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Angels of Death: Inside the Bikers' Global Crime Empire
Angels of Death: Inside the Bikers' Global Crime Empire
by William Marsden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting material, dull recounting, 26 April 2010
What do you think of Hells Angels? Are they a free-wheeling group of "good old boys" who occasionally have a run in with the law, or are they a global crime empire dealing in drugs and guns? Originating in West Coast America, the HAMC have expanded into every major continent, but by doing so, have attracted the attention of every major law enforcement agency.

Marsden and Sher are two Canadian journalists who initially wrote a feature on Canadian motorcycle gangs. From this, they expanded the scope of their research to include biker gangs across the world from Canada to Amsterdam, Scandinavia to Australia. Many horrific tales of murder, beatings and feuds are recounted, but also we read the stories of the undercover police who have risked their lives and sanity to reveal the extent of the bikers' activities.

The authors have done a lot of research following the trail of HAMC and their affiliates across the globe. For anyone new to the world of outlaw biker gangs, this serves as a great introduction, but the bland writing style negates a lot of the excitement and danger contained in these stories.


The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession
The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession
by David Grann
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read the stories individually for maximum effect, 17 April 2010
The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession comes from the pen of David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z. I had really enjoyed this true life tale of swashbuckling adventure in the Amazon so I was pleased to receive an ARC copy of his newest book. Sherlock Holmes noted that "life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent". Grann has taken that mantra to heart and presents a collection of true tales which feature obsession, perverse behaviour and even murder.

The collection starts with the apparent murder of the world's pre-eminent Sherlock Holmes scholar who is found dead following an obsessive quest for the missing archives of Arthur Conan Doyle. Grann progresses to arson detectives, an amnesiac guilt-ridden survivor of 9/11 and white supremist gangs. The scope is wide and far-reaching and Grann has clearly taken each story to heart, travelling to research and meet the characters involved. He even manages to make some pretty unsavoury characters seem sympathetic.

Because each story is free-standing, this is an easy book to read in pieces. In fact, each of these essays has been previously published, with the majority appearing in The New Yorker Magazine (although they have been revied and updated for this edition). This explains perhaps why the collection of essays in one edition doesn't seem to gel quite right. They are fantastic stories, but are better suited to piecemeal reading, rather than a continuous read.


This is Social Media: Tweet, Blog, Link and Post Your Way to Business Success
This is Social Media: Tweet, Blog, Link and Post Your Way to Business Success
by Guy Clapperton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward guide to starting in Social Media, 15 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Social media has grown phenomenally over the last few years. It's a rare person who hasn't heard of Twitter or Facebook at this stage. Initially used by individuals, businesses are realising the potential of these new media channels and are starting to embrace them.

Guy Clapperton is a highly experienced media consultant who has produced a simple, easy to read guide for business owners who want to get started in the world of social media. Clapperton advises caution and warns against starting a social media strategy simply for the sake of doing it. He recommends making sure that it fits with your audience, with your strategy and more importantly, with your budget.

Clapperton devotes a chapter to a high-level review of the main social media channels, providing a description of each along with a description of the typical audience for each site. People mystified by the burgeoning world of social media will no doubt appreciate this chapter.

This is an honest book that is easy to read. It's a good starting point for novices in this brave new world.


House of Cards: How Wall Street's Gamblers Broke Capitalism
House of Cards: How Wall Street's Gamblers Broke Capitalism
by William D. Cohan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars How it all came tumbling down..., 5 April 2010
Wall Street has long been a source of fascination for me and many people. It's kind of frightening to think that the money you earn and spend, the money you invest in pensions and savings, and the debts you incur are all influenced by the actions of a relatively small group of (mainly) men located in financial centres like Wall Street.

House of Cards tells the story of Bear Stearns, a global investment bank, which was the first major casualty of the recent crisis in the financial markets. Bear Stearns was a pioneer in the area of securitisation and asset-backed securities which initially resulted in bumper figures at the bank, but ultimately led to its downfall in 2008. This resulted in the bank being sold in a firesale to JP Morgan Chase.

