From Page to Screen: Holiday Films

It’s officially time to cozy up with a fluffy blanket and steaming mug to watch your favorite holiday movie. Whether you’re sipping cocoa, tea, or traditional wassail, chances are you have a favorite festive flick that you watch on a yearly basis. Are you a member of the Griswold family? Or do you like hanging out with Buddy the Elf? Perhaps you’d rather spend time with Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun.

Before you start your holiday movie marathon, experience one of your favorite holiday stories in a new way! Pick up one of the books that served as the inspiration behind the movies of the season.

In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd

In God We Trust disproves the adage “You can never go back.” Bending the ear of Flick, his childhood-buddy-turned-bartender, Shepherd recalls passionately his genuine Red Ryder BB gun, confesses adolescent failure in the arms of Junie Jo Prewitt, and relives a story of man against fish that not even Hemingway could rival. From pop art to the World’s Fair, Shepherd’s subjects speak with a universal irony and are deeply and unabashedly grounded in American Midwestern life, together rendering a wonderfully nostalgic impression of a more innocent era when life was good, fun was clean, and station wagons roamed the earth.

This book is the inspiration behind the movie A Christmas Story.

The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern

Unable at first to find a publisher for his evocative tale about a man named George Pratt who ponders suicide until he receives an opportunity to see what the world would be like without him, Stern ultimately published the story in a small pamphlet and sent it out as his 1943 Christmas card. One of those 200 cards found its way into the hands of Frank Capra, who shared it with Jimmy Stewart, and the film that resulted became the holiday tradition we cherish today.

This book is the inspiration behind the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty, they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash, they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

This book is the inspiration behind the movie Christmas with the Kranks.

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Disillusioned journalist Tom Langdon must get from Washington to Los Angeles in time for Christmas. Forced to travel by train, he begins a journey of rude awakenings, thrilling adventures, and holiday magic. He has no idea that the locomotives pulling him across America will actually take him into the rugged terrain of his own heart, as he rediscovers people’s essential goodness and someone very special he believed he had lost.

This book is the inspiration behind the movie The Christmas Train.

A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid

When Todd McCray hears that a local animal shelter is seeking temporary homes for its dogs during the days leading to Christmas, he knows exactly what he wants for the holidays. His father objects, but Todd’s persistence quickly wins out. Soon the McCrays are the short-term foster family for a lovable pooch the young man names Christmas.

This book is the inspiration behind the movie A Dog Named Christmas.

Happy holidays!


Hallmark Reads

If the sight of snowflakes last weekend had you reaching for a mug of hot chocolate, a cozy blanket, and your favorite Christmas pajamas, this list is for you. Charming titles from Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery, Jenny Hale, and more have inspired Hallmark Christmas movies for years. Whether you subscribe to the belief that the book is always better than the movie or you’re just looking for festive reads to celebrate the season, here are ten Hallmark reads to enjoy.

Let It Snow by Nancy Thayer: New movie alert! Let It Snow was published last year, and Hallmark’s movie version Nantucket Noel is premiering this month. Catch it on the Hallmark Channel on November 19, 20, and 24. Christina Antonioni is preparing for the holidays at her Nantucket toy shop, decorating and unpacking last-minute holiday shipments, when her landlord suddenly raises her rent. At first, Christina doubts whether she can continue business on the wharf, but after becoming close to her landlord’s granddaughter and son, she starts to believe it may be the best Christmas season yet.

The Christmas Contest by Scarlet Wilson: New movie alert! Published earlier this year, The Christmas Contest will make its movie debut on the Hallmark Channel on November 28. Ben Winters and Lara Cottridge are obsessed with Christmas. When the strangers hear that a Vermont radio station is hosting a Christmas contest with a $10,000 prize for the winner’s charity of choice, they quickly enter the competition and become finalists. Will battling it out in the stiff competition ruin the spirit of Christmas? Or will Ben and Lara realize they have more in common aside from a love of Christmas?  

Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber: New movie alert! Mrs. Miracle Christmas, published in 2019, is the fourth book in Debbie Macomber’s Mrs. Miracle series. Catch the 2021 movie on the Hallmark Channel on November 20. Laurel McCullough could use some good news. She and her husband, Zach, have given up on having a baby after too many heart-wrenching experiences. Laurel’s grandmother, Helen, can no longer take care of herself and Laurel and Zach decide to move in to help her when plans for home healthcare fall through. Just as they’re about to lose faith, Mrs. Miracle arrives at their door and gives them the best Christmas gift.     

Sleigh Bell Sweethearts by Teri Wilson: Zoey Hathaway’s biggest dream is to become a pilot. When she inherits a struggling reindeer farm, complete with three dozen unruly reindeer and one dangerously attractive ranch hand named Alec, her carefully crafted plans seem to fly out the window. If Zoey wants to succeed, she’ll have to put her trust in Alec and accept his help, but it’s not just her farm that’s at stake; so is her heart. Sleigh Bell Sweethearts was published in 2013 and the Hallmark movie entitled Northern Lights of Christmas was released in 2018. You can catch the movie on the Hallmark Channel on November 24. 

