What’s new on the bookshelves

New books from Terry Pratchett, Jude Stewart and Jonathan Mayo
New books from Terry Pratchett, Jude Stewart and Jonathan Mayo
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Among the many books published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s assassination, Jonathan Mayo’s really stands out.

The Assassination of JFK: Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo (£14.99, ebook £8.10).

Award-winning former BBC radio and television producer Jonathan Mayo brings us a minute-by-minute account of one of the biggest events of the 20th century - the assassination of US President John Fitzgerald

Kennedy.

On November 22, 1963, JFK was in Dallas, Texas, on a presidential visit.

He was due to attend a luncheon with business leaders, his vice-president Lyndon Johnson, and Governor of Texas, John Connally.

Connally and his wife Nellie were passengers in the 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible as it drove through Dallas and into the Dealey Plaza, along with the president and his wife.

As the presidential motorcade passed the Texas School Book Depository at 12.30pm, the most famous shooting in history took place.

This really is a minute-by-minute account of what happened on that fateful day - from what time JFK awoke on the morning of his assassination, to what happened in the emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where doctors worked in vain to resuscitate the president.

It is fascinating, and should be a staple in all history classrooms.

It avoids the tireless conspiracy theories, and concentrates solely on what happened, with help from eyewitness accounts at the time.

There are some interesting things that pop out of the book, including the fact that a young John Peel was in Dallas (in fact, Peel has been named in one of the many conspiracy theories as Kennedy’s killer), or that Jackie Kennedy personally contacted the widow of a police officer who was killed by Oswald minutes after he shot the president.

You forget you are reading a factual description of a historical event, as it feels like a gripping crime thriller.

Mayo has perfectly encapsulated the atmosphere and mood surrounding the assassination, and JFK’s subsequent funeral.

It is heartbreaking to read about his children’s reactions to his death, especially when you find out that a young and confused John F Kennedy Jnr started to call a Secret Service agent who was assigned to the family ‘dad’ after his father was killed.

Mayo brings warmth and humanity to an infamous event, and among the many books currently being published on this topic, this one very much stands out.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (£20, ebook £7.20).

Amazingly, this is Sir Terry’s 40th novel set in his great satirical-fantasy creation, Discworld, and this time the engine of the plot is the invention of railways.

Earlier books introduced real-world phenomena (cinema, rock music), only to tidy them away at the tale’s end, but - perhaps stung by frequent criticism that fantasy is a genre in love with the status quo - Pratchett has subsequently been keen to allow his planet to modernise as our own did.

Beyond a few fundamentalist, Luddite dwarfs, everyone shares a core of decency and good sense which makes for a charming read, but perhaps a too-sunny one.

Neither the prose nor the plot can rank among Pratchett’s best work, but there’s a sheer love of life (and steam trains), and a wise and fiery hatred of intolerance, which keep it on the rails.

The Proposal by Tasmina Perry (£14.99, ebook £7.49).

It is every girl’s worst nightmare, thinking you are about to be proposed to by the man of your dreams and it ending up the very opposite - being dumped.

That is just what happened to Amy Carrell who thought she would be spending this Christmas away from her American family, in the arms of her diplomat boyfriend Daniel.

As Perry writes, ‘Quite simply, life was more exciting and magical with Daniel Lyons in it.

‘Without him, she was a struggling dancer living in a tiny apartment three thousand miles away from home, going nowhere, dreams fading.’

Nursing a broken heart, Amy decides to apply for position of companion to an elderly woman named Georgina who wants to travel to New York, not knowing her new boss and friend is hiding some big secrets.

The Proposal flits between modern day and 1958, with mysteries and romances revealed in both eras making it the perfect novel to cosy up with on a cold winter’s day.

Equilateral by Ken Kalfus (£12.99, ebook £7.79).

It has all the makings of a sci-fi story - based as it is on attempts to make contact with alien life on Mars.

However Equilateral is not set in the future, but in the late 1800s.

The novel, Kalfus’s third, tells of the obsessive efforts of British astronomer Professor Sanford Thayer who, along with engineer Wilson Ballard, is on the mission of a lifetime.

Aided by thousands of labourers, they intend to construct a giant triangle - the equilateral of the title - in the Egyptian desert.

At over 300 miles a side, its size is monumental, as is its purpose, for the aim is to set fire to the structure at the precise moment Earth is most visible to Mars.

It is believed that there is not only life on Mars, but intelligent life at that, and the sending of the signal from earth will mark a beginning of the relationship between humans and

Martians.

Kalfus’s use of technical language and astronomical diagrams gives weight to what could be considered a flight of fancy, and Thayer emerges as a flawed but sympathetic figure.

As the plans start to go awry, he finds himself beset not only with physical illness but with problems related to another triangle - of the love variety.

He is caught between his secretary and the local girl who acts as his maid, the turmoil of his heart providing the emotional focus of a book so heavily based on science.

Although not the easiest read, Equilateral is an intriguing one and provides a fascinating picture of Victorian ideals at the turn of the 20th century.

The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson (£16.99, ebook £5.66).

This is the latest novel from the internationally best-selling author, who brought us The Ice Cream Girls and The Rose Petal Bunch.

It tells the story of Saffron Mackleroy, 18 months after the murder of her husband, Joel.

Saffron has tried to rebuild her life, juggling the demands of being both a widowed mother-of-two, as well as having a career.

Alongside this, Saffron is also trying to complete ‘The Flavours of Love’, a cook book Joel started to compile before his passing.

On the outside she is coping well with the loss of her husband, but beneath the calm exterior she is crumbling, particularly when her 14-year-old daughter makes a devastating confession and her husband’s

killer starts to write to her.

The narrative jumps between present day and various periods preceding the murder.

This structure adds to the unpredictable nature of the story - making it a gripping and enjoyable read from the outset.

Roy G Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Colour (£14.99).

Roy G Biv promises to be an exceedingly surprising book about colour, and it certainly is - both for content and design reasons.

Let’s start with content. This is author Jude Stewart’s first book - her day job sees her writing about design and culture for a number of magazines.

The writer is clearly passionate about colour and as a result this book is jam-packed with fascinating historical and scientific facts about it.

Notes on the origins of white wedding dresses as well as why baby girls once wore blue and baby boys wore pink made brilliant dinner party conversation starters,

Stewart also looks at the different meanings one colour can convey - for example red is both love and anger - and she looks at colour in cultures - in Japan a jealous person is said to have red eyes, in Scandinavia

they don the black socks of envy, Germans turn yellow and here in the UK we become a green-eyed monster.

Design is the second surprising element to Stewart’s work, you will never have seen a lay-out like in this book - in fact it even comes with a section directing readers how to navigate it.

As such, Roy G Biv can be a little confusing, and might not be the ideal bedtime read - but as a dip-in dip-out source of knowledge; it’s ideal.