Reviews Published

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Before Midnight

What is it about the movie BEFORE MIDNIGHT that makes it so good? Yes Ethan Hawke. Yes Julie Delpy. Yes the Greek setting and yes the quirky dialogue and yes the raw honesty of what love looks like after nine years.

But you know what else? It's the assumption that the female characters are all intelligent and they have something to discuss that's not shoes. It reminded me not only of its predecessors BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, but also of a Canadian classic, THE FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE.   Go see BEFORE MIDNIGHT. Twice.   

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Replay by Ken Grimwood is a novel worth reading. I wonder whether that's where Stephen King got his idea for 22/11/63. Yes, it's about travelling back in time, replaying bits of your life. Personally, I preferred King's version (I could actually see the railway lines and taste the root beer), but I'm glad I read Replay.

Here's what the Wikipedia says about it: "Replay is the account of 43-year-old radio journalist Jeff Winston, who dies of a heart attack in 1988 and awakens back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body as a student at Atlanta's Emory University. He then begins to relive his life with intact memories of the next 25 years, until, despite his best efforts at cardiac health, he dies of a heart attack, again, in 1988. He immediately returns to 1963, but several hours later than the last "replay". This happens repeatedly with different events in each cycle, each time beginning from increasingly later dates (first days, then weeks, then years, then ultimately decades). Jeff soon realizes that he cannot prevent his death in 1988, but he can change the events that occur before it, both for him, and for others."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nine Fold Heaven - A Guest Post By Mingmei Yip

In China, there are many woman spies – their activities range from stealing political secrets to toppling governments. What I discovered during my research of writing my previous novel Skeleton Women (femmes fatales) and my new novel The Nine Fold Heaven is that spies usually end unhappily. Most spies, no matter how cautious smart, scheming, or ruthless, in the end could not beat fate. Because the world they lived in had too much uncertainty and evil.

All a spy is allowed to possess is the “four nothings,” no friends, no identity, no emotion, no scruples. In China, there were many woman spies who will use their beauty, talent, and scheme to eliminate their target. This is called the beauty strategy, or honey trap, recorded in the famous Thirty Six Stratagems two hundred fifty thousand years ago.

Simple in principle and timeless in effectiveness, it involved sending beautiful women to eliminate anyone from lord to emperor. Twenty-five hundred years ago, during the China’s chaotic era known as the Warring States, King Goujian of Yue used it to defeat King Fuchai of the State of Wu. King Wu won the first battle and so King Yue sent him ten carts of priceless treasures as tribute. But cleverly he also included eight of the most beautiful women in his state as peace offerings. As intended, King Wu and his ministers had become so immersed in dalliance that they neglected state affairs. Tipped off by his spies, King Yue sent his army and easily defeated King Wu. Though Wu offered Yue his country and all its treasures, the victor was merciless. Yue was ordered to commit suicide in front of the very women who had brought about his ruin.

Even the most cunning man becomes a fool for a beautiful woman. Friends’ warnings fall on deaf ears. They blind themselves to the schemes behind the pretty face and the poisons in the beloved heart. When clothes come off, thinking stops.

However, there are also spies who failed at their last step to succeed because at the last minute, they could not pull the trigger. We imagine this is especially true for women. They may fall in love with their target and find themselves unable to kill.

This is what happens in Eileen Chang’s novel, Caution, Lust. When the female protagonist finally lured her victim to the place planned for his assassination, she didn’t have the heart to kill him and told him to run.

A Chinese saying, “It’s difficult for a hero to resist a beautiful woman’s love.” Thus the ever popular honey trap. But this also applies when a women meets a handsome, caring man. 

Come along with an ex spy as she returns to Shanghai where she’s a wanted woman – but she has to search for her baby and her lost lover. Is her baby really alive? Will she be able to find her lover? Can she elude the police long enough to find them? Learn much more about Nine Fold Heaven and Mingmei Yip at and get your copy of this exciting and exotic novel at

Nine Fold Heaven is part of a series about Camilla the songbird and female spy – you can also read Skeleton Women, the first book about Camilla.

About Nine Fold Heaven

An ex spy and nightclub singer who undertakes an emotional and dangerous journey to reunite with her lost lover and the baby she was told was stillborn, and to discover the secret of her parents’ murder.

About Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip has been writing and publishing since she was fourteen years old and now she has twelve books to her credit. Her five novels are published by Kensington Books and her two children’s books are published by Tuttle Publishing. Mingmei is also a renowned qin (ancient string instrument) musician, calligrapher and painter. In Hong Kong, she was a columnist for seven major newspapers. She has appeared on over sixty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the US. Visit Mingmei at:

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Rook

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley is a debut novel with a lot of oomph. Imagine a speculative fiction thriller, and you're partly there. Add a lot of humour, original ideas and great writing, and you're beginning to imagine what the book may be like.

Something about it reminds me of Terry Pratchett in his early days. I read it, loved it, can't recommend it often enough. And Book 2 is finished, awaiting publication.

For those of you who need a blurb:

"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.