Wednesday 28 February 2018

Camino Island By John Grisham

John Grisham produces books as much as most of us have holidays - once or twice a year. That's a lot of books. And when his main writing style for so long was legal thrillers, we got used to the type of book. The formula worked, but after a while, maybe a little boring? With a few exceptions that we watched on the big screen too, they did blend into each other. So I think I've been (un)consciously avoiding them. At then end of a long reading holiday (i.e. a holiday on which one reads, NOT a holiday from reading - never), I found myself alone with this one, for various reasons.

What a pleasant surprise.

From Goodreads: "A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.

Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets."

If this sounds like fun, and not really legal at the heart of it, you'd be about right. I also found it quite compulsively page turning and had more than a few smiles and moments of reading pleasure. After all, John Grisham knows how to keep our interest.

It also manages to be warm and sweet as well as exciting and tense. I really enjoyed it - especially reading with the crashing waves in the background and the sun tingling my skin. Happy times.

4 stars

You may also enjoy The Racketeer by the same author. Or what about Anita Shreve's Fortune's Rocks - I loved that one.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

High Five by Janet Evanovich

From Goodreads

"Out of bail skippers and rent money, Stephanie throws caution to the wind and follows in the entrepreneurial bootsteps of Super Bounty Hunter, Ranger, engaging in morally correct and marginally legal enterprises. So, a scumball blows himself to smithereens on her first day of policing a crack house and the sheik she was chauffeuring stole the limo. But hey, nobody's perfect!"

Stephanie Plum is certainly not perfect. But this series is almost. I'm pacing myself, to prevent me tearing through, racing for the next juicy instalment. It's a bit like your family's favourite fast food place - something for everyone. Stephanie herself, a hot bounty hunter, who has bad hair days and bad car days (they get blown up). Hunky Joe Morelli who seems to be constantly shaking his head at Stephanie. Grandma Mazur, who supplies guns, funerals to socialise at and her own brand of feminism. And what's not to love about Stephanie's family, including Mom, who is always persuading various men to stay for dinner - when Stephanie's invited, all the cousins and extended family and of course the colleagues at the "office", who range in expertise from filing to helping Stephanie apprehend bail skippers.

It's good clean (ok not always) fun. And I'm lovin' it.

4 stars


Saturday 24 February 2018

Ten of the Best #113

Good morning everyone! And what a week it was. Isn't it great to be waking up on a Saturday knowing there is so much to catch up on. If your week was anything like mine, it was just too busy too keep up. No worries, here's the news, the funny and the fun that you missed. All in one place - if it was on my time lines this week, that is.

Let's start with the high drama of the week, shall we? Emma Gonzalez, the girl whose Trump tweet after the Parkland, Florida shooting went viral, helped organise a march. And she's mad. Click the meme, watch the speech - all of it, if you haven't yet. Then come back here for more news

And this is what Trump did. Apart from tweeting about bringing more guns in, of course.

And just in case we forgot about how a president should respond to these issues...Obama on taking away guns. Oh the sensible-ness of it all...

Meanwhile in SA, we are living on Rations of Ramaphosa. So much of hope. Take it easy, guys.

Here's some more. Apart from the walking, which I love - and that he's encouraging SA to get out there and do it, I think Mrs Ramaphosa is amazing. Yay.

"Ah – “skein”. This was my first meeting with the word. It looked strange then and it looks strange now. But I stomped off to ask Dad what it meant and so bent it to my will. It has not come in particularly useful since, but if you make usefulness your metric for life it will not be much of a life." I love Lucy Mangan's  writing - here she waxes lyrical about reading memories from childhood. Enjoy.

In other literary news, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is coming to the big screen. Yay! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that book. One for our new-found favourite thing to do on a week night, dear...

Ever wondered what those colours on the back of the toothpaste mean? Nah? Me neither. Well wonder no more, anyway. 

And some animal pics with cute renaming conventions....

We're signing out with my favourite moment from the Winter Olympics (so far). Everyone thought that Russian Evgenia Mevedeva had the figure skating in the bag. Here's the story (Olympics took down the video)

And then 15 yo also Russian Alina Zagitova took the gold. Amazing stuff. Watch that video before it gets taken down too. Editor's note - Guess what, they took it down. Why, why why? Here's a clip of the same routine, but not the Olympics. I know, it's not the same, but if I find and post a clip, what's the bet it's taken down again.

