Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Jimmy Choo Story: Power, Profits and the Pursuit of the Perfect Shoe by Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen

Paperback:  Jimmy Choo was a London shoemaker with clients including Princess Diana when Tamara Yeardye, a London society girl, convinced him to launch a factory-produced luxury shoe line.

Twelve years later, Jimmy Choo is a household name, and Tamara still presides over what is now one of the most successful luxury brands in the world - worth some £220 million.  She has become one of the best-known business women in the country, but along the way she was tested at every turn.

The story of how the Jimmy Choo brand got to where it is today is one of love, controversy, fashion, finance, celebrity, power, intrigue and, above all, intense ambition.

The Jimmy Choo Story (2010) was first published in Great Britain in 2009 as The Towering World of Jimmy Choo.

About the authors:  Lauren Goldstein Crowe has covered the fashion and luxury goods industries as a Senior Writer at Time magazine in London, at Fortune magazine in New York, and as a writer of freelance articles for Paris Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, the New York Times, British Vogue, the Financial Times and the Times, and has appeared as a fashion expert on CNN and Bloomberg television.  Crowe has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and undergraduate degrees in English and history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She wears mostly Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Sagra Maceira de Rosen is currently a founding partner in Hemisphere One Partners, a recently established private equity firm that invests in retail and luxury brands, and was previously a high ranked equity analyst at JP Morgan in London and the head of its Global Luxury Goods and Retail research team.  Sagra has been a speaker at several luxury goods conferences and has an MBA from Columbia Business School in New York and a university degree in business administration from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  She mostly wears Jimmy Choo shoes.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Eight Bullets: One Woman's Story of Surviving Anti-Gay Violence by Claudia Brenner with Hannah Ashley

Excerpt from the Daily Press (The Roanoke Times), 28 March 1997:  Wight and Brenner met at Virginia Tech in 1985.  Both served on a committee to plan Women's Week, an annual seven days of women's events in the spring.  Wight had come to Blacksburg as an undergrad at Tech and was back pursuing a master's degree in business management.  Brenner was beginning graduate studies in architecture.

In May 1988, the two decided to meet halfway at a state park near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

On the first morning, they woke to find a man in the Appalachian Trail shelter they were camped near.  He asked Wight for cigarettes.  They left him there, hoping to find a more secluded place on a four-mile loop off the trail but they saw him again, this time with a .22 caliber rifle slung over his shoulder and asking, "You lost already?"

They said no, and then "he went south and we went on the side trail and I never expected to see him again," she said.  "I know now that he must have known it was a loop trail and just waited for us."

The women found a campsite a few miles later, dropped their backpacks and stretched out on a tarp by a stream.  They were making love when the first shot rang out.

The first five hit Brenner, the next two hit Wight and an eighth missed.  Wight was too weak to move, so Brenner wrapped her in a blue sleeping bag and left her by a tree.  Doctors told Brenner later that because she was shot in the liver, Wight would have died even if it had happened on the operating table.

Police later found twenty-five rounds of unused ammunition, a hat and other items left within sight of where the two women were lying.

Two weeks later, Carr was arrested by police in a Mennonite community where he had been living under an alias.  He was a fugitive from the law who lived in the mountains of Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania.  He was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole, a result Brenner said she felt good about.

The case brought national attention to anti-gay violence.  "People need to consider where to draw the line," she said.  "Anything other than completely eliminating intolerance is totally unacceptable."

About the authors:  Claudia Brenner is an architect who lives with her young child and lesbian family in upstate New York.  She is an active speaker against anti-gay violence and wrote about her ordeal in her one and only book, Eight Bullets (1995).

Hannah Ashley lives, writes and teaches at two women's educational projects in Philadelphia.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Body of Proof: Tainted Evidence in the Murder of Jessica O'Grady? by John Ferak

Paperback:  Jessica O’Grady was a tall, starry-eyed co-ed in search of finding her Mr. Right.

Christopher Edwards was a 19-year-old deceitful and darkened soul.

David Kofoed was a veteran crime lab commander who was on the prowl for more high-profile sensational murder cases to keep his prestigious forensics lab in the media spotlight.

In May of 2006, Jessica’s sudden and mystifying disappearance quickly turned into the biggest news story in Omaha, Nebraska.

Hundreds of volunteers scoured lakes, creeks, riverbeds, forests, parks and barren fields.

But it did not matter how hard people tried, nobody could find Jessica’s body.

