Holiday Recommendations: Books

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Lytherus’s most trusted book sleuths have composed the ultimate holiday guide to fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels on the shelves this season! Our list contains such gems as The Hunger Games trilogy and Percy Jackson, as well as obscure-but-fantastic reads such as The Abhorsen Trilogy and Bran Hambric. You surely can’t go wrong with these recommendations!

I Am Number Four (Pittacus Lore)

Three are dead. I am number four. John Smith is number four. He’s always on the run, changing cities, changing names, staying hidden. And he has to—his life, and the life of his guardian, depends on it. He’s not just a normal teen. He’s starting to develop powers, yet unknown, that will make him a threat to those who want him.  There are eight others like him. They each have a number, and can only be killed in order. The first three are dead, and he’s next.

Definitely check out this high-tension, thrilling read. This book just might have you glancing around corners and looking over your shoulder at night. John never knows if he’s safe; those who hunt him can appear anytime, anywhere, with no warning. The supernatural element adds a whole additional dimension which ups the ante. This isn’t just a story about a teen coming into himself, having his first love, and discovering who he truly is. It’s about survival and fighting to save something precious.

Southern Vampire Mysteries – The Sookie Stackhouse series (Charlaine Harris)

Sometimes being a waitress sucks. Especially when you happen to be a mind-reader, hearing your customers’ every thought.  This is what Sookie Stackhouse, the protagonist of the Southern Vampire Mysteries series has to deal with. Until she meets Vampire Bill, whose thoughts are silent, most likely because he’s dead. But no matter, vampires have “come out of the coffin,” thanks to the invention of synthetic blood, and are slowly becoming accepted in society. But though things may appear peachy on the surface, a leopard can’t change its spots, and Sookie somehow manages to get stuck in the middle of all the action time and time again, creating hilarity, danger, and drama.

The books in this series are perfect for an easy escape.  They are fun and light, but with enough plot, hot romance, and interesting characters to keep the pages turning. New characters are always coming and going as the story progresses, but Sookie and the vampires she knows (and sometimes even loves) remain constant.

Percy Jackson Series (Rick Riordan)

Percy Jackson’s life is rough, and that’s before he sees his teacher turn into a monster, gets chased by a Minotaur wearing tighty-whities, and finds out his dad happens to be a Greek god. Luckily his life takes a turn, and though not always better, it is definitely more interesting. This series follows Percy as he discovers what it means to be a hero, trains at a special camp with other half-bloods (half human, half god), goes on quests, demystifies prophecies, and basically saves the world.

Though the series is aimed towards older children and young adults, many full-blown grown-ups love them (including the staff of Lytherus!). And they are absolutely hilarious. Even during high tension parts Riordan’s humor leaps off the page. Don’t let that fool you though; this series is packed with adventure, suspense, and all of your favorite Greek myths with new, modern twists. Recommended for all ages.

Bran Hambric Series (Kaleb Nation)

Bran Hambric was found in a bank vault when he was six years old with no idea where he came from, in a town where magic (the only explanation) is illegal. The story picks up one night when he’s fourteen and is attacked and almost kidnapped by a creepy creature that taunts him with knowledge about his past—and the mother he can’t remember. This starts the beginning of a series where Bran tries to discover who he is and the magic that’s connected to him, all the while trying to stay away from those who want him, and his knowledge, at any cost.

This is a fantastic series from first-time author Kaleb Nation, who started the books when he was only fourteen years old. It is a great place to get lost and find yourself reading into the wee hours of the morning. Magic, adventure, wicked suspense, and some great comic relief blend to make this an unforgettable reading experience.

Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

Sometimes finding that perfect Christmas gift for the literary nerd in the family isn’t always about finding the ‘hot new seller.’ Sometimes it’s about giving a gift that means something and will be kept and cherished for years. A summary of this story plot is hardly needed. A Christmas Carol is a classic fantasy novel that has had more rip-offs, spoofs, and plastic surgery than Joan Rivers. But how many people have taken the time to read the original? Give it a try, you might just find that this story is so solid and enchanting in and of itself that it does not need all the bells and whistles or even Bill Murrray’s endorsement.

Better yet, don’t settle for the $5.99 trade paperback. Having a nice copy of this book laying out at the holidays makes for a beautiful and less usual decoration. For an authentic leather-bound collectable, we recommend buying directly from Easton Press (also check out Ebay, you might get lucky), who is one of the best publishers of quality leather-bound books. Most retailers also have a less expensive (typically not leather) but still aesthetically pleasing edition of this novel available at the holidays.

The Sleeping Beauty – The 500 Kingdoms series (Mercedes Lackey)

The Sleeping Beauty is the latest installment of Mercedes Lackey’s 500 Kingdoms series. From the highest royalty down to the lowliest minstrels there is one force manipulating the lives of every person in every kingdom to make sure that their lives follow particular paths – paths that we readers would recognize to be long-established fairy tales. The Tradition is this force, and Mercedes Lackey has built an entire series around it how special men and women resist it in order to make their own paths in life. For anyone who enjoys fairy-tales with a twist, this series is an excellent read. Mercedes Lackey knows her fairytales back and forth and masterfully pokes fun at these traditional stories.

