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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 / needlecraft 
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30 November 2014




Title
Fifty Shades of Grey
Author
EL James
Publisher
Cornerstone Digital
Publication Date
March 2012
Pages
530
Genre
romance, erotica



Blurb:
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When literature student Anastasia Steele interviews successful entrepreneur Christian Grey, she finds him very attractive and deeply intimidating. Convinced that their meeting went badly, she tries to put him out of her mind – until he turns up at the store where she works part-time, and invites her out.Unworldly and innocent, Ana is shocked to find she wants this man. And, when he warns her to keep her distance, it only makes her want him more. As they embark on a passionate love affair, Ana discovers more about her own desires, as well as the dark secrets Christian keeps hidden away from public view …



My review:  

So, I finally read this book during a beach holiday. And you know - it actually made the perfect beach read. Why? Easy language, didn't need to think too much, just enough to keep me interested.

Essentially, for me this is more of a romance novel with erotica thrown in rather than the other way round. The story follows the well-trodden path of many romance novels where two people who are very different fall in love and have obstacles to overcome. Will they - won't they get together and be happy ever after? And the difference could be anything, and here we have: socio-economic status, character, life experiences incl sexual. 

Anna is a very sweet character and I think there can't be a lot of woman who do not identify with her, at least in parts. Tripping and falling into the office during an interview - that would be me! Not knowing what to wear and not having the right clothes anyway - yep, me again. I think her sweet innocence in all matters 'made' the book for me. Christian's devotion to her I found, in parts, a bit unrealistic. But than again, this is typical of romance novels. And that is exactly what lovers of this genre want. 

As for the erotic...  I was expecting more explicitly after all the furore this has caused. To be honest, I have read books much more explicit than this. And no, I don't buy 'porn' books, but just normal novels with erotic content from your usual book store or Kindle. I thought the author actually managed the erotic scenes here quite well and it does not come over awkwardly. 

I summary - a great beach read, something for romance lovers who are not afraid of a bit of erotica and also for those who have never read erotica and want a bit of an introduction into this genre.



About the author:  

E L James is a former TV executive, wife and mother of two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel Fifty Shades of Grey.


29 November 2014


Title
Darsky's Resistance
Author
Michael Rudnicki
Publisher
Hoxton Books
Publication Date
Sept 2014
Pages
286
Genre
spy, WW2


Blurb:
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It’s September 1939. 
Germany and Russia have invaded Poland and secret agent, Ian Darsky, wants to fight for his country. 
But which country? 

Darsky’s father is Polish, his mother English. He works for the British Secret Service. But his family home in Poland is under threat. 

As war descends, loyalties are tested, friends turn into enemies and an old adversary spins a complicated web of deceit and destruction. Will Darsky’s resistance prevail? 
Whose side is he really on? 




My review:  
At it's heart, this is a good old-fashioned spy novel. The twist here is that it is set during World War II and mainly in Poland. 

Ian Darsky is a very loveable hero. He likes booze, he likes women. But we don't scold him for this, it is an essential part of his release from the horrors of war, from fighting for the British Secret Service in Poland and being torn between his loyalty to Britain and his love for the land of his Polish father. 

I have to admit that war-themed books are usually not my favourite genre, but this is because they often contain lengthy battle scenes which I don't seem to be able to follow and I often don't understand the technicality of warfare. However, in this book, the spy element is in the foreground and the story easily flows. And at the same time, I have to say that I did learn a lot about the Second World War which I did not know, for example the massacre of Katyn. It was also good to hear some of the stories from the point of Polish resistance fighters. Again, I had not realised the part they played in defeating Hitler's army. 

I also enjoyed that the book tells about the horrors and bravery of those fighting in this war without constantly having to tug on your conscience. To my (pleasant) surprise, there was also a 'good' German. I personally would have like it if he had been given a more central role - I would have liked it if he'd come back towards the end of the story, I would have loved to know what became of him.

The novel has a section at the end where all characters, places, vehicles, planes, guns and vodka's which feature in the story are listed and explained. I found this very useful and looked back to it quite a bit. A brilliant idea. But it's not that you would be lost without it, it's just a very good reference. 



