Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide, Day Four: Fan Favorites!

For the first three days of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2012, 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 — andyou 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 authorsnon-traditionally published authorsand 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.

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.

64 Comments on “Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide, Day Four: Fan Favorites!”

  1. You guys you all need to read Gunnerkrigg Court. Okay? You need to. I read dozens of webcomics regularly and this is just the best thing I have read on the internet. Understand that I say this while also being a huge fan of Homestuck and Girls With Slingshots and Girl Genius and yet I am saying Gunnerkrigg Court gives me ALL OF THE FEELS and then kicks me in them.

    You can also buy it in physical book form.

    That is all.

  2. Freebird!

    Slice-of-life comic about Alaskan residents, it’s witty and poignant in turns, and filled with characters who fail deliciously at being stereotypes. I’m a scifi/action movie junkie, so it’s not my usual poison and I still love it. It’s also a great gift for anyone in your life who isn’t into graphic violence/sexual situations/language if you’re having trouble thinking of something for ’em.

    If you like quirky, three-dimensional characters, you’ll like this comic. If you like found family and people who can bicker mightily and still be friends, you’ll like this comic. If you’ve never been to Alaska, you’ll like this comic, because it’s very cool to get a glimpse of the strong regional culture. If you do live in Alaska, you’ll like this comic, because you’ll probably get a huge laugh out of it.

    My full recommendation for this comic is here. Buy it at Amazon for $12 here.

  3. Want a gift soap shaped like a NES controller? How about a Han in Carbonite soap? A Tardis soap? A companion cube soap? How about a materia soap-on-a-rope? This lovely lady makes all of these things and more by hand. I think the last day to order in time for Christmas delivery is tomorrow, though. So best hurry! Go here: http://www.luxurylanesoap.com/collections/nerdpop

  4. “Why can’t we buy individual poems like we do songs? It’s an idea that’s long overdue.” My friend started a poetry press in Saint Louis with idea that if you like a single poem, you should be able to buy that poem without having to buy a whole book. The poems are submitted to her, and she prints them “on 5 ½” x 8″ archival card stock using antique letterpress methods.” Check them out.


  5. How about a beautiful landscape print by Kathryn Heerema at popcornphotography? Her etsy store is here.

    You can check out more of her work at popcornphotography.ca.

    (full disclosure: Kathryn is my lovely wife and is amazing.)


  6. A few suggestions for gift books:

    1. Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families — I’ve enjoyed the Geek Dad project books, and this one has new projects from inexpensive Halloween costuming to homemade lava lamps, and on and on.

    2. The Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Fictions edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer — A beautiful hardcover book in terms of a physical object, with enough stories that if your gift recipient (or you!) read one a week, you’ll have TWO YEARS of Weird.

    3. Fiasco by Jason Morningstar — a freeform storytelling RPG which takes only six-sided dice and almost no preparation, which really is “like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it’d take to watch one”. Who’s a fan of this game? One Wil Wheaton, that’s who.

  7. I suggest the books of R. Scott Bakker, especially his trilogy “The Prince of Nothing” starting with the book “The Darkness That Comes Before”.

    It’s some of the best fantasy I’ve ever read. It’s deep, it’s heavy and it’s dark, but it has some incredible world building, great characters and a complex story. And the way he mixes fiction with philosophy is outstanding. So for fantasy and/or philosophy fans, this is a great gift.

  8. For those who like to put on a tinfoil hat and ask “what if?” once in a while, I recommend Bottled Demon by Matthew Rossi. It’s an ebook collection of essays that begin grounded in reality and soar into all sorts of weird and wild places while still managing to keep a thread of plausibility, like reading the most interesting history book ever. If you our your prospective gift recipient have a kindle you should check it out!


  9. Hand crocheted fingerless gloves, hats (some in My Little Pony colors/themes), cowls, and custom items available at Lorelei’s Fiber and Yarnwork Shop. I’ve ordered quite a few items from her (including a custom hat), and they are high quality and reasonable prices. She’s on Etsy at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/loreleitracy

    For high end, high quality silver work by a Tiwa silversmith, check out Silverwork by Wings at
    http://www.wingssilverwork.com/ (click on “Galleries”) for stunning jewelry, photography, and more.

    For great gifts for cats or cat owners, check out Pootie Pads – quilted cat pads with organic catnip quilted in. I’ve given these as gifts and seen cats go wild over them. Website at: http://pootiepad.com/
    They also have an Etsy shop with regular and children’s quilts: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Winglion
    I’ve purchased children’s quilts from the Etsy shop and the patterns are great colors and the work is highest quality.

    These are my personal favorites, hope you enjoy! Thank you, John, for the opportunity to share!

