Friday, 19 January 2018

Ten of the Best #109

Good morning everybody. It's the weekend. And yes, it's been a while since I've done a Ten of the Best. But we're back, with bells on. Here's my summary of what I enjoyed on social media feeds this week. Have fun, click the pictures for the links, and don't forget the back button to come back for more.

Since we've got a lot of catching up to do. we'll start with James Corden who summarizes the mood so well. Here he is on the "always fake news".

Speaking of The Lying Times of President Trump, someone is documenting it. Yip. Read and weep.

And yay for us, SA business leaders are set to boycott Trump in Davos, at the World Economic Forum. This because of his $%^&hole comments about Africa and Haiti. Click my favourite Zapiro for the story.

Trevor Noah catches us up on the best of the Golden Globes. That's easy - it's Oprah's speech. But Trevor's take on it is funny too.

Reversed gender roles in vintage sexist ads make for interesting viewing. Click the pic for more.

I loved this tango in the streets, even if the comments say it's staged (and I'm sure it is). It's lovely.

Barbara Kingsolver says "#MeToo isn’t enough. Now women need to get ugly". 

So many truths here, like "This is the point. The universe of men does not merit women’s indiscriminate grace. If the #MeToo revolution has proved anything, it’s that women live under threat. Not sometimes, but all the time." 

This is my favourite rant of the week, and to access it, you need to click on the week's best tweet, from author Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame).

And speaking of getting ugly, and sweary, and angry, and did I mention sweary? Here's Geraldine DeRuiter. She admits "I Made the Pizza Cinnamon Rolls from Mario Batali’s Sexual Misconduct Apology Letter." I recant my earlier comment, this is my favourite rant of the week. Remember, I warned you about the language...Click the pic.

I know this author, and her mother. Both are awesome, and inspirational. Check out Kerryn Ponter and her books in this interview. 

Victor Borge is a classic - always funny, and ever talented. He weighs in on Mozart in this clip.

I told you we had a lot to catch up on, that's ten already.

We'll sign out with a Christmas tune, since we missed all those. Here's Pentatonix with Deck the Halls.

Happy 2018 everyone! Hope I've made it a little more fun so far.


Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Confession by Jo Spain

Ok, confession time...(haha - see what I did there?) Do you have a favourite book?

Don't give me that "How could you?" look. I know you love ALL the books you own. They are ALL deserving of your love and attention. But what about authors? Can you have favourites of those? Yes?Well ok, then.

I have to confess that this one was special. And Jo Spain, dare I say it? Yes I do - you're one of my favourites.

Harry is famous and wealthy and married and charismatic and handsome and - I'm sure you get the picture, he has it all. Until one night he is attacked in his home by an intruder, who promptly admits that he did it, hands himself over and gets arrested. Now Harry's wife Julie can sleep at night, tucked up in their secure and glamorous home on a  golf estate. Except you know she can't. Something's wrong. This is too neat and tidy, and JP's confession is too...well, convenient.

Secrets and lies, layers upon layers of them emerge. Secret secrets and lies about lies. Alice Moody is in charge of the police investigation, and she is marvellous (another favourite, I think). As each truth is teased out, every gaping hole exposed and the last defining detail proved beyond doubt, we are left gasping, breathless, yet unable to look away. Or stop reading.

I dare you to put this book down once you've started. Ok, maybe for a cup of tea while you put the pieces of your shattered heart back together. But not for any longer. As one reviewer has already pointed out, we need a new word for gripping, when it comes to describing The Confession. 

5 stars

You may also enjoy With our Blessing by Jo Spain.

Or what about Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

I listened to this destined-to-be-classic. Nora Ephron brought us "When Harry met Sally", "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've got Mail" - all of which revived the romantic comedy film industry. She also wrote "Julie and Julia", in which Meryl Streep depicted Julia Childs.

No small reputation - when you've invented lines like "I'll have what she's having" from Harry and Sally or "You make a million decisions that mean nothing, and then one day, you order take-out, and it changes your life" from Sleepless, then expectations are high. Very.

And then it's narrated by Meryl Streep. Herself. 

Oh, did I mention the expectations?

And Heartburn was, well, ok. Based on the author's own story of love and breakup, it was mildly amusing, fairly heartwarming and a jolly good read. But nothing like those movies, or even the lines from them. I also discovered that of Nora's other stories, only When Harry Met Sally is a book (the rest are unpublished screenplays).