The story starts in 2008 and recounts the mounting pressure on the bank's executives as they faced an unparalleled liquidity crisis in the overnight lending market, resulting in the sale of the proud and historic bank, all in the space of just 10 days. Having established the present, Cohan then starts to take us through the history and key personalities of Bear Stearns.

What emerges is a portrait of how powerful and dominant personalities came to be in charge of billions of dollars. One of the main figures in the rise, and ultimate downfall, of Bear Stearns is long-serving CEO Jimmy Cayne. Named as one of the worst American CEOs of all time, Cayne is endemic of both the brilliance and faults that lay at the heart of the bank. A championship bridge player, he was playing in a tournament when B.S. hedge funds experienced difficulty, and it was clear to see that he did not comprehend the financial instruments upon which the success of Bear Stearns had been built.

Cohan paints a picture of character over integrity, forcefulness and personality over knowledge and regulation. It is a scary world, full of folly. Many people are confused about recent events, but House of Cards is a wonderful place to start to learn. It is well researched, detailed and well-written. Cohan does not eulogise, but simply presents the personalities and facts. There is no need for embellishment - the outcomes of recent years speak for themselves.


Spider Trap (Brock & Kolla Mysteries)
Spider Trap (Brock & Kolla Mysteries)
by Barry Maitland
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Classy, elegant crime novel, 30 Mar 2010
A shooting of two teenage girls in inner South London leads to the unearthing of 3 skeletons on an abandoned patch of ground. DCI David Brock and DSI Kathy Krolla are assigned to the case, which takes them back in history to the Brixton riots of 1981 and brings them face to face with a long-established London crime family, headed by Spider Roach.

This novel is one of a series of nine in the Brock and Krolla series, written by Maitland, who has lived in Australia since the mid-1980s. Despite this, Maitland sets his novels in the neighbourhood of his childhood, South London. Despite such a legacy, this novel is a worthwhile read in its own right and will probably entice a lot of readers to pick up more of Maitland's novels.

Maitland skillfully mixes the past and present as he tells this story of organised crime and murder. The story is firmly embedded in the culture of the area and builds well towards the end. His story of a white family controlling all black crime, while distancing themselves from the law is intriguing. But ultimately, they doom themselves through a foolish act. This is a well-written, classy crime novel that isn't sensationalist, but instead intelligent.


Servant of the Underworld: Obsidian and Blood Trilogy, Book I
Servant of the Underworld: Obsidian and Blood Trilogy, Book I
by Aliette de Bodard
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Dull magic, 22 Mar 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Servant of the Underworld is the first in the Blood and Obsidian Trilogy from French writer Aliette de Bodard. Here, she mixes Aztec culture, blood magic and forensics to create a new genre in the fantasy world. There is no doubt that de Bodard has taken on a hefty task in recreating the Aztec world, given that we know so little about it. However, she has deftly managed to create a living, breathing world full of detail.

When you think about it, the main hero, a High Priest for the Dead who kills animals for sacrifices, shouldn't be a very nice character. As the author herself admits, he doesn't commit human sacrifice in the book, although chances are high that he would. However, the character of Acatl is endearing and human as he struggles to clear the name of his warrior brother.

Overall though, I just couldn't involve myself with the book. It felt lacklustre and devoid of real energy. Perhaps it was as a result of all the detours into songs and chants, but I couldn't muster any real enthusiasm.


The Left Hand of God
The Left Hand of God
by Paul Hoffman
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat dull and uninspired, 13 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Left Hand of God (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Thomas Cale is a young acolyte in the Sanctuary, home to a order of warrior monks. His life is brutal, cold, hungry and tough. Friends aren't tolerated in the order of the Redeemers and training to wage war is the order of the day. It is clear that Cale is being trained for some special purpose but nothing is clear.

