Sunday, 31 January 2016

Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr

An inter-generational story, set mostly in rural Palestine, we meet Miriam, with the strange endearing voice, then her daughter Nadia, who is bright and brave, and finally her daughter, Nijmeh - the shining star and beautiful light of their lives. But there are deep, dark and dangerous secrets hiding in each of their pasts.

Less historical fiction, more family saga, this Audible narration was one of the best I have ever heard. The narrator had a magical, haunting quality for each of the three, distinct, yet unique. I sense that this book was written to be read aloud. The detail becomes less relevant, and the pace of the story can be slower,without affecting the reader's enjoyment. I don't think I would have enjoyed reading it as much - and I hardly ever say that!

The author writes well, with a flow and a charm that sets her stories apart.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Ten of the Best #30

Here they all are - the ten best feeds from my social media feeds. Hope you find something you like. If you don't, blame my friends for what they featured on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram this week. But I had fun compiling them all.

1. Do NOT take it personally when I say No. This is a classic. I'm going to print it out and paste it on the wall of my office. Click the GIF for the article. Go on, you can do it.



2. Spend your money on experiences, not things, I'm a believer.

Friday Book Confession


Today is Friday Book Confession... just be patient, you'll see why

BookBeginnings is a weekly meme, hosted by Rose City Reader

To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.

Beginning:


Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Good Old Favourites #8

It's the weekly cooking post.

Confession time. I am actually not a very good cook. I burn rice regularly, I hardly ever make dessert from scratch and I am a terrible baker. Just ask my children. Many a "Let's Bake" afternoon ended in tears, with one of us running a finger/arm/wrist under the cold water.

But I am passionate about eating well, and reasonably healthily. In our house, that means - low on the salt and sugar, high on the vegies, medium on the protein, and low on the carbs and fat.

We love good vegetarian options, and this one has been done so many times, it's a classic. I made it as a salad on Sunday, and the guests went back for seconds - unprompted. It is that good. We often have it just on its own too, and it keeps well for lunch the next day.

Quinoa with roasted vegetables

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

As a mother, what is my worst nightmare? What if my best friend’s teenage daughter goes missing? On my watch.


It would be better if my daughter had gone. 

What am I saying? 

Oh, the guilt.

This is how Julie Cantrell’s novel begins, in pre-Katrina New Orleans. It considers the effect of disasters on our friendships and family relationships. 

Cleverly titled, I was drawn into the drama as the story unfolded. The characters were nicely established. 

Because it was observed through the eyes of Amanda, the mother responsible, in the first person, and Sarah, the missing girl, by way of a sort of journal, a lovely intimacy was developed. The revealing of the reasoning behind the book’s title was quite laboured and a little clumsy, I thought. 

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Simon Watson is a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother's name. What is the book's connection to his family? Simon, living alone on the Long Island Sound must find out. Also the women in his family seem to have a habit of meeting with misfortune on a date in July, and his sister is on her way home. 

I enjoyed this book, a debut novel. It had a lovely setting, and was well written. The characters were interesting - a little quirky, but pleasant. The plot moved nicely, with a few surprises.

But it didn't ever really grab me and plunge me into it. I watched, almost detached, as the mystery unravelled.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Freedom's Child by Jax Miller

The opening lines of this novel read : "My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter."



Is that enough of a hook for you? It was for me.

It's always a risk reading a new author. Mostly (glad to report) one that pays off. And this book had been interesting from the time we bought it. We spent a frustrating time in one of the largest bookstores near us, scanning shelves for a book my husband knew nothing about, except that he would recognise the cover again. He couldn't remember the author or the title, just that he had liked the look of the cover. We are both so glad he went back to the place he had originally seen it, across town, and found it.

Here's the gist of the story - without spoilers. Freedom is in witness protection. She has had a fairly rough past. She has no contact with her children, but discovers that her daughter is in danger, and must risk her own life, confronting those from her past - the reason she is in protection -  to save her.

The plot moves with great pace, plenty of action, enormous stakes, and an imaginative and witty writing style. It is a page turner of note, and yet you want to be reading forever.

Best of all was Freedom, the protagonist.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Ten of the Best #29

Good Morning all. And welcome to the weekend. You know it's going to be good - you have power, the wifi speed is at peak performance, and you can put off that list your other half wants you to do for another half an hour while you put your feet up and catch up on what you missed on social media this week. Here's the best ten from my feeds. Scroll through and click on what you missed, and use the back button to come back for more.

1. We haven't done food for a while. Jamie Oliver got together with Ed Sheeran to create a song about eating healthily. Actually the song is about signing Jamie's petition for education about healthy eating, but it is worth a watch. Cute.


2. That KLM ad. Did you see it? You absolutely have to. It's gorgeous. Look at that face!



3. The nerdy grammar post this week is why we use the semi colon - please don't forget people. And stop with the dumb dashes; semi colons are for everyone. ;-) Click the pic for the article.




