Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2015, Day Four: Fan Favorites

For the first three days of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2015, 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 authorsnon-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.

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.

78 Comments on “Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2015, Day Four: Fan Favorites”

  1. I’ve recently started re reading some childhood favorites: the Swallows and the Amazon series by Arthur Ransome. I find I like them just as much now that I am an adult, and I’m noticing things I missed as a child. Many of them are available as eBooks, and Amazon.com has most of them in paperback as well.

  2. The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
    This is the series that got me reading Fantasy, my gateway to Science Fiction. I make it a point t reread this every few years and I hope to read it to my son when he gets just a bit older.
    The (admittedly terrible) Disney movie The Black Cauldron was (very loosely) based on the first two books.

  3. NDN Silver by Wings is stunning and gorgeous jewelry and collectibles made by Native Silversmith Wings, who uses traditional methods for stampwork and shaping silver. Browse the galleries to see the pieces he’s created and has for sale, or he also designs things by commission if a piece you like has been sold or doesn’t completely match your vision. I both own pieces from Wings and have given them as gifts, and they’ve never failed to impress. (The daily blog written by his wife Aji on the site goes into great detail about the materials they use and NDN life; worth a read even if you aren’t interested in buying anything.)

    Willie Ru Designs are hand crocheted scarves and cowls by my friend Karen; she has a great eye for color and design.

    Snoopydawg Photography has excellent photographs available as prints in a variety of sizes and styles; primarily nature photography but not exclusively.

  4. I’m currently obsessed with the hammered metal jewelry at Alloa Baby. She sells center pieces and chains that end in lobster clasps, so you can clip different pieces in and out. Or double up on chains/links to make your necklace longer. My favorite charm currently is a toss up between the Deathly Hallows and a custom piece I had made that has the Virgo and Sagitarrius astrological symbols linked together (representing my partner and I).

    Here’s a link to her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AlloaBaby/

  5. [Deleted because, as a reminder, “Individually created and completed works only, please.” A computer operating system, even if you think it’s cool, doesn’t quite fit under this rubric, nor in my opinion is it something that’s generally going to be considered a holiday gift — JS]

  6. Just before Christmas, in 1998, a bar is robbed. The moonlighting cop didn’t get permission to bounce. The only way he can keep his job? Bring in the skels that did it.
    He saw them, but the only solid evidence is a glass with a partial print on it. There’s a match. There’s more than one match. There’s over a thousand matches.

    And why has he become unstuck in time?

    The future is about to change, and it all revolves around that one stupid bar snatch and grab.

    From the author of Quantum and Woody, Black Panther, and Power Man and Iron Fist. From the man who redefined Batman’s origin, comes a episodic pulp story of bad decisions, horrible relationships, super powers, giant robots, kung fu action, and people just trying to make it through the next day.



    The first hit’s only 99 cents. Enjoy.

    (Thank you, Mr. Scalzi, for this opportunity)

  7. I’m a big fan of Alex Hughes’ Mindspace Investigations series. It’s sci-fi mystery set in a gritty, not-too-distant future with telepathy, telekinesis, and a wonderfully flawed cast of characters. Here’s the link to Ms. Hughes’ Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Hughes/e/B008ELKJCG/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1449151835&sr=1-2
    If it sounds like something of interest for you, then I recommend giving her short from the series, Rabbit Trick, a try since it’s currently on sale.

