books monthly august 2017

Two adult books of the month for August!

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Philippa Gregory: Order of Darkness Vols i-iii

Published by Simon and Schuster 15th June 2017

 

A bind-up of the first three books in bestselling author Philippa Gregory's rich, dramatic, atmospheric Order of Darkness series, launching a fantastic new cover look! “deftly conceived … richly detailed” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH on Changeling...
THE YEAR IS 1460 AND ALL SIGNS POINT TO IT BEING THE END OF THE WORLD.  
Accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, Luca Vero is recruited by a mysterious stranger to record the end of the days. His first mission takes him to a nunnery where the women are showing terrible signs of possession under an imprisoned Lady Abbess – Isolde. Thrown together by danger, Luca and his true friend Freize, alongside Isolde and her companion Ishraq, embark on a daring journey across Europe, as they uncover the secrets of Order of Darkness, racing to stay ahead of the end of the world. Dive deep into the world of medieval legends and disentangle reality from fear: read the first three books in the Order of Darkness series from the internationally renowned author of historical fiction Philippa Gregory.

 

Philippa Gregory's Mediterranean Medieval trilogy gets five-star treatment from publisher Simon and Schuster in this blockbuster one-volume book. Immerse yourself in a time of heresy and sedition as Luca and Freize battle to stay alive while others around them are murdered or imprisoned.

 

 

 

 

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Adult Book of the Month #1: Winston Graham: The Four Swans

       Published by Pan 1st June 2017

The Four Swans is the masterful sixth novel in Winston Graham's sweeping series of Cornwall, Poldark. Cornwall 1795-1797. Although Ross Poldark – now something of a war hero – seems secure in his hard-won prosperity, a new dilemma faces him in the sudden infatuation of a young naval officer for his wife Demelza. All four women – the four swans – whose lives touch Ross’s, face a crisis in these years. For his wife Demelza, his old love Elizabeth, his friend’s new wife Caroline and for the unhappy Morwenna Chynoweth these are times of stress and conflict. Published by Pan 1st June 2017.

 

For me, this is by far the best of the six Poldark novels so far republished by Pan to coincide with the brilliant BBC drama - the turbulent love lives of Demelza, Elizabeth, Morwenna and Caroline are all laid bare in the earthy tones of Winston Graham as he finally succumbs to the heady majesty of the superb female characters he has created and gives them their freedom to explore the world of love and lust in all its glory. Mesmerising stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Book of the Month #2: Philippa Gregory: The Last Tudor

       Published by Simon and Schuster 8th August 2017

‘How long do I have?’ I force a laugh.
‘Not long,’ he says very quietly. ‘They have confirmed your sentence of death.  You are to be beheaded tomorrow.  We don’t have long at all.’
Jane Grey was Queen of England for nine days. Using her position as cousin to the deceased king, her father and his conspirators put her on the throne ahead of the king’s half-sister Mary, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her crown and locked Jane in the Tower. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block. There Jane turned her father’s greedy, failed grab for power into her own brave and tragic martyrdom. ‘Learn you to die’ is the advice that Jane gives in a letter to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and find love. But her lineage makes her a threat to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and, when Mary dies, to her sister Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a potential royal heir before she does.  So when Katherine’s secret marriage is revealed by her pregnancy, she too must go to the Tower. ‘Farewell, my sister,’ writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary finds it easy to keep secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After watching her sisters defy the queen, Mary is aware of her own perilous position as a possible heir to the throne. But she is determined to command her own destiny and be the last Tudor to risk her life in matching wits with her ruthless and unforgiving cousin Elizabeth.

 

Forget everything you knew or thought you knew about Queen Elizabeth 1st - Philippa's latest (and possibly last) foray into the histories of Tudor England and the women who lived, loved and died during the period reveals a side to Elizabeth I for one never knew existed, and portrays her as something of a monster - obsessed with the belief that everyone was plotting against her, obsessed with Robert Dudley, obsessed with keeping the three Grey sisters and their offspring from inheriting the throne of England and going to any lengths to do so. Philippa reveals that very little is known about the Grey sisters, but what she has turned up is pure dynamite, and in her brilliant, expert hands, the Tudor court and Elizabeth's machinations are brought once more to life in a manner that no other historical novelist of the Tudors can match. Absolutely superb!

John Connolly: He

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 24th August 2017

 

John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity and the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists. An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake . . . And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe. he is Stan Laurel. But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction. With he, John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel &Hardy.

