Monday, 31 December 2012

Happy New Year 2013 To All

May we meet many more authors and come across more books in the new year to come.   

May the new year brings joy, good health, love and God's abundant blessings to all.

Thank you to everyone who visited this blog. 

Keep reading and booking.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Country Driving: A Chinese Trip by Peter Hessler

Paperback:  After living in China for five years, and studying the language, Peter Hessler decided to undertake an even more complicated endeavour:  he acquired his Chinese driving licence.

An eye-opening challenge, it enabled him to embark on an epic journey driving across this most enigmatic of countries.

Over seven years, he travelled to places rarely explored by tourists, into the factories exporting Chinese goods to the world, and into the homes of workers.

Full of extraordinary encounters and details of life beyond Beijing, Country Driving (2010) - researched from 2001 to 2009 - is an unforgettable, unique portrait of the country that will likely shape all our lives in the century to come.

About the author:  Peter Hessler is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he served as the Beijing corrrespondent from 2000 to 2007 and is also a contributing writer for the National Geographic.  He is the author of River Town (2001), which won the Kiriyama Book Prize, and Oracle Bones (2006), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.  He won the 2008 National Magazine Award for Excellence in reporting.  In 2011, Hessler moved to Cairo where he is covering the Middle East for the New Yorker.  He is married to journalist and writer Leslie T Chang.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Last Will by Liza Marklund

Paperback:  A frosty night in Stockholm.  A thousand guests attend the Nobel Prizewinners' dinner.

The evening is one of prestige and glamour.  Until two shots are fired on the dance floor.

Crime reporter Annika Bengtzon is there, covering the event for the Evening Post.

As the police realize she caught a glimpse of the suspect, she is far more interested in getting back to the newsroom.

But as more brutal murders follow, Annika finds herself in the middle of something far larger than she had anticipated.

No longer just a reporter but also a vulnerable key witness, she begins to close up the gaps linking these crimes, just as the suspect starts closing the net on Annika herself.

About the author:  Liza Marklund is an author, publisher, journalist, columnist and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.  Her crime novels featuring the relentless reporter Annika Bengtzon instantly became an international hit, and sold 13 million copies in 30 languages to date.

She has achieved the unique feat being the number one bestseller in all five Nordic countries, as well as the USA, and she has been awarded numerous prizes, including a nomination for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel.

The Annika Bengtzon series is currently being adapted into film, and will launch with the movie of this novel, under the title Nobel's Last Will.

Fans of Liza Marklund will be pleased to know that the seventh book in this series, Lifetime, will be released in 2013.

On the translator:  Neil Smith studied Scandinavian Studies at University College London and lived in Stockholm for several years.  He now lives in Norfolk, England.

Liza Marklund on Last Will (2012), the sixth book in the Annika Bengtzon series:

Rating:  5/5

The Bomber by Liza Marklund

Hardback:  Seven days.  Three killings.  One woman who knows too much.

Journalist Annika Bengtzon is asleep next to her husband when the call comes in at 3.22am on a frozen December night.

It's the weekend, and she still has Christmas shopping to do.

But within minutes, all thoughts of seasonal goodwill are left behind.

Annika is looking at a nightmare scene of police tape and rubble, trying to get the best possible picture for her newspaper.

A bomb has not only destroyed Stockholm's new Olympic arena just months before the Summer Games, it has blown someone to pieces.

Putting a city on edge with fears of a terrorist on the loose, the Bomber will become Annika's biggest story - and maybe her last.

About the author:  Liza Marklund is an author, publisher, journalist, columnist and goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.  Her crime novels featuring the relentless reporter Annika Bengtzon instantly became an international hit, and sold 13 million copies in 30 languages to date.

She has achieved the unique feat being the number one bestseller in all five Nordic countries, as well as the USA, and she has been awarded numerous prizes, including a nomination for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel.

More information can be found on her website or on her Facebook page.

The Bomber (2001) is the second book in the Annika Bengtzon series and is translated from the Swedish into the English by Kajsa von Hofsten.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In Cold Blood (Non-fiction) by Truman Capote

This book is a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences.