The Sleeping Beauty takes place in a country called Eltaria where the Tradition is particularly pushy about meddling in the lives of the royal family. This book follows two heroines as they stubbornly resist the manipulations of both the Tradition as well as those of very human adversaries. Rosamund is the typical young, beautiful princess who is ready to fall in love but must be wary of which “fairy-tale” path she allows the tradition to push her into, considering too many of them end in a rather undesirable death. Her godmother, Lily, must use every trick up her magical sleeve to keep the princess safe from scheming princes, greedy dwarves, a crazed huntsman –  just to name a few of their foes. To all this godmother Lily must also add staving off war with a power-hungry bordering kingdom. Like all good fairy-tales, this is a story about adventure, romance, and finding the will to keep going when the situation looks overwhelmingly impossible.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series (Michael Scott)

This series centers around fifteen-year old twins Josh and Sophie Newman and the secret world they are pulled into—by none other than immortal alchemist Nicholas Flamel. Josh works in Nick’s bookstore for the summer (though he doesn’t know who his boss is at the time). A man shows up looking for a book which turns out to possess, amongst other things, the recipe for the Elixir of Life, which keeps Nick and his wife from dying. In a magical battle he manages to steal it. They have to get it back within a month, or the immortals will age and die. And it seems the twins are part of a prophecy, and need to develop their own magical powers to help, or it might be too late. So begins a race against time, with the help of some famous beings from both history and myth, to regain the book and stop the bad guy from destroying the world.

This is a six-book series, of which the first four are currently published, starting with The Alchemyst. It is packed full of fantastic characters, both real and made-up, and Scott manages to keep the pace speedy throughout the whole series. These are books filled with adventure, and the wonderful plot keeps the pages turning, making them great, fast-paced reads.

The Hunger Games Trilogy (Suzanne Collins)

Katniss Everdeen is fighting for her life, in this marvelous dystopian trilogy by author Suzanne Collins. In a world where society as we know it has collapsed, those controlled by the horrible Capitol have already rebelled and been repressed almost a century ago. The punishment for those crimes remains the same: every year each of the twelve districts must participate in the Hunger Games, horrible reality TV where a boy and a girl from each district fight to the death while the world is forced to watch. Randomly chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, Katniss is forced to fight to survive her terrible predicament. She soon becomes a symbol of hope for the growing rebellion, which builds through all three books to a cataclysmic finish in Mockingjay.

This series is one that starts out amazing and gets better with each book. The tension is remarkable, and Katniss goes up against impossible odds time and time again. You get to see a personal side of her as well, as she tries to balance her relationships with those she loves. But be prepared for an emotional investment: this story just might haunt you for days after you finish reading it, in the best possible way. Readers everywhere are certainly not exaggerating when they call Hunger Games the “next Harry Potter”.

The Abhorsen Trilogy (Garth Nix)

The Abhorsen Trilogy revolves around the Abhorsen, a powerful line of Charter magicians tasked with guarding the line between life and death. They are the savior and guardians of the Old Kingdom, where magic and necromancy has crumbled the once-great nation. In a period where evil magic, corrupt rulers, and an uncaring national ally lead to suffering and terror, it is pivotal for the Abhorsen to act as the last stand against the unworldly. But what happens when the Abhorsen goes missing, trapped within Death and unable to perform his duties?

Sabriel, daughter of the Abhorsen, is the only individual who knows of her father’s disappearance. Just days from finishing school, Sabriel instead sets out on a quest through the Old Kingdom, where she intends to track, find, and save her father from the gates of Death. But the journey will be perilous, even for the daughter of the Abhorsen. Aided by the seven bells, which enable the Abhorsen to control the dead and Death itself, as well as her traveling companions Touchstone and Mogget, Sabriel sets out to conquere the impossible: returning the Abhorsen from the gates of Death.

The Abhorsen Trilogy has sat on our favorite books bookshelf since the day Sabriel was first published. Nix has since released the final two books in the series, Lirael and Abhorsen, which continue the travels of the line of Abhorsens through the Old Kingdom as they fight alongside the Charter against Death itself. Nix brilliantly weaves a creative and original tale full of magic, villains, battles, death, and loveable characters. The Old Kingdom series will be expanding to include a prequel and a “sequel of sorts” in 2011.

The Shattering: A Prelude to Cataclysm (Christie Golden)

The Shattering, written by New York Times Best-selling author Christie Golden, is Blizzard Entertainment’s book-form prelude to their hugely-anticipated video game expansion World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. The Shattering acts a standalone book, easily enjoyable by readers who may be new to the Warcraft universe. This fast-paced fantasy action novel is riddled with the action we’ve come to expect from Warcraft, as well as fascinating political moves, treason and back-stabbing, and more.

The Shattering follows two main storylines; one of the Horde, a major faction within Azeroth, the world in which Warcraft takes place, and the Alliance, the second major faction on Azeroth. Warchief Thrall, leader of the Horde, is troubled by the recent shift in elemental behavior on Azeroth. The elements, normally content to work alongside Azeroth’s powerful shamans, have gone rogue, driven mad by unseen forces. Meanwhile, leaders of the Alliance, including King Varian Wrynn and Lady Jaina Proudmoore, struggle to cool the growing tensions between the Horde and Alliance as they grapple over Azeroth’s dwindling resources.

Thrall, sensing his true call as the most powerful shaman on Azeroth, sets out on a journey to Outland in hopes of gaining knowledge that will aid him in his quest to prevent the elemental-driven destruction of Azeroth. Meanwhile, Anduin Wrynn, prince of Stormwind, finds himself trapped within the very power struggles that threaten to tear the Alliance apart, while at the same time fighting against the powers who wish him to become someone he was not born to be. Will Thrall choose between his obligations to the Horde and Azeroth’s need of his shamanistic powers? Will the Alliance find piece within the growing tensions of their war-ridden world?

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About Author

Mike Macauley

Mike Macauley is the founder and editor in chief of Lytherus.com. He also founded and runs Shurtugal.com, the official Inheritance Cycle community, and published his book, The Inheritance Almanac, in 2011. Mike can be found on Twitter at @mikemacauley.

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