Book Holiday Gift Guide

Book Gift Guide

With only nine days remaining until Christmas, maybe one of these 16 books will make for a great last-minute Christmas gift purchase. Included in this list are science fiction and fantasy with some YA book, books for the art-lover, comedy, and reference.

2013 was a not a year in which I had a chance to do a lot of reading, hence only 16 books on the list, despite receiving multiples more for review. Amazon purchasing links can be found in each title. (For the Star Trek fans, I have 11 book recommendations listed in the Star Trek gift guide.)

The Human DivisionThe Human Division by John Scalzi

Following the events of The Last Colony, John Scalzi tells the story of the fight to maintain the unity of the human race.

The people of Earth now know that the human Colonial Union has kept them ignorant of the dangerous universe around them. For generations the CU had defended humanity against hostile aliens, deliberately keeping Earth an ignorant backwater and a source of military recruits. Now the CU’s secrets are known to all. Other alien races have come on the scene and formed a new alliance—an alliance against the Colonial Union. And they’ve invited the people of Earth to join them. For a shaken and betrayed Earth, the choice isn’t obvious or easy.

Against such possibilities, managing the survival of the Colonial Union won’t be easy, either. It will take diplomatic finesse, political cunning…and a brilliant “B Team,” centered on the resourceful Lieutenant Harry Wilson, that can be deployed to deal with the unpredictable and unexpected things the universe throws at you when you’re struggling to preserve the unity of the human race.

You can read my reviews of each episode and listen to my interview with John Scalzi.

ex-heroesEx-Heroes by Peter Clines

Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need.

But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all.

You can read an excerpt, read my review, and listen to my interview with Peter Clines.

ex_patriots_cover-FINALEx-Patriots by Peter Clines

The second novel in Peter Clines’ bestselling Ex series.

It’s been two years since the plague of ex-humans decimated mankind. Two years since the superheroes St. George, Cerberus, Zzzap, and Stealth gathered Los Angeles’s survivors behind the walls of their fortress, the Mount.

Since then, the heroes have been fighting to give the Mount’s citizens hope, and something like a real life. But now supplies are growing scarce, the zombies are pressing in . . . and the heroes are wondering how much longer they can hold out.

Then hope arrives in the form of a surviving US Army battalion–and not just any battalion. The men and women of the Army’s Project Krypton survived the outbreak because they are super-soldiers, created before mankind’s fall to be better, stronger, faster than normal humans–and their secure base in Arizona beckons as a much needed refuge for the beleaguered heroes and their charges.

But a dark secret lies at the heart of Project Krypton, and those behind it wield an awesome and terrifying power.

You can read an excerpt here.

FarseedFarseed by Pamela Sargeant (YA)

Centuries ago, the people of Earth sent Ship into space. Deep within its core, it carried the seed of humankind….

More than twenty years have passed since Ship left its children on an uninhabited, earthlike planet. Zoheret and her companions have started settlements and had children of their own. But soon after their arrival, Zoheret’s old nemesis, Ho, struck out on his own.

When Ho’s daughter, fifteen-year-old Nuy, spies three strangers headed toward their home, the hostility between the two groups of old shipmates begins anew. Can the divided settlers face the challenges of adapting to their new environment in spite of their conflicts?

You can read my review and listen to my interview with Pamela Sargeant.

princess_final_300Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers minibiographies of all these princesses and dozens more. It’s a fascinating read for history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story.

A-COLD-SEASON-HI-RESA Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

A dark and unsettling tale from a bold voice in horror writing, British writer Alison Littlewood’s first novel was decreed “hugely enjoyable—perfect reading for a dark winter’s night,” by the influential Richard & Judy Book Club. “A scary read that will chill you to the bone,” said Library Journal.

After the battlefront death of her husband, a soldier, in the sands of the Middle East, a distraught Cass decides to move to the bucolic village of Darnshaw—a place she once knew and loved—with her teenaged son, with the hope that a change in scenery will be just the thing to help her family heal. But the locals aren’t as friendly as she had hoped and the Internet connection isn’t as reliable as her work requires. Ben begins to display an uncharacteristic hostility. A blizzard strikes Darnshaw, marooning it in a sea of snow, and Cass begins to despair. She finds a sympathetic ear in the person of her son’s substitute teacher. But his attentions can’t put to rest her growing anxiety about her son and her business. And soon, she finds herself pitted against dark forces she can barely comprehend. The cold season has begun.

