Monday, 30 May 2016

Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution by Shamini Flint

Paperback:  Inspector Singh is irate.  He has been instructed to attend a Commonwealth conference on policing in London:  a job for paper pushers, not real cops, as far as he is concerned.

And as if that is not bad enough, his wife is determined to come along to shop for souvenirs and visit previously unknown relatives.

But it is not long before the cold case that lands on Singh's ample lap turns into a hot potato and he has to outwit Scotland Yard, his wife and London's finest criminals to prevent more frightful executions from occurring on his watch - or indeed, from being added to their number.

Inspector Singh returns in the seventh chapter of his thrilling series.  With Flint's customary wit and ability to always spin a good Asian-flavoured yarn, A Frightfully English Execution (2016) is her best one yet.

About the author:  Shamini Flint lives in Singapore with her husband and two children.  She is best known for her crime fiction novel series Inspector Singh Investigates, published in many languages around the world.  She began her career in law in Malaysia and also worked at an international law firm in Singapore.  She travelled extensively around Asia for her work, before resigning to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist.  Shamini also writes children's books with cultural and environmental themes including Ten (2008) and The Seeds of Time (2008) as well as the Sasha series of children's books.  She is noted for her work to promote fair trade products in Singapore and donates part of her environmental book title’s proceeds to WWF.  Visit Shamini online on Facebook or Twitter.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Death Sentence: The True Story of Velma Barfield's Life, Crimes And Punishment by Jerry Bledsoe

Paperback:  "Ronnie, I hate to tell you this," Parnell (Deputy Sheriff) said, "but it's worse than we thought."

Worse?  Ronnie (Velma's son) thought.  What could be worse?

"There are other people," Parnell told him.

"Other people?" Ronnie said.  "What do you mean?'

"Other people Velma's killed."

When Ronnie hung up and turned to give the others the news, he looked pale and dazed.

"Y'all are not going to believe this," he said, the words coming slowly.  "She's confessed to killing three other people."

"Who?" cried Faye (Velma's sister).

Ronnie named two elderly people his mother had assisted as a live-in caregiver.  Then he paused, as if unable to go on.  He had to force out the next two words:

"...And Grandmother."

Her own mother.

Faye screamed and bolted for the door, running out into the rain that evening had brought, still screaming.  Pam (Velma's daughter) collapsed in her husband's arms, sobbing.  Arlene (Velma's sister) stood rooted.  "What is wrong with her?" Arlene pleaded.  "What is wrong with her?"

Many people soon would be asking that question.  With time even Velma Barfield herself.  For after the bitter encounter with Joe Freeman Britt ( County Prosecutor) had sent her to death row, she would begin an examination of her life that would lead her to repentance and would cause many people to believe in her redemption.  And as she fought for her life in a society torn about the death penalty, she would draw more attention to the morality of capital punishment than any other murderer to that point, her case raising issues that still were being debated two decades later.  But she could not foresee that in her despair and dejection as Alf Parnell (Deputy Sheriff) drove her the two blocks to the Robeson County jail that night.  Nor could her son foresee that the death sentence his mother would receive would turn into a life sentence for him.

How did the above story begin?

When North Carolina farmer Stuart Taylor died after a sudden illness in 1978, his 46-year-old fiancée Velma Barfield, was overcome with grief.  Taylor's family grieved with her - until the autopsy revealed traces of arsenic poisoning.  In North Carolina, murder by poison was automatically a capital case.  Turned over to the authorities by her own son, Ronnie, Velma stunned her family with more revelations.  This was not the first time the born-again Christian and devout Sunday school teacher had committed cold-blooded murder.  Tried by the "world's deadliest prosecutor," and sentenced to death, Velma turned her life around and gained worldwide attention.

Margie Velma Barfield (1932-1984) was an American serial killer, convicted of one murder, but she eventually confessed to six murders.  She was the first woman in the United States to be executed after the 1976 resumption of capital punishment and the first since 1962.  She was also the first woman to be executed in the modern era by lethal injection.  Velma was addicted to drugs, not the hard drugs like heroin or cocaine, but rather prescription drugs such as tranquillisers, sleeping pills, anti-depressants and barbiturates.  Her addiction stemmed from a nervous breakdown and she had a history of overdosing and subsequent hospital treatment, with four admissions between 1972 and 1975.  There had been many appeals on her behalf, the Supreme Court having rejected them on three occasions.  The Governor of North Carolina, James B Hunt, declined to grant clemency and was unimpressed by her religious conversion and good behaviour on death row.

Was Velma Barfield a monster and serial killer or just a poor demented soul whose brain was befuddled by drugs and who always needed more money to pay for them?

With chilling precision, New York Times bestselling author Bledsoe probes Velma's stark descent into madness in Death Sentence (1998) - a shocking true story of a double life undone by murder.  From her harrowing childhood to the shocking crimes that incited a national debate over the death penalty, to the dark, final moments of her execution - broadcast live on CNN - Velma Barfield's riveting life of crime and punishment, revenge and redemption is true crime reporting at its most gripping and profound.

About the author:  Jerry Bledsoe is the author of the New York Times Number One bestseller Bitter Blood (1988), as well as two other national bestsellers, Blood Games (1991) and Before He Wakes (1994), and many other books.  He has been contributing editor for Esquire, a reporter and columnist for the Greensboro, North Carolina, News & Record, The Charlotte Observer, and the Louisville Times.  Three of his books were made into movies and mini-series for CBS, and a feature film of The Angel Doll was released for Christmas 2000.  His work also has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other publications.  Bledsoe also contributes investigative reports to the Rhinoceros Times, including a multi-part series detailing the controversies surrounding the Greensboro Police Department.  He lives in Randolph County, North Carolina, with his wife, Linda.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Rite: The Making Of A Modern Exorcist (Non-Fiction) by Matt Baglio

Paperback:  In The Rite (2009), journalist Matt Baglio uses the astonishing story of one American priest's training as an exorcist to reveal that the phenomena of possession, demons, the Devil, and exorcism are not merely a remnant of the archaic past, but remain a fearsome power in many people's lives even today.

Father Gary Thomas was working as a parish priest in California when he was asked by his bishop to travel to Rome for training in the rite of exorcism.  Though initially surprised, and slightly reluctant, he accepted this call, and enrolled in a new exorcism course at a Vatican-affiliated university, which taught him, among other things, how to distinguish between a genuine possession and mental illness. Eventually he would go on to participate in more than eighty exorcisms as an apprentice to a veteran Italian exorcist.  His experiences profoundly changed the way he viewed the spiritual world, and as he moved from rational skeptic to practicing exorcist he came to understand the battle between good and evil in a whole new light.  Journalist Matt Baglio had full access to Father Gary over the course of his training, and much of what he learned defies explanation.

The Rite provides fascinating vignettes from the lives of exorcists and people possessed by demons, including firsthand accounts of exorcists at work casting out demons, culminating in Father Gary's own confrontations with the Devil.  Baglio also traces the history of exorcism, revealing its rites and rituals, explaining what the Catholic Church really teaches about demonic possession, and delving into such related topics as the hierarchy of angels and demons, satanic cults, black masses, curses, and the various theories used by modern scientists and anthropologists who seek to quantify such phenomena.

Written with an investigative eye that will captivate both skeptics and believers alike, The Rite shows that the truth about demonic possession is not only stranger than fiction, but also far more chilling.

About the author:  Matt Baglio was born and raised in San Diego, California.  In 1996, he graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a BA in English Literature.  After a stint working as an intern and editorial assistant for TransWorld SNOWboarding magazine, Baglio moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a freelancer.

In 2000, in an effort to expand his horizons, Baglio took a trip to Europe where he met his future wife in Rome.  Over the years, he has worked for a variety of news organizations and magazines, including The Associated Press, The American Magazine, The Snowboard Journal, COLORS, Bene and Homeland Security Today, as well as a host of others.

Baglio's interests are varied, and his work has exposed him to topics as diverse as Vatican politics, anti-mafia police, the Olympics, and satanic cults.  Currently, he divides his time between Italy and California.  The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist is his first book.

Nizar Tawfiq Qabbani (1923-1998) Syrian Diplomat, Poet and Publisher

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Real Gone Girl: The True Story of Michelle Theer (Quick Reads) by Darla Pugh

Paperback:  Michelle Theer was the real "Gone Girl".

Caught in a love triangle between her Army Ranger lover, Sergeant John Diamond, and Air Force Captain husband, Captain Frank Martin (Marty) Theer, Michelle wanted an out.  She also wanted a half-million dollar insurance policy payable on her husband's death.

