Tag Archives: a merry little Christmas

in which I recommend holiday books

December is always a quiet month in blogland for me. This December has been no exception.

Things have been busy here at Chateau Lee. Good, but busy, between starting new jobs, finishing old ones, and working other random side ones I sometimes have. Plus revising a novel I shouldn’t be working on and not working on a novel I should be working on. Plus social life, because there are so many great things happening in Boston this month, plus reading, because I gotta plow through the 45 library books I currently have checked out from the library1. Then the MT is coming to visit me next week, rendering this week the longest week of the year because WAITING, and after some adventuring in Boston and beyond, we will head home together for a few weeks and ring in 2015 with the family.

So don’t expect to see me much around here this month2 but I will be back in January, likely with exciting news about THIS MONSTROUS THING as we ride boldly ride into its debut year3!

Now, with that said, let’s talk about books4!

This past week, I was reminded that there is nothing better than being a bookseller during the holidays. Yes, the crowds are crazy, and the giftwrap gives you paper cuts, and you will go hoarse counting out change and asking people if they want a bag. But being a holiday bookseller is great because you get to spend all day recommending books to people and generally during the holidays, people will take those recommendations without question. So these past few weeks have mostly been me shoving Code Name Verity into the gloved hands of Boston shoppers, no matter who they tell me they’re shopping for.

As I’ve been thinking about my reading year and the books I want to handsell this holiday season, I decided to put together a list of my favorite books I read in 20145 and who they might be good for. So you can enter your local independent bookstore armed with recommendations!

Mackenzi Lee’s Guide to Holiday Book Buying

For Fault in our Stars fangirls…

Chance you won't return

The Chance you Won’t Return by Annie Cardi

For Dauntless initiates and District 12 Tributes…

not a drop to drink

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

For fans of Firefly…

retribution falls

Retribution Falls by by Chris Wooding

For Westeros transplants…

plantagenets

The Plantagenets by Dan Jones

For “what to read after Harry Potter”…

last dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

For adventurers…

Airborn

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel 

For readers who like their words with pictures…

sparky

Sparky by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans

For Sherlockians and Whovians…

jackaby

Jackaby by William Ritter

For Marvel fanatics…

Vicious

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

For Serial addicts…

Devil in the White City

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

For readers of the classics…

Rooftoppers

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

For Frankenstein fans6

lady and her monsters

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo 

And looking ahead, here are some books that aren’t out until next year, but I’ve been lucky enough to read advanced copies of. Look out for them in 2015!

Bones and All

Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis 

Zeroboxer

Zerboxer by Fonda Lee

22548098

An Exaggerated Murder by Josh Cook

COnviction

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

2015 is going to be a good year for books. Get excited.

  1. Finally swallowed my pride and paid my $15 in library fines so I am now allowed in the building without sirens going off. I showed my displeasure at being forced to pay by putting EVERY BOOK on hold. They all came in. Simultaneously.
  2. I know between posts you all just sit and hit refresh over and over and over hoping I will have posted again. I know.
  3. If you can’t wait until then for more details about it, the lovely blogger Kathy Coe picked THIS MONSTROUS THING as one of her 15 most anticipated books for 2015 and interviewed me in conjunction. You can read it here. I talk about tea and time travel and, of course, Frankenstein.
  4. Smooth transition is smooth.
  5. Note: Not all these books were published in 2014. That’s just when I read them. However, they are all outstanding.
  6. I CAN’T NOT.
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in which I travel down the Rhine

Do you remember the scene in Titanic where Leonardo DiCaprio is invited to have dinner with the rich people and even though he is dressed up in his little tuxedo and has his hair combed all fancy, he so clearly does not belong amongst them?

Well that was me. The entire time I was in Europe1.

It was awesome.

When my benefactor Magwitch first approached me with the proposition of a Rhine river trip over Christmas, I didn’t register just how fancy we were going to be traveling. I knew Magwitch is well off and liked to travel in some degree of luxury, but I guess I didn’t register just how stark the contrast of this maids-and-caviar lifestyle would be to the microwave meals and public transport I left back in Boston. It was also extremely different from my previous Europe travels, since I previously traversed the continent with only a backpack and a frequent hosteler card. Needless to say, I felt a little out of place. In the best way possible. The guilt-free living way outside your means way.

Our trip was a river cruise of the Christmas markets of Europe. The boat departed from Switzerland, then climbed northward through the Alsace region of France, into and through Germany, and then finished in the Netherlands. The Rhine, in winter, is blanketed in mist, like the moorish setting of a Gothic Victorian novel. Our skies were mostly grey, and there was a brief misty rain on occasion, but overall, the weather was just the right sort of gloomy. With the Christmas spirit on top of the wintry weather, it was delightful.

I have dozens of stories from the trip, but I will refrain from sharing them all for fear or boring you with excessive word count. Here are some pictures and anecdotes for your enjoyment/jealousy.

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The Christmas markets that lined the Rhine were a whole new level of Christmasyness for me. I have never experienced this level of decoration before. Half-timbered houses draped in holly, garlands, ribbons, bows. Plus the random assorted teddy bear and marionettes strung in the windows.

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After a few days of going from Switzerland to France to Germany and back to France, I was so confused what country I was in and what language was being spoke that, when a woman in a shop handed me my change, I said, “Gracias,” without even thinking, and then walked away.

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The Christmas markets all sell gluhwein, which is wasil mixed with wine. It is also alcoholic, meaning I did not partake. However, Magwitch heard through the grapevine that some stands sold non-alcoholic gluhwein. Excited, I inquired at the next market, only to learn that non-alocholic gluhwein is called “kinderpunch.” Which was humiliating. Also delicious.

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I climbed every hill, castle, and bell tower I could. I love views.

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I rode these cable cars from the city Koblenz across the Rhine River to a mountain top fortress. Unfortunately, I know nothing about said fortress, because all of the signs once we got there were in German.

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The above clock is my new favorite clock of all time. The pendulum is attached to the man’s eyes, so as the clock ticks, the eyes move back and forth. It is hella creepy/awesome.

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I was in Cologne on December 21, aka the day the Mayans said the world was going to end. It obviously did not, but I had a genuine moment of panic where I heard an unidentified crash, felt the bridge beneath me begin to shake (as a result of a passing train, though I did not know that then) and thought the world was actually ending.

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One of our better tours included a tour guide who told us “That cathedral there includes a very famous statue of Karl Marx.” Where we all started muttering about how weird it is that a church would have a statue of Karl Marx. The tour guide quickly amended, “Sorry, not Karl Marx—it’s Martin Luther.”

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We saw a team of folk dancers perform in Nijmegen. They performed several dances from all over the world, then ended with a “traditional folk dance from North America”:  Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.

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Also, the entire crew of the boat was eastern European, which made it feel vaguely like the ship was manned by vampires.

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It’s Magwitch and me!

I really love Europe so much. I love the antiquity of it, the feel of cobblestones under your feet. I love eating in restaurants that are older than my country. I love seeing art by masters that was created before the printing press and has outlasted the memories of the people who created it and the ideals that they praised. I love cathedral spires silhouetted against grey skies, the smell of baguettes and macaroons, and the way the weak sunlight catches the canals. I love meeting new people, and hearing new stories, and seeing the way life moves in a sphere that is not my own.

This world is beautiful and amazing. I am constantly reminded how grateful I am to be a part of it.

  1. This really was me. Especially the part where he takes an uncouthly large bite of roll.
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in which I kick off the Christmas season

Happy December everyone! A day late, yes, but who’s counting?

In exactly ten days, I will be boarding a flight to Switzerland to celebrate the holidays along the Rhine River, which I am kind of really more than a little excited about. But for now, the Christmas season in Boston is in full swing, and I, being of sound mind and Christmas-loving disposition, am taking part in any way I can.

On Thursday night, Marx and I went to the tree lighting ceremony on the Boston Common1 where they turned on the giant tree and the lights around the Common and had a pyrotechnics show and such. It was great fun, until they turned on the lights. At which point, Marx and I, both children raised on the glory of Temple Square Christmas lights, cringed as one. Because the Boston Common lights are kind of pathetic. I’m fairly certain that whoever was responsible for them forgot he had to string up the lights until that very morning, at which point he just ran around flinging them haphazardly into the trees. Either that or he forgot his ladder. Because seriously, they look terrible! Like someone toilet papered the Boston Common, but with Christmas lights. Marx pointed out they also look like the kind of lights where one bulb goes out and the entire strand is shot. But we had a good laugh over them in spite of our disappointment, and the tree looked grand. And then we walked over to the Public Garden, which was much more professionally lit, even if we did see a dead rat the size of a cat festering on one of the paths.

HAYES1

the tree itself looked great. It was the other trees around it that were sketchy – also unphotographable because of the light

To keep the holiday spirit going, last night I went to the Nutcracker with four of my friends from school. I have never been to the ballet before3, but I have always been an ardent fan of ballet dancing, and harbored a not-so-secret resentment against my mother for pulling me out of ballet lessons before I had had the chance to reach Prima Ballerina level4. So I was absolutely thrilled to go to my first ballet in recent memory. My friends and I got really dressed up, went out to a nice dinner before, and then headed over to the Boston Opera House, which is the most beautiful theater I have ever been in. It was all lit up for the performance, with trees and ornaments, and everybody got paper Nutcracker crowns as they walked in.

NUTCRACKER1-articleLarge

this guy was my favorite. Also, I did not take this picture. I think the New York Times did….

And the ballet was so beautiful. I was kind of worried I wouldn’t like it, because I don’t really enjoy opera, and I put opera and ballet in the same category. But I loved it. And I loved getting dressed up and going to a fancy event where everyone was dressed fancy and not just me5.

And then I returned home at midnight to find that my roommate had hung stockings from our strangely-built-into-the-wall china cabinet with care.

Happy holidays, all. Christmas is here6.

 

  1. A large park where lots of homeless people and ghosts chill, for those of you who are not familiar with Boston. It is basically the Pioneer Park2 of Boston.
  2. A large park where lots of homeless people and artists chill, for those of you who are not familiar with Salt Lake City. It’s basically the Boston Common of Salt Lake.
  3. That I can remember. Sometimes having a bad memory is great because you get to experience things for the first time all over again.
  4. She put me in soccer – SOCCER!
  5. I really like to dress up, so I tend to be perpetually overdressed.
  6. The other sure sign of this fact is that I have put my traditional two Christmas CDs on my iPod – “A Very She & Him Christmas” and “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.”
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