Top Ten Tuesday: Books of Holidays Past

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

Today’s topic was:

December 14: Books on My Winter 2021 To-read List (or summer if you’re in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying not to make new TBRs until I’ve read through my old ones, I decided to look at books I got as gifts this time of year. Just so you know, my birthday was a few weeks ago, so some of these may have been birthday presents, which tend to blend in with the winter holidays for me.

1. There’s No Such Thing As A Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein by Susan Sussman – Like many non-Christian children I felt left out of the holiday season as a kid. This is a book that my parents gave me for Chanukah as a child. It looks at how children of all different backgrounds can help each other celebrate what’s special to them. As Sandy’s grandfather explains to her: “We honor our friends, when we share what is special in our lives with them.” As a child and an adult, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to celebrate my own traditions and background with others, and to help others celebrate theirs.

2. Sweet Valley Twins and Friends Super Chiller: The Christmas Ghost by Francine Pascal– For some reason when I read this as a kid it terrified me. I’d seen various incarnations of A Christmas Carol (Mickey’s Christmas Carol, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, etc. ) and been relatively OK with them, but for some reasons the ghosts in this contemporary retelling really freaked me out. I think it had something to do with the contemporary suburban setting seeming a bit too familiar. Also I usually didn’t see those movies around the holiday season. I’d gotten this as part of a set for a birthday present, so I started reading it just as the holiday season was starting up. So that also felt very immediate.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis– I got a box set of these as a gift one year in my childhood. I can’t remember who gave them to me, so if you happen to be reading this now, I’m sorry, but I did love the books, so thank you so much for giving them to me! I remember reading this over the school vacation one winter. Though in retrospect, it’s unlikely I could have read them all in a ten-ish day period as a kid… But however long it took me to read them, it’s a happy memory!

4. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen– My cousin gave me this when I was about twelve or thirteen after finding out that I liked acting and theater. Even though I didn’t become an actor, it taught me more about what acting actually is than anything else I’ve read. Interestingly, I think it also made me a better writer. Some of the exercises that Hagen suggests for actors getting to know their characters also apply to writers who want to understand their characters better. Over the years I’ve thought a lot about how similar acting and writing are in some ways. I think this book underscores my point.

5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was a gift from my aunt a few years ago. It was everywhere at the time. I was seeing it on goodreads, bookstagram, blogs, etc. So I was glad to have a chance to read it for myself. I really enjoyed it.

6. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– I’m putting these on here as being representative of all the wonderful books gifted to me over the years by my Aussie book buddy. She’s given me so many others too though, for various birthdays and holidays. But I do think I got the first of this series around this time of year.

7. Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery– I think this may have been a birthday gift from a friend of mine. It was the first time I “met” Anne Shirley, who has become a lifelong friend (or “kindred spirit” as Anne would say). I couldn’t find a link to the actual edition she gave me. While it’s a beautiful, illustrated, hardcover volume, it includes Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne’s House of Dreams, which always struck me as odd. Why not just include the first 3 books in the series? I’m still glad to have it though, because as I said, it’s beautiful, it’s survived many years, and was my first introduction to Anne and LM Montgomery.

8. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – I’m counting these as one since someone gave me both of them at the same time. Each one is a lovely illustrated edition (linked). Both of them remain favorites to this day. They’re beautiful, sad and ultimately hopeful. I’ve since sought out some of Burnett’s work for older readers too.

9. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume – Just a note that I really don’t like this cover. It implies that God and Margaret have a texting relationship, which they don’t. I’m fine with elements of the book (like references to technology) being updated, but don’t make the whole book look like something it’s not! But I did like the book. I got it sometime before puberty, and it lead to some elevated expectations that were dashed (menstruation turned out to be way less fun than this book implied!) but I still have fond memories of it.

10. The Dancing Floor by Barbara Michaels – Michaels was one of the first “grown up” authors that I started reading regularly. I was probably somewhere in the 11-14 age range, and I told my grandmother that I wanted this as a gift. I was very proud to reveal that I’d graduated to adult reading.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Literary Married Couples

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 12: Favorite Couples In Books

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Since so many romances roll the credits when the central couple gets married, I decided to do a favorite married couples list. These characters keep the romance (and/or major drama!) going strong long after the wedding.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_1. Anne and Gilbert in The “Anne” series by LM Montgomery- These were sort of a  given for me.  They’ve been my idea of a great fictional couple since I was a kid. They grow up together, they grow apart and come back together again. They give each other space to thrive and they’re always there for each other if things go wrong. They tied the knot in Anne’s House of Dreams, book 5 (out of an 8 book series). Even though the last two books in the series focus more on their children, there’s plenty of Anne and Gilbert drama post marriage in book 6, Anne of Ingleside.

