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 April 2014 Contents

Adult fiction

Crime & Thrillers

  Science Fiction & Fantasy

Children's books

  Nonfiction & Reference
  The Nostalgia Page

The Stephen King Page

The Jerry Dowlen Column

  Jenni Penson writes...
  New from MagBooks
  New from Shire Publishing

The funniest book I've read for many, many months, no, make that years...

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Greetings! There are loads of terrific WW1 books out this month, including Mary Hooper's brilliant novel POPPY, Dorling Kindersley's DEFINITIVE VISUAL GUIDE, Amberley Publishing's WORLD WAR 1 Cook Book - you'll find Poppy on the Adult Fiction page, and the other titles on the Nonfiction page, just look for the link to the WW1 bit...


All about books...


My lead title for this month is Mary Hooper's POPPY, a novel about a young lady who falls in love with the son of the household in which she is a servant, until the outbreak of the First World War prompts her, on the advice of her former Head Teacher, to volunteer for VAD training. Mary captures the atmosphere of the time to absolute perfection - her characters are alive and vibrant, and the story has a few surprises along the way, whilst following Poppy's chosen career path. A second novel about Poppy is in the pipeline... this book had a huge effect on me, as you know WW1 is a subject that holds a fascination for me more than any other period, and I am a firm believer that no matter how many textbooks you read, there is no substitute for an excellently-well-written novel which has been well researched and provides you with the perfect backdrop to the hundreds and thousands of nameless people you read about in the textbooks. This is a superb story, with brilliant cover art. Whilst we're on the subject of WW1, three new Shire Books arrived this week, variously covering the subjects of Medical Services in the First World War, Animals of the First World War and British Airmen in the First World War. Shire Books are second to none when it comes to whetting your appetite for a subject, lavishly illustrated and very well written.


On the Stephen King page you'll find details of a new study by Paul Simpson: A Brief Guide to Stephen King - brief by King's standards, certainly, but extremely comprehensive and providing much-needed information on all of King's titles and the state of mind he was in when he wrote them. This will be essential reading for anyone who regards Stephen King (as I do) as the greatest living storyteller. Not long to go now for Mr Mercedes, and, of course, the paperback version of Doctor Sleep is out even sooner! I thoroughly recommend that you read Paul Simpson's book. In the absence of a new King novel, reading about his books is a good second choice.


The new series of REV, the hilarious sitcom about the Reverend Adam Smallbone (the brilliant Tom Hollander) and his wife Alex as they struggle with a dysfunctional congregation at St Saviour's Church in inner London - is now up and running on Monday nights and is as brilliant as ever.  Penguin/Michael Joseph have just published THE REV DIARIES, ostensibly written by Adam himself, though I suspect the published book has been knocked into shape by Jon Canter... Rev is one of the better offerings in the field of sitcoms from the BBC, and a third series will be more than welcome. In the meantime, the book is equally as hilarious as the TV series, and I thoroughly recommend it to you. It's a handsome, colourful package, featuring Tom Hollander as Adam on the front, and the remainder of the main characters on the obverse. You'll find my review of this brilliant book on the Adult Fiction page...


My Children's Book of the Month is another handsome volume, this time from Doubleday (Random House) and is entitled THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY, written by Django Wexler, and if the name of the author doesn't intrigue you sufficiently to want to open and read it, then the front cover surely will (see above and on the Children's Books page). A cross between A Series of Unfortunate Events and the Spiderwick Chronicles, this is a stirring adventure in the time-honoured tradition, full of magic, mystery and evil creatures which heroine Alice must defeat to find the truth about the disappearance of her father. A truly spellbinding tale of good and evil, brilliantly illustrated by the great David Wyatt. This is absolutely superb!


As of last night, 30th March, the first episode of the second series of ENDEAVOUR was screened on ITV. Being a "baby-boomer", the 1960s is the decade in which I grew up, and this series of Endeavour is set in 1966, with all of the attendant cars, fashions, and so on, and for me, this series has overtaken LEWIS as my favourite, although Lewis will of course always be very special to me. The pity of it is, that unlike the late 1960s and the 1970s, today's TV series are not accompanied by paperbacks of the episodes - you get very little indeed, if nothing, of the young Morse in Colin Dexter's brilliant books, and, as I've said before, Lewis is a completely different character. I would be in seventh heaven with a book about Endeavour and/or one about Lewis and Hathaway. There are plenty of detective novels set in the 1960s, of course, and plenty set in the 1950s, and in the absence of a Lewis or an Endeavour novel to read, after switching off the TV last night I found myself picking up the book that Grace from Constable and Robinson kindly sent me, which arrived Saturday - THE ORIGINAL INSPECTOR GEORGE GENTLY COLLECTION - I'll review it properly in the May issue, I've read it before, because Constable publish the series of George Gently books, and a fine series it is too. So far they've published twenty of the forty-odd titles, and a further three titles were scheduled for publication in March, but for some reason, they've apparently been put back till 2017. Either way, this mammoth book contains the very first two adventures in the series, 519 pages of pure nostalgia for me, telling of a gentler, more innocent era, when there were still heinous and horrifying crimes being committed, but they were few and far between, not the norm, and a gent from "Central Office" at Scotland Yard was always on hand to make the local plods seem a little more "ploddish". This may not be my crime book of the month for May, as there's a new Sharon Bolton out, and this Gently collection has been published before in a different format - but it's going to be my main bedtime read for a good few days, at least until the next episode of the magnificent Shaun Evans and Roger Hallam are once again on our screens next Sunday night. It doesn't get any better than that! Endeavour and George Gently...


I hoped it was an April Fool... but no, next week's TV Mag announces that the first of nine thousand episodes of Great British Menu starts on Monday 7th April and runs till the year 2222; this accompanies the thirteen million episodes of the dire and tired Masterchef, which occupies two and a half hours of prime time TV each week for the next several years, with the promise to follow of Celebrity Masterchef, Masterchef the Amateurs (who'd want food cooked by an amateur, for God's sake?); Junior Masterchef, Canine Masterchef, Masterchef for People Who Can't Stand TV Cookery Programmes Except For Great British Bake Off, Masterchef Goes Large, Masterchef Shouts Even Louder, Footballers' Wives and Girlfriends Masterchef, I'm A Celebrity Chef, Get Me On Masterchef and so on ad nauseam. I was going to say "ad inifinitum" but it's literally ad nauseam for me, whose idea of culinary adventure would be to have some picallilli with my sausages. And don't say there are other programmes you could be watching - you're forgetting I'm married to the love of my life (we're rapidly approaching our 50th wedding anniversary in 2016) and we do most things together still, like watching the TV - only there are some programmes she likes that really leave me cold. Masterchef should be pensioned off, it's dreadful; and Great British Menu occupies far too many TV hours. A half an hour, once a week would be fine. Two and a half hours a week for thirteen years is just too much. Rant over. Oh, I forgot; Kirsty Allsopp and the moron. They'll be back with Location x3 in a couple of weeks, you mark my words - after all, Channel 4, which is marginally better/worse (I can't decide, they should put Masterchef on BBC3...then let's see how many people really want to save BBC3!) than BBC3, did promise us a couple of years ago there would be no more series - we've had three since then... Do Allsopp and Spencer own Channel 4, by any chance?



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.