Monday, December 19, 2016

All Reds Read for Christmas...

RHYS BOWEN: By California standards it's very cold here. There was frost on my balcony and driveway this morning and I looked out on white rooftops. I know, it sounds wimpy compared to what most of you are experiencing.

 But when I see frost and smoke rising from chimneys my instinct is to curl up by a warm fire with a cup of hot tea or cocoa and read a good book. So I'm wondering if you have particular old favorites that are brought out on cold and wintery days to be re-read. I always listen to the audio version of A Christmas Carol and always get a little weepy. And the Christmas part of Little Women. I am fond of Wind in the Willows and the scene when Mole gets lost in the snow and finds Badgers house. In fact I enjoy reading about other people trudging through snowy landscapes, knowing that I am safely indoors! I'm not sure what that says about my character. 

And I might take out an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery--is it called A Holiday with Murder? The one with Simon Lee and his sons.

I might even re-read my own Twelve Clues of Christmas as I wrote it to recreate my fantasy English Christmas in an old manor house. Do you ever read your own books, Reds? And enjoy them? Anyway, recommendations please for good reading by a roaring fire, with a glass of hot mulled wine in hand.

HALLIE EPHRON: I'm reading ... ahem, STILL reading THE GOLDFINCH. It is endless and it makes my hands ache to hold it but oh so engrossing. But for a Christmas read I'd go to poetry. A Child's Christmas in Wales. Followed by Agatha Christie or P. D. James short stories. Or a book about food. Laurie Colwin's HOME COOKING. Hoping my granddaughter is old enough to sit through 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: When we were little, my Mom would read  A Child's Christmas in Wales to us...

“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.” 

and then my step-dad would read A Visit from st. Nicholas.

"...when out on the roof there arose such a clatter--I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter!"

I'm trying to think what Christmas books I've read, besides A Christmas Carol. Hmm.  But please read Winters Tale, by Mark Helprin.  The snowiest coldest most beautiful book ever. Dead of  winter in  Manhattan, in two different centuries, with a flying white horse.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Since I was a child I've reread (or at least tried to find the time to reread) A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas every year. Last year I listened to Tim Curry reading A Christmas Carol, free from Audible, and it was fabulous. I'm going to listen again if I can figure out how to make the book start over:-) And every year, last thing on Christmas Eve, I read A Child's Christmas in Wales. It is my very favorite Christmas thing. 

Somehow I did not manage to pass my love of these traditions to my offspring. I'm hoping for better luck with the next generation:-)

Oh, and Rhys, I'm going to reread The Twelve Clues of Christmas! It is--well, maybe, because it's such a hard choice--my favorite Georgie. And I adore the traditional Christmas in the manor.

HANK: What about you, Reds and readers? Christmas reading? Or are you too crazed?


  1. Christmas is a great time for re-reading some of my favorite stories of the season. Of course, there’s Rhys’s “Twelve Clues of Christmas” along with Mary Higgins Clark’s “Silent Night,” and David Baldacci’s “The Christmas Train.”

    But Christmas reading is often about reading to the grandchildren, and there are so many good ones . . . Max Lucado’s “The Crippled Lamb,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and, of courses, Chris Van Allsburg's wonderful “The Polar Express” . . . .

  2. I watch the classic Christmas TV shows and movies each year, but I actually do not re-read any Christmas books. Instead, I read some new holiday-themed titles that are currently on my TBR mountain.

    This year, I have chosen FELIZ NAVIDEAD by Ann Myers, WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS by Vicki Delany and EGGNOG MURDER by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross.

  3. When I was in school, we used to spend several days every Christmas at my grandmother's house. She had a complete set of Dickens, so every year, when the noise and bustle of cooking and wrapping and catching up on family gossip got too much for me, I'd grab a new Dickens novel off the shelf and escape to Victorian England. Grandma would have pitched a fit if she'd caught me reading a contemporary novel, but somehow it was okay--even heartwarming--if she found me reading Dickens. In that way, Dickens became a part of my Christmas that went well beyond Scrooge. I read Pickwick Papers, and David Copperfield, and even Bleak House over the years, and always felt the urge to pick up Dickens at Christmas until well after I married and moved to Texas, when Nicholas Nickleby stopped me in my tracks. To this day, Dickens makes me think of Christmas, cold walks with the dog through pretty neighborhoods, and family.

