December 2021 Books Monthly Review of books and stories magazine - on the web since 1998...
  books monthly at Christmas
Book of the month is a thrilling piece of detective work.. 


Fantasy Book of the Month - Nicholas Jubber: The Fairy Tellers

Published 20th January 2022

'Like a child after the Pied Piper I pursued Jubber into a world both human and full of magic. A carnival of a book, rigorously researched and jostling with life.' Amy Jeffs, author of Storyland: A New Mythology of Britain

'Magical tales about magical tales and tellers. Jubber, congenially and fascinatingly, explores the land from which the great fairy stories seeped, making the stories more resonant, powerful and important than ever.' Charles Foster, author of Being a Human and Being a Beast

Fairy-Tales are not just fairy-tales: they are records of historical phenomena, telling us something about how Western civilisation was formed. In The Fairy Tellers, award-winning travel-writer Nick Jubber explores the secret history of fairy-tales: the people who told them, the landscapes that forged them, and the cultures that formed them.

While there are certain names inextricably entwined with the concept of a fairy-tale, such as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, the most significant tellers are long buried under the more celebrated figures who have taken the credit for their stories - people like the Syrian storyteller Youhenna Diab and the Wild Sisters of Cassel. Without them we would never have heard of Aladdin, his Magic Lamp or the adventures of Hansel and Gretel.

Tracking these stories to their sources carries us through the steaming cities of Southern Italy and across the Mediterranean to the dust-clogged alleys of the Maghreb, under the fretting leaves of the Black Forest, deep into the tundra of Siberia and across the snowy hills of Lapland.

From North Africa and Siberia, this book illuminates the complicated relationship between Western civilisation and the 'Eastern' cultures it borrowed from, and the strange lives of our long lost fairy-tellers.

If you thought you knew, even at the back of your mind, the true origin of the fairy tales we've all grown up with for the past two hundred years or so, think again; if you thought you knew that Cinderella was originally created by Charles Perrault, or even, years after him, by the BrothersGrimm, you're mistaken. Fairy tales, or folk tales, have been told to children for centuries, although most people assume that the giants of the genre, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, were also creating these stories for the first time. The author of The Fairy Tellers, Nicholas Jubber, takes us on a mind-bending, time travelling investigation into the true origins of such tales, and comes up with a story that's as incredible as any of the fairy tales he's unearthed in their original form. His detective work is both fascinating and engaging - his explanations of how these stories invariably began in the East and made their way to western civilisation centuries before the Grimms and Andersen were born makes for a compelling and thrilling read as he uncovers the secret histories of Diab and the Cassel sisters, among others. This is both scholarly and readable, and will delight anyone with even a passing interest in the history of folk tales and their origins. I was privileged to receive a proof copy of this remarkable book, which will be published early in the new year. I cannot recommend this book highly enough - it is a treasure trove of information on a subject that must surely be close to everyone's hearts. Absolutely terrific!

Diana Gabaldon: Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone

Published 23rd November 2021

The author of the Sunday Times bestselling Outlander series returns with the newest novel in the epic tale.

Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart by the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and it took them twenty years to find each other again. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same.

It is 1779 and Claire and Jamie are at last reunited with their daughter, Brianna, her husband, Roger, and their children on Fraser's Ridge. Having the family together is a dream the Frasers had thought impossible.

Yet even in the North Carolina backcountry, the effects of war are being felt. Tensions in the Colonies are great and local feelings run hot enough to boil Hell's tea-kettle. Jamie knows loyalties among his own tenants are split and the war is on his doorstep. It's only a matter of time before the shooting starts.

Not so far away, young William Ransom is still coming to terms with the discovery of his true father's identity - and thus his own. Lord John Grey also has reconciliations to make and dangers to meet . . . on his son's behalf, and his own.

Meanwhile, the Southern Colonies blaze, and the Revolution creeps ever closer to Fraser's Ridge. And Claire, the physician, wonders how much of the blood to be spilt will belong to those she loves.

I first discovered Tarzan of the Apes at the cinema courtesy of a performance by Lex Barker, who I have since discovered in the pages of my YOURS RETRO magazine was a misogynist and not a nice person at all; in around 1956, shortly before I was due to go up to grammar school, I watched a Lex Barker Tarzan film and the following morning, went down to the post office at the end of our road, where I was due to start work as a newspaper delivery boy shortly, and found a copy of ERB's world-changing book, Tarzan of the Apes. The edition I purchased that day was a Four Square paperback with a front cover by Mortelmans, and it changed my life. All of a sudden, my life was filled with Tarzan (and Jane), because my sister Jean and I began to walk to the next village, Hucclecote, where my Uncle Les lived with his wife Grace and their seven children.

Ken Follett: Never

 Published 9th November 2021

Expertly researched, visionary in scale and the first contemporary novel in over a decade from international number one bestseller Ken Follett, Never is more than a thriller. It imagines a scenario we all hope never comes true, one which will keep you transfixed until the final page . . .

A stolen US army drone.
A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert.
A secret stash of deadly chemicals.

Each is a threat to the stability of the world but individually are problems that can be overcome. In the diplomatic arena though, everyone will have a different way of dealing with such a threat. And when those in charge disagree and refuse to back down, it will kick off an international chain reaction with potentially catastrophic consequences: a world edging closer to war . . .

Now three people must work tirelessly and with the utmost skill to stop that from happening:

A spy working undercover with jihadists.
A brilliant Chinese spymaster.
A US president beleaguered by a populist rival for the next election.

The only question is, in a game of brinksmanship can the inevitable ever be stopped?

