Currently I'm reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5) by JK Rowling

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Peggy Farooqi
Mum of 3 (1994, 1995, 1998)- born in East Germany --lived in UK/ Kent since 1993 -- studied criminology -- love reading / writing / travelling / knitting / cats. 
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21 June 2015




Title
Life Is All This
Author
Sheila Blanchette
Publisher
CreateSpace
Publication Date
April 2015
Pages
295
Genre
Novel

Description from Amazon

In the summer of 1975, Samuel Ryder sets off to hitchhike to the Grand Canyon where he realizes life is very good. Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona the road ahead appears to be one neverending smooth ride full of fun, adventure, and pretty women.

Late at night in a vacant hotel lobby in South Florida, decades later Sam finds himself trying to come to peace with the fact that plans do not always work out and the life you imagined is not always the life you end up living. Alone at the front desk, he writes novels and communicates via email with his wife who has left him and now runs a food truck in Colorado. The two of them alone but at the same time together, trying to work things out, trying to hold onto a marriage that has moved just out of reach.

With a sharp eye for the world around him, Sam’s memories wander through the decades of his life as a traveling salesman, husband, and father. His story takes the reader on a journey from 1960’s New Hampshire where he writes letters to his brother in Vietnam, to Boston and New York where he and his wife raise their young family during the tumultuous years at the turn of the century, to South Florida during the Great Recession.

Against the backdrop of the conflicts and anxieties of a changing world, Life Is All This is the story of a modern American family facing life’s hardships with hope, optimism, and humor while discovering that pain, loss, and distance can strengthen their love and enrich their lives. 

My thoughts / review:


A delightful little book which, as often, I read on my daily commute. 

Aged the wrong side of 50 and with grown up children, Sam Ryder looks back on his life. He works nights at a hotel reception, which gives him the chance to write books. I could immediately identify with Sam. Though a bit younger than him, with different life circumstances (and I'm certainly not a published author) there were so many pages when I thought: 'I know exactly what you are talking about.' And if you managed your children through the teenage years, you will feel for Sam and his wife.

As an aspiring writer, in a funny kind of way,  it was nice to read about a 'fellow writer' and 'how they do things'. Certainly, we all know about the little notebook we carry with us at all times to take down thoughts, conversations, ideas don't we? Another part I really liked was the chapters which dealt with how Sam looks after his war vet brother Joe and I had a tear in my eye. Beautifully written without being over-the-top, which can so easily happen with this kind of topic (a terminal disease). And despite many challenges for Sam and his family, there is a positive vibe in this book which will lift you. 

This book won't change the world, but I recommend it especially if you are at that age where your children have just flown the nest or are about to. 


I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

20 June 2015



Title
The Shining
Author
Stephen King
Publisher
Doubleday
Publication Date
1977
Pages
497
Genre
Horror


Description from Amazon


Danny is only five years old, but he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of an old hotel, his visions grow out of control. Cut off by blizzards, the hotel seems to develop an evil force, and who are the mysterious guests in the supposedly empty hotel?


My Thoughts / Review

I would regard King as my favourite author and I had never read The Shining? Don't know why, just the way it happens and I never seem to have bought this book. Maybe because I came to King later in life. 

This is on of King's early works, published in 1977 and King's 3rd published novel, after Carrie and Salem's Lot. The book is regarded as on of his classics and within the first few pages it becomes clear why. King's success formula was born. A plot surrounding the supernatural and very strong characters, mostly involving a writer. It was here that King also first engaged with the topic of alcoholism and domestic abuse which shall become a reoccurring theme in his books.

But the real strength for me lies in the characters, as so often with King's books. This book has 4 main characters: the 3 members of the Torrance family (father Jack, mother Wendy and son Danny) and cook Dick Hallorann. Each of them will become unforgettable. He also effortlessly weaves the backstory in - another one of King's strengths.