About the author:  


Like my novel's hero, Darsky, I spend a lot of my time in the UK even though I live in Warsaw. In fact my day-job takes me all around the world so I have first-hand knowledge and experience of how Poland is perceived, politically, economically and culturally. I’ve become an unofficial ambassador for my country and Darsky is an extension of this. The word 'legacy' in Polish carries an implied meaning of obligation. I’m obliged to talk about my country’s history. Also, my grandfather fought in the Polish Resistance in the Second World War and his diaries were a great source of material for my first book, Darsky's Resistance. Darsky’s Legacy, a trilogy, is about Poland first and foremost. Where it sits in the modern world and how it got there. I’ve always loved the popular Polish books by Alfred Szklarsky, particularly those featuring Tomek Wilmowski, an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer, and these influence my writing along with Ian Fleming’s Bond and the cynical John Corey created by Nelson DeMille. Darsky is a mixture of all of these with a bit of me thrown in. I’ve never killed anyone but I am an accomplished musician! www.darskylegacy.com

22 November 2014





Title
Pegasus to Paradise
Author
Michael Tappenden
Publisher
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
374
Genre
family history, WW2



Blurb:
1944. In the early hours of the sixth of June, Ted Tappenden and an elite glider-borne force of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, successfully attack and capture the vital Horsa and Pegasus bridges in the first allied assault of D-Day. Ted returns from the war apparently unscathed and a hero. However, a strange England awaits him. It has been through too much, and so has he. As he tries to ease his way back into mundane suburban life with the sweetheart of his pre-war youth, he is silently haunted by the terrors of battle. Domestic life too is not without its threats… 

Florrie is relieved to have her Ted back where he belongs, but like many of her neighbours, she sees a distance in her husband where once there was joy and passion. Neither husband nor wife can explain their suffering to anyone, least of all each other, and they soon find themselves inhabiting different worlds under the same roof. 

Based on the true lives of Ted “Ham and Jam” Tappenden and his wife Florrie and spanning three generations of the Tappenden family, Pegasus to Paradise is an ode to both the extraordinary efforts of ordinary men and women during the Second World War and a moving portrait of trauma, survival and the power of love in post-war Britain. 




My review:  

I was particularly excited to read a book which is set mainly in my local area. There aren't that many around. Even though I was not born in Kent, I do feel very much settled here and couldn't image living anywhere else. 

This is the story of Ted and Florrie. They are young couple when World War II breaks out. 2 sons are born during the war years, and Ted is of of the lucky ones who does return. But he is not the same Ted. Still, lives goes on and the couple will have to cope. 

In the early chapters, the book tells us about Ted's war adventures. I am usually not one for war and battle descriptions but here, it is firstly necessary for the story, and I also found myself quickly getting into it and rooting for the boys. It does not get too technical and easy to read and understand what actually went on.  Ted returns, but after the initial euphoria he finds he now faces a different world, very different from the battlefield where he exactly knew what to do: 'Just kill the enemy and stay alive'. 

What I really enjoyed about this book is relationship of Ted and his wife Florrie. Both are very different persons, and Florrie is certainly a real character. In later chapters, Florrie and her passions in life take the centre stage. But Ted is always there. Typical of a man of his generation, he just gets on with it, even when it does get difficult and both are facing physical and psychological problems as they get older. It was a very moving read, and certainly made me think about how a couple copes when they get older, maybe if one if the partners is not any more as able as the other. 

I also enjoyed that Ted's mates from his war years a re-visited in later chapters during a veteran's meeting. 

This book was written by Ted's son as a memory to his dad. He certainly has the balance right between providing a very interesting story, personal details and wonderful memory for future generation. I think it was a very good decision from the author that he mainly sticks with Ted and Florrie's story only in this book (not too many details are given about other family members and friends  though we do follow a few neighbours and close friends through the book). Apart from an interesting and moving read, I would also recommend this book for someone who would like to write down their family history as an alternative to the usual 'autobiography and family story'. 




About the author:  







16 November 2014





Title
Spices & Seasons
Author
Rinku Bhattacharya
Publisher
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
374
Genre
cookery, non-fiction



Blurb:
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This cookbook combines her two great loves -- Indian cooking and sustainable living -- to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally and flavourfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to bring Indian flavours to nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetisers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables, to condiments, breads and sweets. You will find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps", "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney", "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub", "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree" and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens", to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Includes: Over 15 recipes, mostly gluten-free and Vegetarian / Vegan; Gluten-free / Vegetarian / Vegan recipes are clearly labelled; Helpful sections on spices, ingredients and utensils; Tips and tricks for getting the best results and "green tips" for making your kitchen eco-friendly; Colour photographs for each recipe.


My review:  
First impression: I like the sturdy look of this book. I know we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but let's face it, if you are going to use your cook book a lot, it can't be too flimsy. A quick browse through the pages (as you would do if you were to pick the book up in a book shop) reveals pictures with ever recipe, and that for me is what a good cook book is all about, as essentially presentation in cooking is very important. 

The emphasis in this book is on sustainability, and at the beginning, the author provides a short paragraph, taking her back to her grandmother's and mother's kitchen which were often much more efficient and less wasteful than our modern day variety. I do like this, and my grandmother was exactly the same. In fact, where I grew up in East Germany, we did not always had many ingredients available, so often it was about 'making do' but with the use of the right spices, it always tasted nice. 