  8. If you were listening to local music in Tempe, Arizona during the 90s then you would remember Art Edwards as the bass player from The Refreshments.
    If you were not in Tempe, there is at least one Refreshments song you already know, the theme from TV’s King of the Hill.
    You might have even caught them on Conan
    or seen their videos back in 1996.
    Art has traded his guitar for a pen, and so far he has written three Rock Novels (in a projected series of ten).
    Art’s first novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, released in 2003 and re-released on Defunct Press in 2008, was made into a feature film, which premiered in 2013.
    Art’s second novel, Ghost Notes, released on his own imprint Defunct Press in 2008, won the 2009 PODBRAM Award for best work of contemporary fiction.
    His third novel, Badge (2014), was named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Literary Contest for 2011.
    You can buy the books from Amazon, or you could buy them directly from Art, cut out the middle man, and save a few bucks.
    You can buy each book for $5, or bundle the three books and his solo CD “Songs from Memory” for $20.
    Josh “Hote” Hotle, twenty-one-year-old bass player, wants to get the hell out of Phoenix. The time is April of 1990, one year before Seattle’s grunge music scene breaks nationwide, and those with their pop music ears to the ground recognize something big happening in the rainy Northwest. Hote is tuned in to these rumblings, and Seattle poses what might be the perfect solution to his problems: his boring hometown, the catatonic Tempe music scene, the ashes of his recently defunct band, the sweltering Phoenix summer just around the corner. His car is packed with all of his things, he is ready to go. One easy right turn onto the freeway and Hote is a free man. But a funny thing happens on his way out of town…
    A bass player ready to jump ship from his mega-band, a drifter who hasn’t seen his son for twenty years, a sixteen-year-old high school dropout who’s going to rock the world come hell or high water, what melodies will pour forth from these rock ‘n’ roll hearts?
    Josh “Hote” Hotle should have no complaints. He’s a founding member of Fun Yung Moon, a band that’s sold 2.6 million copies of its debut record. He’s seen his face on MTV mixed in with the biggest music names of the day, tours the country in an airbrushed bus, plays stages other musicians would kill just to stand on.
    But all is not well. It’s 1995, and while the tidal wave of grunge rolls on, Fun Yung Moon’s sophomore record is dead in the water, with a single no one plays, a failing tour, and band members with their own agendas. Back home, his wife Celia is oddly distant, and perhaps worst of all, Hote can’t find the magic in the music anymore, that special pulse that propelled him through the songs and made the course of his life clear.
    One day on the road, Celia reveals to Hote she’s been unfaithful, which sends Hote on a three-day odyssey through Orange County, culminating in an encounter with a father he’s never known. He meets many others along the way, but none as captivating as Betty, a sixteen-year-old singer/songwriter who wants more from Hote than an autograph on her ticket stub. Will Hote find renewed hope through Betty, or is his spirit as doomed as his dead heroes, haunting the rock ‘n’ roll afterworld, learning too late the cruel backlash of rock music immortality?
    AGING ROCK GUITARIST BADGE drank and screwed his way out of his best chance at life. For eight years he’s managed to stay off the booze and, not coincidentally, out of the music business. But in 2000, flat broke and fearing passionless days ahead, he accepts work in Los Angeles with a new artist, young punk diva Betty. The gig promises great pay, professional studios and Badge’s last chance to rock at the top of the heap, that is, if he can keep his mind on the music and away from bars, back alleys and backstage temptations that greet him at every turn. Meanwhile, the music business is undergoing monumental change, with bands turning to the Internet to reach their fan bases and record companies making criminals of their customers. With a lead singer looking for more from her guitarist than memorable solos, a ten-year-old son curious about his dad’s new world, and an ex-wife who misses nothing, Badge navigates both home and rock life with values accrued in a bygone era, and toward a future as murky as a used shot glass. Badge was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Literary Contest for 2011.

  9. My friend Megan is a poet and she has a book! (Please forgive the brief nature of my post, Megan has all the pretty words, I usually just do pictures)http://www.amazon.com/Fleeting-Heart-Megan-Benjamin-Evans-ebook/dp/B00NMX91QG?tag=todbaredi-20

  10. The mini-series is new this year, the book is not. Both are worth your time.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, adapted from the 2004 novel by Susanna Clarke. The show is a seven hour mini-series, which could have been a maybe an hour longer, but still very good.Starring Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan in the title roles, with excellent performances from Marc Warren, Charlotte Riley, Enzo Cilenti, Paul Key, Vincent Franklin, Ronan Vibert, Edward Hogg and Brian Pettifer among others.

    This show did not get enough nerd love on Twitter in my never humble opinion.

  11. I read and recommend short ebooks and collections of short writing. I have an entire year’s worth of book recommendations over on my site. This week’s recommendation strikes me as a particularly good candidate for a holiday gift. It is called Joy to the Worlds, and is a collection of speculative fiction short stories that all have something to do with Christmas. I really enjoyed it, and think it would be a great gift for any speculative fiction fans on your list.

    Here’s my post about it, which has a little more info and links to retail sites where you can buy it:

  12. Handmade soaps, lotions, and other personal care items and cosmetics, by an amazing lady in Kansas:
    Foam on the Range on Etsy
    Foam on the Range on Amazon
    (The bars are gorgeous, their scents not overwhelming, and things like her shampoo bars and detangling spray have been called “magic” in my hearing. My hands survive only because of her lotions in the winter. All her soap has great lather, but I’d especially recommend the soaps made with beer (the Hops in the Shower line). No, they don’t smell like beer. But they lather like cream.)

