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Table of Contents ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Non Fiction Book Reviews







Fantasy & SF







Feature Articles


New ALLISON & BUSBY titles

Scene of the Crime

Yen Press Manga

What makes a classic book?

Judging a book by its cover

Introducing the Original Dangerous Books for Boys

Interview: James Delingpole

Nostalgia: Things are what they used to be!

Nostalgia Central: Carlton Books

Elizabeth Chayne's Reading Room

Personalised Noddy Books from Harper Collins


Stories and Serials


Phyllis Owen: A Soft White Cloud Chapter Four

Gareth Owen: Poem

Paul Norman: Daylights

Paul Norman: Heraklion ~ Outcast

Star Wars: Dark Emperor

Owen Owen's Gallery


Marvel comics

Top Cow comics

Image Comics

DC Comics

Dark Horse Comics

Devil's Due?Comics

NON FICTION BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE BUMPER BOOK OF LOOK AND LEARN (Century HB) Look and Learn is fondly remembered by thousands as the classic children's magazine from the 60s and 70s. It covered a vast range of subjects, from bumble bees to rocket science, from English literature to Greek and Roman legend. But history was its chief concern, and its brilliant illustrators filled its pages with beautiful pictures of the past. This lavishly illustrated tribute to the magazine presents a kaleidoscopic journey through time, whose narrative pauses for occasional episodes from the peerless story of The Trigan Empire, a cult feature in the original. The Bumper Book of Look and Learn takes us on a lightning tour of past and future worlds worthy of Doctor Who, and will appeal to all ages. I hadn't forgotten what a beautiful publication Look and Learn was, as I've been collecting the new fortnightly issue. But this book is simply sumptuous - as well as containing a fascinating, informative?and engaging collection of articles and picture strips, it's a masterpiece of printing of the very highest quality. It's a step back in time, yes, but it's also more than that, it's an example of everything that was good about the 1960s. The artwork is sublime, the content fantastic. I simply can't fault it. Let's have a Bumper Book of Look and Learn on an annual basis!

JIMMY DOHERTY: A TASTE OF THE COUNTRY (Penguin PB) A Taste of the Country is a celebration of country living and an invitation to town and country folk to get more involved with the land around them and the food that they put on their plate. As well as eighty recipes for traditional British farmhouse dishes from shepherd's pie to rhubarb and strawberry crumble, homemade chutney to elderflower cordial, there is information about gathering wild food, keeping a few chickens, growing your own salads, whittling walking sticks, cooking with edible flowers, pickling and preserving and much more. The dreamy, rural lifestyle captured between the pages will guarantee that all readers can have their very own taste of the good life. The sheer charisma and charm of Jimmy Doherty should be enough to see them right, but the current BBC2 series, CRISIS ON JIMMY'S FARM serves as a stark reminder of how easily small businesses can go under during times of hardship. This book should help - it's a terrific collection of appealing and delicious recipes, together with beautiful photographs of Jimmy's farm and its hardworking, dedicated staff. This is a lovely book. I just hope the venture eventually succeeds; no one deserves it more than Jimmy and Michaela.

ROSEMARY GORING: SCOTLAND ~ THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Viking HB) This is a vivid, wide-ranging and engrossing account of Scotland's history, composed of eye-witness accounts by those who experienced it first-hand. Contributors range from Tacitus, Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell to Adam Smith, David Livingstone and Billy Connolly. These include not just key historic moments - from Bannockburn to the opening of the new parliament in 1999, but testimonies like that of the eight-year-old factory worker who was dangled by his ear out of a third-floor window for making a mistake; the survivors of Culloden, who wished perhaps that they had died on the field; the breakthrough moment for John Logie Baird, inventor of television; and, the genesis of great works of literature recorded by Conan Doyle, Stevenson and the editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica .From the battlefield to the sports field, we have moments of glory or disaster, along with wonderfully readable insights into the everyday life of Scotland through the millennia. This is living, accessible history told by crofters, criminals, servants, house-wives, poets, journalists, nurses, politicians, prisoners, comedians, sportsmen and many more. This will interest more than just historians, with contributions from just about every notable Scot - ?extremely readable and thoroughly enjoyable

