Saturday, 21 July 2018

Ten of the Best #126

The clip EVERYONE's been sharing is Trevor's response to the French Ambassador's criticism of his joke - where he said the World Cup wasn't won by France, but by Africa. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a watch.

In other news, Americans taste Australian food - vegemite with a spoon - really? I wouldn't even do that, and I like it.

An excellent take, from the Eusebius McKaiser show on truth, lies and bullshit.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Brutal Legacy by Tracy Going

South Africans know Tracy Going's face so well. Even thirty years later, we remember her. She was a television presenter when we all woke up to the morning show, every morning. That's how we caught up on what had happened while we were asleep, in those days - the traffic, the gossip. No Twitter, morning news on TV. Imagine that. This book tells her story of what happened behind the scenes, and reveals the shocking and horrific behaviour from an abusive partner, who remains unnamed throughout the telling. It's her story, at last told.

As the title warns, it is brutal. It made me angry and sad. And although I was mostly sad for Tracy, I was also sad for all the other women treated in this manner. Tracy talks about her life as a child, which wasn't perfect. She also tells us the part when, against all odds, she decides to tell the truth about what happened, in a court of law, and then it isn't only her ex-partner that she must stand up to, its the legal system, the public, and the patriarchy is everywhere.

It's well written. Tracy has a way with words, and she tells her story her way, in a strong and powerful voice.

I was left thinking that just as society seems to raise little boys who believe that their voices are the only ones worth listening to, as little girls are often conditioned to keep quiet and not speak up, this culture enables unforgivable behaviour, and makes it more difficult for the abused to gather their courage and speak, it also must have silenced a lot of stories, stories that, even with movements like #MeToo, are still untold.

So despite the feelings of sadness and despair that this book evokes, hearing and reading this story, and others like it are even more important, given what has happened while we were asleep.

ISBN:  9781928420125

Friday Books - Just Mercy

TGIF, Book time.

At Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Reader, you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

Today I'm featuring Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Here's the beginning.

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, who lands up helping prisoners in an organization that furthers social justice, especially for those who land up on death row. He writes their stories, and his story in this beautiful book.

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

Here's page 56 of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

I cannot explain how much I loved this book - it's finished already, and my review is here. I can't stop quoting large parts - it's had a profound effect on me.

Hope you all have lots of reading plans for the weekend.  Leave me a comment with what you're featuring and I'll check it out.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

When someone who reads abundantly and likes the same books I do makes a comment about a book that reveals it has profoundly affected her, and gives it 5 stars, it goes straight to my "to-read" list. But sometimes you start the book, and wonder - now what about this book did she find so very good?

Not so in this case. From page 1, I was gripped and entranced by the stories - Bryan's and those of the people he encountered.

Bryan Stevenson studied philosophy initially, and realised in his senior year that "no one would pay me to philosophize when I graduated," so he picked up a law degree, because, in America, you weren't required to know anything about law before you studied it as a post-grad. After a one month intensive course on race and poverty litigation which required Bryan to go off campus and do social justice work, his future career was decided, and a pathway forged, in which, somewhat ironically, no one would pay him to work for them either - they couldn't afford to - he would help the poor and the unjustly treated - those on death row, in particular.

The stories of these prisoners are shared honestly from a perspective of a young, compassionate hard-working lawyer, who is humble enough to let his life be transformed by those he encounters, as much as he is able to change the lives of those on death row, and the system of justice in the United States, which seemed to be set up in a way to further inflict pain on those who have already been hurt and damaged by a society determined to root out evil and evil-doers without really caring whether it did that justly, and with mercy. As part of this journey, he also finds the young people, tried in adult courts, and placed in adult jails when they're still juveniles, and those incarcerated for minor crimes, at risk of becoming real criminals because of their unfair treatment and the harshness of the environment in which they're placed.

I'm going to share some powerful quotes, and I realize that too many is going to risk putting you off reading the rest of this review, but I'll take that risk - these are too good not to share. 

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

“The death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill?” 