  13. I’ve been buying jewelry from Wyrding Studios for years and I’ve never been disappointed. They make gorgeous one of a kind wirework jewelry and are available for custom work. http://wyrdingstudios.com

    In case there are still people out there who haven’t heard SJ Tucker’s music, you should go listen! Amazing folky bluesy songs and several albums based on Cathrynne Valente’s books http://http://sjtucker.com/

    Inciting Defiance is an etsy shop that sells great shirts that are, in the owner’s words “from in-your-face to under the radar.” My favorite thing that he does isn’t a shirt though, its these appreciation cards: https://www.etsy.com/listing/243906751/appreciation-cards-30-pack?ref=shop_home_active_3 They’re cheap and it makes people happy when you hand them one. You could maybe throw one in your Christmas cards?

    Speaking of cards, this etsy shop has hilarious adorable cards for all occasions https://www.etsy.com/shop/KatieAbeyDesign

  14. For the cutest simply drawn, but emotionally beautiful cartoons, pick up one of Liz Climo’s books – she’s a former Simpsons animator with a bunch of her own cartoon books appropriate for both kids and adults –

    Lobster is the Best Medicine – http://www.amazon.com/Lobster-Best-Medicine-Collection-Friendship/dp/0762458682/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1449156336&sr=1-1&keywords=liz+climo – is her newest…

    The Little World of Liz Climo is an earlier book, and one that’s great for young kids is Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad

  15. If you’re looking for some bookends to hold up all of Mr. Scalzi’s books you’ve bought, you can’t go wrong with purchasing some amazingly beautiful polished rock ones from The Rock Shed. I bought some for my SIL last Xmas for her collection of cookbooks and I was totally jealous that I had to actually give them to her. Super well wrapped when shipped, beautifully made, reasonably prices.

  16. Have to recommend my current favourite indie musician, Aaron English (aaronenglish.com).

    Vocalist & pianist based in Seattle, his band is heavily influenced by art rock/prog rock like Peter Gabriel, especially on the first album, “All The Waters of the World”. I found later albums moved more toward adult contemporary pop, but still with a layered art rock edge. Has had top 20 hits in Italy & in US secondary markets, but is, at heart, a traveling singer-songwriter with a gift for lyrical imagery & lush melodies that simply wash over you. I never grow tired of listening.


    Check out a live show: artistdata.sonicbids.com/aaron-english/shows/

  17. Series of three pacy adventure novels, set in alternative history early 1950s. Starts with flying Seafires in the Korean war, follows the protagonist through return to civilian life as engineer, jazz trombonist, troubleshooter. If you liked Jo Walton’s Small Change series you might like these. Author writing as Carn Tiernan http://www.amazon.com/Carn-Tiernan/e/B00MD8HTL0

    The Man who saw Clearly
    Trouble in Mind

  18. The Drift Designs – Found this maker at a local market and I LOVE her funky, handmade brass jewelry – earrings, rings, pendants, etc.

    The rings especially aren’t a shape or design I’ve seen anywhere else, which is always something I look for in a gift. Worth checking out!

  19. Although I’m sure that Seanan McGuire is (rightly) known for her amazing fiction such as the “October Daye” series, I would like to recommend her fantastic music! Her CD’s are available on her website as well as “CD Baby”. I would recommend any of her works, but my personal favorite is “Wicked Girls”.
    Wish I were more technically savvy and could provide links, etc. but this music is really worth a little search!

  20. I’d like to recommend the latest book by a fellow named Michael Perry. Perry is an up-nort’ Wisconsin agnostic farmer who combines incredible writing skills with a well-honed wit. He started out writing mostly non-fiction but earlier this year published his first adult fiction work. To quote from his website:

    “Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A well-armed woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. His best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to avoid the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called “a scene.”

    “Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a percentage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?”

    The book is called “The Jesus Cow” (not a religious book despite the title) and I’d recommend it as a good read for folks who enjoy their philosophy well-leavened with humor. His website is here: https://sneezingcow.com/product/jesuscow/.

    Also, not that she needs my recommendation, but Elise Mattheson who posted in yesterday’s thread does some amazing work; I own several of her pieces and get compliments every time I wear them.

  21. Since someone else will inevitably mention the awesomeness of both OGH and his brilliant nemesis, Brandon Sanderson, I’m going to plug my favorite alternate-history series.


    The Belisarius series, by Eric Flint and David Drake. Short version: Evil robot Nazis from the future send a creepy cyborg back in time to the 6th century AD to build an evil racist empire and conquer the world. Benevolent energy beings from the future send a telepathic computer back in time to do the same thing. What ensues is a Crazy Awesome epic involving skilfully-rendered medieval strategy and tactics, ridiculous amounts of testosterone, and Belisarius’s wife pwning basically everybody because she’s awesome.