  10. Well, okay, I was going to do this anyway, but it’s extra special fabulous this morning.

    “From the Ground Up” by John Fullbright. Amazon :: iTunes

    John is a young guy from Okemah, Oklahoma, which has previously been mostly known as the home of Woody Guthrie. John is… John is amazing. There is no one like him. I’ve been privileged to watch him learn and grow as an artist for several years; I run his website and took the photos for his CD art. And late last night I got to post the news that his first studio CD has been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Americana Album category. (OMG *DYING*) So that’s my suggestion.

    Fullbright’s SXSW showcase — the first of eight gigs he has here this week — was as perfect as if it were a Jonathan Demme concert film. … Fullbright synthesizes the best songcraft from his home state — [Jimmy] Webb, Leon Russell and, by default, Merle Haggard. … He’s got a tune called “Forgotten Flowers,” a thoughtful country lament, that Tom Waits and Randy Newman could fight over.Thomas Conner, Chicago Sun-Times

  11. A couple of traditionally published things:
    1. The Peter Grant novels by Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London/MIdnight Riot (UK/US titles), Moon over Soho, and Whispers Under Ground. A rookie policeman in London finds himself apprenticed to the last official wizard in Britain. Things that make the series stand out are the fact that Peter is mixed race and that unlike most characters confronted with something like this he applies the scientific method to what he learns.

    2. Howard Andrew Jones’ Swords and Sands Chronicle. I bought Desert of Souls based on his Big Idea post here. I loved it so much, the second I finished it I bought The Waters of Eternity. The Bones of the Old Ones, which also had a Big Idea post, is due out in a couple of days and is definitely on my Christmas list.

  12. I’m compelled to invite you all to share in the love of two-man stringband music.
    I feel confident The Two Man Gentlemen Band will appeal to a large swath of the folks who frequent ‘Whatever’ and enjoy the genres in which its author and guest bloggers tread. I’ve no scientifically supported reason for asserting this; it’s more that I know I like it and feel it appeals to that side of my personality. I guess it’s my ego that extrapolates that to mean it will scan for most everyone else similarly.

    My confidence says, go see and hear them perform ‘William Howard Taft,’ and, should that fail to connect, you’re free to move along: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6MsGsNkFqI

    In addition to songs about various events and figures in American history, the gentleman tend to stray into the world of romance, oft saddled with a fair amount of innuendo. Hence, should you be sensitive to such things, beware of songs like “When Your Lips are Playing my Kazoo” and “Into my Minivan.”

    Further, there are many celebrations of food and beverage. Who doesn’t love to eat and drink? “Fancy Beer,” “Pork Chops,” and “Chocolate Milk” are all great sample/examples.

    Only their most recent albums are available on their bandcamp site (http://www.thetwogentlemen.com/music/). I see their older discs can be found through Amazon, and I recommend any of them, though I’ll leave you to navigate to their products on that site, as well as to the song “Pretty Good Beards of the Civil War” on their bandcamp site.

    I’m certain you know someone on your shopping list who’ll be happy to have some of this two-man music in their life. I leave it to you to determine just who.


    Enthusiastic Fan

  13. For just a few days more, MC Lars’ entire discography is available for download as a pay-what-you-want format. He does nerdy rap, but a lot of it is literature based. Does the Edgar Allen Poe fan in your life need an entire album of rap songs about Poe? Here you go!


  14. For book and art lovers, Litographs are always a great idea. These B&W or Color pictures feature the full text of classic works of literature turned into art prints. The Time Machine in color and Treasure Island in B&W are personal favorites of mine. There is also currently a fully funded kickstarter to start making t-shirts.

  15. On the minus side, the incredibly well done, eligible-for-a-Hugo-nomination-and-good-enough-to-get-one SF anime series “Bodacious Space Pirates” (which was my first pick) doesn’t come out on DVD & Blu-Ray until January 8th, which means it won’t even be out in time for Epiphany (though it is available for streaming on Crunchyroll & Hulu in the mean time).

    That said – while I don’t know if putting a pre-order slip in an envelope and having that being a stocking stuffer is tacky, that might be an option to consider.

    Oh, and a Hulu link so you can try before you buy.

    As far as something more immediate goes, the first Berserk film: Berserk: The Egg of the King, is now out on DVD & Blu-Ray. It’s an exciting, but grim, swords and sorcery film, with more of a focus on the former than the latter. If you’ve seen the TV series, it’s telling the same story, but with a better budget. The third film isn’t out yet, so I don’t know if they adjust the ending there.

    Disclaimer: Really not for the kiddies. Bodacious Space Pirates? Sure! Berserk? Absolutely not!

  16. I’d like to tell all and sundry about one of the best DIY music releases that came out this year, and he goes under the name Decomposure. Caleb Mueller is a one-man operation who’s released a number of albums (all while holding down a day job, mind you), and his newest one, ‘Eating Chicken’, is an absolutely wonderful album full of quirky pop, introspective balladry, and even a bit of goofy rap. It’s all over the place, but it’s utterly amazing. And the best part is that it’s ALL him. No other band members, he played and recorded every single sound you hear on it.

