booksmonthly book blog  september 2018

 

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Welcome to the September Blog from Books Monthly - a selection of this month's very best published Books - click on the Images down the left hand Column to go straight to the relevant Book. Two superb Titles from DK, six great children's books fro Gecko Press and another peppering of magnificent new Titles from the brilliant Alma Books. And on the other Page (Other books this Month) you'll find the Cover Images for all the many other Books that have come my way during the past Month. Do please let me know what you think by email at paulenorman1@gmail.com

  Book of the Month:

  Flight or Fright Eds: Stephen King & Bev Vincent

  Published by Hodder & Stoughton 4th September 2018

Fasten your seatbelts for an anthology of turbulent tales curated by Stephen King and Bev Vincent. This exciting new collection, perfect for airport or aeroplane reading, includes an original introduction and story notes for each story by Stephen King, and brand new stories from Stephen King and Joe Hill. Stephen King hates to fly. Now he and co-editor Bev Vincent would like to share this fear of flying with you. Welcome to Flight or Fright, an anthology about all the things that can go horribly wrong when you're suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph and sealed up in a metal tube (like - gulp! - a coffin) with hundreds of strangers. All the ways your trip into the friendly skies can turn into a nightmare, including some we'll bet you've never thought of before... but now you will the next time you walk down the jetway and place your fate in the hands of a total stranger. Featuring brand new stories by Joe Hill and Stephen King, as well as fourteen classic tales and one poem from the likes of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Dan Simmons, and many others, Flight or Fright is, as King says, "ideal airplane reading, especially on stormy descents... Even if you are safe on the ground, you might want to buckle up nice and tight." Book a flight for this terrifying new anthology that will have you thinking twice about how you want to reach your final destination.

 

This one came completely out of the blue - liyerally - or figuratively, rather. An eclectic collection of short stories having to do with passenger flight. For me, the two best stories are by Richard Mathieson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It's a crowd pleaser, and some of the stories are a little "vague" and incomprehensible, whilst others hit the mark perfectly. A good anthology, not ground-breaking, but something to read while passing the long hot summer evenings...

 

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  DK The Advanced Photography Guide

  Published by Dorling Kindersley 5th July 2018

Take your photography skills and technique to the next level with this inspiring and informative guide for budding photographers looking to improve their photography repertoire. Featuring a comprehensive range of topics from experimenting with lenses, exposure, and aperture to useful post-production techniques, the easy to follow step-by-step tutorials show you to master the functions on your cameras and develop exciting new techniques. As well as refreshing your existing knowledge, you will learn more advanced skills, such as how to freeze movement, use filters, and create brilliant images from multiple exposures. Flick through inspiring ideas for projects exploring themes ranging from close-ups and portraits to street scenes, landscapes, and the night sky, while useful tips and hints help you to think creatively, and tackle "difficult" subjects. Packed with practical advice and beautiful images, The Advanced Photography Guide will give you the know-how and confidence to produce truly stunning images and develop a distinctive style of your own.

 

This is the best yet of DK's brilliant library of books on digital photography. As always, however, my criticism is of the fact that far too much space is given over to doing things to photographs using specialist software such as Photoshop Elements. For me, the essence of digital photography remains taking the picture, i.e. setting up the camera and composing the shot, then taking it. Thankfully, the book steers clear of mobile phone photography which should be the subject of a book all to itself. Stunning images.

 

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Christopher Lloyd: Absolutely Everything!

  Published by What On Earth Books 16th October 2018

Discover everything from the creation of planet earth and the rise of animals, to globalization, wars and global warming with this collection of the most remarkable true stories of our time. How was our universe made from a tiny speck of energy? Where did the first trees, plants, animals and humans come from? What happened to the dinosaurs? What was so miserable about medieval times? How were railroads and electricity invented? What are the perils of global warming? You might have many big questions about our planet, life and people. Embark on an entertaining journey across millennia and continents with this captivating book by Christopher Lloyd, author of the bestselling What on Earth Happened.

