I’m a little late with this, but there were a couple of auxiliary things I wanted to finish up so I could include them. I have no magical knowledge of all the books in the world from the past year so as to guide you to the “best,” but I can point you to a few delights I had the pleasure of experiencing! All titles link to full-length reviews with plenty of details.
Obligatory FCC disclosure: some of these items were free review items from publishers, etc., as noted on individual review pages. I have done my best to simply include what I think highly of, regardless of where it came from or whether I had to pay for it.
Get your hands on a copy of Melissa Gray’s All Cakes Considered right this minute and gift it to your favorite cook or would-be baker. Seriously. It’s hilarious and fun, and produces the BEST cakes.
If your friend is a chocolate fanatic, on the other hand, try Absolutely Chocolate, by the editors of Fine Cooking. MMMMMM!
I think everyone knows at least one person who just loves to cook holiday feasts for their friends and family. If you know that person, get them a copy of How to Cook a Turkey, also by the editors of Fine Cooking. We just keep coming back to this cookbook.
The Cupcake Kit is definitely a gift sort of thing, perfect for the novice who wants to learn the very beginnings of cake decorating, or the home baker who just needs to top off some pretty cupcakes now and then.
Pestos, Tapenades & Spreads might seem like an odd topic for a gift cookbook, but I picked it because it’s the perfect size and quality for a gift cookbook. In fact, you might even be able to use it as a stocking-stuffer. Guac Off would, similarly, be a perfect stocking-stuffer gift for guacamole lovers!
The Ice Cream Deck is perfect stocking-stuffer size. And if you want to make it a theme (and encourage someone to make homemade ice cream for you!), you could also give your friend an ice cream maker to go with it!
If you know any non-drinkers, Zero-Proof Cocktails might just be the ideal stocking stuffer for them.
Kenny Shopsin’s Eat Me is irreverent, offensive, obnoxious, hilarious, and delicious, all at the same time! Not for the easily offended!
Paranormal/urban fantasy romance fans:
I highly recommend the first book from Nalini Singh’s new Guild Hunter series, Angel’s Blood. The follow-up is coming out soon and is also fantastic! The world and story are highly unique and well-detailed; the characters are first-rate; and the action is stunning. The plot is at least as important as the relationships, so your book-loving friends won’t feel slighted with this one.
Jessa Slade’s Seduced by Shadows is a beautiful and inventive new series start, with plenty of action and wonderful characters.
Another gorgeous series debut is Jory Strong’s Ghostland. It’s stylish, suspenseful, unusual, and wonderful.
For urban fantasy/suspense fans:
The anthology Unusual Suspects would be a great way to introduce a friend to some authors she might not have encountered before.
I highly recommend starting off a Rob Thurman addiction with her gorgeous Nightlife—but while you’re at it, buy up all the Thurman books you can find, because once your gift recipient starts, they won’t want to stop!
For fantasy/humor fans:
Jim C. Hines’s “Princess Novels” are a delightful blend of action, humor, dark re-workings of fairy tales, and delightful characters. Check out The Stepsister Scheme and follow it up with The Mermaid’s Madness!
For anyone with a snarky sense of humor:
Jen Yates’s Cake Wrecks. It’s drop-dead hilarious, and will definitely liven up the recipient’s holiday season.
Wendell & Tan’s Beyond Heaving Bosoms is so funny—and informative—that I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone!
Give the Bitch Her Chocolate is quirky, snarky, and offensively hilarious!
For historical romance fans:
Rene is actually our historical romance reviewer these days, but I don’t think she’ll mind my picking a few books to suggest based on her reviews!
Try out Anne Gracie’s To Catch A Bride. As Rene says, “It was lovable and laugh-out-loud, full of heart and of memorable and interesting characters.”
I imagine she’d also want me to mention Claudia Dain’s The Courtesan’s Wager, seeing as she seems to be such a fan of Ms. Dain’s writing and “wicked sense of humor!”
Rene calls An Indecent Proposition, by Emma Wildes, “achingly sweet” and “a deliciously fun read.”
Loretta Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways is “A wonderfully enjoyable read” and, according to Rene, particularly witty in its dialogue.
For romance/suspense fans:
Carla Cassidy’s Up Close and Personal is a delightful blend of action and fascinating familial relationships.
If you’re looking for wild adventure, Nina Bruhns’s Shoot to Thrill might be more your style—plenty of action and thrills to go around!
Or perhaps psychic mysteries, visions, and explosions are more your style. In that case, try the wonderful start to Christina Dodd’s new series: Storm of Visions.
If instead you prefer tales of stalking serial killers, I highly recommend Leslie Parrish’s trilogy: Fade to Black, Pitch Black, and Black at Heart. This series was one of my favorite discoveries of this year and turned me into an instant Leslie Parrish fan!
For straight romance fans:
Go for Nora Roberts’s bride quartet series, starting with Vision in White and Bed of Roses. They’re pure, sweet, endearing wish-fulfillment fantasy, and that’s often perfect at the holidays! Her Black Hills is also a beautiful tale of family, love, and the wilderness.
For animal lovers:
The anthology Tails of Love is not only super-sweet, but it’s super-perfect. Excellent for the animal lover and romance fan in your life!
Purry Logic, by Jane Seabrook, is adorable, funny, and sweet. Excellent for the cat lover on your list.
For fantasy fans:
How about Diana Pharaoh Francis’s unusual and exciting The Black Ship? Just make sure to get its prequel, The Cipher, as well.
If you know someone who likes epic fantasy with strong world-building, then introduce them to Fiona Patton’s fascinating world of dangerous gods via The Silver Lake.
And there you have it. Enjoy a wonderful holiday season, filled with great happiness!