books monthly home page december 2016 - the Christmas Issue

EMail me about Books Monthly     This issue of Books Monthly celebrates the wonder of books at Christmas with over forty nonfiction titles...

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Publisher of the Year 2016: Alma Books Children's Classics

This year has been an exceptional one for Alma Books Chiildren's Classics with superb new editions of (among others) The Railway Children, The Secret Garden, The Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, The Jungle Book and Little Women, all of them outdoing any other paperback edition in terms of design, readability etc., etc. I've seen the catalogue for the first six months of 2017 and there are plenty more great new editions to come, including a set of H G Wells, and John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps. Watch this space!

 

 

In the next issue, Dorling Kindersley's THE HORSE ENCYCLOPEDIA is republished. This is an equestrian "bible" with over 200 breeds fully described. Highlights include a detailed guide to buying and breeding horses; facts on horse care and management; equestrian sports; more. 500 photographs and illustrations in full-color and black-and-white.

 

 

Also in the next issue, DK's Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect teaches you how to cook over 100 exciting recipes, all made particularly special with Mary Berry's very own Keys to Perfection.

For every delicious recipe Mary identifies the crucial part to get right to guarantee best results, and then demonstrates it with step-by-step instructions. She reveals the secret to crisp pork crackling or melt-in-the-mouth salmon, how to bake a feather-light cake, or the key to a super-crunchy crumble topping.

Mary Berry Cooks The Perfect comes with an exclusive tote bag, making it the perfect gift for every Mary fan. With a variety of recipes for the whole family to enjoy, quick suppers to rustle up after work, and impressive dishes for when you entertain, Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect is the only cookbook you need to guarantee perfection every time. Discover a delicious mix of tried and tested favourites, and new twists on the classics, with a selection of new ingredients and flavour combinations.

Mary knows the details in a recipe that make all the difference. Discover them in Mary Berry Cooks the Perfect.

 

 

 

William Shakespeare, P G Wodehouse and Star Wars...

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My Books of the Year for 2016...

My Book of the Year for 2016 was an easy choice - in between reading the books that have come my way for the various issues of Books Monthly, I've been re-reading Stuart MacBride's entire collection of Logan MacRae adventures, right from the very first title, COLD GRANITE. I have no doubt I shall have reached IN THE COLD DARK GROUND by the time we get to Christmas week. There are various sets of books that give me immense pleasure, titles I am happy to read again and again and again - for example, one of my birthday presents for my 70th birthday this September was the Blu-Ray version of Stephen King's best ever novel, 11:22:63, and during September I set aside my Logan MacRae and read it for probably the fifth or sixth time. I never tire of it. I never tire of Stephen King, and happily re-read the Dark Tower novels, The Stand, IT and 11:22:63 again and again. Towards the end of September, my review copy of Bernard Cornwell's tenth Dark Ages novel, THE FLAME BEARER arrived (see below), and I once again put on hold my journey through the extraordinarily colourful life of Logan MacRae, knowing that I would be coming back to him ere long. And the point is this: you go through life discovering authors who become favourites: firm favourites. The first of these, for me, was Enid Blyton. Whenever I was stuck for something to read, I would turn to the Barney mysteries. A couple of years later, I discovered Leslie Charteris's Saint books, then Mazo de la Roche's Whiteoak series, and the last few of my formative teenaged years were occupied by Dennis Wheatley, and in particular his occult novels. All of these books are still available, because they have become favourites, not just of mine, but of countless thousands of people around the world who derive great joy from reading what our favourite authors write for us. Nowadays, if I'm stuck for something to read, I turn to Stephen King and Bernard Cornwell, but first and foremost, it's Stuart MacBride and the adventures of Logan MacRae. IN THE COLD DARK GROUND is the tenth full-length novel featuring Logan MacRae, and it outshines every other crime novel of 2016 for me, and, indeed, every other novel I've had the privilege of reading. I have no hesitation in declaring it my book of the year for 2016.