    A few samples of his music:
    “Readymade”: http://youtu.be/-4WAw5zv6yE
    “Oh Brother”: http://youtu.be/K7Z5kZiea4M

    Here’s his own website, where you can buy his albums straight from him:

    If you have the funds, buy the deluxe edition of ‘Eating Chicken’ on Bandcamp (http://blanksquirrel.bandcamp.com/album/eating-chicken), which includes not just the album but a USB drive that contains his entire discography plus all sorts of other art and musical goodies worth checking out. He’s a graphic designer by day, so this was ALL him, right down to the packaging of the edition, which he actually made into a music video for “Wide Awake”: http://youtu.be/VlcuzW70Rjo

    Definitely my top album of 2012, well worth checking out.

  17. One game, one book, one album

    – If I could, I would get this for every nerdy friend of mine (so… every friend of mine…): Netrunner Android. It’s considered one of the underrated classic card games of the 90’s, and has been given new life as a Living Card Game. I have it myself, I love the art, the gameplay, and the resurging community. It’s a lot of fun, and I think the more people onboard with it, the more fun it’ll get.
    The core set lets you play it right out of the box (though learning curve is steep at the beginning); it’s just been re-printed by the publisher, and is on sale at Amazon for almost half off. The first expansion comes out next week.

    – It was on here as a Big Idea, and this IS a gift I am getting every one of my friends. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is the book that I absolutely believe will be enjoyed by my entire family and pretty much my entire community. I think it’s a book that brings together a generation – multiple generations, even.

    – Amanda Palmer’s Theatre Is Evil. One of my favourite albums of this year. So much collaboration, driven by pure experimental artistic force. She is wonderful, and an inspiration, and this album just makes you want to listen to more music and take more incredibly risky chances.

    Hope someone finds these useful! And to the person who recommended Gunnerkrigg Court – AGREED. I couldn’t tell you what it’s about per se, except that it’s about every beautiful thing that artist Tom Sidell has ever thought of (and is probably weaving into a mind-blowing unified whole).

  18. Three very different books by the same author, all readily available online. First up is:
    Norse Mythology…According to Uncle Einar
    by Jane T. Sibley, illustrated by Joel A. Leib
    Xlibris Corporation, 2000, h/b ISBN: 0-7388-4419-5, s/c ISBN: 0-7388-4418-7
    E-Book (available as ePub files) ISBN: 978-1-46283-293-4
    Order from Xlibris.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

    This is a rollicking “children’s book for grown-ups” in which old Uncle Einar, stuck with telling bedtime stories, tells the stories from his childhood, somewhat updated for his audience and more than a little influenced by how much he had to drink that afternoon. Loki lips off, there’s a showdown at the Jotunheim Corral, and Balder, alas, buys the farm. Some of the shenanigans at the Valhalla Sports Bar and Grill should pass over the heads of younger teens. Joel Leib’s illustrations perfectly catch the spirit of this retelling of traditional tales.

    Another book by Jane Sibley, The Hammer of the Smith, is a more serious novel that might be considered YA fantasy rooted deeply in Scandinavian traditional life and folklore of an earlier time.
    Xlibris, 2008, ISBN-10: 1436355710, ISBN-13: 978-1436355711

    Jane T. Sibley, Ph.D., is a specialist in Norse mythology, folklore, and runes. She did part of her work at the University of Oslo.
    Her first nonfiction book, The Divine Thunderbolt: Missile of the Gods, traces the use of the thunderbolt image across Europe. ISBN-13: 9781425765408, Xlibris Corporation, 2009

  19. Looking for gift ideas for young kids? My almost 3-year old daughter received two sets of Match Stacks from Tree Hopper Toys as a gift and they’re her new favorite toys. They’re like the card game Memory, but made of sustainable Midwestern hardwood (which means her baby sister can’t destroy them by eating them) by a tiny company based outside of Chicago. We’re buying sets as holiday gifts for a bunch of her friends.


  20. Like writers, artists, filmmakers, playwrights, and essentially anyone creative? Of course you do! So read about them in iPad magazine Backstory. Comprehensive articles interviewing a wide variety of people in all walks of creative life, with a focus on films, books, TV and music, but with the potential for anything.

    It arrives every two months and at $24.99 for a whole year’s subscription, it’s more than worth it. Plus those without iPads will soon be able to subscribe to a web version…

    Direct iPad link here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/backstory/id521967972?mt=8
    Web link: http://www.backstory.net

  21. Right now, my favorite SF/F book of 2012 is “Rock On! The Greatest Hits of Science Fiction & Fantasy,” a Prime Books anthology of music-related short works.

    Not only does it have my two all-time favorite favorite SF stories about music (Shirley’s “Freezone” and Waldrop’s “Flying Saucer Rock And Roll”), it has uniformly excellent stories by Elizabeth Hand, Elizabeth Bear, Charles de Lint, Alastair Reynolds, Pat Cadigan, Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, Poppy Z. Brite, Marc Laidlaw, and even Greg Kihn of all people (who became a Stoker-nominated horror author after having ’80s hits like “Jeopardy”). This book is a total winner.