On December 17, 2000, Michelle’s romantic quandary would come to end.  On this night, Michelle and Marty had attended a Christmas party hosted by Dr. Thomas Harbin, a fellow psychologist who shared office space with Michelle.  On the way home, Michelle asked Marty to stop by her office so that she could get some books she had forgotten to bring home earlier that day.

Marty stayed behind in the couples’ 1999 Ford Explorer as Michelle went into the upper floor office.  After several minutes had passed, Marty grew impatient and went to see what was keeping his wife.  As he climbed the outdoor stairway, Marty was shot four times by a gunman in the shadows.  When his body tumbled to the bottom of the stairway, the gunman fired a fifth bullet into his body.  It was this bullet that was fatal, according to medical examiners.

When Fayetteville police continued to build a strong case against Michelle, she would go on the run becoming a wanted fugitive, going so far as altering her appearance with plastic surgery, using fake documents as well as dyeing her hair.  In Florida, where she had had the surgery done, she signed an apartment under the name of Lisa Pendragon.  The Florida driver’s license she obtained was issued to Alexandra Solomon.  Her plans were to go to a Latin American country until one simple misstep brought her into the hands of the law.

On 5 August 2002, after being on the run for three months, Michelle was arrested for the murder of her husband.  Two years later, she would turn down a plea deal which would send her to prison for only ten years.  The case then went to trial for ten weeks, drawing both local and national media attention.  Despite the lengthy trial, on 3 December 2004, the jury returned a verdict of guilty after a mere six hours of deliberation - six days before her 34th birthday.

Both Diamond and Michelle are currently serving life sentences without parole for the 17 December 2000 murder in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Michelle is currently incarcerated at the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women in Raleigh, North Carolina.  With the help of her mother and sister, Michelle continued to proclaim her innocence on her blog at;  that is, until it mysteriously and without warning shut down in early 2012.

In April 2011, a federal appeals court denied her request for a new trial.

John Diamond is currently behind bars at the United States Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  For a short while, he attempted to maintain his own blog, which he named Free John Diamond, with the aid of his sister but apparently gave up as it has not been updated since November 2007.  His most recent appeal in 2010, filed on the basis of a conflict of interest, was denied by a federal court.

Both Diamond and Theer were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

About the author:  The Real Gone Girl was published in 2016 both in paperback and Kindle formats.

Buy More Books, Not Coffee

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Chicago Way (PI Michael Kelly series) by Michael Harvey

Hardback:  From the creator and executive producer of the television show Cold Case Files, a fast-paced, stylish murder mystery featuring a tough-talking Irish cop turned private investigator who does for the city of Chicago what Elmore Leonard did for Detroit and Raymond Chandler did for Los Angeles.

Chicago private investigator Michael Kelly is hired by his former partner, John Gibbons, to help solve an eight-year-old rape and battery case, a case it turns out his old friend was once ordered to forget.  When Gibbons turns up dead on Navy Pier, Kelly enlists a team of his savviest colleagues to connect the dots between the recent murder and the cold case it revived:  Diane Lindsay, a television reporter whose relationship with Kelly is not strictly professional;  his best friend from childhood, Nicole Andrews, a forensic DNA expert;  Nicole's boyfriend, Vince Rodriguez, a detective with a special interest in rape cases;  and Bennett Davis from the DA's office, a friend since Kelly's days on the force.  To close the case, Kelly will have to face the mob, a serial killer, his own double-crossing friends and the mean streets of the city he loves.

Ferociously plotted and crackling with wit, The Chicago Way's (2007) protagonist, Michael Kelly, is a wisecracking Irish scrapper, slings metaphors like Philip Marlowe and reads Homer and Aeschylus in Greek.  The Chicago Way is first-rate suspense steeped in the glorious, gritty atmosphere of a great city:  a marvellous debut.

About the author:  Michael Harvey is a writer, journalist investigative reporter and award-winning documentary producer.  He has received national and international awards for his work.  Harvey earned a law degree from Duke University, a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in classical languages (magna cum laude with honours) from Holy Cross College.  He is the author of five crime novels and two stand-alone novels.  He was also selected by the Chicago Tribune as Chicagoan of the Year in Literature for 2011.  He is currently an adjunct professor at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and owns an Irish bar in Chicago, The Hidden Shamrock.  He lives in Chicago.

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Almost Nearly Perfect People (Non-Fiction) by Michael Booth

Paperback:  The whole world wants to learn the secrets of Nordic exceptionalism:  why are the Danes the happiest people in the world, despite having the highest taxes?  If the Finns really have the best education system, how come they still think all Swedish men are gay?  Are the Icelanders really feral?  How are the Norwegians spending their fantastical oil wealth?  And why do all of them hate the Swedes?

Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic that has engulfed the rest of the world, whether it e for their food, television, social systems or chunky knitwear.

In this timely book, he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success and, most intriguing of all, what they think of each other.  Along the way, a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.

They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn't easy being Scandinavian.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People (2014) is a lively and endearing portrait of the Nordic Miracle.

About the author:  Michael Booth, journalist, broadcaster and speaker, contributes to numerous British and foreign magazines and all of the UK's broadsheet newspapers.  He is also the award-winning, bestselling author of five works of non-fiction:  Eat, Pray, Eat, which was nominated for a British Travel Press Award in 2012;  Just As Well I'm Leaving, nominated for the Irish Times first writers award;  Sacré Cordon Bleu, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week;  and Sushi and Beyond, winner of the Guild of Food Writers Kate Whiteman Award for Work on Food and Travel in 2010.  Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking, was adapted into a Japanese television anime series which began airing in April 2015.  He lives in Denmark with his wife and children.

Aphra Behn (1640-1689), British Playwright, Poet, Translator and Fiction Writer from the Restoration Era

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Hardback:  Flight Behaviour (2012) transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman's narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire.  In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel's inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence.  Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen.  Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man.  As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, but instead encounters a shocking sight:  a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire.  She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the media.  The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome.  As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Flight Behaviour takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time:  climate change.  With a deft and versatile empathy, she dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.
Flight Behaviour was also nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award 2014, the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 in the Best Book category, the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction 2012, a New York Times bestseller and was declared "Best book of the year" by the Washington Post and USA Today in 2012.

About the author:  Barbara Kingsolver's work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned a devoted readership.  In 2010, she won the Orange Prize for The Lacuna, a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.  Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist.  She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.  Flight Behaviour is her seventh novel.

Status:  Unread/To-Be-Read

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Paperback:  Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town.  Young Ruby Bell, "the kind of pretty it hurt to look at," has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York.

Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city-the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village-all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother.  When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood.

With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out again, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town's dark past.  Meanwhile, Ephram, a wounded soul himself, must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy.

Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby is a transcendent novel of passion and courage.  This wondrous page-turner rushes through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom's Juke, to Celia Jennings's kitchen, where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby.

Utterly transfixing, with unforgettable characters, riveting suspense, and breathtaking, luminous prose, Ruby (2014) offers an unflinching portrait of man's dark acts, the promise of the redemptive power of love and an inspiring tribute to the human spirit.

Ruby is also shortlisted for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction 2016 in the Best Book category.

About the author:  Cynthia Bond has taught writing to homeless and at-risk youth throughout Los Angeles for over sixteen years.  Cynthia attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, then moved to New York and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  Cynthia acted for many years in New York with the Negro Ensemble Company.  A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow, Cynthia founded the Blackbird Writing Collective in 2011.  At present, Bond teaches therapeutic writing at Paradigm Malibu Adolescent Treatment Center.  She is also an advocate for the victims of human trafficking;  to learn more about organizations related to this cause, please visit her website.  A native of East Texas, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.  She is on Facebook and Twitter.

Status:  Unread/To-Be-Read

St John of the Cross (1542-1591), Religious Founder, Priest and Doctor of the Church

When The Limo Breaks Down

Pleasing To God

Friday, 20 May 2016

The Name Of God Is Mercy by Pope Francis

Hardback:  "Mercy is the first attribute of God.  The name of God is mercy.  There are no situations we cannot get out of, we are not condemned to sink into quicksand.  The Church is not in the world to condemn but to make possible an encounter with the visceral love that is God's mercy.  For this to occur, we must go out.  Go out from the churches and the parishes, go out to find people where they suffer, where they hope." - Franciscus

Simply and directly, Pope Francis here addresses all humanity in an intimate and personal dialogue.  At the center of this book is the subject closest to his heart - mercy - which has long been the cornerstone of his faith and is now the central teaching of his papacy.  These pages resonate with a desire to reach all those souls who are looking for meaning in life, a road to peace and reconciliation, and the healing of physical and spiritual wounds.

In this conversation with Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli, Francis explains - through memories from his youth and moving anecdotes from his experiences as a pastor - his reasons for proclaiming a Holy Year of Mercy.  He reiterates that the Church cannot close the door on anyone - that, on the contrary, its duty is to find its way into the consciousness of people so that they can assume responsibility for, and move away from, the bad things they have done.

