Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Redeemer (Harry Hole series, Book 6) by Jo Nesbo


Perfect read for the coming festive season.  The best thing about the plot in Book 6 of the Harry Hole series is that the crime committed has no clue whatsoever and that the wrong person is murdered.  It is only in the unravelling of the threads that you finally crack it.  Don't be put off by the over-long novels of Nesbo as he is starting to write more and more "in a filmic way".  He said that crime stories on film influences the way he writes and it comes from what he wants in a story, the way he thinks in terms of a story on film and what he sees visually around him.  As he succinctly puts it, the best story is told in films and not in novels.

Paperback blurb:  It is a freezing December night and Christmas shoppers have gathered to listen to a Salvation Army carol concert.

Then a shot rings out and one of the singers falls to the floor, dead.

Detective Harry Hole and his team are called in to investigate but have little to work with - there is no immediate suspect, no weapon and no motive.

But when the assassin discovers he's shot the wrong man, Harry finds his troubles have only just begun.

Jo Nesbo talks about The Redeemer (2009) which was shortlisted for the 2009 International Dagger:



As is the case in each and every one of Nesbo's books, The Redeemer was translated from the Norwegian into the English by Don Bartlett.

If you are looking for a suspenseful Norwegian novel to read or an exceptional Norwegian series to read by a master writer, look no further, the Harry Hole series is it.

All information about the author and his books can be found here.

A review by the Independent.

There is only one rating to this series and it is...

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 25 November 2011

Factory Girls: Voices from The Heart of Modern China by Leslie T Chang


Listen to the author talk about her book, Factory Girls, on npr in 2008, the year it was first published.

To read the summary, reviews, book excerpt and Q&A, click on Leslie T Chang's website.

Factory Girls is basically a story about the immense population of unknown women who work countless hours, often in hazardous conditions, to provide us with the material goods we take for granted.

A book of global significance, it demonstrates how the movement from rural villages to cities to power the assembly lines of the nation's export economy is transforming individual lives and the fates of families in China.

Ironically, migration has become the chief source of rural livelihood.

This book, divided into two parts - The City and The Village - is for anyone who is interested in humanity and in China.

The City tells of migrants who are doing their best to eke out a living and to survive in a world a million miles away from home in the literal sense.  After all, city life is lonely so it is no surprise that the most useful lesson they learn is to rely on oneself.  It is a dog-eat-dog world out in the city and only the toughest live to tell the tale.  It is a place without memory.

The Village is more reminiscent of pastoral life and this is my favourite part to read.  Family, farming, the land and deep-rooted traditions are still very much a part of life in the rural areas.  People are simple, poor and put up with their lot.  The pace of life is so much slower.  Life remains mostly stagnant but no matter what happens in the city, you can always "go home" to your village and find someone you know there.  The polar opposite of The City, The Village is filled with childhood memories.

Chang has also reserved a chapter for her family history going back as far as 1700, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and how they all became Chinese Americans as years and years went by.

It is a compelling read.

Factory Girls was named one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008 and also received the 2009 PEN USA Literary Award for Research Nonfiction and the Asian American Literary Award for Nonfiction.

I do not rate books of this nature.  

The author on her book and a Q&A session:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (An Isabel Dalhousie series, Book 8) by Alexander McCall Smith


A line that caught my eye:  "...but then so much that went through our minds was odd in one way or another:  unexpected, unconnected, unimportant;  mental flotsam swilling around with sudden moments of clarity and insight.  A hotch-potch of memories, plans, dreams, random bits of silliness:  the very things that made us human." - Chapter 9


Hardback blurb:  Happy in her Edinburgh kitchen with her husband-to-be and beloved son, Isabel Dalhousie, editor of the Review of Applied Ethics and resident of the most humane of cities, has feelings about parenthood that grow more tender daily.

So when Jane, a visiting academic adopted and sent to Australia as a baby, asks for help in tracing her Scottish origins, Isabel cannot refuse.