"...I have even heard on more than one occasion that the man, when found, should be hanged from the nearest tree.  Let us not feel this way.  The deed is done and taking another life cannot change it.  Instead, let us forgive as God would have us do.  It is not right that we should hold a grudge in our hearts.  The doer of this act is going to find it very difficult indeed to live with himself.  His only peace of mind will be when he goes to God for forgiveness.  Let us not stand in the way but instead give prayers that he may find his peace." - Mr Howard Fox, brother of Bonnie Clutter (murdered woman).

Paperback:  Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood (1966) reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and children.

Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved.

At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible, yet entirely and frighteningly human.

The book that made Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative.

About the author:  Truman Capote was born in New Orleans in 1924 and was raised in various part of the South, his family spending winters in New Orleans and summers in Alabama and New Georgia.  He left school when he was fifteen and subsequently worked for the New Yorker which provided his first - and last - regular job.

In 1984, his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published to international critical acclaim, assuring Capote a place among the prominent postwar American writers.  His other works include The Grass Harp (1951), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), In Cold Blood (1966), which immediately became the centre of a storm of controversy on its publication, Music for Chameleons (1980) and Answered Prayers (1986).

Summer Crossing was sold at Sotheby's, New York, in 2004, and published for the first time in the UK by Penguin Classics in 2005.

Truman Capote died in August 1984.

The 1967 film based on Truman Capote's book:

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Rush Of Blood by Mark Billingham

Rush of Blood is a brilliantly plotted, utterly gripping thriller about the danger of making friends on holiday.  I very much enjoy a book like this as it reflects real life, where justice is not always served and the killer not always caught and tried.  A highly recommended read.

Who better to introduce his second standalone thriller Rush of Blood (2012) than Mark Billingham himself:

About the author:  Mark Billingham has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculier Award for the Best Crime Novel of the Year and has also won a Sherlock Award for the Best Detective created by a British writer.  Each of the novels featuring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne has been a Sunday Times bestseller, and Sleepyhead (2001) and Scaredy Cat (2002) were made into a hit TV series on Sky 1, starring David Morrissey as Thorne.  Mark lives in north London with his wife and two children.  Do visit the author's website for more updates and information.

Rating:  4/5

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling

A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred:

(a)  when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time;  or
(b)  when his notice of resignation is received;  or
(c)  on the day of his death...

(Charles Arnold-Baker, Local Council Administration, Seventh Edition)

Hardback:  A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy is J K Rowling's first novel for adults.

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...

Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the Parish Council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.

Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

About the author:  J K Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, have been translated into 73 languages and have been turned into eight blockbuster films.

As well as an OBE for services to children's literature, J K Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's Legion d'honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University.  She supports a wide range of charitable causes and is the founder of Lumos, which works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.

Here is the esteemed author in her first live appearance on the publication of The Casual Vacancy in September 2012:

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 23 November 2012

Last To Die (The New Rizzoli and Isles Thriller, Book 10) by Tess Gerritsen

Again, I must say this is one of the topmost gripping crime thrillers I have ever encountered and crime-writing at its very best.  I highly recommend reading this series.  Oh, and don't forget to watch the television series of Rizzoli and Isles if you haven't already - they are so good - it is one of those rare and exceptional times when reading the book and watching television work so well together.

Hardback:  Three children, strangers to each other, are brought together by seemingly motiveless and extreme acts of violence.

Orphaned and alone, they are taken in as students at Evensong, a boarding school for emotionally traumatized children in the remote Maine wilderness.

Is it a place of safety or a place of danger?

Forensic pathologist Maura Isles already has a connection with the school - Julian 'Rat' Perkins, the 16-year-old boy she met during a previous case, is now living there.

But she suspects that the Evensong founders may be using the school for their own agenda.

And her concerns grow when Detective Jane Rizzoli is asked to investigate yet another attempt on the life of one of the orphans at the school.