    Why you should buy it rather than getting it from the Baen Free Library: Eric Flint deserves the cash, and seriously, this series is awesome.

    Why you should read it:
    1. Because 90% of the cast is non-Caucasian, including the guys who finally beat the villains.

    2. Because Rana Sanga in general.

    3. Because Antonina (Belisarius’s wife) spends about half her time chewing out her subordinates for not thinking and half her time humiliating the opposition. Her friend Irene runs rings around the greatest spymasters in the world while still having time to teach her boyfriend how to read and write, and starts an Afghan empire (yes, an AFGHAN empire, that will eventually rule basically the area of the USSR) in her spare time. Who says medieval women can’t use societal prejudice to their advantage? Nobody expects a general’s wife to be able to fight…until she butchers a dozen thugs sent to kill her with a cleaver and boiling porridge.

    4. Because you want a classic sword-and-sandal epic but you’re tired of such books always being about generic white guys.

    5. Because Ousanas (a Central African hunter who kills elephants by himself, sneaks up on the ultimate assassin without being detected, and kills bad guys with his bare hands) is probably the most educated character in the series, to the point that he learned Greek (his 13th language out of about 25) just to study Plato in the original Greek. Take That, “noble savage” stereotype!

    6. Because Romans with radio and machine-guns is just a really freaking cool idea, and the authors actually know medieval strategy and tactics and render them beautifully.

    7. Because Flint and Drake use Shahanshah Khosrau I Anushiruwan in the 3rd through 6th books, and they do him right. It’s about time Sassanid Persia got some attention!

    8. Did I mention that 90% of the cast is nonwhite, including the guys who actually finally defeat the villains once and for all?

    9. Because finally, someone calls out the Hindu caste system for being a gigantic violation of human rights.

    10. Because the manliness in this series is so intense that NASA uses it as rocket fuel.

    11. Because I can’t give any more reasons without spoiling the series, since a lot of the most awesome things that Rana Sanga does are plot-relevant.

  22. I love making gift recommendations. Which is a bit of a problem since I’m one of those “What do I want for Christmas- not a damn thing” people.

    It is tough to buy books for book lovers unless they specifically tell you what they want. But I found and have given two little books that are a big hit. Both are small and physically charming and, while not unknown, probably not something most people will already have. One is “Forgotten Bookmarks” by Michael Popek. I spent hours poring over it and gave copies to my brother, sister and a friend who haunts used book stores. They shared my reaction. The other is “An Common Reader” by Alan Bennett. Just a charming little book about discovering reading. Gave it to the Anglophiles I know (Mom, sister-in-law and a friend) and they all fell in love.

    Most people don’t have parents as old as mine (Dad passed away early this year at 91 and Mom is 89) but a couple of years ago I gave Dad an Andy Griffith CD “Wit & Wisdom of Andy Griffith”. Most very elderly people have vision problems, can’t deal with newer tech and have fond memories of Griffith. Everyone laughed uproariously over this and it gave Dad hours of pleasure when he couldn’t do much.

    I was going to mention the best gift I ever received but it involves a charity not a created work so I’ll save it for another time :)

  23. Anyone here like tabletop gaming?

    Cheapass Games is a small company based in Seattle with a range of offbeat games.

    Unfortunately, the anniversary edition of “Kill Doctor Lucky” won’t be out in time for Christmas this year (the Kickstarter just wrapped last month). Two games printed this year that I’ve had fun playing, and which should be currently available at your Friendly Local Game Store (or via online ordering) are:

    “Lord of the Fries” — Zombie fast food workers try to fill orders with random cards from their hands.

    “Stuff and Nonsense” — Bluff the Adventurers’ Club into thinking you’ve gone on expeditions to far-off lands, when you’ve actually never left London.

    You can find more information and ordering links at http://www.cheapass.com .

  24. Going to recommend two albums by singer-songwriter Heather Dale. I’m never much good at specifying genres, but I’d say “celtic folk” or “bardic” or just “storytelling folk”? A lot of different flavours available, but two that feel really good this season are the newest album Imagineer (http://heatherdale.com/imagineer/) and the Christmas-themed album This Endris Night (http://heatherdale.com/christmas/), which has become the inaugural Christmas Music CD for many of my friends’ December music lineup.

  25. I’m recommending a non-fiction book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt. It’s basically the author’s findings and conclusions after twenty years of studying moral psychology, written to appeal to a wide audience. It’s a very engaging and thought-provoking read; I’d recommend it to anyone, but especially to anyone interested in psychology or political discourse.