However, in these investigations, habitually upright Isabel finds herself beset by temptation:  first, to count her own blessings when the unhappiness of others is all too clear.

Then, the perennial temptation to suspicion - of the iniquitous Professor Lettuce's latest subterfuge, and of her niece Cat's weakness for the wrong man when a new assistant begins work at her delicatessen.

Meanwhile, the search for Jane's parents turns troubling, and Isabel can hardly prevent herself from interfering a little too forcefully in family secrets.

As she steers a course between love and laissez-faire, Isabel succeeds in resisting all temptations but those which must be answered and, among Edinburgh's green gardens and thoughtful inhabitants, our philosopher heroine teases a solution from every problem.

My take:  The Forgotten Affairs of Youth rounds up the entertaining Isabel Dalhousie series read which I started a few months ago.  This particular series is full of wit and wisdom.  It may make for some slow reading but hey, do reserve it for buffer reads or something or other.  You will enjoy it once you get going.  This one has a happy ending.  I will now explore another book series by the esteemed author.

For more information, go to www.alexandermccallsmith.co.uk

A short and sweet review by The Mystery Gazette.

Rating:  3/5

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Christmas Books List 2011 - What To Read, What To Buy.

Is anybody ready for Christmas?  I am already in the mood for Christmas.  Preparations are underway in my house.  Buying new glittery clothes, food, presents, sending out cards, making lists, arranging a big family eat, and putting up the Christmas tree in the living room are all underway.  Everything is looking and feeling festive.

This year, the annual event of the Christmas Light Switch-On in my city was carried out by Sheila Ferguson, Three Degrees lead singer the Sunday just gone.  No, I wasn't there.  I heard there was a good turnout though.  Now we can officially start counting down to Christmas but in the meantime, here is a list of Christmasy books - for the twelve days of Christmas - which I have compiled that might help you and me wind down during this busy time, or it may make for some great Christmas gifts to family and friends.

Merry Christmas 2011, booklovers.

MY CHRISTMAS BOOKS LIST 2011:

1)  The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

(Synopsis:  All Lydia's ever wanted is a perfect Christmas...  So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true.  She's been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies - all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card.  But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger.  Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year.)

2)  Christmas At Tiffany's by Karen Swan

3)  Home For Christmas by Cally Taylor

4)  It Started With A Kiss by Miranda Dickinson

including an entertaining video (from the author's blog) brought to you by the author herself:



5)  Christmas Magic by Cathy Kelly

6)  Wrapped Up In You by Carole Matthews

The author tells you what her book is about here (from her website):



7)  A Season To Remember by Sheila O'Flanagan

8)  Twelve Days Of Winter:  Crime at Christmas (only available on Kindle - 12 editions) by Stuart MacBride

9)  A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry

10)  Christmas At Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

11)  The Twelve Days Of Christmas by Stuart Weatherby

12)  The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson

With a video taken from the author's youtube website:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Rising (An Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery, Book 4) by Brian McGilloway


Paperback blurb:  I should have kissed Debbie and the kids goodbye before I left the house...

When Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is summoned to a burning barn, he finds the remains of a man who is identified as a local drug-dealer.

It soon becomes clear that the man's death was no accident.

Meanwhile, Devlin's former-colleague's teenage son has gone missing during a seaside camping trip.

Devlin is relieved when the boy's mother receives a text message from her son's phone, and so when a body is washed up on a nearby beach, the inspector is baffled.

Just as it seems he's closing in on the truth, a personal crisis will strike at the heart of Ben's own family, and he will be forced to confront the compromises his career has forced upon him.

Gripping, affecting and always surprising, The Rising is a dark tour de force.

McGilloway tells you what The Rising (first published in 2010) is about:



One of the best modern crime fiction I picked up this year.  The Rising ends my Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery series read.  Book 4 is a bit slow on the uptake and not as pacy as the first three but still worth catching up if you want to know the outcome as I did.  I hope there is going to be a Book 5.  I shall look out for it.  Happy reading.