4. Yes, there is ANOTHER cover of Hello. But this one is awesome. Take a look.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Friday Book Blessing

 The Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice every Friday. 
The Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)\

*Don’t forget to add your post URL (not your blog url) at Freda’s Voice.






BookBeginnings is a weekly meme, hosted by Rose City Reader. To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.

 



Beginning: 

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Good Old Favourites #7


Happy New Year, foodies. If you're anything like me, you need a little bit of inspiration about now to eat healthily. 

Those festive season overloads have settled into a carb addiction that you feed daily with more carbs and sugar. This may help...a good old favourite recipe of mine, that is healthy and well loved by the whole family.

Enjoy.





Wheat free Chicken Lasagne

Ingredients: 

150 butternut cubes

4 courgettes, cut into strips

1 each red, yellow, green pepper

4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

100ml white sauce

200g ricotta

100g mozzarella, grated

2 tomatoes, sliced

50g rocket

Method:

Grill the butternut, courgettes, chicken and peppers and set aside. Keep warm.

In saucepan, heat/make the white sauce, add the ricotta, and half the mozzarella and heat through.

To serve, layer the vegetables, chicken, tomato slices, ricotta mixture and some of the rocket.

Top with mozzarella and return to grill. Top with the remainder of the fresh rocket.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Book Club Books

Are you buying books for Book Club? Lucky you. There is so much to choose from. Here's my list of recommendations, since last time I did this, which was 29th September 2015. Wow, that was a while ago.



The last quarter of 2015 was awesome for me. I read 26 books, gave 4 books 5 stars, and another 6 books 4 stars. Click the pictures below, if you want to see them all. 




But here, I will give you the low-down run down. The ones you should buy, a diverse little stash, and the reasons why. Happy shopping. Oh, and if you click the covers, you will see my full reviews.



Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton is one of the best crime thrillers I have read this year.

Sharon writes with such confidence, and this book will be read and enjoyed by everyone, their husbands, and maybe even other family members (if you allow that in your book club).

Set in the Falklands, a child goes missing. And this is not the first such strange event. Full of drama and suspense, you'll be on the edge of your seat.


Monday, 18 January 2016

Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Tessa Cartwright was 16 when she was found, barely alive, in a shallow grave, together with the bodies and bones of other young girls. She can barely recall what happened, least of all her abductor’s face. Nevertheless an arrest is made, and a man jailed for the crime.

I am the star of screaming headlines and campfire ghost stories.
I am one of the four Black-Eyed Susans.
The lucky one.



A “Black-Eyed Susan”, as they became known because of the flowers growing around their grave, she now has a daughter of her own, but has never shared the information that she finds these flowers around various anniversaries, in places meaningful only to her and the killer. When the jailed man’s guilt is called into question, Tessa must go back to that dark place again, only now the stakes are even higher.

Dark and edgy, this will have you on the edge of your seat. The story jumps between teenage Tessie and current day Tessa, and moves at a satisfying pace.

A little frustrating towards the end, when it is becoming clear, and there is still unfolding of details before the big reveal.

This was another audible read for me – the narration was excellent, but the jumping between Tessa and Tessie a little confusing at first.

A really good thriller.

ISBN: 9780804177993

4 stars

You may also enjoy Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton or The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen


I feel like I have had a long relationship with Tess Gerritsen (except that I still cannot spell her surname without checking!). I started with Rizzoli and Isles, and feverishly got every latest book, then went back and read her earlier novels - which were more romantic - and I enjoyed those too. Yet the latest one I read (Die Again) had me wondering if Tess was not a teensy bit bored. It was good, but not up to her usual standards.

So, when my husband suggested this one, for a long car trip, on audio, I thought - great idea. If we hate it, we can switch off, and I can continue with my current read (which I still haven't finished).

Oh how I love it when my negative expectations are wrong about books. Wow, this book grabbed me. It may have been the music; it definitely helped that it was a standalone; and the fact that it was half historical fiction was brilliant. But it still had a mystery to be solved, and the danger and threats lurked in the murky distance.

It is the story of Julia Ansdell, who finds a rare and old piece of music in Italy. Awful things happen when she plays it, and she must investigate why, which leads her back to Venice. And that is all I am saying.

It made me remember all the reasons I stuck with Tess. She is a Master Storyteller of Note. I often wondered why she bothered to become a doctor first. (Not that I wasn't glad she did.)

A strong 4 star read. Until I discovered that the author composed The Incendio Waltz too - the strange piece of music (the composition is played in the audiobook). Ok, 5 stars it is. I am impressed.

If you do read the written words, the music is available on Tess’s website, and I strongly recommend you listen to it.

