Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the IMDB Exposé Investigated and Reported By Clare Rewcastle Brown

Paperback:  The Sarawak Report (2018) is the stranger-than-fiction tale of how one woman uncovered the world's biggest theft which, in 2018, brought down the Malaysian government.

Investigating the deforestation of Sarawak, Borneo, and the dispossession of its people, journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown followed a trail of corruption that led her to the heart of Malaysian politics and to Prime Minister Najib Razak himself.

Determined that the public should know the truth, she started a blog, which became Malaysia's go-to news outlet for information that the government was trying to suppress  - and whistleblowers wanted to get out.  She was soon running a radio station too.

To nail down absolute proof, Rewcastle Brown criss-crossed the globe and, defying danger, pieced together the evidence of the 1MDB scandal - the theft of billions from the country's sovereign wealth fund.

Her reporting - exposing the shady dealings of international politicians, finance powerhouses, prominent PR firms and Hollywood glitterati - convulsed Malaysian politics and reverberated around the world.  The US government made its largest ever kleptocracy asset seizure, while banks and bankers fell.

Sweeping in scope, The Sarawak Report provides a jaw-dropping behind-the-scenes narrative of Malaysia's recent turbulent political struggles, revealing, as never before, how government-funded cyber-warfare and fake news operate, and in an era of threadbare mainstream media, demonstrating that epoch-changing investigative journalism is still possible. 

The Sarawak Report is an urgent account of the reality of globalisation - and the astonishing story of how one person made a difference.

"The Sarawak Report is not just a morality tale about corruption in high places.  It is a morality tale about how the economic jungle of modern globalisation costs ordinary citizens.  At last, thanks to Clare's detailed research, the truth is coming out." - The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

About the author:  Clare Rewcastle Brown is a British investigative journalist.  Born in the former British Crown Colony of Sarawak (now part of Malaysia), she is the founder of The Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak which are openly critical of the Barisan Nasional-led state government of Sarawak.  These days, she writes about Malaysia and global corruption.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

The Gospel of Mary: A Month with the Mother of God by Gabriel Amorth, SSP

Paperback:  "Mary..., the Mother of Fairest Love, will be for Christians on the way to the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium the Star which safely guides their steps to the Lord.  May the unassuming Young Woman of Nazareth, who two thousand years ago offered to the world the Incarnate Word, lead the men and women of the new millennium towards the One who is 'the true light that enlightens every man'. (Jn 1:9)"

Taking up the invitation of the Holy Father, the author develops a Marian itinerary in thirty-one reflections in which he covers all the evangelical events in the life of the Virgin Mother, explains and enlarges on the meaning of the Marian dogmas, and throws light on her liturgical feasts and popular devotions.

The Gospel of Mary (2000) is a book of sound doctrine and easy reading and will be a treasure to those who are looking to deepen their own spiritual life and love for her who is Mother of the Church and Mother of us all.

About the author:  Gabriel Amorth, SSP, was born in Modena, Italy in 1925.  After having received a degree in Jurisprudence, he entered the Society of St Paul where he was ordained a priest in 1954.  In these years, he has acquired a certain amount of fame as an exorcist, but his true specialization has always been in the field of Mariology.  The author of four books on the Madonna, he was for many years the editor of the Italian monthly magazine Madre di Dio (Mother of God).  The promoter of many Marian initiatives, among them the consecration of Italy to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1959, he was a member of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the Salesian Marian Academy.  Amorth died at the age of 91 on 16 September 2016.

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Colours Of All The Cattle (The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardback:  If you punish somebody harshly, then you are simply inflicting more pain on the world.  You are also punishing not only that person, but his family and the people who love him.  You are punishing yourself, really, because we are all brothers and sisters in this world, whether we know it or not;  we are all citizens of the same village. - Mma Ramotswe

The Colours of All The Cattle (2018) is the new Botswana book from bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith and Mma Ramotswe's nineteenth and latest gloriously delightful adventure, where she finds herself running for office - much to her dismay.

When Mma Potokwane suggests to Mma Ramotswe that she run for a seat on the Gaborone City Council, Mma Ramotswe is at first reluctant.  But when she learns that developers plan to build the flashy Big Fun Hotel next to a graveyard, she allows herself to be persuaded.  Her opponent is none other than Mma Makutsi’s old nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who is in the pocket of the hotel developers. Although Violet is intent on using every trick in the book to secure her election, Mma Ramotswe refuses to guarantee anything beyond what she can deliver; hence her slogan: “I can’t promise anything but I shall do my best.”

Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has acquired a new client:  one of her late father’s old friends, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident.  Charlie volunteers to be the lead investigator in the case to prove he’s ready to be more than an apprentice, as well as to impress a new girlfriend.

With Charlie’s inquiries landing him in hot water and Election Day fast approaching, Mma Ramotswe will have to call upon her good humour and gen­erosity of spirit to help the community navigate these thorny issues, and to prove that honesty and compassion will always carry the day.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is the author of over eighty books on a wide array of subjects, including the award-winning The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  He is also the author of the Isabel Dalhousie novels and the world's longest-running serial novel, 44 Scotland Street. His books have been translated into forty-six languages.  Alexander McCall Smith is Professor Emeritus of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and holds honorary doctorates from thirteen universities.

Rating:  5/5

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Reckoning by John Grisham

Hardback:  October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi. 

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son - a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. 

Pete’s only statement about it to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family was: “I have nothing to say.”

He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.  And so the murder of the esteemed Reverend Bell became the most mysterious and unforgettable crime Ford County had ever known.
In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II;  from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.

Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning (2018) would not be complete without Grisham’s signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page.

About the author:  John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player.  After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.  One day, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants.  Getting up at 5am every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987.

His next novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and became the bestselling novel of 1991.  Since then, he has written one novel a year, including The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker and The Runaway Jury.  Today, Grisham has written a collection of stories, a work of nonfiction, three sports novels, four kids' books, and many legal thrillers.  His work has been translated into 42 languages.  He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Librarian by Salley Vickers

Hardback:  In 1958, Sylvia Blackwell, fresh from one of the new post-war Library Schools, takes up a job as children's librarian in a run down library in the market town of East Mole.

Her mission is to fire the enthusiasm of the children of East Mole for reading.

But her love affair with the local married GP, and her befriending of his precious daughter, her neighbour's son and her landlady's neglected grandchild, ignite the prejudices of the town, threatening her job and the very existence of the library with dramatic consequences for them all.

The Librarian (2018) is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all.

About the author:  Salley Vickers is the author of many acclaimed novels including the best-selling Miss Garnet's Angel, Mr Golightly's Holiday, The Other Side of You and The Cleaner of Chartres (2012) and two short story collections, the latest The Boy Who Could See Death (2015).  She has worked as a cleaner, a dancer, a teacher of children with special needs, a university lecturer and a psychoanalyst.  She now writes and lectures full time.

Find out more at or @SalleyVickers.

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 9 November 2018

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Hardback:  Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever?  In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out.

Nine people gather at a remote health resort.  Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they cannot even admit to themselves.  Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work.

But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut.  She is immediately intrigued by her fellow guests.  Most of them do not look to be in need of a health resort at all.  But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House.  Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking?  Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer - or should she run while she still can?

It is not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers (2018) once again shows why she is a master of her craft.

About the author:  Liane Moriarty is the bestselling author of eight novels:  Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist's Love Story, The Husband's Secret, Big Little Lies, Truly Madly Guilty and Nine Perfect StrangersThe Husband's Secret is a worldwide bestseller which has sold more than three million copies and been translated into over forty languages.  Big Little Lies is now an Emmy and Golden Globe-winning HBO series, produced by and starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon.  Liane lives in Sydney with her husband, son and daughter.

Rating:  3/5

Monday, 5 November 2018

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Paperback:  Sixteen years on from his last novel, Bernard MacLaverty reminds us why he is regarded as one of the greatest living Irish writers.

A retired couple, Gerry and Stella Gilmore, fly from their home in Scotland to Amsterdam for a long weekend - a holiday to refresh the senses, to do some sightseeing, and generally to take stock of what remains of their lives.  Their relationship seems safe, easy, familiar.

But over the course of the four days we discover the deep uncertainties that exist between them.

Gerry, once an architect, is forgetful and set in his ways.  Stella is tired of his lifestyle, worried about their marriage, and angry at his constant undermining of her religious faith.  Things are not helped by memories that have begun to resurface of a troubled time in their native Ireland.

As their midwinter break comes to an end, we understand how far apart they are - and can only watch as they struggle to save themselves. 

MacLaverty is a master storyteller, and Midwinter Break (2017) is the essential MacLaverty novel:  accurate, compassionate observation;  effortlessly elegant writing;  and a tender, intimate, heartrending story. Yet it is also a profound examination of human love and how we live together, a chamber piece of real resonance and power.  Forty years after his first book, MacLaverty has written his masterpiece.

About the author:  Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast and lived there until 1975 when he moved to Scotland with his wife, Madeline, and four children.  He has been a Medical Laboratory Technician, a mature student, a teacher of English and, for two years in the mid eighties, Writer-in-Residence at the University of Aberdeen.  After living for a time in Edinburgh and the Isle of Islay he now lives in Glasgow.  He is a member of Aosdana in Ireland and is Visiting Writer/Professor at the University of Strathclyde.

