Favorite Holiday Reads

The air is chilly and smells of pine needles and frost and woodsmoke. Christmas lights are strung in the boughs of trees and holiday carols jingle from storefronts. Shoppers bustle to and fro, clutching brightly colored bags and packages. Where ever you live, or which ever holiday you celebrate, it’s wintertime once more. And you need a good wintry book to curl up in front of a fireplace with.

Well, get that mug of hot cocoa ready, because I’ve got you covered. The holiday season is definitely my favorite time of year, and there’s nothing I love more than getting lost in a great book that reflects the season. But who wants to read A Christmas Carol again? Not me, and not you. So here’s a selection of my favorite books with  Christmas/holiday/solstice/winter themes! Enjoy!

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper

In this fantastic coming-of-age adventure, Will longs for snow on the eve of his 11th birthday, which falls on the night of the winter solstice. But little does he know that with the snow comes a life-changing destiny–he has been chosen to fight in the ancient battle against the menacing forces of darkness.

Quote: “The snow lay thin and apologetic over the world. That wide grey sweep was the lawn, with the straggling trees of the orchard still dark beyond; the white squares were the roofs of the garage, the old barn, the rabbit hutches, the chicken coops. Further back there were only the flat fields of Dawson’s farm, dimly white-striped. All the broad sky was grey, full of more snow that refused to fall. There was no colour anywhere.”

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater

In this atmospheric, gorgeous teen romance, Grace can’t wait for the snow to fall so that her strange-eyed wolf will return to the woods behind her home. But even as temperatures drop, long-cold secrets begin to thaw….

Quote: “As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air.”

whitewitch3The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis

Narnia is plunged in what may possibly be the longest Advent season ever by the dread White Witch. Revisit this childhood favorite for Turkish Delight, snow-covered forests, talking animals, and the long awaited return of Father Christmas.

Quote: The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very centre and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.

The Dead, by James Joyce

This long-ish short story is rich, sad and wonderful, touching on mortality, love, family. The clink of glasses, melancholy Irish songs, and drunken relations–isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Quote: “His soul swooned softly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

A darker, more serious option for your reading pleasure. Although the story isn’t consigned to the holiday season, Tartt includes many poignant, stunning descriptions of Christmas and the winter season.

Quote: “Hordes of people in the street, lighted Christmas trees sparkling high on penthouse balconies and complacent Christmas music floating out of shops, and weaving in and out of crowds I had a strange feeling of being already dead, of moving in a vaster sidewalk grayness than the street or even the city could encompass, my soul disconnected from my body and drifting among other souls in a mist somewhere between past and present.”

Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield may be a confused, emotionally inept jerk, but everyone needs to follow him around New York City at Christmastime while he complains about phonies at least once.

Quote: “I said old Jesus probably would’ve puked if He could see it – all those fancy costumes and all. Sally said I was a sacrilegious atheist. I probably am. The thing Jesus really would’ve liked would be the guy who plays the kettle drums in the orchestra.”

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

In this seminal science fiction novel, a human envoy to an alien planet must trek through a hostile winter-scape to complete his mission. A meditation on gender, love, and ultimately, humanity itself.

Quote: “It is a terrible thing, this kindess that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give. ”

Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell

In this semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in Cold War era England, Mitchell includes many gorgeous and haunting descriptions of winter and the holiday season.

Quote: “The ice shrucked me off my feet. For a helterskeltery moment I was in midair at an unlikely height. Bruce Lee doing a karate kick, that high. I knew it wasn’t going to be a soft landing but I hadn’t guessed how painful a slam it’d be. The crack shattered from my ankle to my jaw to my knuckles, like an ice cube plopped into warm squash. No, bigger than an ice cube. A mirror, dropped from Skylab height. Where it hit the earth, where it smashed into daggers and thorns and invisible splinters, that’s my ankle. I spun and slid to a shuddery stop by the edge of the lake.”

hogwarts-christmasHarry Potter Series, J. K. Rowling

I’ll never forget getting Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for Christmas when I was twelve. I read it in one sitting, curled in front of a roaring fire. Although each book encompasses a whole school year, some of my favorite Potter moments are at Christmas time: Ron and Harry swapping chocolate frogs and wearing Mrs Weasley’s ugly jumpers, the Yule Ball, Christmas feasts and Wizard Crackers.

Quote: “One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

That’s all, folks! And don’t forget to check out fellow Scribe’s new Matilda Kavanagh book, Yuletide! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Solstice, and Happy New Year!

Story In The Round – Part 5

I wanted to run to her. My bare feet stuck to the ground, a pebble digging into my heel.

I didn’t move away to dislodge the pebble. Its round hardness against my weight reminded me that I was not dreaming, that I was not tucked away in bed. Danny was really gone, and in front of me stood…my mother.

My mother who was many years dead.

The words that had cluttered my heart since her death tripped over one another on the way to my lips until when I opened my mouth, no sound came out.

“Aideen,” she said. Her glowing form moved toward me. Fireflies winked behind her as if drawn to her radiance.

