Thursday 30 June 2016

That Darkness by Lisa Black

A body is found, and the Cleveland police force must work out who the young lady is, where the murder took place and why the body was left draped across a grave in a cemetery. Thanks to Maggie Gardiner, a junior forensic detective, most of their work is done for them. She cannot leave mysteries unsolved, questions unasked and detections undone, so her mind beavers away at things until everything makes sense.

They must also deal with the rising body count resulting from vigilante behaviour. Someone is taking advantage of his position on the inside to assist them in his way, and Maggie begins to suspect a serial killer.

The forensic details were masterfully handled - and I felt like I was in the room, scouring every paragraph for evidence. The interaction between the characters was great - amusing and light - which keeps you entertained.  A few elements of the plot were slightly concerning - most of these around the vigilante element - the why was not really dealt with. In addition, he had a great and important underlying mission (don’t they all?) which he only got to late in life and late in the book (why, other than it suited the plot?). This worried me.

Lots of action, a steady pace, dialogue galore and a few plot turns with interesting and unusual elements kept me enthralled, and my enjoyment level high, nevertheless.

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for an ARC to review. This in no way influenced my opinion or review of the book.

A solid three star read

ISBN: 9781496701886

You may also enjoy With our Blessing by Jo Spain or Icarus by Deon Meyer.

My Books of 2016 - so far.

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Different Class by Joanne Harris

It has been a while since I have read Joanne Harris – I loved Chocolat, and then devoured Coastliners. Her newest, is the third in a series, which are all ok to read alone. I haven't read Blueeyedboy or Gentlemen and Players.

Joanne Harris brings a strong  psychological aspect to all her stories, and this  one is no different. Set in St Oswald’s Grammar school, our unlikely sardonic hero, Latin master Roy Straitley, is close to retirement, when the school finds itself in difficulties. One of Straitley’s ex-pupils, Johnny Harrington is brought in to sweep clean, and revolutionize and energize the school. In his wake come email, powerpoint, and some interesting characters, who have no loyalty to the old school and its challenges. We wonder whether Straitley and all things old and traditional will survive the purge.

Through diary entries of a past pupil, we discover just how murky the waters under the proverbial bridge, back in 1988 are. The teachers and the pupils are hiding many secrets, as is the school. The contrast between the time span of only 20 or so years reveals how times have changed and so too have attitudes to gender issues, sexuality, corporal punishment, and the methods available to teachers to instil discipline in boys.

The tension mounts and nothing is as it seemed it was, or is. The revelations are chilling.

This is a dense novel, and thoroughly enjoyable. I think if I had read it on holiday I would have enjoyed it more. It was too complex to read late at night, and I found I either had to compromise on the detail, or go back and re-read large sections. In this busy day and age, that makes for a more challenging read. But that is my problem.

The writing style is superb – the voices of the characters completely distinct, eerily clever and sarcastic, and evoking memorable scenes and events that will stay with me for a long time.

A stunning 5 stars.

You may also enjoy Try not to Breathe by Holly Seddon.

ISBN: 9780385619233

Monday 27 June 2016

In the stillness

What are you singing today? What is getting you going this morning? We all need a little inspiration on a Monday. Or a lot. I need a lot.

The thing I love most about running in the mornings is the stillness, the quietness, the solitude. The outside is echoing with my inside as I run - I am calming, quieting, and de-stressing as I pound. 

Have you ever wondered where that sense of order in the chaos that is usually your mind comes from? Well it can be explained by the fact that you are exercising. Even if you aren't conscious of it, your brain is busy re-ordering, prioritizing and managing your life. Isn't that great?

Psalm 46:10 tells us to "Be still and know." That's kind of what I mean. But did you know there is another angle to this?

The command to "Be still" comes from the stem of the word "rapha", which means "to be weak, to let go, to release." In poetic contexts, the noun form of the word was used to refer to "the place of the dead." Read more here.

Dead is really quiet. The one place where we have relinquished control completely.

So let go as you exercise this morning. Give yourself completely to the moment. Embrace the tranquility. Breathe. Love. Live.

