From The Beacon: Book suggestions for the unconventional holiday tale

While the holiday season always is a fun and festive time, it also can be tiring and hectic. If you are looking for a respite from the frenzy of cookie-baking, card-sending, tree-decorating, light-hanging and present-wrapping, you might want to pick up one of these engrossing novels about the holidays.

In "Strangers at the Feast" by Jennifer Vanderbes, three generations of the Olson family gather on Thanksgiving Day 2007 to celebrate the holiday. The family members are fond of each other, but, as with all families, each person has secrets and must delicately maneuver between old grievances and new worries.

Eleanor and Gavin have been married for many years and have grown distant and dissatisfied; their son, Douglas, became extremely successful by investing in real estate, but is fearful of seeing his financial situation implode as the real estate bubble is poised to burst; and independent, free-thinking Ginny has just bought her first home and adopted a young girl from India. At the same time, two teenagers from the nearby housing projects have set off on a mysterious mission. When the oven at Ginny's house breaks and the entire assemblage must move to Douglas' home, these two sets of disparate people hurtle toward a dramatic climax. If you enjoy novels such as "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen or "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo, you won't want to miss this one.

For a more unconventional take on a holiday story, try "The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror" by Christopher Moore. It is a week before Christmas in Pine Cove, Calif., and Dale Pearson arrives home after a shift playing Santa Claus at the local lodge. He discovers his disgruntled ex-wife Lena Marquez stealing his Christmas trees. Dale surprises her by threatening her with his gun, and she hits him with a shovel, killing him.

Seven-year-old Joshua Barker is a witness to the mayhem and subsequently believes he has just seen the murder of Santa Claus. Praying for a Christmas miracle, Josh wishes for the return of Santa to save Christmas. Luckily, the Archangel Raziel is searching for a child's Christmas wish to grant and settles on Josh's wish as the perfect choice. Regrettably, for the residents of Pine Cove, Raziel isn't the smartest angel to grace the heavens and he quickly makes a mess of his assignment. The resulting chaos is hilarious, horrifying and unforgettable.

If you would like to add a dash of romance to your holiday season, "The Perfect Christmas" by Debbie Macomber should fit the bill. All Cassie Beaumont wants for Christmas is to meet the man of her dreams. She enlists the services of professional matchmaker Simon Dodson to help her find the perfect partner. Before Simon will introduce Cassie to the bachelor he has in mind, she must complete three tasks he has assigned: volunteer as a charity bell ringer, dress up as an elf for a children's party and prepare a turkey for the neighbors she despises. Cassie cheerfully embarks on the tasks, and in the end, her perfect match turns out to be a wonderful surprise.