Caste – Off by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

Caste – Off by Jeffrey Archer

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About the author

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Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

Blurb

Jamwal Rameshwar Singh, a hedonistic playboy prince, assumes he will never fall in love but this all changes when he meets Nisha Chowdhury. Their blossoming international relationship continues as she completes her degree at Stanford but even as their love grows, Jamwal knows that his family will oppose the match as Nisha is not of their caste. Will Jamwal choose love or will his family’s wishes prevail?

Review

After reading a few of these short stories I am starting to sense a theme, basically a man sees a beautiful woman and drops absolutely everything to chase her. I picked up this short story over breakfast and soon had it finished and it was a perfect start to the working day.

A classic tale of forbidden love that I absolutely loved. Archer set the book in India which I did not expect at all and was a nice surprise, I particularly liked the random cows on the road during the car race at the beginning. Jamwal is a typical playboy with a phonebook full of women he can call on whenever he feels like but very hard working and a successful businessman. Nisha is a Stanford student studying fashion, who is the most beautiful woman Jamwal has ever seen and guess what when he first sees her he drops all his plans in pursuit of her.

The story is beautifully written and the imagery and detail is fantastic. I loved how Jamwal’s and Nisha’s blossoming relationship is squeezed into the short story and yet it does not feel rushed or in anyway lacking, which proves Archer’s talent as an author. The question of whether Jamwal will choose his family or the love of his life has you on tenter hooks and there was no way I was putting the story down until I had finished the book.

This story took about 20 minutes to read, so an excellent read when you have a bit of time for a mug of tea and your feet up. It is free on Kindle and a wonderful read I can not recommend it enough. I rated this story 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon.

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The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton (Review)

The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

About the author

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Juliet Ashton was born in Fulham and still lives in London. She writes under a variety of names, including her real name, Bernadette Strachan, and as Claire Sandy. She is married and has one daughter.

Blurb

When your marriage falls apart, the last place you’d want your husband to move to is downstairs. Unfortunately for Sarah, up in the eaves at number 24, her ex-husband now lives one floor beneath her with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her.

A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to the house. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging spirits, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Review

It has been a long time since I have read a book with so many twists and turns and so jam packed with storylines, I loved it! This book I got a while ago as a freebie on Apple Books and since reading it I have downloaded another of Ashton’s books to read in the near future.

The book’s main character is Sarah but also in my opinion the house itself is an integral character. The house is located in Notting Hill and is made up of flats. Mavis lives in one of the basement flats, Una and her mum live in the other basement flat, Leo and Helena share another, Jane and Tom in one and lastly Sarah in the attic flat. Sarah and Leo are divorced as Leo had an affair with Helena and finally married her. Since her divorce Sarah’s life has been turned upside down and somehow she is trying to rebuild her life again.

As the story follows Sarah it shows her develop and grow and as she does the other characters also grow and develop. The house also feels this, it fills with love and good feelings and friendship in every way.

I loved all the characters in this book apart from Leo as I just found him very smarmy and unpleasant. I also disliked Helena, she came across as very fake and annoying but thankfully she was not in the book much. This book kept me on my toes on every page, I made assumptions and they were quite often turned on their head. I just could not predict what would happen next and that is what I loved about it as it was not a predictable romance novel.

Sarah is such a caring character that I found myself wanting her to be my friend and wanting to give her a big hug. Tom is full of energy and love of life, you just can not help but smile when you read about him, his enthusiasm jumps from the page. Jane is also similar to Tom in her exuberance for life, even if she is a little bossy. Poor Mavis is a recluse and not a very nice lady, she has spent her life being miserable to people but I could not stop feeling sorry for her. Little Una is a wonderful child who has been affected by her parents’ break up but with Sarah’s experience and help she can recover from this experience.

I could tell that Ashton had thought about each of her characters in great detail and imagined their back stories, I also believe she has drawn on real life people as the characters are so believable. I truly adored this book and would happily read it again. I have given it a big 5 out of 5 dragons and I can not recommend it enough to people, especially if you enjoy a good romance novel. Thank you Juliet Ashton for a fabulous read!

Lady Book Dragon

One Man’s Meat by Jeffrey Archer (Review)

One Man’s Meat by Jeffrey Archer

About the author

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Jeffrey Archer was born in England in 1940, he is a former politician and author. Archer was a member of parliament from 1969-1974 but did not seek re-election due to a financial scandal that almost bankrupt him. Facing bankruptcy Archer began to write and in so doing revived his fortunes. Archer’s political career has been filled with scandal and in 2001 he was sent to jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice, in 2003 he was released. All his life experiences influence his writing and make for interesting reading.