A review by The Irish Independent.

Rating:  4/5

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Devil's Star (Harry Hole series, Book 5) by Jo Nesbo



Continuing with my series read.  I love the Harry Hole series, what more can I say?  If you have found a good book series, stick with it.  Reading brings me great pleasure especially on a day like today - cool, dry, with a little sun - spring-like on an autumn's day.


Paperback blurb:  A young woman is murdered.

One finger has been severed from her left hand and behind her eyelid is secreted a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star - a pentagram, the devil's star.

Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case with his long-time adversary Tom Waaler and initially wants no part in it.

But Harry is already on notice to quit the force and is left with little alternative but to drag himself out of his alcoholic stupor and get to work.

With a wave of similar murders, it soon becomes apparent that Oslo has a serial killer on its hands...

Nesbo said that the first novel his father read to him was Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  His mother was a librarian and his father used to spend every afternoon reading in the sitting room.  Here, he tells us about the fifth book in his Harry Hole mystery series, The Devil's Star:



Where is the author's favourite place to write?




The Devil's Star was first published in 2005 and was translated from the Norwegian into the English by Don Bartlett.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Bleed A River Deep (An Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery, Book 3) by Brian McGilloway


Aah, I love the Inspector Devlin police procedural mysteries set in Ireland.  According to Peter James (author), Inspector Devlin is a "truly human and original police officer, flawed, maverick and vulnerable".  Yes, no doubt, he is a compassionate man, a man of conscience who would fight for justice with dogged determination, a good man, few and far between.

This is a quality series which you cannot afford to ignore.  I will be onto the fourth and latest in the series called The Rising (published 2010) next.  Do check out Brian McGilloway's books.

Paperback blurb:  When a controversial US envoy is attacked at the prestigious opening of a Donegal gold mine, Inspector Ben Devlin is blamed for letting the gunman through.

Then an illegal immigrant is killed near the Irish border and Devlin has a chance to redeem himself.

He links the death to a vicious people-smuggling ring, but when another body turns up he begins to suspect that the new mine is hiding something much darker than precious metal.

The new novel from one of the most celebrated crime writers around finds Inspector Devlin struggling to balance his devotion to his young family against the brutal realities of a new Ireland.

World politics, big business and organized crime collide in Brian McGilloway's most gripping and gutsy novel yet.

Bleed A River Deep was first published in 2009.

Rating:  4/5

Monday, 14 November 2011

Perfect People by Peter James


There is a lot of good noise made on the publication of this book so I will not put forward my unbiased opinions.  Peter James has become one of my favourite authors to watch out for so my opinions will be biased anyway.  I include myself as one of the thousands of his fans who have read all seven of the Roy Grace novels.  Biased or unbiased, you tell me.

Anyway, do read the synopsis for Perfect People (first published in November 2011) on the international bestselling author's official website and for other relevant information.  

The latest news for the author is that he won the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards People's Bestseller Dagger for Best Crime Novel of the Year 2011 on 7 October 2011 in London's Grosvenor House Hotel.  Peter James beat four other veteran and best-selling authors - David Baldacci, Lee Child, Mark Billingham and Peter Robinson - to the punch.  Congratulations to Peter James as well as the other four nominees not forgetting a Thank You to them for their books to satisfy our bookish palate, particularly Peter James'.

Peter James is also currently on a book tour so if you want to meet him, do go over to his website where whatever information you want to know about the author can be found there rather than elsewhere.

Perfect People is excellent fiction and not one bit dull.  It is more than a couple who wanted designer babies.  Just when you think the story is going to even out and have a happy ending for the couple, Peter James gives you more surprises, more twists and more turns.  It took Peter James a decade to carry out the research, write, edit and lastly to publish the book for his fans and the absolute amount of the authenticity of his work shows in his superior writing.

