Presents By The Page Part 2: Fic Picks
Last week I touched on a bevvy of new and new-ish nonfiction releases that are ripe for the picking when it comes to book gift-giving. Nonfiction actually tends to be the safer bet when it comes to book gifts – if you can find something related to a topic of general interest (Steve Jobs) or a specific hobby / love (Dragon’s Den), you’re set. With fiction, it does involve a little more guesswork in terms of what someone will enjoy. Generally speaking, most people have a genre they prefer, whether it be mass-market paperbacks, pastel-covered chick lit, or highbrow literary fiction. Today’s choices run the gamut of selections out there, and I did try and pick books that have a bit of built-in audience appeal in the same way most nonfiction titles do. And with that…
Note: once again, I’ve opted to include the full list price for each of these titles. If you buy online or at a discount retailer (or if it’s a best seller) chances are you’ll see savings of 20-40% off the cover price.
Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire – $29.99
This book was initially touted as Maguire’s last entry into his exploration of Frank L. Baum’s Oz, after three previous volumes introduced us to the woman behind the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, alongside her son Liir, the so-called Cowardly Lion Brr, and in this tome, her would-be granddaughter Rain. The book is the most action-packed yet, with strangers and family members that may as well be strangers working hard to protect Rain in the war-torn state of Oz, with the Emerald City and Munchkinland at serious odds with one another. Newbies to the series best start at the beginning with Wicked, but can now rest assured there is a conclusion. People looking for a conclusion will mostly find one with the way Maguire masterfully wraps up the many threads that began on page one of the saga, but they’ll also be pleased to note things are left open-ended enough for us to see more from Maguire in the realm of Oz.
Perfect for: Wizard of Oz fans, Wicked fans, Literary fiction readers
IQ84 by Haruki Murakami – $35
This isn’t the first time the year 1984 has served as the backdrop for a dystopian novel, but the buzz around acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s latest mindbending novel has put it in the same literary league as George Orwell’s classic. The story follows a young woman named Aomame and an aspiring writer named Tengo, as they poke holes (literally and figuratively) in our (then) modern-day existence. With an avalanche of storylines, plot twists, and characters, it’s a wonder Murakami is able to keep you spellbound for nearly 1,000 pages. Yet anyone who has encountered his work in the past will surely tell you, if there’s one author that can do it, Murakami is your man.
Perfect for: Fans of movies like Inception and readers that love their book with a side of international flavour
The Time In Between by Maria Duenas – $29.99
If you love books about ordinary lives that shift under extraordinary circumstances, you’ll absolutely love Maria Duenas’ new novel, set in WW2. Sira starts life as a poor girl that’s sweeping the floors of an atelier in Spain, with dreams of creating beautiful clothes. As civil unrest begins to stir up, she runs away from both personal and political problems, reinventing as a clothing designer, but it’s a short-lived shift in fortunes. She eventually takes on the role of double agent, working as a courtesan for eager Nazi officials and reporting back to the allied forces in an increasingly dangerous game of equally duplicitous and innocent cat and mouse.
Perfect for: War buffs, and those who love sweeping historical novels.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – $28.99
Did you catch the Brad Pitt flick Moneyball this fall? Did you like that it was a baseball movie without really being a sports movie? Then you’ll probably enjoy this debut novel by Chad Harbach, which actually mirrors some real-life elements of Pitt’s character’s (Billy Beane) life. Henry Skrimshander has, more or less, got it made. He’s a breakout shortstop star at the small college he’s attending, and all the scouts and coaches that are floating around indicate he’s headed for the big leagues. That is, until his brain starts taking over and he starts losing his sporting mojo – spinning the tale into a much bigger story about mind over the matters at hand, and what we choose to be defined by.
Perfect for: Sports fans, Moneyball-watchers-and-readers, Baseball players
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - $32
This magical book is the most spellbinding novel to hit the shelves since well, that little series about a certain boy wizard. Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus is the story of a magical traveling circus where the tricks that typically make up a fair-goers experience are actually real. At the center of the plot are Celia and Marco, star-crossed young magicians that are doomed to fight in a deadly competition against one another. Part romance, part fantasy, and stirring up a whole of buzz, expect to see this book on your movie screens sometime in the next couple of years.
Perfect for: Harry Potter / Twilight / Hunger Games fans
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman – $29.99
Novelist Alice Hoffman has been building a dedicated following since the late 70s, one that particularly surged when her breakout hit ‘Practical Magic’ hit the shelves in the mid-90s. Right now, people are chattering about what’s been called by some as Hoffman’s ‘Masterpiece’, a story that goes way, way back in time (2,000 years to be somewhat exact) to tell a tale steeped in bible history and female power. According to one of the world’s earliest historians, 900 Jews tangled with Roman forces on the mountain of Masada, in the Judean desert, where only a small handful of survivors were able to escape with their lives. The book follows four women that are part of the Masada community, each of which has a unique story, plenty of secrets, and a strong set of realities to grapple with.
Perfect for: Historical fiction fans, Hoffman devotees
Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson – $21.99 (Paperback)
The inability to cement short-term memories has been played in theatres for laughs (Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates) and mind-bending psychopathic thrills (Christopher Nolan’s Memento). In S.J. Watson’s goosebump-raising thriller, it’s definitely more of the latter, with Christine, a middle-aged woman who wakes up every morning, unable to recall who she is, and who the man (her husband) is that’s sleeping beside her in bed. The particular day we meet Christine, she receives a call from a neurologist she’s been working with in secret, who’s helping her piece her life together again through a journal. The trouble is, the questions she’s struggling to answer are becoming increasingly complicated and painful – from as simple as ‘why doesn’t I have any children?’ all the way through to ‘what the heck happened to cause my memory loss?’
Perfect for: Thriller & mass-market readers, mystery lovers
Some great news for you lot. I’ve got a three-book prize pack to give away to one lucky reader, including two of the books – The Dovekeepers & The Time In Between – I’ve tapped for great fiction buys this Christmas, as well as the stranger-than-fiction dog lover tale Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. Wanna win? Read on:
1) Leave a comment below before December 13th and tell me which of the fiction books above you’re most interested in. Be sure to use a valid email address when posting so I can contact you if you win!
2) Entries are limited to one per person per email address (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around December 13th to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.
3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible to participate in this promotion.
4) Bonus Entry Time: There will be a bonus entry opportunity in one of the upcoming posts during the contest period. Check every post for your chance to earn a bonus entry!
As always, you’re free to email me if you want full rules & regs by emailing canadiangiftguide -at- gmail – dot- com. Happy reading!