Thursday 30 January 2014

Compass Points 72

The Forever Girl by bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith (hb, £16.99 978 1846972294) is published by Birlinn next week. This is a brand new novel from one of the world’s most popular authors. This moving love is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day and follows on from the great success of Trains and Lovers, Alexander McCall Smith’s previous stand-alone novel which sold 20,000 hardbacks in the first six weeks of publication. This big-hearted and often heartbreaking novel about unrequited love and the unexpected places it takes us. At the age of four, Clover chooses her own name. Aged six, she falls in love with her best friend, James, with whom she happily spends all her time. But in the adult world, things are not so simple: at the same time that Clover’s mother finds she’s fallen out of love with her husband, she realises that James’s father is interested in her. As the children grow into adulthood, their connection becomes more complicated as well: James drifts away from Clover, but she keeps him in her sights: she attends the same college in Scotland and then follows him to London, Sydney, Singapore, rebuilding her life in every city, hoping each time that James will see what he is missing. As Clover and James and their parents, navigate their irresistible but baffling mazes of emotion, we are given a beautifully realised tale about how love, even if unrequited, can shape a life.  There will be quite a bit of publicity for this lovely new novel; Alexander McCall Smith will be on BBC Breakfast TV on 4 February, and also will be interviewed on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland. Features are confirmed throughout February in the Yorkshire Post, the Spectator, Woman magazine, the Daily Express, the Scotsman, and the Mail on Sunday.

“If you like it, Beyoncé once sagely advised, put a ring on it. Online these days, it’s more a case of: if you like it put a hashtag on it, abbreviate it, re-tweet it, or Instagram the shit out of it.” How true, how true, and I’m pleased to say that The Totes Ridictionary from Plexus (978-0859655118) is still selling like crazy – or should that be cray-cray. Lots of great reviews on and off line – two of which you can read here from Aitfa's Bookshop and also from The Love of a Good Book. Like the reviewers, I like the Twistorical Romance section where the author Balthazar Cohen imagines what would happen if history and literature’s famous couples were on Twitter; and also the vintage film stills with added contemporary slang speech bubbles. Here’s an example:

 And, oh go on then, let’s see what happens next...

Rocks Off: Fifty Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones by Bill Janovitz is published next week by Polygon (978 1846972997 pb, £12.99) . This terrific new history of the band tells their story through expert and detailed accounts of fifty of their most vital recordings, providing both valuable details about the sessions themselves and the eras in which they were created. It is a wonderful and unique history of the Stones which serves as both an introduction to newcomers and a welcome addition for Stones completists. As Booklist said, “His vibrant description of Gimme Shelter alone is worth the price of the book”.

The Bluffer’s Guide to Chocolate (pb, £6.99 978 1909937048) by Neil Davey is the brand new title published in February in the 5-million-copy bestselling Bluffer’s Guide series. Neil Davey is widely published in food magazines and the national media and is followed on Twitter @DineHard by in excess of 8,000 followers. You can also read his blog at If "life is like a box of chocolates" then this Bluffer's Guide to Chocolate is just what you need to help you "work, rest and play."  And its publication is perfectly timed for Valentine’s Day – and then Easter. You can order The Bluffer's Guide to Chocolate here. Hmm, thinking of work rest and play gives me reason to muse on what would be the best chocolate ad of all time?

Could it be the crumbliest flakiest girl do you think? But did you prefer her in the bath, in the sunflowers or possibly in a canoe?

Or would you rather watch the airhead gorilla Phil Collins?

Or do you feel that one finger is just enough?

 Or do you prefer the idea of some black clad nutter breaking into your house and leaving a frankly somewhat sinister picture of himself on your bed?

Personally I rather like this newish ad which uses CGI to show us footage of the incomparable Audrey eating a Galaxy – although I find it pretty hard to believe she tucked into them on a very regular basis!

Fuzzy-haired, neurotic Catrina Davies is devastated when the love of her life, Jack, leaves her to go surfing on the other side of the world. Trapped in a dead-end job and torn by his departure, Catrina dreams of running away. But how do you run away when you’re fl at broke? Luckily, her friend Andrew comes up with a plan: they’ll get a van, turn it into a camper, and busk their way from Norway to Portugal, via the midnight sun. But when Andrew is killed in a tragic accident, Catrina, determined to stick to her friend’s vision, decides to go it alone. Her travels unravel without warning into a winding adventure. Meeting intriguing and inspiring people who lead her to pursue things she wouldn’t have imagined doing before, she is gradually taught the real meaning of love, courage, and above all else the importance of following your dreams no matter how daunting they might be. This is an unforgettable story of a journey like no other – a deeply emotional and inspirational debut by a unique storyteller. Ribbons are for Fearlessness by Catrina Davies is published in March (978 1 84953 447 5 pb £8.99) by Summersdale and is a book about growing up and confronting fear – funny, emotionally affecting and wise.

Copies of England’s Motoring Heritage from the Air by John Minnis (hb 978 1848020870 £35) published by English Heritage ( have just arrived in the office – this is a very handsome looking volume which provides a graphic account of how England has changed over the last 90 years through the impact of road transport on the landscape.  Most of these photographs, from the Aerofilms collection, have never been published before. When Aerofilms fliers first went up in the skies in 1919, they captured a country that had more or less been preserved in aspic in 1914. What we are looking at in many of the earliest photographs in this book is essentially Edwardian England, and this fantastically illustrated book shows just how radically things changed over the ensuing half century. We trace the outward expansion of places brought about by the availability of the car: the new suburbs and ribbon development. We see how new arterial roads came into being to meet the needs of motor transport and how the centre of cities start to be rebuilt to accommodate it. We see how the car encouraged more people to go further afield for sport and pleasure: to the seaside, the races or to new forms of attractions such as the amusement park in the country. And we see how public transport changes over the period from trams to buses with the advent of new facilities such as bus stations. The photos and text take us right from England at the dawn of popular motoring towards today’s motorway age.

Look out too for Aerofilms: A History of Britain from above by James Crawford and Katy Whitaker (£25.00 hb 978 1848022485) also from English Heritage which brings together lots more fabulous pics from the unique Aerofilms collection. It tells the fascinating story of the men and women behind the Aerofilms company which began in 1919 when a group of entrepreneurs, adventurers hoped to marry the still fledgling technology of flight to the discipline of photography. This untested and eccentric idea became a major commercial operation and throughout the first half of the twentieth century, this group of showmen and stalwarts manufactured and sold a potent sense of place and identity to the British people. They were ‘Mad Men’ of the air, their photographs building a vivid picture of ‘Brand Britain’ that still resonates today.

For a wonderfully nostalgic reminder of how England has changed, you could do a lot worse than look at the films of cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene who travelled across the UK in the 1920’s with his new colour film camera. His trip ended in London, with some of his most stunning images, which were recently revived and restored by the BFI. Here you can watch a really brilliant film by Simon Smith which has juxtaposed images from Friese-Greene’s 1927 film with his own footage – taken in 2013. Really lovely!

That’s all for now folks, more next week!

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