Christmas round up!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Just to remind you the list of great books you could get for Christmas for those last minute shoppers among you, and all those wonderful Unbound books you can pledge to as well!

So here you go:

Julia Williams ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

Anne Booth   ‘The Christmas Fairy’, ‘Lucy’s Winter Rescue’, ‘Refuge’

Amanda Saint ‘As If I Were A River’

Rachel Crowther ‘The Things You Do For Love’

Jackie Buxton ‘Glass Houses’ and ‘Tea and Chemo’

Antonia Honeywell ‘The Ship’

Yusuf Toropov ‘Jihadi: A Love Story’

And if you’ve run out of time to shop but are still looking for unusual gifts, you can back  Unbound books by Emma Southon,  Paul Holbrook, Alice Jolly, more details here and by Tim Atkinson, Simon Key and Tim West and Tabatha Stirling, more details here.

I believe in the power of stories and all of the above are fabulous storytellers, so please do make their Christmas and buy or back their books today!

Back these books (2)

A continuation of my list of Unbound books for you to back this Christmas…

4. The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson

This is another novel dealing with the aftermath of war, but  one that has a very different take from mine. The book is a fictional account of a true story – about the soldiers who remained in France at the end of World War 1 to re-bury the war dead. I’d never heard of this before, so can’t wait to read it and find out more.

5. Open A Bookshop, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Simon Key and Tim West.

I love indie bookstores, and though I’ve never been to Big Green Books, I’ve been a fan ever since I learnt of their existence.Additionally they’re based in Wood Green near where I grew up and they have an excellent twitter account, so what’s not to love about the story of how they came into being?

6. Blood on the Banana Leaf by Tabatha Stirling.

Set in Singapore, Blood on the Banana Leaf tells the stories of four different women and explores the effects of loss, madness, violence and hope in their lives. This looks like a fascinating insight into a society I know very little about, and judging by the extract another great read from Unbound.

 

Back these books (1)

I had meant to follow on my Christmas plug of the month with a daily plug for fellow Unbounders still toiling away at the crowdfunding coalface.

Alas, time has run away with me, so I’ll have to do a few at at a time. So, if you are looking for that last minute, unusual gift for a friend or family member, why not back one of these fabulous books?

  1. Agrippina: Empress, Exile, Hustler, Whore‘ by Emma Southon was one of the first Unbound books I backed. It deals with life and times of an extraordinary Roman woman, Agrippina (granddaughter of Augustus, niece of Tiberius, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero), and judging by the extract is told with great verve and wit. I think it’s terrific.
  2. Domini Mortum‘ by Paul Holbrook is a supernatural murder mystery set in Victorian London. This one has a wonderful Gothic feel to it,  and has the added advantage of being set in York, which is one of my favourite cities. The opening section completely draws you in. Besides, a novel that starts with death by chocolate surely has to be on everyone’s wish list doesn’t it?
  3. Between the Regions of Kindness‘ by Alice Jolly is a novel that has something in common with ‘Echo Hall’ as it too deals with different generations’ experience of war. Through the stories of Rose in World War 2 and Lara and Jay during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, she explores the cost of peace and the price of conscience. Alice is a fine writer and this one is well worth a pledge.

 

 

Plug of the month (7) -Yusuf Toropov, Jihadi: A Love Story

Earlier this year Amanda Saint, who I’ve mentioned before in this series, ran a competition on her blog. I entered in an idle moment, and won myself a copy of ‘Jihadi: A Love Story'(published by Orenda Books).  I haven’t stopped raving about it since.

Jihadi is presented as the memoir of an ex-CIA agent incarcerated in an American prison ‘the brown motel’ on charges of terrorism. His narrative of events is interspersed with commentary from the psychiatrist who interrogates him, and as the novel progresses, we are forced to question the reliability of both.

The novel switches between events in America and in Iraq, and is peopled with characters on both sides, many of whom are morally ambivalent, but all have motivations we can understand and sympathise with. It is a thriller that asks big questions about the world we live in and reminds me very much of Graham Greene and John Le Carre.

I’ve written a more in depth review here, but suffice to say I absolutely LOVE this novel and hope lots of people will go out and buy it.

Also, I’d like to give a big shout out to Orenda Books which is  a terrific indie press set up by Karen Sullivan eighteen months  and has had remarkable success in that short time.Karen is an amazing publisher  who works extremely hard and  is bringing some great new writers onto our bookshelves.  If you like intelligent crime writing and thrillers go and check out their website. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

Plug of the month (6) – Antonia Honeywell ‘The Ship’.

