Friday, 28 October 2011

Serving Crazy with Curry by Amulya Malladi

"Eating is the great preoccupation of both primitive and civilized man.  But the savage eats from need, the civilized man from desire." - Alexander Dumas, Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine

Paperback blurb:  On the morning Devi decides to take her life, fate conspires against her.

Fate in the form of her mother Saroj, who uses her spare key to let herself into her younger daughter's apartment when she thinks she's at work.

But, having lost yet another job, and knowing she will never live up to the example her elder sister has set her as a traditional Indian wife, Devi had decided to take the easy way out.

But now it seems she can add suicide to her list of failings.

But whilst Saroj insists on telling the world that it was she who saved her daughter's life, Devi isn't sure what she's been saved for.

Forced to move back in with her parents until she is strong enough to resume her life, she adopts a vow of silence.

Instead, she begins to cook.

Wild, crazy concoctions that are so delicious the family is drawn again and again to the table.

As Devi's silence grows, so does her family's bewilderment at her behaviour.

Tension builds and others begin to talk.

And secrets are revealed that rock the family to its core . . .

Serving Crazy with Curry was first published in 2004.

My brief take:  This is my last reading book of the month!  Serving Crazy with Curry is a book about family relationships, growing up, cooking and food.  When the ultimate betrayal occurs, the kind that ends relationships and ruin families, it is not anger and hate that rule but love and forgiveness.  It is a funny and bittersweet story.  It is a feel-good book.  Recipes included.  Take time out to read.

Rating:  3/5

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

What a gorgeous cover!

After a very satisfying read of The Sound of Language (2007) by Amulya Malladi, I went back to the library to check out the author's back catalogue and found a couple of her books there and promptly brought them home to read.

Her writing is simple yet meaningful, with vivid descriptions and compelling characters.  Her story contains a human element and a lesson to learn, usually a positively encouraging one.

This one is set in India and if you have been home away from home and then come back home again, you will love this story for at the heart of it, it is a story of love and forgiveness and more often than not, it is also about the complicated institution known as family and all that it entails.

The Mango Season was first published in 2003.  Includes recipes.

Happy reading, everyone.

Paperback blurb:  The Mango Season is a lush and beautifully written novel from a highly acclaimed writer.

Priya Rao left India when she was twenty to study in America.

Now, seven years later, she has returned for a visit to discover her parents are intent on arranging her marriage to a suitable Indian boy.

She has arrived home in time for the harvesting of mangoes - the hottest time of the year and a time full of ritual and ceremony.

As a child she had loved this season best but, after years away, Priya finds the heat of an Indian summer overwhelming and everything about India seems different - dirtier and more chaotic than she remembers.

Her extended family are also consumed by talk of marriage - particularly the marriage of her uncle Anand, and his decision to marry not only for love but to marry a woman of a much lower caste.

Priya can only guess at what reaction her own engagement would provoke if she were to reveal that she has left behind a fiance in America, a fiance of an entirely different race and religion ...

Rating:  4/5

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Borderlands (The First Inspector Benedict Devlin Mystery) by Brian McGilloway

First line in the book:  It was not beyond reason that Angela Cashell's final resting place should straddle the border.

Hardback blurb:  Winter, 2002.

The corpse of local teenager Angela Cashell is found on the Tyrone-Donegal border, between the North and South of Ireland, in an area known as the Borderlands.

Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin heads the investigation.

The only clues are a gold ring placed on the girl's finger and an old photograph, left where she died.

While Devlin searches for the girl's killer, her father has his own ideas about who is responsible - and his own ideas about how to make them pay.

Meanwhile, Devlin becomes reacquainted with an old flame eager to rekindle their affair.

Then another teenager is murdered, and Devlin unearths a link between the recent killings and the disappearance of a prostitute, twenty-five years earlier - a case in which he fears one of his own colleagues is implicated.

As a thickening snow-storm blurs the border between North and South, Devlin finds the distinction between right and wrong, vengeance and justice, and even police-officer and criminal becoming equally unclear.