  22. My suggestions:
    Seanan McGuire’s books. Her newest series, InCryptid, has book one already out and book two is coming out soon. http://seananmcguire.com/ She writes a lot of really good urban fantasy with lots of excellent female characters, and a strong grounding in mythology. She also writes zombie fiction under the pen name Mira Grant, and has a variety of free stories available on her site. She’s also an excellent singer, too, and has CDs for sale. I heard her perform at Worldcon 2012, and loved it.
    Digger, by Ursula Vernon. http://www.diggercomic.com/ Hugo Award winning series about the adventures of a displaced wombat trying to find her way home. Dead gods, hunter-gatherer hyenas, oracular slugs – she writes humans and nonhumans alike really well, and it’s a riveting story. Free read online, or you can buy the books from SofaWolf Press. She also has lots of awesome art in her store, too.
    Girl Genius, by Phil & Kaja Foglio. Both a webcomic (free online or for purchase in print editions) and a series of novels, now available through Topatoco. Winner of 3 Hugos, and run by genuinely nice people. They’re also doing a Kickstarter for an app-based video game at the moment, too.
    For music, Steam Powered Giraffe. Californian steampunk band with an americana-ish style. They’ve got 3 albums out, and are really good.
    Also, Kirby Krackle. Superhero/nerd-themed songs such as “Ring Capacity”, “Vault 101”, and “Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes” (a very sweet nerdy love song). 5 albums out, all very good.

  23. Awesome author easy quick fun read with twisty plots and lots of funny stuff:

    Know a gamer geek? Of course you do cause you’re friends with me..Best movie for gamers everywhere, has all the fun tropes (and everyone knows “that” guy) hey and creative commons so you can watch on you tube! But seriously buy it.

  24. So a guy was wandering through the flash games website chat room that I hang around, and he had an interesting proposition. “I wrote a book. It’s up on Amazon. It’s free for a bit.” I said, okay. I’ll read it and write a review. So I did.

    “The book is about a member of a futuristic pacifist society with access to nanotechnology who gets stranded on a version of earth with Orcs, Elves, Titans, and other such races. This is explained by science. Then there’s the stuff that can’t be explained by science, like various characters profligate disregard for the laws of thermodynamics. The main character Derek drops into the world confused. Very confused. Seems like every time he learns new information, it just gets more confusing.” My full review is up at Amazon. He’s hard at work on a sequel and says it’ll be out soon.

    The book is currently 99 cents, he has no clue I’m doing this, and I thought it’d be nice to send some readers his way.

    Chains of Loss (Hero’s Chains) by Robert Sier
    Permalink: http://amzn.com/B0092YZM94

  25. Here is a few of my favorite things:

    -Anything by Knit n Jules. Julie Schuett is a local textile artist who has created wearable art for years. She makes custom knit sweaters, wraps, bridal attaire etc. http://www.knit-n-jules.com/

    -Would anyone else like their very own Fairy Fossil for fun? Check out the Emeralds Emporium and be a rock star at Christmas.

    -I love, love, love, handmade ceramic jewelry from Surlyramics. My son love his Gamer necklace and all of his friends are jealous. It lasted a year before I had to replace the string with real leather.

    Happy Holidays!

  26. Brendan Halpin is one of my absolute favorite writers, and that was before he blurbed my first novel.

    He’s been putting out great books, both fiction and non-fiction for a decade now, but this one is my favorite. It fell out of print a year or two ago and now he’s brought it back as a self-published ebook.

    It quite literally changed the way I look at life and death:


    If that’s not to your liking, you should consider taking a look at his author page:


    And if you’re a fan of the old EC Comics, take a minute to check out Seamus Cooper, his AKA:


  27. I recommend the Library of America’s new two-volume American Science Fiction: Classic Novels of the 1950s (each volume is available separately); google “loa science fiction” and it’s the first entry.
    volume 1:
    Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants
    Theodore Sturgeon, More Than Human
    Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow
    Richard Matheson, The Shrinking Man
    volume 2:
    Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
    Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
    James Blish, A Case of Conscience
    Algis Budrys, Who?
    Fritz Leiber, The Big Time
    The LoA folks really make an effort to produce accurate, definitive editions, and the editors include author biographies as well as substantial endnotes. I already owned their first two volumes of Philip K. Dick novels and was very impressed by their attention to detail. In the notes for The Stars My Destination is a gratifyingly thorough explanation (given the unknowns) of how and why the British and American first publications differ, something I’d always been curious about.

  28. My favorite books to re-read are the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Every time I pick them up, it’s like sitting down to tea with old friends. And sometimes, I find little jewels that interconnect to other books that I missed the first few times I read them. There’s something for almost everyone in the Liaden Universe, so here’s my guide on where to begin:

    If you like action in your space opera or perhaps sentient turtles, then The Agent Gambit which is an omnibus of Agent of Change and Carpe Diem is the book for you.

