“The woods” by Harlan Coben

I like Mr Coben ‘s style. His books are page turners and you can’t put them down before you’ve known the end. Result- I usually start them at 10pm, keep reading until 1am then can’t sleep until I have finished it all- typically you can add two more hours of reading. This said I don’t like his Myron Bolivar’s stories and don’t bother buying them anymore. For the ones who speak French ( I believe he hasn’t been translated into English so far) and who will know what I talk about he gives me some reminiscence of another writer called Paul -Loup Sulitzer. And Sulitzer goes on my nerves easily – except for one of his books called ” Cartel”- his masterpiece in my humble opinion.
Anyway- back to Coben last novel. This one is about – once again- a guy who’s being caught up by his past, his lies and his personal tragedies. Nobody around him seems to be immune to the rules of ” we can’t be all black or white or good or bad”, which of course creates an entanglement of deceptions and redemption. Sadly Coben has a tendency to come back to one last twist- it is almost becoming a ritual- of threatening at the very last moment the hero’s last support. It is a tad annoying and not very original but in this last opus, it fits the bill perfectly. You see the long term practice – every detail has its importance- and you end up satisfied. The only thing that marvels me is that except for ” Tell no one” I don’t thin k any of his best sellers has been put on the big screen- but I am confident that this situation will soon be corrected.
Go, Coben, go!

“The book of the five rings” by Miyamoto Musashi

Mu husband offered me this book. There is a wide spread belief that traders and warriors ( or samurais or martial arts experts) have something in common. I received last year as a Xmas present some dvds ( by Clifford Bennett I think – not sure) where he displayed his skills to show how much discipline and self control are neccessary ( by actually cutting a fruit on his son’s throat with an extremely sharp Samurai sword). The aim was to show that fear has to be conquered, that practice was paramount and that execution had to be precise and flawless. I was not impressed. I still don’t understand why you should risk cutting your son’s throat to show how tough you are. At the end of the day, he would be the one who’d pay the price. Where is the metaphor for the trader’s responsability in all this?
Anyway, back to The five Rings. Written in 1643 it is still in use today for its potent metaphors. I enjoyed certain passages, such as: “The large scale is easy to see; the small scale is hard to see. To be specific, it is impossible to reverse the direction of a large group of people all at once, while the small scale is hard to know because in the case of an individual there is just one will involved and changes can be made quickly. This should be given careful consideration.” Anyone who has been against the trend knows what this means. Also any trader who’s misinterpreted a big market mover’s move gets it. Or : ” ” If you do not pursue a genuine path to its consummation, then a little bit of crookedness in the mind will later turn into a major warp.” Stick to the strategy? Rings a bell?
The main rules are the following:
1.Think of what is right and true.
2. Practice and cultivate the science.
3. Become acquainted with the arts.
4. Know the principles of the crafts.
5. Understand the harm and benefits in everything.
6. Learn to see everything accurately.
7. Become aware of what is not obvious.
8. Be careful even in small matters.
9. Do not do anything useless.
Isn’t this just a perfect way to display the cardinal rules in trading? any points forgotten and you’re dead meat. A last one for the road: ” ” If you think of catching, think of hitting, think of blocking, think of tying up, ot think of obstructing, you will thereby become unable to make the kill. It is crucial to think of everything as an opportunity to kill.” Do you remember Nike’s motto : ” Just do it” ? Now you can add the final touch, the one that has been written more than 350 years ago: focus.

Now, if you were to read this book and is able to explain – making sense- how to apply ” The body of the short-armed monkey” or ” The sticky body” to something else than street combat, please let me know, I shall be interested.

I have high hopes that somebody will buy me as a Xmas present ” the art of War”, if possible in French. I promise to make the review of it…

“Autobiography” by Agatha Christie

I have no shame whatsoever to reveal that I am a fan of Agatha Christie. I read almost all of her books ( there are more than 80 of them) – and I actually did this twice ( the first time when I was 11 and the second when I was 29. I am planning to re read the entire collection as soon as I can find the books in my still packed boxes).
Mrs Christie was a phenomenon. Her autobiography – that was written in 15 years , from the 50’s to the mid 60’s- tell us of her memories from the beginning until she reached middle age. Optimistic, full of good sense and practical advice, very detailed about the ways of two extincted eras ( the pre-1 st war and the second), the book is an easy read and although it has almost a thousand pages, you end up wishing she had written more. A life was not so extraordinary – or so she wants you to believe.
I realized that she must have been a master in disguising aher true feelings. She obviously believed in discretion and good manners and was by no means a kiss and tell sort of person- or at least not outside her intimate entourage. The book tells you nothing of her much publicized vanishing in 1926 and the only reference she made about it in her book was to say how the media could be hurtful when they smell a scandal. Silence is also made upon the infidelities of her second husband although she stretches at the end of her confessions that she has reached a stage in life where the things of the heart are behind her and the little pleasures of life sufficient to her happiness. How much of this is true, I don’t know. I just hope that I am right not to feel too sorry for her.
If you are curious about the habits and customs of the early 20th century I do recommend reading it. Life seems to have been peaceful then and quite easy. I strongly suspect that it is not reflecting the reality but it is quite interesting to read.