It is well known that King did not like the movie made with the same title and famously starring Jack Nicholson. If you have seen the movie before reading the book (like me), it will be impossible to read without seeing the faces of Nicholson and ...
There are differences in the book and the movie. The ending is a bit different, and the whole scene with Wendy finding the book manuscript of endless "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".  is not in the book at all. The movie is now a horror film classic in it's own right, and though the few special effects are clearly 1970's, the film manages to create a very tense atmosphere and I felt it was a great adaptation of this book. 

In summary, both book and movie are a must for any King fan. 



9 June 2015





Title
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4)
Author
J K Rowling
Publisher
Bloomsbury
Publication Date
July 2000
Pages
636
Genre
Fantasy

Description

The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter - but that doesn't stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe'en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through - alive!

My review

Book 4 marks for me a slight change from the previous 3 books. I felt that books 1 to 3 where mainly aimed at children, and this is reflected very much not only in the story line, but also in the writing (repeating information, explaining concepts, often telling rather than showing) and choice of words. But with book 4, I think J K Rowling now gets much more grown up with this series. This, of course, also cleverly reflects Harry and his friends growing up and facing more 'grown-up' tasks. And, of course, the book is much longer than the previous ones. 

The same formula of course still works. Harry is spending the summer holidays with the dreadful Dursleys but of course returns to Hogwarts for his forth year, together with his best friends Ron and Hermoine. New challenges await him. This time, a tournament takes place at Hogwarts with two other wizard schools coming to Hogwarts as guests for the year and a host of new characters and student wizards. The tournament is dangerous and students have been known to get killed. But Harry is too young to enter. But then is name appears in the Goblet of Fire as being chosen to compete the tournament. While it is an honour, it is also very dangerous. Maybe someone wants him to be in danger?  

Rowling has previously addressed stereotyping and discrimination (against the none-pure wizards with Muggle blood). Here, she takes it further when Hermoine starts a campaign to help house elf who have to work long hours and receive no pay. Also, Hagrid is revealed as 'one-half' giant, and giants are seen as brutes. Hagrid is of course, anything but a brute and tries to hide his heritage, knowing the negative stereotyping. 

 Finally, with book 4, I got into Harry Potter and can't wait to read book 5 now. 





31 May 2015




Title
Necropolis
Author
Guy Portman
Publisher
CreateSpace
Publication Date
April 2014
Pages
306
Genre
Novel


Description (from Amazon)
Dyson Devereux works in the Burials and Cemeteries department in his local council. Dyson is intelligent, incisive and informed. He is also a sociopath. Dyson’s contempt for the bureaucracy and banality of his workplace provides ample refuge for his mordant wit. But the prevalence of Essex Cherubs adorning the headstones of Newton New Cemetery is starting to get on his nerves.
When an opportunity presents itself will Dyson seize his chance and find freedom, or is his destiny to be a life of toil in Burials and Cemeteries?
Brutal, bleak and darkly comical, Necropolis is a savage indictment of the politically correct, health and safety obsessed world in which we live.

My Review

This book surprised me on several levels and for me, it would describe it as a mix between The Office and American Psycho

Dyson works for the local council, responsible for cemeteries and burials. It becomes quickly clear that while ambitious, he loathes working for the people he does, the people he has to work with. Now, anyone who has ever worked for the local council (or even in any office) recognises a lot of the characters described immediately. The power-hungry, the sad ones without a social life, the lazy ones. The author has a wonderful way of describing them with wit and morbid humour, and I couldn't help but literally laugh out loud. But Dyson has a very dark streak to him and I kept wondering whether that's all in his mind (think American Psycho here!).

The plot is around Dyson discovering that one of the people working under him looks very similar to war criminal who is being sought by an International Court. Can he hand him over and pocket the large reward sum to escape his humdrum life? But what you will mostly enjoy will be the characters he meets. In the middle of the book there is a rather explicit sex scene which came a bit unexpected for me (as Dyson didn't really talk dirty in his mind before), but it does fit in with his psycho character. I just came as a bit of a surprise for me. 

