Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bookish Gift Ideas...

So, I've been immensely honoured over the past few years to be asked to contribute an endorsement to a range of wonderful books. I take the task of blurbing very seriously, it takes me a long time, for me a blurb is almost a story in itself, and as I've seen from the amazing  blurbs I was lucky enough to get, they can really give a great impression of what is in the book. So, if you're looking for presents to buy this festive season, here are all the books - in no particular order - that I've blurbed, with my blurbs - I highly recommend them all!

Dot Dash by Jon Pinnock
In these wonderful short, very short and very very short stories, Jonathan Pinnock takes aim at all the foibles and vanities we think we succeed in hiding. Not content to just pull back the curtain, Pinnock sets fire to it and chuckles as it blazes. Yet he also executes something of a conjuring trick, making us laugh, but also making us feel, think. Like Nana, whose granddaughter recreates Cairo in her bedroom for her before she dies, we fabricate our own reality: we see and hear what we want and ignore what we don't. Dot Dash is sending us a message, and yes, it may be through yellow plastic ducks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't listen. 

Beneath the Liquid Skin by Berit Ellingsen
Berit Ellingsen is no ordinary wordsmith but a weaver of silken tapestories, lush and burning with both ancient ache and postmodern playfulness. Mixing myth and astronomy, desire and other appetites, and dancing on the thread that slips between poetry and prose, Ellingsen stitches every word in perfect service to her utterly beautiful and dreamlike stories.
The Baghdad Fixer by Ilene Prusher
A journalist's fixer is a go-between in so many senses: linguistic, cultural. The fixer straddles borders and boundaries, helping each try to communicate with the Other. Ilene Prusher conjurs this so beautifully in her stunning, thrilling debut, as Nabil, an Iraqi English teacher with a poetic soul, is drawn into the unfamiliar, learning as much about his own country and people as about the world in which Samarra, the American journalist who has hired him, moves so easily. A unique novel, The Baghdad Fixer's compelling plot is combined with poignant and difficult insights into the life and tragedies of ordinary Iraqis during the war. This is not just a wonderful read, it is an important book for helping us, too, to begin to understand the Other.
Fakakt: Melissa Morris and The Meaning of Sex by Jasmine Schwartz
I love Melissa Morris. The most unlikely heroine of a murder mystery, she's insecure, worried about her failing love life, her job prospects and her fashion sense. Yet when, on a trip to Rome in pursuit of errant boyfriend Colin, she is wrongfully arrested for murder, does she sit in a cell, weeping? She does not. She promptly escapes to track down the real murderer and clear her name. In a city she's not familiar with and a language she doesn't speak. That's more than plucky, and it makes for the unputdownable story of an amateur detective who could be any one of us, stumbling around atmospheric Italian streets trying to piece the plot together. I dare you not to fall in love with Jasmine Schwartz's Melissa Morris too. She may believe she's "fakakt" but I think she's fabulous!
Enough by Valerie O'Riordan
Valerie O'Riordan puts to shame the puffed-up and the oversized with her beautiful, brief and brutal fictions. Each word is worth a hundredweight, each story a full world. O'Riordan is a true original, fierce and fearless, she will travel anywhere for a great story. I can't wait for more!
Storm Warning by Vanessa Gebbie
Both haunted and haunting, Vanessa Gebbie's protagonists in these unsettling stories move through the present but remain always tethered to the past. No war stories these, but explorations of what it means to “survive” the conflicts and horrors created by humans across centuries and continents. Like Pat Barker, Gebbie gives voice to those who cannot forget, even decades later, who was taken and and what was lost in the blood and mud. Gebbie's strength lies in her poetic and poignant combination of reality and dream, the weaving together of outer experience and inner turbulence, and the small sparks of hope even in the darkest corners.
Hot Kitchen Snow by Susannah Rickards
The stories in this quietly powerful collection are populated by characters you care about from the opening sentence, children and adults whose lives you slip into in the midst of action. For Rickards, action is something as ordinary as a mother wondering whether to leave her children alone for five minutes or a dog-food salesman looking for meaning in his life; as magical as the father who kidnaps the moon for his daughter; or as quirky as the overweight dance administrator persuaded to put on a sari and take an Indian dance class. Whatever the context, Rickards’ stories grip and flow onwards, tiny twists and revelations exposing the undersides of life, both glowing and dark. This book will entertain, provoke, shock and surprise you in all the ways a great short story collection should.
In the Spirit of Phineas McLata by Lauri Kubuitsile
Lauri Kubuitsile's stories are sweet, salty, colourful, hot, and unforgettable. Botswana-flavoured and pregnant with atmosphere, Kubuitsile's writing slips easily between the real and the magical, between death and life, love and sex, humour and darkness, friendship and family. Just as McPhineas Lata wove his seductive spell on the village women, so too will these stories bewitch and enchant.
Housewife With A Half Life by Alison Wells
AB Wells is not only a supremely talented writer but also something of an alchemist. Housewife With a Half Life is wondrously original and imaginative, combining the travails of domesticity with glorious scientific allusions and illusions in a fast-paced and sparkling tale of a wife and mother who discovers she is losing herself, and the stranger from another dimension who turns up as she's cleaning the bathroom to make sure it doesn't happen. A wild ride, this nuclear fusion of a novel is, underneath it all, the story of relationships, of family, of what it means to be a mother, a wife, a woman, and, ultimately, a human being. Move over H.G., A B Wells has written the time-travelling tale for the 21st century!
Veronica Britton by Niall Boyce
I could say that Niall Boyce's fiction is X meets Y meets Z, but that would be doing it a severe injustice because it is a fabulously imaginative and unique combination of elements. Here we have historical fiction meets science fiction meets fantasy with a dash of philosophy and a sprinkling of feminism. I was captivated by chronic detective Veronica Britton and her sidekick, superheroines in every sense of the word, saving the world time and again, in and out of time. I was only sorry when I turned the last page and had to leave their exploits. Am eagerly awaiting the next one!

All the Bananas I've Never Eaten by Tony Williams
Tony Williams has a special talent for assembling the magical out of the mundane - whether that be pub carpets, satnavs, mattresses or bananas. These short short stories often deal in pain, in death, in loss and loneliness, in absence, in anger and in shame, but Williams always makes sure that fragments of hope emerge, like the music of an oboe, that short burst of happiness that lights up the dark.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone! Right, that's your lot, something there for everyone, I think!


Berit Ellingsen said...

Thank you so much for blurbing Beneath the Liquid Skin and for including it in this year's end recommendation!

Wishing you a good pre-Christmas December. :)

Tania Hershman said...

My absolute pleasure! Happy season to you too! x x

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Blurbs are so crucial and it appears you have a knack! These all look like inviting reads and I did love Vanessa's Storm Warning. My Xmas gifts are going to swing from books to beanies and back. Xcat

Unknown said...

I absolutely loved Hot Kitchen Snow. It really explored familial relationships. It's more about the characters then the story. It reminded me a bit of my favorite book Dinner at the Homesick restaurant. Give an Experience Gift across Oz and NZ with FreemanX Gifts