Friday, 23 June 2017

Friday Books - His Bloody Project

It's Friday again. Already. There you have it. Nearly time for the weekend.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

Today I'm featuring  His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

The interesting thing about the telling of this story is that it is presented as a collection of papers - a confession, medical reports and some transcripts of a trial. I'm nearly done, and it has been most fascinating. Set in 1869, it has a very authentic feel, which I'm loving.

Lachlan is the newly appointed "constable" of the village, and he wastes no time in making the Macrae's lives difficult, in a nasty kind of way. 

I'm nearly done - my kindle tells me I've got 20 minutes left, so I'm going to stop blogging and finish reading now.

Tell me what you're busy with in the comments and I'll visit your blog.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Diamond - The History of A Cold-Blooded Love Affair by Matthew Hart

This was fascinating. The story starts "On a hot morning in May, 1999, three garimpeiros (small-scale miners) found a large pink diamond in the muddy waters of the Abaete River in Brazil, a discovery that captivated the entire diamond trade. Beginning with this dramatic and revealing tale, Matthew Hart embarks on a journey into an obsessive, largely hidden, and utterly fascinating world."

Well written, and strangely almost as obsessive as the colourful diamond miners who fill the pages with their exploits, wheeling and dealing and adventures.

"A great gem collects great tales, adding to its status as a jewel."

Of course there is quite a lot on South Africa, De Beers, how a diamond cartel operates, and the Oppenheimers.

"Diamonds are profoundly ancient....carbon, the stuff of diamonds is the fourth most abundant element in the universe. In 1987, astronomers observing a supernova (or exploding star) through spectroscopy, which analyses the light radiated by different substances, identified diamonds...These minute stellar diamonds probably formed in the fantastic pressures of the super wind thrown off by the exploding star." Twinkle, twinkle little a diamond in the sky - Indeed.

The only part I found less interesting was the "Blood Diamond" section towards the end - this could have been me, but it wasn't as well developed as the rest of the book, which was a pity.

4 stars


Some more books....

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Maisie Dobbs - Jacqueline Winspear

I listened to Maisie Dobbs on Audible. Set in 1929, Maisie, trained by Maurice Blanche, a forensic psychologist (but I doubt he would have been called that then) starts her own practice as a private detective.

Her first case? A gentleman, expecting M.Dobbs to be a man, and clearly thinking beautiful petite clever Maisie is the secretary, or the tea girl, needs someone to check where his wife is disappearing to? Is she having an affair? Gasp. And when he finds out M stands for Maisie, will he hire her? Will he trust her? Will she solve the "mystery"?

The writing is lovely, and I enjoyed being thrust into the olde world charm that Maisie lives in - picture wood panelled rooms, bone china tea cups, tailored two-piece suits and pin curls. Very British and very sweet.

The plot was also good - we switch between the unravelling of Maisie's back story and what she did during the war. I loved this too, and how it reveals pain and character.

If you close your eyes, it's all so enchanting. The clever girl, from a disadvantaged past, given an opportunity to make it, now well-groomed and respectable detective, solving everything like a young Miss Marple. If you open them however, it's too good to be true, too trite to be real, not deep enough to really give a damn. And I'm not so sure that the series will be good, now that I know Maisie's back story, almost completely.

The narration was excellent. I could listen to Rita Barrington describe how to make a cup of tea and be enthralled.

A lovely read.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780142004333

You may also enjoy The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, or Karolina's Twins by Ronald H Balson. Or try A Terrible Beauty by VM Devine.

Monday, 19 June 2017

When you don't feel like it

Morning, it is. Time to face the week, starting with some exercise. 

Trouble is I'm still hankering after the weekend. I just feel like snuggling under the duvet for five, ten, fifteen more minutes and not facing anything.

It's still winter, I'm not feeling up to much, and there's not anything inspiring me to get up and out today.

So what if we just go with a bit of the familiar, the nostalgic, the memories, the comfort of the well known? Use what you've got, they say.

I'm out of bed now, thinking of the friendly smile of the security guard at the gate at school, always trying to make a plan so the traffic moves faster, and we save precious seconds. The greeting as my running buddy is pleased to see me. Ok, I'll get dressed. 

Thoughts of the welcoming sun on my back as the downhill starts, and the gentle slapping of my feet against the tarmac. Ok, shoes on. 

The smell of the brew as Senzo smiles and passes me my cappuccino - just the way I like it without me even reminding him. Got my keys now. And the feeling of the warm water on my skin, washing the well-earned perspiration from me, and making me feel better about my day, my life and the world around me. Ok, we got this, let's go.

