Thursday, 29 June 2017

Book Club Books #2 2017

Hey there. Yes you - curled up in your favourite chair, reading this before you pick up your book, I'm talking to you.



Are you looking for some recommendations for book club books?

This may be useful - some recommendations, together in one place, so your shopping is sorted.

I'll limit myself to the amount I can carry physically - since most book clubs still work like that.

If you click each cover image, you'll link to my full review. Here, I've given you the reasons you should buy them, and where there are blurbs, they're copied from online sources.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton




I think I've said this before about something by Sharon Bolton - I inhaled this book. A little gory psychological thriller that will keep you reading into the night. 

From Goodreads:

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . .



Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Some people in your book club will love this and others will hate it. I was a lover. I thoroughly enjoyed the two COMPLETELY different perspectives in this story. It's well written (maybe a bit too well written for book club - me and ours, anyway) but even if you don't get all the literary references, you'll love discussing it with a friend over a glass of wine.

It tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde. Basically a love story. What I loved about it was its uniqueness and unforgettableness. You will too.


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I know, I know this is an old one. But you know what, you have to read it. Again, if you have before. 

Here are some reasons why: 1. It's just the best feminist read, and from 1985. 

2. Even though it's futuristic, and I know that puts a lot of people off, it's so accessible - not sci-fi, with bots and gadgets. Ms Atwood limited herself to only including stuff that had already been discovered/happened at time of writing - so nothing too weird. 

3. It'll (hopefully) change your outlook, it's that good. 

4. It'll lead to great discussions and 

5. The series is out - I haven't looked, but if not on TV soon, it'll be on Netflix, or something similar, and you know you have to read it before you watch it. 

Lastly, you may not even have to buy it - just ask everyone to check their shelves. Someone is sure to have it. Or buy it, it's a classic you'll want to own. Forever.

My name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout



Yes, I know this is older, and that Anything is Possible (the follow up) is available now. But this is an instance where, IMO, you definitely are the better for having read Lucy first. I really don't think I would have "got" Anything if I hadn't read Lucy.

From the blurb:

"Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lies the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters."

So lovely, not too long, and a gentle, slower-paced book.






Peacekeeping by Mischka Berlinski

This is an interesting book. Read the Goodreads blurb: 

"When Terry White, a former deputy sheriff and a failed politician, goes broke in the 2007-2008 financial crisis, he takes a job working for the UN, helping to train the Haitian police. He's sent to the remote town of Jeremie, where there are more coffin makers than restaurants, more donkeys than cars, and the dirt roads all slope down sooner or later to the postcard sea. Terry is swept up in the town's complex politics when he befriends an earnest, reforming American-educated judge."

The characters in this story were well drawn. I loved the descriptions of the ex-pat life. Not having ever done that, it felt like it had the right balance between reality and adventure. Also a good one to discuss - so many issues.

{Little editing note - how embarrassing, I haven't actually reviewed this one yet - the cover link is to some excerpts and thoughts, I'll get my review up soon - apologies.}


1984 by George Orwell

If you've read this one at school, keep scrolling. No reason to do so again. I read it just before A Handmaid's Tale, and far preferred the latter. But this is interesting to read again now, in the context of today's #FakeNews, current political climate, and bleak economic outlook. Another one that you can get off someone's old bookshelves, no need to buy it.

The plot and the clever ideas are the winners here, and thankfully so, because otherwise it would be too depressing.



The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

I'd love to be a fly on the wall when you have bought and read this one, and you hold it up to recommend it to all your girlfriends. You probably couldn't, with a straight face, and in all honesty, I probably shouldn't recommend it here, for so many reasons. But we need to read stuff that we wouldn't normally read, and if someone reads The Rosie Effect (same author) and picks this up because the loved that one, they will probably land up reading right out of their usual genre.

I suppose it was realistic. Not my favourite book of the year, but interesting. And again...those discussions .... I'd love to listen.


Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough


Ok, ok, if you get this one for your Book Club, you have to have a Rule, like Fight Club. 