A dazzling and highly lyrical debut crime novel, Borderlands marks the beginning of a compelling new series featuring Inspector Benedict Devlin.

Borderlands was first published in 2007 and was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007.

About the author:  Brian McGilloway was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974, and is currently Head of English at St Columb's College, Derry.  Perviously he has written plays and short stories.  He lives near the Borderlands, with his wife and their two sons.  His other books in the series are Gallows Lane (2008), Bleed A River Deep (2009) and The Rising (2010).

My take:  This is a well-written and well-thought-out police procedural novel set very close to home - Ireland - from 2002-2003.  I cannot remember the last time I read a book set in Ireland, let alone a crime thriller.  An excellent review by Reading Matters brought me to pick up this book from my local library and expand my geographical read to literally next door!  I have not been disappointed.  I cannot add anymore to what Reading Matters wrote except to say why have I put it off for so long!  The setting on the Tyrone-Donegal border interests me and where a reviewer wrote of it, "'s land where nothing flourishes or grows because it claims no one and no one can claim it as home or as refuge.  It is the stuff of tragedy when a soul becomes a borderland of its own."  How apt.

Rating:  4/5

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Savage Altar (The Rebeca Martinsson Thriller, Book 1) by Åsa Larsson

Hardback blurb:  On the floor of a church in northern Sweden, the body of a man lies ritually mutilated and defiled - and in the night sky, the aurora borealis dances as the snow begins to fall.

Rebecka Martinsson is heading home to Kiruna, the remote town she'd left in disgrace years before.

A Stockholm tax lawyer, Rebecka has a good reason to return:  her friend Sanna, whose brother has been horrifically murdered in the church of the cult he helped create.

Beautiful and fragile, Sanna needs Rebecka to remove the shadow of guilt that is engulfing her, to forestall an ambitious prosecutor and to confront the rumours circulating in a closed and frightened community.

But to help her friend, and to find the real killer of a man she once adored and is now not sure she ever knew, Rebecka must relive the darkness she left behind in Kiruna, delve into a sordid conspiracy of deceit, and confront a killer whose motives are dark and impossible to guess.

About the author:  Åsa Larsson was born in Kiruna, Sweden, in 1966 and now lives in Mariefred.  A former tax lawyer, her debut The Savage Altar won Sweden's Best First Crime Novel Award in 2003 and on its publication in the UK in 2007 was shortlisted for the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger, awarded by The Crime Writers' Association for crime novels in translation.  The 2007 Swedish film Solstorm was based on this book.

Åsa Larsson's second novel, The Blood Split won the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2004.  Her other works are The Black Path (2008) and Until Thy Wrath Be Past (2011).

The Savage Altar is known as The Sun Storm (pictured above) in the USA.

The Savage Altar is translated from the Swedish into the English by Marlaine Delargy.

My take:  Expanding on my Swedish crime thriller reads with an author whom I have just discovered.  This one is as expected in terms of characters, plot and writing or in other words, not too different from other Nordic crime thrillers.  Packed with plenty of scares and chills - I am not talking about the Scandinavian weather - it shows a lot of promise for a debut.  Rebecka Martinsson and the pregnant policewoman Anna-Maria Mella are great characters, likeable and relatable.  Writing is clear-cut and to the point.  Amidst the gloom and doom, there is much wit and wry humour in the well-constructed dialogue.  Great description of a rural setting and all that it entails in the isolated northernmost part of Sweden.  Great description of the awful weather.  Other than that, all is pure fiction from a very promising author.

If you like dark and challenging crimes, then I guarantee you this is the start of a truly engrossing series.

More information can be found on Åsa Larsson's official website in German.

Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Comfort of Saturdays (Isabel Dalhousie, Book 5) by Alexander McCall Smith

A line from the book:  Conscience...walks with us;  an unobtrusive companion, unseen, perhaps, but still audible. - Chapter 13

Paperback blurb:  Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher and a reluctant sleuth.

When a chance conversation draws her into the case of a doctor whose career has been ruined, she cannot ignore what may be a miscarriage of justice.

Because for Isabel ethics are not theoretical at all: they are a matter of life and death.