    Here’s the author’s TED-talk, if you want a sample of what he has to say:

    And here’s an amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Righteous-Mind-Divided-Politics-Religion/dp/0307455777/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449161022&sr=8-1

  26. One of my favorite jewelry makers is Twisted Sister Arts. She does commissions and is fast! If you like one of her creations, but would prefer a different colored eye or a different colored wire, she will happily make it for you. Great prices, excellent customer service. Plus, the jewelry comes in lovely lavender/purple boxes, perfect for gift-giving. The stuff she has currently available is here:

    But you can see a wider range of her creations in the review/feedback section:

  27. Time to recommend books? It really is the most wonderful time of the year…

    If you’re shopping for someone who loves YA fantasy, definitely try K.M. Shea’s Timeless Fairy Tales series (http://kmshea.com/timeless-fairy-tales/). They’re self-pubbed (therefore cheap and great for stocking stuffers), but Shea shells out for editors, and they’re tons of fun. They all feature female protagonists who are definitely strong, but in different ways- for example,the protagonist of The Wild Swans is a fantastically competent accountant, whereas the one in Puss in Boots is a sword-swinging, legend-inspiring adventurer. There’s strong plotting, hints that the stories will all tie together, and some deliciously screwy humor.

    For YA non-fantasy, I suggest A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet trilogy (http://www.acgaughen.com/scarlet/), which, yes, is another Robin Hood retelling with some genderbending, but is also well-written, full of heart, and has actual age-appropriate relationship mess-ups and a heroine with her own mind. Also: Robin Hood!

    And if you’re into epic fantasy, you really can’t go wrong with Michael J. Sullivan and his Riyria series (http://riyria.blogspot.com/p/books.html). Plays some tropes straight, subverts some others, and is probably the most fun I’ve had with a fantasy series in five years.

  28. Thanks John! This series of blog comments has had a huge influence on my shopping habits (and wishlist) for the past couple of years, I really appreciate that you do this.

    I’ve got a new book that I’m a big fan of – it’s for “middle grade” readers (the step below YA) – but I find I enjoyed it quite a bit. A little magic, a little mystery, a little bibliophilia, and a lot of growing up.
    The Rosemary Spell, by Virginia Zimmerman
    Available at Amazon and your local bookstore: http://www.amazon.com/Rosemary-Spell-Virginia-Zimmerman/dp/0544445376/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449169853&sr=8-1&keywords=rosemary+spell

  29. Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory by Eugenia Cheng. Includes actual recipes, occasional glimpses of living as a British mathematician with visible differences from most of one’s peers, and a lot of cool mathematical ideas. Category theory didn’t exist one hundred years ago, it is now the backbone of a large portion of current mathematics, and it is incredibly cool – this is mathematics which doesn’t come in formulas but in diagrams. Feel free to check the author’s other books and/or her videos, she’s also an accomplished pianist.

    Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg. Maybe you noticed somewhere a gorgeous image of the Indo-European language tree? It isn’t a standalone illustration, but part of a much larger project by a Finnish artist, a graphic novel mixing science fiction and fantasy about a world were a mysterious illness has destroyed almost all civilization leaving behind only zombies, except for Iceland that has closed its frontiers early enough, and who’s now finally able, ninety years after the disaster, to send a first expedition (including two mages and a cat) to investigate the “silent world”. The first physical book in the series should go on sale next week at Hivemill; in the meantime, you can buy the e-book (also of Minna’s previous work, the fantasy “A redtail’s dream”) and art prints.

  30. For me it’s books. I particularly recommend Glen Cook:
    – all the chronicles of the Black Company
    – the Garrett, P.I. fantasy noir detective series
    Want to know why: check out wikipedia.
    All still available via Amazon and/or your local bookstore.

  31. For some great character driven SF, try Derelict (Halcyone Space, book 1) by LJ Cohen.
    I just started book 2, Ithaka Rising, and can’t wait for more of this series by this author!

  32. One of the best board games I’ve ever played is Cthulhu Wars by Petersen Games, headed by Sandy Petersen, who wrote a lot of Call of Cthulhu stuff for Chaosium in the 80s, was a level designer for Doom, worked on Halo Wars, etc. Long history of game design, clearly knows his stuff. Picture Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath, Hastur, Nyarlathotep and other Mythos creatures maneuvering to be the first to destroy the world.

