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TITANIC LIVES Richard Davenport-Hines (Harper Press, pounds 20) THIS gripping book about the most famous maritime disaster focuses mainly on the ship's passengers and officers.

Historian Davenport-Hines' approach is so effective that at the end, you actually feel distress about the deaths of some of the people you have got to know.

Titanic was the largest ship in the world but sank with the loss of 1,517 lives on its maiden voyage in April 1912, after hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Only 711 people were saved.

Snobbery, greed, wealth and machismo, alongside poverty, were prominent features of those times and were encapsulated on board the ship. Scandal, criminality and gay relationships are revealed. Davenport-Hines demolishes many myths about the tragedy, which has subsequently been glamorised to absurd levels.

THE FLOWERS OF WAR Geling Yan (Harvill Secker, pounds 10) THE Nanking war, when Japanese troops occupied the Chinese city in the 1930s, remains a controversial issue but Shanghai author Geling Yan has tackled it here.

She has the credentials to do so, having served with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution as a teenager.

In this short novel, the war is seen through the eyes of 13-year-old schoolgirl Shujuan, who lives with 15 other classmates in an American church run by a US priest.

Powerful and poignant, this story's potential has been picked up by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who has adapted it for the big screen, with Christian Bale starring as the priest.

SEIZURE Kathy Reichs (Arrow, pounds 12.99) THE second book in thriller writer Reich's new series for young people centres on a group of South Carolina teens infected by a wolf-DNA super-virus.

Like a Famous Five for the post-Twilight generation, this multicultural bunch of four (plus a dog) are on a search for pirate treasure.

And did I mention that they use their superpowers along the way? Ludicrous plot point follows ludicrous plot point as the gang tackles armed enemies, breaks into local monuments and communicates with wild animals, all behind the backs of their unsuspecting parents.

No doubt teenage readers will find this a pacy thriller. It's just a shame that this title has little to offer the more mature Reichs fan, looking for a dose of well-researched forensic-based airport fiction.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 22, 2012
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