“Darkhouse” by Alex Barclay

Another thriller- summer reading. This one is about a New York inspector who couldn’t stop a kidnapping to turn sour. He retires in Ireland hoping to escape his nightmares when his son’s girlfriend disappear. Will he solve the mystery- although he’s not in his juridiction? Yeah I know it all sounds awfully cheesy. But as a first novel, this one has more than a twist that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. I regret though that nowadays authors are competing to invent the most sordid past for their murderers in order to give some sense of ” reality” to the atrocities they make them commit. But I admit that it works – and it is sickening enough.
A good one. I’ve heard that Barclay next opus is not that good at all, so I’ll wait for it to come out in a pocket edition…

“The woman in the 5th” by Douglas Kennedy

Kennedy knows how to get you addicted to his pages. His heroes are desperate but every steps they take keeps you behind them, even when it is as trivial as finding a new hotel room or falling ill in Paris. The quest for sanity of a poor guy who has lost it all and wants to write a book could make you dubious. How far can Mr kennedy take you…before you get bored? But that’s the magic – you never are. I was definitely hooked on this one and reading as slowly as I could in order to enjoy it longer. But then an unexpected thing occured; the hero is getting deeper in it when all he’s trying to do is to get out of it. And you discover that the life he’s rebuilding is not what it seems. The reason why was such a low trick, such a silly idea, that I almost dropped the book. I’d wished that Mr Kennedy had a better imagination.
So the style is great, the idea for more than half of the book was great, the twist is rubbish – and I am quite sure that I am not his only critic on this one. It is sad because the man has such talent to keep you on your toes.
I don’t know. I wouldn’t read it again. But I don’t regret reading it. I find the end …uninspiring. I am sure Kennedy can and will do better. Please…such talent…

“the innocent” by Harlan Coben

I discovered Coben by reading ” Tell no one”. I loved the book and although I found it a tad clumsy, it got me addicted enough to make me read all of his books. But I remained disappointed as his Bolivar character bored me endlessly and the twists in his plots were as heavy as bricks. I had come to the conclusion that I would only buy one of his books if – and only if- it didn’t contain Bolivar in it and if it was in a pocket edition.
So I bought ” the innocent” as both requirements were fullfilled. And I was happy that I had persevered as it turned out to be a gem in the triller’s department. The story is about a young man who once got involved by accident in a fight and killed someone in defense. After coming out of prison and not keen to become a villain, he tries to keep a low profile and basically hides behind his wife and his duties to keep going on with life. But then one day he receives a picture on his mobile phone and that picture plunges him in an abyss of mysteries, lies and deceit that are much worse than anything he has known before and even worse, might send him back to prison for life. If you know ” Tell no one” you could say that sending pictures of things and/or persons that should not be is Coben ‘s trademark. But you get hooked on this one as easily as the first time – and in the process get involved in a lot of small twists that last until the end. I don’t realy care about grand finales, so I like little twists that make the end worthwile. And this one was. I enjoyed it through the last page.
A good thriller for the summer. Mr Coben, I am waiting for the next picture. Through the letterbox next time?

“Blink” by Malcom Gladwell

This book is about intuition. Since I read ” The intuitive trader” by Robert Koppel I came to the conclusion that intuition is just a lot of knowledge compiled by your inconscious that sort out the different levels of your past experiences and help you make the right decision within seconds- as long as you let it do it freely. Gladwell book is just giving the proof to my suspicions in this domain. Far from Konrad Lorenz ‘s conclusion about what is learned and what is instinct ( we ‘ll never know because who knows what a foetus can perceive and understand in his mother’s tummy or in its egg), Gladwell compiled different experiences that tried to figure how we use our intuition and when it is appropriate and when it is not. For a trader like me – who likes scalping best and has to make very short time decisoins- I loved the book as it reached my own conclusion; the more you know, the bettre you can figure out what you have to do- BUT : too much information can kill your judgement. I have seen too many people paralyzed when it was time to pull the trigger – whatever trigger it was, end of a marriage, doing a trade, making the first move, running to catch a falling child- because they were too busy reviewing what they thought they had to do ( and to do right)- to come to the conclusion afterwards ( and after the opportunity had passed) : I knew it! This book, basically, makes you aware of the different type of proccess you – and your mind- go through and how to use them at your best. This book is a must for anybody who wants to learn more about themselves and other people’s behaviour. The bibliography is very interesting and I am looking forward to read his first book. Enjoy.
Oh yeah. It is full of little anecdotes that make you look clever at dinner parties. And you may even start laughing while you read them.

