Books are one of my favorite gifts to give (okay, and to receive!) because there’s something for everyone. There were years where we gave a book to each person on our Christmas list. I enjoyed my holiday shopping that year especially because it was a chance to take all that I knew about a person’s interests and try to match them up with a book. This year we’ve chosen to support a local charity organization for the majority of our gift purchases, but there are a few books that still made it onto our gift list. Here are my top picks for the readers on my Christmas list.
For the Fairy Tale Lover
Traitor’s Masque by Kenley Davidson
Page Nine Press
Published December 14, 2015
Traitor’s Masque isn’t a simple retelling of Cinderella. Here you’ll find spies and intrigue and not one, but two handsome princes. If you loved the movie Ever After you need to read this book.
From my review: When Trystan’s secret horse rides are interrupted by a handsome, intelligent stranger, she has no idea she’s just met the crown prince of Andari. To her, he’s just a lonely nobleman, seeking the same healing solitude as she is. So when her stepmother’s tyranny reaches new heights, Trystan leaps at an offer from a friend of her late father’s. The lady offers Trystan the freedom she desperately craves for one tiny favor: deliver a message. Not until she’s agreed does Trystan realize she’s just committed to betray the friend she met in the woods, the man she may be falling in love with: the Prince of Andari.
Goldheart by Kenley Davidson
Page Nine Press
Published May 2016
From my review: After recovering from a kidnapping, Elaine Westover wants nothing more than to live a quiet secluded life with her paints. But as her father’s home falls into disrepair and his business fails, she has little choice but to offer her services painting portraits. When a wealthy man hires her to paint an impossible portrait for a year’s income, Elaine considers accepting the job. At the interview, he makes it clear she has no choice but to accept, and he bundles her off to the attic against her will, promising to release and reward her when she completes his task. Her only friend and protector is Will, a young man she takes to be a servant. He vows to help her in any way he can, and soon she realizes she’s falling in love with him. Will feels drawn to Elaine as well, but when he discovers the connection between his family and hers, he knows he can never let her discover his name without ruining every moment they’ve shared together.
Pirouette by Kenley Davidson
Page Nine Press
Published May 2016
From my review: When twelve princesses of Caelan refuse to dance as commanded by their father, he imprisons them in their pavilion and offers a challenge. Anyone who discovers the princesses’ secret will marry his pick among them and choose the fate of the others. Anyone who tries and fails will be stripped of land and title or life. But it’s the forgotten thirteenth princess who holds the key to the princesses’ rebellion. Ilani may be crippled, but she is by no means powerless.
Into this standoff comes Lord Kyril Seagrave and his companions from Andar. They hunt an exiled, dangerous prince and the truth about whether Caelan means to invade their home. Kyril is supposed to lead the expedition, but near as he can tell, everyone else is more qualified for the job, and he begins to wonder if Prince Ramsey sent him simply to get him out of the way for a while. When Kyril meets Ilani, he feels a pull toward the girl he can’t explain, and he vows to right the grave injustice done when she was crippled at seven years old. But to right the wrongs of the past, the princesses’ secret must be revealed, and before exiled Prince Rowan can turn the situation to Andar’s ruin.
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends
Available November 8, 2016
Also on my list is Heartless by Marissa Meyer, which explores the story of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t have a content review, but I hope to post one before the year’s end. If it’s like Cinder, then I expect it to be pretty clean with maybe some light, infrequent profanity. Her other villain origin story, Fairest, did have some sexual content.
From Goodreads: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.
Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
For the Younger Christian Reader
In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen Lawhead (Dragon King Trilogy)
Thomas Nelson (reprint)
Published May 30, 2011 (originally published in 1982)
From Goodreads: In the dead of night, Quentin, a young acolyte, is unexpectedly summoned when a mortally wounded knight stumbles into the temple of Ariel. Determined to save the realm of the Dragon King, the dying knight makes a desperate plea for someone to continue his quest. Now Quentin must choose—a life of ease or a dangerous, unknown path.
I haven’t reviewed this series, but I remember reading it in seventh grade or so. The story has overt Christian themes. I liked the whole series. It’s a great choice for readers of high fantasy.
