Sunday 27 March 2016

Maverick by Lauren Beukes

This is a book about raconteurs and renegades, writers, poets, provocateurs and pop stars, artists and activists and a cross-dressing doctor. From Africa's first black movie star and Drum covergirl, Dolly Rathebe, to Glenda Kemp, the snake-dancing stripper who shook up the verkrampte social mores of the 70s, these are the riveting true tales of women who broke with convention and damn the consequences.
 Lauren Beukes has produced Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls of late. In this 2015 publication of a book originally written in 2005, she is joined by Nechama Brodie, who helped update it, and added three chapters.

Yes this is history. But don't think dry, dull and boring. Think highly entertaining, whacky and written with a dry wit and sharp insight.

Some excerpts may hook you:

Chapter 1 tells the story of Daisy de Melker, who went on trial for poisoning two plumber husbands and a slacker son.

"But despite her dowdy looks and her general sullenness in court, which included hissing 'Liar!" at witnesses she felt to be twisting the truth like a koeksuster, Daisy could be surprisingly charismatic."

And "But just when it looked as though she might get off, she was undone by an imaginary cat and a keen-eyed pharmacist."

Sure, these women provided amazing material by living extraordinary lives - big, bold and to hell with everyone, but there is also a knack to telling their stories with empathy and charm, which Lauren and Nechama did.

They had me gasping with delight, roaring with laughter and shaking my head in disbelief. I started this book thinking to pace myself, and read a few chapters per week. I ended up devouring it one weekend, in a binge of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Definitely one to buy, read and keep on your shelf.

4 stars

ISBN: 9781770070509

You may also enjoy The Whip by Karen Kondazian.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Ten of the Best #38

Hey everyone. Welcome to the long weekend. Long weekend means it's been a short week, and you've had no time to yourself.  Time to kick back, and catch up on social media. And here's the best from my feeds this week. Hope you find something to entertain and amuse. 

So, got your wifi connection? And your coffee? Let's go.

We start with Eusebius McKaiser. On why it's not the Guptas or Zuma that are the problem, it's the corruption. So true.

Second up is the best explanation of consensual sex. Ever. Relating consent to the answer to "Would you like a cup of tea?" It's funny too. Below is the clip, but if you'd rather read the transcript, it's here.

I don't know how I missed this Tom Eaton post, and the story, last year. Shocking. You may have seen it. It's our president, and his snub of the POTUS. If you listen in your head, you can hear the explanations, the justifications, the bulldust, again. Tom calls it out.

Let's stay with Obama, shall we? So much more pleasant than some of the incumbents. Here he meets 6 year old Macey Hensley on The Ellen Show, and manages to increase his popularity, even though she is ultra cute.

This post about Trump went viral this week. And I can see why. It gets straight to the point, it’s succinct, and it clearly expresses any logical reaction to the Trump campaign. Pity that Trump’s fans are too indoctrinated to see sense. 

In SA, we really had a short week. We had a public holiday on Monday too. And scrolling through my FB posts , I came across a history lesson. The story of Sharpeville. This is why we now have Human Rights Day. It's a lovely piece.

This is a beautiful story of sacrifice during hardship, leading to redemption and celebration. I loved it.

Ok, since it has been quite a thought provoking and make you think set of clips so far, let's end with some more light hearted moments... The things people say to vegetarians. All the time. 

And since it's holy week, Dave Allen on his introduction to religion. This is a classic.

And we end, not with Suzelle's water saving tips - I just couldn't watch to the end - you can google it if you missed it, but our favourite dead terrorist, Achmed. It's Jeff Dunham. 

Have a wonderful weekend, peeps.

Link to last week.

Friday 25 March 2016

The Only Game in Town by Mohamed A El-Erian

I was so excited to get an advance copy of this book for review. To have a preview of this book was an such an honour, and from the title and description, it was going to give a roadmap of how to plot the way forward in the volatile world of finance and economics.

High expectations for a book are usually not a good way to start. In this case, perhaps it would have been better if I had approached it not knowing that El-Erian is a New York Times Best Seller or read the blurb.

The first part of the book was history. It was mildly interesting. But about halfway through, it became more and more difficult to stay interested. Well-researched, informative, and insightful, and yet at the same time, just dull.

On I went, waiting for the roadmap. It turned out to be four policy prescriptions, all well laid out, but not much new information.

It’s not like I needed this kind of book to read like a Jeffrey Archer thriller, but some sort of planning of the structure of the novel, and also a more engaging writing style may have helped.

My preference is to read this kind of information in regular small doses - article series or news and opinion pieces, than in a book.

3 stars

ISBN: 9780812997620

You may enjoy The Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.

More reviews

Thursday 24 March 2016

Between you and me by Lisa Hall

Gorgeous cover

This is the kind of book that you shouldn't read ANYTHING about before you start. You should just read it. Now.