Don't forget the song - it's like a  chorus now. You're all reminding me. I hadn't. I actually have had this in my head all weekend. Apologies no non-SAffers, you won't find this as nostalgic as we do, but you'll enjoy it nevertheless. It's the gentle Mango Groove, with Hometalk. All the smells, sights, sounds and memories of our lovely country.

Above is the summer moon
Children will be sleeping soon
The work is all done and so
We sleep by the fire's glow
The cattle bells do not ring
The night birds begin to sing
The stories have all been told, so we'll dream
Hometalk, takes me home, hometalk
The moon meets the breaking day
The dreams have all gone away
Though the memories tear me apart
They will always be here in my heart

Hometalk, takes me home, hometalk
Kaya, takes me home, hometalk

Let's run, people.

Like this? You may also enjoy Faces to the Sun, or what about Colours?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Ten of the Best #97

Welcome, welcome. Here's we we look back at the week and watch and read all the stuff we missed on social media. Where do I find it? I collect it, squirrelling away all the best feeds from your timelines, for Saturday morning, when we grab our tea, and have ourselves a little binge.

It's no often that I know exactly where to start, but this week...well I do.

"It’s been a busy few weeks. Let’s get caught up." starts Richard Poplak. "There’s Hlaudi Motsoeneng – a performance artist so dangerously entertaining that the SABC could have doubled ratings by dispensing with all other programming and just have him mumble into a tin can." he continues. 

Click the Zapiro pic for the full article.

And in case you need a wrap of the events in the UK - they've also had a week - here is some writing I found interesting, not least for its parallels with SA. Why The Future is Looking Bright With The Next Generation at the Helm.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Books - The Lost Life of Eva Braun

Well hello from sunny SA, where we have no excuses - we have a public holiday today - so it's a reading weekend.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

Today I'm featuring  The Lost Life of Eva Braun by Angela Lambert.

Now doesn't that look interesting? I love to hear a story from a different perspective, and I reckon this might just be the thing for me to get my teeth into this weekend. At 620 pages, I will be busy for a while... And don't you love that cover?

There was much more detailed explanation, but I edited it a little. It captures the view on marriage from those times so well, and had me thinking about it for a while.

Whilst I will be spending (hopefully most) of my day reading, I also hope to have some time to visit some blogs today, so leave me a comment and I'll stop by. I'd love to know what your weekend reading plans are.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

The best thing I can say about The Best of Adam Sharp is that it is nothing like The Rosie Effect.

Graeme Simsion writes about Adam - a middle aged man (nearing 50) in a relationship with Claire. When, boom - Angelina (no, not Jolie, but think Jolie - this one's a blonde bombshell from his youthful first love days) gets in contact via email. Out of the blue. Completely. Hmmm.

So part one is should he, shouldn't he get in contact again? Claire is perfectly lovely, the IT job is what all jobs should be - manageable and sufficient, the life lived is, well, ordinary. I should mention that Adam is a music buff of note, and there are references to his loves - some of which I recognised, and those I did, I hummed, affectionately. I also kept meaning to look at the soundtrack, which is a fantastic idea - to listen as you read - but didn't.

Then part two. Let's just say part two gets interesting. So obviously, and this isn't a big spoiler, he does. He gets so much more than he bargained for - in every sense.

I liked this book. I loved the musical references. I thought the examination of Adam's emotions and relationships was interesting. It was mildly funny too, and cleverly written. The sexual content is not for the prude, and I blinked a couple of times and wondered if my eyebrows were disappearing into my (receding) hairline.

So what's not to like, I hear you ask. Well, for me, the unending tone of cynicism that just pervaded everything about this book. Poetic, I suppose, but not enjoyable. In short, nothing like the Rosie effect.

3 stars
ISBN: 9781250130402

More books.

Monday, 12 June 2017


It's been a while, hasn't it?

But it is Monday again, and time to get our feet dancing, arms pumping and heartbeat racing. Come on - just a little bit, then you can hit the week with more energy, feeling better about yourself, and just a little fitter and stronger than before.

And today, since it's been so very long since we've really done this, we need ourselves a little song to get us started. You know, one we can hum as we go, or even play while we dash, pretending we're enjoying this exercise thing, until we forget that we're pretending and think with a little bolt of joy that we actually are. 

I have just the song. Cheerleader. And oh the irony, there are so many covers, I don't know who did the original. Sigh. If you do, please leave me a comment. But for now, both these remixes are quite the thing to get us moving -  the one by Felix Jaehn...

And definitely the Pentatonix version.

Oh, I think that I've found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
Oh, I think that I've found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her

And this post would not be complete without a shout out to my running buddy - my cheerleader. Together we've dodged taxis, bounded uncovered drains, leaped over sleeping people, forded streams waded through tall grass and faced down angry motorists. And we're still going. Strong. Smiling. Running (mostly). 

