Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten

The Glass Devil (2007) is the third book in the Inspector Irene Huss series.  The first two books - Detective Inspector Huss (2003) and The Torso (2006) - in the series are set in Sweden alone but The Glass Devil encompasses both Sweden and England.  This is an unputdownable and intelligent police procedural which captures the best in tension, psychological component, complexity and characterisation and I highly recommend that you check out this outstanding series.  The next and fourth book in the series will be out on 22 March 2012 entitled Night Rounds or you can get it earlier on Kindle on 14 February 2012.  All books are translated from the Swedish into the English by Katarina E Tucker.

Hardback blurb:  Detective Inspector Irene Huss of the Goteburg crime force and her boss drive out to a remote cottage in snowbound southern Sweden as a favor to his cousin, a school principal.  They have been asked to look into a teacher's absence from school.

In the cottage, they find the body of a man, killed by two shotgun blasts.  Jacob Schyttelius's absence is explained:  he has been murdered.

When they go to the rectory to break the news to his elderly parents, Pastor Sten Schyttelius and his wife, they find the couple dead in their beds.  Each has been shot between the eyes.  On their son's computer screen and on theirs, upsidedown pentagrams have been drawn in blood.  Could these murders be the work of a Satanic cult?  But there are plenty of suspects in the parish with motives ranging from ambition to greed.

The only surviving member of the family is a daughter living in England.  Irene Huss has a hunch that the answer lies with her, but Rebecka is too distraught to be interviewed.  Irene refuses to take no for an answer.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Drop (Harry Bosch, Book 17) by Michael Connelly

Videos on The Drop and Connelly's views on the book industry:

An exclusive on "Room 79":

The Drop is the seventeenth book in the Harry Bosch series published in October 2011.  Connelly has done it again, it is a winner and comes very highly recommended.  For more information, go to www.michaelconnelly.com

A review by a foreign newspaper, The Star (25 March 2012)

Rating:  6/5

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Year of the Dragon 2012

This year's Chinese New Year has passed me by without my even being aware of it - how did it happen?  Last year, I did eight posts on books with a Chinese theme leading up to the auspicious occasion but this year, I am oblivious to this annual spring festival celebrated by Chinese people all over the world.  No matter, I am still on time as today is the third day of the Chinese New Year and the celebrations are still underway.  Thus, I deem it not too late to introduce a couple of books from my bookshelf which carry a Chinese theme and which will now occupy my time for the rest of the month of January.  I thought it apt to choose a fiction (first book) and a non-fiction (second book).  Gong Xi Fa Cai.

1)  Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates

Paperback blurb:  This is Judy Fong Bates's eagerly awaited debut novel.  Set in a small Ontario town in the 1960s, Midnight at the Dragon Cafe (2003) is the story of a young girl whose life is changed over the course of one summer when she learns the burden of secrets and, ultimately, the grace of forgiveness.

Su-Jen and her parents settle uneasily into their new life in a town where they are the only Chinese family, isolated by language and long hours at the diner they own.  Things change when Lee-Kung, Su-Jen's half-brother, arrives.  He works in the kitchen and smoulders under the responsibilities he must carry as the dutiful son, forming an alliance with his mother, a beautiful, a bitter step-mother.  Su-Jen's father, one of the lo wa kew, the "old timers" generation, works continually for a better future and strives to save face at all costs.

In simple, intimate prose, Judy Fong Bates vividly captures a time and place and the complexity of a childhood divided by two cultures and touched by unspoken secrets and unfulfilled longings.

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe is an original, haunting novel that reveals universal truths about loss and discovery.

About the author:  Judy Fong Bates came to Canada as a young girl and grew up in several small Ontario towns.  She is the author of the short-story collection China Dog:  And Other Tales from a Chinese Laundry (1997) and The Year of Finding Memory (2010).  She lives in Toronto.