Currently he is employed as a teacher of creative writing on a postgraduate course in prose fiction run by the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

He has published five collections of short stories and four novels.  He has written versions of his fiction for other media - radio plays, television plays, screenplays.  Recently he wrote and directed a short film 'Bye-Child'.

Rating:  5/5

Also Me

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Conclave by Robert Harris

Paperback:  Oh Lord, he still has so much to do, whereas all my useful work in Your service is completed. He is beloved, while I am forgotten. Spare him, lord. Spare him. Take me instead.

The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election.

They are holy men.  But they have ambition.  And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

About the author:  Robert Harris is the author of nine best-selling novels:  Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy.  Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski.  His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages.  He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Silence: A Series Of Conferences Given By A Camaldolese Hermit (Christian Literature)

Paperback:  Unfortunately, today the ascetical part of our spiritual life does not have many admirers, still less, followers.

Many would like to reach the peak of perfection in a very short time, without any mortification or self-denial.

To them it seems that love is all that is needed because it is the bond of perfection.

What they say is correct but incomplete - they do not fully understand how many sacrifices are demanded by Christian love.

We cannot really love God and our brothers if we do not die to ourselves.

In order to love perfectly God and our neighbour, we must practically give up many things and accept many sacrifices.

Love asks for courageous and generous sacrifices!  "Love must hurt us," said Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

- from the Concluding Conference

A Call To A Deeper Love: The Family Correspondence Of The Parents Of Saint Thérèse Of The Child Jesus 1863-1885 by Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin

Paperback:  The 218 letters of Zélie and the 16 letters of Louis Martin reproduced in these pages provide us with a treasury of rich insights into the lives and spirituality of these two individuals who were Beatified by the Church on October 19, 2008 at the Basilica of St Thérèse in Lisieux, France. 

We are given here a series of snapshots revealing the tone and texture of the lives of these two saintly, and in many ways, very ordinary people.  The incidents described in these pages give us access to the honesty and intimacy of the lives of the parents of St Thérèse never meant for the general public. They greatly enrich our understanding of this charismatic couple who radiated holiness and brought to life the greatest saint of the modern age.  They underscore the fact that sainthood is a family project of parents and children immersed in the God of love.  They call us to a deeper love for God, for each other and for the poor in our midst and invite us to accept whatever the will of God may be for us in our lives, however confusing and painful that may be, and to have total trust and confidence in Him.  The anguish of losing four of their nine children, the economic reverses that threatened their businesses, Zélie's losing battle with breast cancer and the Alzheimer's disease suffered by Louis are all brought vividly to light in these letters as is the undying love of this model couple for one another.

As St Thérèse wrote: "God has given me a father and mother more worthy of heaven than of earth."

The present volume has been invaluably enhanced by Dr Fran Renda through a large number of expanded footnotes and other introductory material explaining the background, the times and the customs that prevailed in France during the years in which these letters were written.

Guy Gaucher, Auxiliary Bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux and the Sisters of Lisieux are responsible for the preface, the notes and the overall presentation of the text which has been flawlessly translated into English by Ann C Hess.

Two 16-page color sections replete with hither-to-now unseen photographs of the family from this time (1863-1885) make this work an invaluable treasure for the afficionados of St Thérèse and her parents.

A Call To A Deeper Love (2011) is translated by Ann Connors Hess and edited by Dr Frances Renda.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Snakehead: An Epic Tale Of The Chinatown Underworld And The American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe

Hardback:  The story of the Golden Venture is a particular one, but the questions it raises have relevance throughout the world. 

How can governments combat the growth of organized human smuggling?

How should individual countries handle the influx of undocumented migrants seeking work?

How can an asylum policy be both efficient and fair without becoming a magnet that actually induces poor people to leave their homes and risk their lives in the expectation that if they can survive the journey, they will receive asylum once they arrive?

In the 1980s, a wave of Chinese from Fujian province began arriving in America.  Like other immigrant groups before them, they showed up with little money but with an intense work ethic and an unshakeable belief in the promise of the United States.  Many of them lived in a world outside the law, working in a shadow economy overseen by the ruthless gangs that ruled the narrow streets of New York’s Chinatown.

The figure who came to dominate this Chinese underworld was a middle-aged grandmother known as Sister Ping.  Her path to the American dream began with an unusual business run out of a tiny noodle store on Hester Street.  From her perch above the shop, Sister Ping ran a full-service underground bank for illegal Chinese immigrants.

But her real business-a business that earned an estimated $40 million-was smuggling people.

