Monday, July 28, 2014

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪ out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                        July 2014
Purchase in Australia:         QBD Bookstore & other good book stores
More Information:                 More Information
Publisher’s Website:            Harper Collins

My thoughts:

When you discover a new author it’s such a thrill, isn't it? I remember, in my twenties, reading Robert Ludlum’s The Matarese Circle, Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle, Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal and being blown away. How did these guys write like this? I was hooked on them and, subsequently, read everything they wrote after that. Somehow over the years I drifted away from spy thrillers. They became cliché, mostly derivative of these master’s genre work.

So when I was handed The Swimmer by Joakim Zander, I wasn’t expecting to become excited about the genre again. But Zander’s book has everything that Ludlum, Follett, and Forsyth's books did. His skill with words, the imminent feeling of  suspense, and a layered, intriguing story combine perfectly for an exciting read. What makes it even more amazing is that this is a translation from Zander’s native Swedish.

Klara Waldeen was orphaned as a child and raised by her grandparents in an isolated area of Sweden. As an adult, she now lives in Brussels and works as a political aide.

A million miles away, in another life and another country, an old spy who had prioritized his job over his family now ponders his choices in life; his only solace, swimming. Then, on Christmas Eve, Klara is dragged into a race against time and unseen enemies via an ex-lover Mahmoud Shammosh when he, inadvertently, comes across sensitive information. Thus begins a wild chase across Europe against pursuers who will kill to maintain their secret. Elsewhere, Swedish lobbyist, George Lööw, is assigned a client with a suspicious agenda. He suddenly finds his life threatened and involved in the pursuit against his will. 

When the retired spy realizes who Clara is, he, too, becomes embroiled in the chase. Little does Klara know that a man she doesn’t know, but has always wondered about, may be the only person who can save her.

After setting up the characters, this book ramps up and doesn’t let you go. The Swimmer has an unassuming cover, but within that cover is an explosive read that will have any spy-thriller fan rejoicing. This is the perfect thriller.

About the author:
Joakim Zander was born in 1975 in Stockholm, Sweden. He was raised in the small town of Söderköping but, growing up, he also lived in Syria and Israel and was a high-school exchange student in the USA. After completing his military service in the Swedish Navy, he studied law at Uppsala University and later earned a PhD in Law from Maastricht University. Cambridge University Press published his dissertation, The Application of the Precautionary Principle in Practice, which was awarded the Rabobank Prize. Zander has worked for the European Parliament and the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. He currently lives in Helsinki, Finland where he serves as a lawyer for the EU during the day and writes at night. The Swimmer is his first novel.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Clifton Chronicles: Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪ out of 5 Stars

Release Date:                      March 2014
Author’s Website:    
Purchase in Australia:       QBD Bookstore & other good book stores
Purchase Book U.S.:          Amazon
Publisher’s Website:          Pan MacMillan

Only Time Will Tell: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 1       Released 2011
The Sins of the Father: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 2    Released 2012
The Best Kept Secret: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 3     Released 2013
What You Wish For: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 4       Released March 2014

My thoughts:

Since Not A Penny More, Not a Penny Less, I’ve idolized Jeffrey Archer as an author. Jeffrey Archer is the master of characterization and suspense. Somehow he commands that you care about the results of a high school exam, the vote for a board Chairman, or whether a cruise-ship will meet its construction deadline. None of these challenges are exciting mysteries. Yet we must know the answer. 

At age 74, after 35 years as a best-selling author, and over 270 million copies of books sold, Lord Archer has brought us a great series: The Clifton Chronicles, which follows the life and story of Harry Clifton and his heirs. We meet Harry in 1919 Bristol and follow him and his friends through to the 1940’s and the Second World War, and in Be Careful What You Wish For, the fourth volume we are taken through 1957 to ’64.

