means leaving her Oregon life and friends behind. It’s Christmas business as usual on what could be the last year for the lot. That is, until Caleb shows up. Caleb has a bad boy reputation in the small town, but Sierra, despite insisting she isn’t interested in dating, begins to see past that and gest to know the real Caleb. Fans of holiday romances full of hot chocolate, candy canes, and true love won’t want to miss this one.

Dori: Burglar Junior Bender returns in Timothy Hallinan’s holiday offering, Fields Where They Lay. Junior has never been fond of Christmas and this year, things are not looking up. He’s been hired by a threatening member of the Russian mafia to investigate the high burglary rate at the failing, old, Edgerton Mall. Also, his girlfriend has mysteriously up and left him and he needs to figure out what to give his teenager daughter for Christmas. Funny and touching, with a satisfying ending perfect for delivering a dose of Christmas cheer.

Gina: Elin Hilderbrand’s Winter Stroll picks up a year after the first book in the series, Winter Street. The Quinn family and Winter Street Inn are all prepared for Nantucket’s traditional Christmas Stroll. This quick story transitions from each character, following each of their weekend experiences. Patriarch Kelley feels confused with his relationships to his first wife, Margaret Quinn, and second wife, Mitzi. Patrick is in jail and his wife Jennifer is trying to raise their three boys to be respectful and responsible despite the current situation. Kevin and girlfriend Isabelle have a beautiful baby girl named Genevieve. In addition to the Winter Stroll the family will be celebrating Genevieve’s baptism during the weekend. Ava has found the love of her life but an accident causes her to question the relationship, not to mention an ex-boyfriend popping into town. Bart, who was deployed to Afghanistan last year, is still MIA, but at the end of the weekend there may be hope. Each chapter kept me excited for the next and would recommend this for a winter read.

Lauren: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson—originally published in 1972—is a delightful book about the horrible Herdman children who take over and wreak havoc on the church’s annual Christmas story play…to hilarious and somewhat miraculous results.  You’ll find it in the children’s section, but it’s a gem that anyone can enjoy.

Beth: In Melissa Ciccocioppo, Peter Skullkid, Asia Erickson, and Eric G. Salisbury’s Contemporary Krampus, we are shown different artistic interpretations of Krampus.  As one of the many companions of Saint Nicholas, Krampus takes his responsibility of punishing the misbehaved children seriously and this book will scare the pants off of them.

Steve: The Christmas Thief, by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark, is a simple read for anyone looking for a fluffy Christmas work .  Packy Noonan, who has just been released from prison for scamming millions of dollars from people, is reuniting with his old bumbling buddies to reclaim the flask of diamonds that he hid in a giant spruce tree 12 years ago.  Things go awry as the tree is set to be used this year for the Rockefeller Center tree. Private detective Regen Reilly and her friends have stumbled into this mess. There are a few laughs but not much suspense here, although it’s perfectly suitable for a mindless Christmas read.    

Carol: In The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere, 21-year-old Lauren Gamble longs for a place to call home and people to call family—she’s even gone so far as posting a Craiglist ad for both. Social media is letting her down when she stumbles upon and is drawn to the nearby small town of Grandon. There she meets a special boy named Ben and begins to volunteer at Glory’s Place, a center for families in need. Could it be true? Might Lauren get the Christmas wish she dreams of?

Sara: I read A Christmas Grace by Anne Perry.  In this short mystery which is set in 1895, a wealthy young wife and mother, Emily Radley, travels from London to a small, dwindling town on the western coast of Ireland.  Her estranged Aunt Susannah is dying and has asked for family to come be with her.  Susannah married a Catholic man and moved to Ireland many years before, disgracing her English family.  Emily is fearful of this rugged, desolate part of Ireland by the sea and resentful that she must leave her home two weeks before Christmas. Once there, she realizes the town has many secrets, and the residents are consumed by guilt because of the death of young shipwrecked sailor seven years before.  Now the winter storms have caused another tragic wreck, and another young sailor is taken in by the town.  Can Emily solve the mystery of the prior sailor’s murder before history repeats itself?  And by doing so, can she save the town of Connemara and allow Aunt Susannah’s last Christmas to be a peaceful one?  This is a quick and engaging read, laced with interesting insight into 19th century relationships between the English and the Irish peoples.

