I've just finished a wonderful novel by Kevin Wignall, For the Dogs. It's got a lot in common with his first one--great prose style, real elegance, trimmed-down super-version of those somewhat bloated Ludlum-LeCarre tomes, but more interested in psychology and families and whether it's possible to return to the fold after suppressing feeling & living in isolation. But it's different in great ways, too. It's like a rewriting of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, only in reverse: Ella is made a kind of "creature" by the execution of her family, and she undergoes a kind of backwards evolution that is matched by the coming-into-humanity of the hit man Lucas. But that is an overly fancy way of describing a really great novel!
Over some years I have developed an Xmas present plan that I can live with. Nobody in my family really cares--I mean, you can genuinely just say "oh, I didn't get anything for anybody this year" & there's no sneaking resentment or annoyance. My brothers for instance sometimes come up with quite lavish presents, sometimes don't get around to it (I've still got the chrome Cuisinart food processor that Jon bought in identical models for me and our other brother one flush year). You get the picture. But what I do is order a whole bunch of books from Amazon earlier in December--a mix of books I've already read that I predict the recipients will like (this includes The Guards by Ken Bruen [I wanted The White Trilogy as well but Amazon was predicting a 1-2 month delivery date and it messed up my free shipping, so I had to cancel]] and Deadfolk by Charlie Williams for Jon) and books that I want to read myself but can't really justify buying in hardback unless it's to give away (cf. Kate Atkinson's Case Histories for my mom, which is why I had it to read the other day; etc. etc.) I think For the Dogs will go to Jon's girlfriend. This is a very selfish but extremely satisfying way of buying Xmas presents. Most of the stuff people buy is all junk.