And to those who already count themselves among the ranks of the just, Francis counsels, "Even the Pope is a man who needs the mercy of God."

The Name of God is Mercy (2016) is being published in more than eighty countries around the world.

About Pope Francis:  Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires on 17 December 1936.  On 13 March 2013, he became the Bishop of Rome and the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.  His Holy Year of Mercy began on 8 December 2015 and will end on 20 November 2016.

About the Vatican Reporter:  Andrea Tornielli is a veteran Vatican reporter, correspondent for La Stampa, and director of the Vatican Insider website.  He also writes for a variety of Italian and international magazines.  His publications include the first biography of the Pope, Francis:  Pope of a New World (2013), which was translated into sixteen languages, and This Economy Kills:  Pope Francis on Capitalism and Social Justice (2015), which was translated into nine languages.

About the Translator:  Oonagh Stransky has translated a range of fiction and nonfiction writers including Roberto Saviano, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Giuseppe Pontiggia and Carlo Lucarelli.  Her work has received important prizes and nominations.  Born in Paris, Stransky grew up in the Middle East, London and the United States and attended Mills College, Middlebury College and Columbia University.  A member of PEN American Center and the American Literary Translators Association, she currently lives in Tuscany.

Hunters In The Dark by Lawrence Osborne

Hardback:  Robert Grieve - pushing thirty and eager to side-step a life of quiet desperation as a small-town teacher - decides to go missing.

As he crosses the border from Thailand to Cambodia, he tests the threshold of a new future.  And on that first night, a small windfall precipitates a chain of events involving a bag of 'jinxed' money, a suave American, a corrupt policeman and a rich doctor's daughter, in which Robert's life is changed forever.

Alive with malice and grace, Hunters In The Dark (2015) is a taut tale reminiscent of the nightmares of Patricia Highsmith:  a story of double identities, and innocence in the midst of evil, from a master of atmosphere and observation.

About the author:  Lawrence Osborne was born in England and educated at Cambridge and Harvard, where he studied modern languages.  He then lived in Paris for ten years, where he wrote his first novel Ania Malina (1987) and, later, the travelogue Paris Dreambook (1990).  Subsequently, he has lived a nomadic life, moving to New York City and then to Mexico, Istanbul and Bangkok, where he currently resides.

Status:  Unread/To-Be-Read

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Hardback:  There is something about Ove.

At first sight, he is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet.  He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse.  People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell."  But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association.  He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed?  Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible.

The word-of-mouth international bestseller causing a sensation across Europe, Fredrik Backman's heartwarming debut (2014) about the angry old man next door is a funny, moving, uplifting tale of love and community and of the thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others that will leave you with a spring in your step - and less ready to judge on first impressions a man you might one day wish to have as your dearest friend.

About the author:  Fredrik Backman is a well-known blogger and columnist.  His debut novel's protagonist was born on his blog, where over 1000 readers voted for Backman to write a novel about Ove.  In 2011, he became an overnight success when one of his blog entries, 'Personal message to stressed blond woman in Volkswagen', about reckless driving and parental love, became the most linked entry on Facebook ever, with 600 000 shares.  A Man Called Ove (2014) is translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch.  His other books are My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry (2015) and Britt Marie Was Here (2016).

Rating:  5/5

Sunday, 15 May 2016

All Day And A Night by Alafair Burke

Paperback:  When psychotherapist Helen Brunswick is murdered in her Park Slope office, the entire city suspects her estranged husband - until the District Attorney's Office receives an anonymous letter.  The letter's author knows a detail that police have kept secret:  the victim's bones were broken after she was killed, echoing a signature used twenty years earlier by Anthony Amaro, a serial killer serving a life sentence.  Now, Amaro is asking to be released from prison, arguing that he was wrongly convicted, and that the true killer is still on the loose.

Ellie Hatcher and her partner JJ Rogan are tapped as the 'fresh look' team to reassess the original investigation that led to Amaro's conviction.  The case pits them against both their fellow officers and a hard-charging celebrity defence lawyer with a young associate named Carrie Blank, who has a personal connection to the case.  As both the NYPD and Amaro's legal team search for certainty in years of conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie's hometown, and to deadly secrets left behind.

All Day and A Night (2014) is the fifth book in the gripping NYPD Ellie Hatcher series by Alafair Burke.

