Saturday 30 June 2018

Ten of the Best #123

Good morning everyone! Here's to a fabulous weekend. It's sure to be, if you start here, catching up on what you missed on social media.

Click on the pictures for the links, and come back for more.

Seen it? Keep scrolling...

Trevor Noah on the Sarah Huckabee Sanders incident - where she was asked to leave a restaurant. Whatever happened to tolerance? Indeed.

Just one more reason to LOVE Susan Sarandon.

This shocked me. Elizabeth Warren isn't a reporter, or a journalist. She is a US senator from Massachusetts.

I read this the other day, and found it disturbing - anyone else? Whatever happened to the student activism at Rhodes?

Cracked vases, broken families, changed stories and restoration. I love the quote - "Feel the fear and take action anyway".

Jamie, the very worst missionary on what being a missionary really is. And what it isn't.

I love these photos  - 'through the lens  of David Goldblatt', who passed away earlier this month.

You Woke? Tracey Ullman does her thing. 

Ed Sheeran performed at Wembley. and when he got to this song, you'll never guess who he called on stage. Yes - Andrea Bocelli. Marvellous.

And here's the Tweet of the week. Yes, of course it's about a cat. There's no link.

That's your Ten. We'll sign out with a heart warmer, though. Katie got married. She's 23, and she already has 13 daughters. Before getting married. Scandalous. And beautiful.

Have a fun weekend, everyone.

Friday 29 June 2018

Friday Books - The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

It's usually great fun on a Friday to check out other book bloggers' shares and enjoy quotes from the books they are reading. 

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

Today I'm featuring The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Here's the beginning.

This doesn't get you into the book, but the start is basically a family - Mom, Dad and Leni, relocating to Alaska. It's Leni's countless school change, and she's done done done. That's relevant for the Friday56...

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

Here's page 56.

I'm only this far into the book, and enjoying it so far. What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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

Thursday 28 June 2018

Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn

Part of the series, The Empress of Rome. Book 2 in fact, although chronologically this one's first, and you don't have to read them in order. I'm tearing through - Empress of the Seven Hills is next.

The period in history here is the year of Four Emperors. Yet the novel starts with the four Cornelias - Cornelia, Lollia, Diana and Marcella. They're all so different, such distinct characters, with passions for everything from wealth to slaves, to horses and history.

It's a violent time, Emperors not being elected for their 'soft skills', but instead for being wily, on the right side and mostly, not getting killed in the fray.

Ms. Quinn brings the drama to the forefront. You'll find yourself tearing through Roman amphitheatres and fora, running like a slave girl to the next meeting place,  stopping for a drink at the marble fountain, to find it's filled with wine for the evening festivities. It's that kind of book. History has never been more fun, nor more riveting. The purists may prefer a little more seriousness for their dip into the past, but this is my cup of tea. Tell me the gossip about who is likely to overthrow whom while I'm enjoying my visit to the baths, on my way to meet with some other conspirators - in secret, of course.

The pace is dramatic and there are almost too many events to fit into a single novel, never mind a single year. 

A well-written, engaging story.

4 stars

You may also enjoy Mistress of Rome, also by Kate Quinn. Or what about Robert Harris's Imperium?

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Richard is arrogant, opinionated, selfish and the type of person nobody should marry. He's also a successful concert pianist - playing all the great venues and classical gigs across the world. No mean feat. He met and fell in love with Karina in college, and she with him, and they have a daughter, Grace. In typical fashion of the times, Karina - the more talented according to all their professors -  sacrificed her potential future, her playing, everything. She taught a few students to keep busy, and also kept flexible for the sake of Richard's career. They're now divorced, Grace is in college and he's moved on, Karina not so much. Until he gets ALS. The ice-bucket disease.

"An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next."

And that's the BLURB, people.

We all know Lisa Genova can write about facing down horrific diseases as if she had experienced them herself - if we haven't read Still Alice, we've seen the movie. But this book was outstanding not only for that aspect, and for all the musical references, which I loved, and couldn't get enough of. It was the personalities. Richard didn't suddenly become someone he hadn't been, just because he was now ill. It was interesting contrasting his unwilling sacrifices with Karina's, and seeing this horrid, awful disease change both of their lives. We also meet Bill, the humorous and gay carer, who is angelic and naughty as hell, and a complete delight.