Videos on Midnight at the Dragon Cafe and Judy Fong Bates at the Toronto Reference Library in 2011:

2)  The Corpse Walker:  Real-Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu

Paperback blurb:  The Corpse Walker (2008) introduces us to regular men and women at the bottom of Chinese society, most of whom have been battered by life but have managed to retain their dignity:  a professional mourner, a human trafficker, a public toilet manager, a leper, a grave robber, and a Falun Gong practitioner, among others.

By asking challenging questions with respect and empathy, Liao Yiwu managed to get his subjects to talk openly and sometimes hilariously about their lives, desires, and vulnerabilities, creating a book that is an instance par excellence of what was once upon a time called "the New Journalism."

The Corpse Walker reveals a fascinating aspect of modern China, describing the lives of normal Chinese citizens in ways that constantly provoke and surprise.  It is translated from the Chinese with an introduction by Wen Huang.

About the author:  Liao Yiwu is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter.  In 1989, he published an epic poem, "Massacre," that condemned the killings in Tiananmen Square and for which he spent four years in prison.  His works include Testimonials and Report on China's Victims of Injustice.  In 2003, he received a Human Rights Watch Hellman-Hammett Grant, and in 2007, he received a Freedom to Write Award from the Independent Chinese PEN Center (authorities prevented him from attending the award ceremony in Beijing).  In 2011, he was awarded the German Geschwister-Scholl-Preis and now lives in Germany.

Video - An Evening with Liao Yiwu at the PEN American Center, New York City:

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Evil Intent by Kate Charles

"Kate Charles' study of the tensions within the church and within society continues in Evil Intent as she explores the issue of spiritual and moral authority: who holds it, who opposes it and what underlies the strong feelings about leadership by women and gay clergy.  She symbolises this, as ever, by means of a murder story.  So who, amongst these liberal and conservative holy people, is really dangerous?  And is that relevant, as well as being a good read?  Yes, I think it is. Religion is significant in political agendas and has its own form of politics that can be just as dirty.  Kate Charles heightens the contrasts to show something real, and is clever enough to keep us questioning our own sympathies and assumptions.  I am not a fan of crime fiction and not a church-goer but was recommended to read Evil Intent and was immediately struck by the roundness and plausibility of the characters and by the handling of the ecclesiatical themes. Without ever feeling I was being manipulated by the author, I nevertheless found myself turning pages, eager to know how things would turn out for each of her human creations and I became intrigued with the unfamiliar (to me) accounts of conflicting factions within the Church of England. The ecclesiastical scenario might easily have suggested stereotypical characters and events: Kate Charles succeeds in going beyond the stereotypes and in creating a convincing, living chunk of current Anglican life.  And, yes, I was caught out at several turns when I thought I'd guessed who had done it. This is my first Kate Charles and I am looking forward to reading more." - By an anonymous reader.

I don't think anyone could have put that any better, thanks to the anonymous reader from Amazon (UK).  Evil Intent is the first in the Callie Anson series published in 2005.  It is my first Kate Charles too and I would recommend this better-than-average ecclesiastical cosy mystery to anyone who is interested in clerical politics or even to those of no religious bent whatsoever because it sure isn't all rosy in the church arena!  To find out more about Kate Charles - the pen name used by Carol Fosher Chase - and her other books, click here or her official website.

Rating:  4/5

Monday, 23 January 2012

One Day in the Life of a Booklover

Yesterday was a pretty mild day for a winter's Sunday in January.  I'd driven down to London for a bite and shop and on my way home, thought I'd take a walk in the city centre after a long time sitting in the car.  I first started off from the Queen Anne's car park on Gonville Place where I like to park my car because it is cheap and walked across Parker's Piece common in the direction of the city centre.  The sun was peeking through the clouds and there was a cool wind blowing.  People were out and about.  Some had dogs on leashes.  Some were pushing prams and handling toddlers.  Some were walking alone deep in thought and others on their way to a pressing engagement.  I had to dodge some cyclists.  The cafes and restaurants were mostly filled up.

From the city centre, I headed towards the Cambridge & County Folk Museum and followed the road round to Merton House where it joined with Queen's Road.  The view was absolutely beautiful from here.  The buildings of all the colleges of the University of Cambridge can be glimpsed from this road if you care to take a peek through the leaf-bare trees.  The River Cam flowed freely through the grounds and was dotted here and there with punts.  Restrictions on entry were imposed here and there were squarely planted warning signs and smartly attired dons to remind you of that fact should you be tempted to forget.  From there, I took a shortcut through Silver Street onto Botolph Lane which brought me out once more to Downing Street.

In between that walk, I managed to slot in a visit to Heffers, situated at Trinity Street, directly opposite Reiss, a well-known retailer for women and men.  A little and a bit to the right of the bookshop, you will find the main entrance to Nevile's Court, Trinity College.  This is where you can find the statue of Sir Isaac Newton in the ante-chapel.  Heffers has been selling books in Cambridge since 1879.  More information can be obtained on their website (bookshop.blackwell.co.uk).  I spent about an hour browsing in the Crime section checking out new books and new authors.  If you are in Cambridge, do drop by Heffers.  It is a worthy visit for all booklovers.

I ended a lovely day with a pot of English tea, a mouthwatering raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake and The Alchemist's Secret at Cafe Julienne.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Alchemist's Secret by Scott Mariani

"...In 2004 a collection of alchemical research papers by Isaac Newton, the father of classical physics, was rediscovered after being lost for eighty years.  Scientists at Imperial College, London, believe that Newton's alchemical work may have inspired some of his later pioneering discoveries in physics and cosmology.  As modern science continues to push back the boundaries of human ignorance, it is becoming increasingly clearer that the ancient alchemists may really have been the original quantum physicists." - from the Author's Note.

I do not mind a escapist/quest story from time to time eg Steve Berry's Cotton Malone series, and since Scott Mariani is a new author to me, I thought I would give him a try.  The Alchemist's Secret is the first book in the Ben Hope series featuring a former elite member of the SAS, who specialises in locating missing children.  How should I sum it in a few words?  Well-written.  Entertaining treasure hunt thriller.  Suspenseful.  Good plot.  Good characterization.  Cinematic at times (most books are nowadays).  Thought-provoking.  Plenty of fascinating facts on alchemy especially if, like me, you do not have an inkling of before reading this book.  I reckon Mariani knows what he's writing about therefore it is a solid recommendation from me.

The Alchemist's Secret was first published as The Fulcanelli Manuscript in 2007.  There are five other books in the series and a seventh coming out in May 2012.  Interested readers should check out Scott Mariani's official website for the latest news.

Rating:  4/5

Friday, 20 January 2012

Siege by Simon Kernick

Siege (2012) is an unexpectedly brilliant read.  There is no shortage of suspense, thrills and terror at every turn of the page.  Kernick has successfully created an atmosphere which is both tense and frightful and manages to capture the imagination of the reader to the hilt.  I cannot help but think that the book would make a great British television crime drama.  It is exceptionally well-thought-out and well-written.  One little niggle is the paucity of words and the short chapters which reminds me of James Patterson but it does not deter me from the enjoyment of the book as much as I have had with his previous books.  Siege makes for addictive reading.  I highly recommend it and look forward to the author's next book.

For more information, visit Simon Kernick's website.

The video below tells you in bite-size form what the story is about:

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Death in Calabria (Michele Ferrara series, Book 4) by Michele Giuttari

This book is different from the others in the series in that it is the first time that it is set in two countries - the USA and Italy.  I am not sure how I like that since I was expecting a full-on Italiano police procedural but I suspect because of the subject matter this time, ie the Mafia, it has to encompass both those countries to make it more believable; after all, Mafia organizations have now gone international, spreading its field of operations to countries over and beyond Italy, farther and wider than ever before, due to the onset of globalisation.  Fast-paced, quite but not altogether sparse in the details, lots more new characters, Giuttari's knowledge of the region of Calabria and the way of its people and especially his mentions of delectable Italian cuisine, makes for a much enjoyable read in this series.

Paperback blurb:  One of the wildest and most beautiful regions in Italy, known for its rugged coastline and mountains, Calabria is also home to the deadly 'Ndrangheta.  An organised Mafia crime operation more feared in Italy than the Cosa Nostra or the Camorra, it is shrouded in mystery.

Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara of Italy's elite Anti-Mafia Investigation Department is tasked with investigating the deaths of several Calabrian citizens - some in New York, some in the small, isolated villages that dot the Italian countryside.

To get to the bottom of the case, Ferrara has to infiltrate the village of San Piero d'Aspromonte, deep in the Calabrian mountains.  And there he must put his life on the line to learn more about a family at the centre of an ancient, bloody feud . . .

An atmospheric, gripping mystery, A Death in Calabria (2010) has been a bestseller in Italy and across Europe.  Written by former Florence police chief Michele Giuttari, it offers a fascinating insight into the hidden world of the 'Ndrangheta, and the beautiful and mysterious region of Calabria.  A Death of Calabria is translated from the Italian into the English by Howard Curtis.

The Black Rose of Florence, book 5 of the Michele Ferrara series, will be out on 1 March 2012, available in both hardback and paperback.

Anyone who wants to sieve fact from fiction can read Blood Brotherhoods: the Rise of the Italian Mafias by John Dickie.

Rating:  4/5

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Torso (Detective Inspector Irene Huss, Book 2) by Helene Tursten

I am having a lot of New Year luck on the book reading front!  To sum up The Torso - brilliant police procedural, brilliant plot, brilliant writing, excellent characterization and most highly recommended.  Do check the series out!

Hardback blurb:  Part of a human torso washes up on a beach near Goteburg, Sweden.  It is so mutilated that gender is only established by DNA testing.  A similar crime, now several years old, remains unsolved in Denmark.

Detective Inspector Irene Huss, a wife and mother as well as a member of the Swedish Violent Crimes unit, is called upon to liaise with the police in Copenhagen.  There she finds a clue:  a beautifully rendered sign for a gay sex shop which is very like the tattoo on the mutilated torso.

Then a third murder takes place, and a fourth, and these new victims are connected to Inspector Huss.  She begins to fear that the killer is tracking her, targeting her acquaintances.  There is a chilling suggestion that he - or she - is one of her colleagues.

About Helene Tursten:  Helene Tursten has been compared to P D James in her native Sweden.  Her Irene Huss mysteries have been highly praised.  The Torso is also available on film and DVDs, produced by Yellow Bird, Scandinavia's most prolific company in film and TV drama, and Illusion Film.  Tursten was a nurse and a dentist before she turned to writing.  She was born in Goteburg where she now lives with her husband and daughter.  The Torso (2006) is translated from the Swedish into the English by Katarina E Tucker.

The Torso trailer:

I like Maxine Clark's review.

Rating:  6/5

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Associate by John Grisham

Paperback blurb:  Kyle McAvoy is one of the outstanding legal students of his generation.  But he has a secret in his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his fledgling career and, possibly, his entire life.

That secret has fallen into the hands of the wrong people, and the only way Kyle can protect it is to play their game.  They want him to become an associate at the largest law firm in the world.  With a big salary and great prospects, the job would be a dream come true for most ambitious young lawyers.

But for Kyle it's a nightmare as, in addition to practising law, he must also lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison - if it doesn't get him killed first...

The Associate (2009) is available in hardback, paperback, audio, large print and e-book.


