Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is the queen of every enchanting world created in a childhood. Like the fairy godmother, who oversees and directs it all, she weaves her poetic spells over all of us and we escape from our reality into otherworldly forests, bursting with elves, pixies, magic mushrooms and also sometimes demons and witches.

The Story Sisters are Elv, Claire and Meg. They speak Arnelle, which only they understand (of course). They live with their mother, Annie, who is divorced and visit their grandmother in Paris.

The demons that cling to these girls as they grow into women are fierce, and the ghosts of the past that will haunt them forever are tragic and have desperate consequences. That makes this magic darker than usual, and the outcomes necessarily more sad than I would want for my heroines.

Nevertheless, the threads weaving this tale into a believable whole are the beautiful, evolving relationships - sisters, mothers, boyfriends and lovers. This is so well done, it's captivating.

I enjoyed the Story Sisters' story, dark and twisted though it was.

3 stars

ISBN: 9780307393869

You may also enjoy The Rules of Magic by the same author, or what about The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle?

Monday 28 May 2018


Good morning. Hope I  haven't missed your run this week. 

I was wondering what words to use today to inspire us all to greater exercise achievements - and also just to get us out of bed. I was thinking of all the wonderful things about this morning - the almost perfect weather - crisp and clean, with just a touch of cold that you burn off, only if the pace is brisk enough, which is always a very good thing. 

And then there's the fact that it's the first day of a new week - a whole new opportunity to hit the ground the right way. Yes of course I mean running, I always do.  

And let's not forget the colours - there are red trees, yellow trees, brown trees, orange trees, grey trees, even some green ones. They're so lovely, sweeping the sky with their upward reach, and if you look up, which we do, often, it's a painting, with the deep blue sky making the edges of each leaf look more defined - as if every single one matters so much before it falls to the ground to crunch at our feet.

We live in a wonderful world. And today, well we can go anywhere. And that's our song.

Time flies by when the night is young
Daylight shines on an unexposed location, location
Bloodshot eyes lookin' for the sun
Paradise we live it, and we call it a vacation, vacation
You're painting me a dream that I
Wouldn't belong in, wouldn't belong in
Over the hills and far away
A million miles from L.A
Just anywhere away with you
I know we've got to get away
Someplace where no one knows our name
We'll find the start of something new
Just take me anywhere, take me anywhere
Anywhere away with you
Just take me anywhere, take me anywhere
Anywhere away with you

Yes it's Rita Ora. Hope you enjoy it.

Come away with us today - let your feet pound that pavement and feel all that goodness.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Ten of the Best #118

Hello and happy weekend everyone. 

Here are some of the fun things I found on your time lines this week, so we all get to watch over the weekend. Thanks for sharing, and sorry this post is later than usual - I had a busy end to my week.

Bad lip reading - the other take on the Royal Wedding.

"I’d love to sum this up with a rainbow-and-butterfly sentiment about how this journey has enriched my life and brought me peace. But the truth is, it’s hell making the decision to speak out, and it’s hell after the decision has been made. That said, I will never regret telling the truth", so says Rebecca Corry. Honest and true.

Jonathan Jansen weighed in on the Ashwin Willemse incident, making it a teaching moment. Funny, that.

Friday 25 May 2018

Book Club Books #1 2018

And here we are, looking for books for Book Club. In this post, you'll find some of my favourite reads over the last few months, and if you click the covers, you'll get my reviews. Click the back button to come back for more.

I really hope you find something you like.

We'll start with the popular choice. Before We Were Yours seems to be a favourite of many of my friends. It's historical fiction, but my personal best kind - where a story that hasn't really been made popular or well understood, is blown open, and you find yourself googling the details, just to find out what's true and what's not.

Confronting issues like adoption, foster child care and kidnapping - and some fraud and deception thrown in. This is not Lisa Wingate's first novel, and it's a stunner. 

My Sister's Bones is about Kate Rafter. She is a reporter in a war zone. Until she returns home and finds that the realities she must face there are more devastating than anything she's seen in Syria, or anywhere, for that matter. They're also much more personal.

Thursday 24 May 2018

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Chapter One of this book is astounding. It's earth-shattering, heart-wrenching and I dare you to read it without a gasp, a tear or putting the book down to catch your breath. But then it's over, and although the rest of the book is beautifully written - lovely poetry and encouraging words, it doesn't quite measure up to the astonishing opening. 

A dare to live fully right where you are - it's kind of less a dare and more a helpful and encouraging guide. And by far the most encouraging and challenging thing here is that the author has practiced what she preaches and lives this daily. I find that remarkable - in the face of that degree of pain, for someone to respond as she does.