Lastly, this passage from Chapter 128 makes me wonder about how far we have come (or not at all) from the beginning of civilization:

"...that we have failed emotionally to keep pace with our advances in technology.  We're a species that is on the verge of being able to travel faster than the speed of light and so much else our ancestors could never even imagine, yet hasn't learned how to deal with the hatred in our hearts.  A species that can still only resolve problems by throwing rocks at each other..." 

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Charming Quirks of Others (An Isabel Dalhousie Novel, Book 7) by Alexander McCall Smith


Continuing with the Isabel Dalhousie Novel series read.  I have enjoyed The Charming Quirks Of Others (2010), more so than the last four books I have read about Isabel Dalhousie - there is more drama and indulgence here, shall I say.

The next book - Book 8 - is the latest one entitled The Forgotten Affairs of Youth (2011) which will wrap up my reading of this delightful meddlesome series.  After that, who knows?  I hope McCall Smith will write Book 9 and there will be a Book 9.  In the meantime, I can make a start on either his "Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld" series or the "44 Scotland Street" series.  Happy reading, everyone!


Paperback blurb:  As well as its advantages, there are drawbacks to the enlightened village that is twenty-first-century Edinburgh, where every Saturday night ears burn at dinner parties across the city, and anyone requiring the investigative abilities of a philosophical soul knows where to find her.

Jillian McKinlay - wife of a trustee of an illustrious school - is the latest petitioner;  she asks Isabel to look into a poison-pen letter that makes insinuations about applicants for the position of principal.

And what's more, when a pretty cellist with a tragic story takes a fancy to her husband-to-be, Isabel finds herself contemplating an act of heroic and alarming self-sacrifice.

Last line in the book:   "...and loving anything with all your heart always brings understanding, in time."

Rating:  4/5

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Blood Split (Rebecka Martinsson Thriller, Book 2) by ├ůsa Larsson



Paperback blurb:  Under the midnight sun murder will be done . . .

Midsummer in Sweden, the sun never sets and the only darkness lies in the recesses of the human mind.

For a priest - Mildred Nilsson - has been brutally killed and lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, who thought she'd done with Kiruna, the little town of her birth, is dragged back there to stop a killing spree.

Yet the shadows that surrounded Matilda - hurt and healing, sin and sexuality, lethal sacrifice - will come to engulf those like Rebecka who seek the truth.

My take:  Two landmarks caught my attention in this book and there are Sweden's most beautiful churches - Kiruna Church and Jukkasjarvi Church.  As a person who loves to travel, these places are a must-see in the near future.  There is a sense of wonderment in looking at the facades of both churches.  One can feel the history of the places just by looking at the photos.  Undoubtedly, a horde of stories to tell there.

Anyway, back to the book.  After a harrowing experience back in her Swedish hometown some eighteen months ago, lawyer Rebecka Martinsson finds herself back in Kiruna where a feminist priestess was brutally killed.  The murder is almost an echo of a priest's murder in The Savage Altar (the first book in the series) and leads to Inspector Anna-Maria Mella and the police department to think that there might be a copy-cat killer in the vicinity.

In another part of the story which seems totally disconnected to the main plot is a beautiful story about a she-wolf with long yellow legs dubbed "Yellow Legs".  As much as she is a distraction from the story, when you read more about her and her escapades, you will find that the she-wolf and the protagonist, Rebecka Martinsson, have much more in common than you would like to think.

This is a well-written police procedural mystery which is reminiscent of Swedish crime fiction and is sensitively portrayed by both the author and the excellent translator (Marlaine Delargy) in terms of the brutally cold weather, the beautiful landscape, the quirks and passions of the peoples, set in an isolated village in the northern reaches of Sweden.  Larsson's writing is more developed in her second book.  Not to be missed.

The Blood Split was first published in 2007.  The third and fourth books in the series are The Black Path (2008) and Until Thy Wrath Be Past (2011).  Another time, another day.

An opposing review.