What both Jane and Maura soon discover is that even a school protected by locked gates and acres of forest cannot shut out a gathering threat.  When three blood-spattered twig dolls are found hanging from a tree, they wonder if the threat comes from outside the school or from within.

About 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.  Her thrillers starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the hit TV series Rizzoli and Isles.  But Tess's interests span far more than medicine and crime.  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 in Maine with her husband.

The next and eleventh Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles book, Die Again, will be out on 18 December 2014.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano

I find Vodka Doesn't Freeze (2008) about paedophiles and child abuse alarming but at the same time, greatly admire Dr Leah Giarratano for what she does.  I bought this book from Abbey's Bookshop in Sydney during my travels to Australia.  

Paperback:  When a middle-aged man is brutally murdered in the dunes overlooking a children's pool, it's immediately clear to Sergeant Jill Jackson that this was no ordinary victim:  someone has stopped a dangerous paedophile in his tracks.

Knowing first-hand the impact of such men on their prey, Jill is ambivalent about pursuing the killer, but when more men die - all known to police as child sex offenders - she is forced to face the fact that a serial killer is on the loose.

As the investigation deepens, Jill unearths a long-established Sydney paedophile ring - a club of wealthy men who have thought until now that they are untouchable.

Despite the deaths of some of its members the club is still operating, and until Jill can shut it down children are still in grave danger.

As she faces predators and their victims, a psychotherapist losing her mind, and her own nightmares come to life, Jill is forced to decide whether or not she really wants to catch this killer.

About the author:  Dr Leah Giarratano has had a long career as a psychologist.  An expert in psychological trauma, sex offences and psychopathology, she has had many years' experience working with victims and psychopaths.  She has worked in psychiatric hospitals, with the Australian Defence Force, and in corrective services with offenders who suffer severe personality disorders.  She has assessed and treated survivors of just about every imaginable psychological trauma, including hostages; war veterans;  rape, assault, and accident victims;  and has worked with police, fire and ambulance officers.

The other books in the Detective Jill Jackson mystery series are

Voodoo Doll (2008)
Black Ice (2009)
Watch The World Burn (2010)

Rating:  2/5

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Farm Fresh Murder (A Farmers' Market Mystery) by Paige Shelton

Farm Fresh Murder (2010) is the first in a delicious mystery series and if you like a combination of cosy and crime, then read this delightful book.  It comes with mouth-watering recipes you can make at home too!

Paperback:  Becca Robins leads a simple life, making jams and preserves on her very own farm.

But when there's a murder in her quaint little town, she goes from making jam to being in one.

Becca is late for her stall time at Bailey's Farmers' Market.  By the time she arrives, the normally lush and lively market has turned into a crime scene, with a murdered peach vendor as the featured item of the day.

Cranky old Abner Justen sells wildflowers and is like a father to Becca.  It seems he's also the number one suspect, seen arguing with the victim just days before.

As Becca seeks the truth, she comes to realize that life in the friendly farmers' market is filled with bushels of secrets and deceits.  To preserve her own life, she'll have to sniff out the murderer before he spoils the market for everyone.

About the author:  Paige Shelton spent lots of years in advertising but now writes novels full time.  She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, son and the cutest dog in the world.  When she's up early enough, one of her favourite things is to watch the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains.  Check out her website for more updates.

Other books in the Farmers' Market Mystery series are

Fruit of All Evil (2011)
Crops and Robbers (2011)
A Killer Maize (2012)

plus an e-book, Red Hot Deadly Peppers (2012, mini mystery).

Rating:  2/5

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Killing by David Hewson (based on the BAFTA award-winning TV series by Soren Sveistrup)

It is true that trying to turn an epic television crime drama tragedy into an epic crime book is no easy feat, especially in a country which the author had never been before, but David Hewson did it, and did it expertly and splendidly too!  The book is very well-written and an excellent read.  I enjoyed it so much I cannot wait for the next book.  Grab your copy now!

"The book is an excellent read in which the author manages to dig deeper into the characters without having to rewrite their original television characterisation.  For those who haven't seen the series, this is a very cleverly constructed and beautifully written crime drama;  for those who already know the ending, a new twist awaits." - Irish Times

Paperback:  Sarah Lund is looking forward to her last day as a detective with the Copenhagen Police department before moving to Sweden.

