‘A Place called Winter’ by Patrick Gale is on Radio 2’s Drivetime Book Club March 23rd

A place called WinterThe next author on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Drivetime Book Club is Patrick Gale with ‘A Place Called Winter’ on Monday 23rd March.

The novel is about a privileged elder son, and stammeringly shy, Harry Cane has followed convention at every step. Even the beginnings of an illicit, dangerous affair do little to shake the foundations of his muted existence – until the shock of discovery and the threat of arrest cost him everything.

Forced to abandon his wife and child,  Harry signs up for emigration to the newly colonised Canadian priaries. Remote and unforgiving, his allotted homestead in a place called Winter is a world away from the golden suburbs of turn-of-the-century Edwardian England. And yet it is here, isolated in a seemingly harsh landscape, under the threat of war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism that the fight for survival will reveal in Harry an inner strength and capacity for love beyond anything he has ever known before.


Patrick Gale was born on the Isle Of Wight. He spent his infancy at Wandsworth Prison, which his father governed, then grew up in Winchester before going to Oxford University. He now lives on a farm near Land’s End. One of the country’s best-loved novelists, his most recent works are A Perfectly Good Man, The Whole Day Through and Notes From An Exhibition.

What’s new in cook books

The art of cooking with vegetablesSecrets from my Indian family kitchen: contains 120 recipes by Anjali Pathak- Anjali Pathak’s first memories are of making chapatis with her grandmother who founded the family business, doing her homework on the kitchen table as her mother presented her with dish upon dish to test and her father’s favourite phrase – ‘can we get that into a jar?’ Now she draws upon her family secrets in these authentic Indian dishes and modern creations perfect for all cooks. Delve into heartfelt stories that bring Indian food to life, learn top tips for foolproof results, master classics and learn how a touch of spice can add a contemporary twist.

The WI cookbook: the first 100 yearsThe WI cookbook: the first 100 years by Mary Gwynn – As the Women’s Institute turns 100, this book, curated by food journalist Mary Gwynn, brings together the 100 best loved members’ recipes nationwide. Organised decade by decade, and setting each recipe in its historical and social context, it spans everything from jams and preserves to main courses, puddings and bakes

The art of cooking with vegetables by Alain Passard – A collection of 48 vegetarian recipes by three-Michelin-starred chef Alain Passard

My busy kitchen: a lifetime of family recipes by Alex Hollywood – As Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood freely admits,Kew on a plate with Raymond Blanc: recipes, horticulture and heritage it’s his wife Alex who is in charge of cooking at home. She plans, shops and cooks so they can enjoy delicious home-made food with family and friends. Her recipes fall into one of two categories – quick and simple for when you don’t have much time during the week, or slow and simple for a lazy weekend at home. With a few clever twists and drawing on influences from her travels and her family (a glamorous French grandma, a father brought up in Spain and a Norwegian great grandmother) Alex’s recipes are easy, inexpensive and just a little bit different

Great British Cooking by Carolyn Caldicott – Carolyn and Chris Caldicott have travelled the world in pursuit of delicious food. In this book they come home to explore the long-overlooked delights of traditional British cooking.

 Secret recipes from the world famous New York bakerySecret recipes from the world famous New York bakery by Dominique Ansel – The creator of the Cronut pastry, the croissant-doughnut hybrid that took the world by storm, Ansel is no one-hit wonder. Classically trained in Paris, leader of Daniel Boulud’s three-Michelin-starred pastry kitchen in New York and now the proprietor of New York’s highest-rated bakery, he has become a modern-day Willy Wonka: the creator of wildly innovative, extraordinarily delicious and unbelievably popular desserts. Here are his coveted recipes, organised by skill level and catering to both amateur and professional bakers

 Kew on a plate with Raymond Blanc: recipes, horticulture and heritage by Raymond Blanc The best dish on Raymond’s menu is the ‘one that’s in season’. In this TV series and book, Raymond Blanc and Kew Gardens have created a kitchen garden at Kew to showcase the heritage and botany of their favourite plants. The book explores how these plants arrived in the UK, brought back by intrepid plant hunters, how they flourished and how they spread to become part of our everyday meals. The Kew gardeners offer their tips and expertise in growing this produce, from carrots to potatoes, rhubarb and gooseberries, apples and peas. And interwoven with these stories are Raymond’s Blanc’s detailed tasting notes and 40 mouth-watering recipes


‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’ by Jon Ronson

so-youve-been-publicly-shamed-9780330492287.jpg (286×430)Look out Jon Ronson‘s new book  – ‘So you’ve been publicly shamed’ will be in libraries very soon

His other books get lots of high ratings from Leeds Readers for example –‘The Psychopath Test: a journey through the madness industry’ and  ‘Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries’

His new book is about public shaming, which seems to be a new trend in society. It started with his online identity being stolen in 2012.

He publicly confronted the imposters, a trio of academics who had created a Jon Ronson Twitter bot obsessed by unlikely food combinations and weird sex. At first, Jon was delighted to find strangers all over the world uniting to support him in his outrage. The wrongdoers were quickly shamed into stopping.

That’s when things got out of hand. This encounter prompted him to explore the phenomenon of public shaming and what he discovered astonished him. Simultaneously powerful and hilarious in the way only Jon Ronson can be, this is a deeply honest book about modern life, full of eye-opening truths about the escalating war on human flaws – and our very scary part in it.

‘Dune’ celebrates its 50th birthday

DuneThe science fiction classic Dune is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year.

On release it was the winner of both the prestigious Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebular Award.  It has gone on to sell over 12 million copies since then and frequently appears on sci-fi must read lists. Dune has been favourably compared to Lord of the Rings trilogy for its grand scope and sighted as an influence on numerous creative projects from Star Wars to Game of Thrones, it even inspired an Iron Maiden The great Dune trilogysong “To Tame the Land”.

Set in a heavily feudal society of the future where “spice “mined from treacherous sand dunes is the most valuable commodity in the galaxy Dune is the first book in an epic saga charting the life of Duke Paul of the House Atraides. When his family is betrayed by another Noble House, Paul is forced to flee with his mother Jessica into the unforgiving terrain of the desert planet Arrakis. Far from perishing in this punishing environment as their enemies anticipate, the pair survive and Paul discovers that the dunes and their inhabitants are key to fulfilling a destiny far greater than any he could ever have imagined.

Author Frank Herbert masterfully pulls together multiple layers of political intrigue, adds complex themes of religion and culture, mixes in a healthy dose of adventure and frames the story within a meticulously constructed fictional universe. The resulting novel is considered ahead of its time in exploring issues of ecology and environmentalism but has faced criticism for what some see as its poor development of female characters.

Herbert went on to wright five sequels before his death in 1986. His Dune legacy lives on thanks to his son Brian HerbertDune who along with established science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson has written a number of prequel novels beginning with the Prelude to Dune Trilogy published from 1999 as well as two sequels Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune based on Frank’s own 30 page outline for the continuation of the series.

If you have already read Dune or would like to try some other great science fiction titles which also explore themes of politics, culture and religion try these compelling reads:

The sparrowSand by Hugh Howey. Staying with the desert theme Sand is the new novel from the acclaimed author of the bestselling Wool trilogy. An old civilization is literally buried under massive sand dunes. It’s up to four siblings born into this barren new to world dig deep and uncover the secrets of the lost one.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Jesuit priest Father Emilio Santoz leads an expedition to meet a sentient alien race after he is moved by their use of music but the consequences are devastating.  Russell makes excellent use of her own experience as a paleoanthropologist to injects a sense of real life into her alien world and its strange new species. Exploring human concepts of morality and faith this and sequel Children of God are as intelligent, compelling and challenging as science fiction gets.

 Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon 1) by China  Mievelle . Welcome to the sprawling city of New Crobuzon where humans live side by side with all manner of strange creatures from khephris (insect headed women) to winged garuda. When one such garuda who has been stripped of flight approaches an amateur scientist to help him regain it they unwittingly set in motion events which will leave the whole of the city gripped with terror. This is a massively ambitious story which mixes politics, ethics, science and fantasy to astonishing effect.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.  Introducing The Justice, the AI mind of a destroyed warship trapped in the Sandreanimated body of a single dead human or “corpse soldier”. Used to controlling thousands of “corpse soldiers” simultaneously The Justice must adjust to this reduced state if she is to complete one last mission and exact revenge on those who destroyed her. Author Leckie became the first person to collect the Hugo, Nebular and Arthur C Clark awards for Best Novel in the same year with this her 2014 debut novel. Its sequel Ancillary Sword is also available now.

