FROM the range of new releases in the past few weeks it is not easy to pick out four.
But there are some especially worthy of attention including one about a crime writer who finds his real life colliding with his fictional work; a young adults book following in the footsteps of Artemis Fowl; a fascinating cookery book with a difference; and a book about a book club with a touch of naughtiness.
My Criminal World by Henry Sutton (Harvill Secker paperback, £12.99) is a crime novelist’s depiction of a crime novelist - mild-mannered David Slavitt, who lives in awe of his wife, is hounded by his agent yet ignored by his editor. His life is spiralling out of control.
We get glimpses of his new work - set in a coastal town - as a man walking his dog finds a body on the beach. It is surprising at times that people still go to the beach considering the number of dead bodies turning up with the high tide. The police team move in headed by a young, ambitious DCI (female in this instance) and soon the bodies mount.
Back in the real world we find Slavitt in the throes of a career crisis as his book sales drop off; he sees less and less of his wife; his agent wants him to tour America; and his editor wants to see more sex and violence into his work.
We soon see that fiction and reality are on collision course - the dog walker bears his butcher’s name and the first body is of a Latvian girl and Latvia seems to be the only place that Slavitt sells well. Soon other coincidences occur.
Sutton delves deeply into the mind of the crime novelist in this witty, readable book and lays bare the inspiration, insecurity and general compulsion which can drive the writers of this genre.
W.A.R.P. The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer (Puffin hardback, £12.99) is from the same author as the popular Artemis Fowl books and for Eoin Colfer there must be a niggling doubt as to whether his new teen hero duo can equal that of Master Fowl.
He should cast those doubts aside because with Chevie Savano, a teenaged FBI agent and Riley, a Victorian teenager from a time before teenagers had been invented (and the reluctant assassin of the title) will prove every bit as dynamic a duo as Mulder and Scully or Batman and Robin.
The book involves time travel (but doesn’t get bogged down in morality and fears of changing history but just uses it as a device to bring the 19th century and the 21st century together) and is a step away from the somewhat fae mix of Golem-type creatures, fairies and sometimes silliness which makes Artemis Fowl books fun.
This book takes a somewhat darker, and occasionally more violent, approach and its heroic duo - lacking the genius of AF - have to rely on their own abilities to avoid death.
A good start to what promises to be an excellent teen series.
The Trifle Bowl and Other Tales by Lindsey Bareham (Bantam Press hardback, £20) is a quirky cookery book by a writer who has written for Time Out, the London Evening Standard and The Times.
Instead of doing recipes in order of cookery style, or by season, or by main ingredient she has chosen to write about objects she uses in cooking and then providing a recipe which utilises the appropriate utensil.
Most of the items are fairly ordinary and you would expect to find them in a kitchen, but it is the memories they evoke and the recipes they link to in Lindsey’s mind that make the book so interesting.
For instance, take the trifle bowl of the title - the author tells us that she originally had two, a matching pair of cut glass bowls which had once belonged to her mother (the other one broke when she was making a jelly and poured the boiling water straight into the bowl).
This then takes her back to her mother’s trifles with packet custard and silver dragees and then to her own recipe using fresh vanilla custard.
If you like cooking you will love this book and it could persuade you to get out some long-forgotten item of bake ware which has languished at the back of the cupboard and put it to its proper use.
The Dirty Girls Book Club by Savanna Fox (Penguin paperback, £7.99) may initially seem to be jumping on the 50 Shades of Grey erotic bandwagon. This would be unfair to Ms Fox, however.
In a way it is three books in one: on the surface it deals with a book club in which three members have got bored with the highbrow literary choices of the fourth and decide to try something a little bit naughty; book two is the book they choose, a 19th century tale of a young aristocratic widow being seduced by a foreign count of dubious morals; .the third book is the main part which deals with the sexual awakening of one of the club members, a young widow who only ever knew one man (her husband) but gradually learns to understand that she can enjoy herself without feeling guilty as feelings are aroused within her that she never knew were there.
I say that this is the best of the three but even here the author tends to fall into the trap of many writers of erotica and write some of the most hilarious sex scenes ever.
I suppose you could see this as an example of Sex in the City meets Richard and Judy’s Book Club.
At times, however, this was more about a specific ‘Dirty Girl’ as other members of the book club take a peripheral position - maybe we will see more of them in future books such as The Dirty Girls Book Club 2. We do get to read the occasional emails as the girls compare notes but this book is really about Georgia and her ‘rude’ awakening?
You can read more about these books, and other new releases from a variety of publishers at http://robinsreviews.info/