It's always good to have extra recommendations for gifts at this time of year, and books are the best of all! I try to buy every child in our family at least one book, and sneak books into other people's parcels, too. And of course if someone asks me what I'd like, I have a handy list of half a dozen titles to give them.
I think the best YA novel I've read this year would be a dead heat between Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. I'd heard a lot about Eleanor and Park and it lived up to the goss. A novel that startles and enlightens at the same time, and totally engaging and interesting characters. One of my good Hamline friends lent me Out of the Easy (sorry, I still have it!), which I would never have come across otherwise here in Australia. It's set in 1950, in the French Quarter of New Orleans where Josie works in a bookstore and struggles with having a mother who is a brothel prostitute. Lots of atmosphere, danger, secrets and hope.
I've read lots of crime fiction (probably more than I should!) but I think my No. 1 spot has to go to Michael Robotham's Watching You. Joe O'Loughlin is a clinical psychologist who gets involved with Marnie, a woman who is convinced someone is watching her. Meanwhile, she's also trying to deal with a husband who has been missing for over a year. There are plot twists in every chapter and the book was impossible to put down. Also on my list for "goodies" was Peter James's latest, Dead Man's Time and Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George.
Finally, since I was just about the only person in the world who didn't like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I approached my review copy of The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones with wariness (because it spruiked Gone Girl on the cover). There are quite a few characters in this novel but they're easy to remember because they are all so different and well-portrayed. There's a body in the gully that seems to move around, and people who may or may not be missing - in other words, lots to keep you guessing without being tricksy. The creepiest character for me was thirteen year old Emily - the kind of kid you'd expect to find in a Stephen King novel!