With Bated Breath: Holiday Reads!


November 28, 2012 by Heidi

With Bated Breath: Holiday Reads

With Bated Breath is a regular feature at Bunbury in the Stacks where I feature books I’ve recently added to my TBR, whether they be up-and-coming, or books from the past that have been brought to my attention.

It’s my favorite time of year! I go absolutely dewy eyed for the holiday season, and this year seems as if it’s going to be particularly full of spirit–I mean, I freaking cried at a Dick’s commercial the other night because it was so touching!  We’re not talking eyes watering, I mean full on tears rolling down the cheeks, I need tissue crying.  Yes.  Practical Heidi who at other times rolls her eyes and gags at cloyingly sweet stuff is a complete and total dope for Christmas, especially when I’m so far away from my home, family, and traditions.

These past weeks I’ve been enjoying quite a few books that have lovely Christmas scenes in them such as the Little House books and Harry Potter, but believe it or not I haven’t read many strait up Christmas books.  So I’ve been making a list of Christmas reads I hope to get to this year, and thought it only fair to share them with all of you:

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett book coverHogfather by Terry Pratchett
October 7th, 1998 by HarperPrism (1996)

Who would want to harm Discworld’s most beloved icon? Very few things are held sacred in this twisted, corrupt, heartless — and oddly familiar — universe, but the Hogfather is one of them. Yet here it is, Hogswatchnight, that most joyous and acquisitive of times, and the jolly old, red-suited gift-giver has vanished without a trace. And there’s something shady going on involving an uncommonly psychotic member of the Assassins’ Guild and certain representatives of Ankh-Morpork’s rather extensive criminal element. Suddenly Discworld’s entire myth system is unraveling at an alarming rate. Drastic measures must be taken, which is why Death himself is taking up the reins of the fat man’s vacated sleigh . . . which, in turn, has Death’s level-headed granddaughter, Susan, racing to unravel the nasty, humbuggian mess before the holiday season goes straight to hell and takes everyone along with it.

Several people mentioned this one to me when I posted about my love of Death as a narrator and need to read more Discworld.  Death takes over Discworld’s Christmas?  Obviously I’m jumping right on that bandwagon.

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus SedgwickThe Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick book cover
April 11th, 2006 by Wendy Lamb Books (2003)

THE DAYS BETWEEN Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead days, when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our lives. A magician called Valerian must save his own life within those few days or pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. But alchemy and sorcery are no match against the demonic power pursuing him. Helping him is his servant, Boy, a child with no name and no past. The quick-witted orphan girl, Willow, is with them as they dig in death fields at midnight, and as they are swept into the sprawling blackness of a subterranean city on a journey from which there is no escape.

I read my first Marcus Sedgwick this October and loved it, so of course when browsing my local library shelves I picked up The Book of Dead Days to read in those days between Christmas and New Years.

Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkein
October 1st, 2009 by HarperCollins (1976)

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a latter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful colour drawing. They were from Father Christmas, telling wonderful tales of life at the North Pole.

From the first note to Tolkien’s eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition.

Did you guys realize that J.R.R. Tolkien had done this for his children?  I love it, and am so excited to read these letters–I may have to do this for my own kids someday!

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren WilligThe Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig book cover
October 28th, 2012 by Dutton

Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…

Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh—often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation—has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle”, the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austens’ modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate 12-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? And is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?

I found this one while browsing Christmas audiobooks at the library.  I haven’t read much historical romance or Jane Austen inspired lit, but after an enthusiastic recommendation from Allison who loves this series, I decided to give it a go.  So far I’m loving it!  It’s constantly making me laugh or smile–just what one wants this time of year.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens book coverA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
September 12th, 2006 by Candlewick Press (1843)

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see? Now in an unabridged edition gloriously illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch, this story’s message of love and goodwill, mercy and self-redemption resonates as keenly as ever.