 

This is really intended for children, even though the author and the publicity material claim that it will appeal to everyone. Clever of Chris Lloyd to tie it all together in the way he does - this kind of book was all the rage during the 1950s and 1960s - the illustrations are great, the text is OK - I was a little disappointed with the author's treatment of the Bible and in particular Jesus - I felt it could have made more of the fact that christianity is the world's biggest religion, and why this is so. But all in all, there is plenty in this book to grab your attention, and it certainly looks good!

 

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DK and Giles Coren: The Story of Food

  Published by Dorling Kindersley 3rd May 2018

Explore the rich stories, symbolism, and traditions that come wrapped up in the food on our plates - food that not only feeds our bodies but also makes up our culture. In The Story of Food; An Illustrated History of Everything We Eat our millennia-old relationship with nearly 200 foods - from nuts and seeds to noodles and meat - is sumptuously illustrated, with tales from all over the world. Food is the cornerstone of daily life, culture, and even religion. Staples like bread, rice, and salt are part of our culinary history, used in many ways all over the world. The Story of Food tells the extraordinary stories behind the foods we eat: from salt to sushi and rice to ravioli. It reveals, for example, that Pope Clement XIV was assassinated with poisoned drinking chocolate and tells the story of how coffee went being from a banned substance in some European countries to become the world's favourite hot drink. A true celebration of food in all its forms, this book explores the early efforts of humans in their quest for sustenance through the stories of individual foods. Covering all food types including nuts and grains, fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, and herbs and spices, this fascinating reference provides the facts on all aspects of a food's history. It explains how foods have become a part of our culture from their origins to how they are eaten and their place in world cuisine. The Story of Food is packed glorious images to create a feast for the eyes, while the stories intrigue, surprise, and enthrall. This is essential reference for every foodie.

 

This is one of those books that explains the universe of food in a particular way. There's not enough of Giles Coren in it - he only wrote the foreword, after all, and I'm a huge admirer of his ready wit and sparklig intellect, just as I was of his Dad. All the food groups are treated equally, and tehre's plenty to read about and be informed by in this very colourful treatise. I'm not sure who it's aimed at, but it's a very nice coffee table book!

 

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Alexander Stewart: Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way

  Published by Trailblazer Guides 25th June 2018

All-in-one, practical guide to walking the Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way, with 75 large-scale walking maps and guides to 33 towns and villages, planning, places to stay and places to eat. The Norfolk Coast Path & Peddars Way cover 130-miles of walking trails. The Norfolk Coast Path hugs the beautiful Norfolk coastline through Holkham, Wells, Blakeney and Cley to Cromer before it rounds the shoulder of the county and continues along the superb beaches and crumbling cliffs to Mundesley, Sea Palling and Great Yarmouth, finishing just before the Suffolk border. The Peddars Way runs through East Anglia from Knettishall Heath on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and follows a Roman road to Holme-next-the-Sea where it meets the Norfolk Coast Path. This new guide has been expanded from Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path (ISBN 978-1-905864-28-7) to include the 40-mile extension of the National Trail from Cromer to Hopton-on-Sea. Includes: * 75 large-scale walking maps - at just under 1: 20,000 (8cm or 3 and one eighth inches to 1 mile) * All standards of accommodation with reviews: campsites, bunkhouses, hostels, B&Bs, pubs/inns, guesthouses, hotels. * Where to eat with reviews: cafes, teashops, pubs, takeaways, restaurants and food shops. * Detailed public transport information for all villages and towns along the paths. * Itineraries for all walkers including one day Norfolk Coast Path and Peddars Way walks. * Downloadable GPS waypoints. * Colour pictures including a 6 page colour bird and flower guide. * Historical, cultural and geographical background information.

 

This is my patch - I paid close attention to the section on Sheringham, obviously, and was pleasantly surprised by the attention to detail when it came to eatig places, which seemed adequately covered, even though a couple of eateries were missed along the way. This is a brilliant aide memoire for the serious walker/rambler, with clear and concise instructions on how to find the coastal path (when it diverges from the coast, that is). Excellent, informative sections on wildife (particularly birds) with stunning photographs of what can be seen along the way. The maps are brilliant, clear and informative, and the whole book is a treasure trove of what's to be found in this part of the world. Amazing to note that this is the first time the Norfolk Coastal Path has been tackled by Trailblazer!