As she attempts to unravel the truth, Isabel is also required to deal with challenges in her own life: spending more time with her son; looking after her niece Cat's delicatessen; and, most alarmingly, accommodating boyfriend Jamie's friendship with the thoroughly unlikeable Nick Smart, from which she's excluded.

While treading a difficult path between trust and gullibility, altruism and interference, Isabel keeps in her sights the small but certain comforts of family, philosophy and a fine Saturday morning.

The Comfort of Saturdays was first published in 2008 and in the USA, this book is entitled The Comforts of A Muddy Saturday.

My take:  Isabel Dalhousie more than often finds herself in a difficult position, being a philosopher as she is.  She agonises over things more frequently than the next person.  I think her biggest problem is she can hardly refuse to ignore a cry for help, be it from a stranger or a friend, and she knows it too.  She cannot help herself.  In fact, whatever situation that catches her moral attention, there she will be doing her best to help.  She is far from being a intermeddler, that she certainly is not.  When you get to know her well, you will find Isabel Dalhousie a very delightful and conscientious lady.  The setting of Edinburgh is the perfect backdrop for Isabel's sleuthing.  I am glad there are a few more books for me to go yet in this series.

Happy reading.

Rating:  3/5

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Abduction (Theodore Boone, Book 2) by John Grisham

First line in the book:  The abduction of April Finnemore took place in the dead of night, sometime between 9:15pm, when she last spoke with Theo Boone, and 3:30am, when her mother entered her bedroom and realized she was gone.

Hardback blurb:  Theodore Boone is back in a new adventure, and the stakes are higher than ever.

When his best friend, April, disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night, no one, not even Theo Boone - who knows April better than anyone - has answers.

As fear ripples through his small hometown and the police hit dead ends, it's up to Theo to use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to chase down the truth and save April.

Filled with the page-turning suspense that makes John Grisham a number one international bestseller and the undisputed master of the legal thriller, Theodore Boone's trials and triumphs will keep readers guessing until the very end.

The Abduction (2011) is a sequel to Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (2010).

What a cool trailer:

My brief take:  As usual, The Abduction is suitable reading for anyone, most notably young readers.  This time round, I did not think it appealed to me much mainly because the writing is too young for me, too easy, too high school.  If I were decades younger, I guess it would be a different story.  Not as good as the first Theodore Boone book which I liked very much.  I think I will be hanging my hat up on this series.  However, I will still recommend it to young readers because it is a pretty good inspiring story for them.  The next Theodore Boone book (Book 3), The Accused, will be released in May of 2012 so do look out for it.

Take time to read.

Rating:  3/5

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Northline by Willy Vlautin

The blurb:  At twenty-two, Allison Johnson is a lost young woman in need of a new start.

Down among the lowlifes in Las Vegas, clinging to drink and to Jimmy, the abusive boyfriend whose child she is expecting, she has hit rock bottom.

So when the opportunity arises to escape, Allison knows she must take it.

She reaches Reno with just a few dollars and her ever-present best friend - Paul Newman.

And as she struggles to start a better life it is imaginary conversations with the movie star's greatest characters and real acts of kindness from people she barely knows that might just rescue her from the difficult world she has found herself in.

Vlautin reading a passage from the chapter entitled 'T J Watson'.  I love the guitar accompaniment in the background.  Wish more authors would read out like this:

My take:  Northline (2008) follows The Motel Life (2006) which I finished reading a few days ago.  If you can call Vlautin's style of writing soulful, then it is a soulful piece of fine writing.  The success of this book is in the fine details of Allison's everyday life.  Again, the plot is simple and the writing is spare, and these combine to make the book a real comforting read.  Vlautin sure knows how to tell a story.  If there is one thing I have picked out from reading this book, it is to lighten up when things get us down.  I reckon it is another successful book by Vlautin.

Rating:  4/5

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Madeleine by Kate McCann

Madeleine:  (L) then and (R) age progression image as she would look today, five years on - 2012 


A line from the book:  And as is the case with so many things in life, it is impossible to predict how you will feel or react in a certain situation until you actually experience it for yourself - Chapter 2, Madeleine.

