Saturday, 31 October 2015

All Hallows' Evening


Snoopers' Charter


Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers (A 44 Shortland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith


Paperback:  Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular 44 Scotland Street series chronicles life in a corner of Edinburgh brimming with wit and humor.  Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers (2013) is the ninth book in the gently insightful series.

Newlywed painter and sometime somnambulist Angus Lordie might be sleepwalking his way into trouble with Animal Welfare when he lets his dog Cyril drink a bit too much lager at the local bar. The longsuffering Bertie, on the cusp of his seventh birthday party, has taken to dreaming about his eighteenth, a time when he will be able to avoid the indignity of unwanted girl attendees and the looming threat of a gender-neutral doll from his domineering mother Irene.  Matthew and Elspeth struggle to care for their triplets, contending with Danish au pairs and dubious dukes to boot, while the narcissistic Bruce faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of an over-eager waxologist.

Once again in Scotland Street, the triumph of human kindness over adversity gives cause for celebration.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Discover the world of Alexander McCall Smith and his other books at AlexanderMcCallSmith.co.uk

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 30 October 2015

Sunshine on Scotland Street (A 44 Scotland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith


Paperback:

Dear friends, some questions occur
At quite the wrong moment;  as do those nagging doubts
As to whether we've done everything we needed to do - 
Rich territory, I believe, for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A party like this, composed of friends, may not be the place
For the question that comes to my mind;
I ask it, though because it seems to me
That although nobody likes a moralist, 
Especially at a party, this question
Is not just the moralist's preserve:
How, dear friends, are we to lead our lives?

Of the Decalogue I learned as a boy
Few commandments remain;
Fidelity, we're told, is neither here nor there
(Especially when you're having a good time)
It is quite de trop in fashionable circles - 
A meretricious view, I know;
While coveting the goods of others
Is positively encouraged by those slick
Practitioners of the advertiser's art
Who want us to have those things
We do not need but which they are so keen 
For us to buy;  the Buddhists are right:
You'll never satisfy a material appetite.

Honouring one's father and mother
Is hard when Dad is a donor, perhaps,
Or otherwise somewhere else, and
Mother has her career to consider.

But although the rules are vague
And widely disregard now
Some precepts remain:  live with love - 
That is a rule we all can understand;
Forgive those who need forgiveness,
Which I think is everybody, more or less;
Be kind - that, perhaps, is first and foremost
In any postmodern, newfangled
Code we devise for ourselves;
Yes, be kind, love one another,
And most of all tend with gentleness
The small patch of terra firma
That is allocated to each of us,
In our case, Scotland.

Wish that for Scotland there may burn,
As in all other places too,
A flame of Agape, that disinterested love,
Translated by Jamie Saxt as charity,
That illuminates our world,
That is our beacon, and in the darkness
Is our singular comfort, our sole night-light.

As the sun rises over the Georgian townhouses of Scotland Street, its most delightfully eccentric residents have burning questions on their minds.

Will Big Lou find true love at last?

How will Bertie's healthy snacks go down at his school fair?

And has Bruce Anderson really won the lottery?

With his trademark charm and deftness, Alexander McCall Smith combined understanding, kindness and, most of all, friendship in Sunshine on Scotland (2012), the eighth instalment in the gently insightful 44 Scotland Street novel series set in Edinburgh.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Discover the world of Alexander McCall Smith and his other books at AlexanderMcCallSmith.co.uk

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Woman Who Walked In Sunshine (The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series) by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  In this latest and sixteenth instalment (2015) of the beloved and best-selling series, Mma Ramotswe must contend with her greatest challenge yet - a vacation!

Business is slow at the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, so slow in fact that for the first time in her estimable career Precious Ramotswe has reluctantly agreed to take a holiday.  Her busy life gives her little time for relaxation apart from the drinking of tea, of course.

The promise of a week of uninterrupted peace is short-lived, however, when she meets a young boy named Samuel, a troublemaker who is himself in some trouble.

Once she learns more about Samuel's sad story, Mma Ramotswe feels compelled to step in and help him find his way out of a bad situation.  Despite this unexpected diversion, Mma Ramotswe still finds herself concerned about how the agency is faring in her absence.  Her worries grow when she hears that Mma Makutsi is handling a new and rather complicated case.

"I am going to bring my holiday to an end," she announced to Mr J L B Matekoni that evening.  "I have had enough."

