Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund


Paperback:  A violent robbery has killed an entire family on the Costa Del Sol.

Annika Bengtzon is assigned to cover the story for the Evening Post.  But when she arrives in Spain, she discovers there was a third child - a teenage daughter - who is unaccounted for.

Annika makes it her mission to find the missing girl.  But as she delves into the mystery she becomes embroiled in a far darker side of Spanish life than she'd envisioned, as she begins to piece together a terrifying story of violence, abuse and murder.

The Long Shadow (2013) is the eighth book in the investigative journalist Annika Bengtzon thriller series.

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 Marklund's books have sold over 15 million copies in 30 languages to date.  She has achieved the unique feat of being a number one bestseller in all five Nordic countries, as well as the USA, and she has been awarded numerous prizes, including the inaugural Petrona award for best Scandinavian crime novel of the year 2013 for Last Will, as well as a nomination for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel.  Her next stand-alone novel, Borderline, will be out on 9 October 2014.

Find out more about Liza and her books by clicking her name (above) and become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/LizaMarklund.

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

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 24 February 2014

Lifetime by Liza Marklund


Paperback:  The most famous police officer in Sweden is found murdered in his bed.  His four-year-old son, Alexander, is missing.  His wife, Julia, is suspected of killing both of them.  No one believes her when she says she is innocent.  "She took him," Julia gasped.  "The other woman, she took Alexander."  Then she fainted.

No one except for news reporter Annika Bengtzon.  Her personal life in turmoil, she turns all her energies to her work, investigating the life of the murdered man.

But if Julia is innocent, where is Alexander?  And will the truth be uncovered in time to find him before it's too late?

"Lifetime is a story of female revenge on many levels but Marklund's aim in this remarkable novel is to expose the leniency of the Swedish justice system and its interpretation of the length of a life sentence." (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 2013)

Lifetime (2013) is the seventh book in the investigative journalist Annika Bengtzon thriller series.  The latest book or book number eight, The Long Shadow (2013), is also out now.

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 Marklund's books have sold over 15 million copies in 30 languages to date.  She has achieved the unique feat of being a number one bestseller in all five Nordic countries, as well as the USA, and she has been awarded numerous prizes, including the inaugural Petrona award for best Scandinavian crime novel of the year 2013 for Last Will, as well as a nomination for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel.  Her next stand-alone novel, Borderline, will be out on 9 October 2014.

Find out more about Liza and her books by clicking her name (above) and become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/LizaMarklund.

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

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 22 February 2014

FREE E-Book Sampler: Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope


Kindle:  Susan Moran is a success.  She has founded and run her own highly profitable company and now her three daughters are all involved in the business.

Rooted in the traditions of the Stoke-on-Trent potteries, and producing charming, useable objects of distinctive design, Susie is justly proud of her family and her achievement - and has no intention of letting it change.

But what of the men in the family?

Susie's husband, a musician and artist, has always seemed happy to take a back seat.  One of her sons-in-law has few ambitions outside the home.  Another daughter, though, has brought her husband into the company and they want to change things, much to Susie's distress.

And then into the mix arrives Susie's father, an ageing hippy who abandoned Susie as a baby.  Now he's alone, and wants to build bridges, although Susie's daughters are outraged at the idea.

Can the needs of a family business override the needs of the family itself?

In wanting to preserve her business, will Susie lose something much more precious?

About the author:  Joanna Trollope was born in December 1943.  She is the eldest of three, the mother of two daughters and the stepmother of two stepsons - and now a grandmother.  Joanna went to school in Surrey and then to Oxford.  After a spell in the Foreign Office, she became a teacher before becoming a full time writer.  She first wrote historical novels under the name Caroline Harvey, then Britannia's Daughters (1983), followed by her contemporary works of fiction, several of which have been televised.  The Choir (1988) was her first contemporary novel and The Rector's Wife (1991), her first number one bestseller, made her into a household name.  Joanna was awarded the OBE in the 1996 Queen's Birthday Honours List, for services to literature.

She has a huge commitment to people:  "I mind more and more about people, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged ones."  She supports The Gloucestershire Community Foundation, The March Foundation, for Dementia, RNIB (especially the Right to Read Campaign), the Meningitis Trust, Mulberry Bush School and Breast Cancer Care.  When she considers what has happened to her career in the last ten years, she often thinks, as her friend Jilly Cooper once said, "You'd believe it, wouldn't you, if it happened to someone else."