Now, none of us would like to think that we would require the services of a cemetery one day, but we all will do. The really funny thing for me was that this was literally the book for me, as I not only work in a council office, but while not directly in the Burials and Cemetery Department, work very closely with them. How often did I think: "gosh, all the stories I hear, I could write a book." Great little book and quickly read, I would recommend it to anyone who works for the Local Council or even in an office. Great lunchtime reading, I'll promise. 



About the author



25 May 2015





Title
Riders
Author
Jilly Cooper
Publisher
Arlington Books Ltd
Publication Date
1985
Pages
928
Genre
Romance


Amazon description:
Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside and the playgrounds of the world, Jilly Cooper's Rutshire Chronicles, RidersRivalsPoloThe Man Who Made Husbands Jealous,Appassionata and Score!, offer an intoxicating blend of skulduggery, swooning romance, sexual adventure and hilarious high jinks. 


Riders, the first and steamiest in the series, takes the lid off international showjumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals. 


The brooding hero, gypsy Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands the most difficult horse or woman becomes biddable, is driven to the top by his loathing of the beautiful bounder and darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having filched each other's horses, and fought and fornicated their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences during the Los Angeles Olympics.


My review:

A few years ago I read a new Jilly Cooper book (Wicked!) that had just come out and enjoyed it enormously. Having read up on her, I found that the so-called Rutshire Cronicles what she is famous for, and it came highly recommended, so I got myself the Riders / Rivals ebook bundle for a forthcoming beach holiday. 

The book is set and was written in the late 1970's / early 1980's around the world of show jumping: riders, horses and women. And please - even if this is neither your decade nor the topic, I can absolutely reassure you that you will love this book. I'm neither into horses nor who-jumping but couldn't tear myself away from the book. And don't be put of by the length either. 

Riders is very much about the characters. Yes, there is a plot - telling us about their lives, loves and intrigues. But what you will fall in love with is the characters. Rupert Campbell-Black, of course, a brute, rich and obnoxious, with women everywhere he goes. His womanising ways are not stopped by marriage to Helen McAuley whom, as it becomes obvious, he is mismatched with.  He is almost a bit like an anti-hero and you will almost feel a bit ashamed to actually like him. Then there is Billy Lloyd-Foxe, Rupert's best friend and fellow show-jumper, who is more like a loveable teddy bear. And no, I didn't take to the woman he is going to end up with (no spoilers!). On the opposing end, there is Jake Lovell, with gypsy blood and a brooding nature to match, is another show-jumper who knows Rupert from way back in boarding school when Rupert used to bully him. Will Jake get his own back? Jake's wife was actually a character I really loved for her sweet nature, and Jake... well, we forgive him anything. 

This is not to say that the plot is boring, but maybe a tiny bit predictable. But after such an entertaining read, who cares. You will turn the pages on this book and I can't wait to read to follow-up Riders to see how the story continues.

The author: 

Jilly Cooper is a well-known journalist, writer and media superstar. The author of many number one bestselling novels, including Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata, Score! and Pandora, she and her husband live in Gloucestershire with several dogs and cats.


17 May 2015





Title
Pakistan - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture
Author
Safia Haleem
Publisher
Kuperard
Publication Date
May 2013
Pages
168
Genre
Travel Guide


Description
Pakistan is a land with a unique history, formed by migrating peoples who have left their footprint in its diverse cultures, languages, literature, food, dress, and folklore. The country is besieged by bad news, but despite the political turmoil the everyday life of its people is more stable, rich, and rewarding than the media headlines would lead you to believe. A myriad local festivals and celebrations and a vibrant cultural life go unremarked. Pakistan has the eighth-largest standing army in the world and is the only Muslim-majority nation to possess nuclear weapons, but few know that it is also the home of two unique schools of art.

This complex nation consists of various ethnic groups, each with its own individual cultures and subcultures, but which are unified by the common values of hospitality, honor, and respect for elders. Pakistani society has extremes of wealth and poverty, and daily life for most people is full of difficulties, yet everyone knows how to cope with crises. Creative and adaptable, Pakistanis are among the most self-reliant people in the world, bouncing back after major catastrophes.