Emma: Oliver the Cat who Saved Christmas by Sheila Norton is the story of pub cat Oliver who loses his home in a fire. Unfortunately owner George moves to London during reconstruction and cannot take Oliver along. Two families become his foster families. Oliver has a way to discover exactly what each human needs. In doing so, he saves Christmas and makes lots of people happy. This is a treat for all pet lovers.

Stacey: Just when I thought  there can’t possibly be any more ways to explain the man, the myth, the legend of Santa Claus, I stumbled upon The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slovenia and found I was wrong!  There are clever explanations to cover all your burning questions, from how Klaus came to create toys for children to why the red suit to those flying reindeer -and they completely make sense. But what makes this book really special is the mix of myth, magic, religion, contemporary pop culture, and faith (in yourself and others.) A charming and thoughtful choice for the holiday season.

Next time? We’ll be reading Teen Fiction! (I realize this is pretty self-explanatory but heck, I’ve got a job to do here!) If you want to read along with us, you’ll want to find a novel aimed at the 18 and younger crowd. Get excited -there are some pretty awesome teen books out there!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holiday Reads! December 19, 2015

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Book List, Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

As you may remember from just a few weeks ago, we consider anything featuring a Winter holiday as fair game. So yes, it was absurdly easy to select a book for our recent gathering! And now we’ll make it absurdly easy for you to select one as well…

Dori: In Alexandra Brown’s The Great Christmas Knit-Off, Sybil bolts to the small picturesque English village of Tindledale after she’s jilted at the altar of her Star Wars themed wedding. Her friends run a pub there and soon she’s taken in by the quirky residents, forming fast friendships and even finding an admiring, handsome doctor. When the local craft store, Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, is threatened with closure, her knitting skills come in handy as she rallies the villagers to create holiday themed knitted goods for Hettie to sell so she can keep her business. First in a series, this is a fun and quaint holiday read with a great cast of eccentric characters, a frisson of romance and knitting galore! Includes a pattern for a Christmas pudding holiday decoration.

Chris: Christmas with Rita and Whatsit by Jean-Philippe Arrou-Vignod with the sweetest illustrations by Olivier Tallec tells a charming story about a little girl and her dog getting ready for the big day. Lots of typical activities like writing Santa a letter, baking goodies etc. ensue, but most are done with darling twists. Like Whatsit asking Santa for a police dog uniform and decorating his own little tree with a garland of sausages, salami and bologna to smell just right. On Christmas morning, they find all kinds of wonderful presents left by Santa, but one: A big hug from your best friend. Hugs all arounds. CUTE!

Carol: A Christmas Tragedy is a short story by Agatha Christie. Miss Jane Marple is spending an evening of fun with some friends who are taking turns sharing mysterious stories. The story Miss Marple tells revolves around the suspicions she feels upon meeting Mr. & Mrs. Sanders while at a spa during Christmastime. Miss Marple is immediately convinced that the man means to murder his wife. When Mrs. Sanders is later found dead, it is up to Miss Marple to prove that the husband committed the crime. While this title doesn’t necessarily spread Holiday cheer, it’s like a little gift to read anything by Agatha Christie, the queen of crime!

Megan: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris is a collection of humorous short stories that a shine light on the dark underbelly of Christmas. These dark, irreverent, and sardonic stories show readers how the Christmas spirit can go awry. Readers looking for a sweet, happily-ever-after story should steer clear, but fans of dark humor will appreciate this slim volume. An 2008 reprint included six new stories.

