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7:00am Saturday 21st July 2012 in NewsXtra
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting.
How The Trouble Started by Robert Williams is published in paperback by Faber and Faber, priced £12.99. Available now.
Donald is eight when what he refers to as "the trouble" begins. There is an accident, then there are the police, with them coming a barrage of questions - the upshot of all of it meaning that Donald and his mum are uprooted from their community.
Eight years later, and Donald is still a child in many ways, unable to move on from that fateful day. Something of a loner, he strikes up a friendship with a quiet, vulnerable schoolboy with a love of horror stories, not realising that anyone might not approve of him spending time with Jake.
Our view of Donald changes as we see more of his character and his life - slowly peeling away the label that society has burdened him with.
Robert Williams, award-winning writer of Luke And Jon, presents the reader with subtle questions on the issue of morality, loneliness and trying to do the right thing.
His sensitive portrayal of a childhood interrupted and tarnished with tragedy is deeply moving, a feeling amplified by the sense of place and detail he creates.
It may not be an easy read, but it is most definitely an engaging one.
7/10 (Review by Lauren Turner).
Doctor Who: Dark Horizons by J T Colgan is published in hardback by BBC Books, priced £12.99. Available now.
A page turner for the fans and perhaps for more casual viewers of the series, but Dark Horizons may not come to be known as a Doctor Who classic, although it's an entertaining adventure for Matt Smith's Doctor.
He's companion-less in this 12th century tale of Vikings, villagers, and a deadly alien force which picks most of them off.
It is not a hugely original story but author J T Colgan (actually chick-lit novelist Jenny Colgan, of West End Girls fame) keeps the story moving nicely without ponderous sections which spoiled some Who novels years ago.
She captures Smith's Doctor well, giving him the mixture of earnest and whimsical lines his fans would expect.
The story sees many characters, both nice and nasty, killed but Colgan prevents the story from getting too heavy by sometimes using chatty, jokey asides. This approach reminded me of the style in which Tolkien wrote The Hobbit.
7/10 (Review by Chris Gibbings).
The Labyrinth Of Osiris by Paul Sussman is published in paperback by Bantam Press, priced £12.99. Available July 19.
Paul Sussman's fourth novel arrived on the reviews desk only a few weeks after he died suddenly at the horribly early age of 45.
Like his previous books, it combines his passion for archaeology and the history of Ancient Egypt with well-drawn characters and a page-turning plot.
Its 500-plus pages travel across borders between Egypt, Israel and America and across generations, bringing to life a cast of believable characters the reader cares about.
But it is the central characters - an Egyptian policeman and his Israeli counterpart - that really pull the reader into the tale which takes on issues including cyber-crime, sex-trafficking and sectarian hatred.
It would be a fitting tribute to a fine writer if this classy mix of crime novel and historical saga found its way on to the best-seller lists this year.
8/10 (Review by Robert Dex).
The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo is published in paperback by MacLehose Press, priced £12.99. Available now.
Italian author Davide Longo, who teaches writing in Turin, northern Italy, enjoys writing novels for adults and children, with his debut A Morning At Irgalem winning the Grinzane Debut Award.
The Last Man Standing, translated by Silvester Mazzarella, is his third novel for adults, following a well-known academic and writer as he tries to survive social anarchy in a future Italy.
Having taken refuge in a remote village after a scandal that saw him lose his job, Leonardo lives as a recluse, but lawlessness and disorder begin to intrude upon his life, with gangs of youths causing destruction and many police officers becoming corrupt.
When he is forced to look after his estranged daughter and her brother-in-law, he faces a decision that will determine whether they live or die in this new hostile world.
With mesmerising control of language, Longo weaves a tale that will leave readers with much to think about long after they have put it down.
8/10 (Review by Ben Major).
The Heat Of The Sun by David Rain is published in hardback by Atlantic Books, priced £12.99. Available now.
It must be the question asked by many opera fans - whatever happened to Madame Butterfly's son?
If, like David Rain, you wondered the same, then The Heat Of The Sun is sure to be enlightening reading.
A university lecturer in literature and writing, Australian-born Rain has taken the tragic story of Cho Cho-San and developed it over the following decades.
Ben Pinkerton, the troubled illegitimate son of the geisha girl and an American naval lieutenant turned senator, comes to life once again in the pages of Rain's novel, which also describes the major world events of the 1930s and 1940s.
Whisked away from his homeland and variously bounced around anything that did not resemble a settled and loving home life, 'Trouble', as Pinkerton becomes known, remains the centre of attention in every way imaginable.