A well-respected Botswanan politician is up for a major public honour, and his reputation is now being called into question by his rivals.  The man's daughter has contacted the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency to investigate these troubling claims, but, as in so many cases, all is not as it seems.  This leads Mma Ramotswe to join forces with a new assistant detective (and part-time science teacher), Mr Polopetsi.

Wherever the truth lay, there is an unresolved issue here - a mystery, so to speak - that needs to be resolved.  It is a fundamental article of faith in the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency that one does one's best for the client.  If Mma Makutsi is not going to do that - for whatever reason - then it is incumbent upon Mma Ramotswe to take responsibility for the matter, holiday or no holiday.

And then of course there is the agency's arch-enemy, Violet Sephotho, scheming to set up a rival secretarial college.

In the end, the investigation will affect everyone at the agency.  Lessons must be learned, whether we are willing or not, and in the end, Mma Ramotswe finds that a little trust goes a long way, especially when it comes to having confidence in our dearest friends and colleagues.  Lessons will also serve as a reminder that ordinary human failings should be treated with a large helping of charity and compassion.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Discover the world of Alexander McCall Smith and his other books at AlexanderMcCallSmith.co.uk

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Bertie Plays The Blues (A 44 Scotland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  Domestic bliss seems in short supply at 44 Scotland Street.  Matthew and Elspeth have increased their household by three, but the joys of multiple parenthood are rather lost on Matthew who is finding it hard enough to tell his new brood apart even without sleep deprivation.

At least he has the sense to take on former inamorata Pat to help at the Something Special gallery amidst a plan involving flowers and submarines.  But could he be about to find himself out in the cold with Big Lou?  The ever lovelorn café owner is hoping to find herself all shook up thanks to internet dating and an Elvis impersonator.  However, it appears Arbroath rather than Graceland could hold the key to her future happiness.

Artist Angus Lordie and anthropologist Domenica are trying to plan their wedding, but it seems to be heading off the rails.  The reappearance of an old flame doesn't help and Domenica's stress levels are set to increase when her friend Antonia - recovered from an attack of Stendhal Syndrome - decides to become a nun.

And what of 44 Scotland Street's first family, the Pollocks?  Dad, Stuart, is harbouring a secret about a secret society and Bertie is feeling kind of blue.  Having had enough of his neurotic hot-housing mother, he puts himself up for adoption on eBay.  Will he go to the highest bidder or will he have to take matters into his own hands?

Bertie Plays the Blues (2011) is the seventh book in the deliciously engaging 44 Scotland Street novel series.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The Importance Of Being Seven (A 44 Scotland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith


Paperback:

Dear friends, there is no timetable
For happiness;  it moves, I think, according
To rules of its own.  When I was a boy
I thought I'd be happy tomorrow, 
As a young man I thought it would be
Next week;  last month I thought
It would be never.  Today, I know
It is now.  Each of us, I suppose,
Has at least one person who thinks 
That our manifest faults are worth ignoring;
I have found mine, and am content.
When we are far from home
We think of home;  I, who am happy today,
Think of those in Scotland for whom 
Such happiness might seem elusive;
May such powers as listen to what is said
By people like me, in olive groves like this,
Grant to those who want friendship a friend,
Attend to the needs of those who have little,
Hold the hand of those who are lonely,
Allow Scotland, our place, our country,
To sing in the language of her choosing
That song she has always wanted to sing,
Which is of brotherhood, which is of love.

The Importance of Being Seven (2010) is the sixth volume in the ("joyous and charming portrait of city life and human foibles") 44 Scotland Street series.

Despite inhabiting a great city renowned for its impeccable restraint, the extended family of 44 Scotland Street is trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence.  Matthew and Elspeth receive startling - and expensive - news on a visit to the Infirmary, Angus and Domenica are contemplating an Italian ménage a trois, and even Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery.

But when Bertie Pollock - six years old and impatient to be seven - mislays his meddling mother Irene one afternoon, a valuable lesson is learned:  that wish-fulfilment is a dangerous business.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (A 44 Scotland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith


Hardback:  Since the comings and goings at 44 Scotland Street first appeared in daily episodes in the pages of The Scotsman newspaper in 2004, the inhabitants of the Edinburgh New Town house have become familiar to Alexander McCall Smith's army of fans.  The first serial novel, 44 Scotland Street, was collected in book form and became an instant hit both in the UK and the United States, where it appeared in the Top Ten of a number of bestseller lists across the country.

