July 31

Holiday Reading 2017

I went on holiday with a few carefully selected books I had really wanted to read and a Kindle which I knew to be loaded with drama. I got through a decent number of books and didn’t entirely ignore my family so everyone was happy.

But then I got back from holiday and I found I had a wee change to my day job (ie a whole new gig for 3 months) and suddenly I am driving 3 or 4 hours per day and I will not have much time to write up comprehensive reviews for the holiday reads. 

The solution: A Holiday Roundup Post. I shall forsake my usual attempt to summarise the story and aim for brevity…this may get messy!

 

Echoes in Death – JD Robb

First up is the latest Eve Dallas thriller from JD Robb. I have been reading these stories for 6 or 7 years and there are over 50 books and novellas out there – this makes me very happy.  With so many books in the series I do tend to classify them as either A: Pivotal Story or B: Progressive Story.

The Pivotal books are the big impact tales which have huge implications for the ongoing continuity. The Progressive titles are the books which are fun to read and can generally be read out of sequence as they just move everyone along a little.  Echoes in Death is a Progressive read so one that you can pickup and enjoy – which is exactly what I was able to do.  I love these books and Echoes did not let me down.  Fun, thrills and characters I know better than some members of my own family – long may Eve and Roarke continue to kick ass.

 Order a copy here

 

Witness – Caroline Mitchell

As I was reading Witness I took to Twitter – mainly to give myself a little break from the words rushing past my eyes.  I had to share that Caroline Mitchell’s writing had totally freaked me out and made me uncomfortable and nervous as I sat reading in a dimly lit room somewhere in the wilds of The Netherlands.

Brilliant – you can’t ask for anything more from a book if you get so caught up in a story that you start to get apprehensive over what may (or may not) be in the room alongside you.  Checking over my shoulder every few minutes really slowed down my reading pace too!

A stalker drama with some very dark and unexpected twists – creepy is good.

 Order a copy here

 

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and it didn’t grip me quite as much as some of the other books I read. What it IS, however, is a cleverly plotted drama with some larger than life characters but a lead character that I never really warmed to.

What Did You See Melody? Would be IDEAL for is a reading group.  There are elements of the story which I felt required total buy-in from the reader, without that buy-in it I can’t see it wowing everyone. I would love to see a book group discuss their thoughts on this book as I think it may be one which would spark debate.

Order a copy here 

 

Doctor Who: Plague City – Jonathan Morris

The Doctor (with his Capaldi face), Bill and Nardole. The trio find themselves in Edinburgh and they have broken curfew – imposed as a plague is laying waste to the city. As a Scottish type person I loved this story. As a Glasgow Scottish type person I liked that the plague was in Edinburgh 😊

Jonathan Morris has done a great job with the latest residents of the TARDIS. The story is well thought out and I wish the image of a doctor (not THE Doctor) in their plague masks could make the jump to a tv story.

Exactly what I want from a Doctor Who novel and Mr Morris always tells a good tale.

Order a copy here  

 

The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

I have seen this getting a big push via online adverts.  It is another story which requires a big buy-in from the reader.  If you just go along with the assumption that the husband/wife lead characters are wholly embracing The Marriage Pact then this is a solid thriller which is ideal for a holiday read.  Again book groups on standby – not everyone is going to be happy with the concept that two successful professionals would accept The Pact without question and debate should ensue.

Some surprising twists and Michelle Richmond has some nasty ideas when it comes to ensuring her characters are compelled to obey their promises. 

Order a copy here 

 

 

 

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December 20

Books for Gifts

As the final few days to Christmas slip by I have a couple of fun titles to suggest as possible gifts.

I love to gift books, trying to match the perfect book to the recipient. This year (thanks to Good Housekeeping Magazine) I discovered how much that meant to one member of my family! So I am going to keep advocating that everyone should consider giving books as presents, you may never fully appreciate how much of an impact it could be having.

As I have recently named my Top Ten reads of 2016 I would, naturally, encourage you to consider any of those titles as possible Christmas gifts. My selections can be found HERE.

However, away from crime, thriller and horror tales (not very festive) I have a couple of other suggestions…

 

 

Doctor Who: Whographica (O’Brien, Guerrier and Morris)

doctor-who-whographicaPublished by BBC Books this is a stunning visual guide to over 50 years of Doctor Who history depicted in graphs, charts, tables and many, many illustrations.

I have been collecting Doctor Who reference books for more years than I care to remember and I can honestly say that I have not come across anything quite like this before. Never has so much factual information been presented in so few words.

I think that this is a book which will very much appeal to the younger generations of fans. Information is gathered in a quick glance, visually and colourfully and avoids the need to wade through paragraphs of narrative to establish which Doctor was the tallest, when the Cybermen appeared in the tv timeline or which companions travelled with the different incarnations of the Doctor.

Whographica was not a book I could sit down with for any length of time, however, there was so much information contained within that I have returned to it on many occasions, just to flick through and savour.

For Doctor Who fans this is a very pretty gift to receive at Christmas, less considered reading but no less fun.

Order a copy here.