Heartburn starts when Rachel is seven months pregnant and her husband leaves her for another woman, who has a "neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb". Rachel has a therapy group (of course) and writes cookbooks for a living, but mostly what she wants is revenge.

“I married him against all evidence. I married him believing that marriage doesn't work, that love dies, that passion fades, and in so doing I became the kind of romantic only a cynic is truly capable of being.” 

Read it for an entertaining diversion, with some recipes thrown in.

Enjoyable, not all that remarkable, here are some more snippets.

3 stars

ISBN:  9780679767954

You may also enjoy Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson , Blue Shoe by Ann Lamott or Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.


Friday, 1 December 2017

Friday Books - Girl Unknown

It's Friday, so it's time to hook up with other book admirers and share excerpts from the books around us. We join Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Readerwhere you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

David is the one who spots this girl (David, the lecturer) - and she announces "'I think you might be my father . . .'

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. I like the look of this one, even though I haven't read a word yet (except these snippets shared).

Enjoy your reading - leave me a comment and I'll visit you soon.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Don't hate me, but this was (by far) not the best Fredrik Backman book I have read. I've read A man called Ove and The Scandal/Beartown this year.

Britt-Marie is a little quirky old(ish) lady, who, left alone, needs a job. She makes lists, insists on punctuality and actually doing what you say you will (gasp) from the employment agent, and is a paragon of cleanliness - baking soda has so many uses. She gets a job, but it's in the small town of Borg, where everything is closing - last one out turns out the lights. So far, we have a few trademarks already - quirky old character, small dying town, what are we missing? Of course, the sport - here it's football (soccer), about which Borg is mad and highly superstitious, and Britt-Marie is clueless.

If you're after a funny warmhearted off-the-wall story, you'd do well to read Ove. I can't make up my mind if you should read this one first, because you may enjoy it more before Ove - but then you may not like this so never discover the joys of Ove. Oh, whatever - you decide.

I'll not judge Backman's writing by this one. It could be (mis)guidance from his editors that led him down the same familiar and well tested profitable paths to publication. And the writing is still good - short, well-crafted sentences, dialogue that jumps off the page, humour underpinning most situations and poking you in the ribs every so often. It also features wonderful interactions between special characters of different generations and a completely lovable story about loss and connection followed by redemption. 

I was a bit sorry for Britt-Marie though - her story didn't feel hand-crafted for her, it felt like a mass-produced plastic packet of bread, instead of a floury-fresh kneaded sourdough loaf- she deserved more.

3 stars

You may also enjoy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman or The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola

What on earth is Thérèse Raquin about? Well it's a tale of adultery and murder, set in a haberdashery shop in the passage du Pont-Neuf in Paris. Sound fascinating? Set in the 1800s, the story of how a woman and her lover conspire to murder her husband, but are haunted forever, followed by the beady eyes of his mother, and the rest of "civil" society, it is riveting.

I've been trying to throw in the odd classic to liven up my reading. This fits that definition perfectly. It is odd, in the quaint way of a haberdashery shop, in a dark and damp underground walkway. I liked it, in the way a cat likes certain people - from a distance, and sometimes showing that affection with a claw or two.

"The arcade of the Pont Neuf is not a place for a stroll. You take it to make a short cut, to gain a few minutes. It is traversed by busy people whose sole aim is to go quick and straight before them… The arcade now assumes the aspect of a regular cut-throat alley. Great shadows stretch along the tiles, damp puffs of air enter from the street. Anyone might take the place for a subterranean gallery indistinctly lit-up by three funeral lamps."

It didn't try and outdo itself in either length or descriptive passages. There were big bold brazen characters, some of whom annoyed me, and few who didn't. The author conveyed the sense of panic and guilt, consuming and eating from the inside in a way that made me want to turn the pages faster. Only I couldn't, because Kate Winslet was narrating for me. Her reading was so beautiful, sometimes I replayed parts - she infused the dark mystery with a sense of sinister suspicion, which I loved.

It was miserable, morbid and like visiting a haunted house. Read it - better still, listen to it - on a rainy afternoon, when you're feeling life isn't great. It'll suit your mood.

ISBN:  9780140449440
4 stars

You may also enjoy The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (similar in tone) or if you're into this type of classic, what about War and Peace by Tolstoy?

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Ten of the Best #108

It's finally the weekend, and here we are, doing what we do best. Trawling our timelines for the funny, the amusing, the make you think stuff that we didn't have time to catch in the week. It was a good one - I had so much fun compiling my Ten of the Best.

I liked this article by Marelise van der Merwe. How SAns have chutzpah in truckloads. Pity the famous ones use theirs with gay abandon - but what if some of us others did too? Click the Zapiro.