 

Beautifully written account of the life and times of Stan Laurel.

 

Tony Rea: Red Sky over Dartmoor

Published by Matador 28th June 2017

 

On a September morning in 1920, beneath a striking, vividly red sky, three ex-soldiers meet in a sleepy Devonshire village. One of them is soon to die. Red Sky Over Dartmoor is a fast-moving war novel, featuring everyday heroism and moral failure. Marc Bergeron is a Canadian artillery captain who just can't keep out of trouble. His gritty sidekick, Bombardier Ryan, is a wiry Irishman with a reputation for fist fighting and deadly accuracy with a Mauser pistol. Whilst fighting in France, Bergeron encounters the incompetent Major Cross and the deplorable Captain Wadham, both of whom have an axe to grind with one of their NCOs. When two suspicious deaths occur, Bergeron is determined to find those responsible and ensure that justice is served. Tony's debut novel contains meticulously researched historical references, complimented by brief historical endnotes which separate fact from fiction. The fast-paced battle scenes are interspersed with post-war events in south Devon, helping readers to observe the effects of war on all those involved. Red Sky Over Dartmoor is a unique book that will appeal to fans of historical and war fiction, as well as those with an interest in Devon.

 

Santa Montefiore: The Last Secret of the Deverills

Published by Simon and Schuster 1th July 2017

 

Be swept away with beloved bestselling author Santa Montefiore and the Deverill Chronicles

It is 1939 and peace has flourished since the Great War ended. But much has changed for the Deverill family and now a new generation is waiting in the wings.
Martha Wallace came to Dublin from her home in America to find her birth mother. But instead she has lost her heart to the impossibly charming JP Deverill. Then she discovers that her mother comes from the same place as JP, and her fate seems sealed.

Bridie Doyle, now Countess di Marcantonio and mistress of Castle Deverill, is determined to make the castle she used to work in her home. But her flamboyant husband Cesare has other ideas. And as his eye strays away from his wife, those close to the couple start to wonder if he really is who he says he is.

Kitty Deverill has come to terms with her life with her husband Robert, and their two children. But then Jack O’Leary, the love of her life, returns to Ballinakelly. And this time his heart belongs elsewhere…

This summer discover the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Deverill Chronicles.

 

It's difficult for me to go into too much depth without having read the previous volumes in what appears to be an excellent series - suffice to say that it has a brilliant mix of everything that's good about family stories - this will keep you going for ages on the beach and at bedtime. Superb.

David Collenette: Hawk's Cross

Published by The Book Guild 28th June 2017

 

Abandoned at birth, Matthew Hawk has established a reasonable existence living on the streets of London, his only income coming from a remarkable and unique talent. This solitary lifestyle suits Matthew until he crosses paths with Ethan Connelly, a wealthy and extremely powerful man with a desperately dangerous mind, who throws Matthew into a deadly and terrifying game with no hope of success.

 

 

 

 

T C Sutton: Legacy of a Duellist

Published by The Book Guild 28th June 2017

 

A dirty ragged child wanders through woodlands, driven by a desperate need to appease his hunger. Attracted by the sound of laughter and voices, he peers through the undergrowth to be confronted by a scene so far divorced from his limited experience that it appears magical in his eyes.

This filthy ragged scrap of humanity has no idea that the finger of fate is already writing his story in the sands of time.
Circumstances gradually draw him into a lifestyle that his humble birth right, in the early years of the eighteenth century, could never have given him without the intervention of destiny. He will find comfort, knowledge, and a family life. As he grows to adulthood he will become affluent, knowledgeable and refined. He will become one of the upper classes that he currently gazes on in such awe. Fickle fate, however, will charge him a high price for the gifts it bestows on him…

He would know the fear and desperation of the hunted felon.
He would know unbearable sadness.

Our unnamed protagonist will have to overcome the doubts and uncertainties that the fear of death brings to all who stand on the field of honour. Worst of all, he will have to endure the lonely isolation of someone feared by his fellow man.
Fate, although bestowing her favours on him, provides him with a destiny peopled by powerful enemies dedicated to his destruction. They will ensure he must always be looking over his shoulder, never daring to trust or to give friendship freely for fear of being betrayed and delivered, helpless, to those who wished to destroy him.
Ultimately the path of destiny will lead him to the final challenge, where he will look into the jaws of death itself in order to gain his rightful legacy…

 

Rob Osborne: Anything Is Possible

Published by The Book Guild 28th June 2017

 