Animalcolm (David Baddiel)

animalcolmMy 10 year old son read this recently and he could not put it down. As a parent who is keen to try to ensure his kids are not permanently glued to electronic gadgets I am always keen to find books which will engage my children and ideally have them seeking a book rather than an xbox controller.

David Baddiel’s latest, Animalcolm, seems to have done exactly that.  My son proclaimed it “his favourite David Baddiel story so far”. I overheard him trying to explain the plot to his wee brother and the pair of them were giggling away to themselves at some of the funny bits he had read.

Books for kids can be tricky purchases but for competent readers in the 9-12 age range this should be a good fit.

Order a copy here.

 

The 80’s Annual (Sarah Lewis)

80s-annualNow this book I utterly loved. It captured my formative years in a single gloriously glossy retro volume and is presented with the perfect balance of nostalgia, humour and fun.

Presented as a Christmas annual this is the memory lane I loved to stroll along. Page after page of memories as names like Big Area, Johnny Hates Jazz, Spitting Image, Blockbusters and The Tube danced in front of my eyes. Each year of the decade gets a feature, there are interviews with names from the past, picture diaries, crosswords and  puzzles.

I have returned to The 80’s Annual several times over the last few weeks. It is a book you can dip into or sit and pour over.  We have had fun in the house discussing some of the faces it cast up, so many cries of “do you remember….?”, a possible Christmas Day favourite for when the board games have divided family and friends – this book could get everyone talking again!

Order a copy here.

 

 

 

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October 3

Doctor Who Cookbook – Joanna Farrow

doctor-who-cookbookWhether you’re planning a party to watch the latest episode, need a showstopping cake that’s bigger on the inside, or want a taste of the TARDIS at teatime, this is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time.

Keep the munchies at bay with a fleet of Atraxi Snax, and serve an Ood Head Bread with your dinner. Create your very own Picnic at Asgard, or invite the Zygon Pie into your house. And say ‘Hello, Sweetie’ to a deadly-delicious Dalektable Army, a Peek-a-Boo Pandorica cake, or some simple jelly babies.

 

My thanks to Tess Henderson at BBC Books for my review copy

 

Some reviews are harder to write than others, however, the Official Doctor Who Cookbook did present some new challenges as it required practical skills. It also meant I couldn’t just read it on my commute to work – Scotrail frown upon using the luggage racks on their trains as cooling shelves for cookies.

20160924_160836Some background on my household will help here… I make a mean key lime pie but my baking skills end there. My wife is a talented baker and has a cake making business. My eldest son is a Doctor Who fan (which pleases me) but my younger son is just a bit too young to get hooked on my favourite show. So guess who ended up being creative in the kitchen?  Yup unskilled yours-truly and the child that doesn’t watch the show…not quite what I had planned BUT WE HAD FUN.

pipingAnd The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is great fun for those prepared to don their aprons and get the ovens turned on.  There are recipes for all skill levels, there are numerous sweet and savoury offerings. Cakes, cookies and biscuits sit alongside bread and pizza and they all have a Who theme.

Recipes can be a fickle thing and everyone has their own variation on a classic so my attempts at making a pavlova were not helped by my wife appearing beside the baking team to tell us that “that’s not how I make pavlova”.  Noted.  We continued to follow the recipe in the book and I was pretty damned pleased with how it turned out.  NB don’t judge me on the visual appearance, the 6yo shaped the Adipose!

20160917_112806

 

On a day where time was more of a luxury (and the children didn’t need entertained to the same degree) I turned my hand to a bread recipe, not going to share how that one turned out (“spoilers Sweetie”) but the work in progress was captured before I split my dough and flavoured some of it.  The end result was delicious and was devoured – sadly the finer details of the artwork which look amazing in the book did not quite meet my practical skills so it was a bit “rough” round the edges but I was making it to eat not to display so the key test was passed!

 

The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is a lovely collection and would make a great acquisition for the fan that also likes to tinker in the kitchen.  With half an eye towards the festive season it would be a great gift to give/receive (assuming cookbooks are your thing).  The recipe’s are clearly laid out, not jargon filled and give clear instruction.  As I indicated above there is a range of sweet and savoury and there are quick fun things to attempt and these are countered with a couple of more complex and time-consuming dishes (as with ANY cookbook).  Some dishes will not suit the younger chef and the book does try to scale a range of age appeal and technical ability but be mindful that not every page will be a sure-fire hit…but it is a fun collection and that has to be an important factor when considering a purchase.

 

The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is published by BBC books and is available now.

You can order through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Official-Joanna-Farrow/dp/178594052X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475527630&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+recipe+book

All Smiles... BEFORE THE SPOON ATTACK
All Smiles – BEFORE THE SPOON ATTACK

 

 

 

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July 5

In The Blood – Jenny T Colgan

In The BloodAll over the world, people are venting their fury at one another on social media. Dropping their friends, giving vent to their hatred, and everywhere behaving with incredible cruelty. Even Donna has found that her friend Hettie, with her seemingly perfect life and fancy house, has unfriended her. And now, all over the world, internet trolls are dying…

As more and more people give in to this wave of bitterness and aggression, it’s clear this is no simple case of modern living. This is unkindness as a plague.