No one, and I mean no one, talks about this book before everyone (that wants to) has read it.

Really. Because it's that easy to spoil. I promise you. If you've read it, think about what you'll say, and then think how that might ruin the book for someone else. (I kid you not, I've just had to change the way I said that, because there was a potential spoiler right there.) Then, when everyone has read it, you can have a lovely chat.

You should be able to read my review (click on the cover), because I have checked and rechecked, and I don't think I've done any damage. (but I completely understand if you don't). But don't read too many previews, or even the blurb, to really enjoy it. 

Last round of recommendations - Book Club Books 2017 #1



Best books of 2016.

Have a great Book Club evening, ladies. And remember, if you're boozing, to get a safe ride home.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Dead Woman Walking

Let me just admit up front that I find Sharon Bolton's novels addictive. I cannot put them down, and find them compulsive reading. There you go - I am a Sharon Bolton junkie, and it's been just over a month since my last read (Dead Scared).

So, you could congratulate me for walking past the stacks of this beautiful-looking book, trip after  trip to the bookstore, time after time. And then, I succumbed. And gosh I'm glad I did. And after spending a day devouring this, I really don't want to tell you too much, because I don't want to rob you of any of your own guilty pleasure.

I can tell you that there are two sisters. Isabel and Jess. They go on a hot air balloon ride in the opening chapter to celebrate Isabel's 40th birthday with disastrous (and gory) consequences. The murderer is spotted and he spots the spotter, if you know what I mean. So cat chases mouse, and why is mouse so very quiet? 

The plot is clever. There is some serious evil going on here, and the witty writing and accurate dialogue keep us racing through the clues, chasing towards a resolution. It's clear  that some of our characters have issues. We also, going back to Isabel and Jess's childhood - scenes on the beach, at home, know they're from a fairly messed up family.

It's a little bit wondrous that we, the addicted, still may consider going on a hot air balloon ride for fun, or even a hike in the countryside after reading this. But there is great resolution, after some dead ends and twisty turns through the woods, countryside,  churches with nuns and peacocks. Oh and dogs. Of course. This is a favourite.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780552172639

You may also enjoy Daisy in Chains or Little Black Lies, also by Sharon Bolton, or The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Work that Brain



Just look at the beautiful picture below. It's pretty obvious that exercise is great for your physical wellbeing, but just look how good it is for your brain. I love how doing different things impacts different parts of your brain, dealing with fear and anxiety, improving memory, and especially regulating appetite.

Just another reason to get up and get moving this morning. Come on, a jog, followed by some weights. Or even a brisk walk through the 'burbs. It's beautiful out there.

Click for the full article on how this works, and also other related items, with research on how exercise benefits certain conditions.



And if that hasn't convinced you yet, there is always the music. Yes, we all need to hum a little ditty as we dance through the day, or better still, download it and play it as we pump. Gets us moving better, and faster. Keeps us going when we want to give up.

Today, we're listening to Ed Sheeran's Galway Girl. For no other reason than it's catchy, got a beat, and fun to listen to. Enjoy.





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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Ten of the Best #98

We've got a bit of everything today. There's the funny, the news, the funny news, and of course, something about books, some music, and even some art. Guaranteed to start your weekend on the right note. Click the links, then come back here to finish the ten things I pilfered from your time lines this week. Grab your brew, you may be here a while.


When I thought about which comedian was going to summarise Trump tweets and escapades this  week, there was really only one choice. Yup. James it is. He'll tell you about the Comey tapes, the Iowa rally and the solar wall. Oh and poor people. Sigh. When will it end?


Which is why this volcanologist is running for congress. More like her, please.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Friday Books - His Bloody Project

It's Friday again. Already. There you have it. Nearly time for the weekend.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

Today I'm featuring  His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet





The interesting thing about the telling of this story is that it is presented as a collection of papers - a confession, medical reports and some transcripts of a trial. I'm nearly done, and it has been most fascinating. Set in 1869, it has a very authentic feel, which I'm loving.