Still missing, still missed.

"The decision to publish this book has been very difficult, and taken with heavy hearts . . .  My reason for writing it is simple: to give an account of the truth . . .  Writing this memoir has entailed recording some very personal, intimate and emotional aspects of our lives.  Sharing these with strangers does not come easily to me, but if I hadn't done so I would not have felt the book gave as full a picture as it is possible for me to give.  As with every action we have taken over the last four years, it ultimately boils down to whether what we are doing could help us to find Madeleine.  When the answer to that question is yes, or even possibly, our family can cope with anything . . .

What follows is an intensely personal account, and I make no apology for that . . .

Nothing is more important to us than finding our little girl." - Kate McCann, May 2011 (hardback blurb)

Madeleine's Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Motel Life by Willy Vlautin

Last line in the book:  Because hope, it's better than having nothing at all.

Small-town western story.

In the Midwest.

Simple folks.

Nice folks.

Unluckily, bad luck visits them.

Narrated by Frank Flannigan, The Motel Life (2006) tells the story of how he and his brother Jerry Lee take to the road when bad luck catches up with them.

A reviewer said this book has heart and great writing and ambivalence and complexity and humour and life.

All in all, this book is a powerful debut and has had a lot of excellent reviews.

The plot is simple and therefore, no need for complicated and long-winded words.

It is a raw and honest story, just my kind of book.

More importantly, the message that the author wants to bring across in the story of the two brothers is hope, hope in a bad-luck-filled world.

The Motel Life won the Nevada Silver Pen Award in 2007.

About the author:  Willy Vlautin is the singer and main songwriter of the highly acclaimed band "Richmond Fontaine", whose albums include Winnemucca (2002), Post to Wire (2004) and The Fitzgerald (2005), described by Q as 'the most beautiful sad album of the year'.  Originally from Reno, he now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Other books by the author - Northline (2008) and Lean on Pete (2010).

The author's website.

Vlautin reads a passage from Chapter 2:

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 14 October 2011

Warning Signs (Alan Gregory Psychological Thriller, Book 10) by Stephen White

A good night's sleep does wonders to the brain.  I'm back from my break.

Stephen White has dedicated Warning Signs (published 2002) to teachers.  The author was a clinical psychologist and draws from his vast experience in the field to create the intriguing plots and characters in his terrific Alan Gregory psychological thrillers.

Warning Signs is a work of fiction but like all works of fiction, there is an issue or two that the author wishes to bring across to the readers.

In Warning Signs, the issue is a thought-provoking one involving ethics: as parents, can you believe that your child is evil or flawed or troubled?  More specifically, kids who might be at risk of voilent acting out.

What is it like for parents?  How sure are we that our child has crossed that line?  At what stage does a parent know enough to be responsible?  How much do we know our children in this day and age?  Should we have picked up the warning signs?  Do we give them up if we knew?

On the other side of the coin are the victims of injustice.  If these victims of injustice decide to act as vigilantes based on their own conclusions about events, then do their victims deserve what happens to them?

If you are wondering what the above grave questions are about, the author is actually referring to the Columbine High School massacre which occurred in 1999 at Columbine High School, Columbine, Colorado, USA, where two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold embarked on a massacre killing twelve students and a teacher.  Twenty-four other students were seriously injured.  The pair then committed suicide.

In the story, Alan Gregory's newest client is starting to alarm him.  Naomi Bigg is nervous and withdrawn and anxious to know Alan's opinions on the Columbine High School massacre.  As Alan gets Naomi to open up, he learns that her son and friend have compiled a hit list of people it would be 'cool' to blow up.  Alan is now torn between his patient-doctor confidentiality and warning the targets on the list - a list that includes, among others, his wife Lauren.

This is my first read of Stephen White's book and I am hooked.  I am only starting with the tenth book because that is what I could get from the library.  However, I have already placed an order for White's debut on Amazon.

This is an intelligent thriller series which is not so different from Michael Robotham's Joseph O'Loughlin series.  Both characters are clinical psychologist and married.  Only the settings are different.

