books monthly june 2017

Coffee table stunners from RPS/Cico Books headline this month's finest... over 50 new Nonfiction titles this month!

 In this issue:

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Adult Fiction

  Crime and Thrillers
  Science Fiction & Fantasy

  Children's books

  Nonfiction & Reference
  The Nostalgia Page
  The Military History Page

  The Jerry Dowlen Column

David Wills: The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra

Published by Amberley 15th January 2017

In this book, to be released for the centenary of Sinatra's birth, fresh archival evidence attests to the man's indelible mark on the world of cinema. Author David Wills marshals a rich photographic collection to re-present Sinatra as an icon of the silver screen, as recognisable and as lauded for his effortless cool and on-screen sangfroid as for his ubiquitous crooning voice. In a dramatic career spanning some 55 motion pictures and four decades of film and fashion, here Sinatra can be seen - in over 200 full-colour, some never-before-seen shots - as the crucial link between Humphrey Bogart and Marlon Brando, James Cagney and Steve McQueen. Whilst the voice and recordings rightly remain celebrated, this exciting new volume refocuses the lens of history to find Sinatra, centre-stage, in Hollywood's golden age. With contributing essays from all three Sinatra children.

A magnificent collection of photos and commentary chronicling the life of Frank Sinatra in the cinema. We all know that Sinatra was the greatest crooner of all time, now we can discover the depths of his talents in the movies. Not too many surprises, but there's plenty to be celebrated and the photographs are simply superb!




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Book of the Month - RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

Published by Dorling Kindersley

The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants remains the ultimate plant guide for gardeners. The most definitive work of garden reference has been completely revised and refreshed for this 4th edition, bringing it up-to-date with the latest developments in gardening. Unrivalled in authority and range, this single-volume guide has over 15,500 entries from Abelia to Zygopetalum. Edited by Christopher Brickell, former Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, and with over 6,000 beautiful photographs and precise artworks, The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants is the only garden reference encyclopedia you will ever need. With an introduction to the plant kingdom, flower types, and plant problems, as well as clear, detailed growing advice for every plant all wrapped up in a beautiful gift box, The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants is the definitive garden reference guide for every gardener.


There have been two previous editions of this amazing book published in the twenty or so years I've been publishing Books Monthly. Both of them were two-volume affairs. This time, DK and the RHS have really excelled themselves. Not only is the latest edition one volume, one mammoth volume, but it comes in a sturdy slipcase with a rope carrying handle. The packaging alone doesn't make this the finest work on garden plants in the world - what makes it special is the perfection that fills every page, from the layout, to the stunning illustrations. A true gardener's Bible!


Brian Tilley: Tynedale At War 1939-45

Published by Pen and Sword 24th April 2017

Brawling Australians, Polish pilots burning to avenge themselves on Germany for the invasion of their country, the German officer who drowned while trying to escape from a South Tyne PoW camp, and the pub landlady who watered down her gin in order, she claimed, to prevent naive Land Army girls getting drunk it was all part of life in Tynedale as the district went to war for the second time in twenty-five years. Although well away from the battlegrounds of Europe, Tynedale did not escape the ravages of the Second World War. The rolling moorlands of the heart of Northumberland are still pitted with dozens of craters, where both Allied and Axis aircraft crashed in flames, and there were tragedies on the Home Front too. At remote Coanwood, twenty-four men were left dead or seriously injured when a training exercise went badly wrong, and an exploding ammunition train at Hexham railway station left three men dead. Even before the conflict began, founder of the British Union of Fascists Sir Oswald Mosley and the hated Nazi propaganda broadcaster, William Joyce better known as Lord Haw Haw both came to the heart of Northumberland to preach the Fascist gospel in Hexham.This book deals with the everyday impact of six years of war on the district, from the arrival of gravely wounded soldiers from Dunkirk at Hexham Emergency Hospital, through to dealing with thousands of often louse-ridden evacuees from industrial Tyneside, the heroics of local servicemen and the antics of the Home Guard.


I have never been further north than Manchester, I'm sad to say, and now, at 71, probably never will. That doesn't mean that I don't find books like this fascinating - I do. There are so many tales crammed into this brilliant volume, about the citizens of Tynedale, that it's something of a roller coaster ride through Tynedale's second world war years. Hugely entertaining, authoritative and fascinating!