And in the blubbering, soggy, heart-wrenching mess that I became at the end of this book, I realised I'd learned -not only about devastating ALS, but also about relationships, forgiveness, love and mercy. Because no one deserves ALS, or to love someone who gets it.

5 stars


You may also enjoy Still Alice by Lisa Genova or The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

West Cork by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde

Sophie Toscan du Plantier (left)
 (28 July 1957 – 23 December 1996) was a French producer of arts programmes for television beaten to death outside her holiday home near Toormore, SchullCounty Cork, Ireland on the night of 23 December 1996. She was the wife of another film producer, Daniel Toscan du Plantier.

We are told from the start that this investigation remains a mystery; that there is a chief suspect - Ian Bailey (below), but that there is not enough evidence and despite being arrested, and having no plans to go to France, because of an extradition order and a trial being held there in his absence,  he remains at large.

Investigative journalist, Sam Bungey, and documentarian, Jennifer Forde, tell the story, now that your antennae are on full alert - maybe you'll figure this out. But alas, this is the story of a bungled crime scene and a police department who fails to get any significant answers or information.

And unfortunately, neither does this podcast. The only things we learn are more about Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas, his loyal partner, what they do and what they think, as they make themselves available for interviews. There are also some villagers who do the same, although what they know and recollect is not that much. The phone transcripts found in the police records also shed no light.

Did anyone  else wonder, like me, why there were only very limited interviews with the family in France - Sophie's husband, who grieves his wife; her parents, who make an annual trip to West Cork, to hold mass and appeal for justice for Sophie; and Sophie's son, who has vowed to keep the family investigation open until justice for his mother has been found? Surely finding out more about the victim would assist in knowing who may be responsible for her murder? A trip to France and in-depth conversations with Sophie's extended family and friends would have told us so much more about her.

In latest news (The Independent May 2018), Ian Bailey has asked for the French papers of the trial, and raised a ruckus that there was 'alien DNA' at the scene. Apparently this was never followed up either.

A disappointing podcast. A story that should revolve around a young woman and her murder, somehow hijacked by a man who maybe did it. Bizarre. I enjoyed the style of the presenting and the accents, and the alternating voices, but it went nowhere, and left me feeling that although I had spent no money (it was free on Audible for a while) it had wasted my time.

2 stars

Some books to read.

Monday 25 June 2018

This is us

Good morning, fellow fitness fanatics. And also the not-so-fanatical, but those willing to be inspired to do a little bit more than yesterday. To be a little fitter, maybe faster and definitely stronger and healthier. You inspire me.

Seriously - last week's post (This is me) encouraged at least one friend to walk when she wasn't going to, and another sent me pictures of his morning walk - and they were beautiful. I'm sharing them with you.

You see how you guys motivate me - it was easy to write this today, and I smiled through most of last week, because of the feedback I got. Talk about spreading the love.

I love the sun streaming through the trees, and I can feel the sharp coolness that is our Joburg winters, trying to getting under my many layers, the warmth of those rays challenging (and winning) as my pace quickens and my heart rate increases and the joy and heat from the inside make the outside irrelevant. We sort out our lives, we feel inspired to do right today, and we start the week off in the perfect way.

I've often wondered about starting a walking group for those who want to join in, but this is more flexible, in a way - we can think of each other on our way, and know that we're doing this, together, and sending inspiration out to everyone else doing the same as we get out of bed and do this.

You also loved the music. You shared it, and talked about it and I listened to that song. The. Whole.Week. And I wasn't sorry. 

So this week, it's not as inspiring, the music. But it fits the sentiments of the post. And everyone should rewatch this now and again. It's fun, cute, gets your feet tapping and your brain humming the familiar, meaningless words.

Enjoy, and enjoy your exercise this morning.

You may also enjoy Together - another Monday Motivation.