Emma: Two stories in one comprise The Christmas Bells. One story revolves around Sophia, school music teacher and volunteer children’s choir director at St. Margaret’s Church, who is about to lose her teaching position. Lucas, the choir accompanist, is very interested in Sophia but reluctant to make his feelings known. The father of Alex and Charlotte, two talented choir members, is MIA in Afghanistan. The second story takes place during the 1860’s. This story revolves around Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who is mourning the death of his wife and trying to convince his son not to join the Union army. It showcases Longfellow’s poem “Christmas Bells” written in 1863. The poem is the basis for “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, one of the songs Sophia’s choir is practicing. The Christmas Bells is a heartfelt story of Christmases past and present.

Steve: Glenn Beck’s The Immortal Nicholas attempts to return Christmas, Santa and St. Nicholas to the origins of Christ, with limited success. The story begins with the main character Agios, forager of frankincense, who has just lost his son and all hope and has turned to wine. He is captured in a drunken stupor by a caravan and brought back to one of the three wise men, who is looking for frankincense to present to the new King who is to be born. From there the story follows the story of Jesus, and not until the end do we see the connection to Nicholas. A good effort that starts out strong but something didn’t quite mesh.

Lauren: Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel brings together a number of quirky (to say the least) characters from other of his books set in the coastal California town of Pine Cove. The townspeople are busy making preparations for the Christmas holiday when young Joshua is devastated to witness the murder of Santa. What has actually played out is a deadly altercation between “evil developer” Dale Pearson dressed and Santa and his ex-wife Lena. Joshua sends up a prayer to the heavens for Santa to be brought back to life in time to save Christmas. Enter archangel Raziel, who has visited Earth to grant a Christmas miracle. Given that Raziel truly is the stupidest angel, he misunderstands Joshua’s request and casts a blanket resurrection over the body of Dale Pearson/Santa as well as all the deceased residents of Pine Cove in the nearby cemetery. The dead rise, and typical of zombies, instantly seek to feast on human flesh. As Moore states, this is “a heartwarming tale of Christmas terror.” Brace yourselves.

Stacey: I didn’t know I needed a sequel to the classic A Christmas Carol -until I read one! Charlie Lovett wrote the ‘spirited’ (pun intended!) novel, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, based on the transformed character of Scrooge. When the ghost of his old partner Jacob Marley appears to ask for help shedding the chain he’s been forced to carry, Scrooge is more than happy to do what he can to help. This is a charming story with the positive message giving is better than receiving -one you’ll be sure to enjoy!

Next up is Literary Fiction! If you want to read along -you’ll want to find something characterized by a distinctive writing style. Literary fiction focuses more on character than plot, deals in nuances, and prompt a high degree of interaction between reader and book.


Latest Additions December 8, 2015

Posted by Lauren in Book List, Fiction, Holiday Books, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Hate me all you want, but since this has never happened and likely will never happen again, I would just like to take a small piece of this public forum to announce: My Christmas Shopping Is Already Done. I can’t explain how this has been accomplished (aliens swapped out my brain with that of someone way more proactive about this stuff???), but there are presents–wrapped–under my Christmas tree.  If you’re like me, take some time to relax in these usually  crazy weeks leading up to the holidays and curl up with a book.  Go for it even if you’re not! That’s what typical-me would certainly do.


A Gift from Bob by James Bowen


The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown


The Borden Murders: LIzzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller


The Great Forgetting by James Renner


The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins


Latest Additions November 24, 2015

Posted by Maureen in Book List, Fiction, Holiday Books, New Books, Thoughtful Ramblings.
add a comment

As we creep ever closer to the holidays and time begins to feel like it is passing at warp speed, I hope you are able to take the time to remember all we have in this life to be thankful for. Maybe it’s family, good friends, a roof over your head, a special pet, enough food in your tummy. If you are truly fortunate, maybe it’s all of those things! Take the time to remember everyone and everything this special time of year and have a wonderful holiday full of peace and love! And maybe, just maybe, sneak in a little reading time between eating and Black Friday shopping? Here’s some ideas…


Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini


Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins


In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward


Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson


Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Have a wonderful holiday season!


