 

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H G M Williamson & Robert G Hoyland: The Oxford Illustrated History of the Holy Land

  Published by Oxford University Press 13th September 2018

The Oxford Illustrated History of the Holy Land covers the 3,000 years which saw the rise of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam―and relates the familiar stories of the sacred texts with the fruits of modern scholarship. Beginning with the origins of the people who became the Israel of the Bible, it follows the course of the ensuing millennia down to the time when the Ottoman Empire succumbed to British and French rule at the end of the First World War. 

Parts of the story, especially as known from the Bible, will be widely familiar. Less familiar are the ways in which modern research, both from archaeology and from other ancient sources, sometimes modify this story historically. Better understanding, however, enables us to appreciate crucial chapters in the story of the Holy Land, such as how and why Judaism developed in the way that it did from the earlier sovereign states of Israel and Judah and the historical circumstances in which Christianity emerged from its Jewish cradle. 

Later parts of the story are vital not only for the history of Islam and its relationships with the two older religions, but also for the development of pilgrimage and religious tourism, as well as the notions of sacred space and of holy books with which we are still familiar today. From the time of Napoleon on, European powers came increasingly to develop both cultural and political interest in the region, culminating in the British and French conquests which carved out the modern states of the Middle East. 

Sensitive to the concerns of those for whom the sacred books of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are of paramount religious authority, the authors all try sympathetically to show how historical information from other sources, as well as scholarly study of the texts themselves, enriches our understanding of the history of the region and its prominent position in the world's cultural and intellectual history.

 

This is the latest in OUP's series of 2illustrated histories" - the perfect introduction to one of the most coplex and difficuly places on Earth. The authors are careful to keep it fairly impassive whilst at the same time imparting essential information. A brilliant mix of education and entertainment.

 

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Elinor M Brent-Dyer: The Lost Staircase

  Published by Girls Gone By Publishers 3rd August 2018

Fully updated with the latest discoveries and research, amazingly realistic illustrations and detailed maps plot eight million years of human development in the context of our genetics, anatomy, behavior, environment, migrations, and culture.  This unrivaled illustrated guide to human evolution brings you face-to-face with your ancient ancestors. Traveling back in time almost eight million years, the book charts the development of our species, Homo sapiens, from tree-dwelling primates to modern humans. Evolution investigates each of our ancestors in detail and in context, from the anatomy of their bones to the environment they lived in. Key fossil finds are showcased on double-page feature spreads. Detailed maps show where each species has been found and plot the gradual spread of humans around the world. The book has been fully updated to include the latest discoveries and research--including the newly discovered species Homo naledi--and presents the latest thinking on some of the most captivating questions in science, such as whether modern humans and Neanderthals interacted with each other. Written and authenticated by a team of acknowledged experts and illustrated by renowned Dutch paleoartists the Kennis brothers, Evolution presents the story of our species with unique richness, authority, and detail.

 

This is one of EBD's non-Chalet School ventures, and there are marked differences between hers and Enid Blyton's and Malcolm Saville's adventure stories. EBD's is more formal and Chalet-School-like, whilst Enid and Malcolm plunge straight in with the narratives and the introductions to the main players. This has a far more serious edge to it than any Famous Five or Barney mystery, which is only what you would expect from EBD. Sumptuously produced by GGBD, as always.

 

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  Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks: The Girl, The Bear and the Magic Shoes

Published by Macmillan Children's Books 6th September 2018

 

When Josephine leaves the shoe shop after buying some new running shoes, she hears an unusual sound – Click-click! Click-click! A bear with a backpack is following her! Luckily for Josephine, her new shoes are anything but ordinary – these are magic shoes. But can they help her escape the bear when there's a mountain, a bog and even a lake in her way? The Girl, the Bear and the Magic Shoes is an exciting adventure from the stellar picture-book partnership of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks, creators of What the Ladybird Heard. Full of action and imagination, and with a delightfully unexpected ending, this gorgeously glittery book is one to enjoy over and over again. Enjoy all the stories from Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks: Sharing a Shell, The Princess and the Wizard, The Rhyming Rabbit, The Singing Mermaid, Sugarlump and the Unicorn, Princess Mirror-Belle and the Dragon Pox, What the Ladybird Heard, What the Ladybird Heard Next and What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday.

