Do you have any boys on your gift list this year? Girls who like adventure? Adults who like clean fiction? I have an idea for you; a series of books so new and unheard of, I'm pretty sure this is the only review you'll see of them. However, I've read (almost) all of them, and can easily give them five stars.
The title of the series is De Bellis Stellarum. (You can buy them here or, if you want to give me a nice little referral commission for Christmas, here.) They're an exciting bunch of mysteries, most of which happen in a sleepy little seaside town called Quayment.
Quayment is the kind of place you read about and immediately wish it were real so you could go there for your next vacation. It's famous for its many used bookstores, the most interesting of which, Weaver's, is housed in an old church. The first book I read was The Black Hole in the Basement, in which dark forces start building a black hole in the basement of the church. Books start to go missing, and St. Thomas Aquinas might hold the key to the solution.
Yes, there is magic in this series. There is adventure aplenty, and also quite a few references to obscure historical and scientific facts -- stuff that will make the knowledgeable smile and everyone else maybe learn something. The books are unabashedly but not overwhelmingly Catholic.
Who would like them? Let's see, if you like:
...you will probably like these books. The writing is probably middle-school level; nothing that would seem childish to an adult, but not terribly difficult either. They're completely "clean," so I wouldn't see a problem with them for any child old enough to decipher them. I never could guess the mysteries ahead of time; perhaps if you're smarter than me, you'll be able to.
The characters are the best part, and if I were you I'd keep a running list of them, because they're all related in various ways that can be a bit hard to keep track of. My favorite character is Mark, one of the Weaver triplets. I didn't name my son after him -- and I didn't name Michael after his brother -- but you wouldn't know! These Catholic families; we all share names.
For full disclosure, the author is a dear friend of mine, and I've been reading his books as they come off the presses, so to speak. But I'm not just plugging them because of that -- I've stayed up half the night trying to finish some of his stories. They aren't expensive, and I'd say they're certainly worth the cost. Try one -- I like The Black Hole in the Basement best for starting out, but the series really starts with The Wreck of the Phosploion, which is also good. Or for a small initial dose, there's Quayment Short Stories. Try one, and if you like it, read them all!