  4. No Christmas re-reading here unless younger people are around to help read the Grinch, and The Night Before Christmas. What I'm reading this week (finally) is Say No More - and wish I didn't have work to do so I could just sit on the couch and finish it! Nice job, Hank.

    But on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog today I share a Christmas flash fiction - my first published fiction as an adult (sorry, I know, brazen self promotion...)! Enjoy.

  5. I love the recommendation of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, Rhys. They are the best characters in the world! And I second the EGGNOG MURDER anthology--if you're anxiously awaiting Barbara Ross's next book, this will tide you over.

    For Reds' Christmas books, can't beat Rhys's TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS. But when you're done, try DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS by that Lucy girl, and PREACHING TO THE CORPSE by Roberta Isleib. Writing a Christmas book is so much fun because underneath the glitter and sugar, the season can be fraught with tension and old grudges...perfect for a mystery!

    and ps, Hallie, every time I hear you saying you are STILL reading THE GOLDFINCH, I wonder if I can bear to take it on...

  6. I agree! There should be a whole blog on Hallie reads the Goldfinch. It is a journey!

    And thanks, Edith. That is so lovely of you! Hope you continue to enjoy it.

    Those of you who have written Christmas stories or novels… You have to be writing them when it isn't Christmas. How do you keep yourself in the spirit?

  7. And do people read Christmas books when it isn't the holiday season?

    Are there Hanukkah books?

  8. I read Christmas books out of season. No shame here. LOL

    Maybe there should be Hanukkah books! I've never seen one, but would certainly read one if it existed.

    The last thing we always did on Christmas Eve night while my children were growing up, after the cookies and milk were set out for Santa, was to snuggle up together and I would read A Visit From St. Nicholas. And when my grandson came along I read it to him. Now, for the last couple of years, he reads it to us, and I have to work hard not to sob all throughout the tale.

    One of my book clubs read The Goldfinch, and my usual schtick is to wait until the last minute to read selections or I forget what I read. So I had no choice but to finish it in less than a week. A remarkable story.

    Thanks for all the fun holiday reading ideas!

  9. Oh, my gosh, Karen--he reads it to you? I am crying, too. Wonderful.

    And yes, confession, my Goldfinch in sitting in my pile. Waiting. SO what think? A Goldfinch confessions blog someday?

  10. I dip into Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals. My kids enjoy re-reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Story of Holly and Ivy, and The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.

  11. I haven't thought of reading a Christmas book, although if any of you have the newest Dandy Gilver, it is set at Christmas, very quirky.

    Because I practically spend the rent on books, I'm rereading some during this expensive season. Presently I am engrossed in Tana French's first book, In The Woods. Nothing could be further from holiday fare.

    I did read again Deb's Water Like a Stone, set at Christmas time, but that was a couple of weeks ago. And I know I have Rhys's Christmas book, so maybe I'll reread that one next.

  12. I don't have books I re-read at Christmas, but the slower pace makes it possible to get through some of the books on my TBR pile. Currently working on A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD. (I'm way behind the times, I know). Next up are Hank's SAY NO MORE (I am lucky enough to have a signed copy :-)) and Neil Gaiman's THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS. With any luck (I have dropped hints to Santa), I will get the new Mary Oliver under the tree and spend the week after Christmas with that.

  13. Making a list... I am hoping someone in my family is giving me a kindle which amazingly I do not have. Yes a Goldfinch confession blog is a great idea, Hank! Also War and Peace. Gravity's Rainbow. Ulysses. Bleak House. Middlemarch. Confederacy of Dunces...

  14. My parents always read "The Night Before Christmas" to us on Christmas Eve, and now my mom reads it to the grandkids. It's quite a sight seeing one of my nephews, all 6'1" of him, sprawled across Nana's bed while he listens!