And the music? Well, it's gotta be James Bay's "Let it go." 

So come on, let it go
Just let it be
Why don't you be you
And I'll be me?
Everything that's broke
Leave it to the breeze
Why don't you be you
And I'll be me?
And I'll be me

Happy Monday, everyone. Let's get out there and do this.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Sunday Smile

I came late to the Brexit party. I started noticing that there was an increasing chance of it happening, and that's when I started to pay any attention. Not that I have a vote, or significant global assets (any assets, really) or other interests that would be impacted either way.

I really didn't expect Brexit to happen. Neither did most people, apparently. And in typical human fashion there is a huge overreaction by both the leavers, who no doubt will overplay their winning, and the remainers who will wax lyrical about how bad this is for the entire universe. And those like me, largely unaffected, who are wailing louder than everyone.

I am struggling with that. Sure, I realise that for some, the vote was for all the wrong reasons - concerns about immigration policy, needing more job security, ensuring that the value of business remained high, and so on. From my limited reading on the subject, isn't the heart of the matter that Britain has voted to have autonomy over itself, instead of being part of an EU that seems to be getting more dysfunctional by the day?

The result doesn't necessarily mean that Britain's policies on everything will automatically become diametrically opposed to the EU, it means they have the right to decide for themselves. And surely, in the long term, that isn't a bad thing. It also doesn't mean that Britain is speaking out for disunity, just independence. I get it.

That's all I  have to say for now. But I did find some funny clips. Because laughing at ourselves, whatever we believe, gives us perspective. And that's what we need right now. This first one has a language warning - set to music.

Of course, Buzzfeed went to the streets to find out whether Trump was scarier than Brexit.

But the funniest is this clip from "Yes Minister" of why Britain joined the EU in the first place.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, everyone!

Saturday 25 June 2016

Ten of the Best #51

I love doing this post. Whether it's late on a Friday evening, or early on a Saturday morning, I enjoy the stillness and quietness of the house, and going back through all my social media feeds, reading, listening, and finding the funny, the amusing, the entertaining and the make you think for a minute.

This week, as usual, there is too much to choose from. There was some good writing, some great pictures, the usual rhetoric from the US and our own farce in SA, and then the news that blew us all away - the leavers won the referendum, against all polls and predictors and David Cameron announced his resignation. So join me, as we peruse the best from my timeline, twitter and other social media feeds. You don't have to watch it all, just what takes your fancy. 

Grab your cup of tea, and let's begin.

The big local news is that Zuma's appeal against his corruption charges has been overturned, so at long last, he will face his corruption charges. Thank God for our judiciary. Click the Zapiro pic for the article.

I have this theory that I never watch, or share stuff from music TV reality shows. I may be a closet watcher, after all since this is the second of those posts in two weeks. Watch how Britain's Got Talent got flash mobbed. The fun starts at about 1.22. You can safely skip to that point, nothing remarkable happens before that.

Apparently people find reading incredibly sexy. Amen, preach it sister.

Parenting. Yes, that is a long sentence. We have to laugh....

And then we also cry...

Have you ever wondered why some people are more prone to mosquito bites than others? I have. Since a family member uses that fact to his advantage by, in the middle of the night, throwing his partner's arm over his body, if he hears that almost silent scream and doesn't want to get up. "It's protection," he says. Well here's why that works.

This next post is disturbing. It also carries a language warning. But that's not why it's disturbing. Violence against women and taking responsibility. This woman is mad. Angry mad. Sorry there isn't an image - I can't bring myself to Google "violence against women images"...

Michelle Marks is dead, Brock Turner is a rapist, & men are still blaming literally every single thing but themselves for their crimes against humanity

Ok, on to the 13 restaurants worth visiting in Johannesburg. For varying reasons. Happy to say, I can vouch for a number of these, but there are a few more on this list for me to try. Sorry about the corny picture, I'm in a bit of a mood now.

And the writing award goes to... Margaret Atwood. Good stuff, this. I need to read her books. 

The birds are tweeting, there is the occasional hoarse bark into the silence. My peace is about to be shattered, my cocoon of warmth stripped, as I prepare to take a daughter to an early Saturday morning exam. This should be banned. I'm getting back into bed as soon as I am back.

