The bookcase

Stourbridge News: The bookcase The bookcase

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

By Kate Whiting

New fiction

Harbour Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh is published in hardback by Head of Zeus, priced £16.99. Available now.

The latest novel by veteran US crime writer Joseph Wambaugh finds him back on familiar ground - patrolling the mean streets of Hollywood.

You might expect the plot of his latest adventure - layabout longshoreman finds love and redemption when he falls for a Mexican stripper with a heart of gold - to be little more than a B-movie cliche, but the writing and the characters lift this tale out of the ordinary.

Wambaugh brings his crowd of cops to life and does the same for the supporting cast of petty criminals and illegal immigrants who are making a living from the bright lights and tourist traps of Hollywood Boulevard.

He does not rely on shocking twists and turns to keep the plot moving, but instead slowly builds up the tension, keeping the reader glued until the final page.

It's a great read by a writer at the top of his game.

9/10

(Review by Robert Dex)

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra is published in hardback by Egmont Books, priced £10.99. Available now.

The first thing you notice about Louis Nowra's latest novel is the language.

Disorienting and childlike, narrator Hannah immediately explains that she once "lost" her voice and had to relearn it many years ago.

What follows is a completely engrossing story of two children, Hannah and her friend Becky, lost in the Tasmanian wilderness for four years.

Their survival is due to an unlikely alliance with a pair of native hyenas, or "tigers", as Hannah calls them.

The animals lead the girls into a life of hunting, tracking, running on all fours and gorging on freshly killed meat, as the youngsters gradually lose all sense of their humanity.

Both joyful and heartbreaking, Nowra has created a truly extraordinary world which is difficult to leave.

It's a magical book for adults and teenagers.

10/10

(Review by Kathryn Gaw)

The Tombs by Clive Cussler and Thomas Perry is published in paperback by Michael Joseph, priced £13.99. Available now.

Sam and Remi Fargo battle their way through their latest archaeological adventure, dodging bullets and digging up antiquities and numerous skeletons as they go.

Their latest discovery is the final resting place of Attila the Hun, the high king who cut a swathe from his homeland in Eastern Europe all the way to France and nearly toppled the Roman Empire.

They fight to stop a bounty of treasure falling into the hands of a gangster who regards himself as a modern-day Attila.

As they journey through five tombs, will this husband-and-wife team manage to come out on top?

Clive Cussler is a prolific best-seller and has teamed up with award-winning novelist Thomas Perry.

Together they have produced a puzzle with an explosive finale.

8/10

(Review by Roddy Brooks)

The Engagement by Chloe Hooper is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £16.99. Available January 24.

Australian author Chloe Hooper returns with her first novel since she was nominated for the Orange Prize for fiction more than 10 years ago.

A dark tale of sex and obsession, it centres on a young Englishwoman, Liese Campbell, who flees mounting debts in the UK for a new life in Australia.

A new job brings her into contact with Alexander Colquhoun - heir to what was once thousands of acres of farmland.

Soon they are sleeping together and he is paying for the privilege, but a weekend at his family home reveals a dark side to their relationship and any certainties about who is using who soon disappear.

Hooper has crafted a terrific tale full of dark corners and dead-ends that leave the reader wondering what to believe.

The result is a creepy collision between a psychological thriller and a very dark romance that has something for fans of either genre.

8/10

(Review by Robert Dex)

Children's book of the week:

The Twyning by Terence Blacker is published in hardback by Head of Zeus, priced £16.99. Available now.

A story of love, war and rats.... is the strapline to The Twyning, which is an excellent summary of Independent columnist Terence Blacker's latest book for young adults.

Its unusual double first-person narrative entwines the perspectives of Dogboy, a 13-year-old living on the streets of Victorian London, and Efren, a young rat living beneath those streets.

Efren is a low-ranking creature in the rats' beehive-like society, but his curiosity leads him to the 'world above', where he becomes part of a war between humans and rodents that grows from overzealous paranoia to real danger once an obsessed scientist and ambitious politician get involved.

While The Twyning has strong characters and an addictive plot, Blacker's unflinching approach to violence makes it less suitable for younger teenagers.

8/10

(Review by Natalie Bowen)

Non-fiction

Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found by Cheryl Strayed is published in paperback by Atlantic Books, priced £12.99. Available now.

Cheryl Strayed's memoir revolves around matters of the heart - of life, death and resurrection.

The sudden loss of her mother, the breakdown of her family life and crumbling marriage forms the basis of a miserable period before she decides to leave it all behind.

At rock bottom, she impulsively decides to take the 1,100-mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail of the USA.

The promise of finding an inner peace is what drives her through the subsequent mental and physical torture as she attempts to piece her troubled life back together.

Through Strayed's recollections, we experience the raw agony of the mountainous terrain, and the characters she encounters.

