Currently I'm reading: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4) by J K 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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25 May 2015

Jilly Cooper
Arlington Books Ltd
Publication Date

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

Pakistan - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture
Safia Haleem
Publication Date
May 2013
Travel Guide

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

Valerie's Retreat
Joseph Rinaldo
Publication Date
March 2014

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.

19 April 2015

Salem's Lot
Stephen King
Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date
Vampire, Horror

Description on Amazon

Salem's Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings - but not more than in any other town its size.
Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed - nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow.
Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror . . .

My review

I remember reading his many years ago (when I first discovered King). I am slowly re-reading most of them and what it treat this is. 

This is one of King's very early books and now considered a classic vampire story. In fact, I would say it is good old-fashioned vampire yarn in King style which we have now grown used to and love so much: small new England town, a host of different characters -usually a writer amongst them. King himself said (according to Wikipedia) that this is his favourite book. While it is maybe not my favourite King, I certainly enjoyed it very much, being one of his earlier works. . Re-reading it now in 2015, it was also nice to read about a world where there is no internet, no Netflix - just a town and people. Research is still done by getting books from the library and books are written on typewriters. And as a bit of a King connoisseur, I can also see his writing style emerging. The writer in me noticed the setting with prologue, epilogue and the emerging of the main story - not a single page wasted. 

Clearly influenced by Bram Stoker's Dracula, it may be a good book to get you started on classic vampire - before they were all cute and fell in love with the pretty girls. So, if you are from the younger generation, give this one a try. If you are new to King, this is a very good introduction. Horror? yes, but no spilled guts kind of horror. Supernatural - yes, but as always, set in a normal town with townsfolk going about their business. This is what King does best. 

7 April 2015

Free Books for Kindle
Chris Graham

Publication Date
December 2011
Non-fiction, Information

Description (from Amazon)

Everyone loves a freebie. And Kindle readers, like me and you, are no different. The great news is that there are hundreds of thousands of free books for your Kindle out there. Unfortunately the ebook revolution has spawned an avalanche of sites and other resources. Worse yet – some of the best of them are often beyond the reach of even the most seasoned Google searcher.

In my quest for the best Kindle free books – I've checked through hundreds of sites so that I could bring the best of them to you.

So save your brain some strain, save time and cash with my handy guide to free books for your Kindle: Great books to download at a radical price!

The book includes:

Ebook formats explained
How to find around a million free books
Some tips for finding free music and audio books
Guide to transferring them to your Kindle
Storing your free Kindle downloads
How to share Kindle books with friends and family.
Your Kindle and the web

My Review

This book was on 99p so I decided to get it, and I'm glad I did. I find the information contained within very useful, starting with an explanation of the different Ebooks format. I have to say that I am not that tech savvie (though I am good at general browsing etc).

The information about the websites which do provide Free books is very clear and organised. What I liked most was that it clearly states differences between US and UK sites (law etc), and even provides a few German, French and Dutch sites. Quite often, when purchasing books as such, it only covers the US market and could be pretty useless for someone in the UK, but not this one. 

1 star less because I have realised that the book is from 2012, and therefore not all websites may still be current. 

6 April 2015

Dreampire (Watchers of the Night 4)
Matthew Keith
Publication Date
July 2014
Young Adult

Description (from Amazon)

For Trevor Pine, everything is going great. He's graduated high school, started at a local college, and moved in with the perfect girl. 

Until the night he delivers pizza to the chemical lab where his best friend works. 

Trevor is tricked into drinking an untested formula, one that gives him unexpected and terrifying abilities. Confused, afraid, and unable to control his new powers, Trevor goes on the run from those who would use him for his abilities, and from the police who believe he is a murderer. 

And the worst part for Trevor is, he's guilty.

My review

I read the first Watchers book and loved the idea behind it. This series deserves much more exposure in my opinion. I have now read book 4  and was perfectly able to pick up from there without having read book 2 and 3. And it reminded me how much I loved this series and that I should now read the others too. 

What I like is that the characters are ordinary people who have this special power of being able to walk to certain places in their sleep, in a way they are fully awake and are able to, for example, overhear conversations. Their physical body sleeps in the meantime. One cannot become and learn to be like this, but is simply born that way. This is where book 4 comes in where the evil scientist is trying to create a formula to make people so they are able to do this. 

Most of the characters are young adults, and that is probably the target audience, but I am a middle aged woman and enjoyed the book enormously. the writing style is very easy to get into (no overcomplicated sentences) and the story flows perfectly. I read this book in a few days and one thing which I really liked is that the beginning is not slow to get into, but you are almost straight in there no complicated people and idea set-ups to get your head around. The ending was also satisfying and leaves a lot more scope for further stories in this series. 

29 March 2015

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter 3)
JK Rowling
Bloomsbury Children
Publication Date
Fantasy, children


Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can't wait to get back to school after the summer holidays (who wouldn't if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?). But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There's an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school.

My Review

It's the 3rd year at Hogwarts, and Harry and his friends are now 13 years old. This book follows in the successful formula of the previous 2 books, and the structure is exactly the same, with Harry spending the summer holidays at the Dursley's and he can't help to use magic which he shouldn't really do in the Muggle world. But of course,  Harry makes it to Hogwarts and meets Hermoine and Ron in the Hogwarts express where the adventures start. 

I think the fact that the books follow exactly the same layout with a different storyline makes it so successful for children. It's not hard to follow and the characters - while somewhat stereotypical - also hold surprises and interesting twists.  Rowling cleverly re-caps whats happened before in the text which ensures you are never really lost. For me l the real value of the HP books is the fact that it gets children reading who may not have picked up a book otherwise. Of course, RJ Rowling has a wonderful imagination, and one which can be easily understood by children and build a fantasy world. 

I have to say that I usually neither read children's nor fantasy books, but thoroughly enjoy the HP books as a change from my usual reading. I would also recommend the HP books if you are an aspiring writer (not necessarily of children's fiction only) and would like some ideas on how to build up a story, re-cap on a previous storyline and how the English language can be 'bent' for your story. 

About the author

J.K. Rowling is the author of the bestselling Harry Potter series of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007, which have sold over 450 million copies worldwide, are distributed in more than 200 territories, translated into 74 languages, and have been turned into eight blockbuster films. She has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry's schoolbooks within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published by Bloomsbury Children's Books in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief. In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children's High Level Group, and quickly became the fastest selling book of the year

As well as an OBE for services to children's literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France's L├ęgion d'Honneur, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children

For further information about J.K. Rowling, please visit her new website:

(Photo credit: JP Masclet)