As a “snakehead,” she built a complex - and often vicious - global conglomerate, relying heavily on familial ties, and employing one of Chinatown's most violent gangs to protect her power and profits. Like an underworld CEO, Sister Ping created an intricate smuggling network that stretched from Fujian Province to Hong Kong to Burma to Thailand to Kenya to Guatemala to Mexico.  Her ingenuity and drive were awe-inspiring both to the Chinatown community - where she was revered as a homegrown Don Corleone - and to the law enforcement officials who could never quite catch her.

Indeed, Sister Ping’s empire only came to light in 1993 when the Golden Venture, a ship loaded with 300 undocumented immigrants, ran aground off a Queens beach.  It took New York’s fabled “Jade Squad” and the FBI nearly ten years to untangle the criminal network and home in on its unusual mastermind.

The Snakehead (2009) is a panoramic tale of international intrigue and a dramatic portrait of the underground economy in which America’s twelve million illegal immigrants live.  Based on hundreds of interviews, Patrick Radden Keefe’s sweeping narrative tells the story not only of Sister Ping, but of the gangland gunslingers who worked for her, the immigration and law enforcement officials who pursued her, and the generation of penniless immigrants who risked death and braved a 17 000 mile odyssey so that they could realize their own version of the American dream.

The Snakehead offers an intimate tour of life on the mean streets of Chinatown, a vivid blueprint of organized crime in an age of globalization and a masterful exploration of the ways in which illegal immigration affects us all.

Grand in scope yet propulsive in narrative force, The Snakehead (2009) is both a kaleidoscopic crime story and a brilliant exploration of the ironies of immigration in America.

About the author:  Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker, an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Snakehead and Chatter.  His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York, and The New York Review of Books, among others and he is a frequent commentator on NPR, the BBC, and MSNBC.  Patrick received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story “A Loaded Gun,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Invicta: The Life And Work Of Daphne Caruana Galizia edited by Joseph A Debono and Caroline Muscat

Hardback:  Freedom consists of this:  Who has useful advice to give to the state?  The person who provides such advice gains fame while the person who does not wish to do so remains silent.  What can be more just in the state? - Euripides, The Suppliants, verses 437-441.

On 16 October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, the most formidable Maltese journalist of her time, was murdered by a bomb placed under her car. That bomb did not just kill one of the most prominent characters in the history of Malta since Independence, it also tore a hole right through Maltese society and politics. For over thirty years, Daphne took a pen to Maltese society and politics and, wielding it like a razor, shaved as close to the flesh as she possibly could. Her cause was democracy in its fullest sense, Daphne insisted that democracy was not just majority rule, it also comprised minority rights, checks and balances, rule of law, autonomy of the institutions, accountability and good governance. Above all, she upheld freedom of expression as the fundamental instrument through which to scrutinise authorities and hold them to account. For her pains, she was demonised and came under sustained fire for all those thirty years, but not once did she wilt or flinch.

“Invicta” means “the unconquered woman” and there is no more fitting epithet for Daphne than this. For she died with pen in her hand and unyielding to the very end. To pay tribute and to commemorate Daphne’s significant contribution to democracy and to journalism, this book brings together an array of Maltese and international academics, journalists and friends. It is time to reflect deeply on Daphne and her legacy.

Invicta (2017) does just that.

All profits for this book will go to Dar Merħba Bik, as chosen by Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family.

Editors' Note:  This book brings together a group of academics, journalists and friends to reflect on the life and work of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the circumstances of her death.  Contributions have been written in the style of a newspaper or magazine column and many contain opinion and speculation.  As far as these opinions, speculations and even analyses are concerned, the reader should be aware that these are the views of their authors alone and may not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial team.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Eve Was Framed: Women And British Justice (Law/Women's Studies) by Helena Kennedy

Paperback:  Eve Was Framed (1992) offers an impassioned, personal critique of the British legal system.

Helena Kennedy focuses on the treatment of women in our courts - at the prejudices of judges, the misconceptions of jurors, the labyrinths of court procedures and the influence of the media.

But the inequities she uncovers could apply equally to any disadvantaged group - to those whose cases are subtly affected by race, class poverty or politics, or who are burdened, even before they appear in court, by misleading stereotypes.

About the author:  Helena Kennedy QC is one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers and public figures.  She is a regular broadcaster, journalist and lecturer and throughout her career has focussed on giving voice to those who have least power in the system, championing civil liberties and civil rights.  Her 1992 book, Eve Was Framed, led to a number of key reforms for women and was followed in 2004 by Just Law.  She was the Master of Mansfield College, University of Oxford, from 2011 to 2018, and was awarded a life peerage in 1997.  Born in Glasgow, she lives in London.