Freelance journalist in Birmingham and the West Midlands with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Published November 14th 2020
New books from Poirot to feminist guides
Books have become one of the saviours of lockdown in 2020 and there is a range of exciting new releases ahead of Christmas. Whether it's fiction, biography, cookery or more, here are some of our favourites for all ages to indulge in or give as a gift.
Crime writer Sophie Hannah took over the ranks of creating new Hercule Poirot adventures several years ago with the blessing of Agatha Christie Limited. Hannah has managed to capture the essence and quirks of the famous Belgian detective and The Killings At Kingfisher Hillis the fourth of her Poirot novels.
It's a gentle, enjoyable mystery for Christie fans with Poirot this time being called in to an estate to prove the innocence of a distressed woman after a body is found with a macabre note. This is a way to continue the tradition of enjoying a good old fashioned Poirot murder mystery at Christmas in a style that comes as close to Agatha Christie's famous penmanship as possible. All the more special that it's 100 years since Poirot's first appearance.
Best-selling author Wilbur Smith has over 40 global bestsellers to his name and the this latest gripping tale Call Of The Raventakes the action to New Orleans. Written with Corban Addison, this adventure is the sixth in the Ballantyne series and has plenty of twists and turns.
The storyline following Mungo St John, whose privileged life as a plantation owner's son is turned upside down when his family is left ruined and his inheritance stolen. Revenge, romance and a wrong-un in the shape of devious Chester Marion make for a page-turner in the Big Easy that weaves in the brutality of slavery and the human drive for survival.
Returning to the well-loved characters in Austin's Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte by Helen Moffett is an intelligent, well thought out novel that follows the life of Charlotte Lucas years after Darcy and Lizzie Bennet have wed.
Married to Mr Collins, return to regency England where women have just as much passion, problems and feminist urgings as today. It's a well-crafted piece that is true to the characters of Pride and Prejudice and features many of the original's favourites. Read a full review of Charlotte here.
Charlotte by Helen Moffett / Manilla Press / Hardback £14.99
Emotive Historical Fiction
Following her success with The Familiars, author Stacey Halls returns with The Foundling. The emotive story follows a woman who returns to reclaim the illegitimate child she left at a Foundling Hospital only to discover her daughter has already been taken by someone else pretending to be her.
Set in Georgian London, this beautifully written novel explores families, secrets, class and the meaning of motherhood. Halls did extensive research at the Foundling Museum in preparation for this latest work and it shows.
Settle into the sofa with this light-hearted romantic tale for Christmas. Divorcee Clare looks to do something for herself now her son has flown the nest inThe Country Village Christmas Showby Cathy Lake.
Festive charm and romance
Moving back to the quintessential English village she grew up in to live with her mum, Clare ends up being put in charge of the festive show and meets a cavalcade of characters as she makes a new life for herself. A Christmas cocktail of community spirit, romance and festivities that is an easy pick-me-up for the season.
Move over Miss Marple, HRH is the latest crime-buster in the innovative, fun The Windsor Knot by S.J Bennett. In this fun, enchanting murder mystery, Queen Elizabeth II is revealed to have a double life as a sleuth.
The Queen turns sleuth in The Windsor Knot
This is the first in a new 'Her Majesty The Queen Investigates' mystery series that sees The Queen investigate after a guest is found murdered following a dinner party at Windsor Castle. Clever, original and intriguing, this is a welcome addition for those that love a cosy murder mystery - but with added glamour of a right royal backdrop.
The story follows Yui, who has lost her mother in a tsunami and makes a pilgrimage to a disused telephone box where the grieving go to talk to those they have lost and come to terms with their grief. As people travel from far and wide to the phonebox, it opens up opportunities for new relationships and heartwarming encounters. Expect to feel emotional but also full of hope after zipping your way through this memorable novel.
Award-winning BBC and ITV news presenter and journalist Suzanne Virdee has written this empowering book that encourages girls to thrive through their teenage years.
A book to help girls negotiate teenage years in the 21st Century
Aimed at girls aged 11 upwards, A Girl's Guide To Being Awesome tackles tricky topics faced by young people growing up in the 21st Century from coping with social media to the impact of easily accessible online porn. This uplifting book doesn't shy away from relationships, body image and self-esteem either in an approachable way.
Interactive and positive, girls can read more on tackling anxiety and depression along with how to get noticed for all the right reasons by a woman who has succeeded in the often male-dominated arena of TV journalism.