From the streets of London to the web cafes of South Korea and the deepest darkest forests of Rio, can the Doctor and Donna find the cause of this unhappiness before it’s too late?

An original novel featuring the Tenth Doctor and Donna, as played by David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

 

My thanks to Tess at BBC Books for my review copy

I am writing this review in the early days after UK EU referendum – the internet is awash with anger, fear, accusations and aggression and it makes for a pretty bleak outlook.  Why am I mentioning this in review of a Doctor Who book?  Well it is that internet anger that Jenny T Colgan is highlighting in the excellent 10th Doctor adventure: In The Blood. I don’t believe any new book will have a better timed release this year.

 The Doctor is on Earth and travelling around without his TARDIS – a jetsetting adventure takes him into peril in different corners of the globe as he tries to track down who is using the internet to interfere with the human race. People are going online and what they see is making them angry, there does not seem to be a single contributing element…people are just getting annoyed when they spend time surfing.  That anger is pouring through them and when they return to the world around them people are lashing out at those nearby – a volatile situation is about to get 100 times worse.

In The Blood features The Doctor in his 10th incarnation and he is travelling with the Runaway Bride, Donna Noble. Where we have Donna we also get her grandfather, Wilf, too so a welcome return to two fan favourites.

Capturing the Doctor/Companion dynamic is essential in any Doctor Who story. Nothing lets down an original Doctor Who novel quite like a generic story which could be ANY regeneration with ANY companion. Jenny Colgan captures the David Tennant/Catherine Tate relationship perfectly and it is an absolute joy to read. I am not sure there has ever been a companion less in awe of the Doctor than Donna Noble (except perhaps Romana) and Jenny Colgan gives Donna all the best lines in this book. It is great to have the chance to enjoy a Doctor Who adventure that remembers to include the fun.

In The Blood sees Donna given the chance to shine. I felt she had much more time driving the story and (without spoiling too much) it is her determination to get to the cause of the excessive internet rage which seems to push the Doctor into action. A fun adventure with the added bonus of a cross-over with the 10th Doctor Big Finish audio adventure (also written by Jenny Colgan) Time Reaver.

I hope BBC Books have asked for a few more adventures featuring previous incarnations of The Doctor. I’ve always been a 2nd Doctor & Jamie fan…

 

In The Blood is published by BBC Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Jenny-T-Colgan/dp/1785941100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466624789&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+blood+doctor+who

 

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May 11

Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things – Justin Richards

Doctor Who 365 days23 November 1963, The first-ever episode of Doctor Who An Unearthly Child is broadcast.

21 July 1969, Silence will fall.

23 August 2014, Deep Breath is Peter Capaldi s first full episode as the Twelfth Doctor.

3 March 2472, The Master tracks down the Doomsday Weapon.

For over half a century, Doctor Who has entertained and enthralled fans with the adventures of the Doctor. From the first glimpse of a police telephone box in a junkyard to the fall of Gallifrey, Doctor Who has provided a near-inexhaustible list of indelible memories.

Doctor Who: 365 Days is a unique and captivating chronicle of drama or humour, terror or joy, for each and every day of the year. Revisiting classic battles, iconic characters, game-changing plot twists, and more, it s a fascinating portrait of the Whoniverse and an essential addition to any fans collection.”

My thanks to Sophie at EDPR for my cherished review copy

 

As I write this review it is May 11th.  It’s a reasonably quiet day in the history of Doctor Who but it does mark the first day (in 1973) that Harry Sullivan gets a mention. It happened during a Jon Pertwee episode – even though Harry did not appear on screen until Tom Baker’s first episode (Robot).

If you know who Harry Sullivan was, did not need me to add the word ‘Robot’ when mentioning Tom Baker’s first episode and are now wondering what else happened on 11th May (Episode 3 of the Wheel in Space) then this book is absolutely for you.  365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things is a day to day guide of over 50 years of Doctor Who and is a book written with the fans firmly in mind.

I have had this book for a few weeks and have regularly checked in to see which events would get a mention.  I had wondered if the initial novelty would pass and I would stop picking up 365 Days…no sign of it yet.  I’ve been watching/reading Doctor Who for over 35 years so there are many moments I am delighted to be reminded of and it makes me want to re-watch so many classic episodes all over again (if time would only permit it).

Although I have mentioned two events from the ‘classic’ years the book does also feature events for the newer fans that are more familiar with the recent incarnations of The Doctor: 18 September “Donna’s Life Is Changed By A Time Beetle”. The daily entries are detailed, informative and often fun.

The book cover is in TARDIS blue and pleasingly embossed. Inside there are many illustrations (beautiful sketches) to highlight the text heavy tome. Important to be aware (if you are ordering online) that 365 Days is monochromatic once you get past the cover – this in no way detracts from the overall beauty of the book but on this occasion don’t expect the luxurious colour illustrations which usually come with the BBC publications.