I highly recommend this series and will embark on a journey to read his first novel, Privileged Information (1991), right through to Book 18, The Last Lie (2010).

Line of Fire (Book 19) is due to be released in 2012, the penultimate book of the series.

More information can be obtained on the bestselling author's official website.

I find the Stephen White interview very interesting.  In six parts courtesy of youtube:

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 13 October 2011

It's That Time Again!

There has been too much reading going on in my household, making trips to the bookshops and libraries, scouring new books on the internet, checking out scores of book blogs, ordering books from Amazon, talking and thinking books, so much so that my brain is now fried.

When even the funny book A Short Gentleman by Jon Canter cannot make me laugh, I knew it was that time again.

I think it is a good idea to take a short break from reading.

Be back soon.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Nemesis (Harry Hole series, Book 4) by Jo Nesbo

"Losing your life is not the worst thing that can happen.  The worst thing is to lose your reason for living." - Harry Hole (Chapter 41, S2MN)

Continuing with the seriously compelling Harry Hole series.  With Nesbo's books, you have to be on your toes all the time otherwise you could lose your thread.  That is because there are a lot of details and happenings going on all the time and to miss one detail out because you mistakenly deemed it minor, you would have to turn the pages back and read it again.  That is why it makes for compelling fiction.

Nemesis was awarded with the 'William Nygaard Bursary 2002'.

Shortlisted for the '2010 Edgar Award' for Best Novel.

Also shortlisted for the '2010 Macavity Awards' for Best Mystery Novel.

This book was translated from the Norwegian into the English by the talented Don Bartlett.

Norway's bestselling author introduces Nemesis (published 2008):

A passage - Chapter 2: The Astronaut - from Nemesis:

Take time to read.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi

Paperback blurb:  In this luminous story of bravery, tradition, and the power of language, an Afghan woman and a Danish widower form an unexpected alliance.

Escaping the turmoil and heartbreak of war-torn Kabul, Raihana settles with distant relatives in the strange, cold, damp country of Denmark.

Homesick and heartbroken, Raihana bravely attempts to start a new life, trying hard not to ponder the fate of her husband, who was taken prisoner by the Taliban and never heard from again.

Soon after arriving, Raihana finds herself in a language school, struggling to learn Danish, which she thinks sounds like the buzzing of bees.

To improve her speaking skills, Raihana apprentices herself to Gunnar, a recent widower who is steadily withdrawing from the world around him, even neglecting the bee colonies he worked so hard to cultivate with his late wife.

Over the course of the bee season, Raihana and Gunnar forge an unlikely relationship, despite the disapproval of their friends and relatives.

But when the violence Raihana thought she had left behind in Afghanistan rears its head, she and Gunnar are forced to confront the ghosts of the past as they navigate the uncertain future.

About the author:  Amulya Malladi was born and raised in India.  She lived in the United States for several years before moving to Denmark in 2002.  She now lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two sons.  More information and her other books can be found on her official website.

My take:  Beautifully and sensitively written.

The strength of the story lies in the portrayal of the interactions and relationship between two different people from differing backgrounds, traditions, nationalities and cultures and also with their families, friends and in their community.

Anyone who has emigrated or had to seek refuge in a foreign land will identify with the difficulties and problems, even discrimination, that Raihana and her relatives faced.  Certainly, the language is one of the major barriers facing these immigrants, especially a language like the Danish language.

The story also highlights the challenges facing the increasing number of refugees everywhere.  The author said that when she first moved to Denmark, she was struck by how refugees and immigrants in general are treated there.  She herself found it a difficult country to immigrate to because as an immigrant, you are expected to leave where you come from totally and completely and become Danish.  Hopefully, Danes will come to realize that immigrants have hopes and dreams just as much as the next person.  I think the story ends on a perfect note.

For some light-heartedness, there are facts about bees and how to keep them throughout the extremely harsh weather conditions of this small Scandinavian country to keep the story intriguing.

This has been an immensely enjoyable read for a quiet stay-at-home Sunday.

The Sound of Language is Malladi's fifth book published in 2007.