Holiday Stories for the Holiday Time! December 15, 2014

Posted by stacey in Book List, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: ,
add a comment

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!

— Stacey

Jolly Ol’Holiday Stories! December 11, 2013

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: ,
add a comment

From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day -there’s nothing but holidays! And so we celebrate all these various festivities by reading books! (Aw, come on -we’re librarians! It’s what we do!) There’s more variety to the Holiday Story than you’d imagine. Would you like proof? Well here it is:

Megan: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum is an enchanting account of the magical life of Santa Claus. Abandoned as an infant and raised by forest nymphs, Claus led a charmed life. As a young man he felt a responsibility to join his fellow mortals and he soon found his calling entertaining and caring for children. This desire to help children quickly became a full time occupation that required the help of his magical immortal family and soon the sleigh-riding jolly man with a sack full of toys became famous around the world. This is a charming Christmas story that will remind readers young and old that Christmas is a magical time of year.

Chris The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans tells the story of a young family, Richard and Keri Evans and daughter Jenna, who move into a mansion to act as caretakers for its owner, MaryAnne Parkin. It’s a very warm, cozy story of people caring for people. And along the way, each benefits in practical and spiritual ways—the widow enjoys having people around and sharing her home; the family enjoys Parkin’s companionship and a lovely place to live. Perhaps the most important thing is the lesson that Richard learns. I felt this book read like a Hallmark Christmas movie, which always get me in the holiday spirit, and sure enough it was, in 1995.

Carol: I read The Mitford Snowmen by Jan Karon. Though there’s not much of a plot, this was a cute little book that tells about a snowman-building contest in Mitford that occurs right in the middle of a busy snowy day. Because it’s a contest, the townspeople all try to one-up each other, trying to build the best snowmen to win the prize, free donuts. Eventually, though, they are all having so much fun that they don’t care about winning…and the mayor decides to buy everyone donuts! The moral I took away from this short book was not to be too busy during the holiday season that you can’t have a little fun. The illustrations of snowmen are pretty darn cute as well.

Emma: The Other Wise Man was written by Henry van Dyke in 1896. It is the story of Artaban, the fourth Magi. Artaban planned to travel to Bethlehem with Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar to bring gifts to baby Jesus. (He had a sapphire, ruby, and pearl to give.) Artaban was detained when he stopped to help someone and missed traveling with the other magi. He spends the next 33 years on a life-long quest to find Jesus and uses the gems to help others along the way. Artaban finally sees Jesus at his crucifixion and bemoans the fact that he had not found him earlier. As Artaban lies dying he has a vision and hears these words from Jesus, “Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

Ann: The Dogs of Christmas by W. Bruce Cameron is just the right mix of schmaltz and puppy-love to make a winning Christmas book. Josh’s neighbor abandons a dog at his house. Although Josh knows nothing about dogs, he certainly recognizes that this one, Lucy, is going to have puppies! Soon, with six dogs, Josh feels very overwhelmed. When he calls the local animal shelter for help with the puppies, Josh meets Kerri, and soon realizes he’s fallen for both Kerri and the dogs in his care. You will love these Lucy and her little puppies just as much as Josh does!

Steve: Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941, by Stanley Weintraub, will delight history buffs who want to be engaged in the political and military maneuverings of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during the holiday season of 1941. The book is light on the Christmas part, but the holidays do present themselves in the background of the detailed meetings and parties of these two giants.

Dori: In The Mischief of the Mistletoe: a Pink Carnation Christmas by Lauren Willig, Arabella Dempsey has recently returned to her home in Bath, accepting a position as a teacher at Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. A Christmas pudding with a secret message brings her to the attention of Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh, a blundering but kind aristocrat, who is visiting his sister at the school. Together, they try to decipher the message, culminating in a 12-day Christmas celebration at the grand estate of the Dukes of Dovedale and threats to Arabella’s safety. With a dose of romance, mysterious spies, humor aplenty and even a cameo from Jane Austen, this Regency novel is a perfect holiday treat.

