The Whatever Shopping Guide 2011, Day 4: Fan Favorites

For the first three days of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2011, I’ve let authors and creators tell you about their work. Today is different: Today is Fan Favorites day, in which fans, admirers and satisfied customers share with you a few of their favorite things — and you can share some of your favorite things as well. This is a way to discover some cool stuff from folks like you, and to spread the word about some of the things you love.

Fans: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Fans only: That means that authors and creators may not post about their own work in this thread (they may post about other people’s work, if they are fans). There are already existing threads for traditionally-published authors, non-traditionally published authors, and for other creators. Those are the places to post about your own work, not here.

2. Individually created and completed works only, please. Which is to say, don’t promote things like a piece of hardware you can find at Sears, shoes from Foot Locker, or a TV you got at Wal-Mart. Focus on things created by one person or a small group: Music CDs, books, crafts and such. Things that you’ve discovered and think other people should know about, basically. Do not post about works in progress, even if they’re posted publicly elsewhere. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. So focus on things that are completed and able to be sold of shared.

3. One post per fan. In that post, you can list whatever creations you like, from more than one person if you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on newer stuff. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on things available in North America.

4. Keep your description of the work brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about the work and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a sales site if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

(Note: I am traveling today, so the delay in releasing comments may be longer than usual. But I promise to get to them. So please resist the urge to make multiple posts.)

6. Comment posts that are not about fans promoting work they like will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting gifts.

Got it? Excellent. Now: Geek out and tell us about cool stuff you love — and where we can get it too.

89 Comments on “The Whatever Shopping Guide 2011, Day 4: Fan Favorites”

  1. For everyone who’s looking for SF/Fantasy featuring a POC as a main character, you can’t do much better than these books by Ben Aaronovitch – Moon Over Soho and Midnight Riot, the first two books in the urban fantasy series set in present day London, England. (I hope those links turn out okay.)

    Peter Grant’s mother is from Sierra Leone, his father is a formerly-famous jazz musician; he’s a police officer in London, whose life takes a turn for the supernatural when a witness to a crime he’s interviewing turns out to be a ghost. “Right, I thought, just because you’ve gone mad doesn’t mean you should stop acting like a policeman,” Peter thinks, quite sensibly, and continues to take the ghost’s statement. He’s later recruited as an apprentice to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, currently the only registered practitioner of magic left since the magic faded earlier in the century, So now Peter has learn how to do magic (which is darn hard work), while at the same time solving supernatural mysteries along with Nightingale and his squaddie (and romantic interest), Leslie May.

    Peter’s race impinges on the story only in the most tangential of ways, just enough to remind the reader that the character is in fact non-white, and I wanted to promote the books here because a) I know the readership here is interested in promoting non-white main characters, b) they’re fun and interesting and fresh, and c) there’s a main character named Leslie, and I like reading books with my name in it. :) So please buy Ben’s books, so he can keep writing about Leslie, I mean, Peter!

  2. There’s all kinds of cool, handcrafted gifts on! I recently used etsy to get hand-decorated tennis shoes for my mother-in-law. Frivolous? Maybe. But she loved them!

  3. My favorite books of the year:

    The Magician King, Lev Grossman
    Sequel to Grossman’s The Magicians, this book contains phenomenal characters and a storyline that has astonishing depth.

    The Dervish House, Ian McDonald
    Set in a futuristic Turkey, McDonald examines extremism, nanotechnology and microeconomics.

    Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh
    My favorite novel of the year, this story runs with the premise of environmental and sociological decline over a number of years with interconnected stories. Brilliant first novel.

    Leviathan Wakes, James A Corey
    This first novel from James A Corey has everything: noir detective fiction, space battles, epic characters and an equally epic storyline.

  4. Cool!
    The Feedstore Chronicles by Travis Irwin (humorous memoir-ish)
    Illuminations by Erica Orloff (mainstream/romance-ish)
    The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish (adventure/thriller)
    Pocket 47 by Jude Hardin (hardboiled PI)
    The Phoenix Apostles by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore (Apocalyptic thriller)
    Zig Zephyr and the Forever Diamond by Jon VanZile (middle-grade adventure)

    Wow, I’ve got some talented friends.

  5. First off, I’d like to second Leslie’s recommendation of the Ben Aaronovitch books in the first comment. The UK title for Midnight Riot is Rivers of London, which is a much better and more appropriate title.

    Anyway, possibly the most fun read I found this year was The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont. Set in the 30s, the protagonists are Walter Gibson (who created the Shadow) and Lester Dent (who created Doc Savage) along with L. Ron Hubbard as a sidekick who face the very pulpy adventure suggested by the title. There are also appearances by H.P. Lovecraft, Orson Welles, and a couple of other people who I won’t mention by name since their identity is only revealed later. It’s tremendously fun and very well-written, despite (or because of) owing so much to those early pulps.

    I haven’t read The Astounding, the Amazing, and the Unknown, which appears to be a semi-sequel, yet, but I’m looking forward to it. It centers on the group of SF writers that included L. Sprague deCamp, Isaac Asimov, and Heinlein that worked for the Navy during WWII. The Philadelphia experiment may also be involved.

  6. Do you like the music from classic Looney Tunes cartoons? Ever found yourself kick-stepping across a room singing “Hello Ma Baby” like everyone’s favorite, Michigan J. Frog?

    Then you need to buy Songs The Brothers Warner Taught Me, a collection of covers of the songs you love from cartoons they don’t know how to make any more. The singer, Megan Lynch, has a voice that will knock your socks off, and her love for this music really shines through.

