Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Unpresidented by Paige Nick

It's 2020, former President Jeremiah Gejeyishwebisa Muza is refusing to be called the former President. That's because he is about to become "King of the World" or some other form of supreme ruler. He has been released from prison on bail because he has an ingrown toenail, his now-derelict homestead houses the only two wives he has left, and a down-and-out journalist, who must write a story on J Muza within 30 days.

The countdown begins, and the lies start to escalate, Muza's already dire situation becomes direr as staff abandon the sinking ship, and his schemes to rule the world become more desperate and diabolical.

Paige Nick is funny. But that's not the best thing about this book - there is a LOL moment on nearly every page. The best thing about this book is the uncanny accuracy with which she gets South Africa, its leaders and capturers and all of us. It's jaw-droppingly spot on - and, do recall that this was written before the ex-President became the ex-President. He was still in charge.

It's a clever book, and filled with gems of good storytelling, characters that burst off the pages and into your lounge, and scenes that resonated with me. It's also "he-he-he" slightly cringeworthy, because hey, if you've ever lived in SA and tell me you have never cringed at some of the silly stuff we do, then I don't believe you.

A witty, quick and amusing read.

4 stars.


Monday, 19 November 2018

Another Day in Paradise

Morning all.

Every time we go out for a walk, or a run, we find ourselves saying - oh look, another perfect day.

And the only blight on this morning's perfection was a fierce rumbling little thunderstorm that came just as we wanted to go, but hey, we're flexible.

As I type, the sun is streaming, the sky is blue, and there will be that cool freshness in the warmth as we go. We'll gaze in wonder at the greenery - the dark ivy rambling up the crisp grey bark, the luscious pale green lawns and the brightness of the light on the jasmine bushes. I can't wait.

I am extremely aware that, in other parts of the world today, it's probably raining, or even maybe snowing, or cold and damp and dreary.

But hey, why let the weather hold you back? It's that time of year when we just want to run a bit faster, a bit further, see if we can achieve a little more for ourselves, and I just know we can. And wherever you are, if you're healthy and able to exercise, you have a little piece of paradise right there.

So if my pictures and words haven't encouraged you to put on your trainers yet, here's some music. It's Phil Collins - Another Day in Paradise. Of course it is.

She calls out to the man on the street
"Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep
Is there somewhere you can tell me?"

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
He starts to whistle as he crosses the street
She's embarrassed to be there

Oh, think twice, it's just another day for
For you and me in paradise
Oh, think twice, it's just another day
For you, you and me in paradise
Just think about it

Have fun out there.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Trust Women by Rebecca Todd Peters

Trust Women: A Progressive Christian Argument for Reproductive Justice

There was so much about this book that appealed to me. Firstly, the author - Rebecca Todd Peters, is a Presbyterian minister and social ethicist, and I reasoned she would be a person I could relate to on this subject matter. Secondly, the title - it seems to me that a lot of the people we listen to about abortion have more testosterone than estrogen. And thirdly, the context - I'd just finished Jodi Picoult's "A Spark of Light" and was feeling the need (also given the current debate in the US and across the globe) for something more factual.

Here's the premise : "Roughly one-third of US women will have an abortion by age forty-five, and fifty to sixty percent of the women who have abortions were using birth control during the month they got pregnant. Yet women who have abortions are routinely shamed and judged, and safe and affordable access to abortion is under relentless assault, with the most devastating impact on poor women and women of colour." The author goes on to argue that "... this shaming and judging reflects deep, often unspoken patriarchal and racist assumptions about women and women's sexual activity. These assumptions are at the heart of what she calls the justification framework, which governs our public debate about abortion, and disrupts our ability to have authentic public discussions about the health and well-being of women and their families."

What I didn't bargain for was the personal stories that were shared - which were deeply insightful and impactful; her views, which presumably in her world are more than a little controversial, and her courage in sharing not only her stories, but her journey, which was helpful in terms of conversations to have around this important topic.

What I was left with was the conviction that however you view this issue, stealing agency from the people most affected by these laws and arguments - the pregnant women, is morally wrong and there is no good reason to do so. The fact that this disenfranchised group have been treated so poorly by society - especially when there is a sperm that has 'triggered' the pregnancy, the source of which has long moved on and very seldom bears any consequences makes the imposition of judgement and "rules", when each situation is deeply personal and profoundly different, at best silly, and at worst, heaping coals upon pain and struggle.

Sometimes the text  was very repetitive,  but the facts, figures and observations were challenging and persuasive.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780807069981

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Halloumi Tabbouleh

Another U-Cook vegetarian option we loved two weeks ago. So delicious. And I reckon if you replace the Halloumi with Tofu, or something similar, you'll have a great vegan dish. Yummy. (Find the original recipe on Ucook.co.za)

What you need

600g Cauliflower Florets
240g Chickpeas
280g Baby Tomatoes
200g Cucumber
2 Baby onion
10g Fresh Parsley
15g Fresh Mint
3 Garlic Clove
5ml Smoked Paprika
2 Lemon 320g
Halloumi 60g
Baby Spinach
50ml Harissa Paste
25ml Honey

Drain chickpeas. Quarter the baby tomatoes. Finely dice your cucumber. Finely dice your onions. Rinse your baby spinach. Chop your parsley and mint. Peel and grate garlic. Zest up lemons. Slice  halloumi into roughly 1cm thick slices. Grate the cauliflower on the largest side of your grater to get cauliflower rice. Alternatively, you can simply chop it up for a more rustic approach (cook a bit longer).