That's all from me this week, guys. Busy weekend ahead....hope you enjoy yours!

Happy happy.

Last week's Ten.

Friday 23 February 2018

Friday Books - Brother

Yay it's Friday. The weekend is upon us. On Fridays we hook up with other book bloggers and share excerpts from the books around us. 

We join Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Readerwhere you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

Today I'm featuring Brother by David Chariandy. Here's the beginning.

Although I love the writing, this opener feels a bit wrong to me. It really doesn't go with the rest of the book. It's hard to describe, but I have to say it feels a bit contrived. I'm not done yet, so maybe it'll make sense later, let's wait and see. But the writing is great, and so far I'm really enjoying it.

From Goodreads:

"With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home. 

Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry -- teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves. 

Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael's dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow."

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

See what I mean? How great is that? So relishing every page of this book about these two brothers on the wrong side of the tracks.

Happy reading this weekend  - leave me a comment with what you're featuring and I'll check it out.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Goodnight Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson

 Mal and Nova have been friends since childhood. They live on the same street. It doesn't matter which house they get their meals from, where they hang out or who walks who home, they are best friends. Their families look out for each other. So when we meet Nova, all grown up now, and realize her son, Leo is in a coma, fighting for his life - what happened? Nova's husband, Keith, is devastated.

If you read the blurb, you'll also discover that, in the meantime, when Mal's wife couldn't have a baby, and before Nova met Keith, Mal and Stephanie asked Nova to be a surrogate, and she agreed. Huh? How did that turn out?

So many questions, so many complicated relationships. As it turns out, so many secrets, and quite a number of lies.

Goodnight Beautiful is a love story. A dramatic, enchanting love story. Of love, loss and some tragedy and despair. 

Although my heart ached for a happy ending, it felt to me like these characters grew so big for Dorothy Koomson, that she couldn't make them do what she wanted. And I was strangely glad that she didn't. 

I loved this moving, provocative book. It was well-crafted, superbly written (first person accounts from Nova and Stephanie), and completely unputdownable.

And a bonus is, I've now found an author (thank you Heidi and book club) who I'm going to be looking out for everywhere - especially in the second hand bookshops I frequent. 

Lovely stuff.

5 stars

ISBN: 9780751539813

Some recommendations.

More books.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Yes please by Amy Poehler

When you're a stand-up comedy artist, have acted in a popular TV series, and you "take time off" to have some children, it's compulsory that you write a book, right?

This is so not that book.

Amy Poehler, of SNL and Parks and Recreation fame did do all those things - although I'm not sure about the time-off bit.

As I listened to the audiobook, which the author narrates, with a little help from Mom, Dad, Seth Myers and even Carol Burnett (and others), I initially found it a little creepy that Amy had built her own sound studio, with the express purpose of recording this audiobook. But as I continued reading, I realized that this woman oozes passion for everything she does. Whether it's coming up with a viral rap for Sarah Palin, or telling very funny, very relevant George Clooney jokes, this woman is not just invested in everything she does (the Palin skit was done within weeks of giving birth), she is also heck of a funny. If you want more, Bustle has summarised the clips here.

I dare you to read this book and not love this woman. She is feisty, fierce, vulnerable and smart. I loved all the little extras she put into the audible version, and when I picked up the written version, I was delighted to see she'd done the same - margin notes from friends, and photos and pictures galore.

I enjoyed every minute and laughed out loud every other minute. If you've got something you have been avoiding doing (like taking the hems up curtains, for instance), or a long dull road trip, this is guaranteed to make the hours fly by, and the boredom vanish.

A fabulous five stars.

ISBN: 9780062268341)

Another biography I enjoyed (narrated by the author) was Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking. Or what about Trevor Noah's self-narrated Born a Crime ?

Monday 19 February 2018

Lovin' it

Morning all. It's time for our run today. And since Valentine's Day wasn't that long ago, I thought I'd celebrate that famous l-word in the context of running today. 

Cos I'm really lovin' it.

It is my favourite part of my morning - the smiled greeting - we're really doing this, yes we are, come on, it won't be so bad, let's go.

The getting on the road and starting, even the breathlessness, the wanting to stop for every step of the first k, it's all good.

And then, the settling in, the forgetting that you're running, because it's such a beautiful day, and there's so much to enjoy - not least of all catching up with your running buddy.

After that, the hill that is nearly conquered - every day a little better, a little closer to running all the way to the top. 

