Monday, December 31, 2012

The Origins of Hogmanay

Only one nation in the world can celebrate the New Year, or Hogmanay, with such revelry and passion -- the Scots!  But what are the actual origins of Hogmanay, and why should a tall dark stranger be a welcome visitor after midnight?

It is believed that many of the traditional Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries.  These Norsemen, or men from an even more northerly latitude than Scotland, paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice or the shortest day, and fully intended to celebrate its passing with some serious partying.

In Shetland, where the Viking influence remains strongest, New Year is still called Yules, deriving from the Scandinavian word for the midwinter festival of Yule.

It may surprise many people to note that Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950's.  The reason for this dates back to the years of Protestant Reformation, when the straight-laced Kirk proclaimed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast, and as such needed banning. 

And so it was, right up until the 1950's that many Scots worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice holiday at New Year when family and friends would gather for a party and to exchange presents, which came to be known as Hogmanays.


Redding the House
Like the annual spring cleaning in some communities, or the ritual cleaning of the kitchen for Passover, families traditionally did a major cleanup to ready the house for the New Year.  Sweeping out the fireplace was very important and there was a skill in reading the ashes, the way some people read tea leaves.

The Singing of Auld Lang Syne
Immediately after midnight it is tradition to sing Robert Burns's "Auld Lang Syne".  Burns published his version of this popular little ditty in 1788, although the tune was in print over 80 years before this.

First Footing
After the stroke of midnight, neighbors visit each other, bearing traditional symbolic gifts such as shortbread or black bun (a kind of fruit cake), pieces of coal, salt, and a week dram of whisky.  The visitor, in turn, is offered a small whisky.  To ensure good luck for the house the first foot should be a dark male.  This bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blond stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble. 

Bonfires and Fires
The firework displays and torchlight processions now enjoyed throughout many cities in Scotland are reminders of the ancient pagan parties from those Viking days of long ago.  The traditional New Year ceremony would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village while being hit by sticks.  The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches.  Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

One of the most spectacular fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen on the north east coast.  Giant fireballs are swung around on long metal poles each requiring many men to carry them as they are paraded up and down the High Street.  Again, the origin is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice with the swinging fireballs signifying the power of the sun, purifying the world by consuming evil spirits.

Many of these customs continue today, especially in the older communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young men and boys form themselves into opposing bands; the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while another member carries a sack.  The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme.  The boys are given bannocks (fruit buns) for their sack before moving on to the next house.

For visitors to Scotland it is worth remembering that January 2nd is also a national holiday in Scotland, this extra day being barely enough time to recover from a week of intense revelry and merry-making. All of which helps to form part of Scotland's cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions that surround the pagan festival of Hogmanay.

Courtesy of
Thursday, December 27, 2012

And Bells On His Toes

Already renowned for other excesses, Henry VIII racked up some more extraordinary numbers.

He owned 234 finger rings, as many brooches as there were days of the year, and seven slim diamond sticks --which he used to pick his teeth.

Replica of Ruby Ring worn by Jonathan Rhys Myers as Henry VIII in The Tudors.

Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Dark Lady

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Mad Passions, Book One
Author - Marie Claremont
Genre - Historical Romance
Publisher - Signet
Release Date - February 5, 2013

Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man.  Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin --his childhood companion and first love-- that he would bring her husband back alive.  His failure haunts him.  But even his jaded soul can't anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.

Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind.  For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy --and prove her sanity to England's unforgiving aristocracy.

But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva's tragic past are finally unlocked...

I'm captivated by this book's gorgeous cover art and blurb.  It's going to the top of my must-read list.

~ Book blurb from Amazon ~
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Victorian Christmas Traditions


It's hard to imagine now, but at the beginning of the 19th century Christmas was hardly celebrated. Many businesses did not even consider it a holiday.  However by the end of the century it had become the biggest annual celebration and took on the form that we recognize today. 

Little Women (1994)

The transformation had happened quickly, and came from all sectors of society.  Many  attribute the change to Queen Victoria, and it was her marriage to the German-born Prince Albert that introduced some of the most prominent aspects of Christmas.

In 1848, the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition that was reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany.  Soon every home in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorates and small gifts.

In 1843 Henry Cole commissioned an artist to design a card for Christmas.  The illustration showed a group of people around a dinner table and a Christmas message.  

At one shilling each, these were pricey for ordinary Victorians and so were not immediately accessible.  However the sentiment caught on and many children -- Queen Victoria's included -- were encouraged to make their own Christmas cards.