  7. I recommend these:
    Ginnie Dare by Scott Roche – a great YA adventure/sci-fi story. I hope he writes ore in this world.
    The Jack Palms books by Seth Harwood – “Shake em Down” says Jack. Just as he’s getting comfortable in his new, sober life, he gets thrown back into “it”. Theres guns, drugs, Czechs, & women. An updated version of crime noir of years passed.
    Clark Lantham by Dan Sawyer – can this detective catch a break, or a case where someone isn’t trying to kill him, or clients that aren’t trying to deceive him? Gt the first one now as there are more of these stories in the pipeline.
    Down From 10 by Dan Sawyer – I listened to the podcast audio drama, and bought it as soon as I knew it was out. Fun, sexy, funny, creepy, scary, and suspense filled. One minute you’re laughing and getting warm fuzzies, the next you’re getting “…..uh…..”, and the next you’re hoping you live. It’s kinda creeping out more reading it, even after listening.
    Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris – a great steam punk romp where steam is actually used to power things. A rather book-ish, reluctant adventurer partners with an action, adventure craving beauty to save the crown. You still have just enough time to read this first me of three in this series. Book number 2 is coming out soon.
    Tattoo, Closet Treats – anything by The Fiendmaster aka Paul Cooley – He somehow got inside my head and creeped me out more than anythings I’ve read or seen in a long time.

  8. Most of the folks here on Whatever don’t have to be convinced to read, but don’t overlook the power of listening! If you’re looking for a great audiobook to gift to yourself or another, here are three of my recent favorites (though not all are recently published works):

    Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi, narrated by Wil Wheaton. It’s the same Fuzzy story you know and love, but with 100% more Wheaton. WHEATON!! Wil brings exactly the right amount of snark to Jack’s voice, making him by turns insufferable and loveable, and does justice to the drama as well. John posted a preview link right here on Whatever. Other recommended titles by John: Agent to the Stars (narrated by Wil Wheaton), Old Man’s War (narrated by William Dufris).

    The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman. Even if you’re already a fan of the story on the page, hearing Neil’s outstanding narration is worth the listen. You can also hear him read the entire story for free, if you want the ultimate try before you buy. Other recommended audiobook titles by Neil: Anansi Boys (narrated by Lenny Henry), Stardust (narrated by Neil Gaiman).

    Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. Some complained about the amount of made-up language in the book, but in the audiobook, it’s quite easy to follow. The story is Stephenson at his best, tying theories of quantum consciousness, the conflict of science vs. religion, and the ultimate nature of the multiverse into a heartfelt story with memorable, well-defined characters. William Dufris’ narration brings the characters to life, although some of his voice characterizations border on caricature. Preview available on the Audible page. Other recommended titles by Neal: The Diamond Age (brilliantly narrated by Jennifer Wiltsie). I haven’t heard Snow Crash or Cryptonomicon, but the reviews are generally favorable.

    Happy holidays!

  9. One of my favorite CDs is “Fungi from Yuggoth” (2009), a dark ambient original-words, haunting-music performance of (a part of) Lovecraft’s sonnet cycle of the same name, by the artists Pixyblink and Rhea Tucanae. (It’s more intricate, slowly enchanting and much more beautiful than just that, though.)

  10. If you’re looking for something smaller and unique, I’m a big fan of JSalvador, who sells prints on Etsy under the name Mustardbub. His super-emo series features some pretty amusing prints of classic sci-fi characters imagined as mopey emo teenagers. Hopefully the link scripts below work correctly!


    Admiral Akbar

  11. If you like caper stories and you’re looking for something a little different, try The Slipstream Con by Michelle Moore and S. Reesa Herberth. What happens when a notorious thief and con-man gets a dose of some very advanced nanotech? Well, besides running straight for the two people he knows he can trust, if only he can let himself… By turns funny, hot, and fascinating, The Slipstream Con has the distinction of being pretty much the only “sweet” (non-explicit, though there is some het foreplay and definitely implied sexual activity) SF-romance-menage* story anywhere.

    Michelle and Reesa’s Empire also includes The Balance Of Silence, which has a much tighter focus: the question of redemption and how it can make people do odd things. My favorite description of the TBOS comes from the product warning statement: This book contains fluffy blond hair, sugary soda that will rot your teeth out, one unfortunate first name, and one mute amnesiac with a sarcasm fetish, all wrapped up in two selfless but mildly unstable guys who accidentally find their happily ever after. In SPACE!

    Michelle and Reesa have a real knack for mixing humor with their action, and they manage to write scenes that scorch without being vulgar or pornographic. Their books are available through their publisher (links above); All Romance eBooks, and of course Amazon.

    * And it’s a true menage, not a threesome masquerading as a menage, in case you’re worried that the poor term is being abused yet again.

  12. And Then We Came To The End – Joshua Ferris: A hilarious workplace comedy that is ridiculous and tragic told in the first person plural.

    Palimpsest – Cat Valente: A sexually transmitted city told with lyric prose and a wonderful eye for detail.

    Shriek: An Afterword – Jeff Vandermeer: It’s a literary novel with the new weird skin; the structure of having Duncan comment in line with Janice’s manuscript is imaginative and tells a wonderful story.

    Worldbuilders ( I’m a fan of Patrick Rothfuss’s fiction but his charity is even better. Help Heifer International and Patrick Rothfuss promote education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry throughout the world.

    (Thanks John for the opportunity.)

  13. One of my favorite indie bands is Sirsy, based in Albany, NY. They are an amazing pop-rock duo that does everything from heavy licks to crooning melodies to bluesy jams. But despite their talent, they’re also just Damn Nice People. For anyone on the East Coast, they’ll be stopping near you within the next couple months. Check them out.

  14. Merrie Haskell’s YA/middle grade book The Princess Curse is a fun read and would make a great gift for kids–your own, nieces and nephews, friends’ kids, etc., particularly if they are interested in history and classical mythology. The main character, Reveka, is an herbalist’s apprentice who is trying to get herself into a good convent where she can ply her chosen trade, but gets mixed up in trying to break the curse of the twelve dancing princesses.