"This book and the four volumes that followed it represent a revival of an old-fashioned literary form that had more or less died out in the twentieth century:  the serial novel," wrote McCall Smith in the Preface.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones (2008) is the fifth in the bestselling 44 Scotland Street series.

Here we find Bertie, the precocious six-year-old, still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but finding escape in the Cub Scouts.  Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomises the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual.

Narcissistic Bruce is wrestling with a big lifestyle decision, and Angus Lordie, portrait painter and pet owner, grapples with unexpected canine problems.  And, finally, Angus's dog, Cyril, the gold-toothed star of the whole show, succumbs to the kind of temptation that no dog can resist.

They say never to work with children or animals but Alexander McCall Smith is undaunted.  With his unique mastery, he brings us an absorbing and entertaining tale of real people - all set in the beautiful, entrancing city of Edinburgh.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors.  His career has been a varied one:  for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad.  Then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty languages and become bestsellers through the world.

The series include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Sunday Philosophy Club series starring Isabel Dalhousie, the von Igelfeld series, and the new Corduroy Mansions novels.

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.  Both he and his wife are members of an amateur orchestra, the Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays the contra-bassoon.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Reversal Of Fortune (True Crime) by Alan M Dershowitz


Paperback:  "This case has everything," declared the prosecutor.  "It has money, sex, drugs;  it has Newport, New York and Europe;  it has nobility;  it has maids, butlers, a gardener.  Clarendon Court (the mansion where the critical events took place) has a big gate.  Most people can't see inside.  This case is where the little man has a chance to glimpse inside and see how the rich live."

The is the true story of Claus von Bülow - the handsome Danish aristocrat who was accused of twice trying to kill his beautiful American heiress wife, Martha "Sunny" von Bülow, née Crawford.  Everybody seemed to agree that Sunny was a lovely, giving and sensitive person but whatever the reason, Sunny and Claus grew apart over the years.

The prosecution contended that it began just three years before the jury rendered its judgment - guilty - in Newport, when Claus fell out of love with his wealthy wife, Sunny, and in love with a television soap-opera actress with a Danish aristocratic background named Alexandra Isles.  By mid-1979, Alexandra was insisting that they marry.  At Christmastime 1979, Sunny von Bülow suffered her first coma.  At Christmastime 1980, she suffered her final coma, lived in a permanent vegetative state for almost twenty-eight years until her passing in a New York nursing home in 2008.

The prosecution's basic theory was as simple as it was corny.  Claus was trapped in an unhappy marriage.  He did not love his incredibly wealthy wife but he did love her money and the lifestyle to which she gave him entrée.  He also loved Alexandra Isles but if he divorced Sunny and married Alexandra, he would have to cut back on his lifestyle and give up Sunny's money.  If he remained with Sunny (and her money), he would have to give up Alexandra, who had given him several ultimatums about divorce.

According to the prosecution, Claus chose not to choose.  He wanted both Sunny's money and Alexandra's hand.  The only way this could be achieved was for Sunny to die a natural death and so Claus arranged for Sunny to die a "natural death" by surreptitiously injecting her with insulin, a substance that is naturally in the body and that is difficult to distinguish from an externally administered overdose.

The diabolical plot remained uncompleted when Sunny recovered quickly from the first coma she suffered during the Christmas holiday in 1979.  It succeeded in part when Sunny fell into an irreversible coma during the following Christmas season.  But, it failed completely when Claus was indicted for attempted murder, when Alexandra left him and when he was denied access to Sunny's fortune.

Claus von Bülow claimed that the story had begun decades earlier - even before he met his wife - when Sunny started her decline into the netherworld of pills, drink and depression.  It was the defense's contention that Sunny had caused her own coma, either deliberately or inadvertently, either by injecting herself or by swallowing either insulin or barbiturates.

In the von Bülow case, the truth may never be learned to the satisfaction of all.  Sunny von Bülow will never speak.  Indeed, even she may not know precisely what occurred.  Between her two comas she was conscious and communicative for nearly a year, yet she provided no clue that she had any idea what had caused her first coma.  Claus von Bülow says he knows only that he never did his wife any harm.  They were no witnesses to any criminal acts.

This book will present the facts, first as the prosecution successfully presented them at the initial trial.  Then it will introduce the dramatic new evidence that came to light only after the verdict - new facts that cast an entirely different light both on the prosecution's version and on the dramatis personae of the case.  Finally, it will tell the story as it came out during the second trial.  It will recount these different stories through the mouths of the important witnesses, none of whom knows the whole story, but each of whom contributes an important part to the mosaic.