365 Days is a book written for the fans of the show. It is likely to be too niche for those that will watch an episode of Doctor Who if it happens to be on – younger kids may also find it a bit too text heavy (particularly if they are only aware of the Doctor’s more recent adventures).

As a long-standing fan of the show (who cannot in any way claim to be young) this book captures all the reasons I have devoted so much time towards following the adventures of an alien known only as “The Doctor”.

 

Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things is published by BBC Books in Hardback and Digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Memorable-Moments-Impossible/dp/0062455656/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1463002464&sr=8-2&keywords=doctor+who+365

 

 

 

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February 11

James Goss – Douglas Adams: City of Death

HOW DOUGLAS ADAMS WROTE THE MOST POPULAR DOCTOR WHO STORY IN A WEEKEND. (and other things to shame all other writers)

If you’re not a Doctor Who fan, the chances are you’ll have met one at a party. They’ll have backed you into a corner, saying “No, but seriously, have you seen City Of Death? It’s really, really good. I mean, it’s by Douglas Adams and it’s set in Paris and it has Tom Baker in it and…”

At that point you’ll either be excusing yourself to lunge at the guacamole, or you’ll be hooked. And City Of Death is well worth your time.  True Doctor Who fans (especially the ones blocking your path to the ham and pineapple pizza) will perhaps opine that it’s not the best Doctor Who story ever, but it’s certainly the most popular. On its original broadcast it got the show’s highest audiences ever – thanks in part to ITV being on strike, but we prefer to ignore that and concentrate on how brilliant it is.

City of DeathCity Of Death is a breezy story about time travel, art theft and a villainous Parisian Countess. It’s also terribly, terribly annoying – because Douglas Adams wrote it in a weekend. You look at the hundreds of other Doctor Who stories out there – some dogged by the elaborate excuses of late authors, some rewritten on the studio floor, and some painstakingly developed over the course of years – and then there’s City Of Death. When the original script fell through, Adams was grabbed by the show’s producer and stuck behind a typewriter until it was done.

Could such a thing be done now? 1979 was such a primitive time for the internet that it had never even got cross about Katie Hopkins (imagine that). Without the distraction of emails, texts, and wikipediaing Paris’s geography, Adams was forced to rely on his wits and a lot of coffee. And he got through it, and produced something brilliant – a story that’s genuinely funny, and a fiendishly complicated time travel plot that just works.

That’s the real legacy of City Of Death – one that haunts the rest of us. Anyone who’s ever used the “#amwriting” hashtag; Anyone who’s ever handed in a first draft and said “It’s rough but we’ll get it right in a few goes”. Douglas Adams wrote City Of Death in a weekend, and they pretty much started filming that first draft on Monday. It’s a fact which haunts everyone.

In fact, next time a writer friend of yours Facebooks to say “Managed 2,000 words today and nearly reached the summit! #Phew #SmashedIt”, why not just reply “Douglas Adams wrote City Of Death in a weekend”? I’m sure they’ll thank you.

 

City Of Death – Douglas Adams & James Goss – BBC Books

The Doctor takes Romana for a holiday in Paris – a city which, like a fine wine, has a bouquet all its own. Especially if you visit during one of the vintage years. But the TARDIS takes them to 1979, a table-wine year, a year whose vintage is soured by cracks – not in their wine glasses but in the very fabric of time itself.

Soon the Time Lords are embroiled in an audacious alien scheme which encompasses home-made time machines, the theft of the Mona Lisa, the resurrection of the much-feared Jagaroth race, and the beginning (and quite possibly the end) of all life on Earth.

Aided by British private detective Duggan, whose speciality is thumping people, the Doctor and Romana must thwart the machinations of the suave, mysterious Count Scarlioni – all twelve of him – if the human race has any chance of survival.

But then, the Doctor’s holidays tend to turn out a bit like this.

 

City of Death is published by BBC Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here.

HaterzJames Goss is the author of two Doctor who novels: The Blood Cell and Dead of Winter, as well as Summer Falls (on behalf of Any Pond). He is also the co-author, with Steve Tribe of The Doctor: His Lives and Times, The Dalek Handbook and Doctor Who; A History of the Universe in 100 Objects. While at the BBC James produced an adaptation of Shada, an unfinished Douglas Adams Doctor Who story, and Dirk is his award-winning stage adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. His Doctor Who audiobook Dead Air won Best Audiobook 2010 and his books Dead of Winter and First Born were nominated for the 2012 British Fantasy Society Awards.  His new book, Haterz, is out now.

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December 22

The Chimes of Midnight – Robert Shearman

Chimes of MidnightHallowe’en 1938. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring… But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don’t stay dead. Time is running out. And time itself might well be the killer..

 

Last month I was invited to take part in the Booktrail Advent tour. I had to select a Christmas book and confirm the location which would then be plotted onto a map.  It was great fun to be involved in the Advent Tour and even I was surprised that I opted for Wisconsin rather than Scotland for my location (I managed to stop waving the saltire for a day). https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent

The problem I initially faced when considering which book to use as my Christmas themed story was that I just do not read Christmassy stories. I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to be seasonal as a rule.  There are dozens of stories set over winter and at Christmas time but very few actually have a festive feel.  In the end I opted for the brilliant Winter Prey by John Sandford as it captured the bleakness of a dark winter (seasonal if not festive).