    If you like romance in your space opera, then I recommend The Dragon Variation which is an omnibus of Local Custom, Scout’s Progress and Conflict of Honors.

    If you’re looking for more of a YA read, then Fledgeling is the starting book for you.

    These links are all to their respective Amazon listings. All Lee and Miller works are also available in e-book format from Baen’s website. You can also find sample chapters (E.g. Fledgling sample) there. And, as mentioned on Monday’s installment, all the Liaden Universe books are available at Audible.

    I hope you give these books a try and come to love them as much as I do.

  29. Inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, Christine Fonseca’s Young Adult novel, Transcend is an exciting psychological thriller: http://christinefonseca.blogspot.com/p/the-phantom-chronicles_19.html

    Her Requiem Series, deals with Angels and Demons and evil incarnate. For more information: http://christinefonseca.blogspot.com/p/the-requiem-series_591.html

    If you prefer non-fiction, Christine has written several helpful guides: Emotional Intensity In Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope With Explosive Outbursts, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook. You can check them out here: http://christinefonseca.blogspot.com/p/the-requiem-series_591.html

  30. Long one ahead; sorry…

    Books, books and books! Books that need, want and deeply deserve more love.

    Disclaimer: The ones I’m loving on here are all published by Plus One, the small press I work for, and all were edited or co-edited by me, so I am admittedly less than objective. But not all that much less – we’re a teeny scrabbling little press and even though lots of stuff comes to our attention, every title that actually makes it into the catalog does so on extreme merit. Our budget is too small and too tight to do it any other way.

    That disclaimer out of the way, permit me to introduce you to some of the best books you may never have heard of:

    Rituals: Rhapsody of Blood, Volume 1, the first novel (and first in a series) by English poet, pop culture critic and freelance blasphemous genius Roz Kaveney. The premise is so deliciously strange and packed with complex world-building from about the fourth word in that it’s nigh-impossible to summarize(though it would make a fantastic Big Idea candidate), and is far better experienced than explained. But, without attempting to explain: if you’re a geek for world myths, history or horror, or a fan of girls kicking ass and women wearily, grimly taking charge because nobody else will, ghost stories and tales of love lost and found and not quite requited, there’s something here you’ll love.

    I’m not clogging this post up with direct links, but: the UK Guardian loves it, Gary K. Wolfe at Locus loves it, Jo Walton at Tor loves it, Neil Gaiman loves it, Pat Cadigan loves it, and I’m told the London TLS loves it but that one’s behind a fearsome pay firewall so nobody at our press has even *seen* that one yet. But the love is out there, as well it should be.

    Next, and my personal why-has-nobody-read-this favorite, The Amazing Adventures of Sam the Bat the first children’s book by essayist and physicist wrangler Allyson Beatrice, who started writing an odd little story as a gift to her newborn niece and nephew and ended up with both a genuine early-middle-reader (grades 3-6) chapter book, along with an abiding and slightly encyclopedic love of bats.

    Sam is a Mexican freetail bat born and raised in a thriving colony in the Sonora desert, who is orphaned in a devastating earthquake and, as happens with all proper questing young heroes, has to travel all the way around the world to find his way home. Along the way he meets colonies of everyone from vampire bats to flying foxes to a miscellaneous band of misfits lurking about Notre Dame Cathedral, is adopted by a barn owl, stows away on a freighter, and has various small-mammal-in-some-peril adventures on his way to a home that’s both old and new.

    I admire Allyson’s work on this more than I can say – she’s got such a distinctive, dry, whipsmart and thoroughly adult voice, and she found a way to keep that voice but make it sing for a kids’ book. Then, after a ton of contradictory feedback from other people and a run-in with a potential coauthor who turned out to be a damagingly rotten fit, she came to us and did a truly heroic rewrite that consisted 50/50 of stripping out everyone else’s not-Allyson overwrites and using all the new space to expand on and enrich the actual Allyson voice that was always there. I still feel kind of guilty because I’m pretty sure that if she had shopped that final rewrite around to other publishers, it would have been snapped up for a hefty advance, but instead she stuck with us.

    There can be no greater praise than this: Peter S. Beagle loves it. Peter S. Last Goddamn Unicorn Beagle!

    Be warned: the Sonora earthquake near the opening of the story is a definite Bambi’s mother moment and should be approached with great care (or possibly, depending on the kid, just summarized with an extremely rapid, “Oh, no, earthquake! Sam is really sad… hey, look, a barn owl!”), but once that trauma is over the rest of Sam’s story is brisk and thrilling and hopeful.

    If brisk, thrilling and hopeful isn’t your thing, I also can’t recommend Allyson’s book of grown-up essays from a few years back, Will the Vampire People Please Leave The Lobby? highly enough. Much more weary and cigarette-scented and coffee-stained, as is only right and true for tales of fandom craziness, encounters with Munchausen by Internet, and random acts of wild trust and kindness.

    Next up: we were extremely, extremely lucky in being able to snag The Sleeping Partner, the third volume in Madeleine Robins’ Sarah Tolerance series, after her original publisher did a midlist author cull during one of the recent publishing industry bloodbaths. I hadn’t even heard of Miss Tolerance before my senior editor got her creator on board, but for a certain kind of reader (me) she’s pure catnip. If you’re an Austen fan who’s branched out into historicals because you’ve already read everything of Jane’s over and over and you need more – but also the kind of fan who gets infuriated with anachronisms and sloppy historicity and characters that are clearly modern folks in period drag – oh, God, are these for you.

    Robins hates those sloppy writers as much as you do (she started writing in her teens after chucking one such book against the wall and snarling, “Shit, I could do better than this!”), and the Sarah Tolerance books all capture the language, the rhythm, the class and political and physical details of that world dead-on perfectly. When she ran into the problem of how to create a heroine with real power and agency within that world, Robins hit on a brilliant alt-history solution. One small tweak to actual Regency history led to a series of what-ifs rooted in what happened the last time something like that tweak happened in the real world, which led to three novels so far (fourth on its way) about an England that’s both credibly Regency and credibly not, and a woman who you wouldn’t blink at twice if you met her in the Dashwood family parlour, yet who’s also a credible and perfectly rational fencer, detective and occasional crossdresser.

    Starting at the beginning (in this case, with Petty Treason) is of course always best, but if you stumble on Point of Honour or The Sleeping Partner first and can’t find PT, they work solidly both as a series and as standalones.

    We’ve got much more in our catalog, most especially Deborah Grabien’s excellent JP Kinkaid mystery series and Julian Dawson’s fantastic biography of Nicky Hopkins, possibly the greatest rock musician you’ve never heard of, and if you haven’t read them they’re well worth the devouring. Buy them, badger your library for them, gobble them up, but especially please consider Rituals and Sam and Miss Tolerance.

    Where can you find them? Anyplace you find, y’know, books; we’re carried in a few independent bookstores around the US but of course if your local one says “Nope,” you can always get them to order you a copy. It’ll cost a bit more than Amazon, but worth it, because of the whole supporting-an-actual-local-business thing. You can also order directly from the publisher’s website or even Amazon if you must.

    Also, damn but I’m suggestible, because now I’m whimpering and making grabby hands for at least 75% of everything everyone else has posted. No; screw that; I want it ALL (except possibly the Pootie Pads, because I think most of the cat-having folks I know already have a couple).

  31. Frenchy and the Punk does steampunk cabaret: a nice blend of torch songs and ballads and bouncy tunes about their life and times. They sing sly lyrics with a wink and a insouciant grin. I like their latest album more and more as I listen to it, and their earlier offerings are great too.

    Albums are available on iTunes or on CD here: http://www.frenchyandthepunk.com/cdpage.html

  32. And All the Stars (available as an ebook at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and as POD via Amazon worldwide)

    Description:” This Swedish-born Australian author is building up a dedicated readership by word-of-mouth. A terrific apocalyptic alien-invasion read with unexpected twists! Under a tense tale of survival the author manages to examine such things as identity, friendship, love, responsibility. And romance. Oh, the romance! Feelings so strong and deep they make you stop and catch your breath don’t need rediscovery. They need decisions. Daren’t say any more–spoiler territory–but just, soooo many layers. ”

    (Source: Sherwood Smith, The Norton Award now that YA is hip)

    This year I discovered self-published sf&f author Andrea Höst and her oeuvre, which I have now read all of, and then I tried to spread the joy to my friends and found that it’s not just me who really finds excitement, imaginative worldbuilding, great characters and female main characters, plus female friendship attractive to read. Andrea writes science fiction, she writes Young Adult, she writes adult, she writes fantasy. She grew up in Australia, so her point-of-view isn’t US-centric. The first book in her Medair duology – The Silence of Medair – was shortlisted for the 2010 Aurealis Award.

    But let me link to Sherwood Smith, whom I introduced to her work, reviewing three of her books ( because her eloquence is much better at explaining the attraction).

  33. Can a ghost be a murderer?
    Night Rounds by Helene Tursten is a Swedish police procedural grounded in reality…but all indications point to a ghost. What’s the real deal? A neat surprise twist on the last page, too.
    The books were filmed for TV and have been shown on PBS stations — but this book has a different killer than the made-for-TV version!
    I am a bit biased, as I was the translator. Still, it just got Library Journal’s nod as a Five Best Mysteries of 2012!

  34. Glen Cook has consistently written wonderful books over the last 30 years, but I’ll put out a plug for his very best: Passage at Arms.