The von Bülow case is more than a simple "who done it?"  Besides Sunny von Bülow's comas being one of the most highly publicized medical and legal mysteries in the annals of American jurisprudence, it also presents the most perplexing question of whether anything criminal was done at all.  No eyewitness saw anything criminal.  The prosecutor acknowledged that the circumstantial evidence "leaves a number of questions which will forever go unanswered."

Reversal of Fortune (1986) will also tell a controversial story about how our legal system often serves to promote truth.  We hear so much these days about the courts freeing guilty defendants on legal technicalities.  That does sometimes happen but courts also reverse convictions in order to provide defendants with the tools necessary to establish their innocence.  That is what happened here and it is a fascinating story about civil liberties at work in the interest of enhancing truth almost forty years ago and undoubtedly is still happening today.

About the author:  Professor Alan M Dershowitz is Brooklyn native who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights,” “the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,” “the top lawyer of last resort,” “America’s most public Jewish defender” and “Israel’s single most visible defender - the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”  He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.  Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg.

He has also published more than 1000 articles in magazines, newspapers, journals and blogs such as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, Huffington Post, Newsmax, Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz.  Professor Dershowitz is the author of 30 fiction and non-fiction works with a worldwide audience, including The New York Times #1 bestseller Chutzpah and five other national bestsellers.  His autobiography, Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law, was published in October 2013 by Crown, a division of Random House.  Earlier titles include “an exceptional, action packed book,” The Trials of Zion, a novel which has been called “a thought-provoking page turner;”  Rights From Wrong, The Case For Israel, The Case For Peace, Blasphemy, Preemption, Finding Jefferson and Shouting Fire.

In addition to his numerous law review articles and books about criminal and constitutional law, he has written, taught and lectured about history, philosophy, psychology, literature, mathematics, theology, music, sports - and even delicatessens.

His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, William Styron, David Mamet, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua, Elie Wiesel, Richard North Patterson, and Henry Louis Gate, Jr.  More than a million of his books - translated in many languages - have been sold worldwide.

In 1983, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith presented him with the William O Douglas First Amendment Award for his "compassionate eloquent leadership and persistent advocacy in the struggle for civil and human rights."  In presenting the award, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said:  "If there had been a few people like Alan Dershowitz during the 1930s and 1940s, the history of European Jewry might have been different."  Professor Dershowitz has been awarded the honorary doctor of laws degree by Yeshiva University, Brooklyn College, Syracuse University, Tel Aviv University, New York City College, Haifa University and several other institutions of learning.  He has also been the recipient of numerous academic awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on human rights, a fellowship at The Center for The Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences and several Dean’s Awards for his books.

He has been the subject of two New Yorker cartoons, a New York Times crossword puzzle, and a Trivial Pursuit question.  A sandwich at Fenway Park has been named after him - pastrami, of course.

He is married to Carolyn Cohen, a PhD psychologist.  He has three children, one a film producer, one a lawyer for the Women’s National Basketball Association and one a professional actor.  He also has two grandchildren, one a college junior and the other a college freshman.

Dershowitz's areas of interest are 1) civil rights and civil liberties 2) comparative and foreign law:  Jewish Law and 3) trial practice.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Road To Happiness Is Always Under Construction (Biography) by Linda Gray


Hardback:  "My goal for this book is to share stories about my life, about the giving and receiving, and the things I've learned.  Some of the life lessons were hard but each made me wiser and less afraid.  I expect the lessons to keep on coming.  The road to happiness and wisdom is always under construction," affirmed Linda Gray.

When Linda Gray, iconic star of Dallas, was twenty years old, a magazine editor coldly rejected her as a model, writing that, perhaps one day, "you might shape into something."

Since then, Linda has been evolving and growing and has shaped into a role model for women of every age in her grace, beauty, generosity and wisdom.  She's been through more pain and tragedy than her longtime fans realize, having suffered paralyzing polio as a child, growing up with an alcoholic mother, landing in an emotionally abusive marriage at twenty-two and living by her husband's rules for sixteen years before she openly rebelled against him to take an acting class.

At thirty-eight, Linda got her big break as Larry Hagman's wife on Dallas.  With fame came a bitter, public divorce, trouble at home with her two kids, and the loss of her beloved sister to breast cancer.