The exhilaration of pushing yourself just that bit faster, further than yesterday, Feeling good-tired and that your body has achieved something special.

Of course the celebration - the cup of coffee, the smoothie, or even just the shower and the water that tastes so good. Didn't your day just get better?

What are you waiting for? Let's get out there and do this.

And the song, you ask? It's the perfect fit - Sia and David Guetta have re-released Helium - and it's funkier than the 50 shades version, and without all the connotations. I'm lovin' that too.

I'm trying but I keep falling down
I cry out but nothing comes now
I'm giving my all and I know peace will come
I never wanted to need someone

Yeah, I wanted to play tough
Thought I could do all just on my own
But even Superwoman
Sometimes needed Superman's soul

Help me out of this hell
Your love lifts me up like helium
Your love lifts me up when I'm down, down, down
When I've hit the ground
You're all I need

Happy running today. And everyday.

Saturday 17 February 2018

Ten of the Best #112

Good morning all you wonderful people. What a week it's been. So much has happened in this little country at the tip of Africa, and for the first time in years, we are waking up hopeful on a Saturday morning. It's a new day, a new dawn. #Sendme. Yes, I watched (and listened to - had to do a late lift) SONA. I'm inspired.

It made me think about this, first off . Jansen's article about bad leadership, example and education. Oh, and SONA, as it turns out - I'd forgotten that. The original article is on a site that you have log into (here's the link), so if that annoys you too, click the picture below, where I've reposted it, with no annoying login requests. Don't forget to come back here to read more.

And for all of you not living in the land of the beautiful and the brave, don't despair. You too can have a new President by Friday. Or Valentine's Day, as it turned out. Hope you didn't miss the Poplak article on how it all went down (language warning). Here it is, just click the marvellous Zapiro. Hasta la vista indeed.

And the end of an error it is too. What with the corrupt government ministers looking at their job opportunities going flying down the toilet at last night's SONA, where are our comedians going to find inspiration. Sorry for them, but not sorry enough. You'll find something.

Jansen's article on children, leadership and SONA

It's irritating me that I have to log in to read this, so I'm posting it here, for those of you who feel the same. Jonathan Jansen's article on children, leadership and SONA. Word for word. And no annoying ads.

It was the late Philip Jackson who gave us the term “hidden curriculum” to describe the things children learn, inside but also outside the classroom, that are neither planned nor intended.

The explicit curriculum contains official knowledge —teachers are required to teach the structure of the atom or the meanings of metaphors or the reasons for the Great Trek. But children learn much more than what is printed in the school syllabus or the government’s Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS).

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Girl Unknown by Karen Perry

From Goodreads: 'I think you might be my father . . .'

When first-year student Zoë Barry walks into Professor David Connolly's office and tentatively says these words, he is left reeling. But it is the lives of his family - particularly his wife Caroline - which are turned upside down by the arrival of this stranger.

A daughter, a sister, a friend . . . an enemy?

Though no one knows quite who Zoë is, she is soon entangled in their lives. Yet her stories don't ring true and Caroline is determined to learn if the girl is the unlucky innocent she claims to be or someone with a far darker agenda.

A deadly cuckoo in the nest . . .Because by letting Zoë in, David and Caroline aren't just leaving themselves vulnerable. They're risking the most precious thing in the world - the lives of their children . 

Karen Perry is the pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece. Both have written other books, and received some acclaim for their work. 

I started this book not knowing much of the above - I hardly ever read blurbs, and I didn't know much about the authors. It moved nicely and the writing style was pleasant. But as the plot unfolded, I started feeling irritated. It was just not working for me. The characters seemed contrived - even a little unnatural. They were interesting, but there wasn't enough background on Zoë. David was also annoying. Although he was the victim, I kept feeling he was getting exactly what he deserved. And then I felt guilty about that. Caroline could've been stronger, more deceptive. I kept reading, hoping the story would resolve and all would be redeemed.

But that ending. It was so bad. So very bad bad bad. There was no redemption. And it looked so promising. 

Two stars.

ISBN: 9781405920308


Tuesday 13 February 2018

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I've had a bit of a binge on the books I've wanted to read for a long long time. And this one didn't disappoint. Brave New World considers a whole different environment - one where everyone's happiness is paramount. 

