So although I haven't read any of these, the books below are ones that caught my eye or been recommended and will hopefully be delighting their recipients!
For the Girls
On the eve of her ninth birthday, Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the slice. All at once her cheerful, can-do mother tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes perilous. Anything can be revealed at any meal. Rose's gift forces her to confront the truth behind her family's emotions - her mother's sadness, her father's detachment and her brother's clash with the world. But as Rose grows up, she learns that there are some secrets even her taste buds cannot discern. The "Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" is about the pain of loving those whom you know too much about, and the secrets that exist within every family. At once profound, funny, wise and sad, this is a novel to savour.
In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Reves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the reveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love...A fabulous, fin-de-siecle feast for the senses and a life-affirming love story, The Night Circus is a captivating novel that will make the real world seem fantastical and a fantasy world real.
Seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. But his routines are disrupted when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. With equal parts affection and humor, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about a man who can no longer remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or--to his great shock--the precarious joy of falling in love.
Nothing can break the bond between sisters ...When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister's disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister's life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice's fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.
There is a fire and they are in There. They are in there ...Black smoke stains a summer blue sky. A school is on fire. And one mother, Grace, sees the smoke and runs. She knows her teenage daughter Jenny is inside. She runs into the burning building to rescue her. Afterwards, Grace must find the identity of the arsonist and protect her family from the person who's still intent on destroying them. Afterwards, she must fight the limits of her physical strength and discover the limitlessness of love.
HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH. It's a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Far away, in the ancient empire of Greater Fallowfields, things are falling apart. The imperial orchestra is presided over by a conductor who has never played a note, the clocks are changed constantly to ensure that the sun always sets at five o' clock, and the Astronomer Royal is only able to use the observatory telescope when he can find a sixpence to put in its slot. But while the kingdom drifts, awaiting the return of the young emperor, who has gone abroad and communicates only by penny post, a sinister and unfamiliar enemy is getting closer and closer...A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In is Magnus Mills's most ambitious work to date. A surreal portrait of a world that, although strange and distant, contains rather too many similarities to our own for the alien not to become brilliantly familiar and disturbingly close to home. It is comic writing at its best - and it is Magnus Mills's most ambitious, enjoyable and rewarding novel to date.
It's 1946. Juliet Ashton, a 32-year-old writer, has found a certain recognition through her light-hearted column for the Spectator which lifted the spirits of her readers during WW2, but she can't think what to write next. But then Dawsey Adams writes to her from Guernsey - by chance he's acquired a book Juliet once owned - and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence. Dawsey belongs to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and as Juliet investigates the strange-named reading group, soon she stumbles upon a whole number of islanders eager to write and tell her of their experiences of the German occupation of Guernsey. Entranced by her new friends, Juliet decides to visit the island to meet them properly A moving tale of friendship, tolerance and forgiveness in the wake of a period of unthinkable hardship and horror, this is set to become a classic.
An arresting portrait of the struggles that women faced for control of their own bodies, "The Birth House" is the story of Dora Rare--the first daughter in five generations of Rares. As apprentice to the outspoken Acadian midwife Miss Babineau, Dora learns to assist the women of an isolated Nova Scotian village through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies, and unfulfilling sex lives. During the turbulent World War I era, uncertainty and upheaval accompany the arrival of a brash new medical doctor and his promises of progress and fast, painless childbirth. In a clash between tradition and science, Dora finds herself fighting to protect the rights of women as well as the wisdom that has been put into her care.
The Crochet Book is an irresistible gift set that is the perfect introduction to this traditional craft. Bringing her modern take to crochet, Cath Kidston has designed a colourful patch cushion that will cheer any room. Using double-knitting weight yarn in six upbeat, bright Cath Kidston colours, you can now make your very own Cath Kidston cushion. Packaged in a bright floral design, re-useable tin, this gift set includes everything you need to make the cushion including six balls of yarn, one red metal 4mm crochet hook plus a double-sided pattern sheet that gives all the instructions for making up the cushion. In addition, the gift set includes a 48 page paperback booklet containing all the essential information on the basic crochet techniques, including foundation chains, single crochet, double crochet, changing colours and finishing off. There are even some alternative ideas for what else you can make with your crochet patches in case a cushion isn't for you. With clearly written instructions accompanied by explanatory diagrams, The Crochet Book will tempt everyone to pick up a hook and start crocheting.