I first heard of Antonia Honeywell via the Curtis Brown Creative newsletter in an article describing her path to publication. Her description of life juggling work, writing and family sounded just like mine, so I warmed to her immediately. And it was wonderfully encouraging to hear how her place on a Curtis Brown writing course had led her to be signed by the renowned agent Jonny Geller.

Since then, I’ve got to know Antonia on twitter, and she was kind enough to back ‘Echo Hall’ just after we first connected. So I was keen to return the favour and give her debut novel ‘The Ship’ a plug.

ship-cover

‘The Ship’ has been described as a YA adult novel, but I think it fits perfectly well under adult fiction myself. It tells the story of a young girl, Lalla, who is living in a dystopian future where only citizens with papers can access decent resources. As the daughter of a former government official, Lalla lives a privileged existence in a secure flat with food and bottled water, whilst others are forced to camp at the British Museum or parks, scrabbling to survive.

As the years past, the situation becomes more desperate and the government more despotic. Fortunately,  Lalla’s father, Michael, has been making preparations, and the family are able to escape in a large cruise ship with five hundred others. At first, it seems a blessed relief to be away from the oppressive mainland, in a ship stocked with enough goods and food to last two hundred years. But soon, Lalla is questioning her father’s behaviour, watching in horror as her fellow passengers begin to act like members of a brainwashed cult.

‘The Ship’ is a well written and thought provoking novel, with a lead character who is initially self-indulgent and spoilt, but gradually grows up and learns what it means to take personal responsibility.  The story is a compelling one that raises a number of interesting questions. What does it mean to be privileged in an unequal world? What happens to a society if you take away all threat and danger?  Is it better to live a life that is safe but authoritarian,or one that is free and filled with risk?

This is another one to put on your Christmas list, particularly if you like fiction that makes you think. I also highly recommend Antonia’s blog where she is currently posting equally thoughtful Advent reflections each day.  Well worth a look.

Plug of the month (5) – Jackie Buxton ‘Glass Houses’ and ‘Tea and Chemo’

So here’s the thing. I have yet to read either of these books. BUT…I love the sound of them both and having been a Facebook friend with Jackie since we were both shortlisted for a Retreats West competition in 2015, am keen to support her work. Also both are published by Urbane which is an up and coming indie press (who also published Amanda Saint, my third plug of the month, who also hosts Retreat West which may seem a bit incestuous but really isn’t…) and I love indie presses. So please do check these ones out!

 

Glass Houses

Glass Houses sounds fascinating and is immensely topical. When Tori Williams sends a text while driving, she allegedly causes a crash killing three people. As a result, she is publicly condemned, but is she really at fault, and can she prove her innocence?  This has has had great reviews, and came out at a time when many questions have been raised about texting and driving.It’s on my Christmas list, so I definitely think it should be on yours!

Image result for tea and chemo

Jackie’s other book, Tea and Chemo is also on my to read pile. According to the rave reviews this is an honest and moving account of her breast cancer treatment, and I know it has been extremely helpful to women going through treatment and their families and supporters. I have to confess that, having lost a dear friend and my mother to breast cancer, and knowing far too many women who’ve been through it, it still feels a bit too painful to pick this one up. But, I will one of these days, and  in the meantime I recommend it for anyone who is experiencing breast cancer first hand or supporting a loved one through it. And, Jackie, being Jackie, ALL the proceeds are going to cancer charities, so buying  a copy helps in more ways than one.

What are you waiting for? Put these on the list now!

Plug of the month (4) – Rachel Crowther ‘The Things You Do For Love’

This is another post that is long overdue, as Rachel’s second novel was out in August.But it is also another book that will make a good Christmas present. So silver linings…

The Things You Do for Love: Mothers and Daughters, Lovers and Lies (Paperback)

 

I was lucky enough to study with Rachel for two years, seeing first hand what  a fine writer she is. ‘The Things You Do For Love’ (Bonnier Zaffre Press) is her second novel, a great showcase for her talents.

When Flora’s husband Henry dies after a long illness, her previously ordered existence comes to a dramatic end. Having taken early retirement to care for him, his death leaves more than one vacuum in her life, causing her to flee to France to reassess her situation.

Meanwhile her  baffled daughters have problems of their own. Lou’s pregnancy puts her relationship in jeopardy, whilst Kitty is struggling to choose between love and her musical talent.

The novel flits between past and present, framed by a series of Henry’s paintings. This is a clever device which enables the reader to see the truth behind the idealised image of family life that Henry is trying to portray and  helps get to the heart of Flora’s ambivalent feelings towards him.

An emotional story told with great skill and empathy, this will be a perfect Christmas gift for anyone who likes women’s fiction with more than a little depth.