Friday, 28 April 2017

Friday Books - Finders Keepers

Happy Friday everyone! I've had an excellent reading week, and I'm looking forward to an even better reading weekend.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice are the hosting sites for the 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.

What am I reading? Well, I'm so glad you asked. It's 

After a number of dense, heavy, take-a-long-time-to-read books, I needed a page-turny, twisty, gutsy thriller. And Belinda Bauer is my go to author for that. Only thing is, this is the last one of hers that I haven't read! Sigh. But I loved it! Wait for page 56....

A missing child. Which we knew from the cover. But oh my goodness, it doesn't stop there. Action packed, and tension on every page. I woke up in the middle of the night to finish this one.

What're you reading today? 

Thanks for visiting. Have a great weekend.


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Book Club Books #1 2017

It's time for Book Club soon. I haven't done this in 2017 yet!

You picking this month? Need some recommendations and advice?

Well, you just may be in the right place. 

Here is where I go back over the last few months, give you a teaser about my favourite books - the ones I think my book club will enjoy - and a link through to my more detailed review, if you're still not sure. Got that credit card, and ready to go?

Let's get started.

The wonder of The Wonder by Emma Donoghue is that this is a historical fiction, psychological drama, mystery that turns pages like a thriller. Emma Donoghue brought us Room, remember? This is an amazing story, set in 1840ish, when a Florence Nightingale-trained nurse travels to Ireland to her 11year old patient, who hasn't eaten for 4 months - believing she is sustained by manna from heaven. I can't stop thinking about it.

My first Alice Hoffman was Faithful, and it is a strong contender for the best book I'm going to read this year. A teen has a devastating, guilt-inducing accident. She is determined to keep muddling through the soot and ashes of her life, without much help from anyone - we doesn't need people, anyway. But life has a funny way of not letting us get away with that. It's warm, tender, achingly beautiful, and features dogs. What's not to like?

Another one everyone will love is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. A bit "Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry", but better, in my opinion. More laugh out loud than chuckle. Also warmer and just more likeable. Ove is a grumpy old curmudgeon. He thinks most people are weird and doesn't balk at pointing out their faults - to them, if they'll listen. I loved him.

I know when I say this is the story of the sinking of the SS Mendi and the South Africans aboard who were signing up tonight in WWI, I'll lose most of you. Another boring war story. Except this isn't. Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo starts with a waiter in a Paris restaurant who "gets his revenge" on an unruly customer. (It's a bit worse than that, but I don't want to spoil it.) We then get caught up in the telling of a very personal, well constructed tale of Pitso Motaung, and I dare you to put it down, I couldn't. 

Ronald H Balson is not my favourite author. But I can see why his books are so popular at my book club, and Karolina's Twins will do the same job. It's even more hearth wrenching than Saving Sophie and has more of Catherine and Liam's story (started in Once We Were Brothers). It's a wonderful tale of loss and redemption and will have you turning the pages late at night to finish.

Why You Were Taken by J.T. Lawrence is a futuristic novel set in Johannesburg. No, DO NOT SCROLL DOWN, I'm about to tell you why you HAVE to read this book. I don't read sci-fi. This isn't that. It's a clever, what-could-happen, slightly out-there, but very real drama. Kirsten and Seth don't know each other, but are about to be thrown together in a cat-and-mouse chase through the familiar, yet changed streets of Jozi. It's breathtaking. Oh, and there is a sequel coming, too. I can't wait.

Lilac Girls by Martha Kelly is also a historical novel. Three women. Caroline from New York volunteers, sending care packages to orphaned children. Kasia Kuzmerick is a teenager in Poland,  and Herta Oberhauser is an ambitious young doctor in Germany. How dothesethree come together? I'm not telling, but this is shocking, horrific story, and beautifully told.

You all need to read You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. Why? Well do you know who Felicia Day is? No, but your teenagers do. You see. Also because she is helluva funny, and although she didn't have it so easy all the time, she didn't compromise who she was, and even helped others too. A heart-warming, hopeful memoir.