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale: Single mother Abbey Fuller put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold to raise her son. When her son starts to get a little older, Abbey jumps at the chance to take a small job decorating Nick Sinclair’s mansion for Christmas. Nick has plenty of money for the project, but absolutely no holiday spirit. Can Abbey make her dream of being an interior designer come true? Can she help Nick finally enjoy some Christmas magic? Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses was published in 2018 and premiered as a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2019.

The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson: New York wedding planner Jessica Christie becomes stranded in a remote Alaskan town when she goes on a quest to find the rare Jingle Bell Flower for a celebrity bride. Jessica is desperate to return home in time for the wedding, but will her Christmas wish change after meeting local botanist Matt Holden? Jingle Bell Bride was published in 2017 and premiered as a Hallmark movie last year. The movie will air again this year on the Hallmark Channel on Friday, November 26.  

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans: Kimberly Rossi’s life is a bit of a mess. Two failed engagements, a divorce, and numerous other heartbreaks have left her alone and with no prospects. Despite her many romantic hiccups, Kimberly dreams of becoming a published romance author and signs up for a romance writing workshop shortly before Christmas. Once at the retreat, Kimberly meets fellow writer Zeke who helps her step out of her comfort zone, both in her life and in her writing. This 2015 novel is the inspiration behind Hallmark’s 2017 movie.

Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery: Bridal boutique owner Maddie Krug is excited to plan a Christmas wedding until she realizes that she’ll be working closely with the gorgeous brother of the bride, action movie star Johnny Blake. How can small-town girl Maddie keep from falling for him when wedding planning involves candlelit dinners, snowy strolls, and mistletoe around every corner? Marry Me at Christmas was published in 2016 and the Hallmark movie premiered the following year.      

The Nine Lives of Christmas by Sheila Roberts: Ambrose, a pesky orange cat, is in danger of losing his ninth and final life. He tells the universe he’ll do anything, absolutely anything, to survive and have a quiet, comfortable final life. True to his word, Ambrose plays matchmaker for the man who rescued him and a woman at the local animal shelter. The Nine Lives of Christmas was released as a book and Hallmark movie in 2014. You can catch the movie this month on the Hallmark Channel on November 25.  

Christmas Joy by Nancy Naigle: Market researcher Joy Holbrook is all work and no play when she gets an urgent call to return home to help her recovering aunt. Joy agrees to take a leave of absence from work and temporarily run her family’s farm, but she didn’t know she’d need to work with Ben Andrews, her former crush, in order to decorate for the annual Christmas Home Tour competition. Will the town’s festivities open Joy’s heart to love, home, and family? Christmas Joy was published in 2016, and the Hallmark movie was released in 2018.  

For a complete schedule of this year’s Hallmark Christmas movies, visit the Hallmark Channel. Be sure to visit the Library to discover more festive reads for the season.

Books and Movies to Share on Galentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, February 14, and whether you love or hate this holiday, it’s hard to deny that it does make for a great excuse to eat copious amounts of chocolate covered strawberries without shame (or is that just me?). I am personally a fan of the holiday, but one of my most favorite holidays is actually the day preceding Valentine’s Day- Galentine’s Day!

Image from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation”

If you are unfamiliar with Galentine’s Day, it was born out of the amazing television show Parks and Recreation. The holiday was the creation of the beloved fictional deputy director of Parks and Recreation in Pawnee, Indiana, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). The show’s writers centered the 16th episode of the second season around Leslie’s favorite February tradition, Galentine’s Day. Over a brunch of waffles and excessive gift-giving, Leslie celebrates the joy of female friendship with close friends and co-workers. This has now become a legit holiday with companies creating cards for the occasion and businesses offering Galentine’s Day specials.

Leslie explains, “Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” Unfortunately, this is not the time for brunch gatherings and long evenings at the wine bar, so how can you celebrate? Share some amazing books with your best gal pals or watch a film together online (ideas for how to watch together here)!

Below you’ll find some of my top picks for books (fiction and nonfiction) and films that are perfect for Galentine’s Day celebrating and sharing!

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

Bridesmaids directed by Paul Feig

Booksmart directed by Olivia Wilde

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Girls Trip directed by Malcom D. Lee

Mean Girls directed by Mark Waters

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Girl Talk: What Science Can Tell Us About Female Friendship by Jacqueline Mroz

Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship by Kayleen Schaefer

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Wishing you all a safe and happy Galentine’s Day! Happy reading!

Like Our Holiday Decorations?

Have you had a chance to see the holiday decorations here at the Rocky River Public Library? Would you like to learn how we did it? Wonder no more! Below are links to easy to follow directions on how we made our book page wreaths and twine trees.

Book Page Wreath 

Twine Trees

Looking for other great holiday decorating ideas? Check out some of the books we have here at the library for easy and beautiful holiday decor.

Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts : 225 Inspired Projects For Year-Round CelebrationsCover image for

The Big Book Of Holiday Paper Crafts : [Easy Keepsake Designs For Handmade Projects That Show How Much You Care].
Cover image for

Homemade Holiday : Craft Your Way Through More Than 40 Festive Projects

Cover image for Homemade holiday :

Homemade Holidays : 150 Festive Crafts, Recipes, Gifts & Parties

Cover image for Homemade holidays :

Don’t be a Grinch… read a HOliday Story!

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!

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

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


Holiday Stories for the Holiday Time!

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!

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

It’s a Holly Jolly Holiday Story!

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