books monthly july 2017

This month's pick of the new Adult Fiction titles...

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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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Winston Graham: Poldark Book 5 The Black Moon

Published by Pan 1st June 2017

 

The Black Moon is the enthralling fifth novel in Winston Graham's sweeping series of Cornwall, Poldark. Cornwall 1794. The birth of a son to Elizabeth and George Warleggan serves only to accentuate the rift between the Poldark and Warleggan families. And when Morwenna Chynoweth, now governess to Elizabeth’s eldest son, grows to love Drake Carne, Demelza’s brother, the enduring rivalry between George and Ross finds a new focus for bitter enmity and conflict. The Black Moon is followed by the sixth book in the Poldark series, The Four Swans.

 

This most handsome book is, for me, the best title so far in the Poldark series. And with series three of the brilliant TV programme now well under way, it is most gratifying to see that Debbie Horsefield hasn't changed anything (so far). This current series is based on books five and six of Winston Graham's Poldark books, and is equally as satisfying as the first series. In The Black Moon, Drake falls in love with Morwenna Chynoweth, Geoffrey Charles's young governess, Demelza gives birth to her and Ross's second daughter, whom they name Clowance; George Warleggan becomes a magistrate when Ross turns down the offer; Ross travels to the Scilly Isles to get news of Dwight Enys's plight on Caroline Penvenen's behalf, and he and she become inexorably closer. Jud is still in the book, but not in the TV series, but that's about the only thing Debbie has changed. These books go from strength to strength and it is to be hoped that Pan continue to publish the entire series even if the BBC pulls the plug on the TV adaptations, which at this stage seems most unlikely. Absolutely brilliant.

 

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.

 

As soon as I've finished The Black Moon I shall start on The Four Swans, and it will reain on the adult page until I've completed my review...

 

Beryl Matthews: When The Music Stopped

Published by Alliosn and Busby 23rd March 2017

 

London, 1910. Twins Lester and Lillia Holdsworth are destined for the stage. Lester is a brilliant pianist; Lillia a magnificent opera singer. But their cruel father has other ideas for their future. Lester is sent to a military academy, while Lillia must marry Lord Dalton - a self righteous, pompous friend of her father's looking for a young wife to give him an heir. Yet their plans to defy their father's wishes are put on hold when war breaks out in 1914. Suddenly Lester is flying planes for the RFC and Lillia trains as a nurse to help those wounded at home, and then abroad. For both twins, the fighting brings hardships and difficult choices. They wait in hope, like the rest of Europe, for the war to end and the music to start again.

 

Beautifully written melodrama involving a monstrous father and his twin daughters who become entangled in the first world war and bth serving their country in ways that transcend the feud with their domineering father. Superb!

 

Laurie R King: Mary Russell's War

Published by Allison and Busby 20th April 2017

 

Laurie R. King illuminates the hidden corners of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes’s world in this beguiling short story collection. With King’s beloved brand of crime fiction blended together with historical treats and narrative sleight of hand, we read from a teenage Mary’s wartime diary, learn more of Holmes’s marriage proposal and of Mycroft Holmes’s political activities, and follow Mary though a series of postcards as she searches for her missing husband. A richly illustrated and fascinating feast for fans and new readers alike, this collection lifts the lid on many untold stories from Russell and Holmes’s past.

 

The very first encounter I had with the great Sherlock Holmes was in a collection of short stories, and although The Hound of The Baskervilles remains my favourite Holmes story, the short stories are the ones that make the legend what it is. Laurie King, whose follow-up Holmes stories are undoubtedly the best (and all published by Allison and Busby), continues that tradition with her own collection, all brilliantly written, all entertaining...