The Player of Games by Iain M Banks. Between 1987 and his death in 2013 Banks wrote a series of highly acclaimed novels and short stories set in and around the supposedly utopian interstellar society of The Culture.  Essentially space operas the novels are less concerned with scientific fact than exploring complex themes such as identity and politics. The Player of Games is an accessible entry point into this Universe. It tells the story of Gurgeh a man famous throughout The Culture for his mastery of board games.  Coerced into participating in a game called Azad in an Empire far from home Gurgeh soon realizes that he will not only be player but also pawn and that the stakes are literally to die for.

Post by Gemma Alexander, Information and Research Library

The Haunting of Hill House

The haunting of Hill HouseI’ve just read (or been read to by David Warner as it was an eaudiobook ) The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson and can highly recommend it.

The best-known of Shirley Jackson’s novels, and the inspiration for writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is an eerie, chilling story of the power of fear. Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and The Secret History has said that ‘Shirley Jackson’s stories are among the most terrifying ever written’

The story is about four seekers gathered together by a Dr Montague, an occult scholar, to spend a summer at rambling old pile known as ‘Hill House’, a haunted New England mansion. The group includes Luke, a bit of a wastrel, who has hopes of inheriting the estate and is there as a family member; Theodora, Dr. Montague’s assistant, a lesbian, bohemian artist with ESP; and Eleanor Vance, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past who is there because she experienced poltergeist phenomena as a child. She has spent the last 11 years of her life caring for her invalid mother, recently deceased.

At first, their stay seems destined to be ‘merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena’. It becomes much more than that as Hill House gathers its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The book has been adapted for film twice – once in 1963 (this one is better rated and follows the book more closely) and more recently as ‘The Haunting’, starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson.

 Shirley Jackson was born in California in 1916. Other books include The Road Through the Wall, Hangsaman, The Bird’s Nest, The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, widely seen as her masterpiece.

She died in her sleep at the age of 48.


Thriller round up

Looking for a thriller to read? These new ones might fit the bill.The laughing monsters

The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson –Freetown, Sierra Leone. A city of heat and dirt, of guns and militia. Alone in its crowded streets, Captain Roland Nair has been given a single assignment. He must find Michael Adriko – maverick, warrior and the man who has saved Nair’s life three times and risked it many more. The two men have schemed, fought and profited together in the most hostile regions of the world. But on this new level – espionage, state secrets, treason – their loyalties will be tested to the limit

Patrick Hoffman’s debut is The White Van, a heist thriller set in San FranciscoThe Whites intercutting the stories of addict Emily, who is lured to a hotel room by Russian gangsters and drugged so that she is pliable enough to use as a stooge in a bank robbery, and Leo Elias, a hapless, alcoholic cop whose “investigation” into the robbery goes horribly wrong. Hoffman is a former private investigator in San-Fran and captures the world well with pared-down prose. With black comedy and suspense, The White Van channels ‘Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake to exhilarating and unexpected effect’.

The Whites by Harry Brandt – Billy Graves is still a New York cop working nights despite being a former member of a group of officers who called themselves the Wild Geese – “a tight crew given a ticket to ride in one of the worst precincts of the East Bronx”. These Geese each had their “whites” –  criminals who committed awful offences but were clever and devious enough to get away. After Graves finds one of his whites stabbed to death, he hears that other Geese’s whites have met a similar fate. Justice or something more sinister? The Whites is chilling stuff, especially when Graves’s family is tormented by a stalker, and explores the limits of loyalty and integrity.

