Making It So: A Memoir by Patrick Stewart (Simon & Schuster)
Sir Patrick Stewart’s first job was as a journalist and that early training in writing really shines through in this compelling book, nearly seven decades years later. This is far from a memoir-by-numbers, as Stewart’s unique voice, formed through a heady combination of 1940s Yorkshire and 21st century Hollywood via Bristol and Stratford-upon-Avon, makes this compelling reading and you can hear him in your head through every page, even if you haven’t bought the audiobook (which he narrates himself, of course).
For Star Trek fans, one of the loveliest things about this book is how Stewart’s recollections of his whole life come to be connected, in a good way, to his time making it. Little snippets and anecdotes from The Next Generation slip through even the early chapters, followed by substantial sections dedicated to the show itself. The warmth in the way so many of the cast members talk about each other is always such a heartening thing to see. But there is plenty here of interest to non-Star Trek fans too as Stewart’s career has been long and varied, so whether you know him from the Royal Shakespeare Company, I, Claudius, the X-Men films or American Dad!, there will be backstage tidbits and new contexts here.
Stewart’s life is also genuinely fascinating in its own right. Born a working-class Yorkshire lad in 1940, the early chapters read like a history book describing a world that no longer exists of one-up, one-downs with outdoor privies. Stewart has spoken out many times about the abuse his mother suffered when he was growing up, and that is covered sensitively. On the lighter side, he has also had some fascinating spooky experiences in his life, and of course he takes the opportunity to provide his version of some very well known and well rehearsed Star Trek cast convention stories.
If you decide this is the perfect present for the Star Trek fan in your life, go ahead and get it for them, but do yourself a favour and be sure to pick up a copy for yourself as well! – Juliette Harrisson
The Grimoire of Grave Fates created by Hanna Alkaf & Margaret Owen (Penguin Random House)
What if you took a murder mystery, set it at a magic school, and then spread the clues over eighteen different short stories, all with different protagonists? That’s the challenge that editors Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen faced in creating this fantastic YA anthology. When a hated, bigoted, sexist professor is murdered, and the murderer is apparently still on the loose in the school, the teenage students aren’t about to sit still and let the adults handle things. Set from 2:00 a.m., when a student discovers the professor’s body, to 8:00 p.m. when another student finally puts the last bit of evidence where it needs to be to solve the crime, the book doesn’t let down its pacing.
Each student protagonist has a small adventure—some more dangerous than others, each of them showing how any student, no matter their background, could be a Chosen One, the hero of their own story. Owen and Alkaf gathered together diverse voices, both up-and-coming and well-known, to present students of different ethnicities, sexualities, and genders taking hold of their own destinies. Between each story, the editors inserted ‘evidence’, such as group chat transcripts or descriptions of objects relevant to the case, as presented by the adult authorities investigating the crime.The result is a charged narrative that will have readers putting together clues, alongside the students, until the criminal gets their due at the end. – Alana Joli Abbott