Newest Reference Reviews

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Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece by Stephen Fry

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The Greek Myths are, arguably, the greatest stories ever told. So old and influential they cast a shadow over western tales and traditions, yet remain relatable and readable millennia later. Here comedian, actor, television presenter, actor and author Stephen Fry brings his considerable talent to these special stories and recreates them with a wit, warmth and humanity that brings them into the modern age whilst still giving the honour and respect that such ancient and influential stories deserve. Full review...

The World of Lore, Volume 1: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

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Every country, every town, every village has a folktale – a story passed down through generations that often focuses on the dark and unexplained. No matter how the modern world moves on, there's a still a part of everyone that is vulnerable to a good tale. From ghosts to werewolves, by way of wendigos and elves, author Aaron Mahnke delivers the reader legends from all over the world, whilst examining how they've become part of our collective imaginations, still striking fear into the hearts of many of us today. Full review...

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler

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Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead.

There's truth in that statement, you know, but there's a conundrum when it's applied to authors. Shakespeare is dead: Dickens is dead, but we haven't buried what they've written: that lives on until... when? Is it until fashion decrees that they should be no more? Or is it, as in the case of some children's authors that they are on life support through licensing deals and astute marketing? Christopher Fowler has unearthed (exhumed?) ninety nine authors who were once hugely popular, but whose works have disappeared, sometimes quite literally. Full review...

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix

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Demonic possession, murderous babies, man-eating moths… for these books, no plot was too ludicrous, no cover art too appalling, no evil too despicable. Now horror author Grady Hendrix risks his soul and his sanity (not to mention the reader's!) to relate the true, untold story of a fascinating and often forgotten era in publishing.

Read the synapse-shattering story summaries!
See the horrific hand-painted cover imagery!
And learn the true-life tales of the writers, artists, and publishers who gleefully violated every literary law but one – never be boring. Full review...

The Many Faces of Coincidence by Laurence Browne

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Browne does not mislead with this choice of title; he does without a doubt explore the many faces of coincidence. Full review...

Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations by Simon Jenkins

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In the mid twentieth century the railway was something which harked back to the Victorian age with trains being supplanted by cars and planes, but steam was being replaced by oil, even then and in the twenty-first century oil is giving way to electricity. It's cleaner, more environmentally friendly and the stations which we'd all rushed through as quickly as possible, keen to escape their grime, were restored and became places to be admired, possibly even lingered in. Simon Jenkins has chosen his hundred best railway stations. Full review...

Owls: A Guide to Every Species by Marianne Taylor

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I feel like I am being watched. A huge pair of piercing orange eyes are staring right at me, locking me into their gaze. In contrast with the hardness of the deep-amber eyes, soft grey feathers fan out into the surrounding area, intricate, detailed and beautiful. An enigma; harsh and gentle at the same time, the owl is beckoning the reader to turn the pages and take a closer look inside... Full review...

Electric Light Orchestra: Song by Song by John Van der Kiste

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My memories of pop music in the early sixties revolve around guitars and drums, sometimes the piano with only occasional excursions into strings and brass. Pop music rarely stands still and it wasn't long before the basic instruments were seens as constraints and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys began to experiment, with other groups following where they led. Amongst these groups was The Move and their lead guitarist and songwriter, Roy Wood. Wood wanted to develop the group's sound by adding more instruments but was prevented from achieving what he wanted by cost limitations and because the rest of the group didn't really share his enthusiasm. Full review...

Tri-ang Collectables by Dave Angell

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A guide to the trains produced by the Tri-ang company from its inception until the company became Hornby. A very personal guide to the collecting of model trains. Full review...

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight: A Young Man's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida and David Mitchell

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Naoki Higashida was only 13 years old when he wrote the international best-seller The Reason I Jump. The book was popular because it gave a rare glimpse into the workings of the autistic mind, as told from the unique perspective of a teenager with non-verbal autism. Naoki communicates by using an alphabet grid, or by tracing letters on the palm of a transcriber. Despite this slow and laborious method of writing, he has published several books in his native Japan, and manages to give public presentations to raise awareness of his condition. Fall Down 7 Times Get up 8 reintroduces us to Naoki as a young adult in his 20s and explains how his perspectives on life have changed since writing his first book. Full review...

The Book of Orchids: A life-size guide to six hundred species from around the world by Mark Chase, Maarten Christenhusz and Tom Mirenda

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One in seven flowering plants on earth is an orchid: there are 26,000 species in 749 genera. They flourish in remarkable habitats such as deserts and the Arctic circle, in fact all areas but the most inhospitable. There's a wide range of colours, shapes and scents: they're dramatic, delicate and ingenious in the ways that they've developed not just to survive but to thrive. Tom Mirenda describes them as masters of manipulation and famous for lying and cheating their way to their many evolutionary successes, yet his love of the is as obvious as his respect for the insight they give us into the processes which shaped our world. He hopes that understanding how that has come about will inspire us to conserve what we have. Full review...

