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Update February 2018

Thailand News
World News
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Arts - Entertainment - Lifestyles
Book Review
Health & Wellbeing
Odds & Ends
Science & Nature
Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Book Review

Saturday, February 24, 2018 - March 2, 2018

‘Force of Nature’ is compelling novel by Jane Harper

Oline H. Cogdill

A team-building expedition into Australia’s bush land quickly evolves into a taut plot about survival — both in business and in personal life — as well as corporate intrigue, jealousy and family issues in Jane Harper’s compelling novel “Force of Nature.”

Executives and assistants of Melbourne accounting firm BaileyTennants go on a three-night retreat to the rugged Giralang Ranges.  The men’s team returns ahead of schedule, but a search party has to be dispatched when the women’s team is six hours late.  When the women do return, each one is injured.  And one woman, Alice Russell, is missing.

Federal agents Aaron Falk and Carmen Cooper are sent to investigate Alice’s disappearance and assist the search team.  Aaron and Carmen have a stake in finding Alice.  She’s key in uncovering an elaborate money-laundering scheme that began with the founder of the firm and has been continued by his children, brother and sister Daniel and Jill Bailey who are now BaileyTennants executives and are on the retreat.

The agents soon learn that Alice wasn’t just an inside source for them, she was one of the firm’s most disliked members.  Alice was cruel and insensitive to others, from the assistant she bullied to a long-time acquaintance who was more enemy than friend.  Lost in the bush land with food and water dwindling, every personal and professional slight is magnified.  Adding to the tension, this part of the wild was once the killing ground for a serial murderer whose son is rumored to share his father’s proclivities.

Harper continues the intense plotting and detail for characters and setting that she established in “The Dry,” which introduced Aaron.  While “Force of Nature” depends heavily on police procedures, Harper keeps the focus more on her characters’ motivations, skillfully alternating between the search and what happened on each day of the retreat. (AP)

February 17, 2018 - February 23, 2018

Bang Saray Boys: The Movie

Jules Lee

Well the fifth and final book in the series about the Bang Saray Boys has been published and I for one am going to miss this eccentric ‘band of brothers’.

The reviews speak for themselves and this series about ex-pats has become the ‘must have’ books collection about life in Thailand.  You could be forgiven for thinking that the books are about a group of old ex-pats who like playing dominoes and putting the world to rights, but they are about so much more than that!

They are about a group of friends and the trials and tribulations of life and growing old in an ever-changing world.  It’s about their shifting perceptions of this world and also themselves as they cope with love and romance, friendships, old age and death as they set out on a series of misadventures.

Their self-appointed leader is Gary Sloan, or ‘Sloany’ as everybody knows him: a bar owner and now a resort owner, who sees himself and the rest of the world in a different light to everyone else.

The characters jump right out of the pages at you and once they grab you they won’t let go.  The books are laugh out loud funny in parts but be warned, they will also make you cry as you share the characters’ stories.

I managed to contact the author Guy Lilburne and I was surprised to learn that this series of five publications was originally intended to be only a one-off book.  It all started with the release of “Living the Dream”, but the response to that book was so overwhelming that a follow-up “Loving Life” was inevitable.

A worldwide army of fans ensured that more books were to follow and “Taff’s Treasure”, “Another Day in Paradise” and “Bang Saray Boys: The Movie” completed the set, with even more memorable characters joining the original Sloan Square bar boys.

It’s sad that Guy Lilburne has decided not to write any more about these lovable rogues, but the good news is that he is currently working on a screenplay of the series for British TV, so hopefully a wider audience of fans can join the ranks of readers all over the world who have already fallen in love with the gang.

All Guy Lilburne’s books are available on Amazon and the Bang Saray boys have their own fan page on Facebook.  Do yourself a favour and take a look at these books.  You won’t be sorry.

Update February 10, 2018 - February 16, 2018

‘Mothers of Sparta’ looks at significant moments in life

Tracee M. Herbaugh

What’s in a life?

Forget celebrities and superstars, or Nobel Laureates and the like, the people who live in the realms of the extraordinary and exciting.  On the contrary: What are the significant moments that make up the story of a regular person?

