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Posts Tagged ‘Mysteries’

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Summer is finally here — the bugs, the heat and humidity, and even the news, all call for mysteries where the problem at hand is successfully solved, leaving the reader with hopes for the next story of that detective’s travails.

 

FC9780544292666.jpgNorwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller (2013) – Every once in a while, an author tells a story in a way that makes the reader feel as if they have stumbled on something fresh and new. This is one such story. We quickly meet 82-year old Saul, a veteran of the Korean war, who has moved from a life in New York City to live out the rest of his years in Oslo with his granddaughter Rhea and her Norwegian husband. He very quickly witnesses a crime that leads him to go on the lam in order to shelter an eight year old boy who he names Paul. This book is about so much: identity, aging, Judaism, PTSD, American politics, Norwegian politics, organized crime in Europe.  I fell quickly in love with the characters in this book – especially Saul, Paul, and Norwegian detective Sigrid Odegard – and missed them after turning the last page. I don’t know how we missed this intelligent, poignant and funny mystery when it was first published in 2013 (luckily we learned about it by word of mouth), but we’re on the case now and have already moved on to read Derek Miller’s other excellent mysteries (see next review).  Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9781328876652.jpgAmerican by Day by Derek B. Miller  (2018) – See above for our rave review of the first book in this series, Norwegian by Night. Detective Sigrid Odegard is back in this literary mystery by Derek Miller, who this time is traveling the the United States to find her missing brother, Marcus,  a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. Though I haven’t yet finished it, I can share that so far it is as entertaining and intelligent as Norwegian by Night. It offers a fascinating  Norwegian perspective on “strange” America – our foods, our neighborhoods, our quirks and Sigrid’s impression of life in upstate New York. We also meet another quirky character, Irv, the sheriff in the local town, who is also a graduate of divinity school. Miller’s writing is refreshing and interesting and leaves the reader looking forward to his next book. American by Day is a Summer 2018 must-read for mystery lovers. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9780143133124.jpgThe Ruin by Dervla McTiernan (2018) – Besides introducing me to a new favorite name – Dervla, Ms. McTiernan’s debut novel introduces a great new detective series. Her main detective, Cormac Reilly, possesses an unexplained complicated past, the requisite desire for justice, and great assistance from another well-wrought detective Carrie O’Halloran and a new newbie to the Garda – Peter Fisher. The setting in Galway is part of the action and allows you to vicariously travel to some very soggy time in the Irish countryside. I look forward to the next book in this series. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780316206853.jpgAnd finally, if you haven’t yet tried them, now is the time to try the Robert Galbraith detective series as the miniseries they inspired on the BBC is coming Stateside. The series is set in the UK with an Iraq War vet – Coroman Strike – as the troubled, but inspired detective who tries his best to stay solvent and sane. ~ Lisa Christie

Enjoy, and welcome to the heat of summer!

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We hope everyone is enjoying the first parties of the 2017 holiday season, and that you are all finding great holiday gifts with ease. To help us all find a bit of respite from the lovely bustle, we are highlighting only two great books today. In addition to being fun to read yourself, both are a great host/hostess gift.download-1.jpg

FC9780374228088.jpgThe Wine Lover’s Daughter by Anne Fadiman (2017) – This would be the perfect gift to hand a hostess along with, of course, a thoughtfully chosen bottle of wine. Ms. Fadiman is a graceful writer who has the ability, much like a serious oenophile can identify from a mere sip the vineyard from which a wine originates, to pick the precise and exacting  words to tell this moving, intimate story about her relationship with her once-famous father Clifton Fadiman. Though she never shared his love of wine (not for want of trying!), she shares his adoration of and skill with words. Why read this book? For its beautiful prose, a little lesson on wine, for a privileged view into a special father-daughter relationship, and for a glimpse into a past era of literary and immigrant America. Readers may recognize Ms. Fadiman as the 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award winner who wrote The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. She proves again with this memoir that she is a master storyteller, as well as an astute social anthropologist. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9781101973806.jpgThe Mistletoe Murder and other stories by PD James (2016) –  A superb hostess/host gift for the holidays; we argue it is much better than another bottle of wine (small caveat – depending upon your host/hostess, these Christmas tales may not be the best fit for a Hanukkah party; the murders are are not about Christmas, but take place in some way during Christmastime). This collection contains four short stories by British mystery writer PD James – each different, each well-crafted (if dryly wrought), and each taking place during the holidays. Beyond the host/hostess gift, this collection will provide welcome distractions for you, and many on your gift lists. ~ Lisa Christie

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Well, March arrived in Vermont like a lion and honestly appears to be leaving as one as well. The political news is still divisive and disturbing. And, for a variety of reasons, both Book Jam Lisas have been reading a lot of serious books. So to break out a bit, today we review a bunch of mysteries/thrillers in the sincere hope that reading some “just for fun” books will help us all smile more often as March becomes April. Enjoy!

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August Snow Cover ImageAugust Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Feb 2017) – I so hope that in real life there is someone like August Snow – a half black/half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and neighborhood  loyalty – looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit weaves throughout the narrative, and Mr. Jones’s descriptions of Detroit’s decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, Mr. Snow makes many mistakes, and wow, by the end of this tale, his body count is way too high for my tastes. However, few books take place in today’s Detroit; please enjoy this one! ~ Lisa Christie

The Bat Cover ImageThe Bat by Jo Nesbo (2013) – Somehow, we missed the first Detective Harry Hole mystery. Luckily, we rectified that last week. What fun!  Even if you have enjoyed the other novels in this detective series already, going back to the first mystery and watching him solve the murder of a lovely Norwegian ex-pat living Down Under, is somehow the perfect antidote for healthcare news. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

IQ Cover ImageIQ by Joe Ide (2017) – This debut features a great protagonist and a great sidekick whose incredibly complicated lives combine for a great plot.  Set in modern day LA and following a man whose amazing brain lay dormant for awhile but has awakened as a solver of others’ problems — a la Sherlock Holmes (who the author recognizes in this acknowledgements), this book marks the start of a great series. We are ready for book two and thank Carin Pratt for pointing us in the direction of Mr. Ide. ~ Lisa Christie 

Closed Casket: A New Hercule Poirot Mystery Cover ImageClosed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie (2017) – Agatha Christie writes again. OK, so someone else writes for her, but the oh so British atmosphere and Hercule Poirot are pretty much the same. Have fun! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

The Whistler Cover ImageThe Whistler by John Grisham (2016) – Sometimes I just need the comfort of a reliable storyteller, and with Mr. Grisham I almost always get that. But, I always get a tale of people trying to do the right thing in spite of the odds against them. And honestly in 2017, I really, really need more of that. So, read this for a page-turner, but then think about it as a way to begin working for and fighting for what you believe is important. We can all use more of that lately. (Oh yes, the plot — in this Grisham Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, gets in trouble when taking on corruption on the Florida bench.) ~ Lisa Christie 

FC9780312426132The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (2006). Take a trip back in time to Istanbul  circa 1836 to meet intriguing Investigator Yashim. Filed under the category of “How The Heck Did We Miss This Book?”, this mystery (the first in a  series) is full of obscure historical references, complex characters, and wonderful food imagery. The reader is transported back to 19th century Ottoman Empire and can truly feel her/himself walking by the donkey carts and spice vendors of Istanbul while she/he works alongside Yashim to solve a mystery involving a series of murders that threaten the sultan’s political court. Besides being a talented detective, Yashim is also an excellent cook. He is also a eunich. Utterly fascinating, this book is perfect for history buffs, fans of literary mysteries, or the traveler looking for the perfect book to take on an upcoming trip to Turkey. If your curious about the cookbook that Jason Goodwin published in 2016, listen here: Yashim Cooks Istanbul ~ ~ Lisa Cadow  

In This Grave Hour Cover ImageIn This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear (2017) – Another Maisie Dobbs mystery finds Maisie on a case involving Belgium refugees just as Prime Minister Chamberlin declares Britian at war with Germany. Ms. Winspear has definitely gotten Maisie out of her “please get on with it already” phase of incredible self-analysis to again using her honed introspection to help others. Enjoy this look at the UK as WWII begins. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

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So, the relatives have left. And yes, you had a great time with them over the holidays; but, you are probably a bit grateful for some peace and quiet, and would love to fill it with a good book or two. Luckily, we have a few to recommend that hopefully hit whatever mood you are in. Thus, our first post of 2017 features a few good books – a novel/thriller, an actual thriller, another thriller, a collection of essays, a reference to the original 1963 inspiration for those essays, a memoir, a quote book inspired by a beloved children’s book, and a link to that children’s book – to peruse in the quiet that the relatives left.