Lachlan is the newly appointed "constable" of the village, and he wastes no time in making the Macrae's lives difficult, in a nasty kind of way. 

I'm nearly done - my kindle tells me I've got 20 minutes left, so I'm going to stop blogging and finish reading now.

Tell me what you're busy with in the comments and I'll visit your blog.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Diamond - The History of A Cold-Blooded Love Affair by Matthew Hart

This was fascinating. The story starts "On a hot morning in May, 1999, three garimpeiros (small-scale miners) found a large pink diamond in the muddy waters of the Abaete River in Brazil, a discovery that captivated the entire diamond trade. Beginning with this dramatic and revealing tale, Matthew Hart embarks on a journey into an obsessive, largely hidden, and utterly fascinating world."

Well written, and strangely almost as obsessive as the colourful diamond miners who fill the pages with their exploits, wheeling and dealing and adventures.

"A great gem collects great tales, adding to its status as a jewel."

Of course there is quite a lot on South Africa, De Beers, how a diamond cartel operates, and the Oppenheimers.


"Diamonds are profoundly ancient....carbon, the stuff of diamonds is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. In 1987, astronomers observing a supernova (or exploding star) through spectroscopy, which analyses the light radiated by different substances, identified diamonds...These minute stellar diamonds probably formed in the fantastic pressures of the super wind thrown off by the exploding star." Twinkle, twinkle little star....like a diamond in the sky - Indeed.

The only part I found less interesting was the "Blood Diamond" section towards the end - this could have been me, but it wasn't as well developed as the rest of the book, which was a pity.


4 stars

ISBN:9780452283701

Some more books....

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear



I listened to Maisie Dobbs on Audible. Set in 1929, Maisie, trained by Maurice Blanche, a forensic psychologist (but I doubt he would have been called that then) starts her own practice as a private detective.

Her first case? A gentleman, expecting M.Dobbs to be a man, and clearly thinking beautiful petite clever Maisie is the secretary, or the tea girl, needs someone to check where his wife is disappearing to? Is she having an affair? Gasp. And when he finds out M stands for Maisie, will he hire her? Will he trust her? Will she solve the "mystery"?

The writing is lovely, and I enjoyed being thrust into the olde world charm that Maisie lives in - picture wood panelled rooms, bone china tea cups, tailored two-piece suits and pin curls. Very British and very sweet.

The plot was also good - we switch between the unravelling of Maisie's back story and what she did during the war. I loved this too, and how it reveals pain and character.

If you close your eyes, it's all so enchanting. The clever girl, from a disadvantaged past, given an opportunity to make it, now well-groomed and respectable detective, solving everything like a young Miss Marple. If you open them however, it's too good to be true, too trite to be real, not deep enough to really give a damn. And I'm not so sure that the series will be good, now that I know Maisie's back story, almost completely.

The narration was excellent. I could listen to Rita Barrington describe how to make a cup of tea and be enthralled.

A lovely read.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780142004333

You may also enjoy The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, or Karolina's Twins by Ronald H Balson. Or try A Terrible Beauty by VM Devine.


Monday, 19 June 2017

When you don't feel like it

Morning, it is. Time to face the week, starting with some exercise. 

Trouble is I'm still hankering after the weekend. I just feel like snuggling under the duvet for five, ten, fifteen more minutes and not facing anything.


It's still winter, I'm not feeling up to much, and there's not anything inspiring me to get up and out today.

So what if we just go with a bit of the familiar, the nostalgic, the memories, the comfort of the well known? Use what you've got, they say.

I'm out of bed now, thinking of the friendly smile of the security guard at the gate at school, always trying to make a plan so the traffic moves faster, and we save precious seconds. The greeting as my running buddy is pleased to see me. Ok, I'll get dressed. 

Thoughts of the welcoming sun on my back as the downhill starts, and the gentle slapping of my feet against the tarmac. Ok, shoes on. 

The smell of the brew as Senzo smiles and passes me my cappuccino - just the way I like it without me even reminding him. Got my keys now. And the feeling of the warm water on my skin, washing the well-earned perspiration from me, and making me feel better about my day, my life and the world around me. Ok, we got this, let's go.

