Friday, September 30, 2011

DEVOURED by D.E. Meredith


A pair of forensic scientists team up with a police inspector to solve an escalating series of murders in Victorian England when the science is in its infancy.


In the interest of full disclosure: D.E. Meredith is represented by Tibor Jones literary agency in London. I spent a summer as an intern for Tibor Jones, where I met and corresponded with this author. We met again on Twitter, and she very kindly remembered me and offered to send me a copy of her debut mystery novel. Consider this an introduction to her book rather than an impartial review. This author is a lovely person, by the way.

DEVOURED is a Victorian murder mystery told with a fresh, modern voice. Think Bones meets Sherlock Holmes. This is the first book in what is bound to become a great mystery series. The carefully researched story is set in an exciting time in the development of modern science. Forensic scientist Professor Hatton has to fight for the legitimacy of his young profession as the major thinkers around him are questioning everything from religion to the nature of man. When an inspector from Scotland Yard asks for his help, he jumps into a murder investigation that seems inextricably linked to some of the radical new ideas circulating in London.

The stand-out character of this story is Roumande, Hatton's French assistant. This richly drawn character displays a strong moral compass and meticulous dedication to his work. Roumande is just as concerned with the fate of the lowliest members of society as he is of every other victim that comes through the doors of the lab. He joins a group of flawed and intriguing characters in gloomy Victorian England where exciting ideas flow and tension escalates. I don't usually read that much mystery, but this is a good page-turning story and I already want to read more Hatton and Roumande adventures.


 D. E. Meredith's website and twitter


See my disclaimer. The hardcover edition is listed for $18 on Amazon.


Do you like to read mystery novels? What's your favorite book or series?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Walking Tour: Pottinger Street

This week we are going to explore the iconic cobblestone steps of Pottinger Street. This is the best time of year to walk down Pottinger Street. You can find costumes for sale here year-round, but in the months leading up to Halloween it is particularly colorful.

Start out at the bottom of the steps on Queen's Road Central. This one's easy because you just go straight up.

Shops selling all sorts of things line the steps.

You can find useful things, like ribbons, watch bands and hair ties.

You can also find not-so-useful things, like soda cans that dance around in circles.

Keep climbing the steps. This is where the real fun begins.

These purses made out of jeans always make me pause. I've never seen anyone carrying one.

Cross Stanley Street to get to the next group of steps (you could also turn left here for a detour to Holly Brown, one of my favorite coffee shops).

This is where the costumes begin.

Just follow the feet.

What do you want to be for Halloween?

Or you could just wear a wig out in Wan Chai (this is particularly common during the Rugby Sevens but I guess you could get away with it anytime).

I love Pottinger Street for the colors.

There are all sorts of fun things you could buy.

You could even dress up as Uncle Sam.

This is a fun, busy street.

Take note of The Chippy on your right if you're missing fish-n-chips.

Some of the stalls sell fun, colorful things that are not costume-related.

Here are some more wigs.

You're reaching the end of the colorful part of the street.

Take one last look above the crowd...

...and then cross Lyndhurst Terrace.

There are always paintings on display here, for one last burst of color.

Keep climbing the steps to the quieter section of Pottinger Street.

There are a few quiet stalls left.

And some signs of a simpler sort of business.

Climb past the international restaurants lining the street.

And you'll find yourself at a restaurant at the junction with Hollywood Road.

Thanks for coming along on this colorful Hong Kong walking tour. Check out the tab at the top of the page for more tours, or come back next week!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bookspotting: Week 35

This week I spent a lot of time writing and thinking about writing. I'm working on a travel memoir about my experiences in Hong Kong, and I'm approaching the end of my second draft. One of the things that I've done to help me revise is to put each chapter on a post-it note and stick it up on my wall. I can see whether the themes are distributed well throughout the story, and it helps me see whether chapters need to be moved, condensed, or removed altogether. The other thing that helps me is to work in coffee shops, and fortunately I can do some bookspotting while I'm there.

I saw a woman about my age reading a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book in a little cafe near Pottinger Street (the subject of this week's walking tour). I saw two women reading novels in another coffee shop, but I couldn't see either title. I saw a Kindle in that same coffee shop, though I was reading a hardback book (Devoured by D.E. Meredith) during my writing breaks. I spotted only one Hong Kong guidebook and two textbooks on the train, a sure sign that summer is finally over. This morning I saw a man on the MTR reading Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg. I saw a woman reading a book of Chinese poems in Central station, and two other Chinese books.

What are people reading in your town this week? 

(By the way, my goal is to start querying my book by Chinese New Year. Wish me luck!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011



A marginally unhappy journalist travels to ten countries trying to figure out what makes people happy.


