For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:
December 3: Holiday Reads (Books you love reading during the holiday season.)
I tweaked this topic a little to make it about books set during the holiday season.
1.One Day In December by Josie Silver– Laurie sees a man on a bus one day in December. There are lightening strikes and cupids arrows but they are too stunned to get on/off the bus in time to meet. Laurie is convinced that he’s The One That Got Away, but what can she do? She doesn’t even know his name. A year later, she meets him at a New Year’s Eve party. Her best friend, Sarah introduces him as her new boyfriend, Jack. Oops! Laurie tries to move on with her life, and Jack makes a real go of his relationship with Sarah, but whatever was between them doesn’t seem to be going away. We check in with these characters over the next decade as love and friendship tears them apart and brings them together again. It’s not a deep book but it’s a sweet one that leaves you in a good mood.
2. Winter by Ali Smith- This is the second in Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet. Art is meant to spend Christmas in Cornwall with his fiancee, Charlotte, and his mother, Sophie, at her home in Cornwall. But Art and Charlotte split up shortly before the holiday, and rather than explain things, Art hires, Lux, a young immigrant who looks like she needs the cash, to pretend to be Charlotte. When they arrive, Sophie seems unwell, and Lux convinces Art to call Sophie’s estranged sister, who comes at once to help. It’s a family story, yes. But it’s also a very contemporary story about the changing climate, both environmental and political. We travel back and forth in these character’s memories and ask how they- and we- got to their present circumstances.
3.Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker by Gregory Maguire– This story is about a famous, magical nutcracker and the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him. It’s based on ETA Hoffman’s famous Christmas story, made famous by Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. It’s essentially a story of a man who has been hurt and abused by life and other people. Yet he has something precious to share with his goddaughter one Christmas Eve, and he makes sure that he does that.
4. A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer– Originally published in 1941 under the title Envious Casca, this book introduces readers to the dysfunctional Herriard family, gathered at Uncle Nat’s country house for Christmas. When Nat is murdered in a room locked from the inside on Christmas Eve, police detectives descend on the family, and the secrets come flying out. It’s a darly comic British country house mystery that will make you feel grateful for your own family, whatever issues you might have with them.
5. Shakespeare’s Christmas by Charlaine Harris-While I’m not totally sold on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series, I do like her Lily Bard novels. This is the third and I’d recommend at least reading the first in the series prior to this one, to learn about Lily’s backstory. In this book Lily returns to her native Bartley, Arkansas, to attend her sister, Verena’s, Christmas wedding. When Lily’s boyfriend, Jack (a fellow PI) arrives in town, it’s not just to accompany Lily to the wedding: it’s to follow up a lead about an eight year old kidnapping. Lily, bearing physical and psychological scars of her own, finds herself drawn into the case when she learns that Verena is marry a widower with an eight year old daughter, who bears a strong resemblance to the girl that Jack is searching for…
6. Take A Chance on Me by Jill Mansell– Cleo Quinn has bad luck when it comes to men. When her childhood nemesis, Johnny LaVenture returns to town, and starts teasing her as if he’s never left. Meanwhile, Cleo’s sister, Abbie, has an idyllic relationship with her husband, Tom. Until Tom starts acting strange. She’s determined to find out what’s happening, even if it means the end of their marriage. The various storylines converge one chaotic holiday season. It’s charming, British, and fun. What more do you need to know?
7. Landline by Rainbow Rowell– Georgie McCool and her husband Neal still love each other and they both adore their two young daughters. But their marriage is on the rocks. They just can’t seem to make it work. When Georgie, a sitcom writer, gets an important Christmas meeting with some studio executives, she expects Neal to by angry. But she’s still surprised when he takes the kids and goes to his parents in Omaha for Christmas. That night, Georgie manages to get a call through to Neal, but the Neal she’s speaking to is Neal from 15 years earlier, when they first started dating. Now Georgie feels like she’s got a chance to fix her marriage to Neal before it even starts. Should they have split up at that first pivotal moment? Or this this just another in a long line of the ups and downs that make up a marriage?
8. Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich– I actually think that I got tired of the Stephanie Plum books shortly after this one, but the series still felt funny and fresh in this short, in between the “official” series, novella. Stephanie Plum is behind on Christmas. She’s got no tree, no presents, and a strange man in her kitchen. Not to mention she’s searching for a bail jumper names Santa Claws, and a mob of manic elves is after her. Just a normal Christmas in Jersey for this bounty hunter extraordinaire. If this were any longer it would feel like too much but at 150 pages, it’s a light treat.
9. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding- OK this may be cheating since it’s bookended by New Year’s Eve but the action of the novel takes place over the course of a year. But I suppose a few of the other books on the list aren’t strictly limited to the season. And I like the way that this book uses the New Year as a time for new beginnings, in narrative, and in life.