ISBN: 9781101884348

You may also enjoy The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

More reviews.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Ten of the Best #28

Hey hey hey. We’re halfway through January already. Can you believe it? And there is so much going on, I can’t keep up. So I bookmarked them all and put all my favourites from my media feeds in one place. Hope you find something to enjoy…you have probably seen most of them, but maybe I found one you missed. Click the pictures to link through to the stories.

We start with a good news story. Allan Gray, the man, who started Allan Gray, the asset management company in SA gives all to charity.


I love good choreography, and initially I thought I’d seen this before, but apparently Michael Binder saw saw what I saw - a bunch of dance scenes from popular movies matched to the song, “Uptown Funk,” he was inspired to do a similar mashup, only he wanted to use dance scenes from movies that only came out of the Golden Age of cinema.

It’s excellent, and the song’s good too.



This isn't funny. The language is appalling. But I was fascinated. Found myself saying - “Just move.” I wish I knew what the outcome was. A dude loses his mind over a breastfeeding mother on the tube, and everyone comes to her defence. Now remember, cover up while breastfeeding, moms.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Friday Book Saga

The Friday blog has become a fun book post, in which I participate in two blog linkups- BookBeginnings and Friday56.

This Friday, I'm featuring The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley. Here's the cover:



BookBeginnings is a weekly meme, hosted by Rose City Reader. To participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.

Beginning:

"I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard that my father had died. 
I was lying naked in the sun on the deck of the Neptune, with Theo’s hand resting protectively on my stomach."

I've read the first in the series - The Seven Sisters, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's my review.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

Initially I thought that the title, the setting - an icy Alaska, and the fact that I’ve enjoyed Rosamund Lupton’s previous books would lead to boredom and disappointment in this case. I therefore resisted picking it up. I have to say I couldn't have been more wrong. What I had missed was that there was a rambo-type mom and daughter, trying to navigate through the desolate, harsh environment to reach a father and husband, unsure of what they would encounter. Added to the dangers posed by the climate and a storm, someone is watching them in the dark. Oh, did I mention that it’s winter in Alaska, so no hours of daylight whatsoever?

I read this in the midst of a blazing heatwave, and loved the descriptions of the setting - a welcome respite for me. The fact that it was dark in no way limited the author’s imaginative painting of the beauty in this landscape. You’ll need cocoa if you read this in the cold. The writing is beautiful, and the relationship between Ruby and her mother is poignantly expressed, delicately told.

The creepiness of the evil lurking in the dark created palpable tension, and the search turned into a battle for survival with insurmountable odds.


There are a few disbeliefs to be suspended in the reading, but the emotional payoff for those suspensions was, in my view, worthwhile.

You really need to read this book, to experience it, to live in this world for a while.

Five chilling stars.

ISBN: 9781101903674)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Saving Sophie by Ronald H Balson

Catherine and Liam team up again, this time to help a law firm discover how one of its employees, Jack Sommers, made away with $86 million, costing them a lucrative deal. Of course, Liam and Catherine also become obsessed with why, when they discover that Jack’s wife died tragically, and his eight year old daughter has disappeared, presumably abducted by her estranged grandparents.

The story moves at a great pace, and holds your attention, with details on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, financial wheeling and dealing, and even gambling on basketball outcomes.

However, the characters and their dialogues were one dimensional, stilted and therefore fairly unbelievable. This detracted somewhat from my overall enjoyment.

The story continues from Balson’s first novel, Once we were Brothers, in terms of Catherine and Liam’s relationship, but is quite different otherwise.  Whereas that was historical fiction, this is more of a thriller.

A diverting, but not spellbinding read.

3 stars

ISBN: 9781250065858

Monday, 11 January 2016

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich


If you follow my reviews, you’ll know that I love Stephanie Plum. Janet Evanovich has written loads of these - 21, I think, or maybe even more. I decided after Two for the Dough to pace myself. Whilst thoroughly enjoyable, there is a formula. It kind of goes like this:

Stephanie Plum sets out to apprehend a criminal: not that surprising, she is a bounty hunter, after all, or find a drug dealer - they often skip bail, or in this case, kill her cousin - a little more surprising. In the process, she usually manages to get herself into all sorts of scrapes. She is taken aback when her various modes of transport are blown up. Delightfully shady and alternative characters appear. There is a run in with the law, and a romantic interlude with the dashing Joe Morelli, or another handsome male. Her family despairs of her ever leading a normal life, except her grandmother, who slips her guns, cash and general advice.

Told in a tongue-in-cheek style and at a racing pace, everything escalates until the conclusion - usually guessable, which is highly satisfying.