But everything changes when nineteen-year-old student Nanna Birk Larsen is found raped and brutally murdered in the woods outside the city.

Lund's plans to relocate are put on hold as she leads the investigation along with fellow detective Jan Meyer.

While Nanna's family struggle to cope with their loss, local politician Troels Hartmann is in the middle of an election campaign to become the new mayor of Copenhagen.

When links between City Hall and the murder suddenly come to light, the case takes an entirely different turn.

Over the course of twenty days, suspect upon suspect emerges as violence and political intrigue cast their shadows over the hunt for the killer.

About the author:  David Hewson is well-known for his crime-thriller fiction set in European cities.  He is the author of nine novels in the highly acclaimed Detective Nic Costa series, which are set mostly in Rome.  His most recent novels include The Fallen Angel (2011) and Carnival for the Dead (2012) - set in Venice.  He has spent time in Copenhagen researching and writing the novel of The Killing (2012).  The Killing II will be published in 2013.

The Killing, created by Soren Sveistrup and produced by DR - Danish Broadcasting Corporation - has won prestigious awards throughout Europe including a BAFTA, Best European Production at Monte Carlo TV Festival and numerous International Emmy nominations.  It was highly acclaimed in the UK and became a cult phenomenon when it was shown on BBC4 in 2011.

The English trailer of The Killing:

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Watching The Dark (The New Chief Inspector Banks Novel) by Peter Robinson

It is always a pleasure to read Robinson's Chief Inspector Banks novel series.  Highly recommended.

Hardback:  Banks is back - and this time he's investigating the murder of one of his own.

Detective Inspector Bill Quinn is killed by a crossbow in the tranquil grounds of a police rehabilitation centre, and compromising photos are found in his room.

DCI Banks, brought in to investigate, is assailed on all sides.

By Joanna Passero, the Professional Standards inspector who insists on shadowing the investigation in case of police corruption.

By his own conviction that a policeman shouldn't be deemed guilty without evidence.

By Annie Cabbot, back at work after six months' recuperation, and beset by her own doubts and demons.

And by an English girl who disappeared in Estonia six years ago, who seems to hold the secret at the heart of this case.  He occasionally teaches crime writing at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies.

About the author:  Dr Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire, and now divides his time between Richmond and Canada.

Watching the Dark (August 2012) is the twentieth book in his bestselling Inspector Banks series.  He has also written two collections of short stories - Not Safe After Dark:  And Other Stories (1998) and The Price of Love:  And Other Stories (2009), and three standalone novels, the most recent of which is number one bestseller Before the Poison (2011).

The critically acclaimed crime novels have won numerous awards in Britain, the United States, Canada and Europe, and are published in translation all over the world.

Do visit his website for the latest update and his bibliography.

Peter Robinson talks about his latest Inspector Banks novel:

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going

"...I have lived through many economic and political crises in the region and the world.  These have crystallised some fundamental truths for me that we forget or ignore at our peril." - Lee Kuan Yew, 2010.

Lee Kuan Yew's name is nearly synonymous with modern Singapore.  Prime Minister for 31 years from 1959 to 1990, he remains in the Cabinet as Minister Mentor, a post created for him.

He has been in the public eye for 60 years, as a revolutionary leader who steered Singapore to independence, as a determined Prime Minister who transformed the country, and finally as an elder statesman.

Younger Singaporeans have all heard of him.  But to them he is something of a mythical figure - a Founding Father, detached and distant and revered and feared all at once.

Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going (2011) picks up from his memoirs of 2000 as Lee engages a group of journalists over issues that a younger, more critical population has raised in the intervening years.

Each chapter is presented in a question-and-answer format preceded by an introduction.  From Singapore's geopolitical realities and the nature of leadership and the ruling party, to the contentious issues of race and religion, Lee fields them all in his inimitable style, blunt, often politically incorrect.

