Given all the impending holidays I thought it might be nice to share a few recommendations of presents to ask for or give. This isn't my year end best of list merely some books and games I think highly of that may whet your fancy if given or received as a gift.
The Last Page is one of the most original books released this year and deserves more attention. It is a world I lost myself despite the main characters not being entirely likable, which says quite a bit to me. In my review I said:
The Last Page is filled to brim with new ideas and is a sumptuous baroque delight of horrors, wonders, and real people. More than once I had to sit back and absorb all that had just happened.For Ages: 17+
Every good thing you've ever heard about Chiang and his collection is true. It is without a doubt in my mind one of the best and most memorable short story collections of this era. Here are a few words from others who have stated better than I ever could how wonderful this collection is
“United by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.” —China Mieville, The GuardianFor Ages: 15+. There are some sometimes heady things are going on that might not be as well processed from those younger.
“Shining, haunting, mind-blowing tales . . . this collection is a pure marvel. Chiang is so exhilarating so original so stylish he just leaves you speechless. I always suggest a person read at least 52 books a year for proper mental functioning but if you only have time for one, be at peace: you found it.” —Junot Díaz author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
One Day is the story of two college friends who love each other but can't admit it. Some might say this is a more approachable version of The Time Traveler's Wife as it follows a linear format, but still jumps forward in time regularly. And no this is not speculative work at all. The two main characters merely meet up around the same time every year. This was one of my wife's favorite books this year, which she summarily ordered me to read next and I'm certainly glad she did. It is a touching and sometimes heartrending story of two smart people too stupid to realize they belong together. I'm not ashamed to admit the ending had me tearing up a bit.
For Ages: 17+. It takes a few years as an adult to get deep meaning with the story and connect well with the characters.
The title pretty much nails what this book is. This is without a doubt one of the funniest books I've ever read and made me a lifetime Moore fan. I've summarily gone through his whole backlist and eagerly await every new title.
For Ages: 15+
Side Notes: Some may think Christians wouldn't like a satirization of Christ's adolescence, but I've given it to many all of whom have eaten it up.
Mixing satire and a beautiful dystopian future Fforde is one of those author's you'll kick yourself for not trying sooner. Here a nip of my review:
Shades of Grey is without a doubt the best dystopian novel I've read since Brave New World and it will be re-read many times. Fforde has challenged himself to create something entirely new and different which he more than succeeded at. Shades of Grey is a very colorful and downright silly future where classes are divided depending on what color they can see. Everyone is colorblind with most seeing only one color strongly while others that can only see grey are the lowest class and are treated like pack mules performing the most arduous tasks.For Ages: 14 and up
Sabriel is the first in the well loved The Old Kingdom or Abhorsen trilogy involving necromancy, magical books, and a daughter searching for her father while fighting evil in a land cracked with evil magic. This is a book you'll not put done until the last page and than ache for more. Good thing there are two other books as well.
For Ages: 12+. The story is mired in exploration of death and loss, which may not be appropriate for younger readers.
Side Notes: There is even a box set of the trilogy that I wished I got to start with since I've now ordered the next two books.
Yes the Fraggles are back in comic form. Whether initiating your child into the world or giving yourself a throwback treat this collection lives up to the spirit and style of the show with a few added extras. Archaia has done a wonderful job producing this volume ala the Mouse Guard format.
For Ages: Perfect for any age.
Side Notes: Many fine Muppet comics have been coming out over the last year or so including the main series The Muppet Show Comic Book starting with Meet the Muppets done in the style of the original show as well as Muppet adaptations of King Arthur, Peter Pan, and Snow White.
|Image Courtesy of boardgamegeek.com's EndersGame|
This is a deck building game where everyone starts with the same hand and each round you buy new cards to add to your deck from a collective pool of available cards. Think of it as almost reverse Magic: The Gathering mixed with a little monopoly as the goal is to accrue as many land points as possible. There are quite a few expansion packs as such as Dominion: Seaside, Dominion: Alchemy, and the latest Dominion: Prosperity. I've played all the packs except for Prosperity and each set brings different things to the game. The key thing is you can mix and match from all the sets to create a unique game every time. Dominion has replaced Apples to Apples as my go to game when friends are over. I recently saw the basic set of Dominion in Borders so it appears to have hit the next level of popularity outside of game shops.
For Ages: The box says 8+, but my 4 year-old nephew has been playing longer than me and enjoying it. He has also beat the pants off me on more than one occasion.
Side Notes: The main set is made for 4 players, but can easily be adapted for as many as 6 or even 8. Rio Grande also publishes the very fine Carcassonne. Although not from the same publisher a very similar game is Thunderstone from Alderac, which is even more Fantasy based and involves a lot of fighting with monsters, but takes the same deck building format. Lastly, if you have an Android phone go to the marketplace and search for "Androminion". This is a free version you can play against two bots.
Pandemic is a cooperative game, which means all players are trying to work together to eliminate the various plagues and viruses running amok in the world. At the start each player is dealt a role card that explains their special abilities. Some can travel faster around the world and some can cure diseases quicker. Don't expect to win your first few times, but it is a fast paced game that you get caught up in quickly. Definitely great for fans of apocalyptic movies and novels.
For Ages: 16+ and up. This isn't a game for little kids when you're talking about the end of the world and virulent diseases.
Side Notes: There is one expansion set called Pandemic: On the Brink, which includes a Bio-Terrorist role card. Very insidious. Also, many players trick their game out going as far as getting bio-matter disposal bags to hold the pieces and insulin injection bottles to replace the plastics pieces they represent. Also, the expansion pack gives you some petri-dishes for the diseases cubes. All in all very nice touches that help the game experience seem a bit more real.
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