Rating:  4/5

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Headhunters by Jo Nesbo

Nesbo talks about his standalone, The Headhunters (2011), which won The Norwegian Book Club Prize for Best Novel of the Year 2008.  It is translated from the Norwegian into the English by Don Bartlett:

The Headhunters the movie, produced by Yellow Bird, was premiered in Oslo in August 2011 and will be shown for the first time in the UK on 6 April 2012.  Here is the trailer:

I went to watch the movie yesterday afternoon.  In most book-movie genres, the movie almost always fails the book and that is why I usually steer away from book-based movies.  However, I am pleasantly surprised that in The Headhunters, the movie played out exactly as the book was written.  Probably for the first time in my movie-watching life, the movie is actually better than the book.  I originally gave the book a rating of 4/5 just because it is a Jo Nesbo book but for the movie, it is a quick decision of 5/5 - great acting, great cast, great direction and what an ingenious plot altogether.  I was greatly entertained and would watch the movie many times over.  I highly recommend the movie to anyone who is a Nesbo fan and love watching films especially foreign films.  I believe foreign films should be shown in their respective native languages and not be dubbed.  Of course, don't forget to pick up the book and read it too.  It was a worthwhile afternoon in the movies.  Thank you, Jo Nesbo.

Visit Jo Nesbo's official website for more information.

For fans of the Harry Hole series, Phantom (book 9) is out in March 2012.

A book review by The Independent.

P/S  Nesbo also quoted a book in The Headhunters called The Fourth Night Watch (1923) by Johan Falkberget (1879-1967) which, when I googled, found that it is a historical novel set in the first half of the nineteenth century about a priest who is sent into a small mining town in Norway to take over the ministry.  In the beginning, he is not accustomed to its people and the small-town mentality and very much long for a post elsewhere but eventually, his attitude and conscience take over his initial hatred on the small community.  The Fourth Night Watch is Johan Falkberget's breakthrough work.  Currently unavailable in the UK but I will keep a lookout for it.  It was translated from the Norwegian into the English by Ronald G Popperwell in 1966.

Rating:  5/5

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The Jefferson Key (Cotton Malone, Book 7) by Steve Berry

This book is literally an education in itself and is the first Cotton Malone thriller to be set on American soil.  I more than highly recommend it!

Hardback blurb:  Four United States Presidents have been assassinated - in 1865, 1881, 1901 and 1963 - each murder seemingly unrelated.

But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason:  a clause in the United States Constitution - a clause that would shock the world?

In his most perilous exploit yet, former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone must combat the Commonwealth, a treacherous, piratical society first assembled during the American Revolution.

Along the way, he must break a secret cipher originally possessed by President Thomas Jefferson and unearth a centuries-old document, forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, powerful enough to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.

Cotton has been called on before to defend his country's safety in various exotic locations around the world.  But never before has the danger been quite so close to home . . .

Steve Berry talks about the latest Cotton Malone book, The Jefferson Key (2011) on UNC-TV:

Visit Steve Berry's official website for more information.  The next Cotton Malone book will be out in 2013 so watch this space.

Rating:  6/5

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Joy of Books (video)

A booklover's lament:  Why oh why didn't I visit this bookstore when I was there?

I would like to share this fun stop-motion video created by Sean and Lisa Ohlenkamp, owners of Type Books bookstore in Toronto, Canada:

Type Books, Toronto, Canada.

Does anyone know of any other artistic videos of this nature?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Emperor's Tomb (Cotton Malone, Book 6) by Steve Berry

More information on The Emperor's Tomb on Steve Berry's informative website.

Excellent advice and words of wisdom from an internationally bestselling author:

I love reading Steve Berry's books and ever since I bought the first Steve Berry book in Toronto, Canada, while on holiday in the autumn of 2010, I have done two things:  keep a lookout for his latest and devour all his books.  His books are not only books of gripping fiction and but they teach you a lot about history and the mystique and ask intelligent questions about them, questions that make you think.  Now this is the kind of book I like to read.