I'd recommend it for friends who've gone through pain (who hasn't?) and I'm probably going to reread parts of it - it is a lovely little companion and full of special moments. The anecdotes are well written and although I'm not big on advice books, the way this was crafted was not annoying, which is a special gift. I wouldn't give this to all of my friends, though - some of them may throw it against a wall, or worse, probably at me!


Tuesday 22 May 2018

Before We were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Rill is so lucky. She lives on a boat. In Memphis in 1939. On the mighty Mississippi. But then one night, her Dad must take her Mom to hospital. Mom is having a baby, and Rill and her four brothers and sisters can't wait to meet him or her. Only they don't come back, and that's when the family's lives are changed forever.

Meanwhile in South Carolina, Avery Stafford, a federal prosecutor, about to marry her fiancé, thinks the only blight on her horizon is her father's illness. But he's getting better and their lives as a prominent political family are getting back to their privileged normality. Until something strange happens that involves Avery's grandma's bracelet. 

Based on so many true stories involving the infamous Georgia Tann, who was a director of the Tennessee Children's Home Society until 1950, this is intense.

Despite picking up this book only for the cover - it's so pretty, isn't it - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lisa Wingate writes well, but my overwhelming memories are of this powerful, tragic and unfair story. It eclipsed everything else - the writing style, characters, and even the uplifting parts were shadowed by the horror of the past.

Thank you Lisa Wingate for exposing a part of history that I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781787473102

You may also enjoy The Precious One by Marisa De Los Santos or Hum if you don't know the words by Bianca Marais.


Monday 21 May 2018

Rise and Shine

It's a beautiful day. Sun's up, coolness in the air from the rain last night, autumn leaves are glowing shades of fiery defiance everywhere and we're ready to go.

Photo credit - Sunel Veldtman

Gosh, it was easy to get out of bed this morning.

These are those very rare, very satisfying and never repeated days. When you don't need the post, the meme, the music, you just want to go and do it.

And that's why, for my Eastern Hemisphere friends, I missed it. The opportunity to inspire you to get up and shine today. Because tomorrow can not be this good. Hey, but my Western Hemisphere friends - I've made the deadline for some Monday Motivation. And this may work for my fellow exercisers tomorrow.

Anyhoo, what's done is done, what's run is run, and I hope you're as inspired as me to start the week on an exercising note. It's better than the couch. And this morning, I have to say, outside was far better than bed.

So what're we listening to? Well, since I've got all the Feels this morning, it's Calvin Harris. Don't listen too carefully to those lyrics. Just sing along with the obvious ones...

Enjoy your Monday, everyone!

Here's Last week's post - So now what?

Saturday 19 May 2018

Ten of the best #117

Hello world. It's a beautiful day in sunny SA, and I'm wondering if I'm going to finish this post before the urge to be in the sunshine beats the desire to share the best from my social media sites this week.

It's been an interesting week. The highlight of the week is trying to beat the white/gold or blue/black dress debate. Ellen unpacks it for us - Laurel or Yanny? What do you hear.

Here's the explanation. At this point, let me just add that Ellen is wrong. It's definitely Yanny. BTW, if you follow the story in the explanation clip, you'll understand that if a person hadn't heard Yanny for Laurel initially, we wouldn't even have this debate on our screens. And just imagine how much less wonderful our world would be, if that were the case.

The White House has a leaky staff. Trevor tells more.

Michelle Wolfe did the WHCD this year. (WHCD = White House Correspondent's Dinner, keep up). Here she shares some things with Seth Myers, who she used to work for.

Why we shouldn't be using plastic. Ever. I love the presentation of this National Geographic article and images.

The story of the picture. RIP Sam Nzima.

Kristen Stewart took off her shoes. At Cannes. Where there's a rule about ladies having to wear high heels to enter. Wait...Whaaaat? There's seriously a RULE? That's the story I want to hear.

Dear Teacher. This made me happy and sad.

Stephen King pulled a book from shelves, and now if you want a copy, it'll cost you $500, but he's ok with that. Here's the story.

I liked this - how to sell your product in stores. Make it GMO free, even if it was before...

That's ten. But if, like me, you feel the need for more, here's a long clip about the connection between Bruno Mars and Stravinsky, and a little musical sound history lesson. It's not only long, it's very drawn out. But fairly interesting.

There you go. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

Thursday 17 May 2018

Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West

The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies. 

There you go, the subtitle of the book is almost its review. Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist. He examines the world - well the observable features thereof - and how they relate to mathematics and physics. It's fascinating. Did you know, for instance, that there is a direct relationship between our body mass and our metabolic rate, and that this relationship is in the same scale for all species of animal life - from mouse to human to elephant? You can plot it on a chart. It explains how long each variety lives, on average, and how we all have the same number of heartbeats in a lifetime.