Let's sign out with the Bokke, while we can still call them that. And a moment. For last week. When they came from behind, and gloriously won. I was there, for my first ever live rugby test. It was amazing. It may not be so great today, but we live in hope. Go Bokke. The article says they're not Lions, but we all KNOW.

That's it folks. Enjoy the weekend, watch the rugby.

If you want last week's post, it's here.

And here're some more.

Friday 24 June 2016

Friday Books - Work like any other

On Fridays I participate in BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week's book-

Click the cover for the Goodreads blurb.

The electrical transformers that would one day kill George Haskin sat high on a pole about ten yards off the northeast corner of the farm where Roscoe T Martin lived with his family.

Here's my P56

He took hold of Roscoe's arm,  just above the elbow, firmly, the way Marie's father had at their wedding. "You know why I'm here?"
"Imagine it's about the electricity we have running in."
"That's the start of it."

I'm really not sure about this book. I've started it a couple of times, and not even got to page 56, so I hope I haven't shared a spoiler - I don't think so. 

The book has an ominous undertone, yet it's one of those that may take me a while to finish, and I am waiting for the right time. You know, when you feel like the weekend is a reading weekend - nothing else to do? I'm longing for one of those. Sigh. Not going to happen this weekend...

Tell me what you're reading, and I'll pay you a visit. 

Happy reading everyone.

Thursday 23 June 2016

The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh

Selena Cole is recently widowed, and a single mother to Heather (7) and Tara (3). She disappears, while the girls are in a playground, which leaves them traumatized.

She reappears late the next day, and has no recollection of what happened during her “missing hours”.

Finn and Leah are siblings. Both are on the police force and start investigating this, and another crime – the murder of a solicitor, Dominic Newell. Does the fact that Selena cannot account for her hours make her a prime suspect.

In the process of uncovering the truth, we are plunged into the world of “Kidnap and Ransom” – a fascinating observation of the psychology and negotiation that takes place when high profile people go missing and ransom money is demanded.

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Winter favourite - Butternut soup

I'm hauling out all my soupy ideas. The new rule is: "There must be soup in the fridge. At all times." Works for me this winter. Esepcially since I am trying to increase my vegetable intake.

This is an old favourite. Butternut soup. I first got the recipe from Kirsten, and have evolved it over the years into the following:

Butternut Soup

500g butternut, peeled and diced
Large knob of butter or coconut oil
Nutmeg and Masala curry powder - to your taste
Chicken Stock - about 1 litre, to cover butternut
250ml Fresh Cream (or use a tin of coconut cream to be healthier)
100ml milk

Melt the butter/oil in a soup pot, and add butternut. Sweat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. Stir/shake the pot so that the bottom pieces do not burn.

Add nutmeg - a generous sprinkle. Add masala - a well rounded teaspoon works for us. Add chicken stock (homemade is better - here's how) and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 50 minutes.

Use a stick blender to puree the soup. Stir in the cream and add enough milk to get to your desired consistency (or more if you have a lot of mouths to feed).

Other options are to add leeks and potatoes to the butternut, but we prefer the unadulterated version.


Tuesday 21 June 2016

The House by the Lake - A Story of Germany by Thomas Harding

A fascinating premise - the author's family lived in a house situated near a lake that was on the border between East and West Germany. Research on the people who lived there resulted in this story.

I started with great interest, and read with high enthusiasm. Unfortunately though, my level of enjoyment waned as I continued. This is no "story". "account" may be a better word. It reads like a text book on the inhabitants of the house. As such, one finds it very difficult to engage with the characters, or to care in any way what happens to them. I got a strong sense that this book will be of interest to the author and his family, and perhaps the neighbors, but other than that, maybe an historian interested in researching that area.

3 stars

You may like The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney - a story of the Vikings, but a fictional account.


Monday 20 June 2016

Music for your Monday

One of the things I love about our South African winters is, even though they can be viciously cold, in truth, the bursts of extreme chill, even wet, don't persist through the whole of winter.