Ruth Mansergh: Windermere and Grasmere in the Great War

Pen and Sword 24th April 2017

Windermere and Grasmere in the Great War is an expert account of these Lake District town's fascinating contributions to the Great War effort from the outbreak of war in 1914, to the long-awaited Allied victory in 1918. The book is designed to be accessible to all, and for this reason it includes the history of the South Lakes area of Cumbria, where the scarcity of visitors was felt during the Great War. Interesting stories include Lake Windermere s setting as a watery runway, rumours that a German airship was operating from a secret base near Grasmere, the double life of Arthur Ransome, and Cumberland Wrestling s post-war boom. The book also takes a detailed look at the graduates of the Lakes Flying Company, the Hardistys, VAD nurse Nellie Taylor, the Baisbrowns, the boatmen who sewed bags for sand, the gunpowder carts, Beatrix Potter s opinions, conscientious objectors, landowners and gentry, Cobby the horse, railwaymen, and prisoner of war Frederick Mallinson.It acts as a reference guide to local war memorials, and a chronological guide to Belgian refugees in south Lakeland whose homes included Ellerthwaite Lodge, Windermere, Calgarth Park auxiliary hospital, Troutbeck Bridge, and the village of Finsthwaite. St Martin s next to the Old England Hotel, Windermere, has more memorials than any other church in Cumbria including the Cathedral (Carlisle). Overall, this is a poignant testimony to the bravery, self-sacrifice and determination of the people of Windermere and Grasmere during the Great War, who sought to find normality in a reality so far removed from anything they had ever known.


The same things apply to this companion volume for parts of the Lake District. There are similar stories to be told about every town and village in Britain, but only Pen and Sword have dedicated themselves to publishing their stories. This series is totally riveting, essential reading for anyone who lived there, and for anyone, indeed, who wants a complete picture of how the conflict affected the people of this country. Superb.


Rachel Knowles: What Regency Women Did For Us

Published by Pen and Sword 30th April 2017

Regency women inhabited a very different world from the one in which we live today. Considered intellectually inferior to men, they received little education and had very few rights. This book tells the inspirational stories of twelve women, from very different backgrounds, who overcame often huge obstacles to achieve success. These women were pioneers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, authors, scientists and actresses women who made an impact on their world and ours. In her debut non-fiction work, popular history blogger Rachel Knowles tells how each of these remarkable ladies helped change the world they lived in and whose legacy is still evident today. Two hundred years later, their stories are still inspirational.


I used to love reading Georgette Heyer's Regency romances when I was a young lad, and the period still fascinates me to this day. Now Rachel's fine book looks at how the women of Britain emerged from the shadows of their husbands during the Regency period, inspiring female writers, scientists etc., to take hold of their own destinies and start to have an influence on the world. Brilliant.


Sue Wilkes: Tracing Your Manchester and Salford Ancestors

Published by Pen and Sword 5th April 2017

For readers with family ties to Manchester and Salford, and researchers delving into the rich history of these cities, this informative, accessible guide will be essential reading and a fascinating source of reference. Sue Wilkes outlines the social and family history of the region in a series of concise chapters. She discusses the origins of its religious and civic institutions, transport systems and major industries. Important local firms and families are used to illustrate aspects of local heritage, and each section directs the reader towards appropriate resources for their research. No previous knowledge of genealogy is assumed and in-depth reading on particular topics is recommended. The focus is on records relating to Manchester and Salford, including current districts and townships, and sources for religious and ethnic minorities are covered. A directory of the relevant archives, libraries, academic repositories, databases, societies, websites and places to visit, is a key feature of this practical book.


The latest in Pen and Sword's ground-breaking ancestry series is aimed at the citizens of Manchester and Salford - there is plenty of brilliant advice and suggestions in this perfect book.

