Monday, December 6, 2010

Bookish Things for Christmas Gifting

We’re big readers in our house, doesn’t matter if the book is paper or an audio MP3 file. Our house has variations of books in every room. Yes, including the bathroom, because sometimes that’s the only place Mom gets five minutes to herself. If the dog would stop shoving the door open EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Nothing pleased me more than walking into the house a few weeks ago to find the television dark & silent, the dog snoozing on the floor, and my husband, son and daughter sprawled across the sofas with their noses stuffed in books. This is not such an uncommon sight thankfully and books and audiobooks are often on our wish lists when gift giving days roll around.

The wonderful moment of reading togetherness made me think that maybe you would love that sight and I could help give it to you as a gift by offering up some holiday gifting idea’s for the teenage and middle grade set. And books are always a good option in a gifting hurdle, are they not?

Let’s get started, shall we?

For the teenage boy set, Ace first recommends audiobook Carter Finally Gets It & Carter’s Big Break by Brent Crawford. These books are windows into the teenage boy mind and daily travails, and once you’ve looked in, there’s no turning back. Ace is an enthusiastic advocate for the Carter books, especially Carter Finally Gets It, and says listening to this audiobook was like walking down the halls of his own high school with friends. Can’t get a better recommendation than that, I think.

Next up on his list is Swim the Fly by Don Calame, a book that first caught his attention because he listened to the audio version during his first season on the swim team and completely loved the age appropriate gross-out boy humor and the swimming theme. It's another favorite that he goes back to for repeated listening. Beat the Band is the follow up book with the same characters facing a new High School challenge with raucous humor and teenage antics.

Chris Kuzneski is a major favorite of Ace’s and he’s continually urging his father to pick them up and dive in. His stories revolve around the recurrent characters, Jonathan Payne & D.J. Jones, ex-special forces guys who find themselves entangled in international intrigues that usually involve lots of explosions, gun battles and esoteric historical mysteries that add depth to the stories and trivia to your brain.  Along the lines of Clive Cussler and James Rollins books but stand out stories that keep you on the edge of your seat until the last thrilling page. I’m a big fan too. Ace and I suggest starting the series with Sign of the Cross.

If there's one book that Ace continues to nag me to listen to, it's Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Ace found this book to be enormously entertaining, with a dark humor that suits the gritty world of the story. He listened to it on audio twice before moving to another book, which means he really really enjoyed it. He’s threatened to remove my current drive-to-work audio from the car and replace it with Sandman Slim so I will listen to it now because it is just that good and I have to listen to it. His words.

The kick your ass attitude of the main character is sure to appeal to the teenage boy and given the number of zombies that gets killed, it’s just gruesome enough to be fun.

Some of what I get from the list above is that the recurrence of characters is an appealing aspect for boys, or at least for my boy because as soon as he finishes a book, or audiobook, by the authors above, he’s asking me when the next one is available. Explosions and girls are certainly part of the appeal, I imagine.

Giggles now, she goes in a completely different direction and her top recommendations right now are The Kingdom Keeper books by Ridley Pearson. Disney is her favorite place in the whole world so the appeal of the setting and mysteries in the books keeps her reading, or listening, for hours at a stretch. Ridley Pearson does the reading for the audiobooks and that, to my mind, makes the narration more exciting. 
Next up on Giggles' list are some of the American Girl books in the Body & Mind selection aimed at the tween age. She has practically worn out her copy of Spa Fun, Skin  Nails and The Feelings Book. The Feelings Book has definitely given her insight into her own emotions and allowed us to have some wonderful conversations. This is definitely one I recommend right along with my girl. She’s also very big on trying out the many do-it-yourself home beauty tips found in the Skin & Nails book. These books are great just for a young girl and for some fun Mother-Daughter time.

During a recent bookfair, Giggles picked up Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez and has raved about it and when asked for her top book picks, this was on right inthe top five. I think it was the green socks on the cover that first got her attention but Lina's story kept her turning pages.
This book, The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera is a top ten choice and she wishes frequently that Ms. Primavera would write a second book as she swears the first one ended with a perfect follow up opportunity. Heavily influenced by the Wizard of Oz world, this story is enchanting and fun for the middle graders. Giggles listened to this as an audiobook only and pops it into her CD player regularly to revisit the characters while waiting for that second book.

Because she loves and tolerates her Mother, who wanted to push share her obsession love of all things Berkeley Breathed, Giggles willingly agreed to read Flawed Dogs:The Shocking Raid of Westminster. She was skeptical at first but to her surprise, and her Mother’s giddy delight, she laughed her way through it and hugged her dog all the tighter as she did. This one is for all the dog lovers who have a special place in their hearts for the “special” dogs. And now Giggles keeps this book on her special book shelf where it always belonged. (Did you know that the upcoming movie Mars Needs Moms is based on a Berkeley Breathed book of the same name? Now do you do. Go read it.)

Since I will read just about any book here’s a few suggestions that I enjoyed.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield was a surprise enjoyment for me. I don’t usually delve into the steam punk/alternate history space, but I kept hearing good things about this book and well, those good things were right on target. Set in the pre-WWI time frame, the story is constant action, well constructed characters and the world filled with strange yet believable beasts and creatures. Well worth the suspension of disbelief. Good for guy or girl. Imma gonna get me a copy of Behemoth soon.

Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series is well done, with just enough dreamy gothic tones, and full up with spoiled fairies bent of screwing things up and strong female characters trying to fix things, with plenty of sizzling romance in the mix.

While not a young adult novel, any true fantasy will love to curl up over winter break and read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. And then read it again over spring break. Because it is a wonderful fantasy epic that begins the legend of Kvothe, he of many names. And just look at that cover. Trust me, this book is a fantastical fantasy that gently pulls you in and never lets go. The next in the series, The Wise Man's Fear, will be available in March and I will be marking off my calendar and pre-ordering it. Because I want.
Happy Holiday Reading, or listening, because audiobooks are fun to read!

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