Bookcase

Droitwich Advertiser: Bookcase Bookcase

A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Kate Whiting


New fiction

The Daughters Of Mars by Thomas Keneally is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £18.99. Available now.

Acclaimed and prolific Australian author and non-fiction essayist Thomas Keneally presents his 29th novel, The Daughters Of Mars.

The four-time Man Booker-shortlisted writer was also the mind behind Schindler's Ark, the book that was subsequently made into the Oscar-winning movie Schindler's List.

His latest book continues with a wartime setting, providing us with a story both grandiose in scale and searingly intimate.

During the First World War, two sisters escape their father's dairy farm near Sydney, Australia, along with the dark and guilty secret they shared there.

Becoming nurses in the Dardanelles, the Durance sisters experience the unrestricted horrors of the conflict, but they are inspired by strong, extraordinary women, and forge a bond they couldn't have previously imagined.

Both sisters fall in love, with their future happiness and survival resting on the whims of fate.

Vivid and intelligent, engrossing and moving, The Daughters Of Mars provides a stunning, unflinching vision of the First World War.

8/10

(Review by James Fry)


The House Of Memories by Monica McInerney is published in paperback by Macmillan, priced £12.99. Available now.

Perhaps the worst thing that can ever happen to a parent is the death of a child. When Australian editor Ella O'Hanlon's toddler son dies, she runs away from her husband Aidan and her family and goes to live with her British uncle Lucas at his house in London.

The house is full of memories for Ella, as it was here she first bonded with her uncle over their shared surname Fox and where she met her Irish husband, when he was a student and working as a tutor for Lucas in return for board.

Monica McInerney's book is part first-person narrative from Ella, part epistolary tale, with emails written by her concerned half-brother Charlie, and diary entries from her spoilt half-sister Jess, who Ella holds responsible for her son's death.

It's an engaging novel, although as Ella recounts long swathes of her past, it sometimes verges on the kind of round-robin letter from a friend you only half-read.

7/10

(Review by Kate Whiting)


Elephant Moon by John Sweeney is published in hardback by Silvertail Books, priced £18.99 (ebook, £9.99). Available now.

Author and investigative journalist John Sweeney turns his attention to the plight of Burmese refugees during the Second World War in this rich historical novel.

As the Japanese gain ground in Asia, Rangoon-based teacher Grace desperately tries to save a class of schoolchildren by fleeing to India, but their journey is wrought with danger.

Getting by on the mercies of strangers, they get to the north of Burma with the Japanese hot on their heels, and just when all seems lost, they are picked up by the Number One Elephant Company.

But the Japanese soldiers pursuing them over the mountains to India aren't the only threat to the refugees.

Sweeney delivers a Second World War story from a unique point of view, offering a deftly realised on-the-road novel alive with the horrors of war. It's a solid read for people who like an adventure.

7/10

(Review by Ben Major)


A Blink Of The Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction by Terry Pratchett is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £20. Available now.

Terry Pratchett has dozens of best-selling novels to his name, but this is the first published collection of his shorter works.

With the earliest piece written in 1963, when Pratchett was 13, the quality is necessarily variable; except for the most completist fan, the squibs and juvenilia are chiefly of historical interest.

The bulk of the book, though, is a treasure house of delightful rarities, finally made available for a wider public.

Several stories are set in Pratchett's best-known creation, the comic-fantasy land of Discworld; others have stranger locations still.

A few take place in worlds you could mistake for our own, but Pratchett also ramps up the ridiculous, with his popular character Death visiting a provincial disco, and the tale of how chickens prove surprisingly resourceful when pushed too far.

Some are hilarious, others haunting, and the best (especially the elegiac Troll Bridge) are both.

Few can any longer doubt Pratchett's skill, but this is a valuable reminder of his sometimes overlooked versatility.

8/10

(Review by Alex Sarll)


Children's book of the week

Jonathan & Martha by Petr Horacek is published in hardback by Phaidon, priced £7.95. Available now.