It's an ultimately frank account of life experienced at both ends of the emotional scale, which will appeal to those willing to lose themselves in the adventure.

7/10

(Review by James Cleary)

Wonders Of Life by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen is published in hardback by Collins, priced £25. Available January 24.

Having examined our solar system and the universe, physicist Brian Cox turns his hand to life itself.

Travelling across the globe to display some of the more fascinating species of plants and animals, he uses his unavoidable charm and scientific knowledge to explain what defines life and why it is such a wonder.

Cox's background lies mainly in particle and astrophysics, however he has immersed himself in biology to help specify the crucial ingredients needed for life to form on Earth, and perhaps elsewhere.

Rather than being taught about life, it feels as though we are learning alongside him.

Unlike in his previous Wonders, when we were in awe of space and its vastness and complexity, Life feels too similar and doesn't distinguish itself enough from other wildlife documentaries.

Despite beautiful imagery coupled with passionate description, the book lacks Cox's trademark inspiration and majesty evident in prior works.

6/10

(Review by Wayne Walls)

Be Your Own Nutritionist: Rethink Your Relationship With Food by George Cooper is published in paperback by Short Books, priced £12.99. Available now.

Nutritionist George Cooper runs a busy acupuncture clinic in Bristol. In this, his first book, he claims to offer a "radical" approach to taking charge of your own digestive health.

"Forget everything you knew about healthy eating," instructs Cooper. It sounds a worryingly familiar phrase attached to faddy 'new' diets but, instead, Cooper gives the reader a history lesson.

He extols the virtues of the forgotten Victorian diet, where home-cooked, hearty food reigned before white flour became Westerners' downfall into diabetes and obesity.

Cooper repeatedly highlights the five most important factors when considering our food intake - emotion, climate, digestive function and food flavour and type - and translates the plan into easily prepared British dishes - all served hot.

Cutting out sugar and sweeteners and eating varied sweet-and-sour-flavoured meals isn't particularly 'radical', yet the encouragement to take control of your diet feels positive and recipes to the rear of the book will help get you started.

While Cooper's focus is on aiding digestion rather than a weight-loss plan, the book is by no means a comprehensive guide, but Cooper's aim is to re-educate, not spoon-feed.

7/10

(Review by Angela Johnson)

Inside Trader by Trader Faulkner is published in hardback by Quartet Books, priced £20. Available now.

Trader Faulkner, the Australian-born actor with the unforgettable name, has produced an autobiography full of fascinating gossip about the golden years of the British stage.

Born Ronald Faulkner in 1927, he was the only child of John Faulkner, a handsome but boozy star of early Australian films, and his wife, Sheila Whytock, a former dancer in Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

Faulkner's nickname of "Trader" came as a boy, after he was caught stealing bottles of his father's bootleg whisky, which he then bartered for marbles.

After moving to London in 1950, he auditioned for a play directed by John Gielgud, who dismissed the name 'Ronald' as "dreary" and rhapsodised over "Trader". The nickname took over permanently.

Trader achieved Stratford and West End success, appeared in films, and later branched out into flamenco dancing and writing.

In this funny, moving and sometimes spicy book, many famous names pop up. There are riveting vignettes about Laurence Olivier, his wife, Vivien Leigh, and her lover, Australian actor Peter Finch, about whom Trader later wrote a biography.

8/10

(Review by Anthony Looch)

Best-sellers for the week ending January 19

Paperbacks

1 HHhH, Laurent Binet

2 Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

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

4 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce

5 The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

6 Waiting For Sunrise, William Boyd

7 Capital, John Lanchester

8 Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain

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

10 Stonemouth, Iain Banks

Hardbacks

1 A Memory Of Light: The Wheel Of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

2 Close To The Bone, Stuart MacBride

3 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver

4 Of Mice And Men: With Notes, John Steinbeck & Jim Taylor

5 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney

6 The Chessmen, Peter May

7 The Examined Life: How We Lose And Find Ourselves, Stephen Grosz

8 Africa: Eye To Eye With The Unknown, Michael Bright

9 Tales From Acorn Wood: Fox's Socks, Julia Donaldson

10 My Animals And Other Family, Clare Balding

Ebooks

1 Life Of Pie, Yann Martel

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

3 Safe House, Chris Ewan

4 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson

5 Thursdays In The Park, Hilary Boyd

6 You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

7 The Expats, Chris Pavone

8 The 5:2 Diet Book: Feast For 5 Days A Week And Fast For 2 To Lose Weight, Boost Your Brain And Transform Your Health, Kate Harrison

9 The Half-Life Of Hannah, Nick Alexander

10 Bride Flight, Marieke Van Der Pol and Colleen Higgins

(Compiled by the Kindle store at Amazon.co.uk)

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree