Books: Great Present, or THE GREATEST Present? ;-)

Hi everyone!

Can you believe 2009 is nearly over?  And Christmas is almost here?  And I haven’t even posted my list of favorite books/recommendations yet?  I know!  It’s a travesty!  I’m just barely squeaking it in before Hanukkah!  So I’m sure all you organized people have bought all your presents already, but for the rest of you who are more like me :-), it’s time for my last-minute awesome book suggestions!

(And by the way, you can blame the visiting dogs for the lateness of this.  It’s surprisingly hard to sit at a computer and accomplish things when one little dog is hiding on your lap and growling at the others, one teeny-tiny dog is frantically scrabbling to get up and join you with vociferous whimpers, and one ginormous dog is galloping madly around the house, returning occasionally with mystery objects in his mouth or else (which is worse) disappearing for ominous lengths of time when he could be doing all kinds of nefarious things elsewhere.)

But the dogs have gone home now!  It’s just me and Sunshine here, sleeping off the excitement.  ;-)  Seriously, she’s been snuggled up on me, fast asleep, basically since they left.  Awww, poor overwhelmed munchkin.  At least she has two weeks before she needs to see them again for Christmas, and then hopefully at least a month after that before Somebody Else arrives — a Somebody who won’t be leaving!

We did manage to accomplish some things while the dogs were here; for instance, I’m now in my NEW office, which used to be the sunroom/Adam’s office/room for random storage.  My old office is going to be the baby’s room, and I’ll post pictures of both things once they’re presentable.  I’m still under a pile of papers in here, next to some very exciting bookshelves which I can’t set up by myself because apparently my pregnantly useless hands can’t get the little pegs into the holes, bah humbug.

Right, BOOKS!  So one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to read more.  When I lived in NYC and commuted, I usually managed to read somewhere between 80-110 books a year, but in the last two years, in my house with no commuting, I only averaged 55-70 books a year.  I wanted to get back up to 90-100 in 2009, and I did!  I’m at 97 so far, and I think I can finish the three books I’m currently reading before the end of December.  Woo hoo!

Sure, that includes some short books (I read the whole Lemony Snicket series, for instance, since I’d only read the first 8 or so before, and I figured I should get to the end!), but it also includes some WICKED LONG books, like The Confusion and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Magicians and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, plus the very long grown-up book that I mentioned hating a while back, so I won’t tell you which one it was.  But I assure you it was VERY LONG.

And of those 97, I’ve picked out my absolute favorites to recommend to you, especially if you’re looking for some literary Christmas/Hanukkah presents (I mean, seriously: books are ALWAYS a great present!).

First, probably my favorite book I read this year…

For People Who Like Jane Austen Or Dragons, Or Especially For Those Extra-Awesome People Who Like Both:

Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton

It’s like a nineteenth-century British novel where all the characters are dragons.  DRAGONS!  Who EAT EACH OTHER!  But who are also extremely civilized and devoted to the rules of etiquette.  Even when it comes time for them to EAT EACH OTHER!  It’s AMAZING.  It’s also a terrific love story, very funny, and extremely well-crafted, with great surprises and twists along the way, all of which are linked inextricably to the main premise of this quasi-Victorian dragon society.  I LOVED IT.  I bet your mom or older sister or college roommate would, too!  Well, as long as they’re not too highfalutin’ to read a book about dragons (like some people I know…DAD.).  😉

Many of the books I really liked this year turned out to be YA fantasy:

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Well, obviously.  In fact, this is probably a pretty useless gift suggestion, since anyone who read the first one most likely ran out and got this sequel the minute it was available.  But it was great!  And rumor has it we get the next one as early as next August!  WOO HOO!  In the book publishing world, that’s pretty fast, so hooray for Suzanne Collins and her hard-working editor!