About the author:  Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinel has hailed as "two power house series" featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.  Alafair's novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters.  According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke.

Alafair is often asked about the origin of her name, especially by readers who are familiar with the fictional character, Alafair Robicheaux, featured in her father's novels.  Alafair was named for her father's maternal grandmother.  It was a more common name in the United States, particularly the south, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Now it is a name that belongs to her, two of her cousins, and, from what she can find on Google, ten cats, two dogs, an alpaca, and a boat.

Rating:  5/5

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Never Tell by Alafair Burke

Paperback:  Sixteen-year-old Julia Whitmire appeared to have everything:  a famous father, a luxurious Manhattan townhouse, a coveted spot at the elite Casden prep school.  When she is found dead in her bathtub, a handwritten suicide note left on her bed, her parents insists that their daughter would never take her own life.

But Julia's enviable life was more complicated than it seemed.  The pressure to excel at Casden was enormous.  Abuse of prescription anti-depressants and drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity ran rampant among students;  an unlabelled bottle of pills in Julia's purse suggests she had succumbed to the trend.  And a search of Julia's computer reveals that in the days leading up to her death, she was engaged in a dangerous game of cyberbullying against an unlikely victim.

NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher is convinced the case is a suicide, but she knows from personal experience that a loving family can be the last to accept the truth.  When the Whitmires use their power to force a criminal investigation, Ellie's resistance causes trouble for her both at work and in her personal life.

As she is pressured to pursue a case she does not believe in, she is pulled into Julia's inner circle - an eclectic mix of overly precocious teenagers from Manhattan's most privileged families as well as street kids she met in Greenwich Village.  But when the target of Julia's harassment continues to receive death threats, Ellie is forced to acknowledge that Julia may have learned the hard way that some secrets should never be told.

Never Tell (2012) is the fourth book in the suspenseful NYPD Ellie Hatcher series by Alafair Burke.

About the author:  Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinel has hailed as "two power house series" featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.  Alafair's novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters.  According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke.

Alafair is often asked about the origin of her name, especially by readers who are familiar with the fictional character, Alafair Robicheaux, featured in her father's novels.  Alafair was named for her father's maternal grandmother.  It was a more common name in the United States, particularly the south, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Now it is a name that belongs to her, two of her cousins, and, from what she can find on Google, ten cats, two dogs, an alpaca, and a boat.

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Thick Skin

Weather Forecast

William J Thoms (1803-1885), British Writer

City of Lies by Alafair Burke

Paperback:  In NYC, nights are dangerous.  Days are numbered.

When New York University sophomore Megan Gunther is brutally murdered, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and partner J J Rogan discover that Megan had been on the receiving end of some sinister online threats posted to a website specializing in campus gossip.  Is her death the result of a campus feud that got out of hand or could there be a twisted cyber fanatic at work?

But when a link is revealed between Megan and a murdered real-estate agent who was living a dangerous double life, Ellie comes to wonder if there was something else behind the student's death.  Even more significantly, Ellie learns that the dead woman shared a secret connection to a celebrity entrepreneur whose bodyguard was mysteriously killed a few months earlier.

And when Megan's roommate goes missing too, the hunt for the killer is really on.

With fans including everyone from Harlan Coben and Michael Connelly to Lisa Gardner and Laura Lippman, Alafair Burke's City of Lies aka 212 (2010) is the third book in the nail-biting NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher thriller series.

About the author:  Alafair Burke is the author of what the Sun-Sentinel has hailed as "two power house series" featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid.  Alafair's novels grow out of her love for writing, her experience as a prosecutor in America's police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and her ability to create strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters.  According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair "is a terrific web spinner" who "knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy."

A graduate of Stanford Law School and a former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.  She is the daughter of the acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke.

Alafair is often asked about the origin of her name, especially by readers who are familiar with the fictional character, Alafair Robicheaux, featured in her father's novels.  Alafair was named for her father's maternal grandmother.  It was a more common name in the United States, particularly the south, at the turn of the twentieth century.  Now it is a name that belongs to her, two of her cousins, and, from what she can find on Google, ten cats, two dogs, an alpaca, and a boat.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 9 May 2016

The Heart Of The World

Sir David Attenborough, English Broadcaster and Naturalist

The Ascent Of Humanity

The Barefoot Lawyer: The Remarkable Memoir of China's Bravest Political Activist by Chen Guangcheng

Hardback:  In the world as we know it, are there things that are difficult, as well as things that are easy?  Through action, those things that seem difficult become easy;  with inaction, things that are easy become difficult. - Peng Duanshu (1699-1799), from On Studying.