“the disciplined trader” by Mark Douglas

Douglas seems to be more well known for his trading bible ” Enter the zone”. But the disiplined trader is one of the best books of trading psychology I have ever read. It shows you how to become a good trader and leave on the way your bad habits in order to be efficient & successful. Better, it goes through the different states trading puts you in and covers quite a lot of emotions that may overwhelm you and stop you from being consistent and good. This book is the one that gave me a drive and sent me back to what trading is all about – continuous learning and enjoying the challenge. Douglas doesn’t give you easy solutions but they are solid, intelligent and can be applied to almost any goals you may have. A great read and a great discovery. i am looking forward to meeting the man one day.

“Mastering the trade…” by John Carter

This book is definitely one of my trading bibles. I am not saying that I agree with everything Carter’s write and say – although at the moment my friends have a tendency to label me a Carter’s fan- but if you want to learn something and you are not the absolute beginner, Carter’s book is worth a read.
Why? Because his explains his strategies in great details. Warning for the fanaticals: most of these strategies have been refined since the book has been published. The step by step guide is clear although not easy to understand. But I appreciated Carter’s rigorous approach and his no nonsense description of the reasons why his strategies apply to the markets. With this, he adds a business plan & a money management plan – which, for me, are paramount when you trade. His references are great and his honesty refreshing. Not only that- he gives you a taste of the effort you really need to apply in your trading and there is no disguise that this is hard work.
I had the pleasure to watch also his dvds that I recommend. As I already said, this doesn’t mean that you should accept blindly all of his techniques or advice, but it is worth reading and watching as it gives you many directions to follow- and this is definitely a good start.

“Living beauty” by Bobbi Brown

If you are a guy reading this you may want to skip this. Bobbi Brown is the founder of cosmetics and make up ( the brand is called Bobbi Brown) and her books are on the subject.
So far my make up bag has always been full of Bobbi Brown’s make up – I am a sucker for her eye shadows, blushes and lipsticks and lipgloss. I also have been using her brushes exclusively – although I tried Shu Uemura ‘s ones, which are excellent too, but don’t have the purpose of the brush written on the handle ( yes, Bobbi was clever on this one). Anyway – I like Chanel and Lancome stuff too, sometimes, especially Chanel’s nail varnishes and lipsticks and Lancome lipglosses. Mascaras are from Estee Lauder or Lancome – and I try new ones every year but always come back to these only. Now that I have presented my case, let’s move on to the book.
Mrs Brown has written a few books about make up already. I always liked them and enjoyed them. I found them useful, well documented, nice pictures and would buy the new ones without even bothering reading reviews about them. Now it turns out I read the ones about ” living beauty”. Mrs Brown was making the apology of aging gracefully, which got me all excited. Great, spot on, I thought. Should I keep my white hair or should I dye it? I hate the idea of a lifting but am not against blepharoplasty ( eyes lift). I don’t want to see my face elongating towards my breast but really hate the idea of getting under the knife for that. Help! I don’t want to be young forever but I don’t wish to look at myself in the morning thinking:” AArrgghh! And I have the rest of my life to spend with this on my shoulders!”. So Mrs Brown’s advices on using make up to remain fresh and presentable seemed to be the greatest gift of all for my birthday ( which was on the 25th of March by the way).
Now, where do I start to explain the extent of my deception? I said the pictures are great. Yes, they are. All the ladies pictures in this book look great, lovely, attractive, everything I’d like to be. But they all – without exception- have been retouched. I felt cheated. This is a book about aging, and you barely see a wrinkle. Bad start. Then I read the whole thing. And I felt worse. What is called – it appears- aging gracefully in the US is basically having everything and anything done to your face – except having a facelift. The book advises to use creams, have laser surfacing, micropeeling, botox…go on…and on…You have the picture. I was disappointed. And then came the crux of the book – the make up advice ( which is Mrs Brown forte). She took a bunch of women and offered them a full make over. They were certainly flawless. Their carnation became spotless, their cheeks gained some color and their eyes..well, their eyes were spent. The sparkle that was opening their eyes in the ” before” pictures had gone. Despite the wise use of eye shadows and eye liner, they all seemed to have lost what made them so special in the first place. I am sorry to say – I hated the photos. And form all of them, you had barely 2 or 3 women with grey or white hair. One of them looked stunning. Thank god, she wasn’t offered a make over and made me consider for the next 2 weeks the idea of letting my hair au naturel. Haven’t made up my mind yet.
So, well, I felt betrayed. These women were- no doubt about it- all beautiful. But they were as long as they were themselves. Of course there were a few exceptions – but it was a minority. This makes me ponder seriously of the advantage of getting old disgracefully. Except for making the make up & cosmetics company richer- and their investors- what’s the point?
The advantage of this book is that it made me re evalue my views of the whole question. It is never too late to question it.
I am looking forward to explore ” the other side”.