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Posts Tagged ‘holiday reading’

blissOne of my favorite holiday-themed tales is my friend Mary Kay Andrews’ Blue Christmas, which is warm, sweet and funny, complete with a hilarious turkey-carving disaster. So I blissfully gobbled up Christmas Bliss (St. Martin’s, purchased e-book), which is the diverting follow-up, featuring more of Weezie and Bebe’s excellent adventures. It’s the week before Christmas and Weezie is prepping for her small Christmas Eve wedding to Daniel, Savannah’s hottest chef. Except Daniel’s showing off his culinary expertise to the sultry owner of a chi-chi restaurant in Manhattan. Meanwhile, bestie Bebe is happily and heavily pregnant, juggling her job on Tybee, renovations on a new house, and worries about her charter-boat captain beau Harry’s career. As Weezie hops on a plane for a surprise trip to New York, Bebe is left with mischievous mutt Jethro and the burning secret that she is still married to her snake of an ex-husband. All sorts of complications ensue — including Weezie losing both her coat and shoes in separate big-city mishaps, and Bebe enduring a baby shower — but Andrews neatly wraps up the intersecting storylines into a package that’s merry and bright.

starryDebbie Macomber’s Starry Night (Random House, digital galley) is about as improbable as me shedding pounds over the holidays, but at least it’s a no-cal treat. Chicago reporter Carrie Slayton hopes to trade the society beat for hard news with an exclusive interview with best-selling wilderness author Finn Dalton. Only the reclusive Finn never gives interviews, not even when Carrie eventually tracks him to Alaska and hires a bush pilot to drop her off  at Finn’s isolated cabin with a snowstorm howling at her heels. Forced together in close quarters, the odd couple find some common ground, but their mutual attraction isn’t great enough to overcome Finn’s issues with love-’em-and-leave-’em women like his mom and his ex. Carrie returns to Chicago without her scoop or Finn — until he comes looking for her. Awwww. 

fourthA snowstorm also plays Cupid in Susan Mallery’s Christmas on 4th Street (Harlequin, digital gallery), another winning entry in her Fool Gold’s series of contemporary romances. It’s only slightly more realistic than Starry Night, but Mallery’s fans are used to almost-magical events in the small California town. Putting tragedy behind her, Noelle Perkins forsakes her law career to open the Christmas Attic shop on 4th Street. She’s brimming with holiday cheer, unlike Army surgeon Gabriel Boylan, coming off a hard tour overseas to visit his brother. Gabriel is undecided about his next move, although his exacting drill sergeant dad expects him to continue in the military. Lovely Noelle has him considering his options, but their romance craters until the aforementioned storm and an ensuing avalanche intervene. Sweet.

flynnKatie Flynn’s A Christmas to Remember (Random House Adult Trade, digital galley) is one of several books by popular British authors to be released globally as e-books. Flynn’s warm-hearted tale is a bit soapy and predictable, covering seven years after World War II as young Tess Williams grows up in Liverpool, where food is still rationed and times are hard. Living with her grandmother Edie above a hat shop, bright Tess makes friends with widower tobacconist Albert Payne, tangles with mean girl Marilyn, is torn between the affections of farmer boy Jonty and city boy Snowy, and wonders whether to go to university or get a job. An accident and then a stray cat set her on an unexpected path. All’s well that ends well with another memorable holiday. More for fans of East Enders than Downton Abbey, although I like both.

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I’ve been reading a lot more than writing the last couple weeks, not just books but everyone else’s lists of best books, favorite books, recommended reading, etc. Consequently, my own TBR list grows ever longer, and I will be writing to Santa about that.

But it occurs to me as I start wrapping up books for holiday gifts, there’s no way I’m going to be able to blog about all the recent titles I want to recommend before the year’s up. If you follow this blog, you already know many of my 2010 favorites. If you don’t, check the archives. Here, though, are the late arrivals deserving of ribbons and bows.

An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin (Grand Central Publishing): Martin’s artful novel about the art world — auctions, galleries, artists, aesthetes, collectors, dealers — draws on his own experience as an experienced collector. Narrator Daniel relates the rise of the lovely Lacey, as charming as she is ambitious, as she deftly navigates New York’s social circles and art scene from the late 1990s to the present. Photographs of many of the art works in play are embedded in the text, making the hardcover book a most desirable object. 

The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer: Activities and Amusements for the Curious Paper Artist, by Emily Winfield Martin (PotterCraft/Crown Publishing): This one’s for my fellow Caroline Cousins, with whom I played catalog paper dolls for years. Both Meg and Gail are far craftier than I, but we all like playing with scissors and paper, and the whimsical dolls, costumes and nifty projects in this book are ready-made for rainy afternoons and let’s-pretend. We might share with the kids in the family.

Bloody Crimes, by James Swanson (Morrow): This one’s for my brother, who read Swanson’s Manhunt, about the search for President Lincoln’s assassin. Here, he continues the dramatic saga of the closing days of the Civil War, as Confederate Jefferson Davis flees the Yankees and Lincoln’s body is carried home to Illinois on a 13-day funeral train.

I Still Dream About You, by Fannie Flagg (Random House): Mom and I are sharing Flagg’s new novel, a warm-hearted mystery/comedy of manners as the real-estate market collapses in Birmingham, Ala. Maggie, a former beauty queen with a seemingly perfect life, plans to end it all before fellow agents Brenda and Ethel help her battle rival Babs, “the Beast of Birmingham.” Humor, romance, secrets from the past. No wonder’s it’s an “Okra Pick” by Southern booksellers.

It’s a Book, by Lane Smith (Roaring Books Press): For children ages 6-11, and for all of us readers in a digital age, here’s a sweet reminder to the wonder of turning pages. No batteries needed.

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter (Feiwel and Friends): My inner child has no problem declaring love for a witty, well-written tale for middle-graders. Otto, Clara and Max Hardscrabble know that people think they’re a peculiar trio because of their unusual family history. They also prove irresistible as they have unexpected adventures in London and a seaside village while perhaps solving the puzzle of their missing mother. Think Lemony Snicket meets Joan Aiken. Clever.

Rogue Island, by Bruce DeSilva (Forge/TOR): My sources tell me DeSilva’s debut mystery will hit home for all us ink-stained wretches, especially beat reporters, who have toiled in the newspaper trenches over the years. Liam Mulligan is an investigative reporter for a Rhode Island daily, which means he also covers cops, trend stories and dog tales at the behest of a city editor who makes Lou Grant seem like a cuddly puppy. There’s so much crime and corruption afoot, Mulligan’s reports on a series of neighborhood arsons fight for space above the fold. Read all about it!

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill): In the night silence of her isolated sick room, Bailey can hear the sound something very small crunching celery. It is her new companion, a wild snail, dining on a wilted flower on her bedside table. Bailey, totally bedridden by a mysterious motor neuron disease, becomes enchanted by the gastropod, closely observing its routines as time creeps by, well, like a snail. This small book, thoughtful and eloquent, belongs on the shelf with Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Open Book: Let’s see. I received an ARC of Bloody Crimes, a review copy of The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, won the The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer as part of a Facebook promotion, and bought copies of An Object of Beauty, I Still Dream About You, It’s a Book, The Kneebone Boy and Rogue Island. More to come.

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