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Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil Cover ImageTell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta (2016) – Apparently we have been missing some great YA novels if Ms. Marchetta’s first adult novel (we’d actually call it a mystery/thriller) is any indication of her ability to tell a tale. This book is part crime story, part immigration tale, part indictment of prejudice against Muslims, part family saga, and totally gripping. Whatever you want to call it, it is worth reading – full of empathy for each and every complicated character. If you need a plot summary, the tale revolves around a suspended cop’s quest to find the truth behind a devastating bombing involving his daughter. I particularly loved the fact that half-way through I was certain the book had to end, yet another plot twist produced enough pages for me to keep reading for another hour or two. Pick this up for “a novel of great scope, of past and present, and above all the Marchetta trademark of a fierce and loving heart” as Markus Zusak of The Book Thief fame blurbs on its back cover. ~ Lisa Christie

619p8s6m37l-_sx320_bo1204203200_In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (paperback 2016 ) – And now for a pure mystery! Hot off the presses in paperback this past summer, this thriller is a perfect winter read: mysterious footprints in the snow, harrowing runs through a freezing woods, kitchen doors blowing open for no reason, letting in the chilly November wind. Ware’s first mystery  (we reviewed her second, the excellent  The Woman in Cabin 10  back in November) is sure to pull in readers as voyeurs to a “hen party” gone all wrong. Set in the English countryside, an odd grouping of friends is gathered to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of beautiful Clare – but then a murder happens and things spiral out of control. Told in the popular, current style by an unreliable narrator Nora, who is a crime writer herself, this book keeps readers on their toes as they slowly learn the complicated story of childhood friends who now find themselves thrown together ten years later for a weekend they will never forget. ~Lisa Cadow

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Cover ImageThe Fire This Time: A great new generation speaks about race by Jesmyn Ward (2016) – This collection of recent essays inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America – The Fire Next Time, is a powerful way to start the year. Perhaps it will help you figure out how to advocate for equal opportunity for all; it will definitely make you think about what life is like for those with black skin in the USA. ~ Lisa Christie

Men We Reaped: A Memoir Cover ImageAnd, if you like The Fire This Time, I highly recommend Ms. Ward’s memoir – Men We Reaped  – illustrating what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black, and female in America. Ms. Ward’s starting point is a two year period of time shortly after she graduated college during which five boys who she loved and grew up along the Mississippi Coast with experience violent deaths. (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also play a role in this drama.) Her prose illuminates these dead young men and the people who loved/still love them; it also exposes the people behind the statistics that almost one in 10 young black men are in jail and murder is the greatest killer of black men under the age of 24. And while the material is brutal, the memoir is not; it is insightful, introspective, beautifully written, and important. At some point Ms. Ward states that the series of deaths is “a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time.” I am glad she found her voice, and told her story. ~ Lisa Christie

365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Precepts Cover Image365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts by RJ Palacio (2014 in hard cover/2016 in paperback) – A GREAT book to use every day of the year. Mr. Browne of Wonder teaching fame has put together a list of his precepts in this companion book to Wonder – one for every day of the year. Each is uniquely illustrated on a page, and each month is introduced by Mr. Browne’s recollections from teaching in essays and conversations between Mr. Browne and Auggie, Julian, Summer, Jack Will, and others from Wonder, providing a Wonder epilogue of sorts. This would be a great book to keep near the dinner table to help start conversations about life based upon that day’s quote, or Mr. Browne’s essays. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

PS – Happy Birthday Dad – you definitely effectively instilled my love of reading – Lisa Christie

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Ahhhh, November 9th. No matter what your political persuasion, we are certain we will all be grateful to wake up November 9th freed from political ads. We are also assuming most of you have already decided who has earned your vote, and you are ready to ignore the hype until election day.

So, to help distract us all as these final days of campaigning wind down, we review a few mysteries. Why mysteries? Perhaps because we are thinking of ghosts and thrillers on Halloween. Perhaps because even though we are trying to ignore the election hype, we know, due to the daily news, that we can’t fully engage in difficult prose right now. Perhaps we are just in the mood for a good thriller.

And, because surviving until election day is way too important to leave to the two of us, we asked for help with this post from our favorite booksellers – the Norwich Bookstore staff. Many of them were able to help, and we are very grateful for their reviews.