Also in the introduction the chapter 'Learning the essentials' teaches as the 'Indian approach to cooking'. Even if you are an experienced cook, give this one a quick read. I found it very interesting, particularly the benefits of the spices, green tips and how to set up a 'Starter Kit' with spices. Not as difficult as you might imagine. 

The cooking chapters are divided in: Appetizers; Salads Condiments & Chutneys; Soups and Lentils; Protein: Eggs Paneer and Tofu; Vegetables; Fish; Meat and Poultry; Holiday Season cooking; Rice Grains and Pasta; Breads; Desserts and Sweets. The final chapter outlines the authors 'Spice Chest' - her mixed spices collection. I loved this and have never seen it before in a cook book. It has inspired me to make my own spice chest, indeed I was already using a few of my own spice mixes without realising it.

Importantly, and as with this author's previous cook book, all the ingredients for the recipes are really easy to find. Certainly here in the UK you will find them in the big supermarkets or in smaller Indian shops. Once you have a certain amount of spices in your larder, it really is only the fresh ingredients you have to get which is no different from your day-to-day cooking. My favourite recipes which I have cooked so far: Chicken Tikka Kebabs (page 39) - I have cooked this dish  before but never with yoghurt. It turned out absolutely lovely and (apart from the marinating) took me no longer than 5 minutes to prepare. I further cooked the Creamy Coconut Egg Curry. I do love anything with coconut and also eggs, and the one thing about Indian cooking is that it uses eggs in 'proper' dishes as the main ingredient rather than just one of the ingredients. If you do like this - than there are plenty of egg recipes here. The one thing I have not tried but will finally do give it a go now is Kulfi, the delicious Indian ice-cream.

In summery - I did love this book and even though so for I have only cooked 2 of its recipes, I am sure I will use many more in times to come. If you are a fan of Indian cooking, you can't go wrong. If not yet, give it a try. I would say that it probably does help if you are a little bit experienced in the kitchen, but by no means do you need to be a kitchen goddess. I am not, believe me! 




About the author:  
Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkata, India and currently resides in Westchester, New York. She teaches cooking classes, maintains a popular food blog, Cooking in Westchester, and writes a weekly column, Spices and Seasons, for the Journal News website.



I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review. 
9 November 2014




Title
Harbour Views
Author
Philip Chatting
Publisher
Book Guild Publishing
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
384
Genre
novel


<blockquote>Blurb:</strong> 
Swedish expatriate Jakob Obergaard rules his successful furniture corporation with a ruthlessness and egotism that draws comment even in the merciless cut and thrust of the Hong Kong business world. His tyranny warps the lives of all around him – his imperiously bitter wife Dagmar, his estranged hippyish daughter Sigrid and his sexually frustrated administrator, Mrs Tung, among them. Not even the blithely laddish Anil Patel, a company courier, is immune. 

In this jet-black comedy, lives are as tangled, messy and precarious as the streets of downtown Kowloon. In a world where ambition collides with passion, tradition with modernity, East with West, no one comes away unscathed. 

This is the accomplished debut novel by Hong Kong resident Philip Chatting, a sharply witty portrayal of one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities. 


<blockquote>My review:  

A good start which got me straight into the book. As an immigrant to another country (though nothing like Mr Odergaard and certainly not as rich!), I wanted to know his story. But the book took me a bit by surprise, as it is not so much a 'story of his life' but more of a character study of various people in Hong Kong. The book is clearly very much character-driven. 

There is the very rich and obnoxious Mr Odergaard and his even more obnoxious wife Dagmar, their hippy daughter and her somewhat humble teacher husband who has his own problems with his son. Than Carol Tung who works for Odergaard and is sexually frustrated, her son Wai Pang and their domestic helper Budiwati. Claude Halt, the Odergaard's company 2nd in command who in turn is pathologically obsessed with small-time actress Mandy Plumpkin. Than there is Anil Patel, a driver at Odergaards company, and probably my favourite character. I very much like his closing sentiments in the last chapter. A bit of a lad, but honest. I also liked the fact that almost all of the characters link up during the course of the book as their lives intersect.

The book is described as black comedy, and I will agree with this. You have to look behind the scenes here. The clever structure of the sentences makes it not always a very easy read, but if you do take your time, you will be rewarded with the author's clever way with words. Here is a quick example I picked out as I liked it so much:

...."Only the cook, who relished the fruits of her precession too much for her own good, was left to patch and recycle apparel purchased years ago to accommodate a once-younger girth...."

Excellent example of the black humour and way of words here. Can't we just all picture that rather oversized cook now? 