    A reporter goes on a war patrol on a starship that looks and acts just like a WWII submarine if you squint enough. As a career submariner myself, it really captures the horror and nastiness that I imagine those old boats were like. Think Das Boot in space….

    It was out of print for a while, and I used to troll the used book stores buying every copy I found; I’d loan a copy out, and invariably not get it back… GREAT stuff! And back in print, too!

  35. I cannot recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing enough. If you’ve never read her, you’re in for a real treat. Her newest Vorkosigan Book came out last month–Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance. Finally Ivan has his own book!

    The Chalion and Sharing Knife books are really good, too.

    Also Jasper Fforde has a new Thursday Next book out–The Woman Who Died A Lot. These books crack me up and I’m eagerly awaiting being able to read this one.

  36. @Alexander Case: I second the Bodacious Space Pirates, possibly one of the best anime TV series this year.

    Haibane Renmei was re-released in the US this year by Funimation (I think). This is still one of the, if not the, bet series to come out of Japan in the last 15 years, thoroughly recommended.

    For movies this year I’d recommend Wolf Children and From Up on Poppy Hill.

    I review a LOT of anime, those are my picks for the year.

  37. Here’s something to make (to keep or to give away) along with something to read. Kathy Southern of Studio Kat Designs creates patterns for purses that have loads of features and the patterns include very detailed instructions. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything out there to rival her instructions and website tutorials. Try out one of her freebies if you’d like to get a taste. The purse inserts are a huge hit because they allow you to switch purses so quickly, but the Quattro purse is my idea of beautiful. Actually, my favorite thing is her blog. Her posts range from philosophy of life, to pattern inspiration and creation, to travel log, and finally – there’s even a few cat pictures thrown in. Each day it’s a toss-up, who do I check out first, Scalzi or Kat? Either way, I’ll be impressed. http://www.studiokatdesigns.com

  38. You like to read, don’t you? And you like funny things, right? Funny things about aliens that crashland on earth? Have a go at Stranded on Earth: A Guide for Misplaced Aliens (available from drivethrufiction as a pdf for people who like e-readers http://tinyurl.com/aedhulk; or as a paperback from Lulu http://tinyurl.com/chvm5lh). It’s amusing! Well, I think it’s funny, anyway…
    Calendars – you need a calendar, right? A calendar with adorable squid or octopus versions of sci-fi/comics/gaming characters? Here ya go: http://tinyurl.com/bh5sgrl Scroll down to the October 9th entry.
    For people who enjoy parodies of My Little Pony, here’s a place where you can get MANY things – prints, coloring books, calendars, and probably other stuff I don’t even know about: http://tinyurl.com/85qxdqs
    All things made by friends of mine whose stuff I like – support your local (or not so local) independent artists & writers, you know you want to!

  39. I’m going to have to go with the Solar Clipper series by Nathan Lowell. Start with Quarter Share. It gives a great look at some of the wonderful minutiae of shipboard life when plying the interstellar seas.

  40. Robert Jordan fan…he dies (very unfortunately)…this guy “Brandon Sanderson” takes over…bitter that he doesn’t finish the series quick enough…read Elantris followed quickly by “the way of kings”…now mad that he has taken a break from the way of kings 2 to finish the wheel of time

  41. Zombies of the World by Ross Payton. Because you can never be too informed when it comes to the undead. It’s a non-fiction style nature guide to various zombie species, full of pop-culture references, survival tips, zombie science and history, and some rad artwork.

    Also, since various people have mentioned webcomics, are you following Magical Game Time? If not, you should be. It hits me right in the video game nostalgia organ. (That’s a thing, right?)

  42. Feeling dirty? Then get clean with my favorite hand-made, home-made soap from Ballyhoo Bath:

    Full confession time: I worked in a science museum with the lady who makes this soap. She is awesomely funny, and her soap is awesomely good. Her lipbalms take a moment to get used to, but they are much better than the standard “stuff on a stick”. And, hey – she also has “coal soap”, just for Christmas!

  43. My dear friend Aaron Dietz has written a delightful book about superheroes who work as government employees. Interspersed throughout are the application forms and psychological evaluations YOU would need to fill out if you wanted to work as a government-employed superhero. It’s a delightfully mesmerizing and original take on the superhero genre.

    Not only that, you can read as much as you like of it here:

    If you enjoy it, I’d recommend buying a copy or two. But mostly, I think, Aaron would just like people to read and enjoy his book.

  44. Some of you may know Diane Duane’s “Wizards” series. Less of you may know that she’s updating the early ones (which were written in the early 1980s) and selling them herself as DRM-free ebooks.

    For those of you who don’t know them at all, they’re excellent reads for literate pre-teens and up.

    You’ll find them at http://ebooksdirect.dianeduane.com/ , along with some of her other works, and also Peter Morwood’s gritty fantasy novels and re-telling of old Russian fairy tales.