To the point though – the story I WANTED to use was actually The Chimes of Midnight.  A Doctor Who audio play first released in 2002 by Big Finish productions.  It starred the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher).

Why did I not use The Chimes of Midnight?  Because there is no actual location specified in the story that The Booktrail could have plotted on the Advent Map!

Why did I want to use The Chimes of Midnight?  It is a fabulous murder mystery set on Halloween when it was the Night Before Christmas…Doctor Who can do these things and it makes sense!

The Doctor and Charley find themselves ‘under the stairs’ in a large stately home.  The Butler, The Cook, the Maid and the Chauffeur are all present and initially do not seem too perturbed by the arrival of two strangers in their midst. Preparations are well underway for Christmas and Mrs Baddeley is making her plum pudding. “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without plum pudding”

But each time the clock strikes the hour someone dies and the Doctor and Charley realise that they must get to the bottom of the mysterious murders (and the even more mysterious behaviour of the survivors) if they are to survive past midnight.

Chimes of Midnight is a full cast audio drama produced by Big Finish. Each month for well over 10 years Big Finish have released a brand new audio adventure featuring Docto Who. The plays feature past Doctors (Paul McGann, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy) and their companions too.

New companions have been introduced to the audio plays and the stories are deemed canon thanks to recent intervention by Stephen Moffatt! Charley Pollard is the companion for this story. She travelled with Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor for many audio adventures and is a favourite amongst the fans. She is voiced by India Fisher who is possibly better known as the voice of Masterchef on the BBC. To me she will only ever be the Edwardian Adventuress travelling through space and time!

So The Chimes of Midnight – THE best Christmas murder mystery (in space and time).

 

You can buy The Chimes of Midnight on Download here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-chimes-of-midnight-653

 

 

 

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December 14

Books For Christmas Gifts 2015

With Christmas approaching I am already preparing to receive no books from Santa.  Nobody will give me a book for Christmas (or my birthday) as they just do not know what I have read. I drop unsubtle hints but to no avail!

As this is likely a common problem in many households I have compiled a recommendation of some wonderful books which would make lovely Christmas gifts. These are not titles that (in the main) you will find on the shelves of your local supermarket but they should not be overlooked. I would hope that your local bookshop would have some (or all) of these – and obviously they are all available on line.

 

Doctor Who Impossible WorldsDoctor Who Impossible Worlds – Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker

From distant galaxies in the far-flung future, to ancient history on the planet Earth, Doctor Who is unique for the breadth of possibilities that it can offer a designer. For the first time in history, the Doctor Who Art Department are opening their doors to reveal a unique, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most loved series on British Television. Whether it’s iconic sets like the TARDIS console room, recurring villains like the Daleks or the Cybermen, or the smallest hand prop featured in the briefest of scenes, this book showcases the work of the Doctor Who art department in glorious detail. Discover how the designers work with the costume, make-up and special effects teams to produce the alien worlds, and how the work has evolved from the programme’s ‘classic’ era to the panoramic alien worlds and technologies that delight audiences today. Featuring hundreds of models, sketches, storyboards and concept artworks, many never-before-seen, Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds opens the doors to 50 years of astonishing creative work from one of the most inventive shows on television.

 

Ten years ago Doctor Who returned to our screens and has delighted fans young and old ever since.  BBC Books have released this beautiful collection of images, sketches, designs and storyboards from behind the scenes of the shows. It is a stunning collection and would make a fantastic gift for a Doctor Who fan. Printed on high quality paper with extra art cards provided in a hidden sleeve this is a seriously beautiful book which is crammed with information on design techniques and processes.

I have been reading and collecting Doctor Who books for well over 30 years and I cannot think of any title which comes close to matching Impossible Worlds for that initial ‘Wow’ Factor I had when I first picked up my copy.

 

You can buy Impossible Worlds Here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Impossible-Worlds-Dr/dp/1849909660/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450053081&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+impossible+worlds

 

Illicit SpiritsRebellious Spirits: The Illicit History of Booze in Britain – Ruth Ball

A delicious history of the secret, exciting and often dangerous world of illicit spirits

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British.

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails from contemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

 From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?

As soon as I saw this book I thought of half a dozen of my friends that would enjoy reading it.  I also thought it would be ideal as a Secret Santa gift for a friend or colleague that is known to enjoy a tipple or two.  Ruth Ball has done a magnificent job of bringing together anecdotes, recipes and historical facts and making them entertaining and fascinating to read.

The book makes for very easy and engaging reading. Nicely presented and written in very accessible sections the history of British booze is a fun title which I found could be read in both a longer sitting and or in small ‘quick page or two’ stolen moments of reading time.