The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards

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It's easy to be confused by the various 'ages' of crime writing: if you've an interest in the genre you'll almost certainly have heard of the Golden Age of Crime, generally acknowledged as being the period between the first and second world wars. 'Classic Crime' on the other hand extends the time frame at either end and covers books published in the first half of the twentieth century. Throughout my adult life there's been just one genre of books which has fascinated me, and that's crime, so I could hardly resist the chance of reading The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books particularly as the author, Martin Edwards is an accomplished author within the crime genre and an acknowledged expert on the subject. Full review...

Children's Illustrated Thesaurus by DK

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One of the most valuable literary skills which children can learn is how to use reference books. As a child every question which I began with how do you spell...? would be answered with EXACTLY as it says in the dictionary. This was fine, but the family's Collins Little Gem Dictionary didn't encourage exploration, not least because the font was small and difficult to read. Fortunately those times have now changed and reference book for children are now much more inviting. Not every book comes with a set of instructions but it's worth studying the How to... section, not least because similar systems are used in other reference books. Full review...

First Science Encyclopedia by Dorling Kindersley

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I wasn't introduced to 'science' until I was eleven and went on to senior school: I wasn't alone in this, but it really was too late. Thankfully, times have changed and children at primary school are getting to grips with plants and animals, atoms and molecules and even outer space from a very young age. What's needed is a good, basic reference book which will introduce all the subjects and give a good grounding. It needs to be something which would sit proudly in the classroom library and comfortably on a child's bookshelf. The First Science Encyclopedia would do both well. Full review...

The Cambridge Companion to British Black and Asian Literature (1945–2010) by Deirdre Osborne (Editor)

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This literary companion offers fifteen essays addressing the contribution of black and Asian authors to the British literary canon since 1945. It covers not just fiction, but also poetry, plays and performance works. It sits as a kind of joyful cuckoo in the nest, interrupting the usual narratives of literary waves and movements in Britain that take little notice of any perspective other than the dominant white - and posh! - direction of travel. It's a disparate, varied collection of essays, covering spoken word performance poetry, black British urban fiction, LGBTQ writing, liberationist writing and much more. I was really happy to see children's authors such as Malorie Blackman, Jamila Gavin and Catherine Johnson discussed and respected. Full review...

Beginner's Project Management Handbook: Art of Project Delivery by Dr Sunil C Gebalanage

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In the last fifteen years I've project managed the construction of an office and the extension of a building. On both occasions I looked for a resource which would give me a framework within which to proceed, but whilst I could find several volumes which dealt with individual parts of the project I couldn't find any literature which put it all together. An additional problem was that what literature there was out there was written with specific professionals in mind and didn't accommodate the generalist. It was with relief for those following me that I discovered Beginner's Project Management Handbook: Art of Project Delivery. Full review...

What's Where on Earth? Atlas: The World as You've Never Seen It Before by DK

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I dread to think how old the atlas we used when I was a child was, but at least we had one, and I didn't need to go to school or a library to check up on whatever bit of trivia I was seeking. I'm so old a lot of things about it now would be most redundant, but if you choose to risk your arm and buy an atlas for the family shelves that all generations will benefit from, as opposed to relying on electronic and updateable sources of information, then this is the one to have. Full review...

Pirates: Truth and Tale by Helen Hollick

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The eighteenth century lived in terror of the tramps of the seas – pirates. Pirates have fascinated people ever since. It was a harsh life for those who went 'on the account', constantly overshadowed by the threat of death – through violence, illness, shipwreck, or the hangman's noose. The lure of gold, the excitement of the chase and the freedom that life aboard a pirate ship offered were judged by some to be worth the risk. Helen Hollick explores both the fiction and fact of the Golden Age of piracy, and there are some surprises in store for those who think they know their Barbary Corsair from their boucanier. Everyone has heard of Captain Morgan, but who recognises the name of the aristocratic Frenchman Daniel Montbars? He killed so many Spaniards he was known as 'The Exterminator'. The fictional world of pirates, represented in novels and movies, is different from reality. What draws readers and viewers to these notorious hyenas of the high seas? What are the facts behind the fantasy? Full review...

The Prose Factory by D J Taylor

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D J Taylor's exploration of writing, reading, publishing and critical reviews spans a century of literary history, discussing everything from Eliot-era modernists and Georgian traditionalists, to the impact of politics, creative writing degrees, reviewers and critics. It is a deep and thorough exploration of the multi-complex influences on English literary life over the past century and the way these have shaped readers' preferences and reading habits. But don't be put off by thinking that this is a dusty, encyclopaedic tome – it is a large book at around 500 pages – but it is accessible and thoroughly readable. Full review...