How would you go about creating that? Well apart from lots of sex, recreational drugs and entertainment, you may just have to brainwash people too - you know, just in case they decided they wanted to be sad, with all that unadulterated joy available. Then they'd want what they achieved too, because they'd always wanted it. And oh, you'd need to decide early on who is going to do the menial labour - like street cleaning and window washing - and get those people to like doing that too. And while you're at it, better meddle with the genetics and make them a bit stupid too - don't want to waste good brains on that kind of work. They'll be happier that way.

Scared, a bit? You should be. It's eerie work this making people happy forever business. And then of course you do have to watch them - just a little - to make sure it keeps working. And then you notice that Bernard Marx is a little different. He doesn't seem to be accepting of his fate. Let's send him to the savages, where the world is as it was before - quite prehistoric - and he'll realise. Only he doesn't. He wants more.

I'd better stop. Or I'll spoil it. (Although it has been pointed out that spoiling a book that was written in 1932 is really not so bad - you should have found time by now to read it. I disagree - if you were only born in 1998, you may not yet have had the time, because you've been doing other stuff.) 

I'm glad I read this. It's happier in tone than George Orwell's 1984. But no less worrying. And it's almost as good (but not quite) as The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. You should try those, if you liked this one.

4 stars


Sunday 11 February 2018

Ten of the Best #111

Hello and happy weekend. Hope you're enjoying it, wherever you are.

For all the faraway friends, here's an update on our water woes. Yes, Cape Town is fighting back Day Zero, but actually, we all need to be a lottle more water conscious and water wise than we have been. And that goes for these 11 cities too.  Click Zapiro for the SA story.

And Helen Moffet gives us tips on her blog on just how to save water.

Don't panic everyone - Joburg has water, and an underground station - buried deep beneath Park Station. Fabulous.

Friday 9 February 2018

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

About a year ago, it seemed that every second book had the word "Girl" in the title. I think someone realised that if you did that, sales would increase by 50%. Well, I think that may work with "Sister" too. It certainly does for me. Whenever I pick up a book about sisters, I'm suckered. And My Sister's Bones  seemed particularly intriguing.

But I had to wait for the husband to read it first. He bought it after all. And then I grabbed it, and read it, engrossed. From cover to cover, this is enticing. 

Kate Rafter is the war reporter. She has lived through bomb blasts, raids, survived gunfire, and knows the breathless fear  - so well, it gives her nightmares. So when she returns to her mother's house, the scene of some childhood trauma for Kate and her sister, Sally and is woken by a deadly scream in the middle of the night, she knows it's for real. This isn't Syria anymore.

But where did it come from? And what is going on with her sister, Sally, who lives down the road?

This is dark, sinister, and has a ferocious ending. Ok, maybe that's a bit OTT, maybe I was ferocious by the time I got to the end? Or reading ferociously?

It's one heck of a read and I loved it.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780241978153

You may also enjoy The Confession by Jo Spain, or The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. Or what about Dead Scared by Sharon Bolton?


Friday Books - The Good House

On Fridays we hook up with other book admirers and share excerpts from the books around us. I haven't done this for a very long time,  so it's good to be back.

We join Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Readerwhere you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

Today I'm featuring The Good House by Ann Leary. Here's the beginning.

I don't know exactly why, but that opener drew me right in. I was hooked, and I couldn't hep thinking about how she does it. What a great start.

From Goodreads:

"Hildy Good has reached that dangerous time in a woman's life - middle-aged and divorced, she is an oddity in her small but privileged town. But Hildy isn't one for self-pity and instead meets the world with a wry smile, a dark wit and a glass or two of Pinot Noir. When her two earnest grown-up children stage 'an intervention' and pack Hildy off to an addiction centre, she thinks all this fuss is ridiculous. After all, why shouldn't Hildy enjoy a drink now and then?"

At Freda's Voice, you'll find the Friday56, where the excerpt comes from page 56 or 56% in your Kindle.

Isn't Wendy your favourite best friend? Everybody needs a friend who steals their listings. Especially in Wendover, where there aren't that many to start with.

I'm thoroughly enjoying this book. I'm slowly getting the feeling that when it was written in 2013, it was way ahead of its time. And that a number of more recent books, using similar ideas, have gone on to be much more famous. This may just be the original. Sorry - i know I'm being cryptic, but I don't want to give anything away. Read it, you'll see what I mean. And if you've read it - let me know if I'm onto something.

Enjoy your reading this weekend  - leave me a comment with what you're up to and I'll check it out.