And that should be the end of my review. But I promised Netgalley my honest review in exchange for my ARC, so here it is.

This book gripped me from the very first page. It starts with a violent scene in the prologue and then launches into the story of Charlie and Sal. They are in an abusive relationship and have a young daughter, Maggie.

Told from both their points of view, there is plenty of action and lots of dialogue. We meet the family and the neighbours. You can feel the emotion - the despair, the frustration, the tension, the stress, the love and the toxicity of the relationship - on nearly every page.

Lisa Hall has a lovely way of painting a picture of domestic chaos that manages to resonate with the reader - do I say things like that? - and shock and torture me at the same time.

Lastly, the ending. The beautiful, brilliant ending. I’m not saying. You’ll have to read it to find out. And I hope you have the same gasp that I did, because no one spoiled it for me.

A beautifully harrowing read.

4 stars

You may also enjoy The Girls by Lisa Jewell, or The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

More reviews


Monday 21 March 2016

Monday Motivation #7

Hey there peeps. So last week's roaring didn't go so well for me. Thought I could just brazen out a little bit of gastro, but landed up in hospital. So no running for me today.

But that doesn't mean that I can't inspire you to go. 

My inspiration this week in music was discovered when I listened to the most beautiful choral arrangement of Rachel Platten's Stand by You. (Link is below, if you want to see it).

Then I decided to watch the original, and it's beautiful. A little slow to run to, but hey - if you're moving, you're moving, right?

And I thought at the same time, I'd give a shout out to all those who've acted on the line from the song:

"if your wings are broken, borrow mine till yours can open too, cos I'm gonna stand by you."

Thanks friends and family for your love and support and for standing by me this week.

Here's the clip. Now go and exercise.

And here's the one I first saw - by our very own Drakensberg Boy's Choir. So proud. 

Have an awesome week.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Ten of the Best #37

Hey there. I know this is later than usual. I apologise. I was going to skip completely (I've been quite ill), but then I thought of the wonderful clips and other articles I found, and I just can't. I'm not sure that we will make ten this week, but let's try, shall we?

Anyone else starting to enjoy James Corden? He is so versatile. In this clip, he has a riff-off with Anna Kendrick (she of Pitch Perfect fame). But the Filharmonics steal the show completely. It is worth a watch.

We have all had enough, here in SA. Every day brings a new revelation of past corrupt practices of our president, usually involving the Guptas. And if that's not bad enough - FIFA confirms that we bribed the World Cup out of them. Oh dear. This is a great summary of the State of our Nation. By Richard Poplak, in the Daily Maverick. Click the pic.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Cometh the Hour - Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer has written another page turner of note. Famous for his inter-generational sagas, this is the sixth in a series of seven.

Cometh the Hour continues the story of the Cliftons and the Barringtons, starting with the end of a court case between Mrs. Emma Clifton (who should have a number of titles surrounding her name) and Lady Virginia Fenwick, who is no such thing.

The lives of Emma, her husband Harry, Virginia, her ex-husband Giles, Emma and Harry’s son Sebastian continue to entertain, a bit like royalty splashed in vivid colour on the pages of a Hello magazine.

King of the twist, master of the cliffhanger (at the end of nearly every change of viewpoint and at the end of every novel), and commander of the superb action packed dialogue that leaves one gasping for breath at times, Archer does not disappoint.

I am slightly relieved there is only one more book to come.

4 stars

You may also enjoy Mightier than the Sword by the same author, or start at the beginning with Only Time will tell.

Some excerpts from Cometh the Hour.

More reviews

Monday 14 March 2016

Monday Motivation #6

Hello Monday. 

Still not ready to face the week? Still want that duvet and coffee to keep you there all day? I know the feeling.

But Monday it is, and the week will begin whether you are up and dressed or not. So, here's a thought. Instead of letting this week get to you, why don't you get at it first?

There is nothing that quietens my soul and fills my inspiration bottle like the sounds of wildlife. And this morning I was thinking about the sound of a lion's roar. Here's a quote from my favourite children's series about what one lion's roar did:

"At last they heard Aslan’s voice, “You can all come back,” he said. “I have settled the matter. She has renounced the claim on your brother’s blood.” And all over the hill there
was a noise as if everyone had been holding their breath and had now begun breathing again, and then a murmur of talk.
The Witch was just turning away with a look of fierce joy on her face when she stopped and said,
“But how do I know this promise will be kept?”
“Haa-a-arrh!” roared Aslan, half rising from his throne; and his great mouth opened wider and wider and the roar grew louder and louder, and the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life. " (From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis)

So the song - well it't not half as powerful as that image. But it does inspire us to roar today. Enjoy.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Ten of the Best #36

There is so much in the news about #Nenegate, and #Zumamustfall. It's made me wonder - if there is a modicum of truth (and it would appear that there is for the Financial Times to report it), should there not be an investigation? And then? Well it's relatively easy to decide what to do with the Gupta-corruptors, but what about the “corruptibles”? Click the pic for the article.