Following a horrific discovery, Cale is forced to flee the Sanctuary along with two fellow trainees and a young handmaiden. Although ferociously hunted by the Redeemers, they manage to evade their persuers and make their way to the city of Memphis, where their lives start to take some interesting turns.

Thomas Cale is a interesting character - he is at turns a killing machine and devoid of feeling, but he also struggles with latent feelings and emotions. In a way, Cale is typical of this novel. It struggles with an identity. I was uncertain in which timeline or world this story was set. Was it a post-apocalyptical tale, an early medieval tale or a story of a parallel universe? Although Hoffman writes eloquently, he fails to elicit real emotion or interest. A climatic battle scene simply passes by without raising a real sense of doom or defeat.

The book is the first of a series, but I won't be reading further. It simply didn't engross me enough to buy more.


Rupture
Rupture
by Simon Lelic
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing tale of bullying, 7 Mar 2010
This review is from: Rupture (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Rupture is Simon Lelic's debut novel and it is, in my opinion, a tour de force. It opens following a shooting at an English school where a young teacher shot pupils and other teachers before finally turning the gun on himself. As the investigating detective Lucia May starts to dig, a whole world of institutionalised bullying is revealed. Shockingly, her investigation starts to mirror her own experiences in the police force, leaving her sympathetic to Szajkowski, the gunman teacher and his actions.

Lelic has employed an unusual structure for this novel. When not speaking as Lucia May, he alternates between the voices of the various supporting characters. This reveals Lelic to be a deft and captivating writer, easily able to change voice at the turn of a page.

This novel is something of the zeitgeist. On one hand we have a headmaster who ignored activities in the school in order to maintain a high profile while on the other hand we have stories of young children cruelly bullying others. It somehow captures the societal breakdown that many feel is endemic in our modern world.

Rupture is a shocking and riveting story which is exceptionally well written. Not only is it a police novel but it pushes and investigates society and bullying. An amazing read.


Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern
Germania: A Personal History of Germans Ancient and Modern
by Simon Winder
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.74

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional historical writing, 23 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Germania is, surprisingly, a history of Germany. The thing is though, it's not told from a stuffy, rigorous perspective but instead is told in an easy and humorous manner by the author. It is at times irreverent and long-winded, but it is always entertaining and illuminating.

Winder is a man obsessed with all things German. Ever since a childhood holiday in Germany, he has been fascinated by this country that sits at the heart of Europe, but which yet took so long to solidify into a coherent sovereign state. Winder mixes descriptions of favourite locations around Germany with a very liberal dose of history, and a unique perspective on the Germans. The book stops just shy of WWII as the author clearly does not feel comfortable with this dark period in German history. However, the book stretches back in time to the Romans, thus covering a significant period of time.

The book is peppered with laugh out loud comments and observations, but when finished reading, I realised that I had also absorbed a large amount of factual knowledge. If only all historical writing was this captivating.


SuperCycles: The New Economic Force Transforming Global Markets and Investment Strategy
SuperCycles: The New Economic Force Transforming Global Markets and Investment Strategy
by Arun Motianey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.51

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tough reading, but intriguing, 20 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Arun Motianey is an ex-Citigroup senior employee with a wealth of economic experience. With the current worldwide turmoil, he has chosen a highly appropriate time to advance his theory of the SuperCycle.

The SuperCyle is a long, continuous wave of up and down that stretch throughout the global markets. Motianey attributes the existence of the SuperCycle to the misguided, but well-meant actions of policymakers and leaders. The author takes us through the entire story of a SuperCycle, from beginning, middle to end, using the classic example of the Great Depression to highlight his theory. This naturally leads to an exploration of the current crisis. Motianey's argument against lending on asset value, rather than on income streams rings eerily true following the recent falls in property prices.

Be warned, this is not a light read and definitely not for the faint of heart, or those unlearned in matters economic. I frequently found myself researching topics on the internet in order to supplement my basic economic knowledge. But the author makes interesting reading and his contrary viewpoint is definitely welcome in a time when no one seems to have the answer.


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