Happy Halloween and thank you all for voting – Lisa and Lisa

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The Case of the Missing Books Cover ImageThe Case of the Missing Books, a Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom (2007) – A cast of eccentric characters populates this series of books set in Tumdrum, Ireland. Israel Armstrong is an outsider about to embark on an exciting new career—driving a mobile library. Fans of Waking Ned Devine and Doc Martin will wonder how they’ve lived this long without reading these quirky mysteries. ~ Beth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore and Norwich Public Library

The Wild Inside: A Novel of Suspense Cover ImageWild Inside by Christine Carbo (2015) – This dramatic crime novel is spent in Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park. When he was 14, Ted Systead’s dad was dragged screaming from a campsite by a grizzly. Now Systead’s a special agent for the Department of the Interior investigating the death of a man who was tied up BEFORE he was mauled by a bear. Ms. Carbo has a good sense of the wildness of human nature AND the wilderness that surrounds us. ~ Carin Pratt, Norwich Bookstore

The Trespasser Cover ImageThe Trespasser by Tana French (2016) Yes, it’s long, but Tana French’s new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is so well written it doesn’t drag. Paranoid detective Antoinette Conway has to find out why a young woman was conked on the head next to a table set for a romantic dinner.  At the same time, she is fighting a lot of her colleagues in the department who seem hellbent on driving her out of the force. French is the master of the police interrogation room, and her mysteries are always about much more than the case at hand.  ~ Carin Pratt, Norwich Bookstore

The Girl from Venice Cover ImageThe Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (2016) – One night towards the end of WWII a fisherman fishing in the lagoon off Venice comes across the body of a lovely young woman.The woman turns out to be not at all dead, and what follows is a romp through the environs of Venice and the world of partisans, Fascists, the SS and even Mussolini. With a love story tossed in, everything comes together for a delightful read. ~ Penny McConnel, Norwich Bookstore

The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Cover ImageLouise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Audio Books (assorted years) – If you love the Louise Penny series and have a hard time waiting for each new instalment of Inspector Gamache, try revisiting the earlier books in the series through an audiobook experience. For me, narrator Ralph Cosham so embodies the true voice of M. Gamache and the villagers of Three Pines that when he passed away before the instalment of the 11th book in the series, I felt as though a part of Gamache had died with him. ~ Katie Kitchel, Norwich Bookstore

I Let You Go Cover ImageI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (2016) – For me, this was the thriller of summer 2016. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of a car accident and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and other aspects of her past. The novel also watches a pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of a hit-and-run. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist, and you will lose a day of productivity (or a night of election news) as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

The Woman in Cabin 10 Cover ImageThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016) – This fast-paced mystery is sure to keep readers sweating through the cold, gray days of autumn – and beyond. The suspense begins immediately when we meet Lo Blacklock , a twenty-something travel writer, who is burgled in her London apartment as she prepares for her departure on an all expenses paid cruise through the Norwegian Fjords. She is hurtled into a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety that she has to manage as she hob nobs with the fancy passengers and press corps on the maiden voyage of the “Aurora”. When Lo believes that she witnesses a murder in the cabin next to hers, the question isn’t “Who dun it?”, but instead “Did it really happen?” The Woman in Cabin 10 is the latest in a series of page-turners that feature imperfect, unreliable yet somehow winsome protagonists. A page-turner that will keep you “cruising” (apologies for the pun) and wanting to finish the tale all in one read. If you still crave more at the end, don’t miss In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware’s first bestseller that was published in 2015. ~Lisa Cadow

Nutshell Cover ImageNutshell by Ian McKewan (2016) – Though I must insert the caveat that I haven’t quite finished this slim volume, I can confidently assert that this mystery is treasure. Told from the completely original perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. A modern day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~Lisa Cadow (And, this review is COMPLETELY SECONDED by Lisa Christie who has finished this slim novel)

Presumption of Guilt Cover ImagePresumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor (2016) – Archer Mayor has brought back the memorable “Tag Man” along with his daughter for this fast-paced mystery. A body is found in cement that was poured over 40 years ago, and Gunther and his team need to reconstruct the actions and activities of several individuals over the span of time to figure out ‘who done it!’ I devoured it in a day… ~ Liza Bernard, Norwich Bookstore

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searchOne of our favorite people  – the superb author Sarah Stewart Taylor – is someone we turn to when we need a great new book or author to read. Thus, we were thrilled when she agreed to turn her recent trip to Ireland into a Book Jam post about some authors she discovered while abroad. In this post, Sarah discusses the power of literature one discovers when traveling, and how literature provides superb armchair travel when hopping on a plane is just not possible. We hope you enjoy her suggested reading list as much as we do. Thank you Sarah! And, happy travels to all.

