These days, often the first sign that a book is going to become a word of mouth hit is when all the online bloggers and book clubs start raving about it. Such a book is Black Chalk by Albert Alla. Bookhugger calls it “Well written, deceptively easy to read and almost impossible to put down; this is a story that will shock you, make you think, and stay with you for a long time after you’ve read the last page.” Liz Loves Books said “It’s hard to put into words what I feel about this one … it got me right at the heart and is unlikely to let go for a while. Beautiful writing … truly brilliant, unequivocally stunning and often heart wrenching drama.” Reviewers on Amazon are calling Black Chalk “heartbreaking”, “poignant”, “memorable” and “gripping”. “This is a taut psychological thriller on a theme that is deeply relevant to the modern world with shades of Ian McEwan”. The book is set In the Oxfordshire countryside, where a student walks into a classroom and starts shooting. Nate, friends with the shooter and victims alike, is the only surviving witness. Easily led and eager to please, his recollections weave around others’ hopes and expectations, until he loses track of what really happened that day. This chilling contemporary novel is an unsettling tale of violence, retribution, passion and guilt, which takes the reader on an edgy journey into twenty-first century morality. Albert Alla’s literary thriller is a confronting, morally ambiguous tale of redemption and responsibility in the face of devastating and unexpected violence. There is some publicity for it already confirmed – there is an interview with Albert Alla in Cherwell magazine and also on BBC Radio Oxford, and there will be more to come. Although this title is published this month, you may not know about this book as it is published by Garnet Publishing – one of the Compass Academic lists – but you can find out more and order Black Chalk here.
Lots in the news this week – as there seems to be every week – about schools – are they better/worse than they used to be and are our lovely British children stupider/cleverer/lazier than kids in the rest of the world? One thing’s for sure, everyone enjoys a bit of entertaining reminiscing about their own school days … the exams, the classroom fun, the sticky situations we managed to get out of, the work we avoided and the teachers we annoyed. F in School: Blunders, Backchat and Bad Excuses by Richard Benson is the latest paperback in this bestselling series from Summersdale. An ideal present; teachers and pupils will thoroughly enjoy this new collection of hilarious exam answers, along with schoolyard jokes, amusing doodles, silly excuses, spelling slip-ups and loads more! This series, which includes F in Exams (978 1 84024 700 8) and F in Retakes (978 1 84953 313 3) has now sold over 330,000 copies.
And what about a bit of reminiscing of our own? Who’s old enough to remember the fabulous Grange Hill – here's the first ever episode. Groundbreaking in its time (1978) I must admit it all looks a bit tame now compared to the hilarious Bad Education; watch the first episode here and see which you prefer!
You probably think you know what to expect from the new edition of Hudson’s Historic Houses & Gardens, which is published in December, and is a lavish 5600 page £14.99 paperback with over 1,500 colour images. Hudson’s has been loved and trusted as the definitive guide to heritage sites for 27 years and the 2014 edition brings you information on when to visit nearly 1000 of our grandest stately homes, great heritage gardens and undiscovered hidden gems tucked away in every corner of the country. Gorgeous photographs throughout make planning inspirational and finding your way is made easy with maps and directions. There is information on gardens, Scottish clans, what families like best, festivals, poisons and much more besides! However, did you also know that it also contains an array of informative and entertaining articles which really bring
Britain’s heritage to life including an interview
with Lady Carnarvon at her home, talking about the real impact of
Downton Abbey on family life and the future of the castle? Also Alan Bennett discusses how his new play,
People, takes some familiar country house themes and challenges our
pre-conceptions; The Earl of Shaftesbury tackles the restoration of St Giles
House despite the hindrance of many small children & dogs and Baroness Young
of Hornsey reassesses what country houses can tell contemporary audiences about
the history of the slave trade. This book really does have lots to read in it as
well as being a very user friendly guide book; and you can order it here Highclere Castle
Talking of Downton Abbey – what about a Sesame Street version of the monster hit – yes you read that right– and you can watch it here!
Hope everyone had a good Halloween yesterday, and talking of the continuing allure of the macabre – don’t forget about Finding the Plot: 100 Graves to Visit Before You Die by Ann Treneman. In this riveting hardback (£12.99 from Robson Press) – part travelogue, part biography, part social history – Ann Treneman takes you to some of the most interesting graves in
. You’ll meet the real War
Horse, the best ‘funambulist’ ever, Byron and his dog Boatswain, prime
ministers, queens and kings, Florence Nightingale and her pet baby owl Athena,
highwaymen, scientists, mistresses, the real James Bond and, of course, M. Then
there are writers, painters, poets, rakes and rogues, victims, the meek and mild
and the just plain mad. This unique book is made up of 100 entries, and some of
the graves are chosen for who is in them, others for the grave itself. Some of
the entries are humorous, some are poignant, but all tell us something about the
British way of death. Completely off-the-wall, this is the perfect humour and
gift title, packed with fascinating facts and the author will be promoting it
hard around its publication this month. There is an entertaining piece in the
online magazine We Love This Book about the top ten literary graves which you can read here and you
can order Finding the Plot here Britain
Ten best Halloween scenes in films anyone? Ooh – this must surely include ET, Mean Girls, To Kill a Mockingbird - and only one horror film – promise!
It is 1919. On a summer’s night in
a newborn baby
is left in a basket outside the home of Albert and Jeanne Arnaud. The childless
couple take the foundling in, name him Jean and decide to raise him as their
own, though his parentage remains a mystery. The
Foundling Boy by Michel Déon
is a literary novel, lightly told, and is a classic of modern French fiction. It
is published by Gallic Press in December and is a fantastic portrait of
inter-war Normandy – those of us in the Compass
office who have read it have absolutely adored it. It would appeal to all those readers who love
Evelyn Waugh, The Great Gatsby, The Forsyte Saga or The
And finally – if you've always thought you could do better than some of the covers that publisher’s book designers come up with – have a look at these alternative covers for Shakespeare's plays on Shortlist.com Cool Stuff and add your comments to the debate!
That’s all for now folks, more next week!