Great redeemer


Solomon's Oak

Jo-Ann Mapson


Jo-Ann Mapson's 10th novel is a story of grief, loss and pirate-themed weddings set in rural California.

Glory Soloman is a grieving widow struggling to pay the bills and cope with her tattooed 14-year-old foster daughter Juniper, and Joseph Vigil is an ex-cop in constant pain from a back injury who stumbles into their lives.

Together these lost souls help each other and along the way organise themed weddings in Glory's chapel built under a rare 200-year-old oak tree.

At times the book reads more like a travel brochure than a novel, with enticing descriptions of the rural landscape, native American traditions and numerous obscure place names, but that doesn't stop it being a moving tale of sorrow and redemption.

Bloomsbury, 11.99


Anne Holt


A closed-room murder mystery by acclaimed Norwegian crime writer Anne Holt, 1222 centres around the author's recurring protagonist, wheelchair-bound former police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen.

When a snow storm forces train passengers to take refuge in a mountain hotel, the detective inevitably becomes embroiled in something more sinister, and has to take the reins when a murder occurs.

1222 is similar in structure to an Agatha Christie novel, in which the sleuth identifies the killer from an isolated group of suspects. But while the book has a great deal of promise, it fails to deliver due to its slow pace and uninspiring characters.

Atlantic Books, 12.99

Surfing a wave of popularity



Matthi Forrer


As one of the most googled pieces of art in the world, Hokusai's Great Wave, which the painter completed in 1830 when he was 71 years old, is an arresting image and a wonderful way to start a book about the Japanese artist.

This large-format edition book by Matthi Forrer marks Hokusai's 250th anniversary, and the author's wide-ranging explorations of his subject demonstrates his love of the subject.

The former curator of the Royal Academy's exhibition of Hokusai's prints and drawings in 1991, Forrer clearly understands the work intimately and artfully charts Hokusai's development and his influence over other forms, such as the Impressionists and his invention of Manga.

It's also interesting to learn that many paintings credited to the artist were actually done by the Hokusai family.

Prestel, 80


Herman Leonard


It is rare indeed to find a photography book that is as important as the subject matter it covers.

Jazz by the late and most definitely great Herman Leonard is such a book.

The rich, smoky atmosphere of the New Orleans bar or the New York dive, along with the passion of some of the world's most talented musicians, blazes from these sharply defined black and white photographs.

It is a rare and beautiful collection that spans the great period of Jazz music from the 1940s to the 1960s.

It was so very nearly lost during Hurricane Katrina, when the photographer lost 8,000 prints, but the negatives were stored away from that carnage and so this book was born.

Not just a celebration of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, or Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, but of all those driven, brilliant, exceptional men and women, by a man who was an essential part of the fabric of Jazz in this period.

Pour yourself a glass of Jack, put on some Miles Davis and enjoy Jazz.

Atlantic Books, 45

And Furthermore

Judi Dench, as told to John Miller


And Furthermore is an updated account of Dame Judi Dench's life and career following John Miller's 1998 biography.

The book charts Dench's memories from 1934 to the present day, covering her phenomenal success on stage and screen and her marriage to the late Michael Williams.

One can clearly hear Dench's voice throughout the account, which not only records the history of a golden age in British theatre but reads like a who's who of acting talent from the last 70 years.

With so much to cram in, And Furthermore rattles along at an incredible pace, often giving frustratingly scant detail around events. As one actor notes when directed by Dench, "she goes very, very quickly".

While Dench shows glimpses of her personality, most notably her penchant for practical jokes, she by no means bares her soul. But as she rightly summarises, "why should the public know everything?".

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 20

A World On Fire: An Epic History Of Two Nations Divided

Amanda Foreman


Much has been written about the so-called special relationship between Britain and America.

Most people know about the strong bonds created by the Pilgrim Fathers and the strengthening of those ties over the centuries during such conflicts as the Second World War and the invasions of Iraq.

But far fewer are familiar with the role played by this country in the American Civil War.

Best-selling author Amanda Foreman, whose autobiography of the Duchess of Devonshire won a Whitbread Prize and inspired a Hollywood film, has certainly not shirked her research.

At close to 1,000 pages it is a definitive story of how Britain courted both the North and the South, guarding its need for cotton against a desire to bring an end to slavery.

For fans of both history and politics it is a surefire winner and also an epic story to keep anyone gripped.

Allen Lane, 30

EP 1/1/11

Scarborough's 'Books by the Beach' embraces both literature and the seaside

Books by the Beach: Scarborough's Seaside Literature Festival