Clearly, something awful and grisly happened to Jessica inside a west Omaha home where one noteworthy clue made Edwards the prime suspect.

Enter CSI commander Kofoed.

A week later, he emerged on the case.

By that point in time, Kofoed had already gotten away with producing false clues and planting blood in two other high-profile murder cases across Nebraska’s Heartland.

O’Grady’s friends and family were sad.  They starved for answers.  They demanded swift justice.

Kofoed faced a dilemma.

If authorities wanted to solve the homicide of Jessica O’Grady, they had to move fast.

Would he be tempted to work up some secret magical evidence back inside his Omaha crime lab to avenge Jessica’s murder?

Or would he let Christopher Edwards continue to mock law enforcement and roam free in the community?

As each day in May passed, the saga surrounding the charming coed’s shocking mysterious disappearance remained Omaha’s top news story.

The Jessica O’Grady story often led the noon, dinner, and nightly television news broadcasts.

The general consensus was that Jessica met her untimely demise at the hands of her lover, Edwards.

But at least three nagging questions remained unanswered:  Where did Jessica’s killer put her body?  What was his weapon?  When, if ever, might Edwards face murder charges?

About the author:  A native of Plainfield, Illinois, John Ferak's first true crime book, Bloody Lies:  A CSI Scandal in the Heartland (2014) was the runner-up in the 2014 Foreword Review for true-crime book of the year.  Ferak's first book for WildBlue Press, Dixie's Last Stand:  Was It Murder or Self-Defense? (2015) was an Amazon bestseller and Hot New Release.  Since 2012, Ferak has worked as an award-winning investigative team member for Gannett Wisconsin Media, based at The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Canadian Psycho: The True Story of Luka Magnotta (Volume V) by Cara Lee Carter

Paperback:  In May 2012, a janitor found a maggot-laced suitcase in a pile of rubbish outside of a low-rent apartment building in the Montreal neighbourhood of Côte-des-Neiges.

After opening the case, the grisly discovery was made of a dismembered human torso, peppered with stab wounds.  The evidence collected by police would lead them too late to the door of a pornographic actor and escort who had fled the country after the slaying.

During the course of their investigation, police discovered the murderer not only filmed his crime, but also posted the video depicting his heinous acts online for the world to see.

Murder, necrophilia, cannibalism and an international manhunt - while the tale of Luka Magnotta reads more like a work of fiction, the horrific murder and dismemberment of 32-year-old international Concordia student Lin Jun (Luka's Chinese lover) was, in fact, a documentary scripted by an individual with a long history of mental illness in a gruesome attempt to gain notoriety.

Luka's history is littered with instances where he did everything possible to gain fame:  trying out for reality television shows, lying about being connected to a well-known Canadian serial murderess, committing and filming acts of animal cruelty and, posting these videos on the Internet.  His actions obviously exhibiting a continuous downward spiral.

Despite gaining the attention and ire of animal activists, it still wasn't enough to satisfy Luka's immense thirst for attention.  He even went so far as to brag to a journalist about his intention to murder a person months before he actually committed the crime.

Magnotta took those final steps to gain name recognition, not only by committing the murder, but also the unthinkable act of posting the video and its indignities he committed on the victim.  This video, uploaded to Canadian company Bestgore, quickly went viral via social media, attracting 300 000 views in just four hours.  As news broke about the dismemberment and subsequent video, it shocked and captivated not only the nation but also the entire world.

From the time the body was discovered, to the following international manhunt, the capture of Magnotta, and through the ensuing two years it took for justice to be served, the country anxiously waited for the outcome of the controversial trial.

True to his many-sided persona, Canadian Psycho:  The True Story of Luka Magnotta (2015) chronicles the journey that led Luka Magnotta to become known as the Cannibal Porn Star, the Butcher of Montreal and the Canadian Psycho.

About the author:  Cara Lee Carter is an award-winning journalist and experienced communications professional with nearly a decade of experience in marketing, communications and social media management for which she has won numerous national and international awards in these areas, including writing.

Born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Cara Lee discovered her love of story telling at an early age and began her first internship at a daily newspaper while still in high school.  Trained as a journalist, it was an easy move to the field of marketing and communications where she remains today.  The world of true crime writing was a logical leap for this self-professed book junkie, and she's excited to launch her debut book under the tutelage of internationally acclaimed authors, R J Parker and Peter Vronsky.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Blair Inc: The Man Behind The Mask by Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan

Hardback:  Since leaving office in 2007, the empire of Tony Blair has grown exponentially.

As a businessman, he has been unprecedentedly successful for a former public servant, with a large property portfolio and an estimated £80 million of earnings accrued in just a few short years.  How has he managed to achieve this?

He is the first British prime minister in history whose life after he left power has merited a book of its own.  Most people pursue second careers to do more of what they enjoy with less stress.  This is not the case with Tony Blair.

He struts the world stage, travelling, for a third of the year, constantly on and off private jets and in and out of splendid hotel suites.  He seems confused about his goals and conflicted in his responsibilities and interests.

How comfortable can the businessman in pursuit of excessive wealth be with the Labour Party politician who once protected Thatcher's legacy?

How can the poor of the Middle East rationalise the international salesman, in his expensive suits, his salesman's smile at the ready to greet a dictator or oligarch, with the 'Representative of the Middle East Quartet' supposed to bring investment into the Palestinian economy?

How does he answer the charge of many distinguished public figures that those he solicits for funds for the Palestinians are confused whether he is also seeking funds for Tony Blair and his sponsors and companies?

Being an ex-Prime Minister comes with certain advantages, and besides his excellent state pension and twenty-four-hour security team, Blair enjoys the best contacts that money can buy - as do those willing to pay him for access to those contacts.

Consequently, Tony Blair Associates' clients can be found around the world and include the controversial presidents of Kazakhstan and Burma.

There is also Blair's role as special envoy in the Middle East.  While his record as a peacemaker is in doubt, the position has brought him into contact with a variety of oil-rich potentates in the region who now number among his most profitable clients.

Blair Inc:  The Man Behind the Mask (2015) takes a close look at the complex financial structures in Blair's world.  From the many layers of tax liability to the multiple conflicts of interest produced by his increasing web of relationships, this book exposes the private dealings of this very public figure. and seeks to answer the above questions.  The conclusions are both shocking and disturbing for British public life and for the political class that Blair damages.

The story begins on 27 June 2007.  That was the day Tony Blair officially resigned as Prime Minister, was appointed Middle East Peace Envoy and set about making himself seriously rich.

About the authors:  Francis Beckett is an author, journalist and playwright.  His seventeen books include biographies of four Prime Ministers - Attlee, Macmillan, Blair and Brown - and he edited a series of short lives called The Twenty Prime Ministers of the Twentieth Century.  He is the author of What Did the Baby Boomers Ever Do For Us? and believes that Tony Blair can only be explained in terms of the sixties and the baby-boomer generation.

David Hencke is an award-winning freelance journalist and author who exposed both the 'cash-for-questions' scandal that led to the resignation of Neil Hamilton from the last Conservative government and the home-loan scandal that led to the first resignation of Peter Mandelson from Tony Blair's government.  He is the co-author, with Francis Beckett, of an unauthorised biography of Tony Blair and a history of the 1984 miners' strike.  He worked for The Guardian for thirty-three years and now works for a Fleet Street investigative news agency, Exaro News.

Nick Kochan is an independent author and journalist specialising in politics, finance and white collar crime.  He is the author (with Hugh Pym) of Gordon Brown, the First Year in Power, Corruption:  The New Corporate Challenge and The Washing Machine, a book about money laundering and terrorist finance.  Kochan writes freelance for The Independent and The Guardian.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Devil's Bridge (An Alexandra Cooper Novel) by Linda Fairstein

Hardback:  The Manhattan waterfront is one of New York City's most magnificent vistas, boasting both the majestic Statue of Liberty and the busy George Washington Bridge.

But Detective Mike Chapman is about to become far too well acquainted with the dangerous side of the Hudson river and its islands when he takes on his most personal case yet:  the disappearance of Alex Cooper.

Coop is missing - but there are so many leads and terrifying complications:  scores of enemies she has made after a decade of putting criminals behind bars;  a recent security breach with dangerous repercussions;  and a new intimacy in her relationship with Mike, causing the Police Commissioner himself to be wary of the methods Mike will use to get Coop back, if he can.

In the most intense Alexandra Cooper thriller ever, New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein takes readers where they have never been before:  inside the mind of NYPD Detective Mike Chapman in Devil's Bridge (2015), the seventeenth book in the outstanding Alexandra Cooper novel series.

About the author:  Linda Fairstein is a former prosecutor and one of America's foremost legal experts on crimes of violence against women and children.  For three decades, she served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit.  In 2010 she was the winner of the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller Writers. Her Alexandra Cooper novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have debuted on the the Sunday Times and the New York Times bestseller lists, among others.  She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 13 September 2015

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

Hardback:  The Appalachians are the home of one of the world's great hardwood forests - a relic of the richest, most diversified sweep of woodland ever to grace the temperate world - and that forest is in trouble.

If the global temperature rises by 4°C over the next fifty years, as is evidently possible, then the whole of the Appalachian wilderness below New England could become savannah.  Already trees are dying in mysterious and frightening numbers.  The elms and chestnuts are long gone, the stately hemlocks and flowery dogwoods are going, and the red spruces, Fraser firs, hickories, mountain ashes and sugar maples may be about to follow.  Clearly if ever there was a time to experience this singular wilderness, it was now.

The longest continuous footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail stretches along the East Coast of the United States, from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most arresting and celebrated landscapes in America.

At the age of forty-four, in the company of his old college friend Stephen Katz (last seen in the bestselling Neither Here nor There), Bill Bryson set off one March morning to hike through the vast tangled woods which have been frightening sensible people for three hundred years.  Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and - perhaps most alarming of all - people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.

Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.

"If nothing else, A Walk in the Woods is proof positive that the journey is the destination.  As Bryson and Katz haul their out-of-shape, middle-aged butts over hill and dale, the reader is treated to both a very funny personal memoir and a delightful chronicle of the trail, the people who created it, and the places it passes through. Whether you plan to make a trip like this one yourself one day or only care to read about it, A Walk in the Woods is a great way to spend an afternoon." - Alix Wilber

About the author:  Bill Bryson’s bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There and Notes from a Small Island, which in a national poll was voted the book that best represents Britain.  His acclaimed book on the history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Royal Society’s Aventis Prize as well as the Descartes Prize, the European Union’s highest literary award.

Bryson has written books on language, on Shakespeare, and on his own childhood in the hilarious memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.  His last critically lauded bestsellers were on history - At Home: a Short History of Private Life, and One Summer: America 1927.

Another travel book, A Walk in the Woods, has now become a major film starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson.  The movie will be released on 18 September 2015 in the UK.  Bryson’s new book, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island comes out on 8 October 2015.

Bill Bryson was born in the American Mid-West, and is now living back in the UK. A former Chancellor of Durham University, he was President of Campaign to Protect Rural England for five years, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardback:  It takes a lot to get under the skin of Cornelius 'Fatty O'Leary, but then there is a lot of skin to get under.  He has been known as Fatty O'Leary from the time he is twelve, which is in the early 1950s.  He never objects to being called Fatty and even signs himself as such.  He is a good man and a kind one.

The heroically proportioned Fatty can normally take life as it comes.  Right at home in easy-going Fayetteville, Arkansas, he is happily married to his childhood sweetheart Betty, and likes nothing better than the company of good friends Tubby O'Rourke, an accountant with an interest in model railways, and Porky Flanagan, a dentist who runs a dental practice set up by his father and his uncle.

But when Fatty and Betty head off to Ireland on the trip of a lifetime, they find that they have left their comfort zone far behind.

Calamity and mayhem ensue as one mishap after another befalls the beleaguered couple - the seats in economy class on the plane are too small;  Irish bathroom furniture is not as commodious as he would have liked and all the time, Fatty must put up with the unthinking cruelty of strangers.

Can Fatty's broad shoulders take the strain or will he suffer one indignity too many?

Will he get his just deserts, or just dessert?

In an hilarious and touching portrayal of a kindly and misunderstood soul, McCall Smith has created yet another memorable character who will become an instant favourite to his many fans in Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party (2014).

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

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

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.

Rating:  5/5

All We Need To Remember In This Life

Monday, 7 September 2015

The World According To Bertie (A 44 Scotland Street Novel) by Alexander McCall Smith

Paperback:  Scotland Street occupies a busy, Bohemian corner of Edinburgh's New Town and number 44 has more than its fair share of the street's eccentrics and failures.

Poor put-upon Bertie is still struggling to escape his overbearing mother’s influence, his yoga lessons and his pink bedroom while wondering why new baby brother Ulysses looks uncomfortably like his psychotherapist.

The insufferably handsome Bruce has returned from London to land, on his feet and rent-free, in the arms of heiress Julia Donald.

But all is not well among the residents of 44 Scotland Street:  Angus’s dog and constant companion Cyril is under threat of execution, victim of a miscarriage of justice, while pretty, indecisive Pat and hopeless romantic Matthew are on the verge of making the most terrible mistake of their lives.

Big Lou finds a new man, Matthew and Pat edge their relationship towards something more permanent although this development is not without complications, when a glimpse of someone who just might be her handsome, caddish ex-flatmate Bruce sets Pat’s pulse racing - and Domenica’s friendship with Antonia is tested to the limit when an assortment of her belongings mysteriously appear in Antonia’s new flat.

The World According to Bertie (2007) is the warm, witty and utterly enchanting fourth book in the 44 Scotland Street Novel series.

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

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

Alexander is also the author of collections of short stories, academic works, and over thirty books for children.  He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the British Book Awards Author of the Year Award in 2004 and a CBE for service to literature in 2007.  He holds honorary doctorates from nine universities in Europe and North America.  Alexander McCall Smith lives in Edinburgh.  He is married to a doctor and has two daughters.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 4 September 2015

My Stolen Son: The Nick Markowitz Story (True Crime) by Susan Markowitz with Jenna Glatzer

Paperback:  My Stolen Son (2010) is the true story behind the movie Alpha Dog (2006).

On the morning of 6 August 2000, Nick Markowitz, knowing he was in trouble with his parents, snuck out of the house... and never came home.

Jesse James Hollywood, a 20-year-old drug dealer, and three of his accomplices kidnapped the teenager in broad daylight, as revenge for a drug-related debt owed by Nick's half brother.  The four kidnappers then murdered the innocent boy in cold blood and buried him in a shallow grave.  After the crime that would land him on the FBI's top ten "Most Wanted" list, Hollywood fled to Brazil as a fugitive. It would be nearly a decade before he was brought to justice.

From the day the authorities arrived on her doorstep with the devastating news that Nick had been found dead, Susan Markowitz pursued justice for her son - a mother's nine-year fight to bring the killers to account, and to rebuild a family shattered by an unconscionable crime.

(Interview excerpt with Susan Markowitz by Barry Leibowitz, Senior Writer at 48 Hours):

"The book is filled with the details of stupid choices made by so many people, and I hope others see them and try to learn from everyone's mistakes.  I can go way back to when my stepson Ben was little, when he felt unwanted, and how we could have made better decisions to let him know he was. Which might have prevented him from becoming involved with people like Jesse James Hollywood in the first place.  Not to mention the thirty-two people who witnessed what was going on and chose not to step up and say something, anything!  They chose instead to continue to get high and carry on with their lives as if they saw nothing.  They played games in their minds, justifying why this couldn't really be real.  And the biggest stupid choice of all:  How could Jesse James Hollywood think that murder was an option, because he kidnapped someone and didn't want to face the penalties?"

"The amount of good that has come from the murder of my son is astronomical.  Nick, through his death, has helped more than he ever could have in his lifetime.  For one thing, throughout the search for Jesse James Hollywood, there were hundreds of drug busts.  But the most important thing, I feel, is all the teens who have been truly affected by hearing what happened to Nick.  Teens can be self-absorbed, and when they hear stories about consequences of drugs and violence, they often think, "This won't happen to me."  But for some reason, Nick's story really has helped more teens than anyone realizes."

"I receive thousands of letters from parents and teens telling me how Nick's story has changed their lives forever.  Some were on the wrong path and this opened their eyes.  Some parents say I've been able to make a bigger impact on their teens just by speaking to them for two minutes, than they themselves were able to make in two years.  And I hope the book will expand that reach even further, helping parents and teens communicate with each other and helping people find the courage to speak out if they witness a crime."

About the authors:  Susan Markowitz is Nick's mom.  She was a stay-at-home mom during Nick's life, and is stepmom to Ben and Leah.  She has spent the years since her son's death on a tireless mission to see justice served, and to honour his memory by reaching out to teens and parents about staying away from drugs and listening to their conscience.  She is married to Nick's dad, Jeff, and lives in California.

Jenna Glatzer is the author of 17 books.  Her recent work includes The Marilyn Monroe Treasures, Bullyproof Your Child for Life with Joel Haber, PhD, and the authorized biography Celine Dion: For Keeps. She has written for magazines including Woman's World, Contemporary Bride, and Physical, and is a contributing editor at Writer's Digest and columnist at Hospitality Style.  She lives in New York with her daughter.