“It is not enough to do good; one must do it in the right way” is one of my favourite quotes - by John Morley, a member of the house of Lords from the 1900s. He also said "Those who would treat politics and morality apart will never understand the one or the other.” 

So moving swiftly from politics to morality, here's my favourite writer on why we are killing our children. Thank you Robyn. Sorry for the seriousness today, but this is devastating. 

Friday 11 March 2016

Friday Book Hour

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.

The PA system crackled. "Would all those involved in the Lady Virginia Fenwick versus Mrs Emma Clifton..."

"The jury must have reached a decision," Trelford said, already on the move. 
My thoughts:

If you've read any of the books that feature n the series (five in all) before this, you will already be aware that Emma Clifton and Lady Virginia Fenwick are never on friendly terms. Book Five (Mightier than the sword) ended on a ginormous cliffhanger in the trial involving these two women. If you're anything like me, you are firmly on Emma's said, but you just cannot see a way for truth and justice to prevail. This is the sixth in The Clifton Chronicles, but Jeffrey Archer - Cometh the Hour.

Good Old Favourites #14

This was meant to be the Wednesday post, but dear beloved readers, I was laid low with terrible stomach flu. (And that's all I am saying - this is a food post after all.)

But what I thought we should cook this week is delicious Vegetable Tikka Masala. And then, to make the whole choice between rice and Naan a bit easier - why don't you try cauli-rice, and then you can serve Naan with the meal? (If you don't know how to make cauli-rice, all it is is cauliflower that has been food processed into tiny bits, like rice, and you fry in some coconut oil, with finely chopped onion and garlic - both optional.). So the carb becomes your vegetable, and that means that you can have some delicious Naan bread, which would always be my carb of choice, anyway. Banters - sorry you are only allowed the cauli-rice, no Naan for you!

Here's the recipe - originally from the LoSalt website.

Vegetable Tikka Masala
4 tablespoons oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato purée
a squeeze of lemon juice
100g mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 medium onion chopped
2 peppers (any colour), seeded and roughly chopped
100g small whole carrots, scrubbed
100g fresh or frozen peas (thawed)
chopped fresh coriander, to garnish
basmati rice and/or naan breads to serve
and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan, add half the onions, garlic and ginger and cook over a medium hear for 3-4 minutes until softening and smelling good. Now add the paprika, cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook for 5 minutes more.
  2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and lemon juice and simmer for 10-15 minutes then blend with an electric blender. This is a tikka masala sauce.  
  3. Heat the remaning oil in large saucepan and add onions. Fry for 5 minutes until softening, then add the peppers, carrots and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tikka masala sauce and simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Stir in the peas and heat through for 2-3 minutes. Taste and season with pepper.
  4. Serve scattered with fresh coriander, with boiled basmati rice and/or a pile of warm naans.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

11/22/63 by Stephen King

"Life can turn on a dime" is the mantra that flows through this book. Everything we do and say has consequences, and the way we behave does affect destiny.

In this time travel novel, our hero, Jake Epping, a divorced, life-weary English teacher at a college is one of the unlikely sort. No great achievements, not really well connected, which is why he is chosen to go back and change history.

But history is obdurate, and makes it very difficult for a person to go back and change its course. Especially when it's the shooting of JFK that you want to alter. The past digs its heels in and screws with you.

A note on Stephen King. I am quite weary of people looking at me strangely when I gush about the man. There is a wide perception out there that all he can write is horror, and paranormal, and who the heck wants to read that anyway? Well, he doesn't. Ok most of his books have a little bit weird in them, but he is so creative and confident in his writing, he is definitely worth trying.

If you are one of people who has glanced at me askew when I mention that his book "On Writing"  is one of the best I have ever read, and Carrie is actually not that gruesome, compared to other books in that genre, please try this one.

The only weirdness is the time travel, and come on, everyone is doing that these days. And I bet you've all read at least one vampire novel in the last few years, or at least a wizard one, so don't come with your nonsense. This is way better.

This was a page turner of note. It is a long book, but you won't want to put it down. And, in my opinion, it is brilliant. Even Time magazine says so.

A 5 star read for me.

ISBN: 9781451627282

You may also like Time and Time again by Ben Elton, where history is changed by stopping World War 1.

All my reviews.

Monday 7 March 2016

Monday Music #5

Do you ever  have those days when all the music, all the positive encouragement in the world is not really working? In fact it has the opposite effect.

It all sounds so horribly cliched, and has you shouting random bad language at it, and the people who dispense it (in your head, of course) just makes you feel like the darkest, meanest soul in the universe. And no matter what you try, getting out of bed feels so damn hard.

If you do, I have the perfect song for your day, and mine, today. 