Barbara J Starmans: Tracing Your Ancestors' Lives

Published by Pen and Sword 5th April 2017

Tracing Your Ancestors' Lives is not a comprehensive study of social history but instead an exploration of the various aspects of social history of particular interest to the family historian. It has been written to help researchers to go beyond the names, dates and places in their pedigree back to the time when their ancestors lived. Through the research advice, resources and case studies in the book, researchers can learn about their ancestors, their families and the society they lived in and record their stories for generations to come. Each chapter highlights an important general area of study. Topics covered include the family and society; domestic life; birth life and death; work, wages and economy; community, religion and government. Barbara J. Starmans s handbook encourages family historians to immerse themselves more deeply in their ancestors time and place. Her work will give researchers a fascinating insight into what their ancestors lives were like.


Slightly less focused on specific areas, this book takes a step back and offers practical and sensible advice for anyone starting out on the richly rewarding road to tracing your ancestors. I find these books incredibly useful, and they often come up with suggestions for further research that would not occur to an amateur like me.

Malcolm A Johnson: Miners' Battalion

Published by Pen and Sword 12th April 2017

'The true nature and functions of a pioneer battalion were never fully understood during the war either by military or laymen. "Pioneers ...pioneers," mused a red-hatted Staff Captain to me the other day. "Sort of labour battalion, aren't you?" "We sure are!" I agreed.' These words, written by Captain R. Ede England, who served with 12th King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the whole of the Great War, are as true today as they were when he wrote the original history of the battalion in the early 1920s. Little is known, or understood, of the contribution made by the many thousands of men who served with the original Pioneer battalions. Building and repairing roads, bridges, railway lines, gun emplacements, and laying barbed wire to protect the Front Line, were just some of the tasks that they performed on a regular basis. Fortunately, the subject of the British Army's logistical support in the war zone during the new industrialized warfare that developed between 1914 and 1918 is now being examined in greater detail.Miners' Battalion, A History of the 12th (Pioneers) King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1914-1918 follows the battalion throughout the war and shows how the men, mainly Yorkshire miners, applied their civilian skills to the purposes of war. It also reveals that in 1918, when forced to fight as infantrymen, the battalion performed with distinction, gaining the nickname, 'the Yorkshire Guards'.


One day someone will possibly write a book about a "bricklayers' battalion" from the East End of London, and I'll find out about my Grandfather. In the meantime, Pen and Sword's magnificent series on how bands of companions from the same trade formed battalions that went away to fight in the first world war. Malcolm's stories are engaging, interesting and sometimes heartbreaking, but always very readable.

Alan Palmer: The Wireless In The Corner

Published by Matador 28th April 2017

Based on diary entries, family letters, photography albums and newspaper cuttings, The Wireless in the Corner is the personal account of a boy brought up in London's suburbia during the second quarter of the 20th century, the years English historian, Asa Briggs, called 'the Golden Age of Broadcasting'. Drawing on his sharp visual and aural memory, author Alan Palmer recounts his early life as the only child of elderly parents living at Gants Hill in unfashionable Ilford. After a trip to Belgium, aged six, Alan became gripped by the events in Europe and observing international affairs became as much a hobby as collecting stamps. Listening to the wireless every evening, Alan's childhood is as much a personalised political, social and military history as it is reminiscence. The Wireless in the Corner is written with the intention of recapturing the strain of the Blitz, and later of flying bombs and rockets, and the relieving moments of peace and contentment that were held so dear to the author. The book carefully distinguishes between what was known then and what readers know now, so as not to obscure events with thoughts based on present assumptions. Inspired by A. J. P Taylor, and similar to the work of Philip Ziegler and A. L. Rowse, The Wireless in the Corner will appeal to readers interested in military history and autobiographies. It will also appeal to those interested in life during the war.


Well, now you come to mention it, our wireless was in the corner. I can easily identify with most of what Alan writes in this fascinating look at Britain in the 1940s and 1950s. It is written in a style that will draw you in, with warmth and humour, and the feeling that you might know some of the people Alan describes, and the way life was lived back then. Absolutely fantastic!


Sukie Travel Journal: Coastal Getaway

Published by Abrams & Chronicle Books 25th April 2017

This charming travel journal from beloved stationer Sukie channels seaside getaways with a cover scene of a boat cruising along the coast. Inside is a mix of lined, gridded, and bordered pages with light prompts for recording all kinds of notes and observations. Kraft and glassine pockets throughout provide a convenient place to store paper mementos, tickets and other memorabilia. Silkscreened cover, 100% recycled interior papers--mix of kraft, cream, and white--for a uniquely tactile appeal.