    Amazon link:

  15. If you after seeing John Scalzi being interviewed on Desert Bus for Hope you stuck around for the rest of the live show, you may have noticed a girl with light brown hair and cat ears talking about crafts that were being auctioned for charity. That girl was Tally Heilke, and as the organizer of the Desert Bus Craftalong, she didn’t actually get a chance to show off her tremendous crafting talents, but one look at her weekly crafting blog and her Tally’s Bestiary store will have you convinced that she’s got the genuine goods to help you find the right beastly friend (and more!) to give as gifts.

    I’m the editor/publisher at Geeking Out, and I would be remiss if I didn’t promote the works of two my very talented writers:

    J.B. McDonald writes our monthly “Author’s Note” column, and has several e-novels and short stories out, but the one I like the best is the romance about a woman who rescues in an injured wild cat only to learn that it’s the shapeshifted form of a Jaguar god. Treasure Hunting is one in a series of novels; she also has a fantasy/romance novella series about Dragons that’s out as well.

    Kara Dennison covers British TV and webcomics for us, and her columns on the latter are invaluable to me because she’s been publishing her own webcomics since the early 2000s. She’s the creator or co-creator of five different series in various stages of completion, and you can buy her collected works at her store here.

    And finally, she doesn’t write for me, but I covered her work in our blog before. Jennifer Matarese’s Heroine Addiction is story of Vera Noble, a retired bisexual superheroine who is just trying to live a quiet life in a small town. Unfortunately, the world of capes and crusaders catches up with her when her father Everett, a notable hero in the big city, is reported missing by his arch-nemesis and secret male lover and Vera is the only one who is able to find him.

    Buying anything from any of these people would make for awesome gifts for any season!

  16. Well I recommend pretty much anything written by Michael Connelly. Most recently The Fifth Witness, and The Drop. In The Fifth Witness, a Mickey Haller (of The Lincoln Lawyer fame) book, the author explores both sides of the housing crash while delivering a great courtroom drama. And The Drop is just another excellent Harry Bosch procedural. In this book, Harry working cold case files in LA sends off some DNA collected during a murder and rape from the 1980s. The results implicate a sexual predator with only a slight problem: the suspect would only have been 8 years old at the time of the crime. While dealing with that, a connected councilman demands that Harry investigate the apparent suicide of his son. But the investigation goes sideways as Harry begins to suspect that not only was it not suicide, but the trail is leading back to the councilman himself.

    Both great holiday reading.

  17. For some reason, the holidays are always the best time for classic jazz for me. My brother recently released just such an album, recorded with some of the most talked-about young players in the New York jazz scene. The album is accessible but also wonderfully deep, with some really remarkable performances in every slot.

    You can hear it here: — and physical copies can be purchased through Amazon: …or CDbaby:

    If you have someone on your list who likes traditional jazz, it’s a great gift that they probably don’t already own.

  18. My sister-in-law runs a great little business selling really cool custom hand-stamped pet ID tags, jewelry, key chains and other accessories or keepsakes.

    From the website:
    The Copper Poppy is focused on providing unique, hand-crafted, custom pieces for pets and people alike. We’re dedicated to unique designs with a rustic, natural flair. We are honored at how well-received our work has been on Etsy and were amazed this past October, when we hit 1000 sales within 8 months of opening and cleared our 1st Anniversary with well over 2000 sales. Our focus continues to remain on creating great pieces and treating our customers like the close friends and neighbors they are.

    Check it out!

  19. Music time!

    SJ Tucker, aka Sooj, is one of my favorite independent musicians. A modern, mythpunk faerie traveling bard, she is a consummate performer, an incredible songwriter, and writes some of the most stick-in-my-brain-for-days melodies. She’s also the reason I associate Tinkerbell with pirates. SJ Tucker’s music – preview all her stuff for free! You can find her on Twitter @s00j

    Heather Dale is another of my most favorite musicians and modern traveling bards. She draws on legends, fairytales, science, and the romance of all of them to make her one of my most listened to artists on my profile. If you don’t know what album to pick, she has specially created compilations for people who want Arthurian legend stuff, or cheerful stuff, or romantic stuff. You can preview songs at her site, too – For Twitter, look for @heather_dale and @oh_and_Ben (Ben Deschamps, the other traveling bard that goes along with Heather and makes her shows just that much more electric.)

  20. Man I love these threads — so much cool stuff. Second, for readers in the Carolinas and thereabouts, my recommendations for you guys is too long to include here.

    That said: two excellent gift book choices are the ones I recommend this year:

    1. The Steampunk Bible by Jeff VanderMeer and S.J. Chambers — it’s got essays from Bruce Sterling and Catherynne Valente, art, photos, fashion, history, style, and all that. In a really nice package, tracing not just the fictions called Steampunk, but also art, makers, fashion, film, …

    2. The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. This one’s more for the person who likes to read stories and (fictional! and funny/odd!) encyclopedia entries, though again it’s got illustrations, art, photos, and all kinds of cool stuff again in a very nice package. It’s most easily summed up as an anthology of short stories from Minister Faust, Ted Chiang, Carrie Vaughn, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Naomi Novik, Holly Black, Tad Williams, Cherie Priest, Lev Grossman, Michael Moorcock, China Mieville (who also contributes some illustrations!), Helen Oyeyemi, Amal el-Mohtar, Caitlin Kiernan, Jay Lake, Charles Yu, Alan More, NK Jemisin, Rachel Swirsky, Mur Lafferty, Ekaterina Sedia, … (and I skipped some because I’m tired of typing) and even some illustrations from Mike Mignola… I mean, this book is just really cool. Get it for somebody.