Have an awesome week.

Saturday 23 June 2018

Ten of the Best #122

Sorry this is later than usual. I've had such a lovely time, going through all the stuff you shared. It took me ever so long - there was so much to read and watch. But you, you'll whizz through, because the best of it is right here. Click the pictures for the articles, and what you've already seen, you just keep on scrolling through.

Seth Myers takes us through Trump's repeal of the immigration laws. And the rally. Honestly, the stuff Trump said at the rally was jaw-dropping. Watch it. And the "ad" at the end - Don't bother to vote. 

The longer it lasts, the more I think they're just messing with us. They must be. Melania and That Jacket.

You need an antidote to all that? Maybe that's why I enjoyed Samuel Warde's summary of the British rants. Click the Time cover for the article.

Friday 22 June 2018

Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Disclaimer: I did not choose this book because of the title. In fact, I was glad it was on my Kindle so that I could read anonymously.

Having adjusted my expectations down as a result, and mentally preparing for lots of "self-help" sensible advice, but thinking it may be diverting, I was pleasantly surprised at how many little pieces of advice resonated, and I found myself talking about it, and remembering quite a bit of what I'd read.

It helped that there were lots of entertaining stories - those used to more scientific studies and theoretical explanations will be frustrated at this, but I enjoy using stories to illustrate my points, and there was plenty of material here.

Some specific quotes that were particularly true in my reality were:

"To add insult to injury, it’s not just that jerks do well; being the downtrodden nice guy can kill you. Being powerless at the office—having little control or discretion over your work—is a bigger risk factor for coronary artery disease than obesity or high blood pressure. Feel underpaid? That increases risk for a heart attack too. Meanwhile, ass kissing results in a reduction of workplace stress, improving happiness as well as physical health.

Are you a nice guy or gal who is having trouble processing all this bad news? Maybe that’s because not having a high status position at the office contributes to a reduction in executive function. Want that in English? Feeling powerless actually makes you dumber."

Those of you who know me well, try not to fall off your chairs at that quote...I know, right?

And how about this one?

The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you."

Ok, I'll stop now.

For those of you who want to know more about what the book is about, it starts with what factors are good indicators of 'success' in life; does being a nice guy/gal work better than being a jerk? why your environment (and trust) matters so much, and then goes into the hard work vs talent debate. It also touches on what success means for you - what's on your resumé vs what's in your eulogy helps with that, and segues into gamification and when to quit.

It's very readable, and quick, chock full of motivation, and it appealed to me. The only problem is that title, and the word science in the subtitle.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780062416049

You may also enjoy Seeing What Others Don't by Gary Klein.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Dictator by Robert Harris

Intrigue, murder, assassination and the collapse of a Republic. Pompey, Cicero and Caesar - their stances on the current events, their personal lives, their failings, their triumphs are brought to life in Dictator, the story of Julius Caesar and part three of the life of Cicero, told through the eyes of Cicero's trusty servant, Tiro. An accomplished scribe, personal secretary and speechwriter, Tiro also invented shorthand - which he uses to his advantage in one memorable scene, where, hidden from view, he transcribes a whole meeting, word for word. Stenographers, eat your hearts out.

This was a time of significant historical happenings, and I love the way Robert Harris brings them to life - the voices, the shouts ring in my ears, and I can feel the dust on my feet as I walk the paths behind these powerful men. But this quote from the blurb is equally true:

"Yet the question [Dictator] asks is a timeless one: how is political freedom to be safeguarded against the triple threat of unscrupulous personal ambition, of an electoral system dominated by vested financial interests, and of the corrupting impact of waging ceaseless foreign wars? And in the very human figure of Cicero--brilliant, flawed, frequently fearful, and yet ultimately brave--Harris gives us a hero for both his own time, and for ours."

Oh, for an eloquent hero, like Cicero, in today's times. How refreshing would it be?

I loved this historical fiction - it almost reads like a thriller, and the immersion into the Roman culture of the day is fascinating and uplifting. 