Georgia Hunter: We Were The Lucky Ones

Published by Allison and Busby 16th February 2017

 

The Kurc family shouldn't have survived the Holocaust. In the spring of 1939 three generations are living relatively normal lives in Poland, despite the hardships Jews face. When war breaks out and the family is cast to the wind, the five Kurc siblings do everything they can to find their way through a devastated continent to freedom. Addy, a musician, charms his way into possession of a Brazilian visa and into the first class piano lounge on a ship full of refugees bound for Rio; Jakob marries the love of his life in an abandoned house to a soundtrack of air sirens; Mila hides her daughter in a Catholic convent outside of Warsaw, only to return weeks later to find the convent in ruins; Genek endures a brutal winter in a Siberian gulag before embarking with his wife and newborn son on a year-long exodus through Persia to fight for the Allies; and Halina attempts to flee over the Austrian Alps on foot - while pregnant. All this, across continents and often in ignorance as to the fate of the rest of their family, while the wheels of war turn. We Were the Lucky Ones is a profoundly moving and memorable novel based on the author's family experiences.

 

Incredible to believe that this tale is based on the author's own family's experiences of the holocaust. Any story like this is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes, - Georgia Hunter handles it superbly throughout, and the fact it's fact-based makes it all the more remarkable.

Jessica Brockmole: Woman Enters Left

Published by Allison and Busby 8th August 2017

 

1926. Two friends, Ethel Wild and Florrie Daniels, embark on a cross-country adventure in Florrie's Model T. They are heading west each with an important destination: Florrie is moving to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, while Ethel is trying to catch up to her husband in Nevada before he's able to start divorce proceedings.1952. B-list movie star Louise Wilde learns she's inherited screenwriter Florence Daniels's entire estate. She is baffled and her confusion only grows when she discovers a cache of old photographs of Ms. Daniels with her mother, who died when Louise was six. She drives east hoping her father can provide some answers, and hoping, too, that the time away will give her a chance to decide what to do about her own troubled marriage.

 

Beautiful family drama chasing mysteries across the years in 1950s USA. The style is reminiscent of Harper Lee and the characters are simply terrific.

Anna Jacobs: A Stranger In Honeyfield

Published by Allison and Busby 20th July 2017

 

1916: Bella is working as a Voluntary Aid driving ambulances in England when she gets engaged to Philip, on leave from fighting in France. His family strongly disapprove of her but the two of them are happy together.Georgie, Philip's sister, is in trouble having broken her engagement and fled from her bullying family. As she wonders who can she turn to for help when she needs it most, she finds herself at the gates of Honeyfield.When the worst happens, Bella must manage on her own, though there are shocks and dangers she did not foresee ahead. Thankfully, Philip's best friend Tez, injured in France, steps in to offer assistance. Can he also help Bella build a new life?

 

Anna Jacobs remains my favourite WW1 author, she has a way of bringing her characters to life whilst at the same time laying down a factual foundation for the time in which the story is set. A Stranger in Honeyfield encapsulates the horrors of war with the "carry on" attitude that prevailed. Magnificent.

 

Bill Bragg (Illus.): Ghostly Tales

Published by Chronicle Books 25th July 2017

 

A vengeful phantom lurks in a country graveyard.
A whaling crew becomes trapped on a haunted ship.
A human skull is kept locked in a cupboard, but
sometimes at night, it screams. . . .


This collection of tales transports the reader to a time when staircases creaked in old manor houses, and a candle could be blown out by a gust of wind, or by a passing ghost. Penned by some of the greatest Victorian novelists and masters of the ghost story genre, each story is illustrated with exquisitely eerie artwork.

 

Nicely presented collection of the type of story we used to devour as schoolkids in the Pan Books of Horror stories edited by Herbert Van Thal back in the early 1960s.

 

Sean Notyeats: From Small Beginnings

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

A stage in the poet's process - from song to stanza. From Small Beginnings, a collection of poetry by Sean Notyeats, is the result of his experimental efforts over a two-year period, often using song as a starting point. This collection of 60 poems and 1 fable are by a poet still learning the ropes and, hoping to inspire other poetry converts, demonstrates 'a stage in the poet's progress'. Covering a range of modern topics from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe, it includes themes such as sex, politics and death. Using the framework of poetry to bring the spotlight of truth onto the printed page, Sean developed his poetic sensibility through experimentation, using different styles to address issues with a light touch. This inspiring collection showcases this, and the progress achievable by organic growth.