Stacey: Silent Night by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann features all the key characters of a classic Spenser novel with entertaining holiday elements. When a young boy approaches Spenser for help on behalf of a man who runs a shelter for homeless boys, Spenser finds more than just troubled teens lurking around the place. But there’s not much Hawk and Spenser can’t put to rights and in the end, a lovely gathering of family and new friends feels just right. A great, fast-paced and entertaining mystery that has a nice touch of holiday cheer.

And to start the new year off on the right foot? We’ll be discussing narrative non-fiction! If you want to read along with us -and who wouldn’t?!- then you’ll want to find a book that tells a true story but in an engaging prose style! Some popular examples would be: Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand or The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, or just check out our list from the last discussion!

Have a wonderful holiday season!

– Stacey

Holiday Cheer -in print form! December 18, 2012

Posted by stacey in Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: ,
add a comment

I wouldn’t mind keeping some of the more traditional signs of winter -like wind chill factor and snow days- far into the future. But! I do like the sparkly lights, the amazing treats, and the cheerful “howdy-doos” that start up right about now. And of course -the stories! Those cheesy Christmas books and movies that show us allll the different ways we can be jolly yet *still* learn an important life lesson? Love ‘em!! Don’t worry though, I realize not everyone shares my interest in the shmaltz of the season… So here come a variety of books -and opinions- from our latest genre discussion.

Carol: In retaliation of how materialistic the Holidays have become, I looked back in time for the true meaning of Christmas and reread O. Henry’s classic short story “The Gift of the Magi.” Probably familiar to most, it was originally published in the New York Sunday World in 1905. Readers meet James and Della Young, a young married couple who, despite their meager income, have each resolved to give one another an elegant gift on Christmas Eve. Della sells her beautiful long, cherished hair in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim’s treasured antique gold watch. However, Jim has pawned his treasured pocket watch to purchase jeweled tortoiseshell combs for Della’s lovely hair. When the two exchange their gifts, they recognize the irony of their sacrifices, put their gifts away for better days, and realized that what truly is precious is not something we can buy or sell.

Rosemary: A Christmas Garland by Anne Perry is the 2012 edition of her holiday mystery series. This story is particularly compelling and thoughtful. The setting is India in the 1850s and it is during a time of violent rebellion against the British. John Tallis, a young medical orderly, is arrested for the murder of a fellow guard when his only crime was that he had no witness to verify his whereabouts during the time of the murder. Another young British soldier, Lieutenant Victor Narraway, is given the daunting task of defending Tallis in a hastily arranged trial. Their commanders want a quick resolution to the murder, which is causing a great deal of unrest within the garrison. Narraway is told that he doesn’t need to put much effort into the defense. He is sure Tallis is innocent and, in the short time allotted to him, takes his defense of Tallis very seriously. Narraway is touched by a young widow of a soldier and her children. He sees the pure goodness in them and this inspires him to seek justice for Tallis.

Megan: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan is the story of how one teen embarks on a mission to meet her one true love. Lily loves everything about the Christmas season, but her holiday spirits are dampened when her parents decide to spend Christmas alone in Fiji. Her older brother devices a clever plan to keep her occupied and help her find Mr. Right. She hides a notebook full of challenges on shelf at her favorite book store. Her dares are accepted and she and her mystery man begin an intimate, yet anonymous friendship. Wonderful characters, a unique treasure hunt, and the charm of New York City at Christmastime will certainly put readers in the holiday spirit.