You can buy Rebellious Spirits here: http://eandtbooks.com/book/rebellious-spirits-illicit-history-booze-britain

 

 

Tales from the dugoutTales From The Dugout – Richard Gordon

The dugout can be a fearsome place. When the action heats up on the pitch, emotions in the dugout boil over. Grown men lose control. The normally sane turn into irrational agitators. And every decision, no matter how minor, is hotly contested. Tales From The Dugout is a fantastically entertaining collection of incidents and memories gathered from managers, players, referees, linesmen and broadcasters, which encapsulates the unique environment of the technical area and reveals how even limited exposure to it can transform people unrecognisably. And when the red mist descends, the consequences can be almost unbelievable and frequently hilarious.

 

Richard Gordon is the voice of football to Scottish footy fans. For more years than I can count he has brought me the highs (but mainly lows) that go with following one of the less fashionable Scottish teams. His years behind the mic have given him unique access to the characters that have defined Scottish football and now he brings us Tales From The Dugout.

This is a fantastic collection of observations and memories (written in Richard’s immediately recognisable style). But the real treats are the additional contributions from the players, managers and referees as they talk about their personal experiences and they lift the lid on what goes on away from the pitch and behind the touchlines.

While the names are more recognisable North of the Border, this is a gem of a book for ANY football fan – funny is funny no matter where you live and some of the stories recounted in Tales had tears streaming down my face. Others just made my jaw drop – some people really do believe their own hype!

 

You can buy Tales From The Dugout here: http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/g/richard-gordon/tales-from-the-dugout.html

 

 

 

Secret LochsSecret Lochs and Special Places – Bruce Sandison

Secret Lochs and Special Places takes the angler on a journey through some of Scotland’s most wonderful areas to discover little-known lochs and others that are outstanding simply because of their extraordinary beauty. This book is not about huge trout, although they are there, but rather about the supreme joy that is fishing. Your guide is Bruce Sandison, one of Scotland’s most respected anglers. It is an account of one man’s love affair with his native land, with its history and culture, its people and places. Secret Lochs and Special Places celebrates all that is best about wild fishing in Scotland.

Bruce Sandison is one of Scotland’s best-known writers and journalists. He has twice won the prestigious Highland and Islands Media Award Feature Writer of the Year and his work has appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines.

First up it needs said that I am not a fisherman (or an angler) but the idea of hours of peace and solitude doing something I love does sound like a marvellous idea. I HAVE spent considerable time in the North of Scotland and have appreciated the beauty of the landscapes Mr Sandison discusses in Secret Lochs and his love of the landscape pours off the page.

If you are seeking a Christmas gift for an angling fan then Secret Lochs and Special Places is highly recommended. It is a beautiful story of family and friends spending time in the surrounds of Scotland’s remote corners.

 

You can buy Secret Lochs and Special Places here:  http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/s/bruce-sandison/secret-lochs-and-special-places.html

 

 

Imagination and a pile of junkImagination and a Pile of Junk: A Droll History of Inventors and Inventions

Trevor Norton, who has been compared to Gerard Durrell and Bill Bryson, weaves an entertaining history with a seductive mix of eureka moments, disasters and dirty tricks.

Although inventors were often scientists or engineers, many were not: Samuel Morse (Morse code) was a painter, Lazlow Biro (ballpoint) was a sculptor and hypnotist, and Logie Baird (TV) sold boot polish. The inventor of the automatic telephone switchboard was an undertaker who believed the operator was diverting his calls to rival morticians so he decided to make all telephone operators redundant.

Inventors are mavericks indifferent to conventional wisdom so critics were dismissive of even their best ideas: radio had ‘no future,’ electric light was ‘an idiotic idea’ and X-rays were ‘a hoax.’ Even so, the state of New Jersey moved to ban X-ray opera glasses. The head of the General Post Office rejected telephones as un-neccesary as there were ‘plenty of small boys to run messages.’

This book is a dream for those that enjoy social history laden with lashings of wry humour.  Trevor Norton has crammed a huge amount of fascinating information into a single book, spiked it with funnies and droll observations and made lots of facts great fun to read.  Fans of QI, National Geographic, Trivia buffs and just those that like a book you can pick up and put down for a short reading burst – this is for you.

You can buy Imagination and a Pile of Junk here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Imagination-Pile-Junk-Inventors-Inventions/dp/1444732587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054464&sr=1-1&keywords=imagination+and+a+pile+of+junk

 

ThunderbirdsThunderbirds: The Vault – Marcus Hearn

On 30th September 1965, International Rescue successfully completed their first assignment, and the Tracy brothers imprinted themselves on a generation of captivated children. Thirty-two episodes, many repeats, sixty territories, two feature films, three albums, numerous comics, books, toys, videos and DVDs and five decades later, Thunderbirds are still saving the world from the brink of peril. Thunderbirds: The Vault will be the first ever lavishly illustrated, definitive, beautifully packaged, presentation hardback telling the story of this enduring cult phenomenon. Packed with previously unpublished material, including prop photos, design sketches, production memos and other collectible memorabilia, plus specially commissioned photography of original 60s merchandise, and new interviews with cast and crew, it’s going to be a collectors’ dream and a fantastic piece of British TV history.