Blurb

One Man’s Meat is part of The Year of Short Stories and is one of several digital shorts released to celebrate the publication of Jeffrey Archer’s magnificent seventh collection, Tell Tale.

Taken from Jeffrey Archer’s third collection of short stories, Twelve Red Herrings, comes One Man’s Meat, an irresistible, witty and ingenious short read.

When Michael Whitaker spots the stunning Anna Townsend on the steps of the theatre, he decides he will do whatever it takes to get to know her. Finding a way to get a ticket for the seat next to her, he then invites her to a drink at the interval. By the end of the play, Michael asks her to accompany him to dinner. But what will her answer be?

What follows are four different endings . . . choose just one, or – if choosing to read all four – they can be read in the following order: Rare, Burnt, Overdone, and À Point . . .

Review

I am back to reading to short stories at breakfast again, after having quite a break whilst I read some other books on my Kindle. I am glad to be back as I really enjoyed this book, especially because you can choose your own ending.

The book features Michael Whitaker who immediately drops everything in pursuit of Anna Townsend and pays no regard to the consequences. Each ending shows a different set of consequences for his actions. Michael is in the restaurant business and Anna is a doctor, two very different professions.

The beginning of the story sees the two characters enjoying the play and getting to know one another over a drink during the interval. At the end of the play Michael asks Anna out to dinner and from there the different endings take place. The fact that Michael drops everything because of just seeing a beautiful woman makes me wonder if the man is of a sensible and sane mind. In my opinion he is a little creepy and not a man to rely on.

Rare is the first ending and in my opinion more of a fantasy, it is more like Michael dreaming it all and it was not my favourite. It seemed a little too unbelievable like the beginning.

Burnt really shows just what a fool Michael is and that chasing this woman could have cost him everything, to be honest this is my favourite because I think the man gets what he deserves. Yes I am being unromantic but the story just does not fit in my mind.

Overdone is my least favourite mainly because I disliked the character of Anna, she suddenly seems to have had a personality change and not for the better. She is rude, irritable and spiky. I actually feel sorry for poor Michael in this ending.

À Point is my second favourite ending because if it has to end in Michael’s favour this is how I would like it to go. It is believable and a lovely ending and the reader is left dreaming of what could happen next.

All in all this was a good short story and I loved the quirkiness of the optional endings. I gave the story 3 out of 5 Dragons mainly because although the story was enjoyable I just found it rather unbelievable. It is a good read that will take you less than an hour to devour, plus it is free on Kindle. So put up your feet and have a nice break with this story and a mug of your favourite hot beverage.

Lady Book Dragon

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Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher (Review)

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

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About the author

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Rosamunde Pilcher was born on the 22nd September 1924 in Cornwall. She began writing when she was 7 and published her first short story at the age of 15. From 1943 to 1946 she served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service. In 1946 she married her Graham Hope Pilcher and they moved to Dundee, Scotland together. In 1949 Pilcher’s first novel was published under the pseudonym Jane Fraser, she went on to publish a further ten novels under that name. In 1955 she published her first novel under her own name, by 1965 she had dropped the pseudonym entirely. Pilcher retired from writing in 2000, two years later she received her OBE.

Blurb

Born in Colombo, Judith Dunbar spends her teenage years at boarding school, while her beloved mother and younger sister live abroad with her father.

When her new friend Loveday Carey-Lewis invites Judith home for the weekend to Nancherrow, the Carey-Lewises’ beautiful estate on the Cornish coast, it is love at first sight.

She falls in love too with the generous Carey-Lewises themselves. With their generosity and kindness, Judith grows from naive girl to confident young woman, basking in the warm affection of a surrogate family whose flame burns brightly. But it is a flame soon to be extinguished in the gathering storm of war. And Judith herself has far to travel before at last . . . coming home.

Review

This book is just beautiful, I loved every moment of it and it has gone straight on my all time favourites list. It has been a long time since I have finished a book and immediately wanted to read it again. I just could not put it down and was worried it would be over too quickly so I actually started to pace myself.

The book is centred around Judith Dunbar and the reader is introduced to her when she is about to start boarding school. Her mother, father and younger sister Jess live abroad, hence why she is at boarding school and it is arranged she will spend the holidays with her aunt. Whilst at school Judith meets her lifelong friend Loveday and eventually meets her family. The book follows Judith’s life through the second world war and leaves Judith just after the war is over. As the book goes on we learn about the other characters in the book.

