Smugglivus Smugglivus Guest Blogger

Smugglivus 2011 Guest Blogger: Harry Markov

Welcome to Smugglivus 2011! Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2011, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2012.

Who: Harry Markov, former reviewer from Temple Library Reviews, now blogging at Through a Forest of Ideas as an author. Harry is currently the assistant to US publicist Jaym Gates and remains a good old friend of The Book Smugglers (AKA The Dude).

Please give it up for Harry!

I’ve been asked to contribute with a post for Smugglivus and relive the books of 2011, which is the most chaotic year in marking the books that I have read. This year marked the end of my review blog Temple Library Reviews, so as a sign of rebellion against the meticulous and detailed system I created to keep track of what I read, I decided to go with the flow.

However, I have books that have stayed with me through the year, though I had to check their publication dates and my reviews to make sure I read them through 2011. What I consider a “best book” is fiction and non-fiction, which has influenced my creativity in some way. As a reader I pick a lot of books, which around 90% of the time I’m sure that I will love, but the crème de la crème are those words, which have changed something inside me.

1.Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren.

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This is quintessential Warren. It’s a collection, which pretty much added another layer to my understanding of what can be achieved with the genre tropes available. Warren is merciless. Her prose is like a needle and it makes you all kinds of uncomfortable. Ultimately, Dead Sea Fruit added another viewpoint towards writing, which I needed desperately.

2.The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales by Angela Slatter.

Regrettably, I’ve yet to share what I think of this collection. Slatter re-imagines traditional fairy tales and gives power to the women, who either die or are rescued. As an amateur connoisseur of folklore, fairy tales and fables, I consider this collection an essential reading in this direction. It doesn’t hurt that the stories crafted by Slatter have an air of regality imbued within their earthy, close to the people vibe.

3.Cthulhurotica edited by Carrie Cuinn.

It’s rare that you successfully encounter erotica, which mixes so well with the speculative genre. SFF don’t particularly look into the sex in the story or the world as sex speaks volume about a person. Apart from consisting of strong and varied stories, Cthulhurotica is an inspiration for me as an aspiring anthology editor [I’m just saying, in case some publisher has a project and needs an editor.].

4.Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.

I had no idea the anime had evolved from a book, so of course I read the book. I’m probably not discovering a new continent, but it’s a powerful story, told well enough to convince me that I was a child again. Which, by the way, is nigh impossible to achieve.

5.The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon.

McMahon wrote this novel especially for me. I don’t know how he suspected that I love demonic forests, body mutations and the breaking of a reality. Also, this novel is sincere in its desperation and abominable nature. It’s become my guide to how to write fucked up stories, which can be visually stunning as well as completely mortifying.

6.Monstrous Creatures by Jeff VanderMeer.

It’s a brilliant non-fiction collection. Here is a short snipped of my review, which sums up how I feel about this book. Monstrous Creatures is a beautiful chimera of ideas and opinions. VanderMeer goes for a 360-degree expedition of fantasy in all of its manifestations as well as through significant periods of its evolution. Wherever the fantastical seeps in, be it in books, the act of writing, architecture, art or even nature, VanderMeer follows, documents and then reports with some of the most spectacular and sophisticated turns of phrase I’ve seen in non-fiction.”

7.Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer again by Jeff VanderMeer.

I’m far from grasping the full set of benefits, because VanderMeer manages to distill the multi-facet nature of today’s publishing and the need to be a highly motivated and smart chameleon. It’s a beautiful instructional manual that explains the tools and why they’re needed in the publishing climate right now. There are hints at their usefulness, but how you intend to use them is all up to you, the reader. The Booklife is highly useful [my new personal bible] without limiting the writer.

Well this is me. I hope you enjoyed my picks and if you have read any of these, do tell me what you think of these books.

Thanks, Harry!

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7 Comments

  • Lori Strongin
    December 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Sad to say I haven’t read any of these (saw the Howl movie, though, if that counts), but I’m gonna have to rectify that. Monstrous Creatures and Dead Sea Fruit especially look interesting.

    Thanks for sharing your Best Of recommendations, Harry!

    Smiles!
    Lori

  • Karen Mahoney
    December 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    Harry! I totally agree with you on The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales and Booklife. Both are excellent.

    Cheers,
    Kaz

  • Jared
    December 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Awesome guest reviewer. Harry’s got amazing taste in horror & the Weird. Now I need to buy four of these!

  • Harry Markov
    December 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    @Lori: Monstrous Creatures will wet your appetite for books you had no idea existed. It was that way for me.

    @Karen: Slatter is a genius with the fairy tale trope! AND Booklife is opening my eyes on so many things.

    @Jared: You flatter me, sir! BUT yes, go read now. Best books ever.

    Thank you all for the comments! 🙂

  • Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    December 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Some excellent recommendations here, Harry. Kaaron Warren and Angela Slatter are both superb, and it’s wonderful to see them on a recommended list. VanderMeer is hit and miss for me, but I always respect the fact that he tries to push the boundaries. And Wynne Jones is wonderful–such a loss.

  • SandyG265
    December 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve seen Howl’s Moving Castle but haven’t read any of those books.

  • Cthulhurotica Lands on “Best Of” 2011 Reading List « Cthulhurotica
    December 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm

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