Another title for fans with a fondness for classic (cult) television.  Thunderbirds: The Vault is another ‘for the fans’ book but then you wouldn’t pick up a volume like this for someone that has never seen the show! Crammed with pictures from the sets, images of the models, figures and the behind the scenes talent this is a glorious love-in of a read.

Although I do not remember Thunderbirds from the first time of showing I am not unaware of the impact that the show had nor of its place in the history of tv. I found Marcus Hearn’s book fascinating reading and it added such depth to my knowledge and appreciation of the show.

 

You can buy Thunderbirds: The Vault here  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thunderbirds-Vault-Marcus-Hearn/dp/0753556359/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054348&sr=1-1&keywords=thunderbirds+vault

 

 

 

 

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October 19

Doctor Who : Deep Time – Trevor Baxendale

Deep Time‘I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!’

The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind. But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force… Others claim they destroyed themselves.

Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?

In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission to see where the road leads. Each member of the research team knows exactly what they’re looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find. Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in the deepest grave imaginable…

 

My thanks to BBC Doctor Who books for my review copy

This was the third of the Glamour Chronicles books I read and I felt that it brought the series to a nice conclusion.  I had struggled to find a ‘correct’ reading order, however in my chat with Gary Russell he indicated that Royal Blood should come before Deep Time and that Big Bang Generation could be read anytime. Thus my reading order of Royal Blood, Big Bang Generation then Deep Time left me feeling I had stumbled onto the best way to approach the Glamour Chronicles.

The Doctor and Clara find themselves on board a deep space exploration ship. It is a state of the art craft which is embarking on an archaeological exploration to find the last of the fabled Phaeron Roads – wormholes in space which the ancient Phaeron race once used to traverse the galaxies before they mysteriously disappeared and passed into legend.

The ship they are travelling on crosses into the wormhole they had been seeking but the journey is too much for their craft and they find themselves stuck in deep space. They are unable to pilot their way to safety and their ship is rapidly losing all life support functions. For the Doctor and Clara survival becomes paramount but someone within the crew is working to their own agenda and if that means the lives of others have to be sacrificed then this will not keep them from their goal.

On reflection I would say Deep Time was (for me) the most fun read of the three books from this release cycle. The story unfolded at a fast pace, there were plenty of action sequences and the small cast of characters are frequently exposed to peril and find their numbers dwindle at an alarming rate.  This is classic Doctor Who fare – Trevor Baxendale does a great job of creating characters you actually care about and provides the villain of the piece who you want to get their comeuppance.

Fans of The Doctor and Clara will not be disappointed with Deep Time and for those following the Glamour Chronicles this is the story where the Glamour is most prominent.

 

 

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September 18

Gary Russell Q&A – Doctor Who: Big Bang Generation

big bang generationToday I am delighted to be able to welcome Gary Russell. Gary is a former editor of the official Doctor Who Magazine, has written several Doctor Who novels and non-fiction books, and was producer for Big Finish Productions of the monthly New Doctor Who Adventures from 1998 to 2006. Gary is now a member of the script-editing team on Doctor Who and Torchwood.

My our chat took place before today’s official confirmation that Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) was leaving Doctor Who sometime during Season 9…this makes the first question seem oddly phrased!

 

 

First (and I am not sure if I can ask this without some spoilers): no Clara but a return of an old friend?

The joy of the current TV show is that Clara comes and goes – some of her TV stories meld into the next, others have gaps you could drive a fleet of double decker buses through. So I reasoned it was perfectly feasible that while Clara is off having school trips to Stonehenge or Austria or seeing her Gran or whatever, the Doctor would be off having adventures by himself. But always the Doctor tends to find himself chums as he goes from place to place. So I thought a River Song story would be nice but when Steven Moffatt suggested Bernice, a whole different story popped up – a much more fun romp. I was delighted at the suggestion, truly over the moon. She’s one of my favourite characters in any fictional universe and I miss playing in her sandbox enormously, so I was so happy to write for her, Ruth, Jack and lovely Peter again.

The Glamour Chronicles spans all three books in this release window. Where does Big Bang Generation fit in the arc continuity?

I know Una’s book comes before Trevor’s. But mine goes wherever you choose.

I always imagine writing to be a very individual process, does writing a book which has overlap with other author’s work (in this case the story of The Glamour) create unique challenges?

Not for me – I’m a very selfish writer, The only person who has any input into my books is Justin as range editor.  I don’t let people read work-in-progress. I don’t ask advice or story suggestions from anyone. Writing prose is vastly different from writing, say a TV script, which is all about collaboration to ensure that everyone else in a production can do their job reasonably, practically and make them shine. A novel, to me at least, is an incredibly more personal labour. As a result, I established with Justin early on that other than seeding the Glamour into the story, it wouldn’t need to impact upon, or have impact from, either Una or Trevor’s stories.

LegacyYour author notes indicated that Steven Moffat asked you not to use a character you had wanted to include. Is it more tricky to have story ideas approved now than it was when you were writing New Adventure novels for the 7th Doctor back in the 1990’s? 