Readers will hear from Lee, the unapologetic believer in strong government, in genes as destiny, and in the view that economics trumps freedom.

They will also meet Lee the private man, the devoted caregiver to an ailing wife and proud father and grandfather.

Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going is a close-up look at Lee as he argues his views, drawing from a lifetime's worth of experience and insight.

Some of the questions posed to Lee are:  Why is he so hard on his political opponents?  Will Singapore become a democracy?  Could the People's Action Party ever lose its grip on power?  Are younger leaders up to the mark?  Will growing religiosity change Singapore for the better or worse?  How will rising giants China and India affect its fortunes?

The writers:

Han Fook Kwang is Editor of The Straits Times.  He joined the paper in 1989 after a stint in the Singapore Government Administrative Service.  He is co-author of the book Lee Kuan Yew:  The Man And His Ideas (1998).

Zuraidah Ibrahim is Deputy Editor of The Straits Times.  She oversees the coverage of Singapore news, supervising the News, Political and Money Desks.  She is previously the Foreign Editor.

Chua Mui Hoong is Deputy Review Editor of The Straits Times.  She is the author of Pioneers Once More:  The Singapore Public Service 1959-2000 (2010) and A Defining Moment:  How Singapore Beat Sars (2004).

Lydia Lim is Deputy Political Editor of The Straits Times, where she has worked since 1999.  Previously, she was a current affairs producer and broadcast journalist.

Ignatius Low is Sunday Times Editor and supervising editor of the Money Desk of The Straits Times. He served in the Singapore Government Administrative Service from 1996 to 1999.

Rachel Lin is a Singapore Press Holdings scholar.  She has been with The Straits Times for three years and is with the Political Desk.

Robin Chan is a Singapore Press Holdings scholar.  He has been with The Straits Times for two years and is with the Money Desk.  Robin Chan grew up in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Stephanie Yeow is Deputy Picture Editor of The Straits Times.  She led the visual team for this book.

I purchased this book (priced at RM85) from mph bookstore during my travels in Malaysia.  It is currently unavailable on or any of the major bookstores in the UK.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Border Watch by Helene Young

Paperback:  The stakes are high, but passions and deceptions run deep.

Above the crystal-blue waters of North Queensland, Captain Morgan Pentland patrols the vast Australian coastline.  When Customs Agent Rafe Daniels joins her crew, she is immediately suspicious.  Why is he boarding her plane when she isn't there?  And why is he asking so many questions?

What Morgan doesn't know is that Rafe has her under surveillance.  Critical information about their Border Watch operations is being leaked and she is the main suspect, but when Morgan and Rafe are shot down in a tragic midair attack, they realise they have to start working together - and quickly.  One of Australia's most loved icons is the next target and they have only nine days to stop it.

Will they uncover details of the plot in time, or will the tension that is growing between them jeopardise everything?

About the author:  Helene Young lives in Trinity Beach, on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland, Australia.  Her work as a senior captain with a major regional airline takes her all over the east coast of Australia.

Helene is passionate about aviation as she is about writing.  "I've been flying for twenty years, which gives me an "office" with the most spectacular views in Australia and I never get tired of looking down at the wonderful landscape."

The idea for Border Watch started early one morning when Helene discovered a body washed up on the beach.  While there was nothing sinister in that discovery it planted the seed of an idea.

Border Watch (2010) is Helene's first published novel, and it was voted the Favourite Romantic Suspense in 2010, the winner of Romantic Book of the Year in 2011 and longlisted for the Davitt Award in 2011.

Border Watch aka Wings of Fear is the first of a loosely linked three-book series.  The second book, Shattered Sky, was published in 2011 and the third book, Burning Lies, came out in July 2012.

Rating:  3/5

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

Life O'Reilly (2009) has been such an inspiring read.  It explores the flaws of being human and the importance of controlling one's own destiny.  It reminds us of how precious life is and how quickly and tragically it can change.

Written with great empathy, The Life O'Reilly is an emotional and unforgettable tale that will challenge one's expectations of the modern love story and introduces a poignant and sensitive new voice in fiction.