  21. These are things I want for myself for Christmas, so I assume you do too! Because I am selfish but also a giver :)

    1) Leather cover for Nook/Kindle/tablet-thingies that is made to look like the Neverending Story book (and is only $55 which is quite reasonable in comparison to mass-produced covers). Obviously not vegan. And can be found on Etsy by searching neverending story cover, made by grimcatproductions.

    2) Sci-fi-inspired nail polish! These are $8 a bottle, they all look really pretty, and their names are the best. Since it’s nail polish I doubt it’s vegan. Can be found on Etsy by searching sci fi nail polish, made by NerdLacquer.

  22. Duane Swierczynski’s Fun and Games is the best thriller I’ve read this year — so good that it’s led me to start tracking down everything else he’s written. The follow-up is Hell and Gone, for which absolute suspension of disbelief is required because it’s pretty crazy, but that craziness is part of its charm. You don’t need to read the second to enjoy the first.

    I discovered Mira Grant this year, and thoroughly enjoyed both Feed and Deadline, the first two books in her Newsflesh trilogy. I’m eagerly awaiting the third. Warning: Feed literally had me sobbing toward the end, not something I thought a zombie novel full of action would accomplish.

    Mira Grant is otherwise known as Seanan McGuire, and I heartily recommend McGuire’s urban fantasy series, the October Daye novels. They’re much better read in sequence, as one builds on another, but they showcase the San Francisco area with an utterly believable world of faery. Really good stuff, a noir detective operating in a world that is and isn’t our own.

    And if urban fantasy is your thing, why not read the very best of it? In addition to Seanan McGuire, there’s M.L.N. Hanover, who is writing a series called The Black Sun’s Daughter. The latest in this series, The Killing Rites, was just published. The complete series of four books (so far) is available in mass market paperback.

    Finally, I’m behind the game in only now discovering The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. These books are nominally YA, but the only thing that really marks them out as such is that the protagonist is a 16-year-old girl. And what a girl! Strong-minded, sensible, smart — but also angry, very, very angry. These novels are set in a dystopia where the United States is ancient history and Panem has replaced it. Panem is a brutal dictatorship that forces each of its 12 districts to send to children to a fight to the death each year for the Hunger Games — televised and required viewing for a completely cowed population. Really good work.

  23. My mother’s a metal-smith who works primarily with recycled metals and rubber. Her main styles are post-modern and a little retro; she does mainly necklaces and earrings but has a section for buttons and shawl pins for knitters. You can see her stuff on her etsy shop:

    My sister also works with mostly salvaged materials, but in her case it is bicycle innertube and papier mache (not combined, as of yet.) She also makes fantastic pincushions that look like bald fabric heads. Here is her Etsy:

  24. Maine Heritage Pens. This is a very small business in Maine that makes pens from ‘historical’ wood such as the Boston Garden parquet floor, old sailing ships, or even lobster traps. I’ve purchased the pens myself and they’re beautiful and take standard refills. My workplace purchases the pens for gifts as well. It’s a neat little business.

  25. Anyone here who follows @AnneWheaton may have seen her tweeting about the Star Wars plates she used for Thanksgiving… Those plates were designed by Third Half Studios, where, apart from the aforementioned “St. Arwars Riding Academy” products, you can also find Cryptozoology designs, murderous Leprechauns, and the world’s cutest cartoon animals who also happen to be zombies. Available as prints, apparel and, of course, plates.

    Yes, full disclosure, this company is co-owned by my wife, but I also happen to think it is teh hawesome, as the kids say, or said at some point.)

  26. Thirding the recommendation for Ben Aaronovich’s Peter Grant novels. Doctor Who fans may recognize the name: he wrote for Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor twice, and also wrote for the New Adventures series of novels.

    Those of you with techie toys: get thee hence to Oberon Leather for the best cases on the planet. Though they’re new to making iPad and Kindle cases, obviously, they’ve been doing leather work for decades, and my God is it good.

    I love Etsy to bits, despite (because of) also loving Regretsy. But next to the Regretsy-bait is stuff that will kick your ass. So it is with my favorite Etsy vendor, New Zealand jewelry maker Jewels Vine : retro-future styled and made to an astounding level of quality. I basically want one of everything.

  27. Have to plug two of my favorite books that happen to be the first two books of a trilogy. Idlewild and Edenborn by Nick Sagan, I finished both in under a week (typically I’m more of a book a month reader) and both were not what I expected, in a good way. Apparently they are out of print, but there are plenty of copies available through

    Also in the Christmas spirit, Stephen Kellogg recorded a wonderful version of Winter Wonderland with 7 year old Aleysha Rae. It’s available for download through his website and 100% of proceeds go to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Just search google for Stephen Kellogg winter wonderland mp3. Would’ve been easier if I could figure out how to insert hypertext links… oh well!

    Happy Holidays!

  28. Greetings all!

    I would like to share a couple of artists for your consideration:

    First is the photographer Gregg LeBlanc whose website Cumulus Light shows off his breathtaking work. There are some truly amazing shots of nature, theatre, and people throughout. Some of his pieces can be purchased via Red Bubble, though you should not hesitate to contact him either as he is a great guy and easy to work with.

    Second is Amy Estrada who does amazingly detailed and colorful artwork. It is unique, orginal, and affordable. Amy Estrada Fine Art’s gallery page shows off a wealth of her artwork. The pictures really can’t even do justice to the fine details that make her artwork so incredible and special.

    Finally, thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for giving us this soapbox :-)

    All the best to all of you this holiday Season,

  29. Plain Kate by Erin Bow is probably one of the best YA/middle grade I have read in a long time. Features a great cat named Taggle

    Tana French’s mystery novels — In the Woods, The Likeness, Faithful Place — are the best new mysteries around. They should be read in order, though they do not strictly need to (they have different main characters in the same world). Close on their heels is Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailer books, which absolutely need to be read in order.

    Angela Rossi at Beat Up Creations does fantastically fun work and is happy to do custom lots.