Everything Alice is a truly enchanting collection of 50 craft projects to make, bake and decorate. With each of the ideas magically brought to life by crafters Hannah Read-Baldrey and Christine Leech, the projects range from the supremely simple yet highly effective fabric-covered teapot planters to the wonderfully scented candles that fill china teacups and exquisite jewellery made from tiny dolls' house teasets. Alice's fantastical adventures in Wonderland provide the inspiration for each of the 50 makes, including a hand-sewn Humpty Dumpty doorstop and Cheshire Cat hand warmers, decorative playing card bunting and a shadow puppet theatre. Whilst the projects take the 'Alice in Wonderland' tales as their starting point, they all stand alone as gorgeous items in their own right. Choose from the irresistible beaded napkin rings made in the initials of each of your guests, the lavender-scented velvet dormice and an assortment of beautifully decorated cupcakes. The ideas and instructions for the makes are interspersed with instructions for fun party games and snippets of Wonderland lore, such as How to Become a Queen", How to Run a Caucus Race" and How to Play Musical Chairs". So follow Hannah and Christine down the rabbit hole into a genuine Wonderland of adorable craft ideas.
For the Guys
Fishermen and good home cooks alike devoured Go Fish and its winning combination of excellent recipes, great yarns, gorgeous photography, devotion to the stunning NZ coastline and way of life, all with a touch of nostalgia. Now Al Brown applies this same formula to that icon of Kiwi life: the barbecue. But not just any old barbecue: Al explores a wide range of outdoor cooking styles – grills of all sorts, smoking, spits, outdoor ovens (tandoor, pizza) etc, including how-tos. With more than 100 recipes, there's an emphasis on fast and tasty, with recipes for bruschetta, burgers, pizza, fritters, chargrilled seafood, beef, lamb and chicken, ribs, plus slow roasted meats. There's game (venison, duck and goat); plus excellent salads and classic cake tin slices and bikkies. Added to this treasure trove are more classic go-to recipes – sauces and relishes for the perfect finish. Featuring wonderful photography by Kieran Scott shot in NZ's most amazing scenery, including the high country above the Wakatipu Basin in Central Otago; the rugged south Wairarapa coastline; hunting and fly fishing at the 8000-acre Ngamatea Station in the Central North Island; wild porcini mushroom gathering in Canterbury; an outdoor tandoor oven with Indian friends in Wellington, and a hangi up the Whanganui River. This is the complete package, yet again!
This bestselling title, now in its 20th year of publication, is firmly established as the most authoritative and sought-after guide to New Zealand wines. Updated yearly with new tasting notes and vintage ratings, including the most current vintage, this is a must-have publication for the new initiate and the established wine-buff alike. This book will help the buyer to make informed choices about the best value and best quality wines available. Divided by grape variety to help selection, this comprehensive guide includes vintage ratings, star ratings for quality, dryness/sweetness guide, retail price and value-for-money ratings. Other features include Classic Wines – wines that consistently achieve an outstanding level of quality for at least three vintages – as well as sections on Best Buys of the Year and a vintage report.
James Halliday's Australian Wine Companion is the Number 1 bestselling guide to wineries and wine in Australia. Keenly anticipated by winemakers, faithful collectors and wine lovers alike, the 2012 edition has been completely revised and updated to bring you up-to-the-minute information. Halliday shares his extensive knowledge of wine via detailed tasting notes, each of which includes vintage-specific ratings and advice on optimal drinking, as well as alcohol content, price and a value rating. He provides important details on wineries - including opening times, contact details, vineyard sizes and web addresses - in addition to biographies on each, and information about the winemakers. An indispensable reference for all enthusiasts of Australian wine, the Australian Wine Companion is a must-have for anyone planning to visit a wine-growing region or to replenish their cellar or wine rack.
'The landscape surrounding me only pretends to be empty. It is in truth humming with life, with change, with subtle, seductive detail and countless delights.' Grahame Sydney. A classic for years to come, Grahame Sydney's Central Otago is a spectacular photographic celebration of the heart of the Otago province. From sprawling landscapes and passing cloudscapes to poignant portraits, Sydney captures both the raw beauty of the area and the isolation of its inhabitants.
If anyone has read these I'd love to hear what you thought! Hopefully none are duds!
Linking up with people who actually read books and have made excellent recommendations on Renee's blog - Memoirs of Mother.
Merry Christmas my friends