Fire, by Kristin Cashore

Again, your Graceling fan friends probably already have this, but if you know any girls who love Tamora Pierce and complex girl-powered fantasy who haven’t tried this book yet, it’s a perfect gift.  You don’t even have to have read the first one, because they each stand alone!  And are totally awesome!  🙂

Crown Duel
, by Sherwood Smith

Classic fantasy for those girls who have read Graceling and all of Tamora Pierce.  Crown Duel is set in a medieval world, with a tough female protagonist and a great love story and lots of complicated political machinations, and it’s very fun and fast-paced once you get into it.  (Keep in mind that it was originally published as two books, and if you just get the first one, whoever reads it will be clamoring for book two (Court Duel) as soon as they’re done!)

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale

Also fantasy, but with a more contemporary feel, since it’s mostly about the girls at this school and the friendships they form as they learn about how to be a princess.  I thought it was adorable, with another strong & awesome heroine at the center (one who loves books!).

And finally, the Fantasy Trifecta…

For People Who Love Awesomeness:

image image image
The Attolia books, by Megan Whalen Turner

I’d read The Thief before, but I reread it so I could read the other two.  OMGFLABBERGASTINGLY AWESOME.  The Queen of Attolia especially is right next to Tooth and Claw as my favorite book of the year.  But all three are great and brilliantly constructed and build to really surprising, cool places.  I am so madly in love with these characters and how messed up and intriguing and complicated and smart they are. 

Plus I just found out there’s a FOURTH one coming out next year!  EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!  Clearly I need an advance copy of this STAT, so I can read it to distract me whenever early labor begins (which we learned last night can last for days before they even think you should come in to the hospital.  WHAT.  OW.  I BEG YOUR PARDON.).  So I’ll totally need something awesome and distracting just like this!  Sounds like a mission for my hooked-up publishing friends, especially the one related to me who has to give me Christmas presents (hint, hint, subtle hint).  :-D  MWA HA HA!   

I also read some grown-up books that I liked this year.  I know!  How surprising is that?  ;-)  Actually, I read a lot of grown-up books, but I often find them kind of whiny or predictable or WAY TOO LONG (although all the long ones I mentioned by name above were perfectly likable).  But there were these weird gems in there:

For Your Grown-Up Writer Friends Who Like That Literary Stuff:

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss

This was recommended to me by the lovely bookseller at Village Books, where I was for Kids Heart Authors Day in February.  Yay for local bookstores!  I asked her for a suggestion (one of the many things to love about a local bookstore), and she was totally right — this book was FABULOUS, and I would never have picked it up on my own. 

For Fans of Post-Apocalyptic Novels, Complicated Artificial Intelligence Questions, and Unique Storytelling:

Genesis, by Bernard Beckett

I have no idea why I picked up this odd little book, except maybe the fact that it’s post-apocalyptic/dystopian and apparently set in New Zealand in the far distant future.  But I found it really clever, really weird, and really surprising — I love it when stories actually surprise me!

Hey, check it out, book trailer!  O, the level of cool I’d have to achieve to put one of those together.  Sigh. 

Oh, and this book was actually published in 2009, so it’s tres current and you’ll look so ahead of the curve reading it.  :-)  (That also means the people on your list probably don’t have it yet!)

For Your Relative Who Loves Character-Driven Mysteries:

When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson

I love all of Kate Atkinson’s books, including this recent addition to the Jackson Brodie private detective series.  I hesitate to call them mysteries; they are, in the same way that The Lovely Bones or The Time-Traveler’s Wife are actually contemporary fantasy, but they all have that shiny introspective literary feel to them that makes critics put them in a different box.  Regardless, whatever you want to label them, Atkinson’s books are amazing…but definitely for grown-ups!  They tend to be very dark and a little scary sometimes…much like The Lovely Bones, actually (which is on my mind because the movie’s coming out soon — I hope it’s good!).

And finally, three authors who never fail to make me happy: 

Gorgeous, by Rachel Vail

This was also published in 2009!  It’s the second of a trilogy, with book three (Brilliant) coming out in May!  Oooo, check out the brilliant cover:


Pretty!  I want it!  These are great books for sisters, by the way, as each one in the trilogy is about a different Avery sister.  And Gorgeous is especially funny and clever.  🙂

Aunt Maria, by Diana Wynne Jones

I think there’s a Diana Wynne Jones book on here every year, isn’t there?  Well, there should be.  You know why?  BECAUSE SHE RULES.  Everything she writes is magic.  If I can find something by her that I haven’t read, you can bet I’ll be saving it for that distracting-myself-from-early-contractions time I mentioned before.

Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett

Another writer who can do no wrong.   Have you read his YA Tiffany Aching books?  If not, DO!  Meanwhile, I’m jumping around through the Discworld novels, since I’ve only read some of them.  This one was brilliant, and again, very clever.  Aw, I love smart authors.  🙂

Oh, OK, one more… 

JellicoeRoad cover
Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

This one’s a bit confusing for a while, and not exactly cheerful (lots and LOTS of sad things happen!), but it’s beautiful (and Australian!), and I can totally see why it won the Printz Award.  May be a good present for your friends who like Sarah Dessen or Laurie Halse Andersen. 

And then, of course, there are the books by me that came out this year!

For Your Friend Who Loves Vampires, Or Your Friend Who’s Totally Sick of Twilight But Wouldn’t Mind a Funny Vampire Story, Or Your Friend Who Just Misses Buffy the Vampire Slayer As Much As I Do:

NeverBiteABoy front cover - hi-res
Never Bite a Boy on the First Date, by Tamara Summers (that’s me!)

You may have noticed how excited I am about this book, given that I mention it all the time, but it’s available now and I love it and I want you to love it, too!  Humor!  Romance!  Vampires!  Very hot boys!  And a vampire heroine who could throw any of them out the window if she wanted to!  Get copies for all your friends!  ;-)  Yay! 

For The Brother You Can Never Find Presents For:

BrethrenCourt1  BrethrenCourt2  BrethrenCourt3     BrethrenCourt4
Legends of the Brethren Court, by Rob Kidd (really me!)

Set before the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the five books in this series follow Jack Sparrow when he was still captain of the Black Pearl, with his not-so-trusty first mate Barbossa and a host of other pirate-y types, some of whom you may recognize from the movies or the Young Jack Sparrow books (not by me).  As they circle the globe searching for the mysterious and powerful shadow gold, Jack and his crew encounter the various Pirate Lords of the Brethren Court (remember those folks?  From the end of the third movie?)…and in some cases, even help them to become the Pirate Lords they’re destined to be!

Lots of swashbuckling!  And adventure!  And crazy pirate shenanigans!  Hopefully if you liked the movies, you might enjoy these, too. 

I actually thought the fifth and final book would be out now, but I can only find it on Canadian Amazon; allegedly this is the cover:


Ooooo, drama!  Well, if I find out anything more about it actually being published, I’ll let you know!  :-)  (Yes, I’m afraid authors don’t always know quite what’s going on.) 
And of course:

For All The Dog Lovers Out There!:

PetTrouble1 cover2  PetTrouble2 cover2  PetTrouble3 cover2  PetTrouble4 cover2 Pet Trouble, by T. T. Sutherland (books under my real name! It’s true!)   

The first four are out now, with four more coming next year!  Happy stories about mischievous dogs!  How can you resist?  I mean, really.  🙂

Oh, and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you about the Seekers books, too — book three is out now and book four is coming in February, followed by book five in May!

Happy sigh.  Aren’t books awesome?  So many great things to read!  I’m in the middle of The Prestige right now — the one the movie was based on (with Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale).  I LOVED that movie SO MUCH, so I figured I should read the novel.  I like it so far, although it is very weird knowing all the plot secrets ahead of time, and I feel like things are missing even though they were probably just changed for the movie.  But I’m only a short way in…we’ll see what I think at the end!

Whew…well, hopefully this very long post makes up for the lack of one last week!  And hopefully I’ll be more productive now that the dogs are gone and I’m in my shiny new office and all my manuscripts for the year are done (woo! nine books this year! time for a nap!).  🙂
Good luck with your holiday shopping, and happy Hanukkah to anyone celebrating this weekend (yay!), and I wish you all short lines at the mall and peppermint hot chocolate afterwards!

Quote of the Day:  "Oh!  It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t.  More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read." — Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest