Friday 29 September 2017

Friday Books - The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

For BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice this week, I'm featuring...

The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

Here's My Beginning..

This book is also called Beartown - that's the one that I've seen around online. Fortunately not read, because I would have been annoyed, had I read it, and then purchased this, thinking it was his latest, and I'd read it already.

I know authors call books different titles for different parts of the world - it seems in the US, Beartown won, whereas we get the UK title, which is The Scandal.

My Page 56

Here's the blurb-

"Beartown is a small town in a large Swedish forest.

For most of the year it is under a thick blanket of snow, experiencing the kind of cold and dark that brings people closer together - or pulls them apart.

Its isolation means that Beartown has been slowly shrinking with each passing year. But now the town is on the verge of an astonishing revival. Everyone can feel the excitement. Change is in the air and a bright new future is just around the corner.

Until the day it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act. It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who'll risk the future to see justice done. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear.

No one can stand by or stay silent. You're on one side or another.

Which side will you find yourself on?"

I enjoy Backman's writing - here's my review of A man called Ove, so I'm looking forward to this one.

What are you reading this weekend? 

Thursday 28 September 2017

Irresistible by Adam Alter

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

"I'm not hooked, it just makes my life easier with email on my phone." "I can stop anytime - I'd love a technology break." "It's more for work than anything else, I hardy ever check Facebook."

Oh for a penny for every time I heard that. Or as the author suggests, a dollar, in a jar, when you break whatever commitment you make in respect of device use, or social media overuse.

I listened to Adam Alter narrate the Audible version of this book, and really enjoyed it. I'm sure that if you read a lot of this type of work, this book doesn't offer much in the way of novel ideas.

But I found his non-judgemental approach to looking at addiction, if not revolutionary, refreshing. Because we don't have much in the way of historical studies in terms of assessing the impact of technology addiction, he makes reference to other addictions we know more about  - the Vietnam vets and heroin, for example. And alcoholism, and rats in mazes, and all that stuff. Looking at our technological habits through those lenses was revealing. 

It's pointless denying it. We are all more addicted than we'd like to be. And bottom line is, it's because someone is making money out of keeping it that way. Even if this book makes you think about a break - for a few hours, a day, a weekend, it's worth it, I think.

4 stars

You may also enjoy The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Furbach. Or The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Granola Bars - a bake and no bake version

I know - I haven't baked for ages. And really, for the sake of everyone's health, I shouldn't be. But what do you you do, when your daughter lives 900km away and wants healthy basked granola bars for breakfast?

You bake them, then you send them overnight, and then you blog about them.

Here's the recipe that worked well - I didn't do the topping. The original is here. And I should mention - minimalist works well for non-bakers like me.

And yes, I should have taken my own photos, but I forgot, don't hate me.

Mine looked a little more "rustic" than this.
  • 1 cup (90 g) rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup (30 g) raw slivered almonds (or sub sunflower seeds or other nut)
  • 1/4 cup (28 g) flaxseed meal
  • 2/3 cup (49 g) desiccated unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup (~ 5 dates or 35 g) chopped dates (or sub another sticky dried fruit)
  • 2 Tbsp (32 g) almond butter (or another nut or seed butter)
  • 2 Tbsp (45 g) melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup (or sub brown rice syrup for a less sweet bar)

  • FOR TOPPING optional
    • 1/2 cup (60 g) chopped vegan dark chocolate
    • 1 Tbsp (15 g) coconut oil
    • 1 tsp sea salt or hemp seeds

    What To Do:
    1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and bake almonds and oats for 10-15 minutes or until slightly toasted. Not  too brown, just slightly toasted for more flavor. Reduce oven heat to 160 degrees.
    2. Combine flaxseed meal, desiccated coconut, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl.
    3. Once oats and almonds are toasted, add to the mixing bowl along with chopped dates, and stir.
    4. Add almond butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup to a small saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Then remove from heat and immediately add to the oats, mixing thoroughly to disperse all ingredients evenly.
    5. Press into a  baking tray, using a flat measuring spoon to flatten completely.
    6. Bake at 160 degrees  for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan. 
    7. Lift out of the pan and slice into desired number of bars. 
    8. Optional: Melt dark chocolate and coconut oil in a small mixing bowl in the microwave or over a double boiler on the stovetop. Spoon a small amount over the bars in a drizzle pattern or cover half of the bar with chocolate. Top with sea salt or hemp seeds.
    9. Once bars have dried/cooled, store covered at room temperature for 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.