 

Angus McAllister: Close Quarters

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

Walter Bain is the self-appointed dictator of the tenement at 13 Oldberry Road in Glasgow's cosmopolitan west end. For years, Walter has striven to impose his family values - stairs must be regularly washed, noise kept down, and wheelie bins moved back and forth at the correct times. When Walter is found murdered, there are plenty of suspects among his ungrateful neighbours. Comic book dealer Billy Briggs is estranged from his daughter, with his business in ruins, and Tony Miller is jobless and facing eviction, all because of Walter. Henrietta Quayle, bullied and belittled by the dead man, conceals a murderous obsession beneath her timid exterior. And alcoholic solicitor Gus Mackinnon has even more reason to hate Walter than anyone else. As Close Quarters takes a look back over the years at the various turbulent relationships between Walter and his neighbours, one thing becomes clear: although only one may be the murderer, none of them will mourn his passing. Close Quarters is primarily a comedy and will particularly appeal to Scottish readers, as it satirises the traditional and sentimental view of Glasgow's tenement life by placing it in a modern setting. The book will also appeal to readers of crime fiction.

 

Chloe Lee: The Metropolis of Glass

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

 

"The Metropolis of Glass" is a poetry collection touching on many aspects of modern day society. It spans a panoply of topics, including divorce, infidelity, loneliness and our rising use of social media. Chloe's intelligent insights into the negative impacts of our world's growing digitalisation, particularly on the younger generation, combine with her creative writing talents to create a poignant and relevant read. Chloe's collection provides comments on various topics, including poverty and the positive and negative issues often displayed in social interactions. It has been inspired by John Rushkin's "The Stones of Venice".

Katy Keating: No Man No Cry

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Until death us do part? Not likely. Four women reach middle age and begin to question the value of the men in their lives...Olivia, a sensual and bubbly drama teacher, married to staid, selfish Dominic, is caught up in her own drama when she surrenders her good sense to the attentions of one of her senior pupils. Lindsay, lost in her self-imposed seclusion, has never come to terms with the death of her husband. When her elderly mother succumbs to dementia and Lindsay has to face a second bereavement, it is more than she can cope with. Patty lives with her brother, orphans from their teenage years. Neither has married and their relationship is too close for Patty's comfort. She conceals this distress behind her dual personality of prim social worker by day and formidable rock chick by night. Helen's executive job allows her to act the part of Samantha in Sex and the City, but her boardroom success is not replicated in bed. Her third marriage is on the rocks and her very considerable female wiles no longer seem to be working. The four women welcome the opportunity to move to Spain - though not necessarily together! With much humour, and even more tears, these women gradually learn to rely on each other and look forward to the future - without their men. Uplifting, funny and thought-provoking, No Man No Cry is a sexy, sharply-written tale featuring colourful and relatable characters.

 

George Bothamley: The Diary of An Old Drunk

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

The Diary of an Old Drunk is a book unlike any other: it is a fictional autobiography, a biography, a work of philosophy and a poem. Despite being an imaginary account of the story of a life spent on the street, it gives a very real and poignant insight into the experiences of an outcast and outsider of society. 

Highlights include poems about nothing, meditations on loneliness, theories of how life is a casino, and heaven is a bar, and even humorous interludes of the little victories that momentarily brighten life on the streets. 

There are also a number of short stories, where the ‘old drunk’ reminisces about his troubled past, giving clues as how he came to be in the position he is in, and confessing two pivotal romantic affairs – one with a tragic young girl named Chesca, and the other with a troubled prostitute named Grace. 

The Diary of an Old Drunk is a book of tragedy and pain, but also of great depth and sensitivity. The narrator of the work – known only as the ‘old drunk’ – is a charismatic and engaging writer whose honesty will touch your heart, and whose way of expressing will make you feel as if you are right there on the streets with him.

 

Steve Joyce: The Tall Tale of Maxwell Anderson

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Meet Maxwell Anderson, the boy who never stops growing! Born fighting for his life, an experimental treatment gave him the chance to survive - but with unexpected results. His unusual condition makes him an outcast from his local community and attracts attention from the British Government, sinister international agencies and religious fanatics. Maxwell's father, Mark, suffers personal tragedy, betrayal and heartbreak, and experiences the joys of parenthood and a new romance, as he strives to provide the remotest semblance of a normal life for his extraordinary son. As friends old and new rally to help, Mark is innocently unaware that some people are not quite as they seem. As Maxwell ages and his condition gets ever more bizarre, rival groups battle to control him, a father's love for his son grows ever more intense, and an increasingly desperate situation calls for extreme measures...The Tall Tale of Maxwell Anderson explores themes of how society reacts to a person who is 'different', but first and foremost, this is a story of a father's love for his son. This fast-paced, non-technical novel is perfect to escape with and unwind, and will appeal to anyone looking for a story crammed with memorable characters, unforgettable scenes and gut-wrenching emotion.