    Breaking Bad is the best currently airing tv series (in that there is one more season to be aired, not that it is showing right now) and the first four seasons are available on dvd. It’s about a high school teacher who starts making meth, and also the limits of viewer sympathy. It’s excellent, almost as good as The Wire (also available on dvd).

    If somehow you missed Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, it’s not too late! Yes, this book is still in print a whole 5 or 6 years later, and it’s still a wonderful story about magic returning to England, and the magicians who are, if not making it happen exactly, the ones who are there when it happens. It’s a huge doorstopper of a novel — but not a trilogy — which is very hard to put down, so it is convenient to read when you are not at work for the holidays.

  30. If you are a fan of the pin-up, a young lady named Gina Elise sells pin-up calenders featuring herself modelling in retro garb and poses. I think she has also branched out into playing cards and posters. All tastefully done, and (unless you work with a bunch of jerks) Safe for Work. Non-profit proceeds finance visits to veterans hospitals and the like.

    I have also recently, care of my daughter, acquired a rather well-known artist named Bruce Aiken as an in-law (her new father in law). He primarily paints Grand Canyon and other Colorado Plateau related scenes. Visually stunning, and probably rather pricey for a Christmas gift. Actually, the original art is *real* pricey, but prints are more affordable. And he has a pretty nice coffee table book.

  31. I have recently picked up a new instrument, the ocarina. While looking at different ones to select my first one, I came across Cris Gale, who calls herself OcarinaDiva … and lives up to the name. Here’s my favourite of her samples:

    And, she has a CD out! You can find that at

    The other recent music crush is this amazing group of folks who call themselves Aston: they do classical covers of contemporary music. (Adele’s Someone Like You is absolutely breathtaking, with a lone violin carrying the melody line high and then handing off to cello, which in turn gives way to a very hushed, hesitant, just-this-side-of-staccato piano solo…)

    Samples are up at, and you can get their album at

  32. Someone recently asked me to recommend a young adult fantasy trilogy that’s “more fun than The Hunger Games.” (The Hunger Games are amazing, but I think it’s fair to say the word “fun” does not apply.”) I recommended The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. Demons, ancient secrets, and double-crosses… with snark and sarcasm on the side.

  33. Brandon Sanderson is an excellent fantasy author! His Mistborn series is amazing, especially the first book (The Final Empire), which is a cross between a caper and defeating evil.

  34. My friend runs an etsy shop with his business partner specializing in horror-themed art (both original and select pieces are also available as prints), jewelry and handmade dolls. Since there’s two artists, they have two distinct styles and specialize in different mediums, so something for everyone. I recently ordered a print from them as a wedding gift to friends and was especially pleased with the promptness with which my order arrived (less than week.) Their shop is and they are fabulous if you like dark and horror-themed stuff! Some images NSFW

    I also cannot believe no one has posted about Ursula Vernon, of whom I have been a fan of both her art and writing for well over ten years. She writes the “Danny Dragonbreath” juvenile novels, which has earned her many rewards. She also has penned the webcomic “Digger” available online and in dead-tree format. And her art is spectacular, one of the most prolific and distinguished indie fantasy artists out there. Her art gallery can be found at (some images NSFW) and her pages for younger readers is (work-safe.)

  35. If you missed Dan Wells’ John Cleaver series (starting with, “I am Not a Serial Killer“) pick it up for yourself or your favorite teen. It’s a fresh, original, and fun approach to YA literature. The series gets better and better with each book and I was genuinely upset when it was over and I realized that I wouldn’t get any more books for a long time (if at all).

    I’d also like to give a shout out to the audiobook of Ernest Cline’s, “Ready Player One.” Wil Wheaton does the reading and does a fantastic job. This is a must read/listen for anyone who still fondly remembers the days of Atari and text-only adventure games.

  36. YA and middle grade:

    I second Merrie Haskell’s The Princess Curse. Really enjoyable. Also great fun is Stephanie Burgis’ Kat, Incorrigible. Regency hijinks with magic, wayward sisters, and highwaymen.

    Somewhat older, I also second Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. Bloody and awesome. Also quite enjoyed Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star (and every other book of hers I’ve read, actually.) Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns was also awesome: fat princess comes into her own when she’s forced into a arranged marriage her new husband wants to keep secret.

  37. John, I wasn’t sure if a tour counts as a completed work, but two dear friends of mine launched a tour company yesterday, called Pacset Tours: Their tours are PERFECT for the anime-lover, Japanophile, or globetrotter with incurable wanderlust.

    I understand that at $1695 without airfare, a tour is pricey, but they also have CONCIERGE SERVICES, which are basically tours without the guide (they even book hotels and write turn-by-turn maps and guides!) Prices start at $50.

    Evan and Lanny are FANTASTIC folks, passionate about Japan and bringing people to enjoy Japan, and they both place tour enjoyment as their #1 priority. Absolutely perfect for anyone looking to travel to Japan any time, and particularly suited to people who want personalized, responsive service.

    (John, if this is not allowed, please let me know and I apologize in advance for venturing too far outside the box! ^_^;;;;)

  38. Monster and robot ducky soaps. From here: They’re a rubber ducky embedded in a handmade soap. I ordered eleven, one for each of the kids on my Christmas list, and I wish I’d got a twelfth for me. Not that I use rubber duckies, and also one of them is for my very own child so it’s not like I’ll never see them again, but oh, the awesomeness.

    Also, anything by Tiffany Ard: I particularly like the “Dinosaurs did not all coexist print” here:

    And now I want to go shopping for something for a grownup. Oh well!

  39. I just finished ME & JACK by Danette Haworth and thought it was AMAZING. Perfect for MG and YA readers (and for classrooms!)

