The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure, ed. Larry Smith
The subtitle says it all. This collection comes from the folks at SMITH magazine, creators of the popular Six-Word Memoirs series; these essays are longer than six words, and by turns wry, shocking, humorous, poignant and heartbreaking. The beauty lies in the variety of stories, and in the stark honesty of every single writer. To review for Shelf Awareness.
Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I read this book every year, close to Christmas. It’s a lovely tale of five people who end up spending Christmas together at an old house in the north of Scotland, but it’s about so much more than that. It’s about faith and grief and slow recovery, about hurt and love and family and hope. The end makes me misty-eyed every time. Beautiful.
The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, Madeleine L’Engle
I love L’Engle’s work but came late to the Austin family series – so I hadn’t read this Christmas tale before. It’s an interlude, just before Rob (the youngest) is born. Vicky loves preparing for Christmas, and she gets to play an angel in the church pageant – but she’s worried her mother will be in the hospital, having the baby, over Christmas. A sweet tale of anticipation and joy.
The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
I’m still loving the adventures of literary police agent Thursday Next – and this romp through the Well of Lost Plots (where unpublished books, characters and stray words live) was hilarious, complicated and, of course, literary. Miss Havisham, the Cat formerly known as Cheshire, Commander Bradshaw, Harris Tweed – they’re all back, and as highly entertaining as ever. Good fun.
Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
Thursday Next (with her son, Friday) returns to the real world, where she must escape an assassin, bring her husband back into existence, stop a fictional dictator from taking over England and help her hometown team win the Croquet SuperHoop championship. No sweat, right? Packed with literary references, cheeky puns, and hilarious fake articles from newspapers like the Swindon Daily Eyestrain. (And dodos, Danish princes and a talking gorilla. Weird. But fun.)
Why I Wake Early, Mary Oliver
I picked up this slim collection at Amherst Books, and savored it slowly. Oliver writes beautiful, lyrical poetry, about nature and loss and living fully awake in the world. She always reminds me to pay attention, live in the moment and take deep breaths – and my life could use more of all three.
The Real Elizabeth, Andrew Marr
A thoughtful, detailed, completely fascinating history of the Queen’s reign (60 years this spring), beginning with her grandparents and coming up to the present day. I had a basic knowledge of the House of Windsor before, but learned so much from Marr’s account (I’d love to know who his sources were, though he discreetly refrains from naming them all). A wealth of wonderful anecdotes, mixed with a good dose of British politics and history. Highly recommended. (To review for Shelf Awareness.)
The Christmas Dolls, Carol Beach York
I’d read this sweet Christmas tale ages ago, and only remembered the main character’s name and a vague outline of the plot. But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found it again – and enjoyed the story of Tatty, a little orphan girl, and the two dolls she rescues just in time for Christmas.