5 stars

ISBN: 9780307957948

You may also enjoy Imperium, the first in this Cicero series. Or An Officer and a Spy by the same author.

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Sources of Power by Gary Klein

I've been fascinated by books on decision-making since I read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I loved his questioning of whether snap decisions are better ones than well-thought out, over-analysed justified-to-the-end-of-time ones. Gary Klein unpacks this further in Seeing What Others Don't: The remarkable ways we gain Insights.

In that book, he refers quite a bit to this one - especially the stories about decisions made in times of stress - like with firefighters, nurses and those life and death situations, where the importance of good decision making is amplified. What value does intuition have? How do we use it? Should we?

Daniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow asks this in a different (and more eloquent) way:

“If subjective confidence is not to be trusted, how can we evaluate the probable validity of an intuitive judgment? When do judgments reflect true expertise? When do they display an illusion of validity? The answer comes from the two basic conditions for acquiring a skill: an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable an opportunity to learn these regularities through prolonged practice When both these conditions are satisfied, intuitions are likely to be skilled. Chess is an extreme example of a regular environment, but bridge and poker also provide robust statistical regularities that can support skill. Physicians, nurses, athletes, and firefighters also face complex but fundamentally orderly situations. The accurate intuitions that Gary Klein has described are due to highly valid cues that the expert ... has learned to use, even if [he] has not learned to name them."

Again, rather than relying on statistical methods and studies, Gary Klein evaluates stories, through interviews about what people were thinking, and how. And the results are fascinating.

 "We have found that people draw on a large set of abilities that are sources of power. The conventional sources of power include deductive logical thinking, analysis of probabilities, and statistical methods. Yet the sources of power that are needed in natural settings are usually not analytical at all - the power of intuition, mental simulation, metaphor, and storytelling. The power of intuition enables us to size up a situation quickly. The power of mental simulation lets us imagine how a course of action might be carried out. The power of metaphor lets us draw on our experience by suggesting parallels between the current situation and something else we have come across. The power of storytelling helps us consolidated our experiences to make them available in the future, either to ourselves or to others. These areas have not been well studied by decision researchers."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the stories, the analysis, the conclusions, the insights. It may feel like common sense, but like salt, you only miss a dose of common sense when it's not in the food you're eating.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780262534291

Monday 18 June 2018

This is Me


Why do I do this every Monday?

What? The writing? The running? The music? Well all of it, actually.

This morning, I looked for an old Monday Motivation to post. I'm not feeling particularly inspired, you see. As I was going through material, wondering what would resonate, I realised that the one thing I do love about this is the freshness, the newness, the doing it in real time that I really enjoy. That way it inspires me as well as (hopefully) you.

There are so many reasons. I love words. I love to use them to encourage us to be better at us. I love to find the right words for things and I love the power that they wield when used well.

I believe in exercise. I believe in the power of moving to change the way our brains fire, and to keep us young and strong and fit and fabulous.

And lastly I'm passionate about music. All music. And if you read my first post in this vein, you'll realise it was only with the music that these posts ever came together. It took the music. And it still does. Every Monday, to get going, I need a soundtrack.

So, my favourite song from one of my favourite musicals is perfect for today. This is me. Let it inspire you this morning.

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us

For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Isn't that fabulous? And if you're a Showman fan, like me, you have to watch this clip of the same song, where Keala Settle comes out from behind her microphone, It's goosebumps stuff.

Happy Monday everyone.Here's to an awesome week.
Last Monday's Motivation - Give up - never?

Sunday 17 June 2018

Ten of the Best #121

Happy Weekend everyone. You can stop scrolling through your timelines now, wondering when you're going to find something to look at or read. It's all right here - the very best posts from my social media - from this week. The ones I didn't have time to read until the weekend, but I'm catching upon now. Here they are, just for you. I know it's later than usual, but it's still the weekend here.

Wilmien Rossouw writes beautifully about the Aurora Borealis. Pack your bags, people.