NOEL BOTHAM: THE BEST BOOK OF USELESS INFORMATION EVER (John Blake Publishing PB) Hot on the heels of the sensational success of the World's Greatest Book of Useless Information , the Official Useless Information Society brings you another essential compendium of everything you never needed but always wanted to know. Were you aware, for example, that cigarettes contain honey? Or that a ferret will die if it cannot find a mate? Would you like to know what Madonna did before she was famous, or how many toothpick accidents there are every year. If you are a lover of the wonderfully pointless, then this is the book for you. Just open it and you're hooked. Full of absolutely fascinating facts, some of which might just come in handy for the pub quiz - I wouldn't say it's all useless information, but it makes for a catchy title, and it's a thoroughly entertaining read - first class.

SEVEN HUNDRED PENGUINS: A collection of Penguin covers from Britain and around the world, Seven Hundred Penguins is a celebration of jackets that remain visually distinctive and addictive to us today, from the beautiful to the garish, design classics to design oddities. A full-colour, sensuous delight, with one jacket on every page, the featured jackets represent the personal favourites of Penguin staff from offices all over the world, and run from Penguin's birth in 1935 to the end of the twentieth century.Throughout there are jackets that bring back a flood of memories of the first time a book was read; there is beautiful typography from Jan Tschicold; arresting illustrations; visual witticisms from Derek Birdsall; countless mutations of the much-loved Penguin grid. There are also, with no formula at all, jackets that just make sense. Featuring old favourites and plenty of surprises, 700 Penguins is a unique and inspiring collection of the most impactful and well-loved Penguin covers of the twentieth century. A wonderful slice of history here, with seven hundred full-page Penguin covers from birth in 1935 to the end of the last century - 65 years of publishing history. Some were inspired, some simply too minimalist for me, but one thing is certain, and an established fact: Penguin did more than any other publisher to bring the published word to the masses with affordable (and collectable) books on just about every subject under the sun. This is not only a fine art book, it's also an indispensable aide-memoire to all those Penguins that informed and entertained in the last century, and continue to do so.

PETER CROUCH: WALING TALL ~ MY STORY (Hodder HB) He is 6ft 7in tall but Peter Crouch's height is not the only thing that makes the Liverpool and England striker different: he has a football story like no other player in the modern game. Crouch has risen from humble beginnings at non-league Dulwich Hamlet on loan, and a GBP60,000 transfer to Queens Park Rangers, to be an England striker and the first to score ten international goals in a calendar year. His career has not been the smooth journey from teen prodigy to Premiership star enjoyed by so many of his England team-mates. Booed by England fans in October 2005, Crouch had the same supporters on their feet with a hat-trick for his country eight months later. Walking Tall is about a footballer who has always found himself under intense scrutiny - for the way he looks as much as his ability on the pitch.Crouch's story is also about his constant battle to win over the doubters. He talks about the managers who have backed him - as well as those who have written him off - and relives the pain of rejection at Aston Villa, contrasted with the elation of his GBP7 million transfer to Liverpool just one year later in the summer of 2005. Crouch was a key figure in England's 2006 World Cup campaign and in Walking Tall he talks about his famous robot dance as well as the goals and the disappointments of that summer in Germany. For Crouch, the journey continues under Rafael Benitez at Anfield and with Steve McClaren's England team. Funny, honest and open, Walking Tall is the story of an unlikely hero. You could argue that it's too soon for Crouchy to be writing his autobiography, but I'd argue that in ten years time his footballing career will be just about over and we'll all have forgotten about him. This is well-written by that rarity - an intelligent footballer