Have a great workout today.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Ten of the Best #96

Good morning all. It's been quite a week in our beautiful country, with severe weather in the fairest Cape, and strong winds fanning the Knysna fires into destruction on a scale so dramatic and unexpected that I am still reeling. It happened so quickly, and mobile and land lines went down, so it was very difficult to know if loved ones were safe. We'll start with a link to a site that has been set up to showcase the rebuilding of Knynsa, and there are a number of links on it that if you want to assist, it makes it very easy.

Apparently white monopoly capital is to blame for this. So says Andile Mngxitama. Click the Zapiro for the story. Please don't forget to click on the Twitter responses at the end - it's the best part.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Friday Books - Diamond

After a short blogging break, I'm back. What do you mean, you didn't even miss me?

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

Today I'm featuring  Diamond  - The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair by Matthew Hart.

Here's the cover

From the blurb - "On a hot morning in May, 1999, three garimpeiros (small-scale miners) found a large pink diamond in the muddy waters of the Abaete River in Brazil, a discovery that captivated the entire diamond trade. Beginning with this dramatic and revealing tale, Matthew Hart embarks on a journey into an obsessive, largely hidden, and utterly fascinating world."

I loved this, also from the blurb -

Diamonds also have their dark side. "Malfeasance rustles in the background of the diamond world like a snake in dry grass," writes Hart as he documents the relentless and ingenious thievery that pervades the business, and the even more damaging revelations of "war diamonds" financing brutal conflicts in Africa. Who will rule diamonds now, and what form the once-secretive business will take, are the issues of the day.

Have a lovely weekend, and hope you get some reading done. Tell me what your intentions are in the comments, and I'll pop over.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

The cover called to me “Pick me up, take me to the beach and read me”. So I did.

If that’s what you want, this is ideal. Set in Nantucket, Laurel, Belinda and Scarlett have all been involved with Deacon Thorpe, now deceased. Out of respect for his wishes for them, they and their hangers on gather at the beach cottage one last time. There are children, partners and others

Families - especially broken ones, ravaged by the pain that only a philandering celebrity chef can cause (yup,that was Deacon’s job), are always entertaining. There is plenty afoot - from new relationships starting, to drugs, sex, lies and all forms of debauchery.

I found the characters one dimensional and the interactions between them mildly amusing at best. Give this one a skip, unless you have nothing else to read.

2 stars

ISBN: 9780316375146

Other books in this genre - I found you or The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, or what about Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty or Commonwealth by Ann Patchett?

2017 Reviews

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Ten of the Best #95

Welcome to the weekend after another weird week. Here they all are - thanks to your time lines - the best things on the internet. Grab your coffee, let's go.

The anatomy of state capture by Ranjeni Munusamy summarised the news before the next set of revelations that exposed it further.

Poplak pontificates on the shame of what public healthcare has cost in Gauteng.

President Trump managed to create a ruckus, by flipping off the Italian PM - did he, didn't he? and then setting Twitter on fire with "Covfefe". Just another normal day in the life of then, right?

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Ten of the Best #94

I can feel it. There's too much to read, to see, to enjoy. I'm going to have to be ruthless with material this week.

Welcome to the start of the weekend. It's time to grab your favourite brew, and sit for a few minutes and recap on the week. Here's the round up of the best from your timelines - that stuff you missed while doing the all important live your life thing. Zapiro was so on form.

Trump's doing a World Tour. Come on, we have to start there. Where he shoved Dusko Markovic out of the way at the Nato summit. For someone who whines that no politician in history has ever been treated worse by the media (grammar nerds -that's what he said - but I know we've stopped with that, there's too much else wrong, right?) he sure gives them a lot of material. I mean, that was him doing all these things. James Corden summarises.

Jimmy Kimmel on his holiness meeting his bigliness. Someone commented that the picture of the Trumps with the Pope looked like a bad shot of  The Addams Family. True dat.

Trevor Noah on not being able to keep up with all the news.

Meanwhile back in SA, the press has done some good work exposing the dastardly deeds  done in darkness, to paraphrase Barbara Hogan.

I thought that the next expose was brave, not just because it faced down the evil, but did so with a  personal touch. Bravo Francis Herd. Click the Zapiro pic.

RIP Roger Moore. Take a minute to read the cute story, then click on it for his best James Bond moments.

I love a good story. Here's one from Darrel Bristol-Bovey, set in Franschhoek.

Looking for good jokes? Always. Here you go. 45, to be exact.

Of course, let's not forget that Pippa Middleton got married. I loved the flowers, but it seems that every time you try to find pictures of the reception flowers, that site was taken down. Must be a deal with big bucks. Here's one sighting, but you'd better click quick, before they find it.