 

There is little to be said about a new Julia Donaldson/Lydia Monks masterpiece - the illustrations are sublime, and the story is magical. I can't fault it.

 

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 Sara Paretsky: Shell Game

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 16th October 2018

 

The new V.I. Warshawski novel from the New York Times bestselling author pits acclaimed detective V.I. Warshawski against some of today's most powerful figures. 'Paretsky is a genius' Lee Child. Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend's nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East. In Shell Game, nothing and no one are what they seem, except for the detective herself, who loses sleep, money, and blood, but remains indomitable in her quest for justice.

 

Surely one of the best P.I. writers in the world... edge of the seat stuff from one of the greatest thriller writers of our generation.

 

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  Emily Gravett: Cyril and Pat

Published by Two Hoots 12th July 2018

 

Cyril is the only squirrel in Lake Park, and he's very lonely. Until one day he meets Pat – Pat the big, grey . . . other squirrel. Cyril and Pat have lots of adventures and fun together and Cyril is so pleased he's made a friend. But everyone is adamant that Cyril and Pat simply cannot be friends, and they soon reveal why: Pat, as the reader has known all along, is actually a RAT! But Cyril's life turns out to be a lot duller and quite a bit scarier without Pat by his side, and in the end the two friends learn that some things are more important than being the same, or listening to others. Cyril and Pat is a richly colourful, rhyming romp through the park from the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal-winning Emily Gravett.

 

Cyril the Squirrel meets Pat the Rat - children will surely fall for this rhyming pair as they make their way through the park in Emily's superb new tale...

 

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  Maisie Paradise Shearring: Anna and Otis

Published by Two Hoots 9th August 2018

Anna and Otis the snake are great friends and they love having fun together. But Otis knows people are scared of snakes, so he usually just plays at home or in the garden. He is nervous when Anna suggests a new adventure. At first people are afraid, and Otis feels he isn't welcome in the town. But Anna encourages Otis not to give up, and it soon turns out that maybe snakes aren't as scary as people thought! The hairdresser enjoys shampooing a reptile for a change, and at the skate shop Sally has a lot of fun fitting Otis with his own set of awesome wheels. Anna and Otis is a hugely endearing, very funny story about overcoming fears and making friends from Bologna International Illustration Award-winning illustrator Maisie Paradise Shearring. Full of endless rich details to spot, Maisie's artwork is a treat to pore over.

 

I happen to have a phobia of snames, and with that in mind, I have to say that in my opinion it's a mistake having one as a major character in a children's picture book...

 

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  William Gordon: Requiem (Byland Crescent Bk 1)

Published by CreateSpace 6th July 2018

 

When successful businessman Albert Cowgill and his family move into Byland Crescent in the genteel resort of Scarborough, it seems the culmination of his boyhood ambitions. Having battled from extreme poverty to affluence he could scarcely have imagined, Albert expected the lifestyle would continue; a hope shared by his business partners. However, fuelled by tragedy and misunderstandings and betrayed by their own passionate character, discord within the family causes irreparable divisions that reverberate through their business and far beyond. Events elsewhere stoke the fires of international confrontation, and soon their comfortable existence will be destroyed in a maelstrom of violence the like of which has never been seen before. As World War 1 looms, they are unaware that it will signal a requiem for a generation.

 

A brilliant opener to Bill's saga series, with attention to detail and a strongly character-driven narrative that draws you in and takes you by the hand as you get to meet the major players. Faultless historical detail and superb dialogue make this a hugely enjoyable family drama.

 

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   Six new titles from Gecko Press

  

Antje Dam: The Visitor Published by Gecko Press July 2018

Elise was frightened--of spiders, people, even trees. So she never went out, night or day. One day a strange thing flies in through the window and lands at her feet. And then there comes a knock at the door. Elise has a visitor who will change everything. The Visitor is a story about friendship and shyness that plays out in a mini theatre, as a child unwittingly brings light and color--literally--into a lonely person's life. The unique artwork has a doll's house appeal. Damm creates a diorama from cardboard and photographs the scenes, giving the illustrations a special luminosity and depth.

 

Nice moral to the story, but I think the settings are a little dark for young people...