In the handful of post 2005 stuff I’ve done, I’ve not encountered any huge problems. This is probably because I spent much of 2006-2011 being the git that said “no” to people on behalf of either Russell or Steven whilst working at BBC Wales, as I know what can and can’t be done. Indeed, i suspect the powers that be in Cardiff now are probably slightly more relaxed about things than I ever was – we were still finding our feet, “additional-fiction” speaking back then. Now there are lots of templates to work from, so it’s chilled out more.  But I tended to adhere to my own guidelines from Russell’s days when doing BBG.

You have worked with Big Finish on a lot of projects and I loved that many Big Finish characters are named in Big Bang Generation. Are you seeing an increase in the number of fans of the tv show discovering the audio plays and finding their way to the back catalogue of New Adventures and 8th Doctor books?

Well I pretty much created Big Finish with Jason back in the day so I’m always happy to see BF ideas transferred to other mediums – god, I was so proud at the Eighth Doctor’s “Charley, C’rizz” etc speak in Night of the Doctor. So honoured too! If that one speech made just one person go and look at BF, look at the great stuff Nick Briggs is creating there these days, then the blood, sweat and tears that I put into BF’s first eight years is worth it.

You were Editor of Doctor Who Magazine in the early 1990’s – a time where the show was off the air. Do you think the current team have it easy now that there is so much new content to cover each month? 

I always said when I was at DWM that I wouldn’t want to do that magazine if the show was on air. I had it lucky – it was an era when the “death” of the TV show was still recent enough that we weren’t dying or drying up regarding content, we could still be positive but weren’t beholden to a production team looking over our shoulders. I would hate that, I would also hate that scrabble to be the first with news, photos etc. I left DWM about a year before the McGann TV Movie burst into life – and I was so glad I wasn’t there.  Today, poor Tom has it a billion times worse (although my predictions about interfering production teams never came into existence) but that mad effort to be, as the official magazine, the first, the biggest, the most prominent…nah, that’s not for me. I couldn’t hack that pressure. Tom Spilsbury and his team need sainthoods for what they have to go through. So do I think they have it easy? No, I think they have it a hundred times harder than I ever did.

During your time at DWM (and I read every issue through your run) were there any standout memories, interviews or even episode discoveries that you can share?

The day Marcus Hearn rang me up to say he’d discovered the telesnaps to all those missing Hartnell adventures was amazing. Tomb of the Cybermen turning up was fun. We did a nice run of female journalists interviewing female companions which I was rather proud of. We changed the comic strips to feature past Doctors, again I liked that. Adrian Salmon’s Cybermen strip was a highlight. Very proud to have done Colin Baker’s Age of Chaos comic, and putting all the Dalek Chronicles strips together in one place for the first time (hands up who spotted we got two pages the wrong way round? Luckily very few because most previous reprints of that particular story arc *also* made that mistake so fans were used to seeing it wrong! Phew!) I was lucky not just to have Marcus as my number two, but also designers like Peri Godbold and Paul Vyse doing amazing work on a four-week turnaround in an era before computers and DTP. I also had the 30th anniversary *and* DWM’s 200th issue in the same year.  My brief time at DWM is one of the happiest I’ve ever been. Loved it all.

business unusualOver the years you have written a significant number of Doctor Who adventures. Have you a favourite Doctor/Companion team to write for?

Loved the Tenth Doctor and Donna. *Always* love writing for the Sixth and Mel. Would love to do the Third and Jo one day. Have yet to do the Ninth, War or the First in a novel – and want to. Curiously I’ve never done a Fourth Doctor novel and more curiously have no desire to, but if I did I think it would need to be a Leela story because I love the character so much. A Leela solo book – now that appeals! Years ago I did for BBCi a web series called Real Time that deliberately set up a sequel that never happened.  I’d love to expand and finish that as a novel.

Are there any classic monsters that you would like to write into a future story?

I’ve done my personal biggies – Ice Warriors, Autons, Silurians and Sea Devils. Never done Davros or Daleks, that would be nice. But deep, deep down I have a passion for doing the Bandrils at war with the Taran Wood Beasts – surely that’s a winner? No? Oh okay then…

Finally, are you a collector? You have been such an active part within the world of Doctor Who for a good number of years – have you any souvenirs or memento’s which you cherish?

I collect action figures, comics, music and books.  I have (I believe) every edition of every foreign translation f the Target Books and the post 2005 books (I may have missed a couple of French or Hungarian editions since I’ve been here in Australia) – that’s always been my passion. Heaven knows why, I can’t read the blasted things. But they look pretty. I’m a pretty obsessive collector, I can’t have one in a series, it’s all or nothing! But I don’t collect autographs, I don’t collect props or things that have been in the show. I’m just a sucker for certain parts of mainstream merchandise. But I collect the same sorts of things outside Doctor Who too. I’m a massive lifelong Marvel Comics fan (one day I will write the Fantastic Four or die trying) and have more Marvel Legends action figures than my house can cope with!

 

My deepest thanks to Gary for taking time to answer my questions.

 

 

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