P/S Just wondering when Cohen would come out with his second novel?

Paperback:  On the outside, Nick O'Reilly has it all:  a high-flying legal career, as a partner of an elite Wall Street law firm, and financial security, with an apartment overlooking Central Park.  Having grown up in a working-class family, as far back as Nick can remember, this was his dream.

But at the age of thirty-six, after several years of sacrificing his personal life for professional gain, Nick has started to ponder his future and consider the mark he wants to leave on society both professionally and personally - his legacy.

After being chastised in the press for turning a cold shoulder to the community, the firm calls upon ick to help rehabilitate its image by handling its first pro bono case.

Nick is asked to represent Dawn Nelson, a domestic violence victim who is fighting for custody of her young son, Jordan.

A far cry from Nick's specialty of defending the misdeeds of Corporate America, it is up to Nick to set Dawn and Jordan on a path to a better life.

But Nick gets much more than he signed on for, as Dawn forces him to reassess his life choices and, ultimately, be true to himself.

Only when Nick finally realizes what is truly important in life does he face his toughest - and possibly final - challenge:  a battle for his own survival.

About the author:  Brian Cohen earned his Bachelor or Accountancy from George Washington University and his Juris Doctor from St John's University School of Law.  He has been practising law for fifteen years, specializing in complex litigation and is the principal of his own firm based in Greenwich, Connecticut.  Brian lives with his wife and their daughters in the suburbs of New York City.  He is at work on his second novel.

Life O'Reilly won First Place Honors in the 2009 Reader Views Literary Awards, the winner in the Best First Novel category of the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2010 Bronte Prize, the winner in the General Fiction category of the 2010 Readers Favourite Book Awards and the winner in the Cross-Genre Fiction of the 2011 International Book Awards.

Visit the author's website for more information.

Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Darlings by Cristina Alger

The Darlings is a financial thriller just as much as it is about a New York family who has money and social status and, as is to be expected, lots of complications behind the smiles and designer clothes.  I thought Alger captured the old charm of New York City and New York's glitterati amidst the backdrop of the global economic meltdown perfectly.  The story is cleverly written and told and I have nothing but the highest praise for it.  It shows clearly how people's actions or decisions have consequences, often to the detriment of themselves or those around them.

I reckon Alger is one of the gifted storytellers to emerge in 2012 and I hope the Darlings would come back in a sequel in future because there is a really good story bursting to come out with more scandals and more intrigue.  I was hooked from the cover and very much look forward to Alger's next book!

Hardback:  Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries:  a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits.

When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund.  Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.

But Paul's luck is about to change:  a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the middle of a regulatory investigation and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved.

Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie.  Will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

The Darling interweaves the narratives of the Darling family, two eager SEC attorneys, and a team of journalists all racing to uncover, or cover up, the truth.

It is an irresistible glimpse into the highest echelons of New York society - a world seldom seen by outsiders - and a fast-paced thriller of epic proportions.

About the author:  Cristina Alger graduated from Harvard College in 2002 and from New York University School of Law in 2007.  She has worked as an analyst at Goldman, Sachs, & Co, and as an attorney at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale, & Dorr.  She lives in New York City, where she was born and raised.  The Darlings (2012) is her first novel.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 26 October 2012

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

This book will outrage you, disgust you, disturb you, make you fearful and sad.  The writing is raw and the emotions are so real.  On the one hand, there is sibling rivalry that leads to a heinous crime and ruination.  On the other, there is knowing that people do terrible things to people they love and having to come to terms and make sense of it all.  But, underlying all that despair is hope that things are going to work out and hope that there are a few who would never give up the ones they love.

For a book which is not normally in my radar, I must admit it is an excellent piece of writing, more so in the second half of the book when the investigation gets going and the mystery unravels.  It is definitely a brilliant and yet, very sad read, if the story were ever true.

Hardback:  On the day she was abducted, Annie O'Sullivan, a thirty-two-year-old Realtor, had three goals:  Sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend.

The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.

Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent captive in remote mountain cabin - which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist - is a second narrative recounting the nightmare that follows her escape:  her struggle to piece her shattered life back together, the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor, and the disturbing sense that things are far from over.

The truth doesn't always set you free.

Still Missing is a shocking, visceral, brutal and beautifully crafted debut novel about surviving the unsurvivable - and living to bear witness.

About the author:  Chevy Stevens grew up on a ranch on Vancouver Island and still calls the island home.  She enjoys writing thrillers that allow her to blend her interest in family dynamics with her love of the west coast lifestyle.  When she's not working on her next book, she's hiking with her husband and dog in the local mountains.  Still Missing (2010) is her first novel and won the 2011 International Thriller of the Year Award in the Best First Novel category.  Her other novel is Never Knowing (2011) and her third novel, Always Watching, will be out in 2013.

Visit her website for more information.  Below, Chevy Stevens tells us about her book and reads a passage from it:

Rating:  3/5

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Dregs by Jørn Lier Horst

This is one Norwegian crime thriller which is outstandingly good and highly recommendable.  I hope to see more of Horst's books in English in the near future.

Paperback:  In Stavern around midsummer a severed left foot in a training shoe is washed up on the shore.

Then another, and yet another.

Altogether four left feet in the course of one week.

Police Inspector William Wisting has many years of murder experience behind him, but he has never examined evidence like this.  Four feet...from four different victims?

The case will have unexpected ramifications, reaching into different circles of the small town, and its solution will involve greed, wasted lives and a reckless demand for vengeance.

William Wisting puts everything on the line to find the answer to the riddle.  Little does he suspect when he does so that he will place himself and his journalist daughter Lise in the utmost danger.

Police Inspector William Wisting usually meets new cases with some anticipation of how the investigation will go.  This one will place question marks beside the most fundamental aspects and values of his work in the Norwegian police.

About the author:  Jørn Lier Horst was born in 1970, in Bamble, Telemark, Norway.  He has worked as a policeman in Larvik since 1995.  His debut novel in 2004, Key Witness, was based on a true murder story.

The William Wisting novel series - Key Witness (2004), Goodbye, Felicia (2005), When The Sea Calms (2006), The Only One (2007), and The Night Man (2009) - has been extremely successful in his native Norway as well as Germany and the Netherlands.

In addition to the William Wisting novels Horst has begun the Hunter series with Codename Hunter (2008).  He has also written a book for children about police investigation procedures, and has been actively involved in giving talks in schools to raise awareness and improve community involvement.

Dregs (2010) is his first book published in English and his sixth crime novel.

His career as a police chief makes him able to fulfil the most important element for a crime novel:  credibility.

About the translator:  Located on the Isle of Arran in Scotland, Anne Bruce formerly worked in education and has a longstanding love of Scandinavia and Norway in particular.  She studied Norwegian and English at Glasgow University, covering both nynorsk and bokmal language and literature, as well as Old Norse, Icelandic, Swedish and Danish.  She has travelled extensively in Scandinavia and undertaken translation and interpretation work, recently translating two contemporary novels.

Last, but not least, the trailer for Dregs:

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 15 October 2012

Barack & Michelle: The Love Story by Christopher Andersen

"She is my rock - the one person who keeps it real" - Barack

"Barack and I complete each other as partners, as friends and as lovers" - Michelle

They exploded onto the national political scene in 2004 and within four years captured the ultimate prize.  In so doing, they became a First Couple like no other:  he the biracial son of a free-spirited Midwesterner and her brilliant but troubled Kenyan husband, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia;  she brought up on Chicago's hardscrabble South Side by working class African American parents who sacrificed so she could achieve her dreams of an Ivy League education and a job at one of America's top law firms.

By the time they claimed the White House in one of the most hotly contested presidential races in modern history, Barack and Michelle Obama were seen by millions around the world as the new Jack and Jackie Kennedy - brilliant, attractive, elegant, youthful and exciting.

Given the historic significance of what they accomplished together, the marriage of Barack and Michelle stands as one of the great personal and political partnerships.