A Terrible Beauty by V.M. Devine is one of the best PD James, Agatha Christie-like detections I've read. Written by Mike Mahony and his daughter Valerie (V.M. Devine is their pen name), and set in Ireland, I thoroughly enjoyed this well constructed plot, with a "whodunnit" question running all the way through.

Have fun, and enjoy the books, as well as the wine!

And here're the best books of 2016, in my opinion.

The year in books, so far.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

"From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood...

After growing up in the south where she was "home-schooled for hippie reasons", Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star."

I'll be the first to admit that I had never heard of Felicia Day. I've yet to enjoy the wonders of Supernatural, and clearly I am not a gamer, or as internet geeky as I could be. However, I do enjoy a good memoir. And this is that. It didn't really matter that I wasn't ever exposed to her before.

Felicia tackled two difficult tasks head on when she wrote this. She tried to be honest and self deprecating, which makes for a much more pleasant reading experience, and she set out to be funny, which worked - this was hilarious.

I also learned things I didn't know about the whole world of fame, notoriety, and how cruel "fans" can be, especially if they deem there is something undeserved about your particular brand.

I admire Felicia for remaining true to who she is through all her life experiences, fighting hard to pursue her goals, keeping her dreams crystal clear and sparkly, despite opposition and most of all for retaining a sense of humour when it all did seem a bit shitty.

Nicely done.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781476785653

You may also enjoy Karma, Deception and a Pair of Red Ferraris by Elaine Taylor, or Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy, or Gareth Crocker's Ka-Boom!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The last anniversary by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies has just aired in SA as a seven part TV series. Even though it couldn't quite measure up to the book, it reminded me why I first fell in lust with Liane Moriarty.

That was my first, but not my last. I voraciously searched for every single one I could find, and I thought I'd done them all. Imagine my delight when, in the Margate Library (yes, of course I'm a member!) I found The Last Anniversary. 

The story starts with Sophie Honeywell wondering if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. She unexpectedly inherits his aunt Connie's house on Scribbly Gum Island -- home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery. The mystery - a family affair - had been turned into a little industry, with Aunt Connie, Aunt Rose, and Enigma (the Munro baby) all living on the island, and running the various tourist attractions to great effect. Their families are also drawn into this, and it gets rather, well, complicated is probably the best word.

And this is what Moriarty does best. Unravel complex family situations, throwing in some dysfunctional personalities, and usually  a family event (the Trivia Night Quiz in BLL, the Last Anniversary here), where things culminate and ultimately resolve.

Formulaic? Yes. Too many characters? Possibly. Yet the intricate and fast-paced plot, together with the determination of some of these characters to better themselves and each other, drew me in and engaged me sufficiently that I found this to be a diverting and enjoyable passing of my time.

4 satisfying stars.


You may also enjoy Big Little Lies, Truly Madly Guilty, by the same author. Or Lisa Jewell's I found You or The Girls.

More Books...

Monday, 24 April 2017

Just run

We woke up this morning to the sound of rain. Not a gentle dripping, but a steady solid downpour. Sheets and sheet being wrung out of each cloud - God's sodden washing shedding its excess. And I thought, "Oh heck, now I'll have to stay in bed and read."

Sad, that. But now, as I gaze outside, it's fresh, and clear - the crisp kind of cleanness that only comes with cleansing rain. "Oh heck, now I'll have to get dressed and run."

But what's the problem with that? It's Monday, and we always (well, nearly always) start the week running. Don't we?

We do need a track though. a sound track, that is. And I have just the thing. It's P!nk.

"See, here's the bloody, bloody truth 
You will hurt and you will lose
I've got scars you won't believe
Wear them proudly on my sleeve
I hope you'll have the sense to know
That sadness comes and sadness goes
Love so hard and play life loud
It's the only thing to give a damn about"

You still here? Come on, let's go.

"But take the best of what I've got
And you know no matter what
Before you walk away, you know you can
Run, run, run, 
Back to my arms, back to my arms
Run, run, run, 
Back to my arms and they will hold you down"

Have an amazing Monday.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

When Morning Gilds the Skies

Good morning. Today, a picture is the inspiration for the music I'm going to share.

Although I love old hymns, I hardly go about singing them all day, and it is quite unlikely that a scene or a picture will remind me of the words or tunes of times gone by, but during the week I took a picture on a run.