Culture Smart! Pakistan takes you behind the headlines and introduces you to many of the country’s little-known traditions. It describes the vitally important cultural and historical background, shows you how modern Pakistanis live today, and offers crucial advice on what to expect and how to behave in different circumstances. This is an extraordinary country of enterprising, tough, and passionate people. Earn their trust and you will be rewarded many times over.


My review

If you are intending to travel to Pakistan, and have never been there and/or have no further connection to Pakistan, I would say this book is almost an essential reading, and this applies to the tourist, the business person and someone visiting family there. But not only for the traveller, but also if you are interested in different cultures this makes a very interesting read.

Understandably maybe, Pakistan has a very bad press and is not associated with a country to go on holiday to, which is a shame really as it has so much to offer. The book is keeping neutral whilst getting the right balance in introducing us to this amazing country, really waiting to be discovered. But, at the same time, it is important to know about cultural differences (not necessarily to do with religion) and also simple security measures. 

Living in a European country, Pakistan couldn't be further different from my current surroundings. I have a Pakistani husband who left his home country many years ago and even he found many interesting facts he didn't know. I have been to Pakistan before I read the book and often thought 'Yes, exactly' but also still found facts where I'd wish I'd known it on my previous journeys.
Short enough, this is the ideal book to download on your E-reader and browse before you travel and re-read on the plane. 

One of the issues with travel guides like this is that the situation in the country can change quickly, so one of my concerns was also to find the most current travel book on Pakistan, and this one from 2013 is the newest one I could find. 
The book covers following: land and people; values and attitudes; customs and traditions; making friends; private and family life; time out; travel, health and safety; business briefing; communicating. 

I am very much looking forward to my next trip to Pakistan. 


About the author (from Amazon)
SAFIA HALEEM was born and grew up in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan, and graduated from Peshawar University with an M.A. in English Literature. She worked as a teacher trainer in all the main cities of Pakistan before winning a British Council scholarship to study in Scotland. After gaining a post-graduate degree in Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, she returned to Pakistan and co-authored the book "Visuals for Language Teachers." In 1987 she moved to London and joined the BBC. Her work as a journalist has taken her to India, Iran, China, Afghanistan, and all over Pakistan. In 2004, she was project director for the BBC World Service Trust in Afghanistan. She is currently developing educational material for the Afghan Medical Association, whose work benefits people on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. Safia is an established writer in Pashto, her first language, and has published several novels and short stories in the language.

7 May 2015





Title
Valerie's Retreat
Author
Joseph Rinaldo
Publisher
CreateSpace
Publication Date
March 2014
Pages
406
Genre
Novel

Description (from Amazon)

Valerie, a middle-aged woman, leading an average life as a head teller at a bank finally finds her soul-mate, Franco. He's sixteen years younger and studying for a Ph.D. in Archeology, but they click. Suddenly, the evil hand of fate causes their lives to fall into a downward spiral. They lean on each other. Trying to find happiness they happen to commit a little crime - make that a little felony, and dash out of the country. Now they're happy - mostly.

My Review

This book provided a quick and enjoyable read. I did get into the story straight away. Both Valerie and Franco are a likeable character. And nice to see a book where a female character falls for a younger man and the relationship is a happy one! 

The workings of a bank were well researched; I'm not sure if the author is an insider (jokes and puns aside :) or whether this came purely from his imagination. Nevertheless, believable in its execution and build-up of the story. And also not too complicated to understand which I think suited this light book well. 

For anyone who has ever had any dealings with a country where money and connections can provide for you and where the law with maybe no apply to certain people of power will fully understand what is happening to Valerie and Franco when they leave the country. Having had plenty of dealings in SE Asia, I had to smile ever so often while I recognised who powerful people behave, and especially so with Western world foreigners. 

All in all, this is a feel-good story of two people who have been wronged and are planning the perfect heist. Will they get away with it? 


About the Author
Joseph Rinaldo lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his family that included a cat named Caesar. Caesar plays himself in this book. Joe has written three other great novels: A SPY AT HOME, HAZARDOUS CHOICES, and A MORMON MASSACRE.