Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet

mermaids in paradiseBook – Deb and Chip are pondering where to take their honeymoon. After considering and rejecting several adventurous possibilities, they decide on a romantic Caribbean island vacation. Chip is an outgoing jock who makes friends easily and, at their first dinner on the island, he invites several guests he’s met to join them. Among them is Nancy, a marine biologist. The next day when the newlyweds are relaxing on the beach, Nancy races up to them and informs them that she has spotted mermaids while snorkeling near the reef. What ensues is pandemonium, as Nancy tries to manage her “discovery,” while protecting the mermaids’ lives and habitat. What surprised me most about this book was the humor. It’s narrated by Deb, whose droll observations and opinions on everyday life balance the deeper messages concerning corporate greed, the impact of social media and the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

hogfatherBook – Every year on December 32nd, the Hogfather climbs into his sleigh pulled by four wild boars to delivers pork products to all the good girls and boys (and sacks of bloody bones to the bad ones). At least, every year before this one. This year the Hogfather is missing in action, and it’s up to Death to make sure the holiday goes forward as planned – and Death’s granddaughter, Susan, to find out what’s happened to the real Hogfather.

Hogfather is the 20th in Terry Pratchett’s sprawling and renowned Discworld series, a collection of novels all set on the fantastical world in the shape of a disc which travels through space on the back of four elephants on the back of a turtle, a place where magic works and the laws of nature are somewhat more literal than they are in our own. You don’t have to have read any of the earlier novels to enjoy this one; in fact, Hogfather is one of the earliest novels I recommend, as I think the series is better in its later incarnations. (The newest novel, Raising Steam, is #40.)

Pratchett’s books all have an edge of satire to them, and this one bites just a little bit: it’s full of holiday spirit, but it also skewers the consumerism of the holiday and the sanitized nature of modern stories based on old myths. There’s also a rather fantastic TV adaptation of Hogfather, which is in my regular holiday movie rotation.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett

thudBook – Sir Samuel Vimes, Commander of the City Watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork, is having a rotten week. The anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley (when either the dwarfs ambushed the trolls, or the trolls ambushed the dwarfs, depending on who you ask) is approaching, and the city’s dwarfs and trolls are feeling particularly edgy about it this year. On top of that, a painting of the historic scene has (probably) been stolen, a dwarf leader has (probably) been murdered, and Sam has got to be home by 6:00. No excuses. Sam Vimes has long been one of my favorite Terry Pratchett characters, and Thud! has him at his best – overworked, overpaid, and overwhelmed, but still more than able to take on whole armies with the force of his belief in the power of a properly-run police force. While this is one of the later books in the City Watch Discworld series, it’s still entirely enjoyable by the first-time reader, particularly if you enjoy world-weary cops and a bit of bite with your laugh-out-loud humor.