Here’s my favourite bit from Four to Score:

Fifteen minutes later I was dressed in four inch FMPs (short for "fuck--me pumps," because when you walked around in them you looked like Whorehouse Wonder Bitch). I shimmied into a low-cut black knit dress that was bought with the intent of losing five pounds, gunked up my eyes with a lot of black mascara and beefed up my cleavage by stuffing Nerf balls into my bra. Ranger was parked on Roebling, half a block from the funeral home. He didn't turn when I pulled in to the curb, but I saw his eyes on me in the rearview mirror. He was smiling when I slid in beside him. "Nice dress you're almost wearing. You ever think about changing professions?"
"Constantly. I'm thinking about it now." 
Four to Score was endearing in that we saw more character development, a juicy plot, but otherwise the good old recipe worked well. Oh, and there are always lines you will want to read out loud to a patient spouse, or other loving member of your family, including your cat.

You will gasp, laugh out loud, smile and have a thoroughly entertaining time.


There is a movie, apparently, which I haven’t seen yet. I am a little nervous to, because I don’t know how it can match the wittiness of the writing, which is one of my favourite parts of the experience. What do you think? Have you seen the movie? Have you read any of the books? Which is better?

You may also enjoy Three to get Deadly.

ISBN: 9780312966973

4 stars

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Ten of the Best #27



Morning everyone. It’s time for a brand spanking new Ten of the Best. I don't know about you, but I’ve had a slow start to the year. I had a short break, and am now reluctant to enter the fray. It seems a bit vicious out there. So should I ease you in? Nothing too harsh or thought provoking this week. Here they are then. The stories on social media that I didn't have time to read this week, but am catching up on now.  Click the pictures for the links.

1. This was me, getting up for work after the holidays…that size too...




2. Everywhere you look there are summaries of 2015 - the books, the movies, the news items. Well here are the hits of 2015 in 3 minutes. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Friday Book Score

 BookBeginnings is a weekly meme, hosted by Rose City ReaderTo participate, share the opening lines and your thoughts about a book you're reading, or about to.



"Living in Trenton in July is like living inside a big pizza oven. Hot, airless, aromatic. Because I didn't want to miss any of the summer experience, I had the sunroof open on my Honda CRX. My brown hair was pulled up into a wind-snarled, curls-gone-to-frizz  ponytail. The sun baked the top of my head, and sweat trickled under my black spandex sports bra. I was wearing matching spandex shorts and a sleeveless oversized Trenton Thunders baseball jersey. It was an excellent outfit except it gave me no place to stick my .38. Which meant I was going to have to borrow a gun to shoot my cousin Vinnie."

The book .... 

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

This is number four in the Stephanie Plum - Bounty Hunter series. I started these (late) in 2015, and decided, rather than rush through them all, I would pick one up every now and then, when I needed a diverting, tried and tested, know-what -you're-in-for type of read. The formula is great. Humour, action, sarcasm, a female lead, a dashing love interest, and plenty of plot twists in the 300 or so pages. Always fun.

And just because this is such fun, and I so enjoy all your comments (thank you), I also participate in Friday56, hosted by Freda’s Voice on every Friday.


here are the Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader (If you have to improvise, that's ok.)
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it)
*Don’t forget to add your post URL (not your blog url) at Freda’s Voice.  


So, again from Four to Score by Janet Evanovich

Here's an excerpt from page 56...

"Think you should stop your whining," she said to Kuntz," on account of it makes you look like a wiener. And with a name like Kuntz you gotta be careful what you look like."

Eddie cut his eyes to Lula. "Who's this?"

"I'm her partner," Lula said. "Just like Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey, the Lone Ranger and What's-his-name."

Truth is we were more like Laurel and Hardy, but I didn't want to share that information with Kuntz.

I'm in a good mood already. 

Here's the cover...


Have you read/watched Stephanie Plum? Leave a comment below, and I'll visit you over the weekend.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

The Best of the Ten Part 2

Bored? I knew it. Here's part two of the Best of the Ten of the Best - the highlights from my weekly posts in 2015. Every week I trawl social media, to put my favourites in one place. Here are the best of the favourites. Click the pictures for the links.

1. It’s finally happened. One Direction did split up. For real. And probably for ever. Here’s the teacher’s advice on how to cope. It had me giggling. 



2. Notes written by children that are honest and hilarious. 



3. The funniest Hilary Clinton campaign clip. Ever. Let me get my pen… You know you want to watch it again. 




4. The funny lies parents tell their children…




5. This Bob Newhart is a CLASSIC. Stop it! 



6. The real parenting comics part 2 - as funny as the first lot?



7. The Competitive Foursome need a new name. But these chicks are so awesome, this made my best list. 




8. The best air steward ever. The only one that ever got my attention, too.





9. My favourite Trevor Noah was his emergency appendectomy. Sir, you can’t faint here. 



10. I'm so glad I discovered Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, this year. She is funny. And rude. Language warning here. Enjoy. 




Have a wonderful weekend!