Don't forget the song - it's like a  chorus now. You're all reminding me. I hadn't. I actually have had this in my head all weekend. Apologies no non-SAffers, you won't find this as nostalgic as we do, but you'll enjoy it nevertheless. It's the gentle Mango Groove, with Hometalk. All the smells, sights, sounds and memories of our lovely country.


Above is the summer moon
Children will be sleeping soon
The work is all done and so
We sleep by the fire's glow
The cattle bells do not ring
The night birds begin to sing
The stories have all been told, so we'll dream
Hometalk, takes me home, hometalk
The moon meets the breaking day
The dreams have all gone away
Though the memories tear me apart
They will always be here in my heart

Hometalk, takes me home, hometalk
Kaya, takes me home, hometalk

Let's run, people.

Like this? You may also enjoy Faces to the Sun, or what about Colours?



Saturday, 17 June 2017

Ten of the Best #97


Welcome, welcome. Here's we we look back at the week and watch and read all the stuff we missed on social media. Where do I find it? I collect it, squirrelling away all the best feeds from your timelines, for Saturday morning, when we grab our tea, and have ourselves a little binge.


It's not often that I know exactly where to start, but this week...well I do.

"It’s been a busy few weeks. Let’s get caught up." starts Richard Poplak. "There’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng – a performance artist so dangerously entertaining that the SABC could have doubled ratings by dispensing with all other programming and just have him mumble into a tin can." he continues. 

Click the Zapiro pic for the full article.




And in case you need a wrap of the events in the UK - they've also had a week - here is some writing I found interesting, not least for its parallels with SA. Why The Future is Looking Bright With The Next Generation at the Helm.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Books - The Lost Life of Eva Braun

Well hello from sunny SA, where we have no excuses - we have a public holiday today - so it's a reading weekend.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.


Today I'm featuring  The Lost Life of Eva Braun by Angela Lambert.







Now doesn't that look interesting? I love to hear a story from a different perspective, and I reckon this might just be the thing for me to get my teeth into this weekend. At 620 pages, I will be busy for a while... And don't you love that cover?





There was much more detailed explanation, but I edited it a little. It captures the view on marriage from those times so well, and had me thinking about it for a while.


Whilst I will be spending (hopefully most) of my day reading, I also hope to have some time to visit some blogs today, so leave me a comment and I'll stop by. I'd love to know what your weekend reading plans are.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion



The best thing I can say about The Best of Adam Sharp is that it is nothing like The Rosie Effect.

Graeme Simsion writes about Adam - a middle aged man (nearing 50) in a relationship with Claire. When, boom - Angelina (no, not Jolie, but think Jolie - this one's a blonde bombshell from his youthful first love days) gets in contact via email. Out of the blue. Completely. Hmmm.

So part one is should he, shouldn't he get in contact again? Claire is perfectly lovely, the IT job is what all jobs should be - manageable and sufficient, the life lived is, well, ordinary. I should mention that Adam is a music buff of note, and there are references to his loves - some of which I recognised, and those I did, I hummed, affectionately. I also kept meaning to look at the soundtrack, which is a fantastic idea - to listen as you read - but didn't.

Then part two. Let's just say part two gets interesting. So obviously, and this isn't a big spoiler, he does. He gets so much more than he bargained for - in every sense.

I liked this book. I loved the musical references. I thought the examination of Adam's emotions and relationships was interesting. It was mildly funny too, and cleverly written. The sexual content is not for the prude, and I blinked a couple of times and wondered if my eyebrows were disappearing into my (receding) hairline.

So what's not to like, I hear you ask. Well, for me, the unending tone of cynicism that just pervaded everything about this book. Poetic, I suppose, but not enjoyable. In short, nothing like the Rosie effect.

3 stars
ISBN: 9781250130402

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Monday, 12 June 2017

Cheerleader

It's been a while, hasn't it?