One who is shut indoors may come to know the world;  one who cannot look out the window may understand the Way of Heaven. - Laozi (fifth century BCE), from the Dao De Jing.

It was like a scene out of a thriller:  one morning in April 2012, China's most famous political activist - a blind, self-taught lawyer - climbed over the wall of his heavily guarded home and escaped.

For days, his whereabouts remained unknown;  after he turned up at the American embassy in Beijing, a furious round of high-level negotiations finally led to his release and a new life in the United States.

Chen Guangcheng is a unique figure on the world stage, but his story is even more remarkable than we knew.  The son of a poor farmer in rural China, blinded by illness when he was an infant, Chen was fortunate to survive a difficult childhood.  But despite his disability, he was determined to educate himself and fight for the rights of his country's poor, especially a legion of women who had endured forced sterilization under the hated 'one child' policy.  Repeatedly harassed, beaten, and imprisoned by Chinese authorities, Chen was ultimately placed under house arrest.  After a year of fruitless protest and increasing danger, he evaded his captors and fled to freedom.

Both a riveting memoir and a revealing portrait of modern China, this passionate book, The Barefoot Lawyer (2015), tells the story of a man who has never accepted limits and always believed in the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle.

"Never give up.  Never give up the yearning to find goodness in us all or the belief in the strength of the rule of law.  Never give up the search for truth and the eternal quest for justice," said Chen Guangcheng when he was led away to serve his sham of a sentence at the Linyi Intermediate People's Court.

About the author:  Chen Guangcheng is a Chinese civil rights activist now living in the Washington DC area with his wife and children.  In 2007, he was named one of Time magazine's 'Time 100', a list of '100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world'.  He is also a laureate of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, bestowed for 'his irrepressible passion for justice in leading ordinary Chinese citizens to assert their legitimate rights under the law'.  He continues to be active in human rights, and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Catholic University of America, a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Human Rights at the Witherspoon Institute, and Senior Distinguished Advisor to the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

An Exorcist Tells His Story (Non-Fiction) by Father Gabriele Amorth

Paperback:  In this powerful book, Father Gabriele Amorth, the renowed chief exorcist of Rome, tells of his many experiences in his ministry as an exorcist doing battle with Satan to relieve the great suffering of many people in the grip of evil.  The importance of the ministry to "expel demons" is clearly seen in the Gospels, from the actions of the Apostles, and from Church history.

In this book, Father Amorth allows the reader to witness the activities of the exorcist, to experience what an exorcist sees and does.  He shows how real and powerful the devil is, and how his wicked and evil influence is so prevalent today in many people's lives.  He also reveals how little modern science, psychology and medicine can do to help those under Satan's influence, and that only the power of Christ can release them from their mental, spiritual or physical suffering.

An Exorcist Tells His Story (1999) has been a European best-seller that has gone through numerous printings and editions.  No other book today so thoroughly and concisely discusses the topic of exorcism.

"This is a very important book.  Every pastoral leader, clergy and lay, should read it.  The ministry of exorcism badly needs to be restored in the Church today and Father Amorth's book is a significant contribution in this direction.  The book is not so much a theological treatise as a personal witness to the pastoral wisdom accumulated over the years as exorcist for the Diocese of Rome, and as such is extremely valuable," wrote Ralph Martin, author of The Catholic Church at the End of an Age.

About the author:  Father Gabriele Amorth (born 1 May 1925) is an Italian Roman Catholic priest and an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome who is reputed to have cleansed tens of thousands of demonic possessions.  Father Amorth authored two books specifically on exorcism.  The two books - An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories - are not official Roman Catholic documents, rather personal accounts of his office as Chief Exorcist under the tutelage of Father Candido Amantini.  The books use witness accounts and personal experience as evidence.  The two books include references to official Roman Catholic teachings on demonology, however the main emphasis is on Father Amorth's experience as an exorcist.  Both include references to the diagnosis and treatment of spiritual problems.  In 1990, he founded the International Association of Exorcists and was president until he retired, at 75, in 2000.  He is now honorary president for life of the association.  In an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph in 2000, Father Amorth stressed that "People need to know what we do."  (Wikipedia)