In this age of industrialization color printing technology quickly became more advanced, causing the price of card production to drop significantly.  Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off.  By the 1880's the sending of cards had become hugely popular, creating a lucrative industry that produced 11.5 million cards in 1880 alone.  The commercialism of Christmas was well on its way.

Another commercial Christmas industry was born by Victorians in 1848 when a British confectioner, Tom Smith, invented a bold new way to sell sweets.  Inspired by a trip to Paris where he saw bon bons -- sugared almonds wrapped in twists of paper -- he came up with the idea of the Christmas cracker: a simple package filled with sweets that snapped when pulled apart.

The sweets were replaced by small gifts and paper hats in the late Victorian period, and remain in this form as an essential part of a modern Christmas. 

Decorating the home at Christmas also became a more elaborate affair.  The medieval tradition of using evergreens continued, however the style and placement of these decorations became more important.  The old custom of simply decking walls and windows with sprigs and twigs was sniffed at.  Uniformity, order and elegance were encouraged.  There were instructions on how to make elaborate synthetic decorations for those residing in towns.

In 1881 Cassell's Family Magazine gave strict directions to the lady of the house: "To bring about a general feeling of enjoyment, much depends on the surroundings...It is worth while to bestow some little trouble on the decoration of the rooms."

Gift giving had traditionally been at New Year, but moved as Christmas became more important to the Victorians.  Initially gifts were rather modest -- fruit, nuts, sweets and small handmade trinkets.  These were usually hung on the Christmas tree.  However, as gift giving became more central to the festival, and the gifts became bigger and shop-bought, they moved under the tree.

The Christmas feast has its roots from before the Middle Ages, but it's during the Victorian period that the dinner we now associate with Christmas began to take shape.  

Examination of early Victorian recipes shows that mince pies were initially made from meat, a tradition dating back to Tudor times.  However, during the 19th century there was a revolution in the composition of this festive dish.  Mixes without meat began to gain popularity within some of the higher echelons of society and became the mince pies we know today.

The roast turkey also has its beginnings in Victorian Britain.  Previously other forms of roasted meat such as beef and goose were the centerpiece of the Christmas dinner.  The turkey was added to this by the more wealthy sections of the community int he 19th century, but its perfect size for a middle class family gathering meant it became the dominant dish by the beginning of the 20th century.

While carols were not new to the Victorians, it was a tradition that they actively revived and popularized.  The Victorians considered carols to be a delightful form of musical entertainment, and a pleasure well worth cultivating.  Old words were put to new tunes and the first significant collection of carols was published in 1833 for all to enjoy.

The Victorians also transformed the idea of Christmas so that it became centered around the family.  The preparation and eating of the feast, decorations and gift giving, entertainments and parlor games -- all were essential to the celebration of the festival and were to be shared by the whole family.

 Little Women (1994)

While Charles Dickens did not invent the Victorian Christmas, his book A Christmas Carol is credited with helping to popularize and spread the traditions of the festival.  Its themes of family, charity, goodwill, peace and happiness encapsulate the spirit of the Victorian Christmas, and are very much a part of the Christmas we celebrate today.

Courtesy of
Thursday, December 20, 2012

In My Mailbox (33)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren, and is a way for everyone to show their new books for the week, including those bought, swapped, won or received for review.


Tessa Dare
Historical Romance E-novella

I ♥ Tessa Dare books.  This novella is only 99 cents on Amazon.

Sarah Hoss
 Contemporary/Paranormal Romance E-novella

I'm so excited to finally read this debut romance,
 written by my friend and Celtic Hearts Sister.


Anne Barton
Historical Romance
Released by Forever on January 29,2013

This ARC from new author, Anne Barton, is sure to hold my interest. 

Sweet Deception Regency, Book 4
Karla Darcy
Historical Romance

Courtesy of Karla Darcy's Holiday Blog Hop

I love the cover of this book (!), and look forward to reading this new-to-me author.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Release Day: Heaven Sent by Sarah Hoss

Happy Release Day to my friend and Celtic Hearts chapter-mate, Sarah Hoss!  Her debut book, Heaven Sent, is available TODAY!!! 