At first sight, this picture book looks like a rip-off of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, only with worms.

The green collage effect used on the cover is very reminiscent of Eric Carle's classic. But once you start reading, it's clear this is a very different tale altogether.

Jonathan and Martha (the worms) meet when they chomp their way through a pear from opposite sides and end up getting tangled.

It's a very sweet love story which will teach little ones how to share. And it taught this adult not to judge a book by its cover.

8/10

(Review by Kate Whiting)


Non-fiction

Celebrate: A Year Of British Festivities For Families And Friends by Pippa Middleton is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, priced £25. Available now.

Her most celebrated achievement is showcasing her shapely derriere in a bridesmaid's dress, so it was perhaps inevitable that Pippa Middleton's first foray into publishing would be met with cynicism.

While millions of talented writers struggle for years to get noticed, the sister of the Duchess of Cambridge is rumoured to have bagged an eye-watering £400,000 for her debut book, Celebrate: A Year Of British Festivities For Families And Friends.

Her credentials? Her experience with her parents' firm Party Pieces, her work with events company Table Talk and presumably, although it's not explicitly stated here, her reputation as a fun-loving socialite.

Celebrate is a guide to festivities throughout the year and features a mix of recipes, games, crafts and decoration ideas and plenty of glossy photos.

More than 400 pages long, it's certainly packed with tips and ideas. Some are amusingly simplistic (do we really need half a page of instructions on how to stage an egg and spoon race, or to be told that "sharp-bladed scissors" are best for cutting wrapping paper?), whereas others are frustratingly brief. She suggests rounders as a fun summer sport, for example, and then urges readers to look up the rules online.

There is a great focus on ways to keep kids entertained, complete with shots of a beaming Pippa surrounded by unnamed children, which is a bit bewildering considering she is yet to start a family of her own. Indeed, the guide to the Halloween game of 'Mummy chase' - where nominated players are wrapped up in loo roll and sent on a race - calls to mind the more familiar image of the Middleton sister decked out in a toilet paper dress at a student party.

But there is still plenty to enjoy in this book. The photos are undoubtedly lovely, many of the recipe ideas are simple and inviting (I will definitely be trying the sparkling gold-leaf jellies at my next soiree) and the suggested tipples to accompany each dish are a nice touch.

Her writing is gushy and bland at times (she is brimming with enthusiasm for every occasion, from breakfast to Burns Night), but there are some sweet insights into her family life. We learn, for example, that her dad, Michael, would train an Anglepoise lamp into her tent while she camped in her parents' garden, and that her mum, Carole, ties a ribbon around her drink at Christmas to stop her taking other people's by mistake.

While Celebrate may not be the go-to guide to entertaining, it's a stylish addition to the coffee table and a nice one to dip into.

6/10

(Review by Diana Pilkington)


How Do We Fix This Mess? The Economic Price Of Having It All And The Route To Lasting Poverty by Robert Peston and Laurence Knight is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20. Available now.

How Do We Fix This Mess? is the latest book by award-winning journalist and BBC business editor Robert Peston.

Peston has the advantage of being able to write as an insider, having first worked as a stockbroker after graduating. He writes accessibly and lucidly about what brought about the financial crash of 2007/8 and how we can rebuild our economy.

How Do We Fix This Mess? presents some of the major paradoxes of the financial world in an insightful, sometimes anecdotal way.

Peston writes it is through Facebook that the population has been able to express its frustration at corporation tax evasion, yet it is companies like Facebook that have deliberately avoided UK corporation tax.

Peston's answer to the question he poses is that we must start to live within our means, manufacture desirable products for Bric countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China - and return to a financial model where bankers are servants to their country, not masters.

8/10

(Review by Daisy Wyatt)


Destiny In The Desert by Jonathan Dimbleby is published in hardback by Profile, priced £25. Available now

In a book produced for the 70th anniversary, Jonathan Dimbleby reassesses "the battle that turned the tide", acknowledging that it is widely recognised as insignificant in the ultimate defeat of the Nazis.

