Four Christmas novels to warm (or chill!) the heart – USA TODAY
It hasÂ become a holiday tradition for the publishing industry: little Christmas novels to cozy up to on chilly nights. And they’re a thoughtful stocking-stuffer size, too. USA TODAY recommends four new talesÂ sure to enchant readers.
Pretty Paper: A Christmas Tale
By Willie Nelson with David Ritz
Blue Rider Press, 283 pp.
***Â½Â out of four stars
In the early 1960s at Christmastime, Willie Nelson spotted a crippled man outside a department store in Fort Worth, selling âpretty paperâ and âpretty pencils to write âI love you.ââ Nelson passed by the legless vendor on a rolling cart, but the brief encounter inspired the song Pretty Paper,Â made famous by Roy Orbisonâs soulful rendition.Â Nelson obviously has been haunted for decades by that man selling ribbons and paper, because now he hasÂ written a sweet, sad country song of a Christmas tale that imagines who he might have been. The fictional story of âVernon Clayâ unravels like a mysteryÂ as Willie tries to befriend the gruff young man who refuses to explainÂ how he lost his legs. This is a touching, well-crafted, hard-knocks tale that earns its bittersweetÂ ending; it stays with you like a mournful melodyÂ you can’t quite shake.
â Jocelyn McClurg
The Mistletoe Secret
By Richard Paul Evans
Simon & Schuster, 320 pp.
Three things you can always count on: death, taxes and a predictable Richard Paul Evans holiday love story to warm the heart. In his latest, The Christmas Box author sends Alex Bartlett, a Florida man still stinging from a recent divorce, on a trip to snowy small-town Utah to track down a blogger whose lonely online missives under the initials âLBHâ have captured his complete attention. While searching for this mystery woman, Alex also is bewitched by Aria, a diner waitress with her own string of bad romantic luck. Evans is as usual trying to push all the emotional buttons, but whatâs enjoyable about Mistletoe Secret is the string of (human) fruitcakes Alex meets on his way to Mrs. Right.
â Brian Truitt
The Mistletoe MurderÂ and Other Stories
By P.D. James
Knopf, 152 pp.
Mystery lovers are in for a very merry time with this posthumous collection of short stories set around Christmas (and Boxing Day) from Britainâs P.D. James. In a preface, James writes that âthe good short story â¦ can provide one of the most satisfactory reading experiences.â She delivers four stellar stories that will please fans of the author and those who like a classic Agatha Christie âwhodunit.â In the title story, a best-selling crime writer describes a real crime that hit very close to home 50 years earlier. The second involves the experiences of a reluctant witness, and the final two feature Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, who starred in many of Jamesâ novels. All four tales will entertain and delight.
â Mary Cadden
By Jay Asher
Razorbill, 272 pp.
The young-adult crowd gets its own seasonal novel with this tale of a girl, a boy and a whole bunch of Christmas trees. Oregon teen Sierra spends a month every year in California with her family selling those signature pine-scented holiday delights, though this might be the last year for this particular tradition. Sheâs torn between friends in both places, yet this Christmas is a little brighter thanks to crush-worthy Caleb, a kid with a big heart who doesnât have the best reputation. Secrets are revealed while Sierra fights with her mom and dad about whom she can and canât date. Author Jay Asher does a good job of keeping the angst to a tolerable degree in this story with themes of understanding and redemption at its core.