Emma: The people of Harmony, Indiana expect a certain routine to their Christmas Eve service at Harmony Friends Meeting House. It includes the reading of the Christmas gospel, the singing of a few carols followed by fresh-from-the-oven angel cookies and milk. This year eccentric Dale Hinshaw arranges a different sort of celebration, a progressive nativity scene involving the whole town. There is much fanfare and lots of cookies and hot chocolate are enjoyed, but the message of Christmas is lost for most people. Later that night Pastor Sam Gardner and an elderly parishioner find each other back at church where the two reflect on the Christmas gospel and enjoy cookies together. Christmas in Harmony by Phillip Gulley is a sweet story of friends, family, and tradition.

Dori: In Marion Babson’s Twelve Deaths of Christmas, the residents of a London boardinghouse have no idea that a killer is living among them. As a series of heinous crimes are committed in the days leading up to Christmas, baffling the local police, alternating chapters reveal the killer’s voice, madness and motives, divulging more to the reader than the police know. Any of the diverse lodgers could be the killer, from the artist/housekeeper to a retired major or a Middle Eastern student. Little do they know, however, that as they prepare for a communal Christmas dinner, the killer prepares to kill them all. This fast read is a cozy murder mystery perfect for the holidays!

Steve: The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog, by Dave Barry, is a cute and funny story about junior high student Doug Barnes. Doug, his family, and his fellow students are preparing for Christmas in 1960 Asquont, NY. Things are a bit tense in the Barnes family, as Frank the family dog has been sick since Thanksgiving. In addition, the children have been practicing for the annual Christmas pageant at St. John’s Episcopal Church, whose attic is filled with bat droppings. Things get pretty crazy as an event involving the attic, and another dog, Walter, really brings things together!

Ann: The Cat Who Came Back for Christmas by Julia Romp is the story of how a cat changed a family’s life. It is also a single mother’s story of her struggles raising an autistic child. George, Julia’s son, is frequently withdrawn and uncommunicative. Then a stray cat, which George names Ben (but sometimes calls Benny Boo or Baboo), comes into their life. George becomes animated, and begins talking to Ben and about Ben in his little “cat voice.” His mother, Julia decides to communicate with George in her own little cat voice, and for the first time, the two of them are having conversations. George and Ben the cat are inseparable. George begins doing better in school and in his relationships with other children too. Then one day Ben disappears. It’s not really giving anything away to say that this is a heartwarming story with a happy Christmas time ending.

Julie: If you’re looking for a little suspense to go with your spiced nog, try December Dread by Jess Lourey. It’s the eighth in a series featuring Mira James, a librarian/reporter solving murders in her small town. This time, a serial killer is targeting women who use an online dating service and who also happen to fit Mira’s description. This is more of a cozy mystery with dashes of humor for a cold winter’s night.

Stacey: If you’re looking for a Downton Abbey-esque holiday story, then you’re looking for The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd! In July of 1914, Lady Elspeth Douglas is caught in Paris when war is declared. While attempting to book passage back home to the British Isles, Elspeth finds herself helping wounded soldiers stranded along the roadway. Training as a nurse would be frowned upon by her guardian -if she told him her plans. Wartime hardships, difficult life choices, and a sweet Christmas celebration make this a book to treasure -maybe as a new Christmas tradition!

Next year -crazy! right?- we’ll start off with a heated discussion of Literary Fiction! (Okay, probably not a heated discussion per se… maybe if we could achieve lively? Then it’d be a job well done, all around!) If you want to join in, find yourself a book that is a prize winner, shows a distinctive writing style, and focuses on the characters more than the plot. Experimental, technically challenging, and subtle details help define this category. Enjoy!

— Stacey

It’s a Holly Jolly Holiday Story! December 8, 2011

Posted by stacey in Fiction, Genre Book Discussion, Holiday Books.
Tags: ,
add a comment

As much as I like chocolate, I’m not a big fan of drinking hot chocolate. I think it’s got something to do with the gritty sludge that is often left at the bottom of the mug. On the other hand, the marshmalows you can put on top? That’s a bit of a draw… What does this have to do with our recent book group discussion? Well, we talked about holiday stories and what goes better with a nice wintery, holiday tale than a big mug of hot cocoa?! Not everyone likes this “genre,” but that’s okay right? Again, it’s similar to the hot chocolate thing, where many people love their cocoa -but not all of us do… So let’s see what was selected -and you can decide for yourself what would be in your mug if you were reading that very same book!