Balancing Act will be out on 27 February 2014 in hardback, Kindle and paperback forms.

Download it for FREE today on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Study


A study supported by the National Institute of Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health.  More information can be obtained here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Sycamore Row by John Grisham


Hardback:  Jake Brigance has never met Seth Hubbard, or even heard of him, until the old man's suicide note names him attorney for his estate.  The will is dynamite.  Seth has left ninety per cent of his vast, secret fortune to his housemaid.

(excerpt) Dear Mr Brigance:

To my knowledge we have never met, nor will we.  By the time you read this I will be dead and that awful town you live in will be buzzing with its usual gossip.  I have taken my own life but...

...This document is likely to start some trouble and that's why I want you as the attorney for my estate.  I want this will defended at all costs and I know you can do it...

...Fight them, Mr Brigance, to the bitter end.  We must prevail.  Do not mention my last will and testament until after the funeral.  I want my family to be forced to go through all the rituals of mourning before they realize they get nothing.  Watch them fake it - they're very good at it.  They have no love for me...

Sincerely, Seth Hubbard
October 1, 1988

The vultures are circling even before the body is cold:  the only subject more incendiary than money in Ford County is race, and this case has both.

"Everything is about race in Mississippi, Jake, don't ever forget that.  A simple black woman on the verge of inheriting what might be the largest fortune this county has ever seen, and the decision rests with a jury that's predominantly white.  It's race and money, Jake, a rare combination around here."

As the relatives contest the will, and unscrupulous lawyers hasten to benefit, Jake searches for answers to the many questions left by Seth Hubbard's death:

What made him write that last-minute will leaving everything to a poor black woman named Lettie Lang?

Why did he choose to kill himself on the desolate piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?

And what was it that Seth and his brother witnessed as children that, in his words, 'no human should ever see'?

In the long-awaited successor to the novel that launched his phenomenal career, John Grisham brings us the powerful sequel to A Time To Kill (1989).  As filled with page-turning twists as it is with legal mastery, Sycamore Row (2013) proves beyond doubt that Grisham is in a league of his own.

About the author:  Back in 1984, John Grisham was working as a street lawyer when a real-life case inspired him to start writing A Time To Kill.  The first print was modest:  just 5000 copies, a thousand of which John sold himself from the trunk of his car.  Then The Firm (1991) was published, and the rest, as they say, is history.
A Time To Kill was made into a major film starring Matthew McConaughey and has become one of the world's best-loved novels.  John Grisham has written thirty-two internationally bestselling books, including the Theodore Boone series for children and the non-fiction blockbuster An Innocent Man (2006).
Find out more at jgrisham.com and stay in touch via Facebook at John Grisham Books.

Rating:  7/5

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A Time To Kill by John Grisham


A Time To Kill (1989) - the first book in the Jake Brigance series - is a multimillion-copy bestselling thriller that launched John Grisham, became the film and has now inspired a sequel, Sycamore Row (2013).

Paperback reissue:  When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the monsters who have raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of Clanton in Mississippi see it as a crime of blood and call for his acquittal.  But when extremists outside Clanton hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice.

Jake Brigance has been hired to defend Hailey.  It's the kind of case that can make or break a young lawyer.  But in the maelstrom of Clanton, it is also the kind of case that could get a young lawyer killed.

Where did the inspiration for this superb, unputdownable and compelling debut come from?

"I began (A Time to Kill) in the fall of 1984, just three years out of law school and still very wet behind the ears.  In those early days of my legal career, I spent many hours in courtrooms, watching good lawyers try their cases.  I have always been fascinated by courtrooms - still am.  People discuss things in open court that they wouldn't dare mention outside their homes.  The greatest dramas occur not on screens or stages, but in countless courtrooms across this country," wrote John Grisham in the Author's Note in 1992.

As the natural storyteller Grisham is, he continued, "One day, I stumbled upon a horrible trial in which a young girl testified against the man who brutally raped her.  It was a gut-wrenching experience for me, and I was only a spectator.  One moment she was courageous, the next pitifully frail.  I was mesmerized.  I could not imagine the nightmare she and her family had been through.  I wondered what I would do if she were my daughter."

"As I watched her suffer before the jury, I wanted personally to shoot the rapist.  For one brief yet interminable moment, I wanted to be her father.  I wanted justice.  There was a story there.  I became obsessed with the idea of a father's retribution.  What would a jury of average and ordinary people do to such a father?  Naturally, there would be a great deal of sympathy, but would there be enough for an acquittal?"