I was so excited to read this book as I remember watching the TV series with Joanna Lumley and a very young Keira Knightly when I was younger and just thinking how glamorous and beautiful everything was, so when I saw the book on Kindle for £1.99 I jumped at the chance to buy it. The book is even better than the TV series but I must admit the TV series is very close to the book and the actors were brilliantly matched up with their book equivalents. This book had me in tears at times, it made me laugh, it made me think and much more.

Judith is a very strong woman who has become strong due to the circumstances of her upbringing, Judith soon realises that her mother is not a strong woman and so she needs to take charge occasionally and help her mother. When her mother goes abroad to join her father Judith is left alone in a strange school and quickly has to make friends and adapt to her new environment. Meeting and befriending Loveday Carey-Lewis is a big help in this and when she goes to spend weekends and holidays with the Carey-Lewis family she has a place to call her own and a family who treat her as a daughter, she is loved and protected there but also stands on her own feet and remains independent.

We see Judith fall in love, mourn and see her take on the war. Pilcher shows WW2 in its truest form, she does not glamorise it and at times I found it hard to read about but I am pleased Pilcher kept it realistic. Throughout this book you see Pilcher’s life influencing the book, Pilcher lived in Cornwall and the book is mainly set in Cornwall, Pilcher also served in the war and so does Judith. These true experiences come through the book and makes it so believable to read.

One of my favourite characters other than Judith was Diana Carey-Lewis, she is so glamorous and elegant and lets nothing phase her. She seems like the perfect friend, mother and wife. I did not know whether I wanted to be her or be her best friend. I also really liked Edgar Carey-Lewis, he is the perfect gentleman and from a previous era, a gentle soul who is very shy.

The character I truly disliked was Judith’s father and I was very pleased he was not in the book very much. He was a selfish man and when Judith’s mother desperately wanted to go home to Judith and comfort her, he forbade it. He had no feelings towards his oldest daughter or his wife’s wellbeing, his wife clearly had a fragile mind and really did not want to be living abroad but he made her come back out there and live her life there. I found him very cold and heartless. Thankfully this was the only element I did not like about the book and it was only small.

This book is just over a thousand pages long as it follows a massive chunk of Judith’s life from early teenage years to mid twenties but I loved every page and it is an amazing read. Pilcher is now a favourite author and I am planning on which book to read next, I just hope it is as good as this one. The book is beautifully written and a joy to read, I highly recommend it to everyone and I award it a massive 5 Dragons out of 5.

Lady Book Dragon.

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Review 13: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

About the author

Loos was an American screenwriter, playwright, and author born in 1889. She is best known for her novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She wrote scripts from 1912 till her death in 1981 and was the first scriptwriter on the payroll of Triangle Film Corporation. She wrote a great many of the Douglas Fairbanks films and did the stage adaptation of Collette’s Gigi.

Blurb

With these deceptively simple words Lorelei Lee, a not-so-dumb blonde with a single-minded devotion to orchids, diamonds and champagne, embarks on what Edith Wharton was to call, perhaps not entirely seriously, ‘the great American novel’. Written in diary form, Lorelei Lee’s life makes for an outrageous, witty read. Capturing the carefree attitude of the glamorous jazz age, the flighty Lorelei moves from suitor to suitor, from scandalous situation to frivolous engagement, ever in search of the elusive millionaire who could provide her own happy ending.

With the help of her wise-cracking friend and protector Dorothy, Lorelei learns to spot a gentleman ‘whom you can call up at any time and ask him to go shopping and he is delighted’ at a hundred paces, dances with the Prince of Wales, and travels to Paris to enjoy ‘the Eyeful Tower’. Sharp, hilarious and undeniably endearing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes would be immortalised by the 1953 musical starring Marilyn Monroe, and Anita Loos herself was so impressed by the success of her creation that she ended up dyeing her hair …

Review

Gosh this book was annoying! I got this book a couple of years ago free from The Folio Society because I had spent so much money with them, however I do remember it was meant to be another book but they had sold out and so they sent me this one instead. 

I struggled with this book, I know the book is written in diary form and Loos included grammatical and spelling errors but it was these errors that drove me mad. I just found them over the top and I know they were there to add to the feel of a diary but it just upset me, I wanted to correct all the errors with a big red pen. 

The diary belongs to Lorelei who is an American society girl who is moving through life going from one suitor to the other getting as many presents as she can out of them and looking for the richest man she can find to eventually marry or sue in court. Lorelei has a friend Dorothy who helps her in this quest. Lorelei starts the diary to help her become educated as she keeps saying she is an educated girl and just wants to read books and see the all education she can.