THE A-Z OF EVERYTHING: A COMPENDIUM OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE Now in its fourth edition, the bestselling A TO Z OF EVERYTHING is a unique publication. Nothing as comprehensive has appeared before. With subjects from Abbreviations to the Zodiac, some of the book's sections almost stand up as reference works in their own right: the section on Music encompasses more information than many specialist titles; the section on Cinema includes all films of general interest (and the first and last films of a multitude of stars); History includes a detailed chronology of world events; and the section on Geography is perhaps the place to find a fully comprehensive list of 'Capitals of the World', even those of uninhabited Pacific islands. The section on Famous People, including their pseudonyms and even their middle names, is second to none in its thoroughness. In this new edition, the original topics have been brought up to date. This monumental work of reference is a must-have title for your bookshelf - a pleasure to dip into and a cornucopia of fact. There isn't a great deal that is not covered in this amazing reference work, right down to the casts of the current TV soaps. You could open this book at random once a week and discover something you didn't know. Invaluable, one for the coffee table and absolutely indispensable for pub-quizzers and people who like to watch programmes like Who Wants to be a Millionaire and University Challengs.

IAN RIDPATH: STARS AND PLANETS (Collins PB) Previously entitled 'Collins Pocket Guide Stars and Planets', this classic guide to the night sky enters its fourth edition as part of the authoritative 'Collins Guide' series. A comprehensive guide to all the stars and celestial objects visible with the use of binoculars or an average-sized telescope, this fully revised edition features updated and extended text, improved sky charts, and new diagrams and photographs. Includes: / Unique yearly plantetary data, available as a downloadable web resource / Monthly sky maps of the northern and southern hemispheres, so you can identify constellations and bright stars from various latitudes throughout the year / Descriptions of all the 88 constellations and their stars opposite a specially prepared chart showing the constellation in relation to the surrounding skies / Detailed information on stars, nebulae, galaxies, the Moon and the Solar System / Practical advice on choosing and using binoculars and telescopes In addition to the charts and diagrams, the text is accompanied by many photographs throughout, making this the most practical and comprehensive guide to the night sky. Comprehensive and perfectly set out, this is every amateur astronomer's dream guide to the heavens; professional astronomers, too, will find it hard to put down. Absolutely thrilling.

ANTON VAMPLEW: STARGAZING SECRETS (Collins HB) An accessible and informative guide to everything you can see in the night sky with binoculars and a telescope. The next level up from his previous book Simple Stargazing, Anton Vamplew's Stargazing Secrets is aimed at the astronomer who wants to find out about everything that can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye, and with binoculars or a telescope. With advice on choosing and using the right equipment, this is the ideal guide for any avid astronomer wanting to develop their knowledge. Packed with information on what you will be able to see, and illustrated with the author's charts, Stargazing Secrets discusses some of the more complex issues and terminologies of astronomy such as how to measure the distance of a star from the Earth, why the Moon appears bigger nearer the horizon than high in the sky, and where and when to see aurorae. Guiding you through the more distant aspects of our universe and covering constellations, double stars and galactic clusters in both northern and southern hemispheres, this lively, accessible and authoritative book makes a complex subject enjoyable and easy to understand. Hugely entertaining and informative, though some of the equipment you would need to take a serious interest in astronomy would seem to be beyond the reach of the ordinary man in the street's stretched budget. Vamplew makes the subject so interesting you'll be hard-pressed to resist the urge to purchase a telescope,