  Maria Jonsson: Valdemar's Peas Published by Gecko Press May 2018

Peas? No way! Valdemar may be a little wolf, but he knows what he wants. Valdemar swallows his fish sticksone, two, three. Good! But then Dad says he has to eat his peas before he can have chocolate ice cream. Peas are so good for you and give you lovely long ears! But peas are green and round and pointless, thinks Valdemar, and he already has long ears. Little sister Lin, on the other hand, eats pea after pea and soon she has an ice cream in her hand. Unfair! Until Valdemar gets an idea… He knows how to get the ice cream without eating even one little pea!

 

Modern artwork gives this charming little story quite an edge...

  Jutta Bauer: Selma Published by Gecko Press June 2018

A sheep ponders the meaning of happiness. Selma is asked: What is happiness? She says: Happiness is eating a little grass at sunrise, playing with the children until lunchtime, a little exercise after lunch, a little more grass, a chat with her neighbour Mrs Miller in the evening and then a lovely long sleep. And if she had more time? She would eat a little grass, play with her children until lunchtime, do a little exercise after lunch, eat a little more grass, have a chat with her neighbour Mrs Miller in the evening and then have a lovely long sleep. And if she won a million dollars? She would eat a little grass, play with her children, do a little exercise… 

 

Repetitive, which is just right for toddlers.

 

    Stephanie Blake: I'm The Biggest Published by Gecko Press June 2018

"Simon is annoyed. Casper has grown a lot: three centimetres! But Simon is only one centimetre taller than last time. "No way!" says Simon. "I'm the biggest!"

 

Sibling rivalry at its funniest and best!

Ole Konnecke: Sports Are Fantastic Fun Published by Gecko August 2018

Cycling, ice hockey, athletics, tennis . . .There are so many sports and they're all fabulous! Soccer is great, except when your team keeps shooting and missing. Horse-riding is wonderful--so long as the horse does what the rider wants. Running, cycling, and swimming require agility and endurance. Other sports like ballet are not about speed but strength and style. Sports lovers small and big will find the one they love best--and some surprises--in this witty picture book, presented with charming characters and laconic commentary.

 

A great idea, having all the competitors in the various sports made up of animal characters!

Gavin Bishop: Cook's Cook Published by Gecko press July 2018

Cook's Cook follows the 1768 journey of James Cook's H.M.S. Endeavour with his ship's cook, the one-handed John Thompson, as story teller. Through real recipes from the ship's galley, events on board and the places the ship traveled on its way to the Pacific, the book tells multiple stories. Here are stories of social class, hierarchy and race; stories of explorers and the people of the land; the story of one of the world's most famous explorers told through a fresh new lens. This beautiful book is full of information drawn from extensive research alongside evocative illustrations, released to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Endeavour's journey.

 

Stunning artwork and a brilliant story!

 

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Christopher Lowery: The Mosul Legacy

Published by Urbane September 2018

 

Mosul, Iraq, 2016 - once ISIL's greatest conquest but fast becoming a giant graveyard, where the difference between a gruesome death or wretched survival is just a matter of chance. As attacks by the Western coalition forces devastate the city, even senior ISIL officers like Karl realise defeat is inevitable. On his instructions, two ISIL jihadists travel across the EU Schengen Zone, planning to bring terror to a Western European city. German police officer Max Kellerman is on their tail - can he find them in time to prevent a catastrophic loss of life? Hema and Faqir Al-Douri flee the Mosul death trap in search of peace and safety in Western Europe. As poor, homeless refugees, they face the impossible task of crossing unfriendly borders in Asia and Eastern Europe to reach the safe-haven they dream of. Their journey is fraught with danger and protecting their family demands sacrifices they could never have imagined. The Al-Douri's desperate attempt to find freedom in the face of heartless bureaucracy, murderous violence and venal corruption is in stark contrast with the jihadists dark intent as they journey across a borderless Europe. As with his bestselling African Diamonds trilogy, Christopher Lowery combines detailed factual events with a gripping multi-stranded plot, whose topicality is inescapable. From North Africa through Eastern and Western Europe, The Mosul Legacy confronts the reader with the devastating truth behind today s newspaper headlines. The perfect read for fans of Gerald Seymour, Chris Ryan and Roger Pearce.