Rosemary: A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry is her ninth Christmas mystery. These stories are suspenseful and rather dark considering their holiday themes, but each one is perfection in its own small way. Caroline and Joshua Fielding must spend the Christmas holidays with the wealthy Netheridge family in remote Whitby in Yorkshire. Joshua is to produce a play written by the Netheridge daughter based upon the story of Dracula. The days leading up to the production are full of contention and then a horrible act of violence occurs. Will Caroline be able to solve the crime before the dawn of Christmas day?

Julie: Steven Hornby’s first novel, Secrets of a Christmas Box, explores the secret world of Christmas tree ornaments. These Tree-Dwellers come to life every year after sleeping away the non-holiday season in the Christmas box. Apparently the author had intended it originally to be a screenplay and it might have fared better in that format.

Ann: In The Chocolate Snowman Murders by JoAnna Carl, (9th in the “chocoholic” mysteries series) the main character is Lee McKinney, a transplanted Texan in western Michigan, who manages her aunt’s chocolate shop. The town of Warner Pier is getting ready for WinterFest, a Christmastime festival designed to help promote winter tourism in the town along Lake Michigan. Lee is on the planning committee, and is asked to pick up the out of town judge who’s coming to town to judge the art exhibit that’s part of the festival. But on the way home from the airport, the guy is not only drunk and obnoxious, but begins pawing at Lee in the truck. She dumps him at a motel while she drives home and tries to compose herself. But when the guy is found murdered in his room the next day, Lee is under suspicion. Carl’s books fall somewhere between cozy and medium-boiled, and also give the reader a good sense of place of the western Michigan resort towns like Saugatuck and Grand Haven, after which Warner Pier is modeled.

Megan: The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts is a cozy Christmas story about three best friends, each in need of a miracle. Kylie Gray is newly single and unemployed when she purchases the antique snow globe that will change their lives. According the shop owner, the snow globe was a gift to a German toymaker would had lost his wife and son. One day that woman came into his shop, mended his broken heart, and changed his life forever. Since then the globe has been passed down, always finding a person in need. Kylie is hopeful that this gift to herself will provide the miracle that she needs. This is a sweet, predictable story about friendship, family, and true love. If that type of story is not your cup of tea, you may enjoy Marvel’s Zombies Christmas Carol, adapted by Jim McCann and illustrated by David Baldeon and Jeremy Treece. In this graphic adaptation of Dickens’ classic story, there is no Christmas in London because the Hungry Death has devastated the city. Mankind’s only hope for salvation rests on the shoulders of the bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. On Christmas Eve Scrooge is visited by three spirits who reveal to Scrooge the role he played in causing the Hungry Death and its devastating consequences. He awakens on Christmas Day inspired and resolved to change his ways and put the undead to rest. The illustrations are at once horrific and fascinating and the story remains quite true to the original, despite the unique zombie twist.

Emma: The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck is a story of forgiveness and second chances. 12-year-old Eddie feels he deserves a bicycle for Christmas even if money is tight since his dad died. His gift is a homemade red sweater. Eddie hates his new sweater, throws it on the floor and basically pouts all day spoiling the holiday for his mother and grandparents. What follows next is a dream which is too real for Eddie. On the way home from his grandparents house, there is a car accident and his mother is killed. Eddie is forced to live with his grandparents, hating it and eventually running away. A neighbor helps Eddie see the error in his choices. When Eddie wakes up he gets another chance to celebrate Christmas this time on December 26th. He is happy, content, and thankful for his family.