The author explores the relationship between happiness and place in this journey through countries with vastly different philosophies and circumstances. He delves into "the science of happiness" and uses a combination of research and anecdotal accounts from locals to explore his topic. He travels to Bhutan and Iceland, Thailand and India in an effort to figure out why people are happy there. He also explores some unhappy and lukewarm countries (like wealthy Qatar and miserable Moldova) to balance his research.

Weiner makes some expected conclusions, like money doesn't make us happy and neither does extreme poverty, and we are happy when we have strong family ties. He discovers that happiness is closely tied to our ability to trust the people around us. Distrustful people tend to be the least happy, and some cultures invite distrust. A sense of purpose also factors into our happiness levels, but its importance varies in different countries. Weiner concludes that the existence of and access to culture (art, music, poetry, history, etc.) also makes people happier.

This is a broad survey of the nature of happiness, and Weiner can't possibly make definitive statements because each country is so different, and of course there is a wide range of happiness levels and circumstances within each nation. However, this is a fascinating look at the way the countries view happiness. Weiner speaks with many locals who provide their own opinions of why a particular place is happy or unhappy, and this sheds some light on the attitude of each group of people. This book provides a tiny window into each country and it is worth reading for the thought-provoking ideas and interesting observations.


Eric Weiner's website


$9.99 for the Kindle edition


What is the happiest place you have visited and why?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walking Tour: Yau Ma Tei

Welcome back to Wednesday Walking Tours! Lately we've been exploring some busy, glitzy shopping areas of Hong Kong like Central and Causeway Bay. Today I'm going to take you through my very favorite "local" area: Yau Ma Tei.

You can take either the Tsuen Wan line or the Kwun Tong line to the Yau Ma Tei MTR station.

Turn right out of the station. You'll see a shop selling all kinds of fruit.

They have sugar cane juice too.

Turn right immediately so that you are walking towards the back of the MTR entrance on your right.

Walk past the shops on the left selling all kinds of street food.

Take a look down the first street on your left. In the evening there is usually a long line on this street for a famous little place serving rice is hot clay pots.

Keep walking along Man Ming Lane.

You'll see a few nicer, newer buildings, but most of this area is quite humble.

The second street on your left is called Temple Street. Turn here.

You can see packed up evidence of the Temple Street night market, which ends here.

It's pretty quiet during the day here.

Continue along Temple Street. This area will be bustling by 7 pm.

This is a sign for that clay pot restaurant I told you about. They actually have four locations right here around this corner because it's so popular.

Keep walking down Temple Street.

Of course, I always notice the bookshops.

You'll see signs of all kinds of life here, even though it's pretty quiet now.

There are record shops... shops...

...and even a few quiet shrines.

The buildings are more rundown in this area of Kowloon than they are on the Island.

Eventually, you'll reach the Tin Hau temple for which Temple Street is named.

At night, this street is filled with stalls selling antiques (real and fake), but right now there are just a few religious items.

In front of the temple you'll see a park filled with Banyan trees.

As you walk along its edge, notice the old men playing chess under the trees.

To your left the park continues and the street becomes busier.

But we're going to cross the street and continue our walk beneath the trees.

On the right hand side of the street, notice the coffee shop on the right.

Then keep walking up the street.

There will be a community center to your left.

Walk beneath the scaffolding and continue on your way.

As always, there are signs to help you find your way.

When you see the big police station turn right...

...and cross the road.

Leave the street and enter Prospherous Gardens. Walk toward the McDonalds sign.

You'll find the Broadway Cinematheque, a great little theater that regularly hosts small international film festivals.

Continue past the cinema through the patio area.

Next door to the cinema you would usually find the Kubrik Cafe and Bookshop, a great place to hang out that is currently being renovated. You can see my pictures of it featured in the Amazing Bookshops Around the World section of Andrea's Mystery Moor blog.

Keep walking through the estate patio...

...and turn right again at the 7-Eleven.

Pass a block of grimy apartments...

...then cross the first street you come to and turn right.

This street is fill of shops selling kitchen goods, though most of them are closed today (I took these pictures the day after Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a public holiday).

This is what you normally see along the whole street.

Walk past the shops.

You'll notice a few other people doing the same.

Above your head you can see the kitchen goods that were not taken in for the holiday.

You might find a few quirky little shops here.

Notice the odd colors all around you.

Don't forget to look up every once in a while as you walk along the street.

And notice the little things.

When you reach the restaurant with the potted plants at the corner...

Turn left onto Public Square Street.

Remember that little coffee shop? You've now made a full loop, and this is where we end our tour.

Thanks for joining me for another Hong Kong walking tour. I hope you've enjoyed this look at Yau Ma Tei on a quiet day. Come back next week for another walking tour!
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