 

Modern times call for modern stories - the days of James Bond are long gone - they were touching on this kind of story in the later episodes of Spooks, now Lowery has it in his sights and the results are edge-of-the-seat thrilling!

 

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  Martin Derry: Gloster Meteor

Published by Pen and Sword 1st March 2017

 

The Gloster F.9/40 was Britain s first jet fighter and as the Meteor F.I became the first jet-powered aircraft of any description to enter service with the Allies in World War II. Several early Meteors were despatched to Europe in the hope that 1945 might witness the first ever jet-on-jet combats between it and the much-vaunted German jets a contest which, in the event, was never to occur. Post-war, and the Meteor quickly became the backbone of the UK s day fighter defences, progressing through successive Marks as it did so, until finally being replaced on the front line by later types during the mid-1950s. With their ever-adaptable airframe, two-seat Meteors became Britain s primary night fighter too, serving for several years until replaced by the Gloster Javelin from the late 1950s onwards. With its operational career over, the Meteor s adaptability and ruggedness was put to sterling use as an advanced trainer, the most obvious example of which was the T.7\. As late as 1982, a handful of stalwarts were still soldiering on. Although space precludes a comprehensive history of such a prolific aircraft, it is hoped that both aviation enthusiasts and aircraft modellers may find some interesting examples in these pages, and sufficient inspiration to help them choose which colour scheme to finish their latest Meteor model in. This latest addition to the FlightCraft range follows our well-established format in that it is split into three primary sections. The first covers the Meteor using numerous photographs, informative captions and tables. The second is a 16-page full-colour illustration section featuring detailed profiles and 2-views of many of the colour schemes and markings carried by British Meteors. The final section lists as many injection-moulded plastic model kits of the Meteor, in all the major scales, that the authors could obtain, plus a gallery of models made by some of the UK s best modellers.

 

I had hoped to read a little about the Gloster Aircraft Company and its Brockworth factory, but if it was mentioned in this book, I missed it. Wonderful photos of an iconic, brilliant plane.

 

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  Five Great New Alma Books!

   

All three books Published by Dorling Kindersley 25th May 2018

Lucian: Lucius or The Ass - True Story, Lucian's best-known and most entertaining work, is a parody of the tall stories of fantastic journeys narrated by famous poets and historians. With his trademark wit and humour, Lucian informs his readers that he means to tell nothing but lies and impossibilities, and warns them not to believe a word he says. The result is a comical masterpiece that influenced Western literature throughout the centuries, and works such as Gulliver's Travels and The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Lucius, or the Ass, a satirical novel charting the adventures of a young man who has been transformed into a donkey, is usually attributed to Lucian and is thought to be a source of Apuleius's Golden Ass. Contains an introduction by Paul Turner and illustrations by Hellmuth Weissenborn. A hugely entertaining slice of classical literature - stuffed full of comic wit and terrific adventures - the illustrations are superb, and the book is a triumph of classical wit!

 

Katherine Mansfield: The Garden Party - When her wealthy family prepares to host a lavish summer party, the young, hitherto sheltered Laura Sheridan suddenly feels a kinship with the staff and the helpers hired to set up the venue for the festivities. As she learns of the death of one of their working-class neighbours, this burgeoning sense of class consciousness is heightened by a realization of her own mortality. Published in 1922, at the height of literary modernism, 'The Garden Party' is now considered one of the key texts of that movement. This volume, which also includes all of Katherine Mansfield's other published short stories, is an invaluable resource for anyone wishing to discover one of the early twentieth century's finest writers. A sensitive story of a young lady who, against the normal instincts of her class, begins to feel a growing empathy for the servants who will be preparing the food for the family's garden party. Socialist overtones make this a very special story at a time of heightened awareness of the class divide. The other stories in this superb anthology are just as riveting. I have a new awareness of Katherine Mansfield after reading this one...