Add a drizzle of oil and knob of butter. to a large pan over medium heat. Add the paprika, onion, cauliflower, drained chickpeas, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the cauliflower is cooked but still crunchy, about 5-7 minutes, shifting occasionally. Remove it from the pan when it is ready, and place it into a serving bowl. Wipe pan, if you think you need to. (Note - I think we left the chickpeas out of this, and included them in the salad below - was delicious that way too.)

In a bowl, add the baby spinach (roughy sliced or torn), tomato, cucumber, herbs, some seasoning, the lemon zest, and a drizzle of olive oil.

In a small bowl, combine the Sweet Harissa with some fresh lemon juice, 45ml of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Mix to combine, adding more lemon juice if required.

Return your pan back over a medium heat with a drizzle of oil. Once the pan is hot, add the halloumi slices until evenly golden on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the halloumi and place on a paper towel to catch any excess oil.

Combine the tomato and cucumber salad with the cauli and chickpea salad. Drizzle over the harissa dressing. Mix to combine and season further to taste. Plate it up, top with the grilled halloumi, and get munching.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Kate Morton has been on my reading list every year since I discovered her, in 2013 - when I read The Forgotten Garden. Those were the days before spreadsheets tallied all the books I'd read, and certainly before book reviews on my blog. "...be warned, it is a long girly indulgence!" I gushed on my Goodreads review. Yes (sigh) - with the exclamation mark.

And look how pretty this one is. And it's long, but that didn't scare me. I'm used to that from Ms. Morton.

So, it's fair to say that I'm a fan. And also that I was predisposed to love this. 

The Clockmaker's Daughter is about so many people, so many stories, so many memories from Birchwood Manor that it's difficult to keep track. It starts off in present time with Elodie Winslow, a young archivist, who comes across some interesting sketches in a sketchbook in a satchel, with links to that house, etched in her own memories from stories told by her late mother. She visits Great Uncle Tip, who clearly knows more than he's telling. However, there is also a link to the Magenta Brotherhood - a group of artists centered around Edward Radcliffe, who took a summer at Birchwood Manor in 1862 where there was a death and a disappearance of the Radcliffe Blue - a diamond pendant.       

It took me about 200 pages to start getting into it. So many stories, none of which really grabbed me. When Ada Lovegrove - a little girl growing up with her Shashi in India arrived at Birchwood Manor, I started being interested. 

And then it wasn't difficult. There is so much atmosphere in Kate Morton's novels. Magical, nostalgic transportational writing that immerses you in a place, which is where you want to live while you read. Happily, this was present in this book. Beautiful prose, wonderful scenery, settings steeped in history and loveliness.

I struggled to keep track of who was who and what they were doing - I had to check back a few times, and I couldn't work out if it was my memory, or maybe that I didn't care all that much - I suspect the latter.

A complicated, ultimately satisfying plot, but it could have done with a good edit - there was just too much to keep track of, and some story elements that were unnecessary.

A ramble in an English country manor and its grounds that took longer than it should have. Pleasant and slightly diverting, but difficult to be passionate about - it was just too long.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781451649390

You may also enjoy The Lake House by Kate Morton.

More books.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Ten of the Best #141

Hello all you people - it's been quite a week. So much stuff to share - all of which you shared first with me. Thank you, it's been fun catching up.

James recaps the US elections...click one of the best Zapiros ever for the highlights.

Iceland releases an ad that is banned, so they remove it. But you can access it on Youtube. Gosh I wonder how many views it'll get now?

The letter to the bank we all wish we'd written. By this 86 year old woman.

Man meets his daughter's heart. 

Finland abolishes school subjects.

Beautiful Jozi photos.

Jennifer Lawrence snorts at Jack Whitehead's toilet humour on The Graham Norton Show.

Dear Comrade Malusi Gigaba, Honourable Upstanding Member, Minister of Affairs, Fighter of Tourism, Epitome of Sartorial Elegance... Ben Trovato writes. Zapiro sketches, again.

Love the music, love the conductor, love the audience's involvement, love the passion in the orchestra - Gustavo Dudamel conducts West Side Story's Mambo by Bernstein.

Some international award winning photos from Siena. 

And that's your Ten for this week. Hope you've had as much fun as me, enjoy the weekend.

Last week.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Friday Books - A Spark of Light

Welcome to BookBeginnings and Friday56 - where we share books on Fridays. It's a great way to start the weekend.

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader.

 Here's the beginning of the book I'm featuring today.

