Friday, 31 July 2015

The Girls by Lisa Jewell

4 out of 5 stars

I have wanted to read something by Lisa Jewell for a long time, and this was my first book by this talented author.

The Girls is a dark tale about a 13 year old girl who is found late one night in the corner of a communal garden, clearly having been hurt in some way.

We meet the family of the girl (Grace) – her mum Clare, her sister Pip, and we hear their tragic background. We then meet all the neighbours. The suspicions mount, as does the suspense, and the pages turn faster and faster as we are in equal parts wanting to know what happened, but also not wanting this enthralling story to end.

The strengths of this novel are in the characterizations – all richly drawn, in a setting that is lovely, but also tinged with a sinister history. The different points of view also contribute to the complex relationships and drama in the story.

At its heart this is a family drama, but it also has a dark psychological theme, and is gripping and intense.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.

ISBN: 9781780893594

You may also enjoy The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer or Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.

All my recommendations. Or my view on why women write the best crime thrillers

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Cut the Crack #2

So this has not been a weekly post in July. My apologies. I had to spend a significant time in hospital. None of which had to do with anything I was eating. I had an abscess which needed to be drained.

Interesting trying to cut down on sugar and salt in hospital. Especially on a clear fluids diet. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s all pretty much the same – broth accompanied by jelly and custard. The salty and the sweet. I managed some broth, after I had begged the kitchen staff to please reduce the salt (I think they thought I was mad). But I couldn’t have more than two spoons of the jelly. It was just so sweet. I eventually persuaded them to replace the jelly with yoghurt (which isn’t exactly a clear fluid, but I was desperate), but they brought flavored yoghurt, which was almost as sweet! Thank God for tea.

But what I had intended my next food story to be about was how much sugar gets into the things we eat, without thinking about it. Ironically, it’s often added to counterbalance the saltiness that is also unnecessary. Or, even worse, it’s added to the low fat versions of the food we eat – to make it taste better. So be careful, you may be cutting down on fat and unintentionally increasing your sugar intake. So again, we need to check labels for sugar. And it’s found in the most unexpected places.

A recent article that I read, shared, and then my husband, clearly having missed my sharing of it, shared back to me was about Damon Gateau who after pursuing a sugar-free diet for three years, decided to consume 40 teaspoons of sugar  per day to see what happened. The results were shocking. Most interesting point about the article for me though, was how easy it was for him to find 40 teaspoons of sugar per day, without adding sugar to anything. He did it by eating “‘hidden sugars’ found in foods like low fat yoghurt, cereals, muesli bars, juices, sports drinks and assorted condiments.” Amazing that you can find 40 teaspoons of sugar in that stuff – not even chocolate, ice cream, sweet treats and fruit juice was included in his diet.

But reading the labels for sugar is a little more complicated than reading for salt – when it comes to dairy, that is. So again, you look for the grams of sugar per serving, or per 100g of food, and you want to achieve less than 5 teaspoons per day  for females (less than 9 for males). But in terms of dairy, you deduct (or don’t count) the first 4.7g of sugar, because that is lactose, not sugar.

So there are a few things you need to check out, because you may change your mind about the amount of sugar in them:

·         Low fat flavoured yoghurt
·         Tomato sauce
·         Sweet Chilli sauce
·         Salad dressings

The good news is that plain yoghurt is fine, and it’s actually far healthier to make your own salad dressings and sauces, and it’s not all that hard, either. Here’s a link to Tomato Sauce from the I Quit Sugar site, and barbecue sauce, without the sugar. Salad dressings – the oil based, flavoured with herbs and spices ones are best, but experiment with these – here are some ideas to get you started

You may also enjoy - Cut the crack #1 or Cut the crack #3

Here is the page with links to all recipes.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis

This is the story of Millie, who needs to find her mother, meeting up with Karl, the touch typist and Agatha Pantha along the way. I listened to the audible version, and the narration was excellent, with different voices for the different characters.

When a book is referred to as whimsical and quirky, I am reminded of when teachers give out certificates at school in the lower grades to children who are “spontaneous” or “free-spirited”. I am never sure this is a good thing. Similarly with this read.

I found the story of Millie quite tragic. Therefore the humour, and childishness with which she observed the situation were disturbing. There were parts of the book that were unbelievable in the extreme, and just so strange, that it impacted on my ability to connect with the characters and the story. I think I got a little lost in the reading.

The book is certainly different, but for me, it came across as more weird than endearing, more creepy than warm-hearted.
2 out of 5 stars

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

ISBN: 9780733632754

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop has become well-known for her historical fiction, which is a genre I love. The Island and The Thread were favourites of mine. The detailed research was evident in her writing, weaving in and out of the beautiful story, in both cases, with characters that were well developed and a plot that fitted the history, but also stood on its own.