Linda got through it all - the challenges of sexism in Hollywood and the pressures of being a single working mom - with a relentlessly positive attitude that kept her cruising with a few speed bumps to the place of serenity she thrives in now.

To celebrate her seventy-fifth birthday, Linda is opening up about her life for the first time.  Inside this book, she tells deeply personal stories with wit, humour and candour, and reveals how she's learned to love every day as the blessing it is and to treat herself with the kindness she bestows on friends and strangers alike.

"As I look back, I see that life has unfolded with divine timing and not without many speed bumps along the way.  There are three words I'd like to focus on:  Time, Love and Give.  They are my compass.  They define who I am and where I'm going," wrote Linda in The Road To Happiness Is Always Under Construction (2015).

Along with wisdom, Linda has accumulated a lot of practical tips about maintaining a healthy lifestyle - how to strengthen and detoxify your body, liberate your mind, and uplift your soul - and shares them as well.  Her message to "give, love, and shine, baby, shine" will fill anyone with inspiration to live life to the fullest, and never stop pursuing honesty and joy.

About the author:  Linda Gray is an award-winning actress, an accomplished director, a former United Nations Ambassador, and one of the world's most recognized and admired stars.  Her portrayal of Sue Ellen Ewing, in the original TV series Dallas, brought her international fame and critical acclaim.  The role also earned her an Emmy nomination for Best Actress, numerous international awards, and she was voted 'Woman of the Year' by The Hollywood Radio & Television Society.  She has appeared in numerous TV movies and the successful series Melrose Place, as well as starring in theatre productions on Broadway and in London's West End.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Year Of Living Danishly: Uncovering The Secrets Of The World's Happiest Country (Society/Travel) by Helen Russell


Paperback:  As an editor on a glossy magazine in London, Helen Russell appears to be living the dream.  Yet between the long hours, the endless commutes and the stresses of trying for a baby, life is gradually wearing her down.

Then her husband is offered a job in Denmark's rural Jutland and she discovers a startling statistic:  the land of long dark winters, pickled herring and pastries is officially the happiest place on earth.

So what do they know that we don't?

Are happy Danes just born that way?

Or can the rest of us get in on the act?

Helen decides there is only one way to find out:  she will give herself a year there, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.  The things she has learned in Denmark are

1)  Being well-lit is akin to a basic human right in Denmark

2)  Danish toddlers are the luckiest creatures in the world

3)  A snake autopsy passes for a fun day out in rural Jutland (ditto crab racing)

4)  Paying an extraordinary amount of tax isn't necessarily a bad thing

5)  Pastry and potatoes might just be the secret formula for happiness

From education, food and interior design to society anxiety disorder (SAD), childcare and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly (2015) is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong - and how we might all benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.

About the author:  Helen Russell is a journalist and former editor of MarieClaire.co.uk.  She now lives in rural Jutland and works as a Scandinavian correspondent for the Guardian as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph.  She can be found on Twitter @MsHelenRussell.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Trees by Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918)


Pleasure In The Pathless Woods


Maxine Kumin (1925-2014), American Poet And Author


The Killing Kind (True Crime) by M William Phelps


Paperback:  Heather Catterton was a beautiful, beloved seventeen-year-old when her body was found in the brush by a country road in South Carolina in October 2009.

In November 2009, sweet-natured Randi Saldana’s remains were then discovered, charred and unrecognizable, in a wooded area nearby.

For all their dissimilarities, the lives of the two victims intersected in a world of drugs and exploitation, a world where the unrepentant serial killer, Danny Hembree, preyed on vulnerable women.

In The Killing Kind (2014), bestselling investigative journalist M. William Phelps delves into the lives of Danny Hembree’s victims and reconstructs the twisting path from his horrifying crimes to his high-profile trial and conviction.  Additionally drawing on interviews with the killer himself, Phelps chillingly brings readers into the mind of a murderer.

In the latest from this heinous crime, The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Danny Hembree did not receive a fair trial in 2011, when he was found guilty and sentenced to death for the murder of 17-year-old Heather Catterton.  The court said prosecutors relied too heavily on evidence from Saldana's murder when arguing the Catterton case.  Hembree also pleaded guilty to killing another woman, 30-year-old Randi Saldana, and was sentenced to an additional 26 years in prison.  The court's decision does not affect the Saldana case.  Even though Hembree has been granted a new trial in the Catterton case, he remains in prison serving his sentence in the Saldana case.  Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell said it could take two years for Hembree to be retried because he will have to hire new attorneys to represent him. (Time Warner Cable News, 11 April 2015)

About the author:  Crime, murder and serial killer expert, creator/producer/writer and former host of the Investigation Discovery series Dark Minds, acclaimed, award-winning investigative journalist M William Phelps is the New York Times best-selling author of thirty books and winner of the 2013 Excellence in (Investigative) Journalism Award and the 2008 New England Book Festival Award.