Journalist Suzanne Virdee was the presenter on BBC Midlands Today
In an age when the Me Too movement aims to empower girls to not settle for second best, this is a useful guide for these times for girls to inspire and help them dream big.
Historical consultant to the hit show, Robert Lacey, has created The Crown as a companion to Seasons 2 and 3 of the award-winning Netflix drama.
The companion book to Netflix series The Crown
Spanning from 1956 to 1977, it provides thought-provoking insights into British history and the Royal household through the mid to late 20th Century including the Suez Canal Crisis and rumoured issues with the royal marriage. Including reproduced photos, this is a must for fans of the show, monarchy or British history in general.
The Crown by Robert Lacey / Bonnier Books / Paperback £8.99
The Feminist Quiz Book
Comedian Sara Pascoe introduces this book with a foreword on how it gives deserving pages and space to women, many forgotten or unrealised for their achievements across technology, art and more.
It's a fun quiz book that also shines a spotlight on women who should be household names. Featuring 100 questions to test your feminist knowledge, this book isn't just for women but anyone who loves a quiz question or is interested in learning more on topics from art and geography to drama involving women.
The Feminist Quiz Bookis a fascinating look at women who dared, led and discovered from Mary Wollstonecraft to Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai. It's a nice touch that the book comes in the colours of the Suffragette movement - purple, white and green.
Following his childhood in Birmingham to a career in New York and Hollywood, Martin puts together a forensic insight into the author as he prepares to hand over the reins of the Reacher series to his brother. Full of fascinating photos, this may not be as racy as Child's novels but it's an interesting delve into the life of a man who reinvented himself to create one of the most famous fictional action men in the world.
The Botanical City reveals the secrets of wildflowers, ferns, mossed and fungi that grow in urban areas with insights into recipes, folklore and craft ideas for each. Illustrations have been used from the 18th Century book Flora Londinensis compiled by William Curtis and they add to the appeal of this decadent book.
Writers Helena Dove and Harry Ades have done a wonderful job to compile this collection featuring bulbous buttercup, marsh marigold, clary sage and much more. Not just for gardeners but for anyone who wants to learn more about the environment around them.
A little extra tip is that when you order direct from Hoxton Mini Press, the book comes exquisitely packaged in its delightful paper wrapping too.
The Botanical City by Helena Dove and Harry Ades / Royal Botanic Gardens Kew / Hoxton Mini Press / Hardback £25
COOKERY AND FOODIE BOOKS
For The Love Of The Land
Jenny Jefferies has compiled this beautifully presented cookbook with recipes and features that celebrate British farmers and their food.
A cookbook that embraces farmers and their recipes
All the recipes, shared by farmers up and down the country, put local and seasonal ingredients first to create mouth-watering meals that you will be itching to try. Amongst regular favourites with a twist, like lasagna and chocolate brownies, there are also many more unusual lesser-known recipes.
Examples range from Reestit Mutton Soup from two sisters who run their family farm on Shetland to Kentish Lavender Shortbread from Castle Farm.
Accompanying the recipes are enchanting interviews with various farmers, along with stunning photos of the scenery and animals. It makes for a cookery book with more depth that stands out from the crowd.
Birmingham's Michelin Star chef Glynn Purnell has more recipes and tales to tell in this latest high-end book. With over 30 memorable recipes, it features the ingenuity and humour that Purnell has become famous for.
Award-winning food writer Mark Riddaway takes the reader on a culinary journey through Britain's most-liked ingredients from pasta to apples, vinegar, tea and much more in this riveting book. Food lovers will relish the chance to indulge in interesting facts and anecdotes behind everyday foods, all sold at London's famous Borough Market.
This page-turned includes how a variety of strawberry has its roots in a clandestine trip to South America by a French spy, whose surname was Strawberry. It's all the more exciting for coming as a beautifully-presented hardback with shimmering gold on its cover. A delight to tuck into.
My Tasty Cookbook is a distinctive personalised gift for those that love to cook. As the world's only fully customised cookbook, you can select the themes of the recipes for the book, add a special unique message to the first page.
Personalise a cookbook for a unique gift
Add the name of the person it is being given to on the front cover and pick from a range of topics for chapters including original, vegan or vegetarian. Choose from over 300 recipes to customise 22 chapters in the book. Chapters available range from Quick Eats to One Pot Wonders, Dinner Party, Vegetarian, Vegan and much more.