Matt leads an ordinary life, working at a bank in London. He whiles away the hours at his normal job, fantasising about a soap star, Abbey Jones – and can’t believe his luck when she arrives in his branch to make a cash withdrawal during a visit to London. However, during this once-in-alifetime moment, Matt makes a fool of himself and Abby is somewhat abrupt with him. Following a stream of events and another chance encounter, Matt and Abbey begin to develop feelings for each other. After all of these years spent yearning for Abbey, Matt does not feel an ordinary man like him can develop a sustainable relationship with someone so famous, which leads to their relationship breaking down. Will Matt and Abbey find a way to be together? Or will her fame destroy their chance of happiness? Anything is Possible has been inspired, in part, by Rob’s jobs in banking – from Nationwide Building Society to Alliance & Leicester and then Lloyds TSB.

 

Edward Forde Hickey: Footsteps In The Dew

Published by Matador 28th July 2017

 

Footsteps in the Dew is a novel which details the social history of rural Ireland between the two World Wars. In days when the immediacy of television was unavailable, the richness of human speech was the main source of daily entertainment. These tales are written in a similar lyrical language as used by a past generation of storytellers. They range from the uniqueness of family law to tales of heroes, adventurers and even murderers. There is a dichotomy expressed in the role of men and women towards nationalism, the gentry, the clergy and also alternative faiths (e.g. Protestantism and Quakerism). The freedom of men is noticeable (for it is only the men who spin tales) in contrast to the yearly struggles of women and childbearing. One tale includes the stain of illegitimacy and the ostracising of the young girl to lifelong 'laundry work' with the nuns. As might be expected, the book ends with a tale of romantic love -- of reconciliation and jubilation.

 

J Paul Henderson: Larry and the Dog People

Published by No Exit Press 10th August 2017

 

Larry MacCabe is a man who needs people more than most... The problem for Larry is that most people have little need for him. Larry MacCabe walks along the hard shoulder of life with an empty gas can in his hand. He's a retired academic, a widower, and, until a chance meeting with Ms Parker, the administrator of a care home he's no longer allowed to visit, he's also without associates. At her suggestion, he adopts a Bassett Hound and joins Ms Parker and her friends at Georgetown's Volta Park one Saturday. He becomes a regular visitor and, for the first time in his life, the member of a gang whose affiliates number a waterfall tuner, an overweight museum attendant, an ex-tank commander and a woman defined by her birth at the centre of the United States. As the Dog People prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to his paper on the Desert Land Act of 1877 and arranges for Wayne Trout, a challenged young man he's met and befriended in the park, to house-sit while he delivers his paper in Jerusalem. Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, and on his return Larry is charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people. All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer called Osmo McNulty - and things for Larry aren't looking good.

 

This is so different from mainstream adult fiction it's hard to know where to start. It's offbeat, qhacky, quirky, and brilliant fun!

 

Ian Williams: Beijing Smog

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Set in contemporary China, Beijing Smog is a novel about deception. It is about the power of online ridicule and rumour in a society where truth and reality are about as clear as the thick smog, beneath which corrupt politicians struggle for power, spies stalk cyberspace, and a bubble economy is about to burst.

It is the story of an image, which is posted online as a joke, goes viral, and ends up threatening the ruling Communist Party, which doesn’t have a sense of humour.

It is built around three characters. A 21-year-old Chinese blogger who lives mostly in a virtual world beyond the screen of his smartphone, and who first posts the image; a delusional British businessman, still selling the China Miracle even as it crumbles around him, and an American diplomat chasing cyber spies. Their individual stories collide as the image takes on a life of its own in a bizarre and threatening way for them all – but mostly for the Party.

Ian Williams’ cyber thriller takes readers from Beijing’s smoggy streets to Shanghai’s historic Bund, from the casinos of Macau to the grim factories of southern China, the ice sculptures of freezing Harbin and the islands off the coast of Hong Kong.

Beijing Smog is a gripping, character-led novel that takes a satirical look at the topsy-turvy world that is modern China. An edgy and original approach, this novel intelligently captures the madness, but also the corruption and dangers of the People’s Republic and sheds light on the Westerners who have grown rich by looking the other way.

Perfect for fans of classic, fast-moving thrillers, Beijing Smog will also appeal to those with an interest in eastern politics, economics and culture. Ian Williams has lived in and reported from Asia for more than 20 years, travelling the length and breadth of China. He draws on that experience to provide an authentic and realistic account of a nation consistently shrouded in secrecy.

 


 

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its sixteenth 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.