Two Science truths, apparently. I'm much more inclined to believe one of them than the other...

Guilty dogs - say no more. Don't look either.

 I really enjoy Barbra. So here she is on Ellen.

P!nk and Kelly Clarkson perfromed  Everbody hurts at the American Music Awards - this feels timely, beautiful and right.

Tea ! You know what, you can have coffee, wine, even chocolate, but don't say these things about tea. Check your brands, people.

Some great gadgets that may come our way...

Margaret Atwood has become one of my favourite authors this year. Here's the stuff she says, just like that.

And we're playing out with Jennifer Hudson and Pentatonix performing How great thou art - they nailed this one. Totally.

Have a wonderful, happy thanksgiving weekend.


Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday Books - Brave New World

It's Friday, so it's time to hook up with other book admirers and share excerpts from the books around us. We join Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Readerwhere you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

I'm reading old books, lately, and this one has been on my list since I read 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale earlier this year. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Here are some covers:

Not the most gripping opening sentence I've ever read, but so far I'm enjoying it.

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

I do love this dialogue between Fanny and Lenina - about why you should have more than one man at a time. In a world with no human pregnancies, and no family relationships, why not, after all?

Enjoy your reading - leave me a comment and I'll visit you soon.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The President's Keepers By Jacques Pauw

Jacques Pauw's controversial book, The President's Keepers has taken SA by storm. Not leastly because free copies of the pdf have become readily available, and the debate rages as to whether the author wanted this - the dissemination of the information being in the public interest, after all - or whether, bearing the tragic state of literary purchases in SA in mind, everyone with a conscience (and a budget) should buy the book, to support local authors and publishers. But that really isn't the point, well not the whole one, anyway.

If you get your hands on a copy of this explosive, revealing, shocking, elaborate account, you should read it post haste. It is one of those books that if you leave too late, you will read it thinking - "But did I know that before the book was published, or has someone who read it told me?" Because the chapters in here will become part of our everyday conversations, the narrative of a country captured by more than a few bad men, and so they ought to.

Jacques Pauw is eminently qualified to write this. He had been a journalist for a very long time, although now retired, and there are parts that leap off the page in their intensity and revelatory sense of conquest. It is long and detailed, and there are parts that were obviously rushed to be completed, and I think that's ok - explanation is often necessary for context, and there was a deadline, but more careful editing and rewriting could have shortened and improved this version.

Also interesting was the clear exposé of so many caught up in evil - from the use of funds from ill-gotten gains like cigarette smuggling, to the abuse of power in the form of awarding of tenders, and the tragic implications of the greed and grasping of those in power. It did seem that the perspective of the author was to judge every person whose name appeared in his records as good or evil, and I was even tempted to keep a list at one stage, because this is a text book of the sordid events that have unfolded since the corruption took root.

And that's the damning, hurtful truth. We all know. It has been there for a long time, and now it's been clearly exposed, sliced open with a surgeon's knife, so that we can all see the cancerous snake eating much more than its share, and taking a country way before its time.

As I write this, the impeachment of Bob Mugabe hasn't started, he's been offered a deal and resigned. There have been calls to do the same with Zuma. The problem is that this malignancy appropriates so many more than just one man, and I'm not sure that we South Africans have the courage or the moral compass to go after the whole thing, considering so many of us are sitting and reading pirated copies of the book.

ISBN: 9780624083030


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry

Lily is newly married to Ed. She's a lawyer, and she is determined to make things work. This is tricky, because her latest client is Joe, a convicted murderer, to whom she feels strangely drawn. Carla is nine, lives in the same apartment block as Lily and Ed with her mom, who is often not around, even when she is.

Ed is a struggling artist, but he is struck by Carla's beauty and he sketches her. Small white easy lies early on in all these lives become secrets that take on lives of their own. The story then jumps forward a number of years - Carla is all grown up and Lily and Ed's situation has changed substantially. But the deception and intrigue are not over yet.

This is an interesting story. Mostly about relationships. The fascinating peep we get into all these lives feels unsettling - perhaps because none of these characters is very likeable. And that's not because they're flawed, or struggling, they're just nasty. It feels voyeuristic looking in, in a creepy kind of way. The plot has twists and turns a-plenty, but not being invested in the characters makes me less involved, and therefore distanced.

I've also read Blood Sisters by the same author, and I think that is a better book. I'm not sure about this one. 

2.5 stars

ISBN: 9780735220959