It's Taylor Swift - Are we out of the woods yet? I don't know about you, but I'm not in the mood for any high energy, fist pumping "can you feel it" kind of exercise today. I may just manage a walk. But that's ok, at least I'm moving. And this is what I'll be singing as I go.

Link to last week.

Friday 4 March 2016

Ten of the Best #35

1. Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s our new president, I mean Finance Minister, President Pravin. This is by far the best news article I read all week. And I love the way this is written. It’s about Pravin Gordhan - a man among the mice. Click the picture for the article. And read Stephen Grootes’ take on it too, from a similar angle.

2. And here’s some more - why Zuma wants Moyane at SARS. The big cover up. 

3. It was the Oscars this week. And the Foo Fighters  decided to make a video clip about their breakup. Because everyone is doing it, apparently. This carries a language warning. 

Friday Book Nap

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.

My mother died with her head in another man's lap. The car collided head-on with a milk tanker, which in turn crashed into an oak tree, sending acorns pinging and bouncing off the bodywork like hailstones. Mr Shearer lost an appendage. I lost my mother. Fate laughs at probabilities.
My thoughts:

A mother and her teenage daughter are found murdered in a remote farmhouse. Joe - the clinical psychologist who doesn't want to do this anymore - 
reluctantly admits he has to get involved. One of his ex-students is already part of the drama, and seems intent on making matters worse. Realising that he is  risking drawing his ex-wife and two daughters into a threatening situation, the tension mounts from all angles.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Judas Child by Carol O'Connell

Extract from the blurb:
Two young girls disappear just before Christmas. This hasn't happened for fifteen years, since Rouge Kendall's twin sister was murdered. The killer was found, but now Rouge, twenty-five and a policeman, is forced to wonder: was he really the one? Also wondering is a former classmate named Ali Cray, a forensic psychologist with scars of her own. The pattern is the same, she says: a child called out to meet a friend. The friend is the bait, the Judas child, and is quickly killed. But the primary victim lives longer. . .until Christmas day.

This book was published in 1999. Yet it reads like a contemporary thriller. That’s because of the descriptive writing, well drawn characters and a story well ahead of its time.

The plot is full of suspense and lots of action. But where O’Connell really shines is in her portrayal of Gwen and Sadie, the little girls abducted. She nails this. The voices of these girls will stay in your head long after you’ve put this book down. Their courage and tenacity in the face of terrifying events is inspiring to watch unfold.

Look out for this book and this author – I suspect that her other novels are as good. Especially when you are in a second hand book store – this will be a far better option than the usual run of old David Baldaccis and James Pattersons, as good as they are.

A chilling and haunting 4 stars.

ISBN: 9780515125498

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

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Good Old Favourites #13

It is hard to believe that I've got to number 13 in this series without sharing this recipe. It really is a very good, very old, very easy favourite of ours. I think this is the book club recipe that everyone cooks, off by heart, all the time.

It's perfect for this time of year, especially if you have tomatoes or basil growing in your garden.

It's also fresh and healthy, and has such a delicious flavour. Enjoy.

Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes and Creme Fraiche

Olive Oil
4 chicken breasts
500g cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons (or more) creme fraiche
2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, torn
Black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pour oil into shallow ovenproof dish that can also go on the hob, and add chicken, coating in oil. Place cherry tomatoes around chicken and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until chicken is done. Place on hob and add creme fraiche. Allow to simmer. Stir in basil and pepper.
Serve with couscous, or wraps, or pasta.

Quicker version: Cut chicken into strips and fry in a pan lightly sprayed with nonstick oil, add cherry tomatoes, then continue.

This also works with salmon, instead of chicken.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Before I met You by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell has an engaging writing style.There is nothing contrived, and the words flow from her pen into my mind, creating the world she wants me to see. In this book, Betty moves to Soho in 1995. Her love for the place is infectious - I just wanted to go and stay with her. In parallel, we read of her (sort of ) grandmother, Arlette in the 1920s, Here, London was beautiful - there are gorgeous scenes where I could imagine the Paris writers, poets and artists from the Great Gatsby showing up. It was vivid and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then the characters started to do some strange things. Arlette was so rebellious and different, but then landed up “settling” in so many ways. Betty also let me down in small ways, but then everyone has flaws, I thought.

I started the last third of the book late at night. It really dragged. And the flick-flacking between 1920 and 1995 irritated me more at that point - it had been fine earlier, but the chapters seemed to shorten, so that you had hardly any plot development before the skip, which left me out of the story. I could have handled bigger chunks of information at a time, and the bittinesss was annoying.

Lastly, the “big reveal” was disappointing. Unusual for Lisa Jewell to let me down like this. Maybe I got tired, but I enjoyed her other books far more.

3 stars.


You may also enjoy The Girls by the same author, or The Lake House by Kate Morton.