A truly beautiful notebook, ideal for people going on the holiday of a lifetime, or just to keep as a record of your tarvels, with special pockets for mementoes etc. 

Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden

Published by Chronicle Books 13th March 2017

Erin Benzakein is the founder of Floret Flower Farm. Considered one of the nation's leading 'farmer florists,' a term she has helped popularise to describe those skilled at both flower farming and floral design, she is also an accomplished author, teacher and entrepreneur. In addition to building and managing her own company, Erin has published extensively on dozens of popular wedding websites and blogs. Known for lush, airy, romantic floral designs, Erin is consistently pushing the limits of what can be used in a bouquet. She lives, farms, and writes from her home in Washington s scenic Skagit Valley. Julie Chai writes, edits, and hosts videos primarily on gardening topics. She lives and gardens in Los Altos, California. Michele M. Waite is a photographer whose style mixes a clasic, timeless look with fresh and modern whimsy. Her photography has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, The New York Times, In Style magazine and the Seattle Metropolitan. She lives in Washington with her husband and two daughters.


This is an American book, but that doesn't alter the fact that millions of bunches of flowers are grown and soldall around the world evey day, and they have to come from somewhere. We know about daffodil fields in the UK and tulip fields in Holland, but this marvellous book uncovers some of the secrets of growing flowers specifically for being cut and sold in bunches for ultimate indoor and outdoor displays. Beautiful photographs, beautiful subject matter.

Paul Rabbitts: British Bandstands

Published by Amberley 15th May 2017

Bandstands have been a feature of the British way of life for well over a century – but, after the Second World War, an increasing number fell into disuse and were neglected. Sadly, many were demolished when public parks and seaside resorts went into a spiral of decline in the 1980s and 1990s. However, in 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund started investing in our public parks and gardens and this has seen the rediscovery of bandstands, one which continues to this day. Former Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund Dr Stewart Harding has described them as ‘wonderfully exotic structures that are at once very familiar and also alien in their strange designs – looking like UFOs, Moorish temples, rustic cottages or Chinese pavilions’. Many have been restored in the last twenty years, with over 120 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Nairn to Nottingham, Watford to Worcester. These restorations mark a rebirth of the bandstands across the nation, a rebirth that is celebrated in this book with images and information detailing imaginative restorations, designs and new usages for one of our most iconic cultural landmarks – the British bandstand.


Last month I suggested that Amberley Publishing was on the verge of overtaking the other publishers who featured books about the British way of life, not naming any names. British Bandstands sort of confirms this - it's a subject other publishers have covered in the past, but not in this depth and with such outstanding photography. The wide variety of bandstands in Britain is covered in some style in Paul's terrific little book.

Paul Brent Adams: Photographing Models and Miniatures

Published by Amberley 15th May 2017

Want to photograph lions and elephants in Africa, Formula One cars at the Monaco Grand Prix, front-line military jets – or to step back in time and watch George Stephenson’s locomotive Rocket make its first run on the Liverpool–Manchester railway line – all without leaving the comforts of home? The modern digital camera has made model and miniature photography a breeze – even with very simple and inexpensive cameras. You can take basic record photographs for selling online, keeping track of a collection or insurance; or you can photograph complete miniature worlds created with simple household items, toys, and model railway accessories. An entire home studio can be set up on a kitchen table, and packed away in a cupboard. All that is required is a camera and mini tripod, a few simple accessories adapted from items you already have around the house, and some suitable props. The technical part of photography can be left to the camera, while you concentrate on the creative – and fun – side of things. Most photography books are written by professional photographers, who love complexity, arcane technical language, and lots of expensive equipment. But this one is different – believing the best results come from simplicity.


Long before it was popular to do things like this, I had a baseboard in a spare bedroom, covered in flour to simulate the surface of the moon, and was photographing my extensive collection of Apollo Command and Service Modules, and my Saturn Five rocket (the latter shouldn't really have been on the moon, of course, but I was young...). Later, I even took photographs of our eldest son's railway layout (which used the same baseboard, now painted green and to which the track was affixed). Photographing models and miniatures has always been a worthy pastime as far as I'm concerned, and Paul's excellent book has many really useful tips and suggestions for making your dioramas more realistic and convincing. Some terrific photos of his models, too!