"The idea for this novel emerged over a three-month period in which I thought of little else.  A Time To Kill came from the heart.  It's a first novel, and at times rambles, but I wouldn't change a word if given the chance."

Rambling it certainly ain't, Mr Grisham, it is a hugely entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking read.  What could be a better combination for a die-hard fan?  Thank you.

About the author:  John Grisham is the author of thirty-two internationally bestselling books, including the Theodore Boone series for children and the non-fiction blockbuster An Innocent Man (2006).  A Time To Kill was made into a major film starring Matthew McConaughey and has become one of the world's best-loved novels.
Find out more at jgrisham.com and stay in touch via Facebook at John Grisham Books.  He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences by Dr Penny Sartori


Paperback:  What is an NDE?

Many readers may be quite familiar with the term 'near-death experience'.  Some may have never heard of it before, whereas there may be many readers who recognize this type of experience as actually having happened to them at some point in the past and have never understood it or told anyone what they experienced.

NDEs are not a new phenomenon;  they have been reported throughout history.  They feature in the Bible (2 Corinthians 12:  1-9), Plato's Republic, in Roman times and are commonly described in medieval literature.  Similar experiences have been recorded within different world cultures such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, along with experiences of Tibetan delogs.  Works of art by Hieronymus Bosch (c1450-1516) and William Blake (1757-1827) depict images that parallel an NDE.

In the early 1970s, NDEs were reported and investigated by Dr Johan Hampe and Dr Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross.  However, it wasn't until Dr Raymond Moody classified and named them as 'near-death experiences' in 1975 that they became popularized when his book Life After Life became an international best-seller.  Moody defined the NDE as an experience undergone while unconscious, occurring close to death, in which the person reports a set of components.

There have been many popular materialist theories put forward to explain the NDE, such as the NMDA receptor within the brain, neurobiological processes, temporal lobe epilepsy, psychosis, schizophrenia, defence mechanism, depersonalization, multiple personality disorder and reminiscence of birth.  These explanations are a logical way to explain what causes NDEs but on deeper investigation, they do not sufficiently explain many aspects of the experiences.

The NDE is a highly complex multi-factor phenomenon, which makes it incredibly difficult to find an adequate explanation for such experiences.

Challenging our preconceptions about the effects that near-death experiences (NDEs) have on the living, Dr Penny Sartori draws on her extensive doctoral research and her years of experience as an intensive care nurse to open our eyes to the lessons that we can learn from NDEs.

"I would like everyone to read this book with an open mind and to discard any pre-conceived ideas about how to explain or explain away the NDE.  This book is trying to convey a thorough and wider understanding of the NDE and all of the complexities that go with it, such as psychological, spiritual, sociological and physical after effects," wrote Dr Sartori.

"Further to that, this book considers the implications that a wider understanding of this phenomenon can have for our society and the way we live our lives.  At the end of the book is a discussion highlighting the sociological research which shows that engaging with and embracing the NDE as a valid experience can give great meaning to our lives and promote love, respect and compassion for others, ourselves and our planet."

Currently, in the UK, the Horizon Research Foundation performs a similar function as the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS) in the USA.  It seeks a greater understanding of consciousness.  There are many other reports of NDEs from different cultures posted on the internet;  a particularly informative resource is the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) website set up and maintained by Dr Jeffery Long and Jodie Long.

Looking beyond the science of NDEs, Dr Sartori, in The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences (2014), shows us through case studies, anecdotal evidence and documented research that those who have experienced an NDE have much insight to give us on the way in which we live and can empower us to have more fulfilled and meaningful lives.

About the author:  Dr Penny Sartori PhD, RGN is an expert in NDEs and undertook the UK's first long-term prospective study.  She is the author of The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients:  A Five Year Clinical Study (2008) and lectures both nationally and internationally.  She currently teaches two courses she has written, entitled 'Death and Dying as Spiritual Transformation' and 'Science, Spirituality and Health' at Swansea University.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Aunty Lee's Delights (A Singaporean Mystery) by Ovidia Yu


Paperback:  After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai", an idle rich lady.  Instead, she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike.

But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.  The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose.

Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

"But why?"  SSS Salim had to ask.  Why did an upper-middle-class Tai-Tai worry about such sordid things?  "Why are you so interested?"