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering. It has the power to heal the psychic harm and injuries that lead to aggression and violence, abuse of power, mass incarceration.” 

"Constantly being suspected, accused, watched, doubted, distrusted, presumed guilty, and even feared is a burden born by people of color that can't be understood or confronted without a deeper conversation about our history of racial injustice.”

"The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it's necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” 

"We’ve become so fearful and vengeful that we’ve thrown away children, discarded the disabled, and sanctioned the imprisonment of the sick and the weak—not because they are a threat to public safety or beyond rehabilitation but because we think it makes us seem tough, less broken."

“There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.” 

“But simply punishing the broken--walking away from them or hiding them from sight--only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.” 

The chapter, towards the end, where Stevenson confronts his own brokenness, had me in tears, and later transcribing and memorising the inspiring and memorable words, not only for their eloquence, but for the power within them.

I was deeply moved by the stories, the author's own story, and his plea for compassion in a world where we've largely lost our way. It's powerful and transformative. Read it.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780812994520.

More books.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

An extract from the blurb:

"Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path." 

I've read quite a few Alice Hoffman novels recently. I've enjoyed the fantasy aspects of them - the idyllic childhoods, but with pain and hardship too (The Rules of Magic, The Story Sisters, Practical Magic). This is not like any of those. It's not like Faithful either.

It's great historical fiction, written with a poetic touch. 

“Being human means losing everything we love best in the world," she murmured as she released me. "But would you ask to be anything else?” 

“But now I understood that, although words were God's first creation, silence was closer to His divine spirit, and that prayers given in silence were infinitely greater than the thousands of words men might offer up to heaven.”

The dovekeepers - the Assassin’s Daughter; the Baker’s Wife; the Warrior’s Beloved; the Witch of Moab are all completely different, all unique, strong and subject to incredible hardships. History is subject to the personal stories of these beautiful women in this book. It's enchanting, absorbing, mesmerising and unforgettable,  yet also sad, and difficult to get through in parts.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781451617474

You may also enjoy Faithful by Alice Hoffman or Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Monday, 16 July 2018

Word up

Morning all. It's C.O.L.D. where I live today. So we're going to need a little more motivation than usual. Well, I am anyway...

So before we get to the fun music, which is especially chosen to get us inspired to move, let's just have a little recap on why, again. I've taken this information word- for-word from

" can actually get an additional brain boost by donning your sneakers and hitting the gym. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
Exercise stimulates the brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in a wide array of important cortical areas of the brain. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain—making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
From a behavioral perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with "runner's high" found in humans is associated with a drop in stress hormones. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory."
Ok, I'm in. I'm dressed, layered up, and ready to run - that's the other benefit of cold - you'd rather run than walk, to warm up more quickly, right? Right - work with me here.
And then there's the music. Little Mix - Word up! It's catchy, cute and has a music video that'll get you moving.
Here are some excerpts:
"There's got to be a reason - And we know the reason why"

"Wave your hands in the air

Like you don't care
Glide by the people
As they start to look and stare
Do your dance
Do your dance
Do your dance quick, mama

Come on, baby tell me what's the word
Word up
Everybody say
When you hear the call
You've got to get it underway
Word up
It's the code word
No matter where you say it
You know that you'll be heard"

Happy Monday. Happy training. Happy week.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Ten of the Best #125

You don't know how close it was. No, I'm not talking about the tennis yesterday. But it was the tennis's fault that we nearly nearly nearly didn't have a Ten today. After an epic battle on Wednesday with Roger Federer, Kevin Anderson made it through yesterday's even more epic Wimbledon semi-final - to win the 5th set 26-24 against the US of A's John Isner. Here are the final moments.

And here's the link to the story of the semi, if you click the pic.

I've often wondered how easy it is (or isn't) to be someone else on social media. In this clever article "Oprah, is that you?", a reporter discovers how remarkably easy it is. Click the pic for the article.

I liked this list of books- what we can expect for Summer (i.e. our Winter) 2018. Read any yet?

