The absolute best bit of making Ninja Book Box has to be discovering loads of amazing independent publishers. We had our first box book pick, Star-Shot for a long time, because we knew what it was going to be even before we launched the Kickstarter, and working with the publisher Seren Books was an absolute joy.
However, our aim with the box is discovery. So now you've discovered them we thought we'd do some more book pushing and highlight some of Seren's titles we think look fantastic.
When I was first thinking about the box I bought a couple of books. One was Star-Shot and the other was Six Pounds Eight Ounces by Rhian Elizabeth. This has a child narrator, which I know isn't everyone's thing, but Hannah's voice is really refreshing. She's quite a cynical child, and, we are told, a compulsive liar, and often accidentally funny. I haven't finished this yet, but it's really good at interpreting things that happen as a child would actually experience them, with the added fact that you can never quite be sure of anything Hannah is saying...
Moving on from something very definitely Welsh to a writer who's won prizes for interpreting modern Japan in the English speaking world, My Falling Down House by Jayne Joso is a really intriguing concept. After losing his job and his house, Takeo Tanaka takes refuge in a somewhat the worse for wear wood and paper house. He maintains his sanity by mapping out the renovations the house needs and pushing himself to his limits in trying to maintain his creativity and dignity. Set over the course of a year, the novel follows Tanaka as he struggles with his mental health and is drawn towards nature and a simpler way of life.
Speaking of people that are struggling with sanity, I was super excited to find Bethany W Pope's debut novel Masque, a retelling of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera, the book on which the musical is based. I entirely adored Susan Kay's Phantom as a teenager and am basically just a sucker for any version of this story. If you don't know what it's about, Christine is a young opera singer who is suddenly thrust into the limelight at the Paris opera. Her tutor (in the original story) is the mysterious phantom, whom she calls her angel of music. She has caught the attention of handsome, wealthy Raoul, with whom, in some versions, she was childhood friends, and the story is pretty much a love triangle. The phantom is hideously disfigured and hides in the depths of the opera house because everyone is terrified of him, and is a tortured genius. This claims to be 'not the story you think you know', and I am absolutely here for that.
One of my favourite things about Seren, and about many indie publishers, is the diversity of books that they publish. Some of their non-fiction titles sound absolutely brilliant, and although I know a lot of people are put off by non-fiction because they think it'll be heavy I've been discovering over recent years that while this can be the case it is often not. There's a huge amount of really well-written, fascinating non-fiction out there, and by the looks of it Seren are publishing lots!
Writing Motherhood edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke is published on March 9th and seems to be an expansive collection of essays, poetry and prose from an abundance of women writers. Some, such as Sharon Olds and Carol Ann Duffy, you may have heard of, and others you may not, but the topics covered range from miscarriage, mothers and daughters, why women's fiction is marketed in the way that it is, and how motherhood affects creativity, amongst much more.
Another interesting sounding non-fiction title is Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye. I personally know very little about Israel, but I find it an intriguing place, and this is about a woman (the author) who finds out that her family was involved with the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. It's a combination of travel writing, nature writing and memoir and follows Donahaye's journey to find out her family's story and how that changes her relationship with them and with Israel itself.
There are many more interesting sounding titles on Seren's website. If you've read any of these or their other books we'd love to hear about them! I know I'll be adding all of these to my wishlist and you should look out for our thoughts on some of them in the not too distant future.