(Aunty Lee) "Because the two girls who died both came to eat in my restaurant.  For me that makes it personal.  If they ate my cooking, they are my guests and they are my family."

Wise, witty, charming, Aunty Lee's Delights (2013) - the first book in the Singaporean Mystery series - is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.

About the author:  Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers.  Since dropping out of medical school to write for the theater, she has had more than thirty plays produced in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, including the Edinburgh Fringe First Award-winning play The Woman in a Tree on the Hill.
The author of a number of mysteries that have been published in Singapore and India, Ovidia Yu received a Fulbright Fellowship to attend the University of Iowa's International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.  She speaks ferquently at literary festivals and writers' conferences throughout Asia.
Despite her writing career, when she is recognized in Singapore it is usually because of her stint as a regular celebrity guest on Singapore's version of the American television game show Pyramid.  Check out the author's blog for all updates.

The second book in the Singaporean Mystery series featuring Aunty Rosie Lee, Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials, will be out on 30 September 2014.



Rating:  3/5

Monday, 3 February 2014

Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias by Jane Velez-Mitchell


Hardback:  On 9 June 2008, the butchered body of Travis Alexander was found in his Mesa, Arizona, home.  The grisly nature of his death made instant headlines:  with twenty-nine knife wounds, his throat slit, and a gunshot to the head, Travis was left to die.

The prime suspect in the case was Alexander's ex-girlfriend, the attractive and soft-spoken Jodi Arias.  Though Arias initially said that she was nowhere near the scene of the crime, little about this case was as it seemed, and before long she was caught lying to the police.

As the investigation progressed, her lies evolved multiple times before finally resting on an appalling crime:  she had killed Travis in self-defense.  Along the way, startling details emerged about the Mormon couple's relationship, and soon graphic stories of their lurid sexual encounters and jealousy-driven blowouts revealed a dark side to their life together.

These revelations launched a trial filled with sex and deception but also raised substantial questions about Arias's deceit, as people from across the country struggled to understand the bizarre world of Jodi Arias.

Now award-winning broadcast journalist and bestselling author Jane Velez-Mitchell, a veteran of some of the most storied court cases in recent memory, goes behind the scenes of the trial - which began on 2 January 2013 and ended on 8 May 2013 - and into the mind of a killer.

She wrote, "The writing of this book posed an extraordinary challenge because the person at the very centre of the horrific events is a habitual liar...Given these remarkable circumstances, the reader is strongly advised to regard everything that Jodi Arias claims...with skepticism and suspicion.  She has earned her reputation as a pathological liar."

Using insider accounts from friends who knew Travis and Jodi, Velez-Mitchell turns her sharply focused lens on Arias and offers her seasoned perspective on the case's most pressing questions.  Separating fact from fiction, she reports on the bizarre and explicit stories that have both shocked and fascinated the American public - from Jodi's romantic history before meeting Travis to their torrid sex life together and the complicated role their Mormon faith played in the relationship's demise.

With unbridled access to the evidence and the case's key players, Velez-Mitchell sheds light on Jodi's contentious life with those closest to her, examining the paranoid and illustrating the disturbing pattern of a murderer in the making.

Complete with photos from the case and Jane Velez-Mitchell's fresh insights into the crime, Exposed (2013) takes readers "behind the scenes of what has become one of the nation's premiere case studies on killers who lie and liars who kill" and "unpacks this case in full, from Arias's childhood to the stunning guilty verdict."  Hopefully we can all learn a life lesson from the Jodi Arias story.

Latest news:  On 13 April 2015, Jodi Arias, now 34, has been sentenced to natural life without parole.  Arias will begin serving her sentence in a maximum-security unit at the Perryville prison for women, located 30 miles (48km) west of Phoenix.

About the author:  Jane Velez-Mitchell is an award-winning television journalist, a bestselling author and the host of her own show on HLN, Jane Velez-Mitchell, which airs weeknights at 7pm EST.  She is frequently in the media as an expert commentator on high-profile court cases, appearing on CNN, HLN, omg! Insider, TRU TV, E!, and other national television programs.  She has also served as a guest host for Nancy Grace on her HLN show.  In 2010, her HLN show garnered a Genesis Award from the Humane Society of the United States, her third.  Velez-Mitchell has won two others for Celebrity Justice, as well as a Los Angeles Emmy Award and a New York Emmy Award.