    There's another good "no bake" version here.

    Let's hope the hungry students enjoy them, and that next time I find the recipe easily. 

    Tuesday 26 September 2017

    The Radium Girls

    Subtitled  "the Dark Story of America's Shining Women", the title is sufficient to spark fear - of content, of just how shocking this story can be, of more abuse against women. You get the picture.

    I've read quite a dose of non-fiction lately, and this stands out.

    It's not that difficult to read. Ok, some reviewers have commented that it's not a quick and easy read, and it isn't. Reading about radium poisoning was always going to be an experience for which you wanted some interruptions. But I loved the way that Kate Moore personalised these stories. She owned each one. It felt like she had tea with them, their families, their neighbours, and she understood the inflections, the uniqueness of each powerful story, and most importantly, the character of the woman who should have been alive to tell it herself.

    As should be the case with a good historical account too, you should learn something about what you're reading. I hadn't realised that not only was radium not considered dangerous in those times - it was only good for you - the green juice of the times, as it were.

    I couldn't read enough of these women's powerful stories, I couldn't put the book down, and I was enthralled in every minute.

    ISBN: 9781492649359
    4 stars
    You may also enjoy Hidden Figures by Margot Shatterly or what about Difficult Women, by Roxanne Gay?


    Friday 8 September 2017

    Friday Books - Blood Sisters

    For BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice this week, I'm featuring...

    Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

    Here's My Beginning..

    Alison is cutting some glass. She's an artist, now. 15 years ago, she was one of the three little girls in the accident. One died.

    My Page 56

    Kitty was also involved in the accident 15 years ago. She cannot speak anymore, but we can hear her thoughts. She doesn't remember names, hence "Very Thin Carer", "Smiley Carer", "Tea Trolley Lady", "Bossy Supervisor", and so on. 

    Blood Sisters flips between Alison and Kitty's accounts.

    I loved this book. It was funny, scary and I couldn't stop reading it. Here's my review.

    What are you reading this weekend? 

    Thursday 7 September 2017

    The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach

    Goodreads Blurb

    "Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don't even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in the people and things around us. We're constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads: in our bodies, our environment, our possessions, and the community with which we interact--and usually we don't even realize we're doing it."

    An Audible listen, this book was very interesting. Starting with studies on how little detailed understanding we have of things like toilets, zippers and other every day objects. it then moved to the fascinating observation that, despite this, we rate ourselves "experts" on most things. When asked to explain, few can, and when asked to explain in a "cause and effect" manner, we usually realise our deficiency.

    There were many studies and anecdotes punctuating such observations. Most of them jaw dropping  - like the "facts" about the world that so few people got correct. 

    Page 172 "Public opinion is more extreme than people's understanding justifies. Americans who most strongly supported military intervention in the Ukraine in 2014 were the ones least able to identify the Ukraine's location on a map...Apparently, the fact that a strong majority of people has some preference does not mean that their opinion is informed. As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding. They often emerge in the absence of understanding." 

    The authors then go on to talk about how recognising our lack of knowledge and understanding can lead to better decisions. And then - more scarily - how often if we have strong emotions about things, we are even more inclined to believe errors, and when corrected, or probed, less likely to change our beliefs, even when confronted with contradictory evidence.