Silence Is Not Spiritual: The Evangelical #MeToo Movement from The NewYorker.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Imperium by Robert Harris

I've read this series in the completely wrong order, starting with Book 3, (Dictator), reading half of it, picking up Imperium, finishing it, and then back to Dictator. I still haven't read Conspirata (Book 2), but I plan to.

In Imperium Tiro's voice tells the story of his master, Cicero. Tiro is Cicero's slave, but, as the inventor of shorthand, and an author in his own right (he wrote a biography of his master that was lost in the Dark Ages), he is almost as famous as Cicero himself. And he can tell a story.

I loved all the wordiness of this book. I listened on Audible, and that added to the pomp and drama and grandstanding that I imagine there was around all Cicero's famous speeches, rants and  politicking. Here're a few excerpts.

“You can always spot a fool, for he is the man who will tell you he knows who is going to win an election. But an election is a living thing -- you might almost say, the most vigorously alive thing there is -- with thousands upon thousands of brains and limbs and eyes and thoughts and desires, and it will wriggle and turn and run off in directions no one ever predicted, sometimes just for the joy of proving the wiseacres wrong.” 

“History has always fascinated me. As Cicero himself once wrote: ‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?’ I quickly forgot the cold and could have spent all day happily unwinding that roll, poring over the events of more than sixty years before.”

“Sometimes," he said, summing up the discussion with an aphorism I have never forgotten, "if you find yourself stuck in politics, the thing to do is start a fight--start a fight, even if you do not know how you are going to win it, because it is only when a fight is on, and everything is in motion, that you can hope to see your way through.”

And for those of you who think that politics is boring...

“Politics? Boring? Politics is history on the wing! What other sphere of human activity calls forth all that is most noble in men's souls, and all that is most base? Or has such excitement? Or more vividly exposes our strengths and weaknesses? Boring? You might as well say that life itself is boring!” 

And if you think you can deliver a speech?

“No one can really claim to know politics properly until he has stayed up all night writing a speech for delivery the following day. While the world sleeps, the orator paces by lamplight, wondering what madness ever brought him to this occupation in the first place. Arguments are prepared and discarded. The exhausted mind ceases to have any coherent grip upon the purpose of the enterprise, so that often--usually an hour or two after midnight--there comes a point where failing to turn up, feigning illness, and hiding at home seem the only realistic options. And then, somehow, just as panic and humiliation beckon, the parts cohere, and there it is: a speech. A second-rate orator now retires gratefully to bed. A Cicero stays up and commits it to memory.” 

I loved this book - the eloquence, the high drama, the stakes - someone's life, or a whole bunch of lives, mostly. I found myself immersed in the Forum, on the slopes of the Palatine, and walking along the Tiber with them. It's inspired me - maybe I need to find a tome of Cicero's writings and wade through it? Or is that too much like hard work? This wasn't. 

5 stars

ISBN: 9780743266031

More by this author - An Officer and a Spy and Conclave. Or why not try The Constant Queen by Joanna Courtney or Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn?

Wednesday 13 June 2018

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

You know those nights at book club? Just before the school holidays, and it's your turn, because you're going to the sea on your annual holiday, and you need a comforting stack of books. In case of rain, of course.

If you're anything like me, the books are read long before there's a sniff of cloud in the sky, and if you're my daughter, you've read them all in the car on the long trip down.

Well, this one appealed for so many reasons. I could picture it in my little hands in so many places - on the sand, in the lounger, next to the kettle while I made tea, and late at night, snuggled up, everyone else asleep and me reading.

I loved the story of Evie Flynn, the black sheep of her family, who inherits Aunt Jo's coffee shop near the beach. I loved that she wouldn't sell it, and untrained as she was, wanted to keep it. I loved the slightly delinquent strangers she took in to help her, the slower and simpler, yet somehow more connected and meaningful life she made for herself. The walks, the swims, the ice creams - I could feel the breeze in my hair and taste the flavours.

This is not a book for a reading critic, or a jaded cynic. But it's the PERFECT book to fall in love with and escape for a few hours into. Especially at the beach.

I relished every moment. Pure pleasure.

4 stars


You may also enjoy Elin Hildebrand's Here's to Us.