517zcqxmvll-_ac_us218_2. Valency and Barney in The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery- This stand alone novel features Valency, a spinster who gets some bad news from the doctor. In an attempt to seize the day, she asks Barney to marry her. It’ll make her happy and, and it’ll only last for about a year… But Barney finds happiness with Valency and soon the terms of their marriage aren’t acceptable to him. He wants more time… But there are indications even before the wedding that there might be something special between these two. I missed them on first read, but I picked up on a few after a recent reread.

51ozv7qacul-_sx260_3. Claire and Jamie in the “Outlander” series by Diana Gabaldon- These two really make each other better. Jamie’s a smart fellow and being with a woman from the future opens his mind to new ways of thinking. Claire is challenged by sexist thinking whether she’s in the 20th century or the 18th but being with someone who believes in her absolutely encourages her to challenge those systems right back. They get married about halfway through the first book and the series is currently 8 books and they’re still going strong.

51vxh2jgv8l-_ac_us218_4. Scarlet and Rhett in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- Scarlet may have her eyes elsewhere for most of the book, but if she’d been married to Ashley Wilkes she’d have walked all over him to the point where he’d have been a slip of paper on the floor in about a week. She and Rhett get married around midway through the book. Rhett is someone who can match her wit for wit,  manipulation for manipulation. Scarlet is used to having the upper hand but Rhett challenges her for it and sometimes claims it for himself. For other partners, they’d be toxic. But for each other they’re pretty perfect, which is why I maintain that they’ll eventually work it out.

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_5. Maxim DeWinter and his second wife in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- I don’t think it’s a good sign when we don’t know the second wife’s first name, but the first wife is the title of the book! But the unnamed narrator this novel feels tormented by her husband’s beautiful, beloved late wife.  I think that’s probably a common experience to some extent (albeit with less Gothic twists than this novel!). Marrying a widow or widower means accepting their previous spouse and whatever feelings may linger.

51pclzvhwel-_ac_us218_6. Henry and Claire in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger– These two definitely have a weird relationship thanks to Henry’s Chrono-Displacement Disorder. It means that Henry (who unintentionally time travels) occasionally meets his wife as a kid, and sometimes runs into her after she’s widowed… But they make it work! It’s not always what I’d call healthy but it’s certainly a marriage that faces some unique challenges.

 

51bumg7jwll-_ac_us218_7. Ruth and Quin in The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson– Ruth is separated from her family when they’re immigrating to England after Hitler invades Austria. Now the Austrian-Jewish Berger family is safe in London except for Ruth. Family friend Quinton Sommerville is a British citizen and he offers to help: he and Ruth will get married. They can get into England together and once there, they can get the marriage annulled. But the best laid plans often go awry… An annulment turns out to be more complicated than expected and when Quin and Ruth start to fall in love, things get even more unpredictable.

51mssp4enl._ac_ul436_ 8. Henry and Margaret in Howard’s End by EM Forester– In a lot of ways these two are an odd couple. Henry is a wealthy industrialist with three children from a previous marriage. Margaret is a spinster with progressive politics and intellectual passions. But they legitimately like one another. The marriage faces challenges from day one, ranging from Margaret’s good hearted but flighty sister, to Henry’s checkered past and his  hostile children. But the biggest challenges come from their different ways of seeing and responding to the world.

71a-uqdbfwl._ac_ul436_9. Sir Percy Blackney and Marguerite in The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy– It’s the French Revolution and aristocrats are falling prey to Madame Guillotine. Their only hope is The Scarlet Pimpernel who rescues them from their fate with the aid of daring disguises. Lady Marguerite Blackney is married to Sir Percy, a man who seemed to love her during their courtship only to reveal himself to be a rather dim witted fop.  When her beloved brother is arrested and facing execution, she’s told that she might save him if she helps the French Republic find the Scarlet Pimpernel. Most readers will be able to guess the Scarlet Pimpernel’s true identity based on that synopsis, but it’s still a lot of fun.

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_10. Carl and Annie in Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith– This book looks and Carl and Annie’s first year of marriage. They got married against the wishes of their parents in 1927 and left their native Brooklyn so that Carl could attend law school in the Midwest. They face challenges ranging from loneliness to poverty.  But they push through with loyalty and love.