    Other favorites from this year: Lindsey Leavett’s Princess for Hire and Royal Treatment

    Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan

  40. BOOKS: I’ve truly enjoyed the two Johannes Cabal books (the Necromancer and the Detective) currently out in the U.S., but Jonathan L. Howard, and hope the third (the Fear Institute) is released here soon. In the meantime, the two above are out there, and great, quick reads. Cabal as a character is a spectacularly amoral misanthrope whom it is still quite possible to root for. There’s a short story here if you’d like to familiarize yourself with the character:

    BOARD GAMES: Mansions of Madness (a scenario-based game set in various Lovecraftian haunted houses) has been a hit with family, and Runewars (fantasy strategy game where you vie for control of several hexes with Dragon Runes) and Sid Meier’s Civilization (Civ Revolution as a board game, pretty much) have been much fun for my wife and I; all three have expansions out now or coming soon. I haven’t tried Earth Reborn (tactical miniatures in the post-apocalyptic zombie future) yet, but I own a copy and it looks terrific — the component quality is very high, and I’ve read through the rules and scenario book enough to know that the mechanics are very interesting and flexible. Cyclades (bid for the favor of the gods to conquer an island chain), Alien Frontiers (colonize a planet through dice rolling) and Elder Sign (fend off Lovecraftian horrors through dice rolling) have also been much enjoyed by us this year.

  41. Favorite new album of this year: The Octopus by Amplifier. Fabulously proggy space rock with a modern, edgy sheen. Stream it for yourself at Then buy it!

    Favorite album reissue, hands down: Quadrophenia, the Director’s Cut. Two discs of feisty, passionate demos by Pete Townshend added to the remastered Who album, plus surround sound versions of selected cuts. Giant hardback book with a 13,000 word Townshend essay and gorgeous photography (the complete original album booklet & vintage shots unreleased until now). At least one coffee table box set that’s worth the outrageous price. The deluxe edition has the best 11 of the demos and is vastly more affordable.

    Favorite sci-fi & fantasy of the year: second the motions for The Dervish House by Ian McDonald and Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. Also, N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms & The Kingdom of Gods. One of the few trilogies I’ve read that consistently ups the ante, ratchets up the tension, and doesn’t disappoint with the big pay-off.

  42. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen into a book as completely as I did Steven Gould’s 7th Sigma. It succeeds on many levels for me. It pays explicit tribute to Kipling’s Kim, a book that I love, it is set in the American Southwest, territory that I also love. The worldbuilding is based on an fascinating hook of metal eating “bugs” and what they do to a modern infrastructure. The notion of a modern “stone age” territory (you can use metal outside the territory and ship product back in – but of course “shipping” will involve pre-modern carts, horses and mules) was intriguing. Throw in some reasonable martial arts culture and you have a work that resonated so strongly with me that when I finished it I turned around and started reading it again.
    This is the first book I’ve ready in many years that actually got me to write a fan letter.

  43. How Mirka Got Her Sword, Barry Deutsch’s graphic novel about a troll fighting Orthodox Jewish girl makes a great Hanukkah gift.

    I’m a huge fan of the web comic Modest Medusa by Jake Richmond, which is about a cute little medusa who moves in with the guy who draws the strip and mayhem ensues. The strip has a store and you can buy a collection of the first year of strips, and you can buy shirts and sweatshirts with characters from the strip. I own a chainsaw unicorn shirt and I’m always getting compliments on it.

    If you don’t mind ordering from overseas, I recommend Twelfth Planet Press, a small press publisher in Australia. You can buy either hard copy or ebooks and publisher Alisa Krasnostein is currently in the middle of putting out 12 collections by Australian women SF, fantasy and horror authors. Having extensively studied classics in high school and college, I bought Tansy Rayner Roberts’s Love and Romanpunk collection, which I enjoyed.

  44. Closed Circle is a joint venture with CJ Cherryh, Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher; three great authors selling their own work, in their own store, and there are amazing bargains to be had at:

    Heavy Time and Hellburner, the earliest stories in the chronology of Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, are there for $5 each. I have a particular passion for Heavy Time and Hellburner because my father spent 35 years in the Airforce; he was aircrew. Aircrew are strange.

    Of all the military SF I have read, and that’s a lot, Cherryh is the only one whose characters ring true; I recognised the people in them because I knew them in real life. So buy them!

    Lynn Abbey has got mostly short pieces at $2 so definite scope for mini-presents as stocking fillers there.

    Jane Fancher is less well known, but along with her NetWalkers and Rings series for sale there she has the thoroughly splendid book ‘Blood Red Moon’ for $9.99.

    ‘Blood Red Moon’ is a vampire story with a cat.

    And no, I’m sorry, it doesn’t have bacon attached to it.

  45. I’m a big fan of Lisa Snellings’ sculptures and art pieces. She’s done a lot of work with Neil Gaiman – he’s got a number of her pieces, and has written stories based on them. She’s also collaborated with Peter Beagle, Gene Wolfe, and Larry Niven. She’s got an Etsy shop where she sells her smaller works, including a lot of her Poppets, and also an eBay store, which is where you can find chapbooks from her collaborations with Gene Wolfe and Peter Beagle.

  46. Are you a nerd? Do you know a nerd? Do you think a nerd would like a zero-volume, single-surface, self-intersecting, non-orientable manifold made out of glass?

    Of course they would. Why are we even asking that question?

    Visit Acme Klein Bottle and satisfy the topological jones you didn’t even know that you had.

    Want something else that’s not so much nerdy as just visually cool? Do you have too much money? Really? I mean… seriously? Too much? Okay, how about Wood That Works for amazing wooden sculptures that move.

    Someday I will own one. Someday…

  47. I highly recommend the 4 (so far) YA books by Megan Whelan Turner. The first is “The Thief” – and I suggest reading them in order. Great adventure stories with a touch of fantasy. Amusing, enchanting, and riveting.