 

Guy de Maupassant: Boule De Suif - A carriage transporting ten passengers fleeing from Rouen is stopped at a village inn by Prussian soldiers, who decide to detain them until one of their party, the prostitute Boule de Suif, consents to sleep with their officer. When Boule de Suif refuses to do so on account of her principles and patriotic sentiments, the solidarity initially manifested by her fellow travellers becomes increasingly tested as the deadlock continues, and the strained relationship between her and her "respectable" counterparts gradually worsens. A scathing satire of bourgeois prejudice and hypocrisy and a compelling snapshot of France during the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, `Boule de Suif' - here presented with five other major stories on the lives of prostitutei - was declared a masterpiece by Flaubert and is widely considered to be Maupassant's finest short story. The enormity of the situation that arises in this story is indicative of the class divide in France in the 19th century - another fine example of socialism rearing its head once more in the cradle of revolution. Terrific. I think we may have touched on de Maupassant in A Level French in 1962, but certainly not this one!

   

All three books Published by Dorling Kindersley 25th May 2018

Oscar Wilde: The Portrait of Mr WH - During a conversation about literary forgeries, Erskine tells his young guest that he has received - as a legacy from a friend, the Cambridge scholar Cyril Graham -what is purported to be an Elizabethan portrait. The painting depicts a beautiful young man in late-sixteenth-century costume, whom Graham believed to be Willie Hughes, a boy actor serving in Shakespeare's company. This revelation prompts Erskine's guest to delve deeper into the mystery surrounding the real identity of the dedicatee and the inspiration of Shakespeare's Sonnets, with unforeseen consequences. Far from being a dry exposition of a literary theory, The Portrait of Mr W.H. - which the author himself described as one of his "early masterpieces" - is an engaging and entertaining narrative exploring the intricate facets of trust and betrayal, historical truth and fiction, written with Wilde's trademark dialogical sharpness and stylistic perfection. Almost as though Wilde was toying with the idea of a major story about a portrait, and was trying the theme out for size. Intriguing and engaging.

 

W S Gilbert: The Triumph of Vice and Other Stories - Gilbert's libretti of the comic operas composed by Arthur Sullivan are hugely well known, and lines such as "let the punishment fit the crime" have entered the English lexicon - but his short stories also deserve to be rediscovered by the modern reader. This collection, carefully curated by the secretary of the W.S. Gilbert Society, brings together the best of these sharp, clever, comical tales - many of which are published here for the first time since their first appearance in ephemeral magazines - enriched with the author's own illustrations. The stories feature many of the powerful motifs so associated with his work - fairies, elixirs, magic - and a wide variety of characters - from burglars to barristers and shopkeepers to gentlemen. This volume is shot through with the observational wit which drove Gilbert and Sullivan's works to fame, and constitutes a hugely enjoyable companion for fans of the pair's theatrical oeuvre. I had no idea that W S Gilbert had written anything other than libretti - the results are like a microscope on the amazing world of Victoriana. Superb little stories, areal treat, this one.

 

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  Mons Kallentoft: Earth Storm

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 23rd August 2018

 

The next dark mystery featuring the Linköping's best detective, Malin Fors, from the bestselling author Mons Kallentoft. In the early hours of the morning, the naked body of a young man is discovered in a ditch next to Go¨ta Kanal. The cause of death is mysterious; the body bears no visible traces of violence. The man is soon identified as Peder Akerlund, a former Swedish politician, excluded from his party for racism but since reformed. Then sixteen-year-old Nadja Lundin is reported missing, possibly abducted, the same evening, and there are signs that suggest the two cases might be connected. But what do the victims have in common? And why were they chosen? Gradually, Malin Fors realises that they are dealing with someone who is playing a game with them, who speaks through murders and who will not be silenced. What is he or she trying to say? Desperate to fine Nadja alive, the team race against the clock to find an answer before it's too late...

 

This is Swedish crime fiction at its outstanding best.

 

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  Sam Hawke: City of Lies

Published by Bantam Press 23rd August 2018

 

Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family. His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother. Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery, a world where the ancient spirits are rising . . . and angry. This fabulous epic fantasy debut will appeal to readers of Joe Abercrombie and Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb and Mark Lawrence and all points in between.

 

Another prime example of female domination of the world of fantasy fiction. This is faultless, superb fantasy writing set in a world far removed from anything we've encountered before. Draws you in gently, suspends any disbelief you might have had. Fantasy on a grand scale. Marvellous!

 

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  See you all in October... when there are some major, stunning new books on the way!

 


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.