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A warm welcome to the first issue of Books Monthly Reviews for 2019. Let me know what you think by using the comments box or like/share buttons on each page or via email at paulenorman1@gmail.com 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes The Complete Collection

 Published by Carlton 7th March 2019

901bWhen Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, a true icon of literature was born. Since then, their humble address at 221B Baker Street has become almost as famous as the great detective himself, with the incredible popularity of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures never wavering over the last 130 years. Bound in a rich, collector’s cover, this deluxe and expansive edition, produced in association with The Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street, is the definitive collection for fans of the great detective. It contains all of Conan Doyle’s stories – four novels and a colossal 56 short stories – complete and unabridged, encompassing the entirety of the legendary author’s Sherlock Holmes work.

This is a superb book, the complete Sherlock Holmes stories in one magnificent volume, authorised by the Sherlock Holmes Museum and published with their authorisation and blessing. This is one Sherlock Holmes book you would be proud to have on your bookshelf. Well done Carlton!

James Marriott & Kim Newman: Horror Movies, the Definitive Guide

 Published by Carlton 4th October 2018

901aPacked with photographs of the most terrifying scenes in cinema history, Horror is the definitive guide tracing the story of horror, decade-by-decade. Providing a witty and informative critique of over 300 films and several TV series and the literature that accompanies them, this offers a superb introduction for beginners as well as something new for the die-hard horror fan. Horror is one of the most popular and influential genres in cinema, a perennial favourite that just won’t stay dead. Initial banned or shunned creations are now regarded as movie milestones with cult appeal. This book covers the hidden gems, big-budget duds and foreign contributions of the Horror scene. Whether you’re a seasoned, horror expert or a tentative horror explorer, this is the ultimate guide through a century of fear.

Only This book is so comprehensive it covers films from countries all over the world. For the most part, the films it covers are dreadful shockers, not what I would class as horror fils, but just nasty ones. There is good coverage of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, who made Hammer Films the finest horrorfilm company in the world during the mid-20th century, and fleeting mention of my all-time favourite horror film, Poltergeist, and the images are clear and there are plenty of them, but most of the films are of the variety that disgust rather than entertain. Sadly.

Ben Hubbard: Space race – The Story of Space Exploration

 Published by Carlton 7th March 2019

901cThe 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing is fast approaching, and this book explores and celebrates the incredible technology and trailblazing scientists that took humans to the stars. This comprehensive and richly illustrated guide tells the awe-inspiring story of space exploration, from the race for rockets and putting a man on the moon, to the International Space Station, life on Mars, finding a habitable planet, and life beyond our solar system. Download the FREE interactive app to watch NASA videos on the page and explore 360-degree models of groundbreaking spacecraft in high definition.

Beautifully illustrated book capturing the original thrills and excitement of the moon landing in July 1969. A superb, inspirational book that reminds us how fascinating space and space exploration is. A succession of US presidents since Kennedy have failed to grasp the importance of space exploration and it now looks as though private enterprise will be the domineering force over the coming years, rather than NASA. A superb book.

Gita Trelease: Enchantée

 Published by Pan Macmillan 21st February 2019

901fWhen smallpox kills her parents, seventeen-year-old Camille is left to provide for her frail sister and her volatile brother. In desperation, she survives by using the petty magic she learnt from her mother. But when her brother disappears Camille decides to pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine‘ and presents herself at the court of Versaille, where she soon finds herself swept up in a dizzying life of riches, finery and suitors. But Camille’s resentment of the rich is at odds with the allure of their glamour and excess, and she soon discovers that she’s not the only one leading a double life . . .

Enchantée is a compelling historical fantasy and is Gita Trelease’s debut novel.

Terrific debut historical novel, craed with excellent characters. Enchanting!

Ian Beckett: Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana

 Published by OUP 10th January 2019

901rThe battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879, the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War, witnessed the worst single day’s loss of British troops between the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the opening campaigns of the First World War in August 1914. Moreover, decisive defeat at the hands of the Zulu came as an immense shock to a Victorian public that had become used to easy victories over less technologically advanced indigenous foes in an expanding empire.

The successful defence of Rorke’s Drift, which immediately followed the encounter at Isandlwana (and for which 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded), averted military disaster and went some way to restore wounded British pride, but the sobering memory of defeat at Isandlwana lingered for many years, while the legendary tale of the defence of Rorke’s Drift was re-awakened for a new generation in the epic 1964 film Zulu, starring Michael Caine.