Seemingly overnight, they managed to obliterate barriers that had stood for centuries and to accomplish this phenomenal feat with humour, grace and dignity.

By the time he was sworn in using Abraham Lincoln's Bible, Barack and Michelle Obama were indisputably the First Couple not only of America but of the world.

Yet, incredibly, the true nature of that relationship has remained a mystery.

Until now.

Christopher Andersen draws on those who know the Obamas best to examine in detail the unique partnership and the grace, courage and humour that defines it.  An inspiring, sympathetic and compelling look at two remarkable individuals, Barack and Michelle (2009) is, above all else, a revealing and stirring love story.

The above is taken from the paperback edition.

About the author:  Christopher Andersen is an American journalist and an acclaimed author.  He is the former contributing editor of Time and senior editor of People.  He is best known for his controversial biographies, among others his most recent work, Mick:  The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger (10 July 2012), which quickly became one of his New York Times bestsellers.  He is married and has two daughters.  He lives in Connecticut.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Rough Country by John Sandford

Rough Country (2009) is the third book in the Virgil Flowers novel series.  Virgil is a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator.  Brilliant plot, funny and an enjoyable page-turner.

Gist of the book:  While competing in a fishing tournament in a remote area of northern Minnesota, Virgil Flowers receives a call from Lucas Davenport to investigate a brutal murder at a nearby resort for women only.

As Virgil begins investigating, he finds a web of connections between the people at the resort, the victim, and some local women, notably a talented and popular country singer.  The more Virgil digs, the more he discovers the arrows of suspicion point in many directions, encompassing a multitude of motivations:  jealousy, blackmail, greed, anger, and fear.

Then Virgil discovers something that sends his investigation reeling.  This is not the first murder connected to the Eagle Nest Lodge.

Nor will it be the last.

About the author:  John Sandford is the pseudonym of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling novelist John Roswell Camp.  He is the author of the Prey novel series, the Kidd novel series, and other fiction/non-fiction books.  He lives in Minnesota.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Hedge Fund Wives by Tatiana Boncompagni

Hedge Fund Wives reminds me a little of the reality series The Real Housewives...  The author said she wanted to write a novel about women whose lives revolved around money and the consumption of material goods against the backdrop of a recessionary US economy.

How would an economic downturn affect the privilege lives of the rich?

What would happen if, for example, one woman's husband lost everything while another woman's husband made a fortune?

How would having lots of disposable income or the lack of it change the dynamics of the women's marriages and personal lives?

Can material possessions make up for one's emotional and financial insecurities?

Read Hedge Fund Wives - it is flashy, sassy, juicy and exhilarating all at once!

Paperback:  The fall from the top can be a long one.

Eager to play the part of dutiful wife, down-to-earth Marcy Emerson agrees to relocate from Chicago to New York City when her husband is offered a big-time job managing a hedge fund.  Leaving behind her own dreams, Marcy forgoes finding a new job in favour of trying to start a family.  Besides, as she soon discovers, hedge fund wives don't work, they play.  Hard.

Although at first it's fun to shop and party, Marcy quickly realizes that to find her feet in this new world of excess she needs true friends.  Only problem is behind every smile lurks a stab in the back.

But it's not until her social climbing husband leaves her for his thinner, blonder mistress, that Marcy decides it's time to stand on her own two feet and fight for the things that are far more important than money.

In the throes of the credit crunch, this tantalising tale is perfect for fans of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada who still want a bit of bling for their buck.

About the author:  Tatiana Boncompagni is a New York City based writer.  Her articles on beauty, fashion, shopping and social trends have appeared in the New York Times, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, InStyle, Cookie and Vogue.

Before becoming a freelance journalist in 2003, she worked for American Lawyer magazine in New York, the Legal Times in Washington DC and The Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels.

She is married and has two children.  She enjoys cooking, running, reading and yoga.  Her debut book, Gilding Lily (2008), is about a group of New York socialites who are driven by their desire for fame and status.  Hedge Fund Wives (2009) is her second book.

Here is Tatiana and her take on the different types of hedge fund wives:

Rating:  4/5