    Page 192 "We had hoped that shattering the illusion of understanding would make people more curious and more open to new information about the topic at hand. This is not what we have found. If anything, people are less inclined to seek new information after finding out that they were wrong. Causal explanation is an effective way to shatter the illusion, but people don't like having their illusion shattered. In the words of Voltaire: 'Illusion is the first of all pleasures.' Shattering an illusion can cause people to disengage. People like to feel successful, not incompetent."

    Nothing about this collection is brand new. Yet how it was constructed had me thinking about the impact of this way of thinking on hard to solve  societal problems.

    I enjoyed the process.

    ISBN: 9780399184352

    You may also enjoy Misbehaving by Richard Thaler or The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.

    More Books

    Tuesday 5 September 2017

    The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

    We stumble into The Music Shop in the 1980s - it’s a bit like the wardrobe in Narnia, the ring in Lord of the Rings. By the worn carpet, the crackle of the needle on the LP, the sponginess of the headphones on our ears, we are transported to another place, where things are just, well, nicer.

    Frank, with his uncanny knack for finding music that will heal your soul, runs the place, and is a stubborn vinyl supporter - to his own detriment, when CDs are arriving with all their practicality and none of vinyl’s charm. Crazy Kit assists, with his love for exclamation marks and badly constructed “advertising”. Maud, a quiet tattoo artist works down the drag, with the Williams brothers, who run a funeral parlour. Mr Novak, the baker and Father Anthony who has a shop filled with religious paraphernalia also pop in from time to time.

    Into this weird world filled with whacky way out people walks green-clad Ilse Brauchmann, who promptly faints outside, throwing them all into a bit of a quandary, especially Frank, who falls in love.

    Rachel Joyce, famous for the acclaim created with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, has done her music homework. The notes soar high and clear, and you’ll enjoy this whimsical, nostalgic novel with its almost fantasy-feel. You’ll never believe it, but you probably won’t mind.

    5 stars


    You may also enjoy Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman, or for something a little different, what about The Nix by Nathan Hill?

    Some more books.


    Monday 4 September 2017

    We are young

    I was thinking about friends this morning when I woke up. You know, those people who are supposed to be there for each other through thick and thin, encourage each other to do the right thing - like exercise and eat healthily. But more often than not, when together we drink too much, party too hard, and let each other down in the morning. Which can also be part of the fun.

    I'm definitely running this morning. But before I go - a shout out to my friends and the endless discussions about how we're going to get fitter, stronger, and eat better. Don't forget your green smoothies, and I want to know you're also making healthy choices this week.  😜 I'll be confessing all my unhealthy choices to my running buddy as I go.

    There's only one song on my mind on this topic today. It's Fun. We are Young.

    Because even though we can get fitter, and eat better, and reduce our Discovery ages by another year - if we do, we will never be younger than the actual age we are today.  And that, my friends is the best reason to get right out of bed and get on that track. Let's do this.

    "But between the drinks and subtle things, the holes in my apologies
    You know I'm trying hard to take it back
    So if by the time the bar closes
    And you feel like falling down
    I'll carry you home

    We are young
    So let's set the world on fire
    We can burn brighter
    Than the sun
    We are young
    So let's set the world on fire
    We can burn brighter
    Than the sun"

    Here's the Pentatonix version.

    And for those sticklers for the original version...

    Happy Monday, happy week.


    Friday 1 September 2017

    Friday Books - The Secrets She Keeps

    Happy Friday everyone. 

    Friday fun is finding books on 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. We get to share excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

    This week, I'm featuring

    The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

    Here's My Beginning..

    Anyone agree with me that this is reminiscent of Girl on The Train? Sounds like Agatha (the heading of the chapter) is kind of watching Meg, In a creepy way. I haven't got more than a few pages in, so I could be completely wrong, but that's the feeling I get from those lines.

    My Page 56

    You can be thankful I've spared you the next line - it got more descriptive, and ended with a "You're  disgusting." I didn't want to offend any visitors - besides I think that's bad enough. 

    What are you reading this weekend?