This is obviously the time of the year to make lists of your favourite books. But allow me a little self-indulgence here because I want to tell you about the FOUR BOOKS I've been lucky enough to put my name to this year, each of them is a little gem and I couldn't be more proud and grateful to the authors and editors for asking me.
1. Black Boxes by Caroline Smailes. This is a real roller coaster of a book, and Caroline's second novel. What I loved most about it was the quality of the voices, she managed to get the young girl's so absolutely perfect that I really believed every word, and the raw pain Pip feels acts as a lovely contrast to the increasingly dreamy mother who slips away as the book continues. Not the lightest Christmas read but really worth adding to your bookshelf (and leaving space next to it for Caroline's next book which is due out in the Summer.)
2. I'm really interested in novellas. I love the intensity, the way they allow us to focus on one strand of the story and enjoy a breathless one night of true love with them. Elizabeth Baines's Too Many Magpies did all this for me. I'm thrilled she's been getting so many good reviews because it deserves every one. I'm interested that the word used most often is 'haunted', there's definitely a lasting quality to this book.
3. I had a guest story in the Birkbeck MA anthology last year, but this year I was pleased to give a quote for issue 6 of the Mechanics Institute Review. I've loved this collection, and read it again and again. It's exuberant and funny and there's more than one writer I'm sure will be hitting the big time soon. But most of all, it felt confident. Proof, if anyone needed it, that writing MA's no longer need to justify what they do. At last. At last. Please now can we lay to rest the very vexing (to some people) question whether writing can be taught or not?
4. And last but not least, A C Tillyer's An A-Z of Possible Worlds is just a drop dead brilliant idea. I'll admit that the minute I got the proof I was overcome with raging jealousy. WHY HADN'T I THOUGHT OF THIS IDEA? Anyway, one saving grace is that it's done so very well here - a beautiful box containing 26 short stories for each letter of the journey - all taking the reader to a different place in the imagination. It's a treat.
I'm making no apology for bursting above with godmotherly pride. These are great books - one of the best things that's happened to me this year is that I've been allowed to have my name on them too because it allows me to shout even more about liking them so much. I love the fact too that these are from two of our more adventurous independent publishers - Salt and Roast Books.
I've put them on my amazon store for ease, and to keep them together, but please don't feel you have to buy them there. They're also available at The Book Depository, Salt Publishing, Roast Books, and Bookstore.co.uk. Plus, of course, all good bookshops.