This was not as good. ‘The Sunrise’ tells the story of three families in Famagusta from 1972 to 1974. Initially, Famagusta is a popular tourist destination, and developing, but this changes when a Greek coup forces the island into chaos. Greek Cypriots flee in one direction, Turkish Cypriots flee in the other, and the Turkish army invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. The city empties as people run for their lives. Today, 40 years later, the city is still empty. Fascinating.

Although the research is evident, the lack of the development of the characters and the plot meant that this felt like a history lesson. The dialogue was awkward, and I struggled to care what happened to anyone.

Read her other novels, but don’t bother with this one. For better books in this genre, try The Whip by Karen Kondazian or even Ben Elton’s Two Brothers.

2 out of 5 stars

ISBN: 9780755377787

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ten of the Best #5

Sorry I missed last week, folks. You didn’t notice? Aw, well some of you did. Glad this is becoming part of the weekend routine for some of you. 

It’s where I catch up on the social media that I didn’t have time for during the week. You know, the stuff that you didn’t read properly, because you were in a meeting whilst on Facebook, so couldn’t give the article your full attention. The video clips you didn’t download because you didn’t have your earphones in. Ok, now you have time, wifi and here’s what you missed.

1.    South Africa’s dirty little secret. Robyn is passionate about our children. She also writes beautifully. I think this is her best ever. Read it by clicking the pic.

2.    OK, I know you have all probably seen it, but I missed it, being out of wifi range whilst in hospital. Suzelle has a new one – on surviving loadshedding. She is very funny.

3.    From Facebook -  read the story under the picture when you get there – how things are not always as they seem… 

4.    Why children cry - these pictures are funny. They're even funnier if you've had kids, because you know how true they are.

5.    Your own virtual tour of Nkandla courtesy of Tom Eaton. 

6.    Here is the musical interlude for today. Raise your glass – I love P!NK.  This woman is talented.  I cannot believe she is singing while doing this, but even if she is only lip-syncing, this takes some practice.

7.    This Whackhead prank call is quite funny – Eskom talks to E-tolls

8.    Baby elephant being entertaining in the bush

9.    There has been a lot of hype about Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. This article probably sums up best why I don’t think I shall be reading it.

10.  It is a slow day in a little Greek Village... one way to understand the Greek bailout.

That's it folks. Enjoy the weekend!

Here's the link to the last Ten of the Best

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Finding Jack by Gareth Crocker

“I’m looking for something different...” This is it. Finding Jack. Like me, you may think that you won’t enjoy it, and that may put you off attempting it. It’s a great story, well told.

Fletcher Carson signs up to fight in Vietnam after a personal tragedy and he meets a dog – Jack, with whom he has a connection.

The story quickly develops, and you are drawn in to a soldier’s conflicted life. His love for Jack is moving, and the action in the novel is fast-paced. The events are dramatic – unfolding with the backdrop of war-torn Vietnam providing tension and setting that add to the poignancy of the drama. There are arguably a few too many “movie-type” moments of hero saves the day, which may irritate readers preferring more realistic tales, but hey, we are talking about Americans in Vietnam, they must all be heroes, right?

This is Gareth Crocker’s first novel. He knows his writing business. It was an easy read – I finished in a day. It had moments when I laughed out loud, moments when I cried real tears and many times when I paused to admire the beauty of the words and a story well told. This is a book that I will never forget, and I am glad I read it.

4 out of 5 stars

ISBN: 9780709085140

You may also enjoy The Last Road Trip by Gareth Crocker

Here are all my reviews and recommendations.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Ten of the best #4

Hey there. I know this is a bit later than usual. Sorry, but you still have most of the weekend to read, with decent wifi speed, the best of the net this week, from my perspective. If you’ve seen it before, keep scrolling. Hopefully there is something for everyone. If there is a picture, you can click it to link through to the article/clip. Then use your back button on your browser to return.

Good internet connection - check. Enough sustenance - check. Earphones/no one in earshot - check. Let's go.

1 The serious thing on my mind is the health issue this week. Read here what happened when Damon Gameau went from being healthy to eating 40 tsp of sugar per day – without actually having to have a spoon of sugar – all was in the “normal” (ironically usually the “fat free”) stuff we eat.

2. Donald Trump had a week worse than yours. Even than mine. I find this therapeutic. Better than watching him fire people, anyway.

3. Something old – it was posted in 2012. It’s message from the queen to the citizens of the USA. It’s doing the rounds again. I found it funny. You must read the whole thing, if you choose to.

4. Nothing to click here. The funny is the pic.Thanks Deirdre for this one. Made me giggle.

5. This is beautiful. I had to look a while to get it. Glad I did. Read the article if you click the pic.

6. Are you riding the 94.7 this year? Why not ride for a cause? Like  the Paediatric Burns Unit - Baragwanath Intensive Care. For R1000 you get a cycling shirt, A START TIME BEFORE 8:30am, and you assist the Burns Unit. Contact Lyndsay Barr on 083 767 3988 or email

7. I’ve been off sick a lot this week. So I’ve seen some magic Wimbledon moments – the best one was in the match between Djokovic and Kevin Anderson. 

