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Holiday Gift Guide: Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Poetry

Posted November 15, 2021 3:46 p.m. EST
Updated November 17, 2021 4:03 p.m. EST

MYSTERY / THRILLER

The Apollo Murders

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield
Full of the fascinating technical detail that fans of The Martian loved, and reminiscent of the thrilling claustrophobia, twists, and tension of The Hunt for Red October, The Apollo Murders is a high-stakes thriller unlike any other. Chris Hadfield captures the fierce G-forces of launch, the frozen loneliness of space, and the fear of holding on to the outside of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour as only someone who has experienced all of these things in real life can.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny
While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request. He’s asked to provide security for a lecture at the nearby university. Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture. They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations so that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart. Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

A Line to Kill

A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz
When Ex-Detective Inspector Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, author Anthony Horowitz, are invited to an exclusive literary festival on Alderney, an idyllic island off the south coast of England, they don’t expect to find themselves in the middle of murder investigation—or to be trapped with a cold-blooded killer in a remote place with a murky, haunted past. Both a brilliant satire on the world of books and writers and an immensely enjoyable locked-room mystery, A Line to Kill is a triumph—a riddle of a story full of brilliant misdirection, beautifully set-out clues, and diabolically clever denouements.

The Judge’s List by John Grisham
Investigator Lacy Stoltz follows the trail of a serial killer, and closes in on a shocking suspect—a sitting judge. Suspicions are easy enough, but proof seems impossible. The man is brilliant, patient, and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most cunning of all serial killers. He knows forensics, police procedure, and most important: he knows the law. He has a list, with the names of his victims and targets, all unsuspecting people unlucky enough to have crossed his path and wronged him in some way. How can Lacy pursue him, without becoming the next name on his list?

Velvet Was the Night

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
From Todd: “Cigarette smoke snakes around every scene in Silvia Moreno-Garcia's new crime novel. Elvis and Maite, the story’s rock 'n roll and comic book loving twin protagonists, must track a missing woman through 1970s Mexico City before all the wrong people find her first. While the noir plot eventually drew me in, it was Moreno-Garcia's down-on-their-luck characters that grabbed me from the start and never let go until the very end.”

The Man Who Died Twice: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman
An unexpected visitor arrives, accused of stealing diamonds worth millions from the wrong men. Then the first body is found. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim are up against a ruthless murderer who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at knocking off four septuagenarians. Can our four friends catch the killer before the killer catches them? And if they find the diamonds, too? Well, wouldn’t that be a bonus? You should never put anything beyond the Thursday Murder Club. Richard Osman is back with everyone’s favorite mystery-solving quartet, and the second installment of The Thursday Murder Club series is just as clever and warm as the first—an unputdownable, laugh-out-loud pleasure of a read.

SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY / HORROR

Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead. And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he's definitely dead. But even in death he's not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days. Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
It has been 27 years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity. Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending the realm and church from vampires. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains. Imprisoned by the monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope: The Holy Grail.

Lore Olympus

Lore Olympus : Volume 1 by Rachel Smythe
Persephone, young goddess of spring, is new to Olympus. Her mother, Demeter, has raised her in the mortal realm, but after Persephone promises to train as a sacred virgin, she's allowed to live in the fast-moving, glamorous world of the gods. When Artemis takes her to a party, her entire life changes: she ends up meeting Hades and feels an immediate spark with the charming yet misunderstood ruler of the Underworld. Now she must navigate the confusing politics and relationships that rule Olympus, while also figuring out her own place--and her own power.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
“Our beloved school does its best to devour all its students—but now that I’ve reached my senior year and have actually won myself a handful of allies, it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving for me. And even if I somehow make it through the endless waves of maleficaria that it keeps throwing at me in between grueling homework assignments, I haven’t any idea how my allies and I are going to make it through the graduation hall alive.” With keen insight and mordant humor, Novik reminds us that sometimes it is not enough to rewrite the rules—sometimes, you need to toss out the entire rulebook.

Death of Jane Lawrence

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
Emma says, "A mix of Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca, this book is equal parts a gothic love story, a how-to on ritual magic, and a haunting of the most confusing variety. Once I got into the story I couldn't put it down. There's an isolated, crumbling manor, metaphysics, and an author who refuses to give you a level ground to steady yourself on while reading. I loved the remnants of old literature in the setting and foreboding feeling that stuck with me well after the last sentence. If you're a fan of the macabre, there isn't a better book to read."

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three. A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time. A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory. And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible. An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

POETRY

Call Us What We Carry

Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman
The luminous poetry collection by presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman captures a shipwrecked moment in time and transforms it into a lyric of hope and healing. In Call Us What We Carry, Gorman explores history, language, identity, and erasure through an imaginative and intimate collage. Harnessing the collective grief of a global pandemic, these poems shine a light on a moment of reckoning and reveal that Gorman has become our messenger from the past, our voice for the future.

I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems by Kate Baer
The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller What Kind of Woman returns with a collection of erasure poems created from notes she received from followers, supporters and detractors—an artform that reclaims the vitriol from online trolls and inspires readers to transform what is ugly or painful in their own lives into something beautiful.

You Better Be Lightning

You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson
You Better Be Lightning is a queer, political, and feminist collection guided by self-reflection. The poems range from close examination of the deeply personal to the vastness of the world, exploring the expansiveness of the human experience from love to illness, from space to climate change, and so much more in between. One of the most celebrated poets and performers of the last two decades, Andrea Gibson's trademark honesty and vulnerability are on full display in You Better Be Lightning, welcoming and inviting readers to be just as they are.

Winter Recipes from the Collective: Poems by Louise Gluck
Winter Recipes from the Collective is chamber music, an invitation into that privileged realm small enough for the individual instrument to make itself heard, dolente, its line sustained, carried, and then taken up by the next instrument, spirited, animoso, while at the same time being large enough to contain a whole lifetime, the inconceivable gifts and losses of old age, the little princesses rattling in the back of a car, an abandoned passport, the ingredients of an invigorating winter sandwich, a sister’s death, the joyful presence of the sun, its brightness measured by the darkness it casts.

Stones

Stones: Poems by Kevin Young
Whether it's the fireflies of a Louisiana summer caught in a mason jar (doomed by their collection), or his grandmother, Mama Annie, who latches the screen door when someone steps out for just a moment, all that makes up our flickering precarious joy, all that we want to protect, is lifted into the light in this moving book. Stones becomes an ode to Young's home places and his dear departed, and to what of them—of us—poetry can save.

Such Color: New and Selected Poems by Tracy K. Smith
Such Color collects the best poems from Smith’s award-winning books and culminates in thirty pages of brilliant, excoriating new poems. These new works confront America’s historical and contemporary racism and injustices, while they also rise toward the registers of the ecstatic, the rapturous, and the sacred—urging us toward love as a resistance to everything that impedes it. This magnificent retrospective affirms Smith’s place as one of the twenty-first century’s most treasured poets.

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Quail Ridge Books and WRAL.com present "Bookin' with Quail Ridge Books", featuring all of the best book news, reviews, author interviews, reading lists and literary event coverage from the Triangle and beyond. A new episode of the Bookin' podcast, featuring interviews with local, national and international bestselling and prize-winning authors, is released every Monday morning.