    It has fantastic (and huge) miniatures, really tight rules, and plenty of strategic depth without being overwhelming. Plays in about an hour with four. It’s pricey, and the second-round Kickstarter just finished up, but you can check it out and be a late backer here if you want; everything’s still available: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1816687860/cthulhu-wars-onslaught-two/description

  33. Sphere Ensemble is a classical group that plays a wide variety of wonderful music. Their debut album, Divergence, contains original pieces and covers of Styx, Ravel, Regina Spektor, and others. Colorado Public Radio lists Divergence among their top albums of the year. The tunes are lively and touching. The arrangements are thoughtful and precise. The production is impeccable.

    Most people fall in love Butterfly Jig but I adore All the Rowboats. You can get links for samples and purchasing at the link below.

  34. If you’re interested in felted animals, dolls, and other cute items, I’d like to recommend my mom’s Etsy shop. My favorite item is the green parakeet she made, it’s very cute. She made me a blue one for my birthday this year, and it’s sitting on a shelf next to everything else she’s made for me! She also has a lot of great useful items like dryer balls, pot holders, and a few ceramic items like bowls and cups. She spends a lot of time working on new items for the shop, and while I am most definitely biased, I think they’re all pretty cute.


  35. I heartily recommend The Acts of Caine by Matthew Stover:

    The first book has some of my favorite passages I’ve ever read – you would instantly be able to tell from my copy, as the loving wear-and-tear would point them up pretty quickly. It is not for the squeamish – it features a bitter, angry assassin as the titular anti-hero, although given the nihilistic view of the “more advanced” society it is somewhat optimistic. But more would be telling …

    I will second the earlier recommendations for Lloyd Alexander:

    and Glen Cook:

    and Girl Genius:

    My wife also loves Mark Poulin’s jewelry – he hits the art fair/art and wine festivals in the South Bay regularly, so she oohs and ahhs over something and I send her away and buy it to give it to her later :<)

    I will also recommend Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books. The first book has a plot-relevant section where our heroine derives some basic orbital mechanics via observation and careful reasoning that had me thinking "Now that's totally how it would work!". The later books have one of the most interesting and alien first contact situation I've ever read.

  36. Don’t know what to get the fan who has everything? Looking for a way to Pay it Forward? For the Heinlein fans in your life, try The Virginia Edition: the Complete Works of Robert A. Heinlein. This treasure trove includes letters and material unavailable anywhere else–unless you fancy wading through the online archives (free access for one year with purchase of the Virginia Edition). Yes, it’s a little pricey, but it’s worth every penny. Each volume comes with an introductory essay by William Patterson &/or Robert James, both serious Heinlein scholars. If the Virginia Edition is still a bit out of reach, then the Heinlein biographies by Patterson (volumes 1 and 2) are both available from finer bookstores everywhere. http://www.virginiaedition.com

  37. Seconding the recommendation for Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman books. I heard about them first from her post in the author recommendation thread a year or two ago and now at least three of my friends are fans too.

    I’d like to recommend the work of a couple of singer-songwriters I know.

    Marissa Lauren put out her first EP, Now & Forever, last May. She’s also got an EP of holiday music just released. Her voice is sweet and her songs are lovely. The recordings are available at iTunes and Amazon. Here’s a YouTube link to her singing “For Forever,” which is on the EP: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3V5EK203D4
    (I’ve been in a songwriting workshop with Marissa, and she sang on a couple of demos of my songs.)

    Ben Wilkins released his second album, All From Hello, earlier this year. He writes interesting pop songs with a jazz flavor and a string section. That album, and his first self-titled release, is available on Amazon and iTunes.
    Here’s the very clever video for his song “Through To You,” off his first album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LIe8VB_WQU
    (Ben is writing music for my lyrics on a theater project, and he helped with those above mentioned demos, too.)

  38. I’d like to recommend some electronic music with a bit of a space feel to it. The EP is called Sine Dust by 36 and it’s excellent.

    All the tracks have a similar feel to them and that is by design. 36 artist, Dennis Huddleston, says “I wanted to make an EP that had a strictly defined sound and theme, which continued from beginning to end, using a limited array of instruments to tell the story.” And it’s a good story. The synths have a sort of retro feel without being kitschy or obvious. The touch here is just perfect. And the tracks work nicely for an astronomical theme.


  39. If you are buying for kids, particularly in the 8-12 range, I and my sprogs have greatly enjoyed: Ursula Vernon’s middle-grade books (the Dragonbreath series, the just launched Hamster Princess series and the standalones Nurk and Castle Hangnail), Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn comics, and the “Princeless” graphic novels.