Take time to read.

Rating:  4/5

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hello Darlin': Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales about My Life by Larry Hagman (with Todd Gold)

Last lines in the book:  Don't worry.  Be happy.  Feel good.

That ol' J R Ewing is a mean, greedy and conniving Texan oil baron.

How can we ever forget?

Dallas, for those who grew up watching it, is a web of breakups, family fighting, backstabbing, scandal, sex, power, kidnappings, medical traumas, lies, big shoulder pads, adultery, sudden wealth, long-forgotten secrets, backroom deals, courtroom drama, jealousy, high finance, treachery, blackmail, hot-blooded romance, sizzling schemes, rodeos, good-looking cowboys, beautiful ladies, parties, glamour and bourbon.  You name it, you got it.  It was a phenomenal show!

'Who shot JR?' is probably the most asked question in the history of television and gripped viewers around the world.

The iconic J R Ewing is played by none other than the magnificent Larry Hagman who, with Todd Gold (who has written many articles about Larry Hagman), wrote his own autobiography about his very eventful and fulfilling life called Hello Darlin'.

Hagman is the polar opposite of his TV character.  In real life, he is charming, nice, funny, genuine, philanthropic and unpretentious.

I guarantee you will love this book because Hagman's life reads like a television drama itself!  Full of his escapades, some hilarious, some humbling, some entertaining, and some laugh-out-loud moments, and his many strengths and weaknesses, it is an incredible read.  I must admit it has been exactly a decade since Hello Darlin' was last published but if you were or are a fan of Dallas (I still am), you gotta read the book.

Fans of Dallas will be pleased to know that the new Dallas starring the infamous cast - Hagman himself, Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) - returns to TNT in the summer of 2012!

Newsflash: Dallas revamp to air on Channel 5 in 2012.

Watch this promotional trailer courtesy of youtube:

I do not rate biographies.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Chinese Whispers: Searching For Forgiveness In Beijing by Jan Wong

I came across this book when I received an email update from Reading Matters - which I subscribe to -where her excellent review got me interested in finding out more about this particular book and the author behind it.

Chinese Whispers (published in 2007 as Beijing Confidential in Canada) is classified as a non-fiction book.

It is a true and cathartic account of a one-of-a-kind tale by the controversial journalist, Jan Wong, in search of forgiveness in Beijing, as the title points out.

Apparently, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, the then starry-eyed Maoist - ignorant, innocent and idealistic - had reported a student to the authorities for wanting to go to America.  Why did she do it?  She claimed she was ignorant and naive.

Thirty-three years on, Wong returns to Beijing to search for the woman who has haunted her conscience.

She hopes to apologise, perhaps somehow to make amends.

She only has a month to find the woman she betrayed.

Can she do it in a country of 1.3 billion people?  Above all, she knew and still knows nothing about the woman she betrayed.  How is she even going to begin searching for the woman?

This is a memorable and entertaining read about a woman who, preoccupied by the past, finally uncovers the truth about the woman she wronged.

We can all take a leaf out of Wong's book.

About the author:  Jan Wong is a third-generation Canadian of Chinese ancestry, born and raised in Montreal.  She was the much-acclaimed Beijing correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail from 1988 to 1994.

A graduate of McGill University, Beijing University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, her first book, Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now, was named one of Time magazine's top ten books of 1996 and remains banned in China.

She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons.

Her latest book, Out of the Blue: A Memoir of Loss, Recovery, Renewal and Yes, Happiness (2011) is about her depression and the controversy with the Globe.

Jan Wong talks frankly to George Stroumboulopoulos about her book back in 2007 in this youtube video:

As this is a true account of a brave lady's personal journey to come to terms with her past and to make amends for it, I will not be giving the book a rating.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Cut (Spero Lucas thriller series) by George Pelecanos

Hardback blurb:  Spero Lucas has a new line of work.

Since he returned home after serving in Iraq, he has been doing special investigations for a defence attorney.

He's good at it, and he has carved out a niche: recovering stolen property, no questions asked.

His cut is forty per cent.