    I associate the holidays with reading to my nieces and nephews when they were little, and for some reason, "Frog and Toad" comes to mind, particularly the sledding story. I love those books!

    I've not yet ventured to read "The Goldfinch." There seem to be two camps amongst my reading friends: loved it or really didn't like it. I look forward to your review, Hallie!

  15. Hank, I've written three Christmas books now. As well as Twelve Clues there is the Molly book, Away in a Manger, and a new Molly Christmas novel for next year. And each time I've written them when it wasn't the holiday season. The interesting thing was not how to be in the spirit, it was how being in the spirit at the wrong time affected my daily life. For example, middle of September and I say to John,
    Is it too early to turn the heat on? I'm cold".
    It is mid eighties outside but I am writing about two orphans out in the snow in New York. And I'm cold.


  16. I just yesterday finished re-reading a book a pick up almost every year around this time. Margaret Maron's "Corpus Christmas." The setting is a marvelous old art gallery in Manhattan peopled with some of Margaret's signature perfectly drawn characters.

    And, I'm reading huge amounts of poetry- Linda Pastan, Mary Oliver, May Sarton, David Whyte, Linda Rodriguez, Susan Frybort, Ronald Wallace. Poetry collections where I'm discovering some wonderful new poets. And essays. These are the gentle things I'm treating myself too right now.

    Hallie, I'm so happy you're sticking with The Goldfinch. I loved it. Loved it to the moon and back.

  17. When my kids were little, it was 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Grinch - over and over.

    Now that they're older, we're all about Christmas movies. A Christmas Carol (we were debating favorite versions - The Hubby likes George C. Scott, I'm partial to Patrick Stewart); Love, Actually; those hokey clay-mation shorts (Rudolph, The Year Without a Santa Claus, etc.). We don't watch the Hallmark movies though. There's a line.

    Confession: I took one look at The Goldfinch at the local store, saw the thickness, and said, "Um, no." People tell me it's wonderful, but it's huge. I shudder at the time investment and holding that gigantic book. Hallie, how long have you been reading it?

  18. Mary Sutton,

    A relative joked that Hallmark Christmas movies are not recommended for people who are pre-diabetic! Still read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" with a book on tape for auditory training. One of my favorites. Several Christmas movie favorites include the James Stewart movie "It's A Wonderful Life" and The Holiday with Jack Black, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz.


  19. Rhys,

    I get what you meant when you said "California standards". The other day it was cold at 54 degrees ? and I was thinking that if I was on the East Coast, that would be "warm" weather. It has been chilly for us in CA.

    Always enjoyed reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens and the Christmas part of Little Women. I read the Christmas mystery by Agatha Christie and thank you for the title. I am so bad at remembering the titles!

    I have been meaning to ask you and all of the JRW authors here: Do you read your own work after you publish them? I asked because several actors say that they never watch their own movies. So I wonder if it is different for authors.

    Love TWELVE CLUES OF CHRISTMAS and buy copies to give as Christmas gifts. There was also a Molly Murphy Christmas book called Away in a Manger.


    Loved A Child's Christmas in Wales in book form and on television. When I was a kid, there was a television special with the National Theater of the Deaf and one of the Deaf actors signed the story from A Child's Christmas in Wales. I think it was a NBC special. Maybe Hank can find out? Your mention of War and Peace novel reminds me of Charlie Brown going to the Christmas dance and he has to read War and Peace for homework!


    Loved A Child'd Christmas in Wales. I remember A Winter's Tale as a movie with Colin Farrell. One of my favorite Hanukah books is a children's book. I cannot believe I forgot the title! It is about Santa Claus having a bad cold and not being able to deliver Christmas gifts on Christmas eve. He asks his friend, Hanukah Harry, to sub for him. Hanukah Harry says yes and steps into Santa Claus' red costume and black boots. Hanukah Harry delivers Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. I gave my copy to a friend. She loved it so much that she bought copies as Hanukah / Christmas gifts.

    Deborah Crombie,

    I read Twas the Night Before Christmas.


    Loved the Polar Express movie. Several friends took their children on the Polar Exoress - it was a special event for children several years ago on Christmas.




