The Mad Reviewer’s 2013 Holiday Book Buying Guide (Part One)

Last year I did a teen book buying guide, but I figure it’s about time to recommend a little something for everyone.  So if you’re struggling to find a book for a friend or relative of yours, look no further!  My suggestions aren’t perfect, of course, but I certainly hope they’re a good start for that bookish person in your life.  (All links go to my reviews, where you can find links for Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

FANTASY FICTION

The Devil's Concubine by Jill Braden1.  The Devil’s Concubine by Jill Braden

If you’re into non-traditional fantasy (especially when it’s set in an island culture) with strong female characters you can’t go wrong with The Devil’s Concubine.  It’s well-written and fast-paced to boot!  This is the first book in The Devil of Ponong series and trust me when I say that once you finish this one you’ll clamour for the rest of the series.  I was so anxious to dive back into QuiTai’s world once I finished this book that I immediately just started reading it again.  It’s that good and it’s well worth your money.

Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones2.  Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones

Yes, Diantha Jones is a self-published author but you won’t catch any editing mistakes in her books.  She writes fantasy based on Greek myths with a dash of romance and a whole lot of action.  Prophecy of the Most Beautiful is the first of five books in the Oracle of Delphi series and each book is an improvement on the last, which is really saying something considering how good this first book is!  At first it seems like pretty typical YA but Chloe really shows herself to be an unique main character.

Slumber by Tamara Blake3.  Slumber by Tamara Blake

Like fairies?  Not the beautiful, loving fairies of your typical YA story.  I mean the vicious, malicious fairies of old that think of humans as playthings.  Then you’ll love this amazing story of sisterly love set in a terrifying fantasy world within the real world.  Believe me when I say this is definitely not your typical teenage love story.  It’s pretty dark so I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but if you’re looking for a grittier take on fairies just like the fairies of old, this is definitely the book to go with.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin4.  A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

If you’re someone who’s sick of traditional high fantasy, you need to check out A Game of Thrones.  Yes, the series is over-hyped because of the TV show, but judge the books on their merit and you’ll love the series.  George R. R. Martin demolishes all of the high fantasy tropes while creating a story with amazing characters and subtle politics.  And the amazing thing is that he creates such a diverse cast of characters, particularly women.  There are so many strong women in his books that everyone will find someone to root for.

Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin5.  Sins of the Angels by Linda Poitevin

This is one of the latest books I’ve read and it’s fantastic.  Linda Poitevin created such a vivid, believable world where angels and humans collide in unexpected ways.  The main characters are awesome and the new take on Lucifer’s fall is so unique (and blasphemous to some).  Alexandra is an unique character and she really carries the story even though Aramael is also a pretty good character.  Together they both make the book simply amazing and when their mutual disgust with one another turns into something more you’ll be cheering for them to overcome the odds.

SCIENCE FICTION

Feyland The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp1.  Feyland: The Dark Realm by Anthea Sharp

Technically speaking, Feyland: The Dark Realm is a cross between science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction.  Still, it’s the perfect book for any science fiction lover because of the great futuristic world Anthea Sharp has created.  There’s the Feyland game, which is virtual reality and there are the occasional clashes between the new technology and the fey, who are struggling to survive.  And of course a little romance doesn’t hurt either.

The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater2.  The Last Bastion of the Living by Rhiannon Frater

This is yet another self-published book that was edited at a professional level.  There are absolutely no mistakes and I was so impressed by the characters, science and zombies that it wouldn’t matter if there were.  Rhiannon Frater is an amazing writer that creates such a bleak but vivid future that I didn’t want the book to end.  Even if you’ve read lots of zombie books before, you’ve never read one like this.  The ending is also satisfying but leaves a little room open for speculation on the reader’s part.

Parasite by Mira Grant3.  Parasite by Mira Grant

Mira Grant’s new trilogy is quite different than my old favourite, the Newsflesh trilogy.  Her main character is so fascinating that you can’t help but love her as she struggles to make a new identity for herself.  The science is pretty detailed, so this is definitely for fans of hardcore science fiction.  And of course Mira Grant is a great writer when it comes to zombies.  These zombies are a little different from what you’d expect but it’s a fascinating premise and I really can’t wait for the second book to come out.