The first thing I worked out was that Lorelei is really not very educated, she pretends to be and tells the men she meets she is but in fact she is severely lacking. She is educated in one department and that department is using men to get what she wants and she can work out a rich man and poor man just by looking at them. I did like the fact that all the books she was given to read she found some excuse not to read and when she went to museums she just complained about her aching feet. This made me laugh a little bit but then it turned to despair.

I had high hopes for this book and I think I had in mind of something like The Great Gatsby but sadly I did not enjoy it like I did The Great Gatsby. Lorelei was just too annoying for me, I know it is set in a different time but she just came across as too immature and money grabbing. She just used men for her own advantage and only thought of shopping and champagne. I started to feel really sorry for all the men she took shopping and then discarded. She’s lazy and sleeps in till silly times basically because she is hungover all the time. The more I think of her character the more she annoys me and to be honest I would not like a person of her character anywhere near me. 

I am sorry that my review is so against the general grain of all the other reviews out there and I know that this book is considered a great American classic but I found it very hard to digest. I did not believe the spelling and grammatical errors were necessary and certainly deterred me from the book. Also I could not believe that such an annoying character could exist but I have found her. Until now I thought it was Jane Austen’s Emma who was the most annoying heroine in the literary world, but no she has moved to second place as Lorelei has taken her crown. I think it is most likely that it is because I prefer a strong female lead who does not depend on men to get through life and Lorelei just does not fit into this category.

The other area I did not enjoy was the illustrations. I found they lacked finesse and I doubt I will be keen to read another book with illustrations by Ffolkes.

All in all a massive disappointment for me, thankfully it is not a long book and I got it for free from The Folio Society. Just 1 star out of 5 from me.

Lady Book Dragon.

Review 10: Dead Men by Richard Pierce

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Dead Men by Richard Pierce

About the author

Richard Pierce is an English author who was born in Doncaster and educated in Germany and St John’s College, Cambridge. He now lives in Suffolk with his wife and four children. As well as writing he also paints, administers to two charities and writes poetry.

Blurb

Birdie Bowers is a woman with a dead man’s name. Her parents had been fascinated by by Henry ‘Birdie’ Bowers, one of Captain Scott’s companions on his ill-fated polar expedition. A hundred years after the death of Bowers and Scott, she sets out to discover what really happened to them…

The discovery of Captain Scott’s body in the Antarctic in November 1912 started a global obsession with him as a man and an explorer. But one mystery remains – why did he and his companions spend their last ten days in a tent only 11 miles from the safety of a depot that promised food and shelter?

Dead Men tells the story of the two paths. One is a tragic journey of exploration on the world’s coldest continent, the other charts a present-day relationship and the redemptive power of love.

Review

I was so delighted to receive this book off Richard Pierce to read and review. My first book received from an author to review, as you can imagine I was very excited and it went straight to the top of my to read pile.

I finished this book a few days ago and it has been on my mind ever since, it really has stayed with me. It’s made me think a lot about Scott and the Antarctic expedition and the things done to push one’s self beyond the normal capabilities of the human body. I really can not believe that this is Pierce’s first novel as it is just brilliant. I can really tell that Pierce did a great deal of research for this book and spent a lot of time to perfect the story and intertwine the past and the present together.

The book contains two tales, the tale of Scott and his expedition to the Antarctic and the tale of Birdie and Adam. Birdie who is named after Henry Bowers is obsessed with the Scott expedition and finding out why Scott lost his life and did not make it to the safety of the food depot which was only 11 miles away. This obsession she got from her dad and losing him has made her even more determined to get the answers she seeks. Adam is the other main character who meets Birdie unexpectedly on the train and whose life is changed forever from that day. Birdie and Adam are very different people, Birdie is an artist who has a very artistic temperament and can be difficult to get on with. Adam works with computers and everything is organised and planned in his life, he never does anything out of the ordinary and keeps himself to himself. 

The story shows how Birdie and Adam become friends and help change each other for the better, whilst trying to solve the Scott mystery. 

I really enjoyed how all the way through the book there are flashes back to the past, these sections really moved me and at times almost brought me to tears. Quite often after reading these sections I also just sat and thought about what Scott and his people must have gone through, how alone they must have felt out there on the ice. 

This book is a wonderful read and a beautiful love story and I got to learn some history as well. It really got me interested in the Scott expedition and I fully intend on doing some more reading about Scott and Amundsen. At just under 300 pages this book packs a lot of punch and you get a great deal of content in such a small book. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially if you are a fan of books with history, love and the power of nature.

A massive 5 out of 5 stars from me.

Lady Book Dragon