Jodi Picoult tackles abortion, abortion laws, pro-life and pro-choice views and even patriarchy and gun violence in this book, by focussing on a shooting at a women's reproductive health clinic in Mississippi. It's inspired me to read so much more about the subject - although I know these have always been hotly debated by many, I had no idea how different abortion laws were in different countries, nor how they had evolved over the decades.

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 A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult .

What has been especially interesting is how much the abortion debate has been entered into by men, who although they cannot bear children, and while a number of women find themselves thinking this way (of an abortion) because men have walked away from parental responsibilities, somehow it is acceptable for them to make decisions on behalf of those same women, and over time we women have robbed them of moral agency in this issue.

On a more trivial note - which cover? Mine looks like the first, but I'm leaning towards preferring the second - the colours are so pretty.

I have done a review, for those of you who're interested to read further.

What are you reading this weekend? I'd love to visit your blog and check it out.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Emma by Jane Austen

So many people and things about this production of Emma endeared it to me before I even started it. Reviewers I trust awarded it lots of stars, the vocal cast are highly rated, and the story is one of my all time favourites. 

I started on a car trip (as one does) and was instantly captivated by Emma Thompson's narration. She is delightfully quirky, without seeming to try too hard, and this sets the tone for the other voices - all perfectly cast, and pitch-perfect. You can sense the personal enjoyment they experienced, as well as the fact that they respect each others' talent and support it.

Emma Woodhouse, the young lady that Jane Austen created - "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like" turned out to be very well loved by many. In the first sentence, she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich." She also has a penchant for meddling - or matchmaking, as she calls it, and thinks she is very good at it. She lives alone with her father, who is way too indulgent, and she cares for him. Mr Knightley, her one friend who is always painfully honest with her, doesn't fail to point out the errors of her meddling manners, and as she fails to match Harriet with Mr Elton, herself with Frank, Jane with Mr Dixon, he has a lot to work on.

I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes portrayed in the village of Highbury - it was reminiscent of the radio serials I used to listen to as a child with our family's domestic helper every day during the school holidays. I loved the drama, the music, the sound effects, and it is such a good way of bringing a story to life while still including the reader's imagination in the process. There were a few instances where the background clinking and tick-tocking of the grandfather's clock were more annoying then enhancing, but they were minor irritations.

4 stars

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Goat's Cheese and Mushroom 'Risotto'

Another U-Cook special

Goat's Cheese and Mushroom 'Risotto'

2 Onions
3 Cloves garlic
200g peas
20ml dried thyme
200g spinach
200ml yoghurt
40g green leaves (rocket is good)
35ml vegetable stock
500g mixed mushrooms
100g goat's cheese
130ml white wine
400ml red quinoa


Boil the kettle, peel and grate garlic, finely dice onion and place your stock in a bowl and add 1100ml of boiling water and stir. Rinse and drain quinoa.

Place a deep saucepan (that has a lid) over a medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some butter. Saute onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic, half the thyme and salt and pepper. Fry for 2 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add quinoa and stock to saucepan. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust water content if necessary (add if it boils away, and increase heat if there is any liquid left over).

Roughly slice mushrooms. Fry them in a pan with olive oil and remaining thyme for 8 minutes. Season with salt and set aside.

Rinse and drain green leaves, season and toss in olive oil.

Add goat's cheese and yoghurt to risotto (leaving some cheese for garnish). Stir. Add peas and spinach and pop lid on to aid wilting. Add mushrooms and stir to combine. 

Dish up risotto, add cheese and dress with greens.

You may also enjoy Gnocchi Parmigiana

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult tackles abortion, abortion laws, pro-life and pro-choice views and even patriarchy and gun violence in this book, by focussing on a shooting at a women's reproductive health clinic in Mississippi. In the style to which we have become accustomed, she illustrates how “Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.” 

Told in hourly segments, moving backwards through time (which was an interesting device, but I'm not sure it served the story, except for the author to show off a bit - that she can tell a story like this and keep the reader's attention is quite a feat in itself), we meet Wren and her aunt, Wren's father, who is part of the police presence outside and the one communicating with the killer - George Goddard. There's also Louie, the pro-life doctor who also wants women to have safe abortion treatment and care, Izzie, the nurse, and the pro-life protester - all trapped inside. Then there was the parallel story of Beth, which I found disjointed and a bit thrown in for effect.

“Coal, with time and heat and pressure, will always become a diamond. But if you were freezing to death, which would you consider the gem?” 

The juxtaposition of pro-life anger with a gun in the hands of the killer was fascinating - 

“this was indeed some crazy world, where the waiting period to get an abortion was longer than the waiting period to get a gun.” 

You'll have your thoughts challenged in this one, no matter which side of the debate(s) you find yourselves upon. And you'll also enjoy the journey. 

“We are all drowning slowly in the tide of our opinions, oblivious that we are taking on water every time we open our mouths.” 

I especially loved the author's notes, which showed how much research goes into a book like this, and how to transform black and white markings on a white surface into an impassioned plea for humanity, morality and more agency for women in the choices they make, especially when those choices will affect the rest of their lives.

4 stars.

ISBN: 9781444788136

You may also enjoy Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things. Or what about Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate?

More books....