    For all/most ages, the artist known as “Ignuanamouth” has an amazing and delightful series of “Unusual Dragon Hoards” available as prints and stickers and such; my favorites are the Hoard of Jellyfish, Hoard of Stars, Hoard of Eevee-lutions, and the Hoard of Kittens: http://iguanamouth.storenvy.com/ (there are a few that aren’t strictly safe-for-work, though, as some of her commissioners wanted their dragons to collect things that were a bit more risque)

  40. Gene Mapper / Taiyo Fujii. San Francisco : Haikasoru, 2015.
    Trade paperback, $14.99

    Gene Mapper is the most innovative SF book I’ve read this year. GMO and VR and our fragile link to preserving all the usable info on the Internet — Fujii has taken these topics in a new direction and woven all these threads into an exciting tale. The Third act is not obvious from the start.

    Dr. Phil


  41. Can not recommend Kate Beaton’s work enough. “Step Aside Pops” and “The Princess and the Pony” are both excellent. Pops skews older so it’s perfect for adults and older kids while Princess is great for younger kids but is entertaining enough that adults won’t mind reading it over and over.

    Step Aside Pops on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Step-Aside-Pops-Vagrant-Collection/dp/1770462082/ref=sr_1_1?

    The Princess and the Pony on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/The-Princess-Pony-Kate-Beaton/dp/0545637082/ref=pd_sim_14_2

    Kate Beaton’s page at TopatoCo – https://www.topatoco.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=TO&Category_Code=BEAT

  42. I’ve loved everything that I’ve read by Australian anthor Andrea K Host- she has psychic space ninjas, Egyptopagan clockpunk, a clash of sun-gods, and other cool worldbuilding, all wrapped up with compelling plots and characters you want to spend time with, of all genders and ages. Her 2015 book Pyramids of London is on my “hmm, maybe nominate for a Hugo?” list. http://www.andreakhost.com/p/bibliography.html

    Also on my “Hugo?” list is one of the novellas in Martha Well’s Stories of the Raksura collection this year. Wells has been writing off-the-beaten-track fantasy with interesting characters for years, and I particularly like her Raksura books- set in a world with many intelligent species, the protagonist is a shapeshifter who has been separated from his own kind for years and is just trying to find somewhere to fit in. http://marthawells.com/

  43. Thanks for the opportunity, John.

    My wife creates decorative tile mosaics embedded with jewelry and charms. They’re very eye-catching and often seem to have a story behind them.

    You can see examples of her artwork via the Etsy shop and Facebook links on her website: http://fairytreasurestones.com

    Highly recommended, in my admittedly biased opinion ;)

  44. Two books that are absolute favourites of mine, the obscure one from my childhood is Bows Against the Barons, a 1934 children’s book by Geoffrey Trease about a young serf who kills a nobles deer and has to run away and ends up joining Robin Hood’s outlaws. It’s very of it’s time but was an amazing read for 13 year old me.


    There’s also Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a tale about the Antichrist, Armageddon, two opposing agents of heaven and hell who go a bit native and the true and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.

  45. For the graphic novel fan in your life:

    LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: NEMO TRILOGY–This graphic novel trilogy spinoff from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN series follows the adventures of Janny Nemo, daughter of Captain Nemo through odd 20th century cultural byways. You don’t need to know every single cultural reference made in the series to enjoy it.

    WE STAND ON GUARD–Brian K. Vaughn currently produces other excellent comics besides SAGA. This tale, illustrated by Steve Skroce, follows a small Canadian resistance group 100 years from now as they fight off an occupation by American military forces.

    LUMBERJANES–What if Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a Girl Scout? The answer might be something like this series collected in graphic novel format about a group of wannabe scouts (the titular Lumberjanes) trying to earn merit badges while fighting off supernatural beasties.

    HILO–THE BOY WHO FELL TO EARTH–Superhero action for the younger set courtesy of veteran comics writer/artist Judd Winick. An average boy in a family of overachievers befriends an amnesiac boy who literally falls to earth from outer space. But munching on grass and zipping through an encyclopedia in minutes isn’t the only odd thing about him. A wonderful mix of action, drama, and humor for the young and the young at heart. Worth it just for the wonderful gag of seeing Hilo use a raccoon to help him enroll in school. The salad dressing gag isn’t bad either.

    SANDMAN OVERTURE–In this long-awaited prequel to Neil Gaiman’s classic comics series THE SANDMAN, Gaiman finally tells the story of what left Dream of The Endless so weak that he was captured at the start of THE SANDMAN series. Backed by some incredible artwork from J.H. Williams III (PROMETHEA, BATWOMAN: ELEGY), this is a must-have.