Rating:  4/5

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Lost Art of Gratitude (An Isabel Dalhousie Novel, Book 6) by Alexander McCall Smith



A line in the book:  Entertaining subversive thoughts, for example, in a society in the grip of a political hegemony is not something that people will readily admit to, such is the power of intellectual intimidation;  and yet people do have such thoughts. - Chapter 6.


Paperback blurb:  Even on a perfect summer evenings in Edinburgh, there are many shocks to her ethical equilibrium that keep Isabel Dalhousie awake at night.

The underhand Christopher Dove is still determined to oust Isabel from the Review of Applied Ethics, while her old foe, the deeply dislikeable and possible downright wicked Minty Auchterlonie, makes an appeal for help that cannot be ignored.

And there is the seismic change in her life wrought by her overwhelming love for her young son, Charlie, and her fiance, Jamie.

Whether biting her lip on a hasty assumption or taming her unruly emotions, Alexander McCall Smith's sharp-eyed heroine is reminded of the value of kindness, and of the lost art of gratitude.

www.alexandermccallsmith.co.uk

Rating:  3/5

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Gallows Lane (An Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery, Book 2) by Brian McGilloway


Continuing with my Inspector Devlin mystery read.  This is surprisingly a very gratifying read.  McGilloway is a born storyteller as well as a gifted writer.  Not only did he weave a clever web of intrigue and suspense, he brings maturity and authenticity to his second novel.  I will be reading his third novel in the series named Bleed A River Deep (2009).

The fourth and latest book in the Inspector Devlin Mystery is The Rising (2010).  I sincerely hope there is a fifth one in the works.

Last line in the book:  On such small victories must the future be built.


Paperback blurb:  It's summertime in the Irish borderlands, and as temperatures rise, a series of gruesome murders takes place.

Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin's enquiries point to a local body-builder, but when born-again ex-con James Kelly appears on the scene Devlin realizes that the case is more complex, and more sinister, than he had imagined.

Torn between his young family and his job, Devlin is determined to apprehend the killer - or killers - before they strike again, even as the carnage starts to jeopardize those he cares about most.

Gallows Lane (first published in 2008) is a virtuoso piece of writing form crime fiction's most exciting new talent, Brian McGilloway.

Jen's Book Thoughts review (USA).

Brian McGilloway talks about his interesting central character, Inspector Benedict Devlin:



Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Espresso Book Machine 2.0, Not Coffee

The first EBM was installed in the United Kingdom in September 2008.

In April 2009, Blackwell's bookshop in the Charing Cross branch in London installed one amidst great fanfare.

What do you think?  Is this the future of publishing?  How effective is it in the long term?





A News Times article.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Sacred Sierra: A Year On A Spanish Mountain by Jason Webster


Two birds with a stone.

Amazing read for those who love to travel or read about places that they might otherwise not get to see in their lifetime.

Also a heavenly read for those with green fingers.

It is also about a man and his wife who dare to dream an impossible dream.

Written in an easy-to-read, conversational and straightforward style over the span of a year, I find this book inspirational, exceptionally entertaining and highly recommend it to all.

This non-fiction book was first published in 2009.  I do not rate books of this nature.

Blurb:  Seductive, funny, powerfully evocative, Sacred Sierra is a romantic, alluring leap into Spanish sunshine, remote mountains and rural life.

Jason Webster had lived in Spain for several years before he and his partner, the flamenco dancer Salud, decided to buy a deserted farmhouse clinging to the side of a steep valley in the eastern province of Castellon, near the sacred peak of Penyagolosa.

With help from local farmers - and from a twelfth-century Moorish book on gardening - Jason set about creating his dream.

He had never farmed before, and knew nothing of plants, but slowly he and Salud cleared the land, planted and harvested their olives, raised the healing herbs they learned about from local people, set up beehives and nurtured precious, expensive truffles, the black gold of the region.

And beyond all this they started to fulfil another vision, bringing the native trees back to the cliffs ravaged by fire.

At the same time they became drawn into the life of the valley:  this is a book rich with characters as well as plants.