 

My adult book of the year is Daisy Goodwin's superb novel about Young Victoria. Until I watched the TV series starring Jenna Coleman, I knew very little about the early years of Victoria's reign, but that all changed with the three books that were released to coincide with the best TV drama of 2016 (not counting the third Endeavour series, of course!). And Daisy Goodwin was heavily involved with two of those books; the novelisation, which is absolutely fantastic, and gives such a great deal more information than you get in the TV series, of course, and The Victoria Letters, the companion to the TV series. I have no doubt she drew heavily on A N Wilson's Victoria: A Life, which was the third book to complete my education into the turbulent but fascinating early years of the young Queen Victoria. The novelisation is sublime, reminiscent of the very best of Georgette Heyer, and I hope there's a novel to accompany the second series of Victoria when it returns at the end of 2017! Bernard Cornwell's The Flame Bearer is the tenth novel in his Dark Ages series featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg, already the subject of a fantastic first TV series that makes Game of Thrones look very shallow indeed. I know that this is not science fiction or fantasy, but it is so much better than any fantasy series (apart from Lord of the Rings) that I've ever read, and it is extraordinarily high adventure, so I make no apologies for nominating it my favourite sf/fantasy book of the year. Bernard runs a very close second to Stuart MacBride, and with Stephen King makes up the third of my trio of unbeatable favourite authors in that they never, ever, let me down.

 

My Nonfiction book of the year relates to a TV series and an autobiography that is very dear to me, Call the Midwife, and this year Simon and Schuster brought out Dr Turner's Casebook, written by Stephen McGann and lavishly illustrated, a brilliant new companion to the long-running family favourite TV show. Once again this year there's a Christmas special which will be followed by the new series early in the new year. It's a fabulous programme with a stunning, stellar cast and a never-ending supply of superb storylines. Anything that gives me something more than the TV show to read while it's off-air is OK by me, and this book is an absolute treasure trove of information about the infant NHS.

 

And my children's book of the year is First Term At Trebizon. I was proud and privileged to interview author Anne Digby when Fidra published one of her Trebizon books several years ago, and I was as pleased as Punch when Egmont announced that they would be republishing the entire series. Anne took an established genre and brought it bang up to date with Trebizon and its central characters, Rebecca and Trish, and I for one never tire of reading about their exploits. I can't remember if Pen and Sword's Illustrated History of the First World War 2016 was on the nonfiction page or the military history page. Whatever... it is my Military History Book of the Year, without hesitation - I always look through these books in the hope of seeing a photograph of my granddad, Arthur Robert Norman, who died at the Battle of the Somme in August 1916. Not only did I never get to meet him, this was a man who, in answering the call to serve his country, missed also seeing his own son grow up, my father, also Arthur Robert Norman. I have one photo of him, which I treasure, but one day, I'm sure, someone will write a history of the 13th Middlesex Regiment. In the meantime, I am proud to be able to remember all of them with the aid of this magnificent series of books from dedicated publisher Pen and Sword...

 

Finally this year, a time of the year when we traditionally remember those who have been taken from us during the last twelve months, a few words about my dogs. As regular readers will know, my younger border collie, Holly, passed away August 15th. My screen saver is a picture of Holly, and it serves to remind me what joy she brought into our lives, and how I console myself with believing that someone needed her more than we did. Sentimental and probably stupid, but it helps ease the pain of her passing. She will be sorely missed as we celebrate this Christmas. My other, slightly older border collie, Skipper, also had cancer, this time in his eye. Our lovely vet, Michaela, at Miramar Vets, Sheringham, tried to remove the tumour twice, but it kept coming back, so on Thursday November 17th she removed his left eye, complete with tumour, and within 48 hours he was virtually back to normal, slightly mad, hyper, and now coping magnificently with his remaining good eye. Here's hoping he has many more years with us... when he eats his dinner, he always has one eye on Holly's bed, which is still under the stairs, because she loved food and was always ready to come and clear up after Skipper, who's never been a particularly good eater. Holly is still with us - I can feel her presence even now as I'm writing this...

 

Time to go - see you in 2017, when we can put this disastrous year behind us and we will be only four years away from ridding our country of Theresa May and all her evil conservatives. Who said Thatcherism was dead? Seasons' Greetings to one and all - with some notable exceptions, of course, including those conservatives, the LibDems, Ukip and in particular the odious Nigel Farage and the monstrous Donald Trump! They won't care if you have a good a Christmas or not, the Christmas and the Christian message never reached them, they care only for themselves and the need to dominate and control the poor, the weak and the disabled...

 

The small print: Books Monthly, now entering its nineteenth 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.