“Mothers of Sparta: a Memoir in Pieces” by Dawn Davies answers this question, and eloquently so.  Each chapter reads like a stand-alone essay.  You can read them one at a time, but, as a whole, they make sense.

“Mothers of Sparta” opens with Davies detailing her struggle with anxiety.

Davies dropped out of college at 19 and moved from her home state of Florida to Boston, where she worked various jobs and attempted to launch a business selling cheesecakes on sticks.

During this foray, her boyfriend died in a tragic accident while visiting his home country of Brazil.  She is then left alone to grieve in Boston.

Yet, not soon after the accident, Davies has her second run in with death as she watches a student killed by an impaired driver on a busy thoroughfare while on a date in neighboring Cambridge.  Davies held the dying girl’s hand and sang “Jesus Loves Me.”

Still, “Mothers of Sparta” isn’t just a grim recounting of all the suffering that Davies has experienced.  There are laugh-out-loud funny moments — such as the time she rescued a dog with her second husband and young children.  Or the story about trying to save money on her 19-year-old daughter’s wedding by ordering a designer dress from China.  The dress was a dud, but the daughter called off the marriage anyway, choosing to keep pursuing her education at a top- tier school.

Some of the most compelling writing is on the subject of parenting.  Davies’ ruminations about being a mom are all over the place — happy and sad, funny and serious — but they’re sure to resonate with readers who have kids.

“Children can hold hope for a long time without it burning their hand, far longer than adults can, which is what allows them to complete the act of growing up in a world full of people who lie, where people let you down all the time,” Davies writes.

“Mothers of Sparta” offers exquisite writing and storytelling craft.  Davies, it seems, can bring to life just about anything with her writing. (AP)

Update Saturday, February 3, 2018 - February 9, 2018

‘When’ by Daniel Pink uncovers the secrets of timing

Rasha Madkour

“When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink perfectly executes the tried-and-true formula for social science books.  Start with a compelling anecdote, tease it apart with some science and suggest ideas on how applying the underlying principle can better your life.  It fits right in next to “The Power of Habit.”

Pink sets out to “unearth the hidden science of timing” — to uncover it as a significant if unrecognized player in our lives — and he largely succeeds.  He highlights a study of Danish schoolchildren that found that those who took their yearly standardized test in the morning performed better than those who took it in the afternoon.  The p.m. slump is real, which is why Pink advises against scheduling a doctor’s appointment later in the day.  According to a study, doctors found an average of more than 1.1 polyps during colonoscopies performed at 11 a.m.  By 2 p.m., it dropped to barely half that number, even though the patients were no different.

What helps mitigate the slide, Pink explains, are breaks.  Judges rule in favor of prisoners about 65 percent of the time early in the day, but by late morning, that rate drops to nearly zero, regardless of the facts of the case, researchers have found.  Immediately after the judges take a break, they become more forgiving again, Pink writes, “only to sink into a more hard-line attitude after a few hours.”

Earlier isn’t always better, however.  Teenagers’ changing circadian rhythm means they become night owls, making early school start times particularly challenging.  Pink ticks off the consequences of teens not getting enough sleep: they’re at higher risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse and car crashes.  Being sleep deprived is also correlated with obesity and a weakened immune system.  “The evidence of harm is so massive,” Pink writes, that the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for middle and high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and the CDC has also pushed for delaying start times. Schools that have followed this recommendation have noted higher grades, better attendance and increased graduation rates.

The breadth of the book’s scope is impressive.  It explains why people whose age ends in 9 are overrepresented in first-time marathoners and why singing in a group boosts endorphins and immunity.  Pink makes a point to end each chapter with takeaway points that readers can apply to their own lives.

“When” is engaging, conversational and tightly edited, making it an easy yet important read. (AP).



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

‘Force of Nature’ is compelling novel by Jane Harper

Bang Saray Boys: The Movie

‘Mothers of Sparta’ looks at significant moments in life

‘When’ by Daniel Pink uncovers the secrets of timing


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