Does someone you know need a little Christmas spirit? Maybe it’s you? Well, these selections are guaranteed to keep readers in a happy holiday mood long after the tree’s been recycled and Aunt Milly and her dog Pookie are finally on the plane home.

AN ELF'S DIRTY WORK
For a jolly, yet slightly jaded view of how all those Christmas toys get made and delivered in that magical reindeer sleigh, Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir introduces us to Gumdrop Coal. He’s a tough-talking, hard-as-nails elf who works for Santa, and has the unpleasant job of dealing with the Naughty List of boys and girls every Christmas. A bit on the rogue side, Gumdrop goes beyond the call of simply delivering coal into the stockings of bad kids. He has the merry idea to forget trying to teach the spoiled brats a lesson, and goes after the ones who are really to blame—the rotten parents who can’t control them. After a few slightly overenthusiastic punches and kicks, he’s framed for murder and on the lam. Harmon cleverly weaves every Christmas character you’ve ever known into this twisted, humorous tale, never letting up on the rapid-fire Christmas pun fun. (The toy soldiers get their marching orders, Frosty gets plowed and Vixen’s nightlife makes the gossip column.) And as with all good Christmas tales, there are sugarplum lessons for every little good (and not so good) girl and boy to chew on. After all, it’s a wonderful life.

A FATHER'S CHRISTMAS WISH
Anne Perry, the best-selling mystery writer also known for her Christmas novels, has penned another spirited tale. A Christmas Odyssey takes us to a particularly grisly part of London during the Victorian era, where a motley trio of characters goes to find a lost young man. Wealthy Londoner James Wentworth has one last hope of finding his wayward son, who has fallen into a salacious underworld of drug addiction and erotic desires. James is baffled that his own son could be lured into such a lecherous life, so, at wit’s end, he begs his longtime friend Henry Rathbone to help him search for the missing young man. Two other odd characters, Squeaky Robinson, who was once a brothel-keeper, and Hester Monk, a slum doctor who treats even the unworthy, join Rathbone to gather clues in London’s dangerous alleys and forbidden streets. Amid all the filth and corruption—and with the help of a few unsavory characters—the three men courageously band together to try to make one father’s Christmas wish come true.

Writing in her typical Dickensian style, Perry has an unblemished talent for convincing us that even the most flawed of characters have redeeming—and maybe even admirable—qualities. And what better time of year to celebrate the good in each and every one of us?

WAITING FOR A MIRACLE
Everyone looks for miracles during the Christmas holidays. In Sheila Roberts’ The Snow Globe, we meet Kylie Gray, who is having a streak of bad luck. She’s lost her job, and worse, her boyfriend has dumped her for her own sister—which will make for the most uncomfortable holiday dinner in history. But all that is about to change. On a crazy impulse, Kylie buys an antique snow globe in an offbeat little shop that, according to the store’s owner, comes with a promise of a miracle. As doubtful as Kylie is, she tries to believe, and what she eventually sees in the beautiful snowy scene completely changes her life. Her two best friends, each one doubting such silliness could possibly be real, learn that this beautiful glass globe has been handed down through the generations to just the right person needing a picture of hope. They also learn that miracles and hope do abound, even if they may not play out exactly like we would have imagined.

Just like the antique snow globe in this story, there is no better way to share the holiday spirit than to pass this book on to a girlfriend—or anyone in need of a Christmas miracle.

HOLIDAY ROMANCE
With a special knack for braiding believable characters, fantastic settings and spiritual messages into heartwarming tales, Donita K. Paul’s Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball is a romance story that’s not just about true love. First, we meet Cora Crowder, who’s definitely not in the holiday spirit as she forces herself to buy a book for her uncle’s Christmas present. After finally locating what turns out to be a bookstore like no other, she runs into her co-worker Simon Derrick. What these two opposites don’t know is that their lonely hearts are now in the hands of the booksellers themselves, who have interests beyond books—matchmaking of the most mysterious kind.

Until the very last page, it’s anybody’s guess if Cora and Simon have enough in common besides their faith to become a couple. But the fun in this story is how it all comes together at an old-fashioned, particularly remarkable Christmas Ball.

There are lots of life lessons along the way, like having faith in God, loving yourself and others—all while learning to dance at the ball.

SANTA'S LIFE AND TIMES
The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus by Tim Slover delivers an action-packed tale of imagination and inspiration that will make even a grown-up believe in Santa again.

Slover’s enchanting novel ensnares his audience right away with the account of how he personally came eyeball to eyeball with the real Santa Claus. No, not in a predictable way, like in the wee hours by the tree on Christmas Eve. Slover’s encounter was a complete fluke, and even he questioned his own sanity. But then there was the evidence of the Green Book left for him, a complete biography of Santa’s entire life, including a heroic battle he fought and won against evil. This invaluable account of the life of Santa Claus—in its entirety—is cleverly incorporated into the heart of the novel and is meant to bring annual cheer each Christmas season. It’s recommended that this authorized chronicle of Santa Claus, which promises to correct the silly misconceptions about Santa, be read aloud with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

The Christmas Chronicles even answers many of the hard questions kids ask at Christmas, like “How do all those toys get delivered all over the world in only one night?” A second layer of fun in this tale is Slover’s valiant effort to convince his own family (and the reader) that his encounter with Santa really happened.

Reading Slover’s fresh take on Santa Claus could well become a timeless Christmas tradition for all ages, even we grown-ups who might have forgotten that it’s perfectly okay to believe Santa is alive and well.

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