But in a stunning revelation, Dimbleby asserts that El Alamein was a battle fought as part of the process of safeguarding the Empire.

It is his view that the battle exemplified that for Churchill there were two primary objectives, preserve the Empire and defeat the Nazi regime.

After all, he did declare he was not appointed "to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire".

Dimbleby astutely argues his case and in doing so offers a thought-provoking and convincing case in an area of history that is more than well explored.

For amateur historians and academics alike, this is a piece of work more than worth taking note of and that opens new debate.

8/10

(Review by Tinashe Sithole)


David Mitchell: Back Story is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £20. Available now.

David Mitchell (the comedian, not the novelist) metaphorically recalls his rise to fame as popular TV comedy personality during one of his daily walks through London.

Along the way, Flat Roofed Pubs (FRPs), Public Loos, and Marks & Spencer serve to rekindle turning points in his rise to fame.

Familiarly, Mitchell serves up a chronological narrative of his life so far, however this feels like a history lesson at times (that being his choice of study at Cambridge).

He touches base on all the usual questions asked of the famous, such as sexual orientation, religious beliefs, parental relationships, etc.

As expected, a large percentage features his partnership with comedy soulmate Robert Webb, including their meeting and times in which they could not bare to be in the same room as each other.

Predictably intelligent and witty, Mitchell delivers an entertaining journey through his life, which culminates in meeting the undeniable love of his life.

6/10

(Review by Wayne Walls)


Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story by Arnold Schwarzenegger is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £20. Available now

Bodybuilder-turned-Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to run for Governor of California because, in his own words, "It'll be so funny".

Of course, it wasn't funny - he is regarded by some as the worst governor the state has ever had.

Schwarzenegger's autobiography does little to raise the smile that he manages to do so well in the public eye.

His lack of skill as a writer is equalled by his mastery at ignoring his own flaws.

A particularly chilling example is the mention of the affair that led to the birth of a child and the break-up of his marriage.

Seemingly nothing more than a footnote, it reads: "Mildred had been working in our household for five years and all of a sudden we were alone in the guest house. When Mildred gave birth the following August, she named the baby Joseph."

It seems there's a lot of things missing from this story - regret being chief among them. This is a self-congratulatory 650-page romp that even fans of Schwarzenegger may struggle to enjoy.

2/10

(Review by Lewis Young)


The Missing Ink: The Lost Art Of Handwriting (And Why It Still Matters) by Philip Hensher is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £14.99. Available now.

Lecturer Philip Hensher lifts the pen lid on writing styles and developments in an interesting history of the dying art form of using ink on paper.

He passionately explains how changes in the past 80 years to the way children learn has helped to make handwriting more individualistic - a stark contrast to uniform styles of yesteryear enforced on young learners.

But this new individuality also opened the doors for analytical experts to identify all sorts of character traits in each writer - not to mention to illegible exam papers.

Hensher's own analysis of handwriting could benefit contextually from more practical examples, although it is witty, warm and laugh-out-loud funny in parts.

Some of his anecdotes are forgettable - but the feeling of guilt when returning to a computer or touchscreen almost straight after reading this book certainly isn't.

6/10

(Review by Caroline Davison)


Best-sellers for the week ending October 27

Paperbacks

1 Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

2 Reflected In You: A Crossfire Novel, Sylvia Day

3 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

4 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, Sue Townsend

5 A Street Cat Named Bob, James Bowen

6 Thinking, Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman

7 The House Of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel, Anthony Horowitz

8 The Perks Of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

9 Fifty Shades Of Grey, EL James

10 Room On The Broom, Julia Donaldson


Hardbacks

1 Is It Just Me? Miranda Hart

2 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver

3 Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel

4 The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling

5 The Twelve, Justin Cronin

6 Finale, Becca Fitzpatrick

7 Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration, Nigella Lawson

8 Guinness World Records 2013

9 Citadel, Kate Mosse

10 Ratburger, David Walliams

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