I have read articles/books on the tomb of China's First Emperor but it is nice to get a re-education on it.  There is no end to education.  The more you learn, the more you discover, the more interesting history and life is.  As James Rollins (author) said, "You don't just read a Steve Berry novel.  You live it."

I absolutely love reading this book and look forward to Book 7 entitled The Jefferson Key (2011) which is set in the United States.  The Emperor's Tomb (2010) is set in a variety of cities namely Copenhagen, where Cotton Malone lives, Chongqing and a few provinces in China, Pakistan, Vietnam and Antwerp.  The Writer's Note at the back of the book is a mass of information and I suggest that you start on this before reading the book.  Don't worry, there are no spoilers.

Do read not for the enjoyment of it but for the places it takes you.

P/S  Steve Berry has also highlighted a massive but hidden problem about child kidnapping in China all because of the one-child policy and the cultural necessity of having a son in every Chinese family.  Ironically, it is illegal to abandon, steal, or sell children in China, but it is legal to buy one.

He suggested this excellent documentary to get more information.  It was first broadcasted on Channel Four's Dispatches in 2007:  China's Stolen Children (contains harrowing images).

Rating:  6/5

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

One of my favourite books to read is a combination of a missing person and a destitute but resourceful private investigator who is hired to find that missing person, and when the book is written well, it is the perfect read.  This story unfurls slowly - not too many clues are given - and the pace is andante.  The narrative alternates between the PI and a young Gypsy character.  Overall, the book is neither brilliant nor dull.  It lacks the fast-paced nail-biting suspense-filled mystery but I suspect the author intends it that way.  It is a detour from my usual book choice but interesting enough for me to finish it off.

I have always liked Maxine Clarke's review on Eurocrime because she tells it like it is and so I have included her review below as well as a newspaper review.

Hardback blurb:  Rose Janko is missing.

It has been seven years since she disappeared, and nobody said a word.

When Rose married the attractive Ivo Janko, she became part of a travelling Gypsy family.  But many wondered at the time, were they really suited?  Rose is quiet and shy; Ivo - taciturn, yet charismatic.  Rumour had it she ran off when her baby boy was born with the family's genetic disability.  But her father Leon is not so sure.  He wants to know the truth and he hires a private investigator to discover it.

Enter Ray Lovell, a small-time PI who has the added advantage of being of Gypsy descent and therefore not an outsider.  He agrees to take the case.  But after seven long years he fears the trail has run cold, and his investigation is hampered by the very people who ought to be helping him - the Jankos.  They are a close-knit clan, and the last thing they want is a stranger digging around in their private business.  Ray cannot understand their reluctance to become involved.

Why don't they want to find Rose Janko?

About Stef Penney:  Stef Penney was born and grew up in Edinburgh.  After a degree in philosophy and theology from Bristol University she turned to film-making, studying film and TV at Bournemouth College of Art.  On graduation, she was selected for the Carlton Television New Writers Scheme and has since written and directed two short films.

Her first novel, The Tenderness of Wolves (2006), was a world-wide bestseller which won the Costa Book Awards for First Novel in 2006, nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction in the Best Novel category in 2007, voted as The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2008, and others.  She lives in London.

Penney talks about The Invisible Ones (2011):

Maxine Clarke's review.

The Financial Times' review dated 9 September 2011.

Rating:  3/5

Thursday, 5 January 2012

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler

From the hardback blurb:  When Peter Hessler went to China in the late 1990s, he expected to spend a couple of peaceful years teaching English in the town of Fuling on the Yangtze River.  

But what he experienced - the natural beauty, cultural tension, and complex process of understanding that takes place when one is thrust into a radically different society - surpassed anything he could have imagined.

Hessler observes firsthand how major events such as the death of Deng Xiaoping, the return of Hong Kong to the mainland, and the controversial construction of the Three Gorges Dam have affected even the people of a remote town like Fuling.

Poignant, thoughtful and utterly compelling, River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a place caught mid-river in time, much like China itself - a country seeking to understand both what it was and what it will one day become.

