Books to Give for Christmas

For booklovers, (aside from receiving well-chosen books), there is a real satisfaction in finding the perfect book to give. It’s not always easy though, so, if you’re looking for inspiration – you’ve come to the right place. We asked our Shiny reviewers and friends to tell us which book or books they’d like to give…

Friend of My Youth by Amit Chaudhuri

Reviewed by Rob Spence I read most of this novel on a plane, and it struck me that it was appropriate to consume it in the transient, somehow timeless and ambiguous environment of a journey by air. Chaudhuri’s themes are memory, time, self-knowledge, and how they can all be distorted and modified by an individual’s…

The Book of Dust, Volume I: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman

Reviewed by Helen Parry First of all, is it as good as everyone says it is? Yes, it really is. The plot is compelling and perfectly paced, the characters have depth and behave convincingly, the world is richly imagined and wonderful. If you loved the His Dark Materials trilogy, you will love this. If you…

A Hundred Tiny Threads by Judith Barrow

Reviewed by Julie Barham I received a review copy of this book from Honno Press, the Welsh Women’s Press, as I was intrigued by the idea of a book which swept through so much history through the eyes of one woman. Winifred lives and works in a shop in a grim mining town in 1911.…

Demian by Hermann Hesse

Translated by W. J. Strachan Reviewed by Karen Langley Is it the destiny of mankind to be pulled constantly back and forth between the two poles of good and evil, and can this disjuncture ever be remedied? That’s the concept explored in this seminal novel by Nobel-prize winning author Hermann Hesse, first published in 1919…

Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith

Reviewed by Harriet Subtitled ‘A Christmas Crime Story’, this is a remarkably accomplished and fascinating novel by a writer better known under her other pseudonym, Anthony Gilbert. It was much praised when it appeared in 1933: Dorothy Sayers called it ‘powerful and impressive’ and wrote of the ‘fine inevitability in the plot structure which gives…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Amor Towles’ debut novel Rules of Civility was one of the best books I read in 2011. Although Towles graduated in English back in the late 1980s, he worked as an investment professional for over twenty years before publishing that first novel, a dazzling portrait of life in Manhattan before WWII in…

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin This is the most grittily realistic book I’ve read in a while — it just happens to be a ghost story. Somehow, despite its fantastical content, Sing, Unburied, Sing feels distinctly believable. The plot is simple; it’s a road trip, there and back again. Thirteen-year-old Jojo, and his little sister Kayla,…

A Love Story by Émile Zola

Translated by Helen Constantine Reviewed by Harriet Here at Shiny we’ve reviewed several of the new Oxford World Classics editions of the novels of Émile Zola: Money, Earth and The Conquest of Plassans. All three form part of the twenty-one volumes of what is known as the Rougon-Macquart series, published between 1871 and 1893. A…

Shadows and Sun by Dominique Sylvain

Translated by Neil Caistor Reviewed by Terence Jagger I enjoyed this book, set amongst the French police in Paris and in Abidjan, but that’s not to say I really followed it – it was most confusing. But Chandler apparently didn’t always understand his plots, so maybe that’s OK. One isn’t trying to follow clues or…

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Reviewed by David Harris This has been a hard book to review. I find this is surprisingly often of true the very best books, say the ones you’d give six out of five stars to if you could. In the case of Gnomon I think there are three reasons for this. First, it’s simply got glorious writing,…

Artemis by Andy Weir

Reviewed by Annabel Those who read Weir’s debut novel, The Martian (which Dan reviewed for us here), tended to fall into two camps. As SF novels go, it was funny, cheesy and geeky, and despite having one helluva plot, didn’t take itself too seriously, which made it a Marmite book for many. I was one…

Women and Power by Mary Beard

Reviewed by Liz Dexter Mary Beard is described as being ‘Britain’s best–known classicist’ on the inside front flap of this book. She’s also known for having experienced her unfair share of vileness and opprobrium from internet trolls seeking to silence her both for being an expert and, in particular, for having views on gender-related issues.…

Nightshade Upon Magic: Craig Brown’s Ma’am Darling

Reviewed by Max Dunbar The online OED defines starstruck as ‘Fascinated or greatly impressed by famous people, especially those connected with the cinema or the theatre.’ There are variations – in the HBO Western Deadwood, hardass bar-keep Al Swearengen uses an expression ‘c***struck’ to describe, I think, a man lost in love or lust. A…