New non-fiction

The Humbling by Philip Roth is published by Jonathan Cape, priced £12.99

Philip Roth's 30th book is not one of the septuagenarian American writer's best.

It begins promisingly enough, with an engaging introduction to past-it actor Simon Axler, who might just be a vessel for Roth's own insecurities in his old age.

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But thereafter his tale becomes increasingly improbable, with 65-year-old Axler not only conducting an affair with a lesbian 25 years his junior, but then engineering a three-way with another woman they find in a bar.

There are still glimpses of Roth's lyrical brilliance,

but what comes in between feels dashed-off and incomplete. There is the genesis of another great Roth novel here – he just hasn't got around to writing it.

6/10 Review By Daniel Bentley

Coming Home by Patricia Scanlan is published by Transworld, priced 9.99

Career woman Alison loses her job, luxurious apartment, boyfriend and amazing lifestyle as a result of the recession.

But proud Alison loves New York and can't face giving it up to return to her hometown in Ireland.

She decides not to tell her family about losing her job and moves into a studio in the down-market side of the city.

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Alison struggles to find a new job, but is given a boost when she meets her new handsome neighbour JJ, also from Ireland.

Despite not wanting to return to Ireland, she goes back for her mum's 70th birthday. Once at home, she realises what is really important – family and friends.

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This is a perfect Christmas read by Irish writer Patricia Scanlan about family ties and forgiveness that will get you in the mood for the festive season.

6/10 Review By Emma Smith

Under The Dome by Stephen King is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced 19.99

Chester's Mill is a quiet New England town, nestled among the Maine countryside with its own hospital, newspaper and middle school – but one day an invisible, impermeable dome forms around it.

Cars crash into the barrier, planes are brought down and the community learns they are trapped under it. King's latest book is his first "epic" since 1978's The Stand, and at a shelf-creaking 896 pages it certainly is epic.

He has created a complete backstory – there are even Chester's Mill pages online – and a plot which is completely engrossing in twists and turns.

It's a brilliantly complex novel, and for all its size a genuine page-turner as the fate and secrets of the Chester's Mill residents – including our hero, ex-soldier Dale Barbara – are gradually revealed.

8/10 Review by Robin Budd

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Time To Declare: My Autobiography by Michael Vaughan is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced 19.99

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan has produced something that is an all-too rare commodity: a sporting autobiography worth reading.

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Thankfully he doesn't dwell too long on the Ashes celebrations when the players drank in, literally, the adulation of the English nation.

Vaughan talks openly of his warm friendship with Duncan Fletcher and his forced relationship with the coach's successor Peter Moores. He is also frank about his strained relationship with the England and Wales Cricket Board. But most revealingly of all, he lays bare the self-doubt which racked him towards the end of his injury-ravaged career as a professional cricketer, England Test captain and Ashes hero.

9/10 Review by Roddy Brooks

An Utterly Exasperated History Of Modern Britain (Or 60 Years Of Making The Same Stupid Mistakes As Always) by John O'Farrell is published by Doubleday, priced 18.99.

This amusing and thought-provoking book takes a sardonic look at the history of Britain from 1945-2005. Idiotic blunders by those in power feature prominently.

Author, journalist and media wit John O'Farrell admits to a leftish leaning, but does not spare past Labour governments from his barbs.

Although his book is intended to raise laughs, it is intelligent and perceptive, and one suspects that behind O'Farrell's funnyman facade a much more serious writer is trying to get out.

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The 47-year-old is a former comedy writer for the satirical TV series Spitting Image, which was merciless towards its targets, including the Royal Family.

Unfortunately, O'Farrell's humour occasionally becomes tasteless and cruel, but he ends on a positive note about the overall state of Britain, despite our current financial mess, and is surprisingly upbeat about America and its cultural influence here.

7/10 Review by Anthony Looch


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Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet is published by Century, priced 12.99

Best known for taut thrillers including Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls, both of which were made into films, James Patterson now dips his toes into the teenage book market.

This is a story about a teenage brother and sister who are snatched from their beds in the middle of the night and slammed into prison for no apparent reason.

While there, they discover that they possess magical powers and are indeed a witch and a wizard.

Then begins the excitement of whether they can master their skills in order to save themselves, their parents, other kidnapped children and maybe the entire world from an all-controlling government that is intent on suppressing life and liberty.

It's a weird tale, but there are lighter moments as the siblings attempt to use their magical powers effectively, and it lends itself to a sequel.

5/10 Review by Hannah Stephenson