Author - Sarah Hoss
Genre - Paranormal Romance Novella
Publisher - The Wild Rose Press
Release Date - December 19, 2012

When forgiveness heals the soul, love heals the heart.
Flight nurse Tenlee Hawkins is used to making quick decisions, but one decision she made the Christmas day her mother died haunts her.  Wrestling with the past, she spirals into depression -- until the day she finds a man unconscious in her woods and saves his life.
When Sam awakens in the hospital with a concussion and no memory, Tenlee rescues him again.  She takes him into her home and her life.  But as Sam recovers and remembers who he is, he's torn.  A guardian angel isn't supposed to fall in love.
As the promise of true love grows, Tenlee realizes that Sam has helped her much more than she ever helped him.  But Sam is filled with guilt knowing he must soon leave.  Will it take a Christmas miracle to find the life with Tenlee he's always wanted?

 The perfect book to read on a cold Christmas night!
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Next Big Thing

No teaser today.  I was tagged by my friend and Celtic Hearts chapter-mate Natalie Murphy in The Next Big Thing meme.  In this meme, writers answer questions about the project they've been working on.  Enjoy!

What is your working title of your book?
Highland Fire. 

Where did the idea come from for the book?
The story just came to me one day.  I'd been wanting to write a Scottish-set novella that was both historical and paranormal.  I was browsing through my notes and came across a forgotten idea, which led me to write Highland Fire.  A lot of my story ideas come to me when I'm falling asleep, waking up, or taking a bubble bath.

What genre does your book fall under?
Historical/Paranormal romance.  The story is set in the Scottish Highlands in 1410.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always cast my characters.  I'm a visual learner, so I like to have lots of photo references for my story setting and characters.  Here are my heroine and hero:

Moira MacDonald and Malcolm Mackintosh

 Scarlett Johansson and Gerard Butler

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book? 
I've yet to write a one sentence synopsis for my novella.  I do have a blurb written, but it's extremely rough and not something I'm ready to share with the world...yet.  Keep an eye on my WIPS page in the coming year for more info on Highland Fire.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I fully intend to go the traditional publisher route and also seek an agent.  However, I'm not opposed to self-publishing. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Hard to say, since I'm still writing. =)  I'm currently at nearly 14K for this novella.  I've been focusing on it (and no other WIP) for the last few months.  I hope to finish it soon.  I reeaally want to write THE END on one of my WIPs. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
That's a difficult question because I don't want to compare myself to any other writer.  I've been there, done that, and it led me to a serious case of writer's block when I first starting writing.  I've been told my voice is lyrical, strong, and dramatic.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Shana Abe is my favorite author.  Her medieval and Scottish-set historicals originally inspired me to write my own book.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?  
An Alpha hero in a kilt.  A feisty heroine with otherworldly powers.  A hot romance in medieval Scotland.

Snippet of my book:
Unedited excerpt -  From Chapter Two

Only a scant few feet separated Moira from the Mackintosh chief.  Even so, the iron grate could not shield her against the sudden wave of sensation that assaulted her when he sheathed his sgian dubh and rose to his full height.  Her thoughts scattered.  Her focus sharpened.  The world around her melted into nothingness, and all she could do was look at him.  She couldn’t stop staring.  She couldn’t blink.  For a second she even forgot to breathe. 

It had grown very quiet.  The sudden hush was unnerving but exhilarating, the calm before the storm.  She gave herself over to it, holding completely still.  Waiting, watching.   He walked toward her, and she took in his hard-cut shape, the skin-tightness of his breeks, the way he moved with catlike graze.

Oh God.  Denying him entry was going to be harder than she expected.

He took a step closer.  Her pulse quickened.  Her womb tightened.  

His gaze held onto her and she knew then that he’d love her until the end of his days.   “I did as ye asked,” he said.”

“I know.”

“I followed your da after he departed Castle Doune.  I took him into custody before he reached Moidart, just like ye asked,” he said, as if she’d forgotten her tearful appeal to him all those months ago, and the subsequent events. “I held your da confined until he relented.”

“Three agonizing months, I imagine.”

“It was no’ meadow stroll.  Your da wasn’t happy, to say the least.  He blathered for hours about how ye’d aroused some curse and damned us both.”

She could feel the color drain from her face.  “A curse?  What...Whatever did he mean by that?”  

He shrugged.  “’Twas a scare tactic, naught more.  Your da will say anything to keep us apart.” 

Indeed. Allan MacDonald, second chief of Clanranald and Moidart, wasn’t short on words when it came to his ominous predictions.  Doona love him, gel, is how he began every warning.  She’d thought it all nonsense, a way to keep her from becoming too deeply involved with a far more experienced man.  If only she’d heeded Da’s admonition before he departed Castle Doune, she wouldn’t be living this nightmare. 

“Such talk did no’ trouble me,” Malcolm said.  “I know where ye belong.”