You can read an excerpt here.

The Corpse ReaderThe Corpse Reader by Antonio Garrido

After his grandfather dies, avid scholar and budding forensic investigator Cí Song begrudgingly gives up his studies to help his family. But when another tragedy strikes, he’s forced to run and also deemed a fugitive. Dishonored, he has no choice but to accept work as a lowly gravedigger, a position that allows him to sharpen his corpse-reading skills. Soon, he can deduce whether a person killed himself—or was murdered.

His prowess earns him notoriety, and Cí receives orders to unearth the perpetrator of a horrific series of mutilations and deaths at the Imperial Court. Cí’s gruesome investigation quickly grows complicated thanks to old loyalties and the presence of an alluring, enigmatic woman. But he remains driven by his passion for truth—especially once the killings threaten to take down the Emperor himself.

Inspired by Song Cí, considered to be the founding father of CSI-style forensic science, this harrowing novel set during the thirteenth-century Tsong Dynasty draws readers into a multilayered, ingenious plot as disturbing as it is fascinating.

You can read an excerpt here.

dark talismanDark Talisman by Steven M. Booth (YA)

Meet the Dark Elf, Altira. She set out to rob a sultan, and ended up stealing the deadliest gem in the world. This mistake could cost Altira her life or save her race, and possibly the world as she knows it. As Altira struggles to triumph over the vast forces arrayed against her, she acquires (mostly against her will) a rich cast of unexpected allies perceptive dwarves, giant Phoenix birds with mysterious powers, and ephemeral creatures made from nothing but air. Together they must find a way to defeat the army of assassins set against her, overcome the wrath of three nations, and forge allegiances with despised enemies, to reveal the truth to a people kept in darkness for millennia.

You can read an excerpt here.

aNHoD Cover 300dpiA Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

“Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on A Natural History of Dragons

An NPR Best Book of 2013

You can read an excerpt, read my review, read Brennan’s guest post, and listen to my interview with Marie Brennan.

The Last ThresholdThe Last Threshold by R.A. Salvatore

In the final book of the #4 New York Times best-selling Neverwinter Saga, Drizzt Do’Urden navigates a winding path littered with secrets and lies. Tangled up in his companion Dahlia’s dark secrets, the ties that once held her close to Drizzt threaten to tear as her bonds to his former foe, Artemis Entreri, continue to grow. Meanwhile, in the caverns of Gauntlgrym, the drow Tiago Baenre enlists the help of Bregan D’aerthe in his quest to destroy Drizzt. While making promises they may not keep, the agents of the elite drow mercenary group hide plans of their own. Determined to stand for what’s right in the Realms once again, Drizzt forges a new road north—toward Icewind Dale. Will his new companions follow? Can he fight the darkness alone? Either way, he knows now where he’s headed—back to the only place that’s ever felt like home.

Read my review and listen to my interview with R.A. Salvatore.

the-companions-the-sundering-book-iThe Companions by R.A. Salvatore

The Companions is the best novel [R.A.] Salvatore has ever written. It’s insanely courageous, profoundly powerful, masterfully constructed, and easily Salvatore’s most ambitious work to date.”—Paul Goat Allen,

“After a quarter of a century, R.A. Salvatore just keeps getting better and better, and The Companionsis another masterful leap forward for one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time.”
—Philip Athans, best-selling author of Annihilation and The Haunting of Dragon’s Cliff

This latest installment in New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore’s beloved fantasy saga,The Companions moves Salvatore’s signature hero Drizzt into a new era of the Forgotten Realms. As Drizzt’s fate hangs in the balance, he reflects on the lives of the trusted allies who stood by his side throughout his early life–the friends now known as the Companions of the Hall. Meanwhile, the first stirrings of the Sundering begin.

the-godborn-paul-s-kemp-the-sunderingThe Godborn by Paul S. Kemp

In the 2nd book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, the shadow legacy of Erevis Cale lives on even as his old foe Mephistopheles seeks to stamp it out at any cost. Cale’s son Vasen—unmoored in time by the god Mask—has thus far been shielded from the archdevil’s dark schemes, alone among the servants of the Lord of Light who have raised him since birth.