In this new volume in the Great Battles series, Ian F. W. Beckett tells the story of both battles, investigating not only their immediate military significance but also providing the first overarching account of their continuing cultural impact and legacy in the years since 1879, not just in Britain but also from the once largely inaccessible and overlooked Zulu perspective.

The facts surrounding the defence of Rorke’s Drift are captured perfectly in the film Zulu, of course, but Ian Beckett’s book puts this battle firly into the context and perspective of the Zulu wars, with excellent and intriguing expert background material and analysis.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (Ed.): The Oxford Illustrated History of the World

 Published by OUP 10th January 2019

901aaImagine the planet, as if from an immense distance of time and space, as a galactic observer might see it―with the kind of objectivity that we, who are enmeshed in our history, can´t attain.

The Oxford Illustrated History of the World encompasses the whole span of human history. It brings together some of the world’s leading historians, under the expert guidance of Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, to tell the 200,000-year story of our world, from the emergence of homo sapiens through to the twenty-first century: the environmental convulsions; the interplay of ideas (good and bad); the cultural phases and exchanges; the collisions and collaborations in politics; the successions of states and empires; the unlocking of energy; the evolutions of economies; the contacts, conflicts, and contagions that have all contributed to making the world we now inhabit.

This impressive looking book turns out to be dstinctly underwhelming through its misuse of the word “Illustrated” in the title. Just a handful of images and illustrations adorn the pages of what should have been a definitive volume, but turns out to be somewhat disappointing. Dorling Kindersley do this kind of book so much better.

Adrianne Fitzpatrick: The Chalet School Annexe

 Published by GGBP 27th November 2018

901abWhen ten-year-old Robin Humphries is deemed too delicate to return to the Chalet School on the shores of the Tiernsee (despite its well-deserved reputation for making the health of its pupils the highest priority), the solution is obvious: open an Annexe on the Sonnalpe, close to the famous Sanatorium, to accommodate those girls who would benefit from closer medical supervision. A number of the younger and frailer members of the Chalet School are transferred to the new branch, along with a dozen or so new pupils. Three Old Girls—Juliet Carrick, Grizel Cochrane and Gertrude Steinbrücke—are brought in as Staff, and the term looks set to be an exciting time for all. Not all of the girls are happy at being removed from the bustle of the main School, and tensions between the ‘old hands’ and the new girls run high; but they all soon learn that life on the mountain has its own excitements as well as rewards.

Superb fill in yarn about the Chalet School,written by someone who knows the stories inside out and back to front. Thrilling.

William Blake Selected Poems

 Published by Oxford World’s Classics 25th January 2019

901acWilliam Blake wrote some of the most moving and memorable verse in the English language. Deeply committed to visionary and imaginative experience, yet also fiercely engaged with the turbulent politics of his era, he is now recognised as a major contributor to the Romantic Movement. This edition presents Blake’s poems in their literary categories and genres to which they belong: his much-loved lyrics, ballads, comic and satirical verse, descriptive and discursive poems, verse epistles, and, finally, his remarkable ‘prophetic’ poems, including the whole of his two diffuse epics, Milton and Jerusalem. Blake’s poetry is intellectually challenging as well as formally inventive, and this edition has a substantial critical introduction which places his ideas in the contemporary context of the Enlightenment and the artistic reaction against its key assumptions.

I studied William Blake as one of the Romantic Poets as part of my Open University course in the late 1980s – I’m one of those people who loves poetry (some poetry) but doesn’t always understand it. The lyrical poetry and prose of William Shakespeare are among the finest words committed to paper as far as I’m concerned. William Blake is in y top ten favourite poets. I don’t recall reading any of these poems during my OU course, so either my memory is fading as I enter my mid-seventies, or else he wrote a huge amount of poetry! Either way, this new member of the Oxford World’s Classics club, published this month, is a very welcome addition. The introduction suggests that poetry was the second string to Blake’s bow, painting being the first, but I personally fancy that he will be remembered primarily as the author of Jerusalem and other brilliant, beautiful crowd pleasers rather than for his paintings, striking though they are. If you had to name one Blake poem without thinking, what would it be? Mine would be Tyger Tyger Burning Bright… and this brilliant new collection is a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelves. A superlative new title from OUP.

 

 

 

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