26 April 2013

Two great new (ish) bios!

1. Why I Left Goldman Sachs – Memoir by Greg Smith

Greg Smith is the author of the financial world’s most well-read breakup letter. You probably read it: the New York Times op-ed that Greg used to resign from Wall Street’s Goldman Sachs, where he claimed the culture was "toxic and destructive". 

(If you didn't, it's called 'Why I Am leaving Goldman Sachs' and you can read it here.)

The book is Why I Left Goldman Sachs, and it’s fascinating. Greg takes us on his personal 12-year journey through the firm, unpacking the sins of the world's most powerful bank (from letting clients place mistaken orders that net GS millions to switching its recommendations about whether to buy or sell options on European banks in the middle of the European debt crisis.) I loved every minute of reading it.

Disclosure: Greg Smith is a distant cousin of mine, by marriage. He's also a seriously good guy. And I really liked his book, which is well-written, interesting and hugely insightful for readers who know the markets well or who can't distinguish between a hedge fund and a hedgehog.

2. Jane Raphaely Unedited – Autobiography by Jane Raphaely

It’s frank. It’s funny. And it’s as much a slice of SA history as anything I’ve read lately. Jane Raphaely Unedited is also a recipe for success, especially if you love your career almost as much as you love your children. 

Chairman of leading media company Associated Magazines and publisher of famous titles O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, Jane tells the story of her underprivileged early life in Stockport, England, and her arrival in South Africa, where she became a feisty, eloquent thorn in the side of the verkrampte Publications Control Board. 

This book is, as another reviewer has said, “a rollicking adventure”.

Calculated in Death (JD Robb)

Available from all good bookstores and on the Kindle

Hmmm. I’m a long-term fan of JD Robb (even though I hate the writing of her alter ego, Nora Roberts). To prove to you the extent of my fandom, here’s the evidence: I named my cat Dallas, after Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Robbs’ protagonist.

Buuut… Robbs’ writing is starting to annoy me lately, for four reasons:

a)    It’s getting very formulaic.

Something bad and bloody happens, in one of Hot Hubby’s empire of locations. Eve, despite constantly battling her own inner demons, enlists Hot Hubby, her faithful sidekick Peabody, the tea-drinking Dr Mira and the usual assortment of allies. She then allows Hot Hubby to choose her clothes/deck her out for a function she doesn’t want to go to, force her to eat and sleep, have jaw-dropping sex with her on the shower floor/in the pool, and provide genius assistance in catching the bad guy. Whose ass she (literally) hands to him before sending him off-planet for, like, ever.

b)    The sex scenes are dreadful.

“When she rose over him, her skin gleaming in the last red lights of the dying sun, he was beyond speech. Now her fingers linked with his, and she took him in. She bowed back, her body a slim and lovely arch of energy, and it shuddered, shuddered, as his did. Then she shifted her gaze, fixed her eyes on his. And rode.” – Portrait in Death
Seriously? It’s all getting a bit 50 Shades for me. And before you ask, no, I haven’t read it. But I’ve been told that there’s lots of “She shattered into a million pieces.”

c)    Eve Dallas thinks in phrases.

“Six hours before, she'd killed a man, had watched death creep into his eyes. It wasn't the first time she'd exercised maximum force, or dreamed. But it was the child that haunted her. The child she hadn't been in time to save. The child whose screams had echoed in the dreams with her own.” – Naked in Death
I’m getting a bit bored with the way Eve’s inner monologue moves; specifically, the constant and repetitive use of sentence fragments to add drama. She grumps, grumbles, whines, deflects and generally behaves like a massive curmudgeon, only showing a small sense of humour while being ravished by Hot Hubby. Boring.
d)    The futuristic stuff is dwindling.

The early books had great detail about cars that fly and weird GM foods and crazy fashion. The later ones, specifically Calculated in Death, is a bit short on it. Which is a pity. Because if I’m going to read 37 books set in and around the year 2060, you’d better believe I’m going to need some awesome tech stuff to keep me interested.

If you’re going to read this book, despite my indictment, you should know the plot:

A dead woman lies at the bottom of the stairs. Mugged, apparently. But Eve and Peabody find blood inside the apartment building, and evidence of a hit. Problem is, Marta, the vic, isn’t the ‘sort’ to be on a hit list. She’s a boring, well-to-do accountant. Eve enters Roarke’s world of big billionaire business to find the money trail.

I’d love to know what you think -> tiffany@tiffanymarkman.co.za

Guilt (Jonathan Kellerman)

Available from all good bookstores and on the Kindle

Now this is crime fiction! 

Kellerman never misses. Yes, he’s written 28 Alex Delaware novels, but each one is different. And while Alex (and his cohorts, to be fair) has his particular quirks, we see different facets of his character each time.

This, Kellerman’s latest offering, begins with an expectant mom who’s renovating her yard when she finds a blue metal box in the soil. There’s a baby’s skeleton in it.

Alex and his partner, Los Angeles Police Lt. Milo Sturgis, begin to hunt for clues to the infant’s identity, but the bones of another baby emerge in a nearby park. Together with the corpse of a 20-something woman, killed by a gunshot. 

The three must be related, but how and why? The detective and psychologist delve sixty years into the past, to explore a former hospital with a dangerous staff and reputation.

Expect the usual brisk investigation, with the calm, cool and seldom-ruffled Alex bantering with the grouchy, touchy, binge-eating Milo. Expect a series of tense and detailed scenes and evocative dialogue. Expect the entrance of Hollywood and its own dramas. And expect a case so heart-rending that brings even Alex to tears.

Oh, What a Tangle! (Anita Pouroulis)

This review was originally published on zaparents.com.

I’ve said this before: book reviewers get jaded. We’re lucky enough to receive new books often; to regularly get to open cardboard boxes filled with the smell of freshly published paper. 

So there’s usually little to make us squeal with delight – until we get into the book itself, that is.

Hoo-boy. The universe was just waiting to see what I would do when it sent me all four of Anita Pouroulis’s debut titles, packaged in a gorgeous re-usable purple satchel. I squealed. No jokes. But, let’s get to the details, shall we?

What’s it about?

I selected Oh, What a Tangle! that very night, for my littlie’s bedtime story. Moms, if your kid has curly hair or hates having his/her hair brushed, buy this book. Because little Kiki’s ‘crowning glory’, horribly neglected in favour of activities that are more fun, soon turns into an actual birds’ nest.

How does it look?

The illustrations are spectacular; the work, I’m told, of student illustrator Monika Filipina Trzpil, who is completing the Master of Arts (MA, Children's Book Illustration) programme at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.

How does it read?

The words are lovely. It all rhymes and the general flow is melodic. I may be alone in this, but a bedtime story that rhymes (even when it’s a long-ish one) is easier and more pleasant to read.

Aside: For me, as a writer, the cadence of the writing and rhyme does feel a little erratic in parts (my husband, also a writer, has moaned that it doesn’t scan perfectly) – but my kidlet and I still love the book, and its unusual vocab, so who cares?

What else?

And then, there's the app! Oh, What a Tangle! is available in the iBookstore, the App Store and for Google Play. We've 'played' it once or twice, and it's cool. Having apps to complement the bedtime experience is great, especially since my toddler ikes to see her favourite characters everywhere.

Just one more thing

Anita Pouroulis is an ex-South African living in Spain. The pluses for us, as SA readers, are that her stories use the more UK/SA ‘mum’ and other lingo and that her apps feature delightful British-accented narration. What a lovely change!