4.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cyborgs!  Cinderella!  Charming princes!  Where can you go wrong with this futuristic take on the old Cinderella story?  Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing, a futuristic city where technology is ever-present but cyborgs are still viewed as second-class citizens.  This is not necessarily a love story or a straight fairytale retelling because there are so many other elements that give the old Cinderella story new life and depth.  I’m not always all that keen on fairytale retellings because they can be so boring and predictable but I was really surprised at how well written Cinder was.

Reign of Blood by Alexia Purdy5.  Reign of Blood by Alexia Purdy

If you liked the movie (or book) I Am Legend, you’ll probably like Reign of Blood.  The dialogue is a bit stiff, but that’s minor compared to how great the book is.  Other than the dialogue (which is better in the subsequent books), Alexia Purdy has created a terrifying, realistic picture of a world where crazy vampires have all but wiped out humanity.  One teenage girl has to survive all but on her own, but what happens when she discovers a new, intelligent type of vampire?

SPECULATIVE FICTION

You Are Mine by Janeal Falor1.  You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

In a world where women are slaves to men, what’s a young girl like Serena to do?  She’s engaged to a cruel warlock but is ‘saved’ only to be delivered into the hands of what she considers to be a barbarian.  Will she be able to assert her rights in a world where she has none?  Or has she gone from the frying pan and into the fire?  The answer may surprise you in this character-driven novel.  Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, Janeal Falor will prove you wrong.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence2.  Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince Jorg is the best character I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about in YA.  He’s scarred by his past and essentially becomes a snarky mini version of Genghis Khan, determined to conquer the world by killing his enemies one by one.  You may think that such a character would be totally unlikeable, but Jorg grows on you, believe me.  If you’re looking for something a little different to read over the holidays, this would definitely be it.  Mark Lawrence pulls off what few authors are capable of: making a completely horrible human being interesting and (dare I say it?) even a little bit sympathetic.

Mortality by Kellie Sheridan3.  Mortality by Kellie Sheridan

There’s a lot of zombie books on my list here, but this one isn’t your typical zombie novel.  We get to see things from the perspective of two amazing women in very, very different circumstances.  There’s a little romance and lots of action and by the end you’ll be so involved in the characters your heart will break for them in the end.  The plot starts out slow paced but gradually gathers speed until you won’t be able to put Mortality down.

4.  The Iron Bells by Jeanette Battista

Like demons?  Female characters who know what they’re all about?  Just a hint of romance?  Then you’ll want to get your hands on The Iron Bells.  It’s an interesting take on what the world would look like if demons took over the world.  But trust me when I say that demons aren’t all they seem to be and Ama learns some pretty horrible truths throughout the story.  Jeanette Battista isn’t easy on her and the book ends on such a cliffhanger that I’m eagerly awaiting the second book.  Will Ama be able to triumph over the demons or will she realize that maybe they’re not all that different from human beings after all?  Will she be able to get the revenge she seeks or will she be thwarted at every turn?

Eve by Anna Carey5.  Eve by Anna Carey

Yes, this is another dystopia.  But it’s about a smart young girl who’s been taught all her life that men are to be feared, that they are evil.  Then Eve discovers the truth of her situation and finds herself out in the real world, fending for herself with the King of America sending out hundreds of men to find her.  Will she bring herself to trust the mysterious boy she met in the desert?  And will she come to learn that love is not evil?

If you don’t see your favourite genre here in part one, stay tuned for part two, which is being published on Monday next week.  Trust me when I say that I have a recommendation for most every reader, with few exceptions.

See anything you like here?  Have you read some of the books on my list?  Let me know in the comments below!

3 comments

    • Carrie Slager

      (Sorry for the late reply! Your comment got lost.)

      If you enjoy the TV show, you’ll love the books even more. They give so much depth to George R. R. Martin’s world that you sort of miss in the show. Some plotlines are different but others in the show are pretty much exactly the same. Even some scenes are practically word-for-word from the books, so I think you should read the series. 🙂

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