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On a trip to Dublin, Ireland recently, I ducked into a fantastic little bookshop in Sandymount. The tables were piled high with new and used books of all kinds, and I asked the proprietor to recommend some Irish mysteries for me. An obsessive fan of both Ireland and crime fiction, I love revisiting one of my favorite places on earth through the works of the Irish crime writers Tana French and John Banville (one of my favorite Irish novelists, writing mysteries as Benjamin Black), and I needed some more titles to get me through until their next ones are published.

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He obliged very nicely and I came home with an extra bag to contain all the books I’d bought. I discovered some terrific new-to-me Irish crime writers, among them Gene Kerrigan, Jane Casey (who is Irish but writes mysteries set in London), Declan Hughes, Adrian McKinty, Brian McGilloway, and Stuart Neville. 

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Reading mysteries about a place is one of my favorite ways to prepare for travel, to prolong the fun of an adventure once I’m home. Donna Leon’s Venice mysteries are among my favorites, focusing on the cases (and the meals) of the appealing Inspector Guido Brunetti and reminding me of past trips to that magical city. I love the mysteries of Cara Black, which always bring me back to trips to Paris.

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It’s also fun to read mysteries about places I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit. Jason Goodwin’s Inspector Yashim novels, set in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, have made me obsessed with visiting (modern-day) Turkey and Colin Cotteril’s wonderful mysteries set in Cambodia have added that country to my travel bucket list. I absolutely loved a novel by Richard Crompton, set in Kenya and titled Hour of the Red God. It stars a Masai detective named Detective Mollel and was one of my favorite new mysteries of the past few years.

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So — what are your favorite mysteries about places you’ve visited — or would like to?

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Panicked about the few remaining gifts you need to purchase?  Please don’t. We have some great last minute recommendations for you.  And the best part – sizes don’t matter.

Florence: the Paintings & Frescoes, 1250 to 1743 by Ross King and Anja Grebe (2015) – WOW, just WOW. This tome is perfect for the art lovers and/or Italy lovers on your gift lists. It is also great for the person who has everything and is difficult to find a perfect gift to give. This volume will provide hours of looking, knowledge, and beauty. You could also buy it for yourself and just flip a page every day for a year. You will emerge more loving art, Italy, and a bit more informed than when you started. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Who is? Who Was? What Was? Series (assorted dates) – These slim volumes are perfectly perfect for all the young readers on your list. There are at least one hundred of these books on a variety of historical figures and places, so truly there is one for every interest. At $4.99 each, you can get two or three, tailored to your favorite young readers’ dreams, for the perfect gift. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Mysteries from Louise PennyArcher Mayor, and Robert Galbraith (assorted dates) – You really can not go wrong with a good mystery. And the bonus with these series is if the recipient likes the first book you give them, you have a lot gift-giving options going forward. We look forward each year to the new books in the sagas of Armand Gamanche, who sleuths around Quebec, Joe Gunther, who stays close to Vermont to solve the crime, and Cormoran Strike, who wanders London (note -we did not like the 2nd Galbraith so much, so feel free to just skip from #1 to #3). We think the people on your gift list will like these as well. We also love that these work for young adults and adults alike. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Loki’s Wolves: Blackwell Pages Book #1  by KL Armstrong and MA Marr (2013) – This was a great read aloud for my Percy Jackson loving sons who were looking for a good new book to share. And, we are having a blast working our way through the other books in this series. ~ Lisa Christie

 

 

 

Mark Bittman’s Cookbooks (assorted years) – Yup, we recommend any Bittman cook book. Our copies of How to Cook Everything is falling apart from overuse. We have successfully given How to Cook Everything Vegetarian to many. And, we are looking forward to using his latest —Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix — soon.  Basically, you can not go wrong by giving a cookbook by Mark Bittman. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And our last pick comes with a caveat and some truly bad news, we hear that the publisher did not print enough of this next pick to meet holiday demand. So, our solution – Santa leaves a lovely IOU and you extend holiday cheer into 2016 when your special copy arrives. Or, place your order and save this gift idea for 2016 birthday gifts.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone by JK Rowling and Jim Kay:  The Illustrated Version (2015) – This is an excellent books for kids who are new to Harry Potter, twenty-somethings who grew up reading Harry Potter, and well, the many adults who are closet HP fans. Ms. Rowling and Mr. Kay are going to produce an illustrated version of each of the books in Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, one a year until all seven books have been done. This book is their first instalment. So, the good news, by starting with this book, you have your next six years of gifts covered as well. The bad news, just as when Harry Potter first rolled out, you have to wait seven years to complete the series. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And of course, our other lists from Pages in the Pub and our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide can help you find additional perfect books for giving too.

 

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