Beneath the glow, I saw the gentle curve of her arms. Her eyes stood out, green and bright as they ever were in life. Instead of the twinkle they used to hold, though, their depth was shrouded in darkness.

I took a step back. The pebble stuck to my heel. “How are you here?”

The words left my lips at only a sliver above a whisper and disappeared into the air before I could be sure I’d really spoken.

“I don’t have much time,” she said. Her gaze flickered up the hill where the bonfire burned like a hungry star. For a moment, I thought I saw a shadow of wistful longing.

I waited for her answer, a thousand questions lining up behind my silence. Not much time — what was that supposed to mean? How was she here? No matter how thin the veil or how holy the day, the dead couldn’t just pop in without great need.

My thoughts shifted to Danny. “Why did you come?”

That she would come now, now when Danny had vanished into the Solstice night after warning me about the very fae who would spirit him away — it bemused and discomfited where years ago I would have felt only relief. My voice grew stronger in her silence. “Why did you come?”

She reached out one still-glowing hand, almost incandescent in the darkness of the night. My mother’s fingertips trailed on empty air, the distance between us more than two feet of open space.

“I needed to tell you…” she trailed off, eyes on a firefly that guttered green-gold in front of her face. She frowned, turned her head as if distracted by something I couldn’t hear.

“What did you need to tell me?” I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at her. This confused spirit, so different than the effulgent woman who had floated on air itself on a Solstice night so long ago.

Opening my eyes once more, I half-expected for her to be gone, blown away on the breeze, leaving only a wake of fireflies to remind me that she’d ever existed.

“I needed to tell you…” My mother’s gaze focused in on my face, the darkness heavy as the depths of a cavern behind the green. “You can’t save Danny, Aideen. You’ll never save him.”

The night swallowed her glow.

***

You can see the earlier parts of this story here:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

The Woes of Being a Christmas Baby

707Christmastime, Yuletide, Solstice, Birthday.

Oh yes, I have the unfortunate luck of being a Christmas Baby. I wasn’t born near Christmas, or the day before or the day after. No, no… I was born ON Christmas day. What really sucks is that I was actually two weeks late so I could’ve been born with a nice little cushion between me and that fateful day, but no. I guess, even then, I loved Christmas so much that I hung on until that day.

Yes, I love Christmas. I love the Solstice and Yuletide and everything it’s supposed to be about. No, I’m not going to get into the religious aspects versus the commercialism, don’t worry. I just love giving presents, the anticipation, the thought and even the kindness most of us remember to keep in mind as we go about our day to day lives during this time. I pull out our decorations the day after Thanksgiving and put up our tree and start making homemade presents and try to make the holiday last as long as possible.

But I kind of hate having my birthday on this awesome holiday. Let me explain why so, if you happen to have any friends or family who have this craptastic birthday too, you can have some sympathy for them.

Now, it has nothing to do with being the kid who never gets to have their mother bring in cupcakes for the whole class to pause and celebrate with you in grade school. No, because every kid born during the summer months has that issue too. But you are the kid that doesn’t really get to have a birthday party because so many of your friends are out of town or parents are too busy to bring them by. But that’s okay; you get over that as you get older.

One of the big issues is those jerks that whisper to you, “This present? This is for both your birthday AND Christmas,” as they hand you your present with a little wink. I get it, okay? It’s rough having to buy someone two presents during the gift giving season, but I’ll tell you, I’d rather you tell me, “This is your birthday present, sorry, couldn’t afford to get you a Christmas present as well.” Or vice versa. There’s no shame in that. But this dual gift crap? No. Because all I want to do is whisper back to you, “Remember that birthday present I gave you in June? Yeah, that was for both.” And then keep the Christmas present I got you for myself.

But I’ll tell you, I’ll take the dual present crap over the forgetfulness. Oh yeah. This is a big reason why I hate having my birthday on Christmas: PEOPLE ALWAYS FORGET. Of course I think a lot of the time, that “this present is for both” deal is actually people forgetting it’s your birthday and they’re just trying to cover their ass. I don’t need presents or cards, I’m an adult, but in this day of Facebook reminders, unlimited text messaging and minutes how hard is it to simply say, “Happy Birthday!”? Apparently, it’s pretty damn hard. A lot of people forget their Christmas-baby-friend’s birthdays. EVEN WHEN YOU SEE THEM ON CHRISTMAS DAY, LOOK THEM IN THE FACE AND SAY, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” That always kills me. It’s awkward and really, it hurts. Just remember to say, “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!” It’s not hard.

But the biggest part that sucks? I love Christmas. Yeah, that’s it. I love Christmas and I don’t want to take away from that day with having a birthday. I know, it’s weird, all that ranting and I don’t want to share the day. But it’s because your birthday is your own, just for you, but Christmas is supposed to be for everyone. So you either go from not having a special time for yourself, or interrupting everyone else’s special day with your birthday. Again, awkward.

So I guess, all I’m really saying is, it’s not our fault that we’re born on Christmas but we don’t want to be forgotten either.

photo (10)

Do you have a craptastic birthday? Wanna share? Comment below for your chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card and three awesome ebooks by three amazing writers!