Living in a remote abbey nestled among the Thunder Peaks of Sembia, Vasen is haunted by dreams of his father, trapped in the frozen hell of Cania. He knows the day will come when he must assume his role in the divine drama unfolding across Faerûn. But Vasen knows not what that role should be . . . or whether he is ready to take it on. He only knows what his father tells him in dreams—that he must not fail.

Enter Drasek Riven, a former compatriot of Erevis Cale, now near divine and haunted by dreams of his own—he too knows the time to act is near. Shar, the great goddess of darkness, looks to cast her shadow on the world forever. Riven has glimpsed the cycle of night she hopes to complete, and he knows she must be stopped.

At the crossroads of divine intrigue and mortal destiny, unlikely heroes unite to thwart the powers of shadow and hell, and the sundering of worlds is set on its course.

SwisstedSwissted by Mick Joyce

Swissted takes rock concert posters of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and remixes and reimagines them through a Swiss modernist lens. The result is some of the coolest images you’ve ever seen! The book features 200 posters, all microperforated and ready to frame. Or keep them bound in one collection as an art book. The foreword is written by legendary designer Steven Heller.

Posters are from legendary indie, alternative, and punk bands such as Jane’s Addiction, Blondie, the Beastie Boys, the Clash, the Pixies, Green Day, the Ramones, Devo, the Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, Public Image Ltd., Sonic Youth, the Cure, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hüsker Dü, Danzig, the Replacements, Fugazi, the Lemonheads, Pearl Jam, Pavement, Superchunk, They Might Be Giants, Guided by Voices, Sugar, Sleater Kinney, Violent Femmes, Iggy Pop, Fishbone, Nirvana, and many, many more!

You can read my review here.

scottreturnGreat Showdowns: The Return by Scott C

Since the beginning of time, there has been struggle. The epic clash of being against being. Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Triceratops. Giant Squid vs. the Sperm Whale. The Circle vs. the Square.

This is a chronicling of some of the greatest confrontations in FILM HISTORY. These are the GREAT SHOWDOWNS.

Acclaimed artist Scott Campbell’s hugely popular Great Showdowns series returns, following 2012’s bestselling first volume.

You can read my review here.

chuck norris longer harderChuck Norris: Longer And Harder by Ian Spector

The ultimate collection of 1,500 facts about the world’s toughest and most awesome man. 

Finally, the wait is over. The most comprehensive collection of Chuck Norris facts from the New York Times bestselling series by Ian Spector is ready to blow your mind. Only the manliest of men will be able to handle this bind-up of The Truth About Chuck NorrisChuck Norris vs. Mr. TChuck Norris Cannot Be StoppedThe Last Stand of Chuck Norris, and over one hundred new facts. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from these 1,500 facts about the man so powerful we quake when uttering his name: Chuck Norris.

Read my review and listen to my interview with Ian Spector.

Geek's Guide

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your bedsheets are officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall. What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from Eric Smith in The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer leads geeks of all ages through the perils and pitfalls of meeting women, going on dates, getting serious, breaking up, and establishing a successful lifelong relationship (hint: it’s time to invest in new bedsheets). Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

Don’t forget, for the Star Trek fans, I have 11 book recommendations listed in the Star Trek gift guide.

All of the books on this list were received for some sort of promotional purpose.

Jules Sherred is the parent of two teenage boys, freelance writer, web designer, author of Five Little Zombies and Fred, General Manager and radio personality at The Look 24/7, owner of the largest Star Trek community on Google+, Geeky Pleasures creator, geek support for Parsec Award winning The Minister of Chance, and more. On the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show, Jules has interviewed Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Coulton, Phil Plait, Sylvester McCoy, Richard Hatch, Paul and Storm, R.A. Salvatore, John Kovalic, and so many more. Jules' writing can also be found on Hugo Award winning SF Signal, GeekMom, United Federation of, Nerdy With Children, Star Wars vs Star Trek. Slowly, Jules is working on another book titled Nerd Love. You can follow Jules on Twitter @GeekyJules. Also, JULES LOVES STAR TREK.

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