    There is a Dickens Christmas Faire every year during the Christmas season.


    thanks for letting us know about the Wicked Cozy Authors - I am going there to check the blog and read your story :-) Your book about the Quaker midwife was reviewed in the Sunday paper yesterday - good review!


    Read Death with all the Trimmings during the Goodreads Readathon.

    Karen in Ohio,

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing. I cannot recall if I read A Visit from St. Nicholas when I was a kid.


    Thank you for the titles. They are new to me so I will look for these books!

    Ann in Rochester,

    One of my Christmas traditions is to re read my favorite Christmas stories.

    Some of us are so busy that we have no time to read until the holidays I will look for the books you mentioned.


    Great holiday tradition!


    Thought I read all of Margaret Maron's books. Thank you for the mention of the Christmas book.

    Thanks for all the fun holiday reading ideas!


  20. Diana, the actual name of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" is "A Visit From St. Nicholas".

  21. Oh! I forgot the one book I do tend to re-read (for whatever reason) is Hercule Poirot's Christmas. Funny, huh?

  22. Re The Goldfinch (which I have not attempted), I read somewhere that more people quit on the Kindle version of it (as tracked by Amazon--yes, they know exactly how much of every e-book you actually read) than quit on any other Kindle book.

  23. Diana, really? Where are you? Would you send me a link to the review, or even a copy? I'm delighted!

  24. Debs, I'm a fan of A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas, too, although I may not fit in a complete reading of A Christmas Carol every year. I have an old leather bound copy of A Christmas Carol, but it's too delicate to touch, so I use other copies of it I have.

    Every year I think that I'll get to read more Christmas themed books or short stories, and it never seems to work out. This year I do have a secret weapon. I bought the British Library Crime Classic short story compilation entitled Silent Nights:Christmas Mysteries to read some of the classic Christmas stories from those golden age detective authors. And, the clincher for me is that it is one of the British Library Crime Classics edited by Martin Edwards, whom I adore and who has the brilliant, award-winning book The Golden Age of Murder, as well as his fiction writings. So, I hope to read quite a few of the stories in this book.

    Hallie, I can relate to starting a lengthy book before Christmas. I listened to Robert Galbraith's (JKR) Career of Evil on a road trip last week, and then I had to continue the printed version, of course. I can't believe I hadn't gotten to the third Comoran Strike novel before now, and I hope to finish it in the next couple of days. So much else going on that reading time is limited right now. I will say that I read The Goldfinch, and while I thought it was indeed a great story, I agree with author Sharon Bolton that the book was about 200 pages longer than it needed to be. Hank, I think a Goldfinch confession board sounds fabulous.

    Oh, Rhys, I loved Twelve Clues of Christmas, and I might try to skim through it one night. Hank, I am going to Amazon after posting here to put Winter's Tale on my wish list. And, why have I never read A Child's Christmas in Wales? I became interested in Wales because of Rhys and find it a fascinating place, so I must try to read this one. Is it better to listen to it or read it first? And, Lucy, I so loved Death with all the Trimmings. I'm still mourning the end of the series.

    Laura, I'm gifting myself with Mary Oliver's new Upstream:Selected Essays for Christmas. I have the wonderful Kaye to thank for introducing me to Mary Oliver. And, I've been desperately trying to get to Neil Gaiman's A View from the Cheap Seats. Joan, I read The Christmas Train several years ago and enjoyed it.

    One last quick item. For a Christmas read, Catriona McPherson's The Reek of Red Herrings has been mentioned. Today, well for the next 20 minutes on my blog, I am giving away a copy of this book, and there is a Christmas memory Catriona wrote special for the blog. Link is

  25. Oh, overwhelmed with information here!!!

    Hallie, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite (having had Kindle on phone, tablet, and computer, I had never actually owned a Kindle) and I LOVE it!! It is so easy to read, and so easy on the eyes. And you can read one-handed, and you can pop it in your purse and take it everywhere. Who knew? :-)

    Rhys, I'm giving Twelve Clues as a gift to my m-in-law.

