Cometary Tales Blog,On Books Books Make the Best Gifts

Books Make the Best Gifts

A group of authors affiliated with the San Francisco chapter of the Women’s National Book Association got together earlier this month to celebrate our pandemic-time publications. Oh, my goodness, what a variety! What awesome works.

Are you shopping for friends and family who aren’t as committed to science fiction and fantasy as you are? Need some hot tips for books that will surprise and delight them with your confidence in stepping out from your own genre?

Here’s your directory, so you can jump to satisfy your target gift recipients’ desires. Each cover photo links to the relevant Amazon page. If you prefer to buy elsewhere, head for the author’s website.

Historical Fiction

Thrillers and Mysteries

Short Stories and Contemporary Fiction

Memoir

Poetry

Books for Children and Parents

Nonfiction and Self-Improvement

And we’re off!

Historical Fiction

COver for Betrayal on the Bayou, showing a broad pool with tall bayou trees leaning over the water and casting reflections.

Hungry for a story with deep African American and French connections? Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte’s Betrayal on the Bayou plunges the reader into 1854 Louisiana, where a young Parisian widower “sets off a twenty-eight-year chain of events that reveal the brutal truths of inequality, colorism, and betrayal.” Sheryl’s blog is here. You’ll find she also teaches writing.

Book cover for What Disappears, with the Eiffel Tower rising above a cityscape.

Russian history? The delights of Paris? Ballet? Does your gift recipient love any of these? Meet up with long-separated twins at the Ballet Russe, and hold your breath as to what will happen next, in Barbara Quick’s What Disappears. Visit Barbara at her website.

Thrillers and Mysteries

Cover for What Jonah Knew, with silhouettes of a small boy and a young man superimposed on one another.

How about a deep, soul-searching, thriller….head for Barbara Graham’s What Jonah Knew, on the surface a story about mothers and sons, but one that delves into “metaphysical questions about life and death—and what happens in between.” Follow Barbara on her website.

Cover for Detours, with a young woman gazing from the cover, pale, wide-eyed and serious.

From mothers and sons to a mothers and daughters, come to Sheri McGuinn’s newest book, Peg’s Story: Detours, which answers questions raised by the first book in this series, Running Away. Discover links between the stories as you follow Peg’s escape to a new life—only to see her mistakes spiral “into a life-changing series of events.” Catch up on Sheri’s website.

Contemporary Fiction

Cover for What Is Possible from Here, with title words on a cardlike field, with clusters of pink flowers behind and around the edges.

Do you want to share stories of real people finding their way through ordinary life? Stories set all over the country? Try Cynthia Gregory’s What is Possible From Here, a collection exploring “the nature of friendship and love, and the myriad ways we endeavor to make meaning in an unpredictable world.” You can also find her nonfiction book, Journaling as a Sacred Practice, through Cynthia’s website. If you’d like a hardcover copy of her collection, you can find it online at Barnes & Noble.

Cover for Begin Again, with a wide landscape of golden hills rising to rough brown hills and a deep blue-clouded sky, with a rainbow falling to earth.

Looking for grounded contemporary women’s fiction? Consider Kimberly Dredger’s Begin Again. This novel takes you on a young widow’s journey, “as she struggles to re-enter life, enduring more loss and sadness on her way to ultimate empowerment.” To expand your collection, you might also pick up Kimberly’s anthology of essays, stories, and poetry, starting on her author page.

Memoir

Cover for Dancing on the Wine-Dark Sea with a woman in a long dress twirling as she wades ankle-deep at the edge of the sea, with a sunset glowing in the sky and on the water.

How about a fabulous feminist travel memoir? Diane LeBow’s Dancing on the Wine-Dark Sea: Memoir of a Trailblazing Woman’s Travels, Adventures, and Romance takes you “dining with Corsican rebels and meeting a black stallion in a blizzard on the Mongolian steppes to assisting exiled Afghan women and savoring a love affair with an elegant French Baron.” Catch up with Diane on her website.

Full disclosure: I WON a copy of this book in the event giveaway, after listening to Diane give us more details about her story. Can’t wait until it arrives, so I can follow the whole adventure.

Cover of Loving Before Loving, with an old black-and-white photograph of a couple smiling together--a white woman with close-cropped hair, and a black man with a short hair and a short-trimmed moustache.

For a blend of social justice history and memoir, look for Joan Lester’s Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White, which takes the reader back in time. You’ll find a deeply personal story exploring racism, sexism, and marriage, through the lives of one couple: a memoir of love and life in the midst of the civil rights and women’s rights movements. Get to know Joan through her website.

Cover for The Red Sandals, with a graphic of a plant bowing down against a red background, with a black and white photo of a small Chinese girl in a white dress with white ribbons in her hair, her hands clasped together.

For an unflinching look into life in Mao’s China, and the impact on one girl, pick up Jing Li’s The Red Sandals: A Memoir, in which she shares her personal story of being the unwanted girl in a poverty-stricken family, her scholastic journey within the Chinese system, her transition to America, and growth as a teacher and writer. Learn more about Jing and her story here.