    Also another vote re Ben Aaronovitch and Kevin Hearne.

  48. I agree with Whit the Steven Gould’s 7th Sigma is very good.

    The surprise of the year for me is The Musashi Flex by Steve Perry (published in 2005, but newly released as an ebook). I had no idea that martial arts and Science Fiction could work so well together.

  49. Holy hell, Reamde by Neal Stephenson is really, really good. Someone mentioned other Stephenson books above, and he’s right too — all of Stephenson’s stuff is really good. But probably don’t start with the Baroque cycle. It’s a bit dense.

  50. Here’s a few of the recent books I’ve read and enjoyed! (Besides Fuzzy Nation of course!)
    The Ninth Circle by R. M. Meluch — book Five of the USS Merrimack series
    Up Against It by M. J. Locke
    A Soldiers Duty by Jean Johnston
    Leviathan’s Wake by James S. A Corey
    The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett
    Heaven’s Shadow by David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
    Revolution World by Katy Stauber
    The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding (Tales of the Ketty Jay Book 2)
    The Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell
    The Soldier of the Legion series by Marshall S. Thomas
    The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (Recently rereleased in Trade and E-book format)

  51. These soaps are amazing. I found this lady at a farmers market in southern Victoria (Australia), and I bought a couple of bars then, but I’ve been ordering from her website ever since. Most of the soaps are based on goats milk and coconut oil and just feel so delicious on your skin. My favourites are Lift, Venus Bay and Sandalwood. The naked soaps are great if you have sensitive skin or allergies. She’ll ship using Australia post, but will also ship overseas by arrangement.

  52. My wife’s college friend just kicked off a fantastic new custom story book creation site for the kids in your life, . Champion Me Books has four different stories ready where they can insert your child and the web-based Hero Creator allows you to create an avatar of your child quickly and easily. You can order both e-book and soft cover printed books — and as a book snob, I was blown away by the quality of both the art and the printed books; these are as good as anything you’ll find in the traditional publishing chain. If my kids weren’t too old for these, I’d be ordering some for them for Christmas.

  53. I heartily recommend a pair of these Space Invaders cufflinks: Long story short, I was flying from Tokyo to Los Angeles and found these cufflinks online, so I asked the designer to send them to me in L.A., and I squealed in delight when I received them — damned wonderful good sir, a good size and nicely finished. Compliment magnets. Have at it!! (She’s got a beautiful ring as well, see… wish I wore gold.)

  54. For those that are a little strange (couldn’t be anyone here, could it?) I recommend a CD called “Oy to the World” by the Klezmonauts. Not quite like any other Christmas music you ever heard.

  55. As far as books go, if anyone hasn’t read China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station or Iron Council, I really recommend them. I found the world he creates really interesting, and I got pretty into it. T. A. Pratt also wrote some really entertaining urban fantasy books, the Marla Mason series. It starts with Blood Engines; if you like magic users and badassery, these are a fantastic read.

  56. Have you ever played an RPG and wondered what it looked like when you character is all “I’m gonna talk to an orc?” Well this is what you watch Independent film-makers with tons of imagination and humor.
    Also from the same group is a more “traditional” campaign that just got a second season going. And if you want to try before you buy? They are both on You-Tube with a creative commons license so you can watch them now :)

  57. I love, adore and worship the book, ‘Let the Dragon Wake,’ by Sylvia Volk;

    If you’re a fan of Robin McKinley, Anne McCaffrey or Robin Hobb, you’ll find something to love in Sylvia’s writing. It’s kind of mystical… incredible imagery, amazing concepts… definitely a feast for the
    visual reader that likes to explore new worlds. … Let the Dragon Wake at Apple iTunes … Let the Dragon Wake at … Let the Dragon Wake at Smashwords

  58. Glad the weekend is coming when I’ll have time to review all these recommendations at length!

    My own nod goes to the “Monster Blood Tattoo” YA trilogy by D.M. Cornish:

    Don’t be put off by the slightly-grisly title – these are not horror books at all, but a delightful adventure story set in a world where the oceans’ tang is vinegar, not salt, and “everyman” (i.e., mankind) shares the land with real monsters. Strong character development over the 3-book series; but most impressive is the creative use of language, both newly-minted words and re-purposed terms from English and Latin.

    Appropriate for middle school up, and at the very top of my “YA Lit for Old Fogeys” list.

    Enjoy! and Murrie Christmas & Happy Every-Holiday to readers of the best blog on the interwebs!

  59. One of the best books I’ve read recently is Public Enemy Zero, by Andrew Mayne. It’s only in ebook form that I’ve found, at a mere .99 on amazon. FANTASTIC deal, great book!

  60. Two etsy jewelry makers that I am a big fan of: Scarlet Nymph makes wire, crystal and pearl pieces. Lori takes colour inspiration from the California desert, has a collection based on Tudor fashions, “Wabi Sabi” coordinating asymmetrical earring sets for people who wear more than one earring in each ear. Besides her listed items, she has tons of styles ready to go and does incredible custom work.

    Amy of Veritas Crafts plays WoW regularly, and has created jewelery inspired by the locations and themes of the game, like Stranglethorn Vale earrings, or a Thunder Bluff earring set with a matching pendant. She also has pieces inspired by True Blood, Hunger Games, and Greek Mythology. One of her custom commissions was a pair of male Draenei tail earrings. It’s a geek fest!

  61. I love love love the tshirts and prints by artist Megan Lara.
    Firefly, Nintendo, Portal, Harry Potter, X-Men, Dark Tower…

    I first ran across her when I bought a Metroid Nouveau shirt at PAX East.
    You can find her Firefly Les Femmes and Les Hommes poster sets at Amazon.