    Kathy, there was a TV production of A Child's Christmas in Wales done quite a few years ago, starring Denholm Elliott. Absolutely lovely and available on YouTube There is a little setting up of the story, then when Granddad starts remembering is the actual poem. I wouldn't listen to Dylan Thomas read until you're familiar with the poem--his Welsh accent is a bit overwhelming!

    And I'm looking forward to The Reek of Red Herrings!

    Oh, and I went to the British Library and saw the whole Crime Classic shop! It was wonderful! I only didn't buy the Christmas book because I'd already bought more books than I could carry home. Can you order it?

    And, last, I've never read Mary Oliver. Thanks for the suggestion, Hallie, Kathy, Kaye. Will look up now.

  26. Twelve Clues of Christmas of course, and A Christmas Carol (which I actually watch and not read). I have to look up a Child's Christmas in Wales. I've heard of it, but not read it. I'd say it's about time!

  27. Debs, yes, you can order the Crime Classic book on Amazon.

  28. In the lead-up to Christmas, I watch all my usual Christmas fare (Alistair Sim version of Christmas Carol; Holiday Inn; Miracle on 34th Street -- do I need to tell you the 1947 version? the others are dreck; It's a Wonderful Life; Love Actually; plus various others as time allows) and read my two annual Christmas books, Georgette Heyer's Envious Casca and Miss Read's No Holly for Miss Quinn.

    And I may have another listen to The 12 Clues of Christmas; it's so beautifully read, and Darcy is to die for.

  29. I read the Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien to my son for many Christmases, a chapter every night. I bought the book in London before he was born, and we had great fun reading about the hijinks of the North Polar Bear. When he & his younger sister were a bit older, I read O Henry's Gift of the Magi. They had a hard time understanding me when I would sob through the end of that heartwarming tale of love & sacrificial giving. πŸŽ„πŸ€ΆπŸ»❤️πŸ’š

  30. Deborah, How have I not known about the British Library Crime Classics? Even the covers are compelling. I may not get any work done this afternoon after falling down this particular rabbit hole!

  31. I re-read "The Story of the Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke every year. It really takes you away from the glitz and gift-giving to what is truly important about Christmas. I highly recommend this small book to everyone.

    I love Rhys' Christmas books. I think I've actually talked my husband into reading the Georgie books because he keeps hearing me laughing out loud while I'm reading them. And he generally doesn't read mysteries at all.

    Merry Christmas and may God bless us every one!

  32. Laura, that is a devastating statistic! But they still bought the book..... ;-0

  33. Diana, how was the Winters Tale movie? I was afraid to go...I can't even imagine how they would manage it, and decided I was too afraid to find out.

  34. How about Julia Spencer-Fleming's "In the Bleak Midwinter", the first of her Clare and Russ mysteries? And I am currently re-reading Sharyn McCrumb's "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past".

  35. Oh so glad someone else mentioned In the Bleak Midwinter... this book led me to Jungle Red Writers..

    Holiday stories? What about Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins? This is a gem that children still love. My favorites for sly humor are We wish you a merry Christmas, and the essay that starts out thanking her true love for the partridge and ending with a placing a restraining order on him.

    I find myself reading Winter Holiday books in August in Florida. It helps mental cooling.

  36. Edith,

    Can I post a photo of the review on your Facebook Author page?


  37. Hank,

    I will need to see the movie again. It was kind of confusing to me. Perhaps I should read the book before seeing the movie again?


  38. Deb, SILENT NIGHTS is available in download from amazon and of course from Poisoned Pen, which is the American publisher of the British Crime Library Classics.

    I'be been reading P.D. James' MISTLETOE MURDER and Georgette Heyer's SNOWDRIFT AND OTHER STORIES, both holiday short story collections. Perfect for the season.

  39. Thanks, Francine! Checking to see if I can find the short story collections. Not in my library!

  40. Lucy and Grace--Thank you for mentioning Eggnog Murder. Grace, I hope you enjoy it.

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  42. The First Lady is a FINK! I saw Mrs. Obama on TV reading A VISIT FROM SAINT NICHOLAS to a herd of tykes; she carefully explained to them that Santa had given up smoking when she hit the line about his pipe.