Can you explain why it's possible to live to, perhaps 120, but not 400? Mr. West can, and does in this book.

Here's a TED talk he did explaining how cities and corporations grow, the mathematical rate and why unlimited growth isn't possible. 

It's all very amazing, and possibly less complex than you may think. I thoroughly enjoyed the meandering journey.

Don't attempt it if you're not interested in the topic - it's detailed, and I'm sure you can find good videos and written articles explaining the concepts online.

5 stars


You may also enjoy The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

Libby and Jack are married and live in a beautiful home near the sea. They have a horrific accident, where Libby needs to be cut from the car, and is far more injured than Jack. That's when she realizes that other people - the police investigator in particular - think there's more to their story than meets the eye. Jack is a widower. His previously perfect wife, Eve, died before Libby met him. When Libby comes home to start to recover, she finds Eve's diaries, hidden mysteriously away and starts to read them. 

Told in Libby's and Eve's voices, this is an intriguing tale of marital bliss and marital angst. If you're asking the question - 'is my husband capable of offing me?', can you really trust him? But what if he isn't? And even if he isn't, do you still dare to live in the same house? The scene is set for a detection with extremely high emotional stakes, and I found I couldn't read quickly enough

I've read and loved Goodnight Beautiful by the same author recently. 

This one's great too, I'm going to hunt everything by Dorothy Koomson down.

ISBN: 9781455507146

You may also enjoy My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry or The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark and her life post-Will Traynor, part 2. For those of you who haven't read Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark is a pretty ordinary, if somewhat aimless and jobless person until she takes on the challenge of caring for Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. This changes her life completely, and it's the way Will torments her, talks her into greater things and won't settle for anything less than best when it come to her that makes that story and the one after what it was.

For those of you who love Louisa as much as I do, did, and probably will until she takes her last breath, this is a treat. For me, unexpected. (It's intimidating having to write a follow up to Me Before You, and must be even more so to follow After You). I thought that Louisa Clark was interesting, but it was her life with Will (and even just post-Will) that made me want to read about her. Yet the genius of Jojo shines here - there was more to tell, Lou's deeper than that - and I enjoyed finally moving on with her. And she's not that uninteresting either. Also we can't forget Ambulance Sam who we've met before, and Lou's new life in New York, amongst the wealthy and the very wealthy. 

Enough now, though. Thanks for the closure, we can all move on.

4 very enjoyable stars 


By the same author...

More Books.

Monday 14 May 2018

So now what?

Today's the day, people. We're getting into shape. We're running - so fast and so far that we may not even come back, and if we do, we'll be so fit and fired and lit that we'll actually run straight into tomorrow morning without even noticing. It is Monday, after all.

But...it's raining. And with that it's freezing cold. Oh Universe, when did you see my tiny heart beating with righteous desire, and decide to just extinguish it with your cold ice-heart? Was it when I laid out my warm running clothes for today? Or was it when I shut my eyes early, so I'd wake up in time? We expected the cold, not the cold and the rain. Shoot.

So, what to do now?

Well stuff you all, we'll run on the treadmill at gym. With all the other pumped up and active people. We don't care, we're doing this, cold rain, sweat and tears.

And the music? Yes, we need the music. So today, it's this song. Please don't ask me what it means, I don't have a friggin clue. But it's catchy, the dance moves make me want to try them - no, not on the treadmill - (not ever, my daughters will say), and it made me smile. It's Christine and the Queens with  Tilted. Because music has its own language. And clearly, I speak this one.

And no, I've never been "doing my face with magic marker" either. Let me know if you've tried that?

Happy Monday, happy week.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Seeing What Others Don't by Gary Klein

Whenever Gary Klein read an interesting article - one that he was curious about, or that showcased the unusual, he stacked it in a pile on his desk. I can relate, I've done similar stacking projects in my life. The difference between Gary and me, is he remembered a) that he stacked b) why and then he analysed them and wrote this book.

And it was so interesting. Trying to show how humans  can develop insight - that unique ability to solve problems, create something out of nothing or think through complex outcomes, he developed a framework for thinking about insight - insight basically comes from three sources - 
  • "Finding an inconsistency" - something that doesn't make sense, a contradiction;
  • "A connection path"  - joining the dots,  or linking theories together to expand on previous knowledge
  • "Creative desperation" - when faced with extreme adversity, a whole new way of thinking is created.
He tells stories, explains how these theories were developed and also links to other work done in this field. It had me spellbound.