Cover for Promenade of Desire, with broad color slashes in yellow and blue and red, over a partially-concealed photograph of a young woman with her arm lifted, in a seemingly-seductive pose.

Through her dramatic memoir, Promenade of Desire—A Barcelona Memoir, Isidra Mencos uses her own story of learning to free herself from repression through books and salsa dance, to create a “sensual, page-turning coming-of-age story: Isidra evolves from a repressed Catholic virgin to a seductive Mata Hari.” Learn more about Isidra and her journey at her website.

Cover for Brown Skin Girl, a graphic design with an artist's representation of a young woman in a long skirt, her long dark hair sweeping out to form a background for the books's subtitle, with shapes of flowers, leaves, and birds woven into the background.

For a heartwarming story of one person’s escape from the abuses of family and culture, follow Mytrae Melania. In her Brown Skin Girl: An Indian-American Woman’s Magical Journey from Broken to Beautiful, she shows how her journey…through many trials…brought her to “freedom, love, and the magic that finds you when you follow your heart.” Find more about her mission at her website.

Poetry

Cover for Birds of San Pancho, with a golden-breasted bird perched on a twig, with blurred greenery in the background.

Shopping for someone who loves poetry? Travel? Birds? Lucille Lang-Day’s Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place deploys Lucille’s wordsmithing to unveil her “vast curiosity, an intimate knowledge of flora and fauna, and a keen appreciation for the things of this world—travel, food, weather, the manifold creatures, love.” Follow Lucille at her website.

Cover for Deeply Notched Leaves, with a background of green leaves and one bright yellow daisy-like flower.

For “a merry-go-round of life experience in story-poems and social commentary full of spice and wisdom,” take a whirl with Dr. Jeanne Powell’s Deeply Notched Leaves. This 2021 collection will set your head spinning. Find more of Jeanne’s literary work at her website.

Books for Children and Parents

Cover for The Strider and the Regulus, a seascape with octopus/squid tentacles rising from the sea and curving through the letters of the title.

Looking for something fantastic for a young adult reader? Tricia Wagner’s The Strider and the Regulus is the opening salvo in a three-volume series. “A starry-eyed boy. A cryptic map. A mythical treasure. What perils await in the chasing of dreams?” Get to know Tricia at her website.

Cover for The Smugglers, with an old-timey suitcase covered with stickers about aliens and space and spaceships, sitting in a long metallic hallway that looks like part of a space structure.

My own 2022 release, The Smugglers, falls in this category. This LGBTQ-friendly story centers on an adolescent alien who’ll face changes in his world—and herself—as they rush to the rescue of an escaped animal. Written for children (middle grade readers and up) and their parents, the story shows us both the mother’s and the child’s point of view through this adventure.

Cover for The Peddler's Gift, wtih drawing of a man in a long coat and rond hat, with several villagers behind him.

Need a storybook for a young person…or do you just love those old traditional-style tales and beautiful illustrations of life in the Old Country? Maxine Schur’s The Peddler’s Gift, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root, is a new edition of the “wistful, moving tale of a boy who steals a toy from a foolish peddler only to discover he’s not so foolish after all.” Find more of Maxine’s books, including Finley Finds His Fortune, at her website.

Cover for Treasure Hunt, with three children peering standing in a large cardboard box, with a pinwheel shape of yellow and green behind them.

Young readers (the 3-8-year-old set) on your gift list? I used to set up treasure hunts for my little brothers…so much fun. Here, Stephanie Wildman’s Treasure Hunt, with art by Estafania Razo, takes three siblings on a search for wonders In their own home. For grownup reading, find Stephanie’s website to discover her book on the perils of privilege in America.

Cover for Sun and Moon's Big Idea, with a cartoon sun and moon, smiling at each other above a cartoon city.

Another something sweet for the 8-and-unders, Karen Faciane’s The Sun and the Moon’s Big Idea, illustrated by Sierra Mon Ann Vidal, brings together the two most prominent “lights” in our sky… to celebrate “the uniquely, wonderful person you were born to be.” Keep up with Karen on her author page.

Nonfiction

Book Cover for Chakra Tonics, showing two glasses filled with a purplish mixture topped by raspberries and blueberries with sprigs of mint.

It’s that time of year, when people are looking for paths to self improvement, for personal well-being and creating moments of calm in this crazy world. Try out Elise Marie Collins’ Chakra Tonics, Essential Elixirs for the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Yes, finally, a “lively information packed recipe book filled with positive life lessons based on the ancient Indian spiritual system, known as the Chakras.” Catch up to Elise via her contact tree.

Book cover for Make Every Move a Meditation, with wavelike shapes in shades of red to gold rolling under words about mindfulness, mental health, and well-being.

Here’s more nonfiction for personal wellbeing: Nita Sweeney’s Make Every Move a Meditation: Mindful Movement for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Insight. Do you imagine meditation is all about sitting still or following strict formulas for movement? Nita teaches ways to understand meditation more deeply: “What if lifting weights, dancing, or walking across a room counted? What if you could make every move a meditation?” At her website, you can pick up a free handout.

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