But it is Monday again, and time to get our feet dancing, arms pumping and heartbeat racing. Come on - just a little bit, then you can hit the week with more energy, feeling better about yourself, and just a little fitter and stronger than before.

And today, since it's been so very long since we've really done this, we need ourselves a little song to get us started. You know, one we can hum as we go, or even play while we dash, pretending we're enjoying this exercise thing, until we forget that we're pretending and think with a little bolt of joy that we actually are. 

I have just the song. Cheerleader. And oh the irony, there are so many covers, I don't know who did the original. Sigh. If you do, please leave me a comment. But for now, both these remixes are quite the thing to get us moving -  the one by Felix Jaehn...



And definitely the Pentatonix version.





Oh, I think that I've found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
Oh, I think that I've found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her




And this post would not be complete without a shout out to my running buddy - my cheerleader. Together we've dodged taxis, bounded uncovered drains, leaped over sleeping people, forded streams waded through tall grass and faced down angry motorists. And we're still going. Strong. Smiling. Running (mostly). 

Have a great workout today.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ten of the Best #96


Good morning all. It's been quite a week in our beautiful country, with severe weather in the fairest Cape, and strong winds fanning the Knysna fires into destruction on a scale so dramatic and unexpected that I am still reeling. It happened so quickly, and mobile and land lines went down, so it was very difficult to know if loved ones were safe. We'll start with a link to a site that has been set up to showcase the rebuilding of Knynsa, and there are a number of links on it that if you want to assist, it makes it very easy.


Apparently white monopoly capital is to blame for this. So says Andile Mngxitama. Click the Zapiro for the story. Please don't forget to click on the Twitter responses at the end - it's the best part.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday Books - Diamond

After a short blogging break, I'm back. What do you mean, you didn't even miss me?

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.


Today I'm featuring  Diamond  - The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair by Matthew Hart.

Here's the cover










From the blurb - "On a hot morning in May, 1999, three garimpeiros (small-scale miners) found a large pink diamond in the muddy waters of the Abaete River in Brazil, a discovery that captivated the entire diamond trade. Beginning with this dramatic and revealing tale, Matthew Hart embarks on a journey into an obsessive, largely hidden, and utterly fascinating world."




I loved this, also from the blurb -

Diamonds also have their dark side. "Malfeasance rustles in the background of the diamond world like a snake in dry grass," writes Hart as he documents the relentless and ingenious thievery that pervades the business, and the even more damaging revelations of "war diamonds" financing brutal conflicts in Africa. Who will rule diamonds now, and what form the once-secretive business will take, are the issues of the day.

Have a lovely weekend, and hope you get some reading done. Tell me what your intentions are in the comments, and I'll pop over.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand




The cover called to me “Pick me up, take me to the beach and read me”. So I did.

If that’s what you want, this is ideal. Set in Nantucket, Laurel, Belinda and Scarlett have all been involved with Deacon Thorpe, now deceased. Out of respect for his wishes for them, they and their hangers on gather at the beach cottage one last time. There are children, partners and others

Families - especially broken ones, ravaged by the pain that only a philandering celebrity chef can cause (yup,that was Deacon’s job), are always entertaining. There is plenty afoot - from new relationships starting, to drugs, sex, lies and all forms of debauchery.


I found the characters one dimensional and the interactions between them mildly amusing at best. Give this one a skip, unless you have nothing else to read.


2 stars

ISBN: 9780316375146

Other books in this genre - I found you or The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, or what about Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty or Commonwealth by Ann Patchett?

2017 Reviews

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Ten of the Best #95



Welcome to the weekend after another weird week. Here they all are - thanks to your time lines - the best things on the internet. Grab your coffee, let's go.

The anatomy of state capture by Ranjeni Munusamy summarised the news before the next set of revelations that exposed it further.





Poplak pontificates on the shame of what public healthcare has cost in Gauteng.


President Trump managed to create a ruckus, by flipping off the Italian PM - did he, didn't he? and then setting Twitter on fire with "Covfefe". Just another normal day in the life of then, right?