There are also other gems of information - how companies spend way too mųch time analysing sources of errors, instead of developing insight, which has a more significant impact on the business. 

Klein is the first to admit that 120 stories collected by him is not exactly a scientific method of analysing the difficult question of how insight arises, but because he has studied other works extensively, and also his experience as a consultant, this book is useful. It also is far easier to read than its counterparts - everyone loves good stories, and there are plenty here for dinner time conversation.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781610392518

You may also enjoy Richard Thaler's Misbehaving or The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach.

More books.

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Watch Me by Jody Gehrman

Kate Youngblood is a writer, a creative writing professor. But she's at risk of disappearing. Her husband left her for a newer, brighter model. But there is Sam. Sam Grist is a promising student, who needs nurture and direction. He's her challenge. But he wants more.

Is it creepy or romantic when someone watches your every move, notices everything about you and thinks it's all pretty perfect? Do you try to help, enjoy the attention, or run as fast as you can move?

Well,  none of the above matters if that person is your student, and you only have that job - your second novel tanked, so you cannot become involved with someone you teach. It ends.

And that's when your no seems not to count for anything.

I've been trawling bookshops for dark, twisty, psychological thrillers for a while now, and I think it's this book's fault. Jody Gehrman has nailed the questions around obsession and how we deal with it, and the dark side of our humanity. She's also got right inside Kate's head, in a way that sucked me in and had me gasping. Alternating between Kate and Sam's point of view, you go to some bad parts of both their lives. It's traumatic. It's always tempting to love (and understand) the villain more, but I adored Kate - I just got her, and felt her pain.

I couldn't get enough. I didn't want it to end, but I couldn't read it quickly enough. And I haven't read anything else like it.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781250144027

You may also enjoy Blacklands by Belinda Bauer. Or Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Brother by David Chariandy

Michael and Francis, brothers living in a community that is not well-off, on the outskirts of town, are the sons of an absent father and a other who has to overwork so that they can survive,  are struggling. They get in trouble, lots. 

They throw parties, play loud music, escape into the valley, pass out and start again. It's hard when you're up against prejudice from police and the rest of the town. Tragedy strikes, I don't want to spoil it, but life was never going to be easy here.

This is a beautifully written and constructed novel. It's hard to believe that so much can be said in so few pages. The characters are unforgettable and their relationships leap off the pages and into your neighbourhoods. It's vivid, emotional and a powerful story.

I was sad to finish this, and will look out for more from this author.

4 stars


You may also enjoy Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff or The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Saturday 5 May 2018

Ten of the Best #116

Good morning. Me again. I don't know if we have enough material for a Ten of the Best, since you guys have been boring on your social media feeds this week... Only joking, we did one of these on Tuesday, and it was so good, there may not be much good stuff left.  😃

First off - right here is partly why we live here. This week in PE. Click the pic for the video. Oh the glory.

Friday 4 May 2018

Friday Books - The Square and the Tower

Once upon a time I used to, on a Friday, check out other book bloggers' shares and enjoy excerpts from the books they were reading. 

But it's been so long, I wonder if they are still around? Let's see.

At Book Beginningshosted by Rose City Reader, you share the first line, and  a few thoughts about the book.

Today I'm featuring The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson. Here's the beginning.

Subtitled 'Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power', this is not the kind of book I usually read - but it was the closest to me, since I reviewed it yesterday, and it is one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

It's about towers (hierarchies - think royalty, corporate structure etc) and squares (as in Town Squares, not nerds - although...) - think places of connection like social media, where each contributor is created equal. It questions where the power resided through history and its fascinating.

Here's page 56.

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

It's certainly not a quick and easy read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't put it down, and it's also one I''m going to enjoy having on my shelf.

What are you reading this weekend?  Leave me a comment with what you're featuring and I'll check it out.

Thursday 3 May 2018

The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson

Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power’ is the subtitle of this history lesson, in which Niall Ferguson examines our societal structures for evidence of towers (hierarchies) and squares (networks) and where the power has been resident. Niall is a respected global professor and scholar and self-admitted networking historian - so eminently qualified to make these observations. The result is a fascinating, if sometimes long-winded journey through the Illuminati, the age of emperors and explorers, through to the Kissinger and Davos days culminating in FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) and the Trump era. The tome’s not short on details  - references are abundant.

It’s not a book you want to rush. Rather, you want to treat it like a lecture series and spread it out over months or weeks, grateful that there’s no final exam. There are also colour plates and illustrated network and hierarchy charts, which add to the richness and glory of the learning experience.

