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31 May 2015

Guy Portman
Publication Date
April 2014

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

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.