This book is essentially Harry Clifton’s wife, Emma Barrington-Clifton’s, story. Readers enjoy front row seats at the boardroom drama of Barrington’s, Emma’s family’s ship-construction company. The board-members are gambling the future of the company on the building of a luxury liner. High stakes criminal Martinez, who bears a murderous grudge against the Clifton family, is out to scuttle Barringtons, and there is much fun with wheeling and dealing in shares and board appointees. Like the previous books, this leaves us hanging on a cliff. It has all the twists, turns, dirty tricks, tragedies and vendettas that have made this series so fabulous. 

Jeffrey Archer is possibly the greatest storyteller of our time. The Clifton Chronicles, his most ambitious story, requiring of Archer a commitment of more than five years, with rumors that the five-part series may become seven. The series only curse is that there’s a year's wait after each book.

Book Blurb:

The Clifton Chronicles Series
Only Time Will Tell Released 2011
The epic tale of Harry Clifton's life begins in 1919, in the backstreets of Bristol. His father was a war hero, but it will be twenty-one tumultuous years before Harry discovers the truth about how his father really died and if, in fact, he even was his father.
Only Time Will Tell takes a cast of memorable characters from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take his place at Oxford, or join the fight against Hitler's Germany.
In Jeffrey Archer's masterful hands, you will be taken on a journey that you won't want to end, even after you turn the last page of this unforgettable yarn, because you will be faced with a dilemma that neither you, nor Harry Clifton could ever have anticipated.

Only Time Will Tell: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 1      Released 2011
The Sins of the Father: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 2   Released 2012
The Best Kept Secret: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 3    Released 2013
What You Wish For: THE CLIFTON CHRONICLES 4      Released March 2014

About the author:

Jeffrey Archer, whose novels and short stories include Kane and Abel, A Prisoner of Birth and Cat O' Nine Tales, has topped the bestseller lists around the world, with sales of over 270 million copies. He is the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction (seventeen times), short stories (four times) and non-fiction (The Prison Diaries). The author is married with two sons and lives in London and Cambridge.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Googly Eyes & Fibber Board Games Reviewed

We’ve become real board game players in this house in the past few months. Mostly the game of choice is Monopoly or Uno. We’ve even bought a few different sets of Monopoly.  

The eleven-year-old, Harry, is a problem, though. He gets bored easily and doesn’t like Monopoly. So we have a quick game of Uno with him (a game he will play) and then we are down to wheeling and dealing on the real estate with the thirteen-year-old, Bailey. The eleven-year-old then heads off to play his video games. Such a shame, because board games are a fun family activity.

Our games cupboard is filled with various games, but there is nothing other than Uno (which is really a card game, I know) that all of us enjoy playing together. That is until we were sent Googly Eyes to trial and review.

Check out this video I made and photos and you will see why. Its absolute hilarious fun for all ages and my whole family recommends.


First up, the glasses alone supplied days of fun for the boys. They are hilarious to wear and to view through. Don’t drive with them or walk too far; they really do make it difficult to see.

This game is basically Pictionary but with your vision impaired. It is so much fun.

Now when I say, Shall we play a game? the instant response is “Googly Eyes”. The only negative is that the timer didn’t work. However, with smart-phones these days that isn’t a problem. I hope the makers will, also, bring out new card packs. We are playing it so much we are getting through the cards very quickly.


Fibber, the other game we were asked to review, was quite fun but really we would recommend it for maybe ten and under.

In this, you play cards down from your hand and have to say what the card is without showing it. The goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand by pretending the type of cards you're playing are not actually what you are playing, if you don't have the right ones in your hand. 

If someone thinks you’ve fibbed about your discard card, then they can call you a “Fibber.” My kids enjoyed calling each other names for sure.  If the player is not telling the truth, the “Fibber” has to wear an extension on his glasses over his nose, à la Pinocchio, and pick up all the cards in the discard pile. If they were telling the truth, you do. Its pretty silly, but still fun. Each time you are caught fibbing, you get a another piece for your nose. If you enjoy a wine, I can imagine the laughs.

It’s very simple, but next to a game like Googly Eyes, it has nowhere near the appeal or longevity of play. Our family still had fun though, but its Googly Eyes all the way here.

If you want to find out more about these games or where they are stocked, please visit Crown and Andrews