ALISON KERVIN: THIRTY BULLIES - A HISTORY OF THE RUGBY WORLD CUP (Simon & Schuster HB) Since its inception in 1987 the rugby union World Cup has come a long way. In twenty years it has gone from being a cheerful, amateurish kickabout to one of the world's premier sporting events, third only to the football World Cup and the Olympics in terms of global reach. Along the way it has mirrored the sport's occasionally painful march into the professional era, with commensurate advances in the standard of play but also, some would argue, a loss of innocence as the marketing men have moved in on an increasingly lucrative property. But the competition is still -- mostly -- about the game itself. And THIRTY BULLIES is the real tale of the rugby World Cups -- the players' stories -- the funny, the irreverent, the real and the fascinating tale of the history of the competition from the perspective of those who took part. From the players who got drunk all the way through the 1987 World Cup to the high-level training programmes and sophisticated tactics of 2003 -- here is the full story. Written by one of the game's foremost insiders and observers, and published to coincide with the 2007 Cup in France, THIRTY BULLIES is destined to become the definitive history.?I'm not a rugby fan - I was put off it in the first year at grammar school, when I was trampled underfoot by the opposing team; in those days I was a 7-stone weakling with a passing interest in soccer. But this book is fabulous, and hilarious. Kervin's account of the shakeup of the England team following the announcement of the 1987 world cup is little short of side-splitting. A terrific read.

GERMAINE GREER: SHAKESPEARE'S WIFE (Bloomsbury HB) Little is known about the wife of the world's most famous playwright, but much is said about her. Ann Hathaway has been mocked and vilified by scholars for centuries. The glaring omission of her name from Shakespeare's will has been gleefully used by many as evidence that she was nothing more than an ugly old wench whom William was shackled to after a thoughtless roll in the hay in his giddy youth. Yet Shakespeare went on to become the very poet of marriage, exploring the sacrament in all its aspects, spiritual, psychological, sexual and sociological. He is the creator of the most tenacious and intelligent heroines in English literature. Is it possible, therefore, that Ann was the inspiration? Until now, there has been no serious critical scholarship devoted to the much-wronged Ann Hathaway. Part-biography, part-history, Shakespeare's Wife is fascinating in its reconstruction of Ann's life, and the daily lives of Elizabethan women. Germaine Greer offers an illuminating portrait of their working routines, the rituals of their courtship, and the minutiae of married life. Throws new light on the wife of the bard - Germaine Greer's approach is both scholarly and readable at the same time. Some fascinating accounts of previous attempts to chronicle the life and times of the wife of the world's greatest playwright are called into question. Fascinating.

KEVIN COURRIER: RANDY NEWMAN'S AMERICAN DREAMS (ECW Press PB) If you're looking for a Randy Newman biography, this isn't it. What it does, on the one hand, and rather well, is to promote the author's other books. As a source of quotes, quotations and song lyrics by Newman, it succeeds too, but it rambles and, quite frankly, doesn't really examine the life of Randy Newman at all. I'm a huge fan of Randy Newman's, having discovered him in the 1970s (Short People LP), though my favourite tracks remain Rednecks, Birmingham and Sail Away - I love the plaintive sound of Newman's voice, and I believe he outdoes most soul singers. Also, of course, his delicate touch on the piano is quite breathtaking, and his songs for Toy Story and Monsters Inc., were well-received, the one for Monsters Inc getting him an Academy Award. A dearth of photographs make this book something you should really acquaint yourself with in the public library rather than buy for yourself. It's a handsome volume, but Newman's enormous talent deserves better treatment than this. Disappointing.

Dr ROBERT VANDERPLANK: UGLIER THAN A MONKEY'S ARMPIT (Boxtree HB) Whether borne out of surprise, anger, passion or humour, curses and insults make up some of the most colourful and profound phrases in a language, offering insight into cultural mores and a greater understanding of the most fundamental social and personal taboos. Organized by language for an overview of each culture's favoured profanities, this beautifully illustrated volume - put together by language experts from around the world - is an essential reference to the brilliantly inventive, funny, scorchingly insulting words you won't learn in a language class... A bit of a disappointment for me - if you're fluent in about twenty different languages, then there's something here for you, but how many people in England who aren't professional translators fluent in Swedish or Finnish? The funniest part remains the English translations of the insults, some of which one could conceivably import into the English language. Not many English insults, which makes this something of a lost opportunity.

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