The author can also not resist a few little forecasts - what is history worth if you can’t use its data points to predict the lasting power of Trump Tower and Facebook’s ‘sprawling campus of open plan offices and play-areas’?

I loved it, and will be back for more from this author.

ISBN: 9780241298985

You may also enjoy The Black Swan by Nicholas Taleb or Mohamed El-Erian's The Only Game in Town.

5 stars

Wednesday 2 May 2018

Lasting Damage by Sophie Hannah

"It's 1.15 a.m. and Connie Bowskill should be asleep. Instead, she's logging on to a property website in search of a particular house. Soon Connie is clicking on the 'virtual tour' icon, keen to see the inside of 11 Bentley Grove and put her mind at rest once and for all. She finds herself looking at a scene from a nightmare!"

Now that's a great blurb - not too long, and no spoilers. It makes me happy, because I hate it when they tell you most of the plot on the back of the book. I've taken to not even reading them, ever.

And in this case, it's a great summary of the book too. Connie thinks she's gone mad, because what she sees is so shocking and unbelievable, and then - well, I'm not spoiling it either.

It's a pretty convoluted plot. Lots of characters and interactions that make for fast page turning. The characters were not that likeable, most of them a little strange, with even stranger relationships - but the book's subject matter is dark and very twisty, so I didn't really expect to love everyone in it.

But somehow it did sort of work. There was a high degree of cleverness in the story and resolution that I enjoyed. 

It may have been better too if this hadn't been my first Sophie Hannah - starting at #6 - that's not like me at all. I'll have to try some of her others too.

3 stars

ISBN: 9780340980682

You may also like The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy or Friend Request by Laura Marshall.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Ten of the Best #115

Good morning all the people. And yes, I'm aware that it isn't Saturday, and that I've blogged already this morning, but hey, there are no rules, right? It's May Day after all.

This is where we catch up on the social media that we haven't had time to read during a normal week, and bear with me, because it has been a while.

Today's funniest cartoon isn't a Zapiro. It's this one.

The funniest video of the week goes to Trevor Noah - on Trump's phoning Fox and Friends and we all got to hear.

In other news, it was the WHCD. Don't know what that was? Here's James Corden to explain...

The Plant Paradox by Steven R. Gundry

I’m a sucker for a new diet, or book on nutrition. And when I saw that this one was written by a doctor - a cardiac surgeon, mind you - I was impressed. 

Steven R.Gundry, MD unpacks The Plant Paradox, which in one line is that although plants are generally good for us, it’s the lectins produced by some plants that are, if not killing us, causing all our health problems - from asthma through heart-disease and obesity and even renal failure.

And then I read the book, and it sounded great - it’d work for me, especially with my health issues. I became more and more convinced that because of all the success stories, scientific explanations, and recipes at the back (yes, really - I know I’m strange, you don't have to tell me that) this was my long-searched-for answer. The eating plan that would work. For me.

I should have realised, I should have known. When I was trying to explain this new diet to my family and I found myself saying “I’m not explaining it that well, but the book does” and “I don't understand the science, but it makes sense.”

Why didn't I apply one of my life mottos - “Don’t trust what you can’t understand”?

Lucky for me, I did read some reviews, like T.Colin Campbell, and this one and a video over here. They all pointed out the obvious - a lot of the citations and quotations didn't make the points that the author was making, in fact they were saying the opposite, and that the peer reviewed papers were sometimes adverts in journals. Not that trust-inspiring, if you ask me. And now I must believe all that anecdotal ‘evidence’ too? Yeah right.

In retrospect, there were so many warning signs that I should have picked up on immediately…
  • He’s selling his own brand of supplements
  • He’s abandoned his ‘successful cardiac surgeon career’ to give eating advice full time
  • The style of writing - lots of exclamations, stuff like “It’s not your fault” and “what the health industry doesn't  know, because they haven't put all this information together” and the classic “`you try it and tell me it doesn't work.”
  • The foods that the whole world accepts as generally healthy - like tomatoes, cucumber and zucchini (marrows) are are on the “never touch with a barge pole” list.
  • The narrative of why these lectins are the enemy includes reference to the “fact” that plants don't want us to eat them, and they therefore wage war on us, by producing these evil ill-making substances that are gradually poisoning us.

In my defence, I haven't spent more than time on this one - I found it in the library, and it’ll be returned this week, so not that much harm done. Except, I still really really want to try the diet at the back of the book, to see if it works for me. EVEN THOUGH I KNOW THE BOOK IS RUBBISH. I want to be one of the people that said - “I tried it and felt so healthy and strong”. 

What’s wrong with me?

I need help.

Is there a book for that?

ISBN: 9780062427137

Some more books.