A high-profile crime boss who has heard of Lucas's speciality hires him to find out who has been stealing from his operation.

It's the biggest job Lucas has ever been offered, and he quickly gets a sense of what's going on.

But before he can close in on what's been taken, he tangles with a world of men whose amorality and violence leave him reeling.

Is any cut worth your family, your lover, your life?

Spero Lucas is George Pelecanos's greatest creation, a young man making his way in the world one battle and one mission at a time.

The first in a new series of thrillers featuring Lucas, The Cut (published on 25 August 2011) is absolute proof of Pelecanos's unrivalled calibre in the world of American crime writing.

Brief bite about the author:  George Pelecanos is an independent-film producer, an essayist, the recipient of numerous international writing awards, a producer and an Emmy-nominated writer on the HBO hit series The Wire, and the author of a bestselling series of novels set in and around Washington, DC.  He currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series Treme.  He lives in the Washington DC suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and three children.

George Pelecanos's official websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Pelecanos on The Cut and a fascinating way to read from his book (a passage from Chapter Sixteen).  Other authors should do it more often, don't you think?:

USA Today review and video - 28 August 2011.

My take:  A simple and short but effective story.  The writing is a bit sparse and thin but I thought it very well-written with lots of details regarding the setting in DC, places and landmarks.  Checked out some of the eateries and they actually exist!  The music Pelecanos mentioned in the book are not to my taste but no doubt suited the story.  Would like to get to know a little more about this interesting young war veteran, perhaps he will show more of his personality in subsequent books.  Must say he has impeccable taste in food though.  Overall, an enjoyable quick read.  

When most book series are already well-known and well-developed, I, for one, applaud Pelecanos for starting a new one and shall look forward to the second in the Spero Lucas series.

Rating:  4/5

Sunday, 2 October 2011

How do I love thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The Redbreast (Harry Hole series, Book 3) by Jo Nesbo

Nesbo's books, I discover, are long (at least 500 pages), but they are seriously compelling and utterly gripping.  October, when the weather changes from Indian summer to autumny cool later on in the month, is a good time to start reading through the Harry Hole series.

The Redbreast was awarded 'The Norwegian Booksellers' Prize 2000' for Best Novel of the Year.

Four years later, Norwegian book clubs voted the book as the 'Best Norwegian Crime Novel Ever Written'.

It was also shortlisted for the '2007 Duncan Lawrie International Dagger'.

Nesbo introduces The Redbreast (2006):

The spectacular trailer:

More information and reviews on the author's official website.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Conspiracy of Friends (Corduroy Mansions series, Book 3) by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardback blurb:  It's a conspiracy!  Everyone in Corduroy Mansions - that crumbling but beloved mansion block in London's Pimlico - seems to be struggling with their nearest and dearest.

The fine, but crucial, line between friendship and romance has become somewhat blurred to fine art graduate Caroline, whilst over at the Ragg Porter Literary Agency business rivalry leads to an unseemly tussle over the ownership of Autobiography of a Yeti.

In the Snark household, psychoanalyst Berthea suffers on two fronts: her brother Terence Moongrove indulges his penchant for fast cars, whilst her son Oedipus Snark MP, is the unacceptable face of the Liberal Democrats.

Even easygoing wine merchant William French finds his loyalties are tested on a visit to friends in Suffolk, and his troubles increase when his faithful Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, disappears on a mystery tour around the surrounding countryside.

Will he find his way back?

Is this the end of Freddie de la Hay?

Is this the end of Corduroy Mansions?

In the third volume of the lives of the residents of Corduroy Mansions, Alexander McCall Smith's genius for storytelling and eye for the quirky details of modern life conspire to effortlessly produce page after page of witty and entertaining episodes, and beautifully observed characters.

And with friends like these, who needs, well, anything else?

My brief take:  With lively characters and never a dull moment, The Conspiracy of Friends (2011) is an excellent and highly original series - a favourite of mine - and one which I highly recommend.  I look forward to the next one, whenever that is.

Online audio on The Telegraph.

Review by The Scotsman.

Rating: 5/5