My take:  A native of Columbia, Missouri, Peter Hessler is a graduate of Princeton and Oxford, and has written for The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and other publications.  Raised in the United States, he now lives in Cairo where he will cover the Middle East for The New Yorker.  In 2011, Hessler received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in recognition of his writings on Reform Era China (see second video above).  He won the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting.  River Town (published in 2001) was awarded The Kiriyama Prize in the Non-Fiction (Bio) category in 2001.   

You can't get better than finding a packed adventure-filled two full years of a person's life in one book.  Written in an honest, fresh, sensitive, engaging, easy-to-read way, Hessler does not take himself too seriously even amidst his many difficulties in adjusting to a new life in a foreign country, let alone in a distant backwater of a poor province in China where memories of waiguoren (foreigners) were vague.  He is a determined fellow who takes his new and at times strange experiences in Fuling in his stride and is able to write about them objectively and succinctly.  His observations are excellent, his accounts intelligent and his writing truly impeccable.  I thought he captured every nuance perfectly.  It is always interesting to read a book written about a country, no matter where it is, from a newcomer's point of view.  

I would highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely interested in China or a foreign culture or who is naturally curious to pick up this book and read it.  Hessler reminds me of Jason Webster, also a travel writer and author, of whose book I enjoyed reading last year about his one year stint in a remote part of Spain where he brought a run-down farmhouse back to its glory.

Other books on China by Hessler are:

1)  Country Driving:  A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, Harper, New York, 2010.

2)  Oracle Bones:  A Journey Between China's Past to Present, HarperCollins, New York, 2006 (2006 National Book Award Finalist, Nonfiction)

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

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Countries I Travelled To Through My Books

I thought I would make a checklist on all the books, both fiction and non-fiction, I have read in 2011 to see where and how far I have travelled around the world in my reading.  I have a wont of reading books set in America because there are more than a few good ones from that great nation and from the checklist below, I can see that is still the case but I am also pleased to see that I have diverged and diversified my reading to cover countries which are obscure and far away...  The nationalities of the authors are not relevant here.  Here is the list:

America:  64
Great Britain:  24
Scotland:  9
Ireland:  5
Australia:  4
Sweden:  5
Denmark:  6
Norway:  6
China:  7

Portugal:  2
France:  1
India:  3
Italy:  2

Thailand:  2
Malaysia:  2
Singapore:  2
Hong Kong:  1
Middle East:  3
Spain:  1
Brazil:  1
Philippines:  1
Romania:  1
Cambodia:  1
Botswana:  1

I can tell this year is going to be another good reading year.  I shall now get on with my book.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Zero Day by David Baldacci

What is your first reading book of 2012?  If you want some hardcore military thriller conducted by a new hero, then look no further, Zero Day makes the perfect read this new year.  A winner in all aspects.  I love David Baldacci, his books always deliver, much like Michael Connelly.

Hardback blurb:  Zero Day (published 31 October 2011) by David Baldacci introduces Special Agent John Puller, a war hero and a top investigator in the US Army's CID (Criminal Investigative Division).  When a family with military connections is brutally murdered in a remote area of West Virginia, Puller is called in to investigate, and soon suspects the case has wider implications.

As the body count rises he teams up with local homicide detective Samantha Cole.  As the web of deceit is revealed, it quickly becomes apparent that there's much more to this case than they had first thought.  It is an investigation where nothing is as it seems, and nothing can be taken at face value.

When Puller and Cole discover a dangerous situation in the making, Puller finds he must turn to the one person who can help avert certain catastrophe.  A person he has known all his life.

In a breathtaking rollercoaster race against time, Cole fears for the community in which she was raised, and Puller knows he has to overcome the enemies of his country to avoid far reaching disaster.

But, in the end, you can't kill what you can't see coming...

Let's hear it from Baldacci:

Rating:  6/5