Yes. I admit it. I’ve never actually read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  This is abhorrent and unforgivable reading behavior on my part.  I adore this story, and yes, I like Dickens quite a bit in general, so I really have no excuse other than complacency born from already knowing a story so well (I watch at least 3 movie adaptations every year).  Will this year be the year I finally read it?  Let’s hope so.

Do you have a favorite holiday read?  Please share!

Aside from Little House, and Harry Potter, I also love the Christmas scenes in Little Women.  Every year I read The Polar Express, and also a variety of Twas the Night Before Christmas renditions–my mother has collected them for years, and I may have to start doing the same!


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  1. I find it funny that the only book I have read from this list, A Christmas Carol, is one you’ve never read before. It’s excellent, so I can’t wait to see your thoughts on the novel. I definitely need to check out Tolkein’s novel since there is never such a thing as too much Tolkein! 😉 Amazing holiday book list, Heidi! I’m not much of a seasonal readers, but so many of these books will definitely be making their way to my shelves!

    • Heidi says:

      Yay! Yeah, the Tolkien one should be a really quick read, my copy’s only 160 pages with lots of illustrations. I’m planning to read it as soon as I break through my 2012 must read list (I’m hopefully finishing Diviners tonight and then I just have Vessel left). I know that I’ll love A Christmas Carol, but I particularly want it via audio, so my ability to listen largely depends on how slow my library system chooses to be with it. :)

  2. I’ve never read A Christmas Carol either! I have the audiobook downloaded on my iPod though…so I’m thinking about listening to it on the drive to my parents’ house for Christmas. :)

    • Heidi says:

      I’ve requested the audio from the library since it’s read by Jim Dale, but they are REALLY slow about providing audio through inter-library-loan. If it doesn’t come before this Christmas, I’ll probably just hold on to it for next year (I’m far too stubborn to buy any audio I can get from the library).

  3. Is it completely odd that I’ve never been much of a “seasonal reader” – I don’t really change my reading habits for summer or fall or Halloween or Christmas? I never even really noticed that people did it until recently? How did I not notice it last year? I’ve just always read winter-y books in the summer and summer-y books in the winter and never thought a thing about it. Christmas all year round at my house!! HAHA

    Maybe in 2013 I should try to be a seasonal reader and see how it feels?

    Sometimes my reading-oddness befuddles even me. Also, I kind of love the look of that Tolkien.

    • Heidi says:

      Hehe, I really like reading seasonally! I don’t stick to it 100%, but to a point I do. If I’m dying to read a certain book, it hardly matters when it’s released, but I have patterns–I’m more likely to read contemporary in the summer and heavy fantasy in the winter. I read more spooky books in the fall, that sort of thing. I’m not sure that it’s weird NOT to be a seasonal reader, but it just makes sense to my OCD addled brain to organize that way. 😛

  4. Jamie says:

    Eeee I’ve never read a Christmas Carol either. I kind of feel like a failure! lol Maybe I should give it a go this year!

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, don’t worry Jamie, at least you’re in good company–there seem to be a good few of us who’ve never read it. I’m going to listen to the audio!

  5. Oooh. I’ve never read any Marcus Sedgwick before, but THE BOOK OF DEAD DAYS sounds really good! I’ve never been much of a seasonal reader (I save all my picking books mojo for the inevitably angst ridden decision re: what book do you let be the first of the new year?), but I like the idea of reading at least one holiday-themed book in December. :)

    • Heidi says:

      Hehe, I was totally angsty about my first book for the year this past year, but I never have been before. I blame Goodreads! I swear I took twice as long to read Chime just so that I could say I read it in 2012 instead of 2011. 😛

  6. Melanie says:

    I never knew that Tolkien wrote letters to his kids! That’s so awesome.

    • Heidi says:

      Isn’t it so sweet?! There’s supposed to be lots of drawings and stuff too, which I’m wondering how they’ll look on my Kindle…I may have to check out the physical book if I can’t see them.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.