It follows the poeple of the village from the winter rains to baking summer heat, from the flowering of the almond trees in spring to the hilarious, fiery festivals and ancient pilgrimages, and tells the history of the region through folk songs and stories of the Cathar and Templar past.

Jason and Salud lived through storms, forest fire, and feuds over water between the coastal development and the mountain communities.

But as the year passed and his farm flourished Jason found himself increasingly in tune with the ancient, mystical life of the sierra, a place that will haunt your imagination and raise your spirits, as it did his.

Jason Webster's official website.

The book video:



P/S  One of the many fascinating things I discovered from Sacred Sierra is the pilgrimage of Les Useres or the rite of "Els Pelegrins de Les Useres" held every year on the last weekend in April.

Thirteen hand-picked men walked twenty-two-miles over the mountains to the sanctuary of St John ("Sant Joan") at the foot of Penyagolosa where they spent the night praying and being divulged a secret before walking the same route back the next day.

More information can be found in the author's book.

I found these mesmerising three-part videos of the Les Useres on youtube:





Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Fourth-Generation Kindle







Lighter.

Smaller.

Faster.

And cheaper!

What a shame that I bought the third-generation Kindle only last year.

Mine is working perfectly fine and I have no reason to upgrade to the fourth Kindle just yet.

The Wi-fi 6" is priced at £89.

The Keyboard 3G costs £149.

For more information, go to Amazon (UK).

Review.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Silent Girl (Rizzoli and Isles, Book 9) by Tess Gerritsen


"What you must do," said Monkey, "is lure the monster from its hiding place, but be certain it is a fight you can survive." - Wu Cheng'en, The Monkey King:  Journey to the West, c 1500-1582

Hardback blurb:  Evil is stirring in Boston's Chinatown . . .

When a hand is found in a Chinatown alley in downtown Boston, detective Jane Rizzoli climbs to a nearby rooftop and finds the hand's owner - a woman whose throat has been slashed so deeply that her head is nearly severed.

Two strands of silver hair cling to her body.

They are Rizzoli's only clues, but they're enough for her and pathologist Maura Isles to make a startling discovery.

This violent death had a chilling prequel.

Nineteen years earlier, a horrifying murder-suicide in a Chinatown restaurant left five people dead.

But one woman connected to that massacre is still alive:  a mysterious and beautiful martial arts master who knows a secret that lives and breathes in the shadows of Chinatown.

It soon becomes clear that this is an evil that has killed before and will kill again - unless Jane and Maura can track it down, and defeat it . . .

Gerritsen shares with us:





Interesting insight into the writer's writing and research:



The Silent Girl trailer:




The author:  Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is also a physician, and she brings to her novels her first-hand knowledge of emergency and autopsy rooms.

But her interests span far wider than medical topics.

As an anthropology student at Stanford University she catalogued centuries-old human remains, and she continues to travel the world, driven by her fascination with ancient cultures and bizarre natural phenomena.

She lives with her husband in Maine.


My take:  A cleverly woven tale of justice/revenge.


The Silent Girl heads the first book of many books I plan to read this month.

The setting of the plot in Boston's Chinatown is a delight and reading about the Chinese immigrant community, Chinese fables and legends, and Chinese culture is equally delightful.  Therefore, I am especially chuffed to hear that the tenth book of the Rizzoli and Isles series will be a continuation of The Silent Girl.  There is definitely a need for character and plot development there.

At this stage, mostly because I am already a fan of Gerritsen's books, reviews are unnecessary but here is The Mystery Reader's review which shares my exact sentiments on the book.

If you are wondering who Barry Frost is or who the new stone-faced character (Detective Johnny Tam) is in the book, do start searching for the books and read them now.  This is one of the most gripping crime book series ever written featuring Dr Maura Isles, a forensic pathologist, and Detective Jane Rizzoli by Tess Gerritsen, who has become a favourite author of mine.  I have read ALL of her books and always look forward to each one.

And of course I have to award it a . . .

(The Silent Girl was published on 21 July 2011).

Rating:  5/5