Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Reads

Are you done with your shopping? Need some last minute Christmas gift ideas? Never fear!

Here at Spoiled for the Ordinary we specialize in randomness, so a shopping guide is perfect.

I've seen a lot of pitches for giving a book this Christmas, to encourage the year-long gift of reading and learning. However, many people end up buying a series with long waiting times in between books. You don't want your loved ones to be frustrated!

That's why I've listed several series that have several books already published. Most are completed, so you can get the whole series, or at least have several books to read before you need another one - giving the author a chance to catch up to you.

Remember, if one book is a good gift, three or four are even better!

If they like historical action with a dash of controversy a la "The DaVinci Code," then consider The Gifted series by Lisa T. Bergren. Set in 1300's Italy, a group called by God with special gifts must navigate the power plays of Catholic leadership and the darkness of Lord Abramo Amidei. I  recently picked up the first book The Begotten for a minute and ended up reading the whole book again. Engrossing - and much better than Dan Brown.

One of the most unique characters in literature right now is The Bug Man, Nick Polchak. He's a forensic entomologist who is brilliant with science and clueless socially. Tim Downs writes this series and his sense of humor, suspenseful stories, and trademark ick factor of a CSI show makes each one a treat. Several can be read stand alone, but he is working them as a series with the last several ones.

How about a little more alternative history? Stephen Lawhead is one of the best mythological writers out there. He loves to tie into old tales and bring them to life in his fiction. In The Raven King series, he does his own take on Robin Hood, taking him from Sherwood Forest in England and settling him into the dark woods of medieval Wales. An excellent series.

A little more modern? Try the series of coming to age tales in the deep South starting in the 1940's, only with a spiritual warfare twist: The Black or White Chronicles by John Aubrey Anderson. The first book, Abiding Darkness, made me laugh and cry on the same bus ride. The next two books were just as engaging. After a publisher change, I have started into book four, The Cool Woman.

Current trends support superhero powers - just look at the hit movies from the summer of 2011! If you're looking for that in book form, you can't beat Robin Parrish and his Dominion Trilogy. When the main character gets Shifted into a new, powerful body with amazing powers, he finds other people wearing similar rings as him, with varied superhuman abilities. He also finds a conspiracy tracing through time, waiting for the moment with he would arrive! Suspenseful to the nth degree, Robin writes a literary comic book that rocks.

Maybe they need a laugh. You can't beat Rene Gutteridge for this, and her Occupational Hazards books will keep you in stitches. The Hazard family grew up homeschooled and helping their parents with a clown business. When the parents die in a tragic hot tub accident, the different siblings look to make their way in the world. Their innocent faith and honest integrity lead them to a news room, an airline spy, and working as an undercover cop with fits and giggles.

If they need a book to challenge their grey matter, then check out the Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright. When the Titans of old are force to live in an English boarding house, they discover burgeoning powers that bend physics and mythology into a strange, wonderful blend. If you like quantum mechanics mixed with your Greek gods, then this is the series for you!

If you're looking at the young adult set, my first and best recommendation is The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Three children wonder about their place in the world, living under the oppresion of the Fangs of Dang. If only they knew they were the fabled Jewels of Anniera, and that they were destined to rule a fabled land. If they don't get eaten by toothy cows first. Whimsy, lyrical, touching, and just too much fun, these books are worth adult reading as well!

Last but not least, there's a great suspense series set in my own state of Idaho that will keep you up at night. Brandilyn Collins specializes in Seatbelt Suspense (meaning you better hang on!). In her Kanner Lake series, a small Idaho mountain town and its quirky residents must confront evil when murder and mayhem shakes up their idyllic setting. These books defy being put down, and also make lack of sleep a distinct option (from staying up too late reading or being too scared to turn out the lights - both are known to happen).

I hope you've enjoyed this special service. May your Christmas be full of joy and your tree stocked with good reading for 2012!

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