 Chatting lets us in into Hong Kong behind the scenes and some of those will stay with me, for example the way the domestic helpers are treated as a matter of norm or how children are educated just to get results i.e. Art is discouraged as a subject which does not bring a good job. 

This is not a cosy 'all is good at the end' read.  I would recommend this book if you are interested in expats stories, live in foreign countries and would like to read a different, more darker version which engages you to think. The characters may be exaggerated caricatures, but than maybe they are not, but that's the beauty of the book. 



<blockquote>About the author:  

Philip Chatting was born in Chester and schooled in London and California. He has spent the majority of his working life in human resource management, located variously in Africa, the Middle East, the USA and Asia, and for industries including copper mining, construction, newspapers and publishing. He is presently the Vice President of Human Resources for an export marketing company based in Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife and son.
2 November 2014




Title
Essential Hindi
Author
Richard Delacy
Publisher
Tuttle Publishing
Publication Date
2014
Pages
192
Genre
non-fiction, languages




Blurb:
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Start speaking Hindi right away with this Hindi phrasebook, basic grammar and pronunciation guide to help you. Essential Hindi presents the practical Hindi language of everyday interactions in a way that's clear, concise, accessible and enjoyable. It includes fundamental sentences to use when meeting people, starting conversations, and asking and replying to questions. All Hindi words are presented in both romanised form and Hindi script. Terms and phrases cover all your conversations via mobile phones, internet, and social media in a way that will help you make the most of the language. In addition, sentences on the essentials of travel make it easier for visitors to navigate the basics of arranging accommodations, dining out, dealing with transportation and emergencies, and much more. Essential Hindi includes: Over 1,500 necessary sentences for everyday use. A glossary containing over 2,000 terms and expressions. A handy format for finding the information you need quickly and easily. Look up the latest Hindi vocabulary and phrases for smart phones, blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Let Essential Hindi guide you in making the right word choices when communicating with friends and business colleagues, and the world!



My review:  

Thank you to Tuttle Publishing who gifted me this book.

I have been interested in South East Asian Languages and studied Urdu for a while. I have to say at the beginning that I did not study Hindi as it is very different from Urdu in the script, though in spoken word it is very very similar. Therefore, this review will look at the book from the view of someone who intends to buy it in a book shop or online and has not fully used it. 

The short introduction tells us that the book is aimed as a basic guide for getting you started in communicating in Hindi. As such, I think it would be particularly useful for anyone who has  connections to SE India (whether business, private or as a tourist) and would like to take their knowledge of the language further than just 'hello' and 'my name is'. 

The book starts with a pronunciation guide and basic grammar. These are not too complex and even for a complete beginner easy to understand. In my opinion, you have to work through those in order to go on to the first lesson and actually learning words. But fear not, there are only 5 pages of pronunciation and 13 pages of grammar. 

As with most language learning books, the chapter start with simple and basic information (Personal Details, time, numbers) etc and coach you on to more complex sentences. The chapters have example sentences and a list of words as well as useful information (i.e. holidays, info on religion ) The chapters do not cover exercises - I think that would require a much more extensive book and this one here is only intended to get you started.

Again...I did not learn the language yet, but I think this can not only an excellent starting point, but it may also help you decide whether this is the language for you. 








1 November 2014



You read the book - now go out and watch the movie!




I couldn't wait for this movie. I absolutely loved the book. Here is my review of the book. I even liked the ending of the book (I know lots of reviewers didn't).

It is difficult to review the film without giving away major plot lines. Simple enough story. Amy and Nick are a young couple who both lose their jobs in the recession in New York and move to Missouri. It is the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary and Amy goes missing. What follows is the search for Amy and Nick slowly becoming a suspect. Things don't add up for him. But all is not what it seems here. In the words of Nick's defence attorney Tanner Bolt (and I paraphrase here because I can't find the exact quote...): "I have seem some messed up people in my career, but boy, you two are something...".

Honestly, even though I was looking forward to the movie, I was also a bit hesitant. Mainly because I am always disappointed when I read a book and than watch the movie. It usually just doesn't compare. And for the first 1/2 hour of the movie, I almost prepared myself to be disappointed. I mean, I knew the story - importantly knew the twists - so could I enjoy the movie. But than it happened - the movie really took me in and I almost forgot that I knew what was going to happen. 

Both Rosemunde Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick are doing a great job and are very believable. In fact, the became Amy and Nick for me. 

What was slightly missing for me was the extent that Amy's parents are also very very messed up. And I personally felt that Margo (Nick's sister) was given a bit too much time? But no big deal. 

Honstley? This is one of the best book to movie adaptations I have seen in a long time. If you haven't seen it yet, go now. I can't wait until it is on Netflix. 


Peggy xx