A highly sought-after pundit, Phelps has made over 100 media-related television appearances:  Early Show, The Today Show, The View, Fox & Friends, truTV, Discovery Channel, Fox News Channel, Good Morning America, TLC, BIO, History, Oxygen, OWN, on top of over 100 additional media appearances:  USA Radio Network, Catholic Radio, Mancow, Wall Street Journal Radio, Zac Daniel, Ave Maria Radio, Catholic Channel, EWTN Radio, ABC News Radio, and many more.

Phelps is one of the regular and recurring experts frequently appearing on two long-running series, Deadly Women and Snapped.  Radio America calls Phelps “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer,” and TV Rage says, “M. William Phelps dares to tread where few others will:  into the mind of a killer.”  A respected journalist, beyond his book writing Phelps has written for numerous publications - including the Providence Journal, Connecticut Magazine and Hartford Courant - and consulted on the first season of the hit Showtime cable television series Dexter.

Phelps grew up in East Hartford, CT, moved to Vernon, CT, at age 12, where he lived for 25 years. He now lives in a reclusive Connecticut farming community north of Hartford.

Beyond crime, Phelps has also written several history books, including the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Nathan Hale:  The Life and Death of America’s First SpyThe Devil's Rooming House, The Devil's Right Hand, Murder, New England, and more.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Unscripted: My Ten Years In Telly (Non-Fiction) by Alan Sugar


Hardback:  'What are you trying to say?  That a village somewhere has lost an idiot?'

Alan Sugar's witty put-downs, his laser-beam glare and non-nonsense approach have won him legions of fans on the BBC's award-winning show The Apprentice, but how has the East End boy turned multi-millionaire - a man famously allergic to bullshit - coped for ten years in the arty-farty world of television?

In Unscripted (2015), Alan Sugar reveals how he did it his way.  He describes battling to get the CEO role on The Apprentice in the first place and bringing on board Nick Hewer, Margaret Mountford and later Karren Brady.  He remembers the candidates who impressed him and those who infuriated him, shares his favourite moments and reveals what happened to the winners after the cameras stopped rolling.

He also gets followed into the gents by an over-enthusiastic fan, explains to a baggy-jumpered, beanie-hat-wearing young director that he will NOT be spending all day filming a five-minute trail and refuses to let Piers Morgan make him cry.

Funny and outspoken, Unscripted is Alan Sugar at his entertaining best.

About the author:  Lord Sugar is the owner of Amshold Group Ltd and the popular star of the long-running BBC series The Apprentice.  Born in the East End of London, he is a self-made multi-millionaire whose entrepreneurial flair and talent for innovation saw him take his electronics company Amstrad from a one-man operation to an international market-leader.  He was knighted in 2000.

In 2009, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, appointed him as Enterprise Champion, to advise the government on small business and enterprise and he was also awarded a life peerage becoming Alan, Baron Sugar of Clapton, in the London Borough of Hackney.  He is the author of two top 10 bestselling books, What You See Is What You Get (2010) and The Way I See It (2011).

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Without A Trace (The Annika Bengtzon Series) by Liza Marklund


Paperback:  A family torn apart.  Another trying to find a way to be as one.

Ingemar Lerberg had it all: successful businessman, politician, husband, father until he is found, brutally beaten and left for dead, in his mansion in a fashionable district of Stockholm.

His wife, Nora, is missing.

With no alternative, his children are taken into care.

In one night, a family has been ripped apart.

Journalist Annika Bengtzon is assigned to the case.  As she delves into the horrifying details of this family's fate, she grapples too with the change in her own.  With her new boyfriend she must patch together a family from their respective children and stepchildren, and find a way for them all to live harmoniously.

Family matters above all else, but all is never as it seems.

Behind the scenes, darkness lies.

Without A Trace (2015) is the tenth book in the reporter Annika Bengtzon series set in Stockholm.

The eleventh book - The Final Word - in the series will be released on 2 June 2016.

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.

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