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Book of the Month: The Chalet School and Richenda


My book of the month for April is from the very excellent Girls Gone By Publishers, who continue to republish the Chalet School titles as if they're going out of fashion, which they never will. With GGBP you always get the complete package - a superb publishing history complete with cover art gallery, and a completely checked text. The production values are second to none and the entire package is absolutely brilliant.





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four more super crime crackers... another brilliant month for crime fiction!

Welcome to the April 2018 issue of Books Monthly! This month it's crammed with sensational new crime books and a whole host of spectacular nonfiction books, together with some superb new children's books, including an encyclopedia of Thomas The Tank Engine and Friends from Dorling Kindersley. There are so many fabulous new books in this issue, I may have to postpone the next instalment of my memoirs of a long and brilliant childhood in Brockworth, Gloucestershire.


We are now, at the time of writing, well past the halfway mark of the seventeen thousand episodes of this year's Masterchef, and it's heartwarming for me to read that the viewing figures for the first episode were well down on last year. Maybe the producers and programme planners will at last realise that the format, with shouter and gurner-in-chief barrow-boy Greg Wallace and laid back chef John Torode are peddling a programme that is tired, run down, and no longer interesting. Much of the food they serve up in Masterchef, in the studio and in the professional kitchens is alien in concept and doesn't resemble real food in any way whatsoever, often resembling instead a very unappetising Pot Noodle with some bizarre inedible combination of undercooked meat and vegetables. Yuk! In complete contrast, Bake-Off's new home on Channel Four is a resounding success, and I'm happy to watch the "celebrity" contestants go head to head with each other as they rack up money towards beating cancer. This programme, far from fading when it changed channels, has had new life breathed into it - it's hilarious, heartwarming and entertaining television. Masterchef has run its course, it's a tired format, and the food at times, is quite nauseating, whereas Bake-Off is all about food we all want to eat, nothing too controversial, all very palatable. And it's only on once a week. Mary Berry continues to bore us on BBC1 - I personally think she's past it as well, and her upper class approach to cookery and life has been alienating me now for quite some time. I know Prue Leith is also quite posh, but she's infinitely more entertaining than Mrs Berry, who should have retired forty-odd years ago. And if you think I'm straying from the point of Books Monthly, let me remind you that there is a new Mary Berry book out (which I'm not going to review and haven't even asked for - they are all the same) and there are various new Masterchef books as well, one of which I reviewed last month. My main problem with Masterchef is that it occupies far too many hours of TV each week - the final two weeks see it taking over prime time television on four nights - way too much air time for the gruesome pairing of Wallace and Torode and having to watch them eat what looks like..... I'm lost for words, thankfully!


Now for something completely different: films based on books - I recently watched Paddington 1 and Paddington 2, which was released last week (at the time of writing) and I couldn't help thinking that these are works of genius, enhancing the prose of the wonderful Michael Bond to the extent that this is now one of the most successful literary franchises of all time. A wonderful cast, a brilliant screenplay, and staggeringly good special effects. Can't wait for Paddington 3, which I understand is definitely going ahead, the producers having already decided to carry on before filming of 2 even started. One of my Christmas Blu Rays was Stephen King's The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. I wasn't in that much of a hurry to watch it, but I have got round to it now. I don't have as much of a problem with it as Stephen King/Dark Tower purists have, for one simple reason - to stick to the books would require several seasons of eleven or twelve episodes, and I don't think there is that much of a call for it, people who love the books (as I do) preferring the written word to the silver screen. The film is excellent, with a strong cast and superb special effects, and captures the essence of the series whilst concentrating on one of the key elements - the film centres on Jake, who has a strong "shining" (something King explored in The Shining and Doctor Sleep, of course. Danny was occasionally at risk of being captured by The Crimson King, though not to the extent that he is in the film, but the shining is something that binds many of Stephen King's books together. The Dark Tower is a fantasy-thriller, with gifted children being set to work to destroy the dark tower as Roland (Idris Elba) struggles to catch up with the Man in Black and prevent him from taking over the universe (which is, after all, the main thrust of the books). It's a brilliant story, well served by the film. Whilst it can't cover the seven books and millions of words in the series, it can provide a strong sense of what the Dark Tower is all about. I thorougly enjoyed it!


See you all in May! Happy reading...


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.