Knife by R. J. Anderson (Faery Rebels Series)
Published January 8, 2009
From my review: Knife, a young faerie confined within her kingdom inside a large oak tree, is determined to escape to the outside world. As a girl, she came face to face with a human, and survived. Since that day, her curiosity about the house and the strange creatures who live inside it only grows. When Knife finds an opportunity to get a closer look, she takes it. But with every new discovery she makes about the outside world, the strict rules and strange customs of her people only feel stranger and well, wrong. Maybe Knife can save them. If she can find out why her people lost their magic to begin with, perhaps she can reverse the spell. But doing so will risk her place among her people, and it may force her to accept truths about herself, her queen, and her human friend that she’s not ready to face.
Curio by Evangeline Denmark
Published January 6, 2016
From my review: In a world in which women are of little value, Grey tries to remain beneath the notice of the ruling Chemists. To draw attention to herself risks her very life and the lives of her family and her best friend Whit. When Chemists punish Whit for protecting Grey, she abandons hope of hiding and vows to help others like Whit, no matter the cost to herself. When the Chemists realize what she’s done, her family protects her by spiriting her away to a world within her grandfather’s curio cabinet. There, among a strange world of clockwork people, Grey must find a hidden ally and a key that may bring an end to the Chemists’ tyranny.
Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout
Feiwel & Friends
Published May 3, 2016
From my review: As the clock counts down to Zero Hour, 200 of the best and brightest kids form teams competing to solve a challenge created by a young visionary with world-changing goals. For Rex, Tunde and Painted Wolf, the competition is only part of the challenge. Rex needs a supercomputer housed at the challenge site to locate his brother whose been missing for two years. A war lord threatens to wipe Tunde’s whole village off the map unless Tunde and his friends deliver a powerful weapon to him at the end of the contest. Painted Wolf will do anything to help her friends, but she must keep her identity a secret or her family’s lives are forfeit.
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten
Published August 27, 2013
From my review: Almost-fifteen-year-old Adam meets Robyn at his group therapy session for teens with obsessive-compulsive issues. It’s hardly the setting for romance, but Adam can’t deny how he feels for her. Robyn seems drawn to him, too. Maybe. But while Robyn’s most troublesome days seem to be behind her, Adam’s life continues to spiral out of control. He’s at the mercy of his half-brother’s anxiety issues, and his mother refuses to get help though the threatening letters she receives only seem to be getting worse. As Adam desperately struggles to hold everyone together, he begins to split at the seams. But it may be the voices of his Group mates which bring him the strength and courage to face greater truths about his family, his condition, and himself.
Gifted by H. A. Swain
Feiwel & Friends
Published June 14, 2016
From Goodreads: In Orpheus Chanson’s world, geniuses and prodigies are no longer born or honed through hard work. Instead, procedures to induce Acquired Savant Abilities (ASAs) are now purchased by the privileged. And Orpheus’s father holds the copyright to the ASA procedure.
Zimri Robinson, a natural musical prodigy, is a “plebe”–a worker at the enormous warehouse that supplies an on-line marketplace that has supplanted all commerce. Her grueling schedule and her grandmother’s illness can’t keep her from making music–even if it is illegal.
Orpheus and Zimri are not supposed to meet. He is meant for greatness; she is not. But sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Here is a thriller, love story, and social experiment that readers will find gripping–and terrifying.
Freedom’s Just Another Word by Caroline Stellings
Second Story Press
Published September 6, 2016
From Goodreads: The year Louisiana – Easy for short – meets Janis Joplin is the year everything changes. Easy is a car mechanic in her dad’s shop, but she can sing the blues like someone twice her age. So when she hears that Janis Joplin is passing through her small town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Easy is there with her heart – and her voice – in hand. It’s 1970 and Janis Joplin is an electrifying blues-rock singer at the height of her fame – and of her addictions. Yet she recognizes Easy’s talent and asks her to meet her in Texas to sing. So Easy begins an unusual journey that will change everything.
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Published May 3, 2016
From my review: When Zomorod Yousefzadeh and her family move (again), she decides to take the opportunity to start fresh and try to fit in with her new California schoolmates. The first thing to go? Her name. She adopts the classic Brady Bunch Cindy as her identity. After a rough start, she begins to find true friends. But when unrest in Iran turns into an American hostage crisis, Cindy begins to catch glimpses of an uglier side of the Land of the Free. Cruel bumper stickers and slogans send chilling messages to Cindy and her family. Cindy tries to protect her parents from some of the cruelty, and her friends try to encourage her that not everyone feels so negatively about Iranians. Ultimately, Cindy has to navigate her own way through the crisis and find the balance between devotion to her family, pride in her heritage, and the freedom to pursue her own individual identity.