Where I live, we had a few cold days last week, but that was followed by the mornings where you can (just) get away with going barefoot downstairs for the first cup of tea. Not unbearable.

This week, I plan to run/walk every day, and it looks like the weather may let me. And while I'm out, I;m going to be enjoying the nature around me. I love in a city suburb, so sometimes I have to look a little harder for the beauty, but it's always there - the colours, and the pretty pictures that the trees make on my way.

And the soundtrack? Well, since I'm already "Trippin' on skies, sippin' waterfalls" before I leave, I think Youth by Troye Sivan, don't you? 

There's also the "What if we run away?" line - a question I usually avoid on an Monday morning, but today it's ok, the sun is up, I am good to go, and I may even come back. It's going to be a good day.

Last week's music - Just like fire.

Happy pumping everyone.

Saturday 18 June 2016

Ten of the Best #50

Hello again. It's the middle of a long weekend, if you took leave on Friday. Or the weekend is here only two days after a holiday if you didn't. Either way, it's been a good week.

A very good week, in my case. No time for Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram. So here's a little catch up for you and me. The best posts of the week on our time lines, as per all my friends. Hope you find something fun.

There were many political posts this week, Either about the EFF's Julius, or more on how Zuma has lost the plot. But, IMO, Cheryl Carolus said it best. Watch here.

Thursday 16 June 2016

The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney

Goodreads Blurb:
'You need not take England without me, Hari, because I will be your constant queen - there with you; there for you.' Elizaveta is princess of Kiev, but that doesn't stop her chasing adventure. Defying conventions, she rides the rapids of the Dneiper alongside her royal brothers and longs to rule in her own right as a queen. Elizaveta meets her match when the fearsome Viking warrior Harald Hardrada arrives at her father's court seeking fame and fortune. He entrusts Elizaveta to be his treasure keeper, holding the keys to his ever-growing wealth - and eventually to his heart. Theirs is a fierce romance and the strength of their love binds them together as they travel across the vast seas to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. In 1066, their ambition carries them to Orkney as they plan to invade England and claim the crown ...The Constant Queen is a powerful, absorbing novel which tells the story of a daring Viking warrior, his forgotten queen and a love that almost changed the course of history.

Someone should research how much good reviews are related to a book's delivery on expectations. I know the answer for mine. If a book claims to be "a gripping thriller" and isn't gripping, or is about a  book seller making recommendations on a houseboat in France, that turns out to be a nice love story, not much books, there is an automatic "less one star" - like a penalty for late homework.

This book is not like that - the description above is exactly what you get in this powerful, not-often explored part of history.

Part two of a trilogy being told of three Viking queens, this can be read before the first. (Historical books are always ok to read out of order - the spoilers exist if you know any history.) I particularly enjoyed the fact that the battles were not long, drawn-out detailed accounts, but dramatic re-enactments, succinct and more powerful that way. But if you like the detailed war scenes, and not intricate relationships, vividly illustrated, this is not a book for you.

The story of how Elizaveta and Viking warrior Harald met, wed and adventured is amazing. What I loved was how Joanna Courtney gave them personalities. This, together with the rich detailed setting and thorough research of all the many interesting characters and ways of life make for a wonderful journey.

This is not a light easy read, but it is enchanting, enthralling and an enriching experience.

Bravo, Joanna Courtney for giving us permission to be done with the Tudors, and for bringing out the sexy Vikings.

4 stars

ISBN: 9781447281962

More reviews

Wednesday 15 June 2016

A soup idea

I keep saying I'm done with recipes - all of them are up and on my blog. Then I find one more, that I have to share.

We are loving soups. It's getting chilly, and there is nothing better than a bowl of warm tastiness to enjoy on a wintry afternoon.

Here's one you may not have heard of. I first tried it when I had a home group, about 15 years ago, at my house, and someone made it for us and then guess what was in it. We did, eventually, after a number of false attempts - potato, sweet potato, onions, apple, we finally settled on PEARS. And it was, with watercress, which no one guessed. And it's so easy.