A Beatles Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Beatles but Were Afraid to Ask by John Van der Kiste

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You might have thought that just about everything which could be said about the Beatles had been said and certainly there's been no shortage of books about what went wrong, what happened to the money and even what went right. But what I've never seen before is a 'miscellany' - all those little facts which are so hard to track down and this is where historian John Van der Kiste comes into his own: he's a man with an eye for detail and the ability to bring everything together into a very readable whole. It's a wonderful collection of the small facts. Full review...

British Airways Colouring Book by Paul Jarvis

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Over the past couple of years we've seen a lot of colouring books: flowers, patterns, fantasy creatures, characters and settings from television shows, films and books and lots more, but I can't recollect that we've ever before had one which featured a company. Mind you, British Airways, is rather special; iconic and rather more long lasting than most passing celebrities. It has heritage and tradition. The British Airways Colouring Book is based on exclusive posters, photographs and artwork from the company's archives and the 46 images allow the reader to recreate these as they wish. There's a bonus too: on the facing page of each image there's a potted history. I passed the book to someone with an interest in BA and he found the book interesting and informative without even thinking of doing any colouring. Full review...

Infographics: Technology by Simon Rogers

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As parents, we can often be bombarded with questions as our children start to discover the world. These questions soon become increasingly complex, especially with the latest technological advances. How do computers work? What's inside a smartphone? How can earth communicate with spacecraft? Thankfully we now have a handy, illustrated guide to help us: Infographics: Technology. Full review...

Winter: A Book for the Season by Felicity Trotman (editor)

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This seasonal anthology contains a nice mixture of poetry, nature and travel pieces, and excerpts from longer works of fiction. Felicity Trotman, a freelance editor and member of the English Civil War Society, has arranged the material into three sections: 'The Old Year', 'Christmas, Sacred and Secular', and 'The New Year'. This creates an appropriate sense of chronological progression, and also serves to make Christmas the heart of the book. Black-and-white illustrations – maps, photographs and engravings – are interspersed throughout, and each author gets a short paragraph of biography and background. Full review...

Misadventures in the English Language by Caroline Taggart

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Misadventures in the English Language styles itself as an examination of the confusing bits of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation, with some indication of which rules matter and which can be broken without dire consequences, though it's actually broader than this description makes it sound. It has chapters on: words and phrases borrowed from other languages, new usage and changes of meaning, common grammar and punctuation pitfalls, confusing spellings, dreadful jargon, and using unnecessary words that don't add anything to your sentence except length. Full review...

How To Win Short Story Competitions by Dave Haslett and Geoff Nelder

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This guide to what is for many writers the first step on their path to glory (or not) is only available as a Kindle download or as a PDF direct from the publisher's website. It is not issued in print format. Given the low price on Amazon, it feels like a worthwhile investment for anyone interested in taking this route to enhance their writing profile. Full review...

Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan

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The exquisite sound of a lone chorister singing Once in Royal David's City amid the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, marks the start of the Christmas festivities for millions of people round the globe. Broadcast at 3pm on Chrismas Eve, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols provides a precious moment of tranquility amongst the bustle of the festive season. Here author Alexandra Coghlan takes the reader on a journey through the fascinating history of carols, from the very first - sung by the angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem - to anecdotes from contemporary King's choristers, and shows them how carols have evolved from pagan songs to become one of our nation's most sacred treasures. Accompanied by lyrics and music and compiled in conjunction with Radio 4 and King's College Chapel, Carols from King's is the official companion for fans of Christmas and carols alike. Full review...

The Date-A-Base Book 2017 by Dave Haslett and Kate Haslett

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So here's a question for you: how do you go about reviewing a list - especially a list that runs to 3,800 entries and 544 pages? No, I'm not sure either, but I'm going to give it a go. Full review...

In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age by Nev Schulman

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Nev (it's pronounced Neev) is a man who knows about the darker side of online dating. Known for his documentary Catfish – a film which showed an online flirtation going sour, Nev then began making a tv show of the same name, travelling America to offer advice to those in online relationships, and possibly being catfished (which means being lured into a relationship by someone adopting a fictional online persona). Now the go-to expert in online relationships for millenials, a generation who have never known a world without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other online places where interactions can form. Here, he takes his investigation to the page – exploring relationships in the era of social media, delving deeply into the complexities of dating in a digital age, and continuing the dialogue his show has begun about how we interact with each other online – as well as sharing insights from his own story. Full review...