Friday, 13 July 2018

Friday Books - The Paris Secret

Hey hey, it's Friday. So glad about that, it's time to share about books.

At Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Reader, you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

Today I'm featuring The Paris Secret by Karen Swan. Here's the beginning.

"Somewhere along the cobbled streets of Paris, an apartment lies thick with dust and secrets: full of priceless artworks hidden away for decades.

High-flying fine art agent Flora from London, more comfortable with the tension of a million-pound auction than a cosy candlelit dinner for two, is called in to assess these suddenly discovered treasures. As an expert in her field, she must trace the history of each painting and discover who has concealed them for so long.

Thrown in amongst the glamorous Vermeil family as they move between Paris and Antibes, Flora begins to discover that things aren't all that they seem, while back at home her own family is recoiling from a seismic shock. The terse and brooding Xavier Vermeil seems intent on forcing Flora out of his family's affairs - but just what is he hiding?"

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

Here's page 56 of The Paris Secret by Karen Swan.

I'm only this far into the book. I'm struggling to get into it. I'm not sure why. It's interesting, but the characters haven't grabbed me yet. Would you keep reading?

Hope you all have lots of reading plans for the weekend.  Leave me a comment with what you're featuring and I'll check it out.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Tsk Tsk by Suzan Hackney

Sometimes I get book recommendations when I least expect them.

I suppose I give it away - the fact that I enjoy reading - by the fact that when people see me, I've always got my nose in a book. So it was when we were visiting our favourite South Coast lunchtime haunt, the whole family with books (for after brunch, of course) and the friendly manageress, who amazes us with her memory for every intricate order, told me about this one.

"The author's an old school friend," she explained, "and she had an interesting, tough childhood." That's pretty much all I had - which is what I like, actually. 

There is a knack to writing a memoir which involves emotional distance, realising that your story is not as interesting as you think it is for others - it helps if you write it well, and developing a plot that will draw people in. This has all that.

'I was made in Coffee Bay. Right there on the beach, in the sand'  is how it begins.

'Suzan is adopted as a newborn in the late 1960s into a seemingly loving and welcoming family living in Pietermaritzburg. But Suzan is set on a collision course with, most particularly, her adoptive mother, from her very beginning.'

Her writing style flows from her heart, and packs an emotional punch that I didn't see coming - partly because it is quite matter-of-fact, whilst describing harrowing circumstances no thirteen year old should have to endure. Suzan is a strong person, she's had to be, and so is her writing. She finds herself in and out of different institutions, on the run and encountering many different forms of "care" - most of which land up being abusive. That she tells it with a witty sense of humour gives us a clue as to her survival instincts.

My only gripe is its abrupt end. I suspect there's a sequel to come. I hope so. I'll read it. This is a unique voice, that I'd love to hear more from.

ISBN: 9781868428724

4 stars.

You may also enjoy other memoirs - Karma, Deception and a pair of Red Ferraris by Elaine Taylor, or Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, or Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Leni Allbright is thirteen and her greatest ambition is to spend just one school year in one school. They've moved a lot since her dad came back from 'Nam. And nobody realises or cares about the effect on 'the eternally new girl'. Ernt and Cora are making life work, but it's not, really. Enter a wonderful opportunity in Alaska. Alaska, remote, stark, menacing, inhabitable - The Great Alone. Isn't that going to be worse?

They were trapped, by environment and finances, but mostly by the sick, twisted love that bound her parents together.

Kristin Hannah takes a would be carefree Leni, her eager-to-please-everyone mom, Cora and her damaged eccentric father, Ernt in 1974 and creates an uneasy, contrived homeliness with this broken family in a small town where it's difficult enough (even when everyone pitches in) to survive just one winter. The unforgiving outside forces them inside, where perhaps the dangers are harsher, with more dramatic consequences.

An engaging story, that keeps the pages turning, until near the end, where the pace slows, and the plot swamps the characters. Enjoyable, nevertheless.

ISBN: 9781447286004

4 stars

You may also enjoy Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale. Or what about The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton? Anita Shreve's The Stars are Fire is also great. 

More books.