Paul Chrystal: The Ancient Greeks in 100 Facts

Published by Amberley 15th May 2017

Ancient Greece was never just one nation: it was a disparate collection of independent city-states, often embroiled in war with each other, with separate governments, their own armies and distinct politics, economies and societies. However, together these vibrant and diverse peoples made one of the greatest civilisations the world has ever known, endowing the western world with cuttingedge philosophy, science, literature, architecture, visual arts, military prowess and democracy – to name but a few of their enduring contributions to the modern world. The Ancient Greeks in 100 Facts tells the story of this fascinating civilisation, from its earliest Bronze Age beginnings as described by Homer and Hesiod, to the wars with and eventual subjugation by the Romans. Visit the Minoans and the Spartans, the Macedonians and the Athenians; meet Plato and Aristotle, Sophocles and Socrates; follow Alexander the Great to the end of the world; and witness the birth of historical writing through Herodotus and Thucydides. These 100 gripping facts provide an enjoyable and accessible introduction to one of the world’s great civilisations.


The latest in Amberley's " 100 Facts" series looks at the Ancient Greeks, and uncovers a whole plethora of things I didn't know - hugely entertaining and educational at the same time, a winning combination in their book, and mine...

Tom Brown: Tragedy and Challenge

Published by Matador 28th June 2017

Having worked within the UK engineering industry for many years and chaired 15 companies, including stock market quoted, private equity backed, and university spin offs, Tom Brown offers a unique insight into the challenges facing engineering companies, as well as the impact this has on the economy, people's working lives, and society. Tragedy & Challenge will appeal to readers interested in economics and politics, business management, investing, and our changing society - including those who enjoyed Evan Davis's Made in Britain and Peter Marsh's The New Industrial Revolution. This book examines existing data on UK manufacturing in order to demonstrate how badly our engineering has fared compared with international competitors, especially Germany. The author also recounts his varied early experiences in the industry from night shift manager to Managing Director and the life-changing lessons he gained from working in a German-speaking company. Tragedy & Challenge analyses the causes of the decline in UK engineering, considering its poor leadership, original analysis of the detrimental effects of government economic policy, and the destructive influence of the City including an insider's uninhibited view of fund managers, analysts, and private equity. Tom Brown concludes that, while some decline was inevitable due to global factors, the example of Germany shows it did not need to be nearly so precipitate; some responsibility lies with management and unions, but ultimately poor governments, the City, and decaying social attitudes were to blame, and now Brexit makes the prognosis even more daunting.

Paul Chrystal: In Bed With The Romans

Published by Amberley 15th May 2017

One way or another the Romans spent quite a lot of time in bed, in between conquering and civilising the known world. The men were intent on demonstrating their power and virility; the women were busy conceiving, delivering and raising as many children as possible, in order to keep Rome topped up with soldiers, politicians and workers. In Bed with the Romans takes the clothes off Roman society to reveal the truth about sex and sexuality. It describes love and marriage; the role of the wife in the family and in religion, as well as in bed; and sexual medicine, homosexuality, pornography and pederasty. All manner of sexual behaviour is covered in this comprehensive and balanced discussion of the Roman relationship with sex. Paul Chrystal vividly describes the sexual predilections and debauchery of the Roman emperors and their empresses and mistresses, and draws his conclusions from literature, ancient graffiti, inscriptions and the visual arts that form the bedrock of this book.


An amazingly intimate look at the bedroom habits of the Romans, containing some rather explicit photographs of artwork from the period. Very interesting stuff.


Ray Marshall: Paper Blossoms For All Occasions

Published by Chronicle Books 6th June 2017

This collection of pop-up paper bouquets from the creator of the bestselling Paper Blossoms celebrates the beauty of the four seasons. Each breathtaking arrangement spring daffodils, summer sunflowers, autumn foliage, and a winter wreath makes a distinctive centerpiece and brings surprise to any decor. A unique gift for any occasion, Paper Blossoms for All Seasons delights with color, joy, and beauty throughout the year.


A jaw-dropping pop-up book from the master of paper technology and crafting. This book is an eye-opened and a joy to behold!



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.