 

Barbara Kastelin: When Snow Fell

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

On the centenary of the Russian Revolution, When Snow Fell introduces us with passion, touching charm and a dose of humour to three generations of a family who fled from the horrors in Russia to Oxfordshire, England. When Snow Fell is an intimate story of an eccentric family failing to cope with the UK in the 60s, having been accustomed to the glamour and extravagance of Imperial Russia. Woven with vivid flashbacks to the turmoil in Russia, this is an emotional, character-led account of a cultural clash. This book will appeal to fans of heartfelt family sagas with a strong historical twist. In their Oxfordshire mansion, twins Anna and Antonina try to survive their tempestuous family: their mother Valentina, extravagant financially and sexually; their grandmother Countess Olga, faded in beauty, but shrewd and strong-willed. Money is running out and Olga reluctantly decides to sell the Brodsky family treasure, the Ikon of the Virgin of Kazan. This awakes an old Party leader's deep-seated grudge, and Vasily Voronov is sent from Moscow to cultivate the Brodskys and to avenge past injustice. The ideologies of Vasily and the family collide, but their shared Russian blood is stronger, and we return to the glittering ballrooms of St. Petersburg and the snowy steppes to discover the long-buried secrets which continue to poison their lives.

Alistair Lavers: Mystery City

Published by Matador 28th May 2017

Mystery City is the sequel to Treasure Trove and is the second book in the Whitborough novel series. Mystery City is a light-hearted story with many threads, a large cast of people, two mischievous dogs and a rhino with depression. It combines comedy with tragedy, as well as mystery and chaos, to culminate in a tongue-in-cheek novel written in the style of popular writers of old. The first book in the Whitborough novels, Treasure Trove, documented the consequences of two men's bad decisions, which unleash a series of catastrophes that become too great to control. Mystery City continues the story, exploring the consequences of the events in Treasure Trove, covering the actions of the police, Home Office, and the Ministry of Defence. As the investigation into the events of the end of the first book get under way, new characters are drawn into the story, others are revisited and become more prominent in the narrative as the players try to uncover what has happened - and why. While the guilty parties go to ground, positioning themselves for what they assume must be the end game, the hunter become the hunted in this thrilling sequel.

 

Adrian Crisp: Colonel Belchamp's Battlefield Tour

Published by Matador 28th June 2017

It is May 1964. Devastated by the recent death of his small son, James Butland joins a tour of the 1940 battlefields in France where he served as an 18-year-old in the defence of Calais. There he reviews his own life, the conflicts of growing up in the interwar years and the approach of war in 1939. At the threshold of going to Oxford University, war is declared and James is plunged, not unwillingly, into the role of a soldier. Wounded in the defence of Calais in May 1940, he is hidden from the Germans by a French medical student, Agnes, and following a brief affair, she helps him to escape to England. James volunteers for the bitter campaign in Tunisia where he is again wounded, and is discharged from active service. He resolves to replace killing with saving lives and influenced by Agnes's example, he chooses to study medicine. After graduating, James's career flourishes in London. However, his family's new life is shattered by the death of his 9-year-old son in a road accident. On a whim during his return to the 1940 battlefields in 1964, James traces Agnes. When Agnes bluntly informs him that their son, Alexandre - a French name cruelly sharing its origin with Alasdair, the name of his dead son - was born in 1941, James despairs. After some soul-searching, James comes to realise that his love for Agnes during the war was real and still breathes. Their resuscitated love offers the prospect of some happiness. Colonel Belchamp's Battlefield Tour is a poignant and moving tale that will appeal to those with an interest in the human impact of war and its aftermath.

 

 

 


 

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.