  62. Not yet mentioned – from my quick browse through this –

    – eBooks: Book View Café where sf&f authors release backlist and the occasional original novel in basically any of the most popular formats – there’s a wide choice for all tastes from Ursula LeGuin comics (I kid you not) to Judith Tarr historical fantasy or Vonda N.McIntyre science fiction and Madeleine Robins regency romance.

    – art: Do you like the DAW covers for Michelle West, Mercedes Lackey, Jo Clayton, Fiona Patton or Tanya Huff’s fantasy? Then you might be interested in Jody Lee’s original art on Etsy, maybe even in her custom oil portraits or in her glass art? Having bought one of the smaller oils myself I can heartily recommend the quality.

    – audiobook/CD: Neil Gaiman produced a full-cast audiobook of Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, narrated by the author herself (apart from being a writer she’s also a NPR host) – listen to the ten minutes excerpt on and I’m sure you’ll agree that this production does the iconic book justice.

  63. If your child loves books (and they should!), here are some ones from off the beaten path that my boys loved when they were little, and that I loved reading to them. Do not fear used copies!

    Captain Pajamas: Defender of the Universe by Rosie Smith and Bruce Whateley, ISBN978-0060266134

    Market Day by Eve Bunting and Holly Berry, ISBN 978-0064435178

    King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey and Don Wood, ISBN 978-0152054359

    Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex, ISBN 978-0152057664

    No Moon, No Milk! By Chris Babcock, ISBN 978-0517885406

    The Useful Dragon of Sam Ling Toy by Glen Dines, ASIN B0007E6NSW

    Trouble for Trumpets by Peter Dallas Smith and Peter Cross, ISBN 978-0679803430

  64. I have discovered an amazing musician Steven Sharp Nelson who does amazing videos. He’ll do all the parts himself and edits them seamlessly. The first video I saw was the Cello Song – he does all 8 parts himself, and at first I thought, “Wow, all those guys look a lot alike” before I realized he was doing it all himself. I’ve been buying his MP3s on Amazon, and the group he works with is looking for supporters. Have a listen, they are awesome!

  65. Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji Project– subscription for a year gets you a story each month that written specifically for Omikuji readers. If you decide to go the dead tree route you get it printed on really nice vellum sealed with wax.In the two and a half years I’ve been subscribed I didn’t enjoy maybe 2 or 3 of the stories, and it was always a matter of them simply not being to my taste, rather then any kind of hasty or shoddy writing.

    Also, Catherynne Valente is publishing an anthology of four early works of hers which are out(or almost out) of print. It’s called Myths of Origin– I can’t personally attest to it, since I didn’t lay hands on it yet, but since I’ve enjoyed every one of her books to date…

    Charles Stross’s Laundry series is a fun read- take one part Lovecraftian horror, one part cold-war spy thriller, one part IT technology, sprinkle liberally with snark, shake well and serve in a UK civil service glass.

    Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files universe has some great fun too- it takes noir detective and mixes it with urban fantasy quite well. Including various amusing incidents such as a T-rex skeleton being raised with the help of a Polka one-man band, and bribing pixies with pizza.

  66. I’ve been looking for someplace to say thanks to this blog for introducing me to N K Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy. If you like fantasy with maybe some romance/sex, and not shying away from moral ambiguity, you will like it.

  67. New stuff.
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books for seasons 8 and 9.
    The comic books do not suffer the constraints of the small
    screen. – (IIRC Whedon said that.)
    Is a treecat book that was an adequate read: Weber:
    A Beautiful Friendship
    Old stuff.
    Zelazny The Dead Man’s Brother.
    Moon, E. Remnant Population.
    Turtledove, the Case of the Toxic Spell Dump
    Older stuff.
    *.* By Lewis Carrol.
    Much older stuff.
    Mushasi, Five Rings.
    Even older stuff.
    Hammurabi, the Code of.

    I don’t know anyone who’d like a copy of “Roller Compacted
    Concrete Dams.”

  68. I have to second what Jim Barker said, I would definitely suggest picking up a copy of The Goat Rodeo Sessions. It’s an amazing bluegrass/classical album. The song Attaboy, (which you can listen to here ) is absolutely spectacular.

    I would also suggest picking up Aquaria for any fans of Indie Action/Adventure games. It’s been out for a few years now, but it’s still great. It’s available to purchase from several different sources, (Itunes App Store, Steam, etc.) however here’s a link to the developer’s website.

  69. Most people who see Diane Duane’s “Young Wizard” series thinks that it’s some sort of Harry Potter knock-off, but in fact it’s a completely different – and longer-running – series that is well worth a look.Duane creates a structure in which magic is almost a science, and which costs the practitioner something in the practice, and in which wizards come in all species and sizes. Duane sets her stories in alternate universes, under the ocean, in outer space, in the Ireland of legend and myth, but the growth of the characters creates a uniting thread that keeps a reader coming back.

  70. My friends Justin and Anne-Marie de Witt run a game publisher called Fireside Games, with really cool family games like Castle Panic (and its just-released expansion, The Wizard’s Tower) and Bears! and maybe-not-so-family-but-still-damn-fun games like Bloodsuckers. They’re really great people and I’d love to see their games sell five times as much as they do (which is already a lot), so please go check them out. (CP is a cooperative game, for those of you who want to teach your kids or your neighbor’s kids to work together rather than fighting all the time.)

  71. I have to second the motion on Tana French. If you are a reader who really appreciates great writing, pick up any of her books. I have enjoyed every one of them and been truly disappointed upon finishing each one – disappointed that I couldn’t make them last a little longer. I let my Mom borrow “Faithful Place” as I was taking her back to the airport at the end of our Thanksgiving visit. She became so engrossed in it while waiting for her flight that she almost missed her plane home!

  72. The Deed of Paksenarrion – one of the best books which you haven’t read.
    The Bridge of Birds and the rest of the series – no really, you haven’t read this yet? And you read Whatever??