    MS.MARVEL–Kamala Khan is a big teenage fan of Captain Marvel and a superhero geek living in Jersey City with her more traditional Muslim family. After sneaking out to a party, she accidentally gains the power to “enbiggen” or shrink parts of her body. G. Willow Wilson writes and Adrian Alphona (among others) draws these utterly charming tales of Kamala’s life both in and out of costume. Wilson doesn’t need to spell out that Muslim Americans are pretty much as normal as non-Muslim Americans. She shows it and does so entertainingly.

  46. A former colleague and friend, Jerry Day, does some wonderful photography, mainly in the various deserts of the West and Southwest. Much of it is done at night with illumination.

    And how cool is this–he retired early and is now traveling the country!

    Check out the galleries at Dark Sky Dreams, http://www.darkskydreams.com/

  47. I’m going to go with the best books I’ve read this year, but not being American, I don’t know what widely popular over there, so apologies if I recommend something that everybody else has already read. I’ll try not to.

    First of all, Kate Griffin has come out with Kitty Peck and The Child of Ill fortune – the sequel to Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders. Both take place in London’s underground in the 1880’s and both are about the girl Kitty Peck who, at first is a seamstress in a place that shows girls singing and dancing – all owned by the crone Lady Ginger, whom everybody fears. In the first book, show girls are starting to disappear and Lady Ginger sets Kitty on the task of getting them back, or at least find out where they’ve disappeared to. Why she would choose a simple seamstress for this task becomes obvious during the book, but I don’t dare saying much else, or I’ll risk spoiling it for some. In the sequel, she find her long lost brother and ends up taking the infant child of one of his friends to London, as there are people seeking to kill the child. Well – those people have both resources and motives to track them down and so Kitty finds herself in over her neck once again. Generally, I like the series so far. The places and people are well described and I like Kitty Peck, as a person. As it’s a series, you can guess that the protagonist does survive, but that’s doesn’t mean she’s spared from bad events and the second book does go to a very dark place. In a “want to punch the writer for this” dark place.

    The second books I’ll recommend is The Incarnations by Susan Barker, which I just finished reading. It came out last year, but I just read it now. Driver Wang is just a normal taxi driver, living and working in Beijing. One day, he finds a letter, in his own taxi, written by someone who knows a lot about him and his life, but it’s not just a regular stalker; this person claims to have known Driver Wang in several previous lives and wants to tell about this. After that, we follow Driver Wang, as he tries to find out who his stalker is, but he also learns a lot about himself on the way. This interwoven with the stories of part lives told in the letters from this strange person. Both the present story and the past ones are very interesting and full of all kinds of drama and I did not guess who the stalker was before very late in the book – plus I didn’t expect it to end the way it did. Be aware, though that it has a lot of violence, so don’t buy it for anyone the least bit squeamish. You can read it as fantasy with some magical things happening or as the rantings of a lunatic stalker, who happens to know a lot about history.

  48. If you’re ever in San Francisco or LA, and you like coffee, get some Philz Coffee (http://www.philzcoffee.com/). When I had to move away from SF, I didn’t anticipate how much I would miss it (I’m sure nostalgia is also affecting my taste).

    One of my favorite non-fiction books is still “The Dark Lady of DNA” by Brenda Maddox. It’s a biography on Rosalind Franklin and her work on discovering the structure of DNA. It also touches on some of the issues of being a female scientist in the 1940’s. I read it when I was a struggling graduate student, so I connected to it well. I think anyone who is struggling with their work or career would also connect.

  49. New album by a great band. Always awesome live shows.

    A great building toy for kids. Available from Fatbrain but designed by a friend of mine. My kids love it.

    Wonderful artist and friend. Kitchen Art Prints and paper goods about French Cuisine & wine, foods, illustrated recipes and kitchen conversions as well as art prints and cards for the Baby Nursery featuring cute woodland animals. Whimsical and fun.

    Really cool storage idea from a great little company out of Montana. Bought lots of their coffee gear also. Great customer service.

    Speaking of coffee fantastic and entertaining roaster from Arizona. Check out his reviews.

    Another small independent roaster with some extremely high quality beans

  50. I’ll put in a plug for my friend, British author Susan Boulton’s “gaslamp” fantasy novel, Oracle. Set in a newly industrialized secondary world, it’s a political thriller and story of lost chances centered around a woman forced to become a creature of prophecy. If you like historical/alt historical fantasy or secondary world fantasy with a Victorian flavor, this novel offers train crashes, gun battles, spies, and ancient magics in a style reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh and Naomi Novik.

    You can get it at the usual places or direct from the publisher at: http://shop.ticketyboopress.co.uk/index.php?id_product=43&controller=product

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