I made it again, and was surprised that it was even nicer than I remembered. Sweeter too. So next time, I think I may use stock, instead of water. But this is hands down the easiest soup you will ever make in your life.

Four things. Pears, watercress, water, black pepper. 

Boil, for about 40 minutes and then blend. Serve hot or cold. I used about 5 pears and two large bags of watercress, and enough water to only just cover them, but make to your taste.

Its a pleasure, enjoy. 

As a variation, use stock instead of water,  add onions, or leeks. And add cream or coconut milk for a treat.

Add homemade rolls.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

See how they Run - Tom Bale

"In the dead of night, new parents Alice and Harry French are plunged into their worst nightmare when they wake to find masked men in their bedroom. Men ruthless enough to threaten their baby daughter, Evie. "

This is touted as "The Gripping Thriller that Everyone is talking about". In fact every time I opened it on Kindle, that popped up - as part of the title of the book. Annoying, somewhat.

A quick Google search did not reveal this as one that EVERYONE is talking about. It wasn't on any best seller list that I could see. Twitter shows that the online book sales are doing well. Goodreads shows a decent number of reviews, and most people seemed to love it - average rating above 4 stars, so maybe it's me. And maybe those are all the people talking about it.
Am I being a little cynical if I say that the high rating could be because it is relatively inexpensive on Kindle?

The author is described as "a nice bloke". I admire authors, and I do realise how difficult it is to promote books, and how authors don't make much money from writing novels.

The book is good. It is gripping, and exciting. It isn't particularly well written. The characters are a little flat, and one dimensional. The action and the plot are great - moving quickly through the countryside with turns and twists, and never knowing who you can trust. Not that I cared all that much. However, when the dastardly motives are revealed, the details are a little sketchy, and the whole experience fell a little flat for me. 

Since it isn't available in print in SA, please will someone buy a Kindle version, and disagree with me? At least SOMEONE I know will be talking about it.

It is certainly a "value for money" read. Goodness knows there are precious few of those around these days. 

I would love it if this book did become the next "Gone Girl" and prove me wrong. At least we could buy it and read it in book club.

3 stars

You may also enjoy Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen, or Lee Child's Die Trying

Monday 13 June 2016

Just like a movie

This is a weekly post with a music clip to inspire us to get up and out.

Here's my disclaimer:  I'm not going out today. It's 4 degrees. It's raining. And I have an early meeting. So the walking/running isn't going to happen. Not today. But I will go tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

I'm not going to let that stop me from picking a song for our day, however.

Adele is a superstar, and her "When we were Young" is a favourite of mine. Let's face it, it's not going to make it onto a running playlist, so it's perfect for today. Duvets, coffee and mellow music.

That silky scratchy voice is most gorgeous at about 1 minute in, when she starts, and drops so deep, and soars seconds later. Wonderful.

The song inspires me because it's a love song that reminds us to capture every moment that life gives us, enjoy it to the full and make it unforgettable.

So if you are exercising, because it's fine to do so in your part of the world, make it memorable today. Go longer, stronger, better than you have before. Take a friend - a two legged or a furry one. Make it "just like a movie, just like a song." 

YOLO, after all.

I especially like this version - at the Church studios.

Here's a link to last week's Monday Music.

Saturday 11 June 2016

Ten of the Best #49

Welcome to the weekend. Party time! It's going to be celebration after party after feasting and having a blast.

And then there will be an after party after the party. I can't wait. Although a tiny part of me is exhausted already, and wants to crawl into bed with a book. It has been that kind of week. Too many reasons to celebrate. So we will.

But there is a little gap this morning. Time to appreciate the stillness of the morning, the quietness before the madness, and of course, catch up on social media. 

Every week I get worse. I find if I'm on my phone all the time, I just can't get to living real life, which is far better. So I limit myself. I save things for later, collect them in one spot and have a binge on a Saturday morning, when the coffee is hot, and the wifi speed at its fastest. I'm convinced that it is because the teenagers are asleep, finally.

Here we go - the ten of the best of what I saw this week.

Earlier this week, Richard Poplak wrote about 

The meaningless, monstrous ANC GP manifesto non-launch