Carol: I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley is the fourth in a series starring precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce. It’s nearly Christmas in post WWII England when our chemistry and poison-obsessed young sleuth decides she’ll trap Saint Nick while he’s delivering gifts–and prove his existence to her two sisters. All of her plans are put on the back (Bunsen) burner when a film crew comes to make a movie at her family’s estate Buckshaw. When a movie star on set turns up murdered, the fearless Flavia, who is herself among the suspects, throws herself headlong into the investigation. Always a delightful series, this one is made even more merry by the Christmas-time setting.

Janet: The Perfect Love Song by Patti Callahan Henry centers on the lives and careers of two couples. Brothers Jack and Jimmy are musicians who lead a nomadic life with their band in order to perform to live audiences. Their absence is difficult for Kara (Jack’s fiancée) and Charlotte (Jimmy’s first real love). As a Christmas gift for Charlotte Jimmy writes a love song for her which is renamed “A Christmas Song” by their overly eager agent which audiences across the country love. With this song Jimmy, as a solo act, hits the big time. His popularity as a performer keeps him on the road longer which jeopardizes his relationships with his loved ones. After much soul-searching Jimmy realizes the next step he must take.

Steve: Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, is a nice quick read for the holidays. At the onset, we see Luther and Nora Krank dropping off their only child, Blair, at the airport as she is set to embark on a Peace Corps trip to Peru. Blair is fresh out of grad school and this is the first year she will not be home for Christmas. Unable to sleep that night, Luther, an accountant, tallies up the previous Christmas’ expenses, and seething at the high cost, $6100, conjures up a plan to skip Christmas and instead escape with his wife on a Caribbean cruise. He manages to convince his wife to go along with this, and thus the shenanigans begin. The Kranks live on a nice suburban street, along with nosey neighbors and their do-what-I-do mentality. The neighbors are not happy to hear that the Kranks will be skipping Christmas, how dare they! But the Kranks stand their ground, that is until Christmas Eve, the day before their cruise is to set sail, when Blair calls from the airport with news that she is surprising them by coming home for Christmas! Not only that, she is bringing her new fiancé, a Peruvian who has never experienced an American Christmas. It ends up that without their neighbors’ help, they will not able to pull things together and everyone comes to the rescue. There’s nothing earth shattering here, but in the end Luther sees the importance of Christmas activities and neighbors and even ends up giving his cruise tickets to his nemesis across the street. The book does raise an interesting question of “What if” you skipped all the Christmas hoopla and stripped things down to the basics, would it make for a more, or less pleasant, holiday?

Dori: The Gift: A Novel by Pete Hamill is a semi-autobiographical coming of age novella about a young sailor on leave from boot camp who comes home to spend Christmas with his Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn, New York before he’s shipped off to Korea. He’s hoping that he can win back the affection of his high school sweetheart and longing to get to know his hard drinking, emotionally absent father. Hamill perfectly captures the claustrophic, poor, yet supportive neighborhood and young Pete’s dreams of a different life. Lyrical and bittersweet, this novella is a gem.

Stacey: The Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies was written as a novella to accompany the release of the movie in the spring of 1947. This is one of those classic stories that will never feel out-of-date as the underlying idea is timeless and universal: if you believe in the good of others and follow your heart, you’ll find what makes you happiest in the end. Doris, a single mom and dedicated career woman, is raising her daughter Susan with no illusions about life, but their new neighbor Fred thinks it’s a little sad to have no sense of wonder about the world. When Kris Kringle becomes Macy’s seasonal Santa, it gives everyone an opportunity to see the magic in their world.

Shockingly, we’re following up our Holiday tales with Horror! (I should mention that we pick the genres at random, or is that stating the obvious now?) So if you want to start 2012 off on the same reading page as our book group, you’ll want to find a book that has been written to frighten the reader, with supernatural or occult elements to make it different from standard suspense fiction. There are subgenres in this category that range from comic horror to demonic possession to historical horror to haunted houses, so there should be something out there somewhere that will appeal to just about everyone, right? Right! Have a wonderful Holiday Season, filled with good books of all kinds!

— Stacey