The white vanGun Street Girl by Adrian McKinty – Belfast, 1985. Gunrunners on the borders, riots in the cities, ‘The Power of Love’ on the radio. And somehow, in the middle, Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is hanging on, a Catholic policeman in the hostile Royal Ulster Constabulary. Duffy is initially left cold by the murder of a wealthy couple, shot dead while watching TV. And when their troubled son commits suicide, leaving a note that appears to take responsibility for the deaths, it seems the case is closed. But something doesn’t add up, and people keep dying. Soon Duffy is on the trail of a mystery that will pit him against shadowy US intelligence forces, and take him into the white-hot heart of the biggest political scandal of the decade.  Anyone missing Inspector Banks might like McKinty

Peter Swanson – The Kind Worth Killing begins as a homage to Strangers on a Train, with dotcom chancer Ted Severton meeting ethereal-but-tough Lily in a bar at Heathrow. As they share the journey home, he makes a confession: his wife is having an affair – and he, Ted, wants to kill her. Far from being horrified, Lily understands his impulse completely … This is a smart, addictive novel about warped affinities – broken, damaged souls finding each other and making mayhem. Swanson knows how to get readers rooting for psychopathic monsters: simply show how they became what they are.  The Girl With a Clock for a Heart was his debut thriller in2014.

#10 Books set in Sicily

The dance of the seagullAnyone going to Sicily? It’s a fantastic place to visit, soak up the atmosphere with any of these titles.

The dance of the seagull by Andrea Camilleri – Rated 5 star by 12 readers, this is just one of the Inspector Montalbano novels adapted for TV and filmed on the south-eastern coast of Sicily in Ragusa, Scicli and Punta Secca -causing a tourist boom.

Inspector Montalbano is sitting on his porch at dawn when he sees a seagull fall from the sky. It performs a strange dance, before lying down to die. Perplexed by what he has witnessed, the scene hangs over him like an omen. About to depart for a holiday, Montalbano pops to the police station to tie up loose ends but when his dear colleague Fazio is discovered missing, he instead launches a desperate search.

Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato – Hidden in the language of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedy ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, are several clues to an intriguing tale. It seems that the witty lovers Beatrice and Benedick, had a previous youthful love affair which ended bitterly. But how did they meet, why did the part, and what bought them together again?

The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – This masterpiece is set amongst an aristocratic family facing social Time on my handsand political changes in the wake of Garibaldi’s invasion of Sicily in 1860. At the head of the family is the prince, Don Fabrizio. Proud, stubborn, he is accustomed to knowing his own place in the world & expects his household to be run accordingly

The villa by Rosanna Ley – Initially resistant to her daughter, Tess, going back to her roots, Flavia realises the secrets from her past are about to be revealed and decides to try to explain her actions. Meanwhile, Tess’ teenage daughter Ginny is stressed by college, and all three women are seeking answers. Will Villa Sirena bring them together?

The Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini – This novel tells the story of three generations of the Ucria family, seen through the eyes of the young Duchess Marianna. Married at 13 to her own uncle, set apart from others by her disability, she searches for fulfilment in a society in which women face either marriage and endless childbearing or a life within the walls of a convent

The Food of Love Cookery School by Nicky Pellegrino – Luca Amore runs cooking holidays in the Sicilian mountain town of Favio…

The Godfather by Mario Puzo – Mafia leader Vito Corleone, The Godfather, is the a benevolent despot who stops at nothing to gain and hold power. Set in Long Island, Hollywood and Sicily this is a story of a feudal society within society which does not hesitate to consolidate its power

Killing ground by Gerald Seymour – A young Englishwoman finds herself at the heart of a dangerous plot to trap the head of the Sicilian Mafia. In this thriller, Seymour truly captures the brooding atmosphere of Mafia-dominated Sicily

Time on my hands by Giorgio Vasta – Palermo 1978. Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro has been kidnapped in Rome by the notorious Red Brigades and found dead in a car boot two months after his disappearance . Three 11-year-old schoolboys avidly follow the news of the abduction as their admiration for the brigatisti grows. When the boys themselves resolve to abduct a classmate & incarcerate him in a makeshift ‘people’s prison’, the darkness within their world, and the world of the novel, becomes all-pervasive.

I Malavoglia: (the house by the medlar tree) by Giovanni Verga, 1840-1922 -This translation is a tragic tale of poverty, honour and survival where the weak go to the wall unmourned.