The polite voice of the umpire called out -  “Mr Djokovic is challenging the point”. This is after a second serve from Anderson was called out, giving Djoko the point. “No way, says Djoko, I’d be mad to challenge that.” He's right, the point went to him. The crowd erupts with laughter. But Anderson saw that Djoko had, in fact, raised his racquet, and challenged the point. Guess what? The ball was in. Anderson got the point. Djoko got the match. And I was glad. What a sportsman!
Isn’t this an interesting stat, now that the semifinals are over?

8. EL James’ promoters made the horrible mistake of creating a Twitter hashtag - #AskELJames, for Tweeters to pose questions that she would answer. Everyone was completely unprepared for what unfurled. The Tweeters had good questions. And clearly they don't think much of the 50 shades author trying to make more money from her latest retelling. I like this one.

And this one – I swear when I read it aloud to my husband, he actually tried. To widen his eyebrows. If you click the pic, there is a link to the worst questions. Else just search on Twitter for #AskELJames

9 I didn’t even know about this man. Nicholas Winton. He died aged 106 last week. He saved many holocaust children. This is heartwarming. The second video clip in the article is especially worth watching – it's only two minutes.

10  Let’s end with something a bit positive on SA. There are few enough articles these days, we all know. Entitled “When judges said “enough” to the ANC” by Stephen Grootes. Great article.

Great weekend everyone. Have some strawberries and cream for me.

Links to previous ten of the best.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Cut the crack #1

Last month, I focussed on reducing salt in our diets. This month, we are going to have a bash at sugar. Interesting fact  - we are all addicted to sugar. We eat too much salt – that’s a taste thing, and it’s difficult to get rid of. Especially when we eat out, or use pre-packaged or convenience foods. But once we have eliminated salt, and are used to it, that’s pretty much it. Done. Our tastes change, and we can naturally avoid salty things without too much pain and suffering.

Sugar is very different. When we don’t get our fix of sugar, we go a little crazy. There is a chemical reaction in our brains with sugar. And that’s what makes this particular addiction so hard to break. Sugar is easier to spot in things. It’s therefore easier to avoid. But your body will fight you every step of the way. The more you try to deprive it, the more your body will demand it.

But there’s good news. Seriously good news. I bet you didn’t know that if you succeed in cutting out the sugar,

Friday, 3 July 2015

Ten of the best #3

Hello everyone. I am amazed that you are still here. In case you think you may be about to see some really amazing recipes, or book reviews, let me disenchant you. This is my weekly round up of what I enjoyed most on social media last week. I started doing it because I never have time to watch video links/read complete articles during the week. My time to do this is usually a Saturday morning, and let's face it, the newspapers are not as entertaining as the WWW. So I thought I would start a little collection of "the best of" on a weekly basis, and then at least I would know where to go to do my reading. 

So -  cup of tea?  Warm comfy spot? Clear wifi access? Let's go.

Where the links are on the pictures, don't forget to click on the back button when you're done. If you want to come back, that is.

1.    I always like to start with something thought provoking. We have been swamped with people defending other groups on social media. From Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to everyone changing their profile pictures to rainbows in support of gay marriage rights (and also giving Facebook a whole lot of research material for free) and don't get me started on the rights of our government to blatantly disregard the law. So this clip got me thinking. It's entitled "The problem with speaking up for each other ". It's good.

2. This is funny. There is no need to click anything - it's short, so I've posted it all right here: 

Lawyers should never ask a Georgia grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?' She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defence attorney?'
She again replied, 'Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'
The defence attorney nearly died.
The judge asked both counsellors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said,
'If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair.
3. In other news, a few dogs got together and created this funny video Click the pic: 

4. In the spirit of keeping it light - we have enough darkness courtesy of  Eskom, don't we? This is my daughter's blog.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

5 out of 5 stars 

Karin Slaughter just gets better and better. I started with one of her books in the middle of the Will Trent series (never a good idea, to start in the middle of a series) and I fell in love. I then read the series from the beginning. Of course, I found the Sara Linton series and read all those too. It was a joy. 

I realized as I did this that Karin’s writing has improved so much. Every new Will Trent is better than the one before. This means that her fans, like me, get more and more demanding. And we fall more for Will. And Karin, it has to be said -we miss Will Trent a lot. Cop Town was an excellent read. We thought we only had to wait one year. Then came Pretty Girls. And it had to be good enough for us to go another year without Will. Which I didn’t think I could do.

Oh my goodness. Will, please don’t hate me, but after reading Pretty Girls, I don’t know anymore. Karin, if you keep writing like this, I will still miss Will, but *said in a very small voice* life may just go on.