Books: Stuck for a present idea? Here's a few suggestions


A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin is published in hardback by Headline, priced 17.99. Available now.

Una Pryor is a historian working on a new book about the royal family of King Edward IV. A king better known for the fate of his two sons, who were sent to the Tower by his brother Richard III, after Edward's death.

Hide Ad

As she grapples with historical fact, and the possibilities of the past, Una is thrown off her original plan for the book and begins, instead, to write from the perspective of the king's widow Elizabeth and her brother Anthony, the Prince of Wales' protector.

In real life, writer Una is living in Australia and mourning the death of husband Adam. Returning to the UK to sell her house and move permanently to Oz, she meets up with her family and must face her past.

This is an interesting, informative story that beautifully paints the world surrounding the princes in the Tower. Staying on top of the vast array of royal characters in medieval Britain is a challenge, but once you stop worrying about who is who in the House of Lancaster, you'll enjoy a love story which moves effortlessly between the past to the present. 7/10 Review By Caroline Davison

Bravo Jubilee by Charlie Owen is published in hardback by Headline, priced 19.99. Available December 12.

The front cover brags that this story of hands-on policing, 1977-style, is "Life On Mars meets The Sweeney... only harder". The back has an admiring comment from Guy Ritchie. This tells us plenty, but forgets that in those shows, or his films, charismatic actors do much of the work of making us cheer on characters who, in cold print, could easily come across as dangerous thugs. Charlie Owen spent 30 years in the police, so his stories of cops dumping drunks in Aberdeen for a laugh, brutal interrogations and laxative pranks in the mess have the ring of authenticity – but that doesn't make them any more charming. His old career has also left its mark on his prose, which reads like an extended incident report dotted with the occasional, predictable adjective – do we need to be told that groups of mourners are "sombre, quiet"? This might work better on TV. 3/10 Review by Alex Sarll

The Atmospheric Railway by Shena Mackay is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced 17.99. Available now.

Hide Ad

If you want to know where to find the heart of England, then you need go little further than this wonderful collection of short stories. But it's not references to Diana mugs or Beefeaters that make this book a glorious celebration of our culture – rather Mackay's style.

Others have described her as "an angel wielding a scalpel" and sadly, this reviewer cannot put it better.

Hide Ad

This choice selection of thirteen new short stories, with a selection of 23 from her previous collections.

Reading her words, which evolve in style and tone over the years, is like sampling a buffet at top chef Heston Blumenthal's house.10/10 Review by Sarah O'Meara


Things Ain't What They Used To Be by Philip Glenister is published in hardback by Little Brown, priced 14.99. Available now.

He's a bit young to be a grumpy old man, but Philip Glenister – aka Gene Hunt in the TV's Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes – makes a pretty good attempt of it in this slim volume.

With a subject matter ranging from Space Hoppers to Space Dust, Old Spice to 8-Track, Chopper bicycles to Ron 'Chopper' Harris, if you're over 40 then there's sure to be something here to amuse.

It's an ideal Christmas gift for folk of a certain age, who will laugh out loud as they are led on an enjoyable trip down memory lane. 8/10 Review by Sandra Mangan


Hide Ad

Double Cross by Malorie Blackman is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced 12.99. Available now.

Double Cross is the much-anticipated fourth instalment in a series spawned by the massive teen hit Noughts and Crosses.

Tobey Durbridge's

Hide Ad

decision to deliver a package for Nought crimelord McAuley so he can earn the cash to buy Callie Rose a birthday gift has devastating consequences as he and Callie are drawn into the violent turf war with Cross family the Dowds. Consumed by the need for revenge, Tobey ends up playing a dangerous game for both sides in this engaging thriller.

Suitable for young adults

7/10 Review by Lucy Christie


Christmas, Present by Jacquelyn Mitchard is published as a paperback original by John Murray, priced 6.99. Available now.

The author who was Oprah's first ever book club pick, is bringing out another emotional read just in time for Christmas.

On their fourteenth anniversary, two days before Christmas, Elliot Banner drives his wife to the hospital, knowing that she has just hours to live. As the family gather, it sparks a touching story that will change all their lives forever.



1 (1) Dreams of my Father Barack Obama

2 (3) The Appeal John Grisham

3 (2) The Audacity of Hope Barack Obama

4 (4) A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini

5 (6) New Moon Stephenie Meyer

6 (8) Eclipse Stephenie Meyer

7 (5) Twilight Stephenie Meyer

8 (10) The Return Victoria Hislop

9 (7) This Year It Will be Different Maeve Binchy

10 (9) Revelation Shardlake CJ Sansom


1 (1) Guinness World Records 2009

2 (2) Dear Fatty Dawn French

3 (4) Parky: My Autobiography Michael Parkinson

4 (3) At My Mother's Knee: The Autobiography Paul O'Grady

5 (9) That's Another Story Julie Walters

6 (5) Jamie's Ministry of Food Jamie Oliver

7 (7) For Crying Out Loud: The World According to Jeremy Clarkson Jeremy Clarkson

8 (10) The White Tiger Adiga Aravind

9 (-) The Business Martina Cole

10 (-) Agincourt Bernard Cornwall