Told through the experiences of one of his closest school friends, The Heat Of The Sun will definitely not consign the talents of Rain to the shade.
8/10 (Review by Roddy Brooks).
The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N Murari is published in paperback by Allen & Unwin, priced £9.99. Available now.
Exploring themes of love, loss and hope, Timeri N Murari's Afghanistan-set novel utilises "former" journalist Rukhsana to unravel the hardships of a Taliban-influenced society.
An oppressed female in a war-ravaged environment, she is called to the ministry to be informed of a cricket tournament.
Organised by the Taliban, it is the ideal opportunity for her to help her family and loved ones, with the consequences of her decisions potentially shaping their future.
Despite the setting and subject matter, Murari rarely slips into the use of gratuitous violence, with subtle set-pieces proving that sometimes less is more.
Imagery is stark, with the depiction of the harsh environment matching the shattered emotions of Rukhsana's family and friends.
Essentially a woman battling the odds in a man's world, the overriding sense is of optimism in the battle for survival.
8/10 (Review by James Cleary).
Children's book of the week PONG! by Chris McCormack is published by Batmack Limited, available on iPad, priced 99p. Visit http://bit.ly/ipadpong or search on iBooks.
If your little ones spend more time on your iPad than you, they'll love new downloadable book PONG! from debut children's author Chris McCormack.
It tells the delightful rhyming tale of an enormous green space being, who loves to race and always wins.
When he slips on Neptune's frozen lakes, he comes face to face with Jake, who uses his clever grasp of maths to outsmart the Pong and beat him in races.
McCormack's rhymes are as engaging as those of Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo, and the bright, stunning illustrations by Naomi Lunn will capture the imagination of children of all ages.
The educational book also includes games and fun facts about the planets. A sequel is on its way, but for now, PONG! is a must-read. A children's classic in the making.
9/10 (Review by Kate Whiting).
Non-fiction It's Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller is published in paperback by Sphere, priced £12.99. Available July 12.
From the hunt for the Higgs boson particle at the Large Hadron Collider, to the search for intelligent alien life, via the principles of baking the perfect Victoria sponge, physicist-turned-comedian Ben Miller takes us on a rollercoaster ride through his favourite parts of science.
With relentless pace, different areas of biology, chemistry and physics are blended seamlessly in a thorough and entertaining read that grabs your attention and refuses to let go.
Miller manages to engage his audience, no matter what their current understanding of science, and make serious topics such as global warming lighthearted, without watering down the facts or patronising the reader.
With a few nods to the heroes of science - Newton, Einstein, Hawking - it is evident that real passion and excitement has gone into his writing.
The finished project is a hilarious yet insightful love letter that makes you marvel at everything around us.
9/10 (Review by Wayne Walls).
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets And Lives Of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £18.99. Available now.
Award-winning biographer Clare Mulley, who won the Daily Mail Biographers' Club prize for her debut novel The Woman Who Saved The Children, has chosen a forgotten heroine of the Second World War for the subject of her second biography.
She uncovers the hidden life of Britain's first female special agent Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville.
Polish-born Skarbek fled Warsaw with her lover to Ethiopia, and was then recruited by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service.
She was arrested by the Gestapo (and talked her way out of trouble), travelled to Cairo and joined the Special Operations Executive, parachuted into France where she joined the resistance network 'Jockey', and saved her colleagues with unwavering grit and determination.
She was honoured for her services with the George Medal and an OBE, but was ultimately forgotten by the history books. She was murdered in 1952 in south Kensington by a stalker, and her story has never been told, until now.
Granville's courage, her passion for life, and her commitment to fight for our freedom is felt in every word written by Mulley. It's an incredible biography of an incredible woman.
9/10 (Review by Emma Everingham).
Fooling Houdini: Adventures In The World Of Magic by Alex Stone is published in paperback by William Heinemann, priced £12.99. Available now.
"Pick a card, any card..." It's difficult to think of any other situation where we would so readily consent to being fooled, but this is the contract we enter into when we watch a conjuror.
Alex Stone's book examines our continuing fascination with magicians and illusionists. He takes us through his own personal history in the world of magic, from the moment his father bought him a set as a young boy, through to appearances at international competitions.
The author examines distraction and misdirection (veering into Derren Brown territory), as well as classic grifts and tricks including the best way to steal a watch right off someone's wrist.
Our own Paul Daniels also gets a mention, and you may be surprised - but not a lot - to learn how much respect the British veteran enjoys among his fellow pros internationally.
8/10 (Review by Paul McGurk).
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