Exactly where she belonged he left unsaid.  Her mind filled in the missing words.  By my side.  In my arms.  In my bed.  She heaved a heavy sigh.  “I am where I must be,” was her reply.  “Da understands that, so should ye.”

“I know ye didn’t like deceiving your da.  It was your only option.  And it paid off.  We gained your da’s blessing.  We are free to wed.  ‘Tis why I sent word to ye at Castle Doune and directed ye to come to me in Moy.  So why run from me, Moira?”

The piercing force of his stare stabbed at her heart.  It skipped a beat.  Ached with a chest-squeezing desire that nigh buckled her knees.  Dizzy with want, she reached out a hand to steady herself.  Her fingers clamped onto the portcullis in a white-knuckled grip.  “I directed my MacQueen kin to escort me home to Tioram when I realized I had made a wrong step,” she said, the only truth she could reveal.  The rest must remain a mystery.  “We are not a good match, my laird.  I erred when I pledged ye my troth.”

“Foolish words spoken by an untried lass.”

“It is the truth.” 

“I think not.” 

The brutish curve of his sensual lips pushed her tongue from her mouth to moisten her parted lips.  The gate rattled beneath the pressure of her grip as she fought to regain her senses.  It was no use.  He was too near and she was already lost to the dynamic pull of his rugged masculinity.  The sheer size and strength he exhibited held her in thrall.

“I am sorry I did not see the error of my ways sooner,” she managed to say.  “What is done is done.  I cannot undo my mistakes, but I can tell ye now that we are not for one another.”

He moved closer and placed a hand on top of hers.  Fire sparked to life in her veins at the simple touch.  She stilled; every muscle within her tensing. 

“We are forever bound,” he said.  “We can no’ live apart.”

Now I get to pass this on for someone else to do!  I'm tagging one of my amazing writer friends and Celtic Hearts Sister, Sarah Hoss at Heart of Romance.
Monday, December 17, 2012

Is Something Up Her Sleeve?

While men's sleeves stripped down over the eighteenth century, women's remained in full bloom.


They were still elbow length --women were loath to surrender the hard-won forearm territory-- but now they had explosive bursts of ruffles and lace.

Sienna Miller as Francesca Bruni, Casanova (2005)

 Sophia Myles as Madame de Pompadour, Doctor Who (2006)

One of the most exuberant styles was the engageants -- two or three stiff frills of exquisite lace emerging from a dress sleeve that was already ruffled and garnished with fringe, bows, or silky braid.


Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, Frankenstein (1994)

It wasn't until the 1780's that Marie Antoinette, renowned for her other excesses, rather surprisingly promoted the unadorned wrist and did away with the extravagant sleeves in favor of slim models like those worn by men.

 Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette, Marie Antoinette (2006)

Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner, Amazing Grace (2006)

Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cover Swoon Sunday: Timespell

I just saw the cover of Timespell, the YA time travel book by Diana Paz, due out April 1, 2013.  The cover of this book is GORGE-OUS!!!!!  I love everything about it.  The purple and the pale blue colors are a striking combo.  And the dress...OMG, it's stunning!!! 

Soooooo pretty!
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Walk Softy

What's a coveted palace job in Egypt?  Sandal Bearer.

Liz and Dick (2012)

Sandals, with a thong between the big and second toes, were made from plaited papyrus, wood or leather.  The sandal bearer handled them with great care, cradling them in his hands.  In the early days, only the rich wore sandals, which they removed before entering a house or the pharaoh's court, while others went barefoot all the time.

By the thirteenth century B. C., everyone finally took to sandals, sometimes ones with the upturned points of the Eastern Mediterranean.  Tutankhamen, the boy king, had sandals encrusted with gold.

During the reign of Thotmes II in 1485, Egyptians painted pictures of their enemies inside their sandals.

Later pharaohs had hated faces pained on their footstools so they could give them a good, swift kick whenever they sat down.

Courtesy of Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Hunter

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Author - Monica McCarty
Genre - Historical Romance
Publisher - Ballantine Books
Release Date - June 25, 2013

Prized for his unbeatable tracking skills, Ewen "Hunter" Lamont accepts a dangerous assignment: locate a missing undercover courier.  But this is no ordinary target.  Ewen has met her before as "Sister Genna", a fiery, forbidden woman who was forever etched in his memory after one stolen, sinful kiss.  Now that he knows her real identity, he's more determined than ever to keep her safe.  But without the protection of the veil between them, fighting the allure of the beautiful lass may be the toughest battle this extraordinary warrior has ever faced.

After her ill-fated attempt three years ago to rescue her twin sister, Janet of Mar finds salvation acting as a courier for her king --until she surrenders to a darkly handsome, hard-edged warrior whose rough, sensual kisses stir feelings the woman in her can't deny.  But when betrayal leads to danger, and a crucial message is put in jeopardy, Janet has no choice but to put her faith in the hunter who can find anything --perhaps even her heart.

And the awesome saga of Monica McCarty's Highland Guard continues.  Whoo-hoo!!!!!!

~ Book blurb from Monica McCarty's website ~
Monday, December 10, 2012

In My Mailbox (32)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren, and is a way for everyone to show their new books for the week, including those bought, swapped, won or received for review.


Delilah Marvelle and Mรกrie Claremont

Historical E-book Novella

Just 99 cents on Amazon. =)
The perfect read to put me in the Christmas mood. 
Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cover Swoon Sunday: The Emperor's Conspiracy

Have you seen the cover for The Emperor's Conspiracy by Michelle Diener?  

The eye catching artwork + the gorgeous gown = one swoon worthy cover!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a way to show off the books you can't wait to be released.  This week I choose...

Author - Tessa Dare
Genre - Historical Novella
Previously published in the digital anthology Three Weddings and a Murder
Publisher - Avon Impulse
Release Date - December 11, 2012

Miss Eliza Cade is a lady in waiting.  And waiting.  Because of a foolish mistake in her youth, she's not allowed "out" in Society until her three older sisters are wed.  But while she's trying to be good, she keeps bumping elbows --and more distressingly, lips-- with notorious rake Harry Wright.  
Every moment she spends with him, she risks complete ruin.  The sensual passions he stirs in her are so wrong...but Eliza just can't resist Mr. Wright.

I've never read a story by Tessa Dare that I did not like.  Her dialogue is always witty and entertaining.  Her characters are well crafted, and her writing fluid and strong.  I don't read a lot of Regency-set historicals, but I never pass up the chance to read a Tessa Dare romance.  

At 99 cents, this novella is perfectly priced and not to be missed.

~ Book blurb from Tessa Dare's website ~
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: My Fair Concubine

It's Teaser Tuesday time!  
Here's how to play:

1) Grab your current read.
2) Open to a random page.
3) Share two (2) "teaser" sentences (or more, if you like) from somewhere on that page.
4) BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!  (Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away!  You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
5) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teaser.


"Fei Long couldn't resist looking to Yan Ling once again at the height of the scene.  Her gaze was fixed on the stage, face upturned.  The halo of the lanterns illuminated her so that he had no choice but to see.
They had spent every moment together for the past few weeks, on the road and then at his home and yet he hadn't seen.  They had shared meals, slept in close quarters, and he had never noticed.  She was just a teahouse girl.  A grey shadow.  A stray kitten."
~ page 115 of My Fair Concubine by Jeannie Lin.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cover Swoon Sunday: Winterblaze

When I saw the cover for Winterblaze, the third book in the Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan, I oohed out loud.  Now there's a clinch cover to  heat you up on a cold winter's night.

 I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy this February.
Saturday, December 1, 2012

December Releases

Is it December already?  Wow.  The last few months have gone by super fast.  Christmas is now only weeks away.  So, of course, I'm thinking about the slew of new books about to be released, just in time for holiday shopping. 

Here are the books I'm adding to my Christmas Wish List:


  Never Love A Lord by Heather Grothaus - December 31
Highlander Claimed by Juliette Miller - December 18
Demon's Curse by Alexa Egan - December 26

Never Love A Lord, book three in the Foxe Sisters trilogy, doesn't come out until after Christmas.  Bummer. 
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I ♥ Highlanders!  So you can bet I'll be reading Highlander Claimed, the debut by Juliette Miller.  The book is written in first person point-of-view (POV), which isn't the norm for romance. No biggie.  I don't mind this POV, as long as the book is well-written. 

Demon Curse kicks off the Regency-Paranormal Imnada Brotherhood series by Alexa Egan.  This one also doesn't come out until after Christmas. Darn.  I would've loved to have seen this book in my stocking on Christmas morning.



  Heaven Sent by Sarah Hoss - December 19
I'm thrilled to announce the release of this debut novella, which is written by my friend and Celtic Hearts Sister!  Sarah is the best chapter-mate and writing cheerleader.  I can't wait to read her first romance, and wish her loads of success as she embarks on her writing career.

Which books are on your Christmas Wish List?