  45. I thought it might be useful to have something to put all those books in! A product I like as a stocking stuffer is the Flip & Tumble 24-7 shopping bags, available at http://www.flipandtumble.com/. Where I live, everyone brings their own shopping bags because there’s a charge for supermarket bags. I use my Flip & Tumble bag more than any other, because it’s big and strong enough for groceries, books or wine bottles, but also because unlike any other bag I have it both compresses into a tiny squishy ball to fit into a small purse or jacket pocket, and takes about 2 seconds to crush back up into its ball. Most other compressible bags have to be folded neatly to stay in their compressed state, which takes a bit of time and care and a flat surface; this one just stuffs with no folding needed. I have no connection with the makers, other than using their bag all the time.

  46. Three recs:
    1. This should hang around every girl reader’s neck: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Coryographies?ref=shop_sugg
    2. If you haven’t done so yet: Buy the box set of Chuck – fantastic TV show by, with and for the discerning geek.
    3. Highly recommended: Kate Griffin’s Matthew Swift novels (A Madness of Angels, The Midnight Mayor, The Neon Court, The Minority Council); she has just published Stray Souls which is set in the same version of London, with new main characters but a cameo by Matthew Swift. More info here: http://www.kategriffin.net/books/
    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  47. If you’re looking for fantasy or science fiction ebooks and stories, works by C.J. Cherryh, Jane S. Fancher and Lynn Abbey, some of which are new and not available elsewhere, you can find them on Closed Circle.
    These three authors are re-issuing their backlist as e-books on their own Closed Circle site, as fast as they can get the rights back, as well as publishing new stories and books there.
    As a follower of C.J. Cherryh’s blog I was really happy when they started this, as it led me to find the books by Jane Fancher, which I’d never read. They’re good!

    If you’ve been wanting to buy one of Jane Fancher’s books (which have been out of print for a while) and have been prevented by the high prices of those to be found secondhand, here’s your chance at last: both trilogies have been reissued on Closed Circle, as well as new stories and books in these two universes, and a new vampire book.

    C.J. Cherryh has, among quite a few other books (both hard SF and fantasy), a new ‘Foreigner’ short story up exclusively on Closed Circle.
    Besides all these ebooks, there is also a paper graphic novel edition of Gate of Ivrel, by C.J. Cherryh.

    Lynn Abbey also has short stories and e-books up on Closed Circle (though no Thieves’ World yet); recently she’s brought out the Orion’s Childred quartet as e-books.

    Very worthwhile to go and have a look around!

  48. Wow, little chance of being seen way down here, but here’s my go:

    Music: Voltaire’s newest, of course: Bitrektual – songs form Star Trek and Star Wars universes, with surprise guest performers and that tongue in cheek velvety voiced humor of our favorite odd fellow!

    Book: Firefly: A Celebration on Amazon. Out of stock, of course. http://www.amazon.com/Firefly-A-Celebration-Anniversary-Edition/dp/1781161682/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pdT1_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=31F9Q3P2AZKT5&coliid=ICEBIYFOQCJ5P

    A GREAT other choice is the book “Geek Wisdom”. A fabulous little “prayer book” for the geeky. Compares and melds our geek history with the “real world”. Creates TRUE philosophy out of WIITWD. And it’s funny.

    Comeeks: Loving the Deadpool stuff where he takes out all the fairy tale people, and also kills off Marvel. Something about his attitude… and dance abilities!
    Online, I’m enjoying Questionable Content, and thoroughly enjoyed everything about Phoenix Requiem.

    Pini’s Masque of the Red Death, OMG. Also – were you aware that ALL of Elfquest is now online for free? And that io9.com also puts up pages of new stuff? Hot damn!

    Fun wearable oddity: etsy Want, Make, Have. Made to order cunning Jayne hats AND matching scarves, Hellboy hats, other crocheted items upon request. http://www.etsy.com/shop/wantmakehave?ref=pr_faveshops

    Many Etsy shops have amazing handmade/repurposed things. Chemistry jewelry, geek themed stuff, leather, knit, crochet, wire… Talk about supporting a small company.

    And the reason for the season:

    My absolutely FAVORITE charity is charitywater.org. Give the gift of fresh pure clean water. It is changing the world. Even a few dollars donated can add up to one more well. One more girl or boy who can attend school because they don’t have to tote and carry. One more person who doesn’t die from a water borne illness.

  49. Favorite Etsy shops:

    La Perla Pottery. I love the bright colors, and she does custom orders (though those wouldn’t be ready in time for Christmas).

    Jezebel Charms. Jewelry with literary themes, particularly Austen, Shakespeare, and Sherlock Holmes, as well as other interesting images. Only going to arrive in time for Christmas if you’re in the UK. (And I did not need to see that she has a Rosetta Stone bracelet now.)

    Beanforest and the Calamity Collective. Small pinback buttons or magnets with fun sayings; I’m particularly fond of “I’ve been nervous ever since Chekhov’s gun went missing” and “Edmond Dantès taught me everything I know about diplomacy”.

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