I have always been a fan of Ken Follett, having read The Pillars of the Earth several years ago, and a couple of major titles in between, and I have always been a fan of alternative histories. This isn't an alternative history, it is an alternative future, but it's a thriller, not SciFi, and reads more like an extended episode of Spooks, which for me is a really good thing. It involves a small number of individuals and their familes, their lovers, their children etc., as they move through various truly realistic and terrifying scenarios towards an outcome that is unthinkable, and one we hope will never ever happen. The writing is superior, the dialogue is absolutely realistic, and I can't help but think how much better this book and story are than anything written by other blockbuster authors that I won't name, but whose books contain cast swathes of prose and intermittent action. Over eight hundred pages of superior fiction that will sweep you along with it and give you pause fo thought as you realise that many of the scenarios contained herein are being played out all over the world right now. A remarkable and hugely enjoyable book.

James S A Corey: Leviathan Falls

 Published 16th November 2021

The biggest SF series of the decade comes to an incredible conclusion in the ninth and final novel in James S. A. Corey's Hugo Award-winning Expanse series.



'Interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written' George R. R. Martin

The Expanse series:
Leviathan Wakes
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Games
Babylon's Ashes
Persepolis Rising

Tiamat's Wrath
Leviathan Falls

Timothy Zahn: Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil

Published 16th November 2021

The fate of the Chiss Ascendancy hangs in the balance in the epic finale of the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

For thousands of years The Chiss Ascendancy has been an island of calm, a center of power, and a beacon of integrity. Led by the Nine Ruling Families, their leadership stands as a bulwark of stability against the Chaos of the Unknown Regions.

But that stability has been eroded by a cunning foe that winnows away trust and loyalty in equal measure. Bonds of fidelity have given way to lines of division among the families. Despite the efforts of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, the Ascendancy slips closer and closer toward civil war.

The Chiss are no strangers to war. Their mythic status in the Chaos was earned through conflict and terrible deeds, some long buried. Until now. To ensure the Ascendancy's future, Thrawn will delve deep into its past, uncovering the dark secrets surrounding the ascension of the First Ruling Family. But the truth of a family's legacy is only as strong as the legend that supports it. Even if that legend turns out to be a lie.

To secure the salvation of the Ascendancy, is Thrawn willing to sacrifice everything? Including the only home he has ever known?

Christine Feehan: Dark Tarot

Published 9th November 2021

A new sexy, action-filled, intoxicating pageturner set in the Dark Carpathians world, from the bestselling author that J R WARD called 'the queen of paranormal romance'

Light and dark combine as the cards reveal hidden truths ...

Sandu Berdardi continues to exist only to protect his people. An ancient Carpathian, his entire long life has been dedicated to honor above all else. He knows his time has passed, especially since he has not been able to find his lifemate - the anchor to keep him sane in a world he no longer understands. But just as he truly starts to give up hope, a voice reaches out to him in the night and his world explodes into colour.

Adalasia enters Sandu's mind seamlessly, as if she has been a part of him forever. While she can see the shape of things to come in her deck of cards, her gift is both a blessing and a curse. The true course of Sandu's quest remains unclear, with danger waiting at every turn. She cannot see everything the future holds, but she does know it is a journey they will take together.

By joining him, she will start them down a dangerous, seductive path from which there is no coming back...

Stjepan Sejic: Fine Print

 Published 30th November 2021

How do you deal with a broken heart? Junk food? Excessive drinks? Dubious contracts with ancient gods? When it comes to Lauren Thomas, the queen of bad decisions, the answer is always the worst possible choice. She finds herself in a rare opportunity to have her broken heart patched up by the highest rated god of desire. The problem is, it’s a contested title. Join us in this tale of gods and mortals, love lust and death and one woman's bad choice that starts it all with a simple bite on a golden apple.

Ken Macleod: Beyond The Hallowed Sky

Published 25th November 2021

'An exceptional blend of international politics, hard science, and first contact' Michael Mammay, author of the Planetside series

When a brilliant scientist gets a letter from herself about faster-than-light travel, she doesn't know what to believe. The equations work, but her paper is discredited - and soon the criticism is more than scientific. Exiled by the establishment, she gets an offer to build her starship from an unlikely source. But in the heights of Venus and on a planet of another star, a secret is already being uncovered that will shake humanity to its foundations.

Science fiction legend Ken MacLeod begins a new space opera trilogy by imagining humankind on the precipice of discovery - the invention of faster-than-light travel unlocks a universe of new possibilities, and new dangers.

David Mack: Star Trek Coda - Oblivion's Gate

Published 25th November 2021

The crews of Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Ezri Dax, and William Riker unite to prevent a cosmic-level apocalypse—only to find that some fates really are inevitable.


The epic Star Trek: Coda trilogy comes to a shattering conclusion as the Temporal Apocalypse forces Starfleet’s greatest heroes to make the greatest sacrifices of their lives.

Alice Hoffman: The Book of Magic

Published 6th January 2022

‘Full of Hoffman’s bewitching and lucid prose and vivid characters, The Book of Magic is ultimately about the very human magic of family and love and actions that echo through generations… it casts a spell’  —Matt Haig


For centuries, the Owens family has been cursed in matters of love. When beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the sound of the deathwatch beetle, she knows that it is a signal. She has finally discovered the secret to breaking the curse, but time is running out. She has only seven days to live.

Unaware of the family’s witchcraft lineage and all it entails, one of the young sisters of the new Owens generation has fallen in love. As the curse strikes once again, her love’s fate hangs in the balance, spurring three generations of Owens to venture back to where it all began and use their gifts to break the spell that has marked all their lives.

But doing so threatens to destroy everything the family has fought so hard to protect. How much will they give up for the greatest gift of all?

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 24th year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.




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