U2 did a surprise performance. The interview is funny too, and I love the Irish accents, but the music starts at 2.20. There is even a spot for gospel artists and a choir. Best. Version. Ever. There is so much right with this clip. I need to listen at least five times.

On that note, you can't help but have a fantastic weekend. 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Friday Books - I Capture the Castle

It's Friday already. Time to stop and read. At last.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice both host sites for Friday link ups, where we discover more books, and make friends. Both involve sharing excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This is a photo of the actual book I'm reading. Interesting cover, right?

It's I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. Yip, she of 101 Dalmations fame.

A friend lent me her copy of this book, and I cannot wait to start it. I've cleared the decks, and this is the weekend of reading this book. I think that has to be one of the most original openings I've ever read. Here's the blurb:

"Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love."

The sink again. Love that.

Here are some more interesting versions of the covers, because I know that you guys love to choose your favourites (so do I).

So different, right? Do you have a favourite?

And what are you reading this weekend? I'd love to visit you, so leave me a comment and I'll say hello.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

So sad. Ellie was fifteen, in love and the apple of her mother's eye when she disappeared. Laurel will never stop hoping that she is found, but realises this is an unlikely dream. It's time to let go - it's already destroyed the family.

So she moves on, as one does. She meets Floyd, who seems too good to be true, and has a daughter who looks very much like Ellie. 

Lisa Jewell wrote of this book - "Then She Was Gone is my fifteenth novel and probably my darkest to date. I can't tell you too much here about the genesis of the book because that would be a total spoiler, but I can tell you that I went down a few wrong turnings on the way to the finished book and that when I finally worked out where I was supposed to be going the whole thing came racing out of me pages at a time and I wrote it in just over ten weeks - which was pretty exhilarating!"

That intrigued me. And I have to say I LOVED how this book turned out. Dark - yes. Sad - I already said that. True to life - absolutely. The characters were great, and the plot exceptional. The family inter-relationships, as usual, sound as clear as bells through all the witty dialogue.

Another eminently readable unputdownable Jewell.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781780896427

You may also enjoy I Found You or The Girls by Lisa Jewell. Or Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

I read this back to back with its companion - My Name is Lucy Barton. I'm glad I did. I don't think this would've made much sense if I hadn't.

Although it reads like a collection of short stories, if you've read Lucy, you'll realise it isn't, really. It's the filling in the fabric of a life, adding colour and depth to the story and detail to the lives of those we've grown to know and love.

The writing is beautifully done. Loads of gems, like

“society's been drugging its women for years” and

“He took down the curtains that hung in front of the blinds and washed them in the old washing machine. In his mind they were blue-gray curtains, but it turned out that they were off-white. He washed them a second time, and they were an even brighter off-white.” 

I loved Lucy, and I enjoyed this one. It's a fairly quiet, gentle book. It didn't have the same emotional impact for me as the other, but a very pleasant way to pass the time, and no regrets for having done so this way.

ISBN: 9780812989403

You may also enjoy My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, or Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott.


Monday, 22 May 2017

We are Young

It's morning. Monday morning. And what are we planning today? I don't know about you, but I'm starting with some exercise. 

I'm going to hit this hard, get out into the beautiful autumn morning, and run faster than I've gone before. Because that's what we do on a Monday morning. Especially when the weekend has been too good, too full of wine, food and song, and I know I need to get the arms pumping, the feet hitting the pavement and the lungs filling with fresh air.

Join me? Come on. There are so many benefits to this. Most recently, I've been reading how exercise counteracts the effects of aging. In fact, the older you are, according to the latest study, the more effect it has.

The truth is that today is the youngest it's possible for you to ever be again. Now is the time. Let's get up and hit the gym/treadmill/pavement so hard it shakes with the intensity.

Of course, we need some music. What was I thinking? Here it is. Fun's We Are Young. Because we are. And we can do this.

We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home tonight

Here's another Monday Motivation some people liked - Can this get better?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Ten of the Best #93

Good morning! It's a beautiful day where I am, and it's going to be a fabulous weekend. Hope you've got some fun lined up too.

But before we get to that, while it's still dawning on us, lets catch up with the week, the news, the funny things, the music, the stuff on our timelines, that we didn't get to during the week.

Stephen Fry (attempts to) explain(s ) the Trump phenomenon? The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. But is he preaching to the choir?

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert finally agrees with Trump on something. Here's a summary of all the latest news in the U.S. - and there's a lot. Bored of Trump? Me too, keep scrolling, there's lots more news today.

Across the Atlantic, Macron appoints a cabinet in France. And half are women. Bravo.

In SA, we heard a lot of news about violence against women and children,