Later during the day, when I looked at it, the phrase "When morning gilds the skies" came to mind, which I know is an old hymn.

The more I thought about it, the more beautiful I found those words. Here's the first verse.

When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The poetry is courtesy of the translator, Edward Caswall (1814-1878). The hymn was translated from German (written in 1744) into English by a Roman Catholic priest from England. Caswell was the son of an Anglican clergyman, and was himself ordained as an Anglican. He converted to Catholicism in 1847, prior to translating this hymn in 1854. The original text in a German hymnary (author unknown) had “Beim frühen Morgenlicht” (With the early morning light) as the opening line. So glad the translator used some poetic ability there.

Apparently some versions have as many as 26 stanzas - which, would take a quarter of the average church service to sing!

Here are some of my favourite verses....narrowing it down to 9!

My tongue shall never tire of chanting with the choir,  May Jesus Christ be praised!
This song of sacred joy, it never seems to cloy,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised!

To God, the Word, on high, the host of angels cry, May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals, too, upraise their voice in hymns of praise,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

When mirth for music longs, this is my song of songs: May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evening shadows fall, this rings my curfew call, May Jesus Christ be praised!

When sleep her balm denies, my silent spirit sighs, May Jesus Christ be praised!
When evil thoughts molest, with this I shield my breast,  May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear: May Jesus Christ be praised!

Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face,
Sing, Jesus Christ be praised!
God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore
Shall Jesus Christ be praised!

In Heav’n’s eternal bliss the loveliest strain is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth, and sea and sky from depth to height reply,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Be this, while life is mine, my canticle divine:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Sing this eternal song through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

And the music is also wonderful. I found this version - orchestral and choir, recorded earlier this year. Enjoy.

Happy Sunday.SaveSave

You may also enjoy O Store Gud.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Ten of the Best #89

Happy Weekend from the glorious South Coast in sunny SA.

The sun's up, the surf's good, so what am I doing inside on a Saturday morning? Well, I'm putting up the ten best feeds from my social media. For you. Of course. Because if I don't. ...Well, we'll never know, will we?

Seriously, I am in the sea or maybe on a park run, as you read this. I posted in advance...thinking ahead, you see.

But here's where we check up what we missed on social media. Coffee in hand, pillow at our backs, duvet pulled right up, and favourite furry beast at arm's length for cuddles or loves.

This was a week of note. We'll start in SA, for a change. There has been a spate of good articles - since the outing of Shelley Garland, whose blog went viral, for all the wrong reasons. And Huffington Post published it, for the same wrong reasons.

Tom Eaton called it, here, but he also wrote this about the nuclear deal, which is one I'm adding to my "remember when we told you this was the wrong thing, government?" pile. That pile is rather large now. Click the Zapiro cartoon for The filth behind the filthy lucre.

There have been so many "open letters". Is this one just too optimistic? 

And why Dlamini-Zuma is so wrong for us all. “She is quickly turning into the country’s principal purveyor of bullshit – Sean Spicer in a green, black and yellow doek”, and this nugget - If the ANC was so desperate for a female presidential frontrunner, Baleka Mbete is the most logical terrible choice. Read Richard Poplak's latest for all this and more.

The good news is it's not only here that is so fraught. Saturday Night Live aired a hilarious clip featuring Baldwin as Trump, Jimmy Fallon as Kushner. Only problem is you cannot watch it from SA. (The link is to the NYT article, which has the clip, but I couldn't watch it.)

I searched and searched online  - found the Sean Spicer played by Melissa bit - which is hilarious, but only badly edited versions of the other. Here's the  transcript, as a start.

And Melissa as Sean, the Easter Bunny

Trevor Noah however, we can watch. He summarised Easter at the White House. Featuring Looney Tunes with KellyAnne. Loved it.

This is a great read. Some thoughts on why we struggle with relationships these days. Some of these resonated. 

On a more positive note, exercising is good for you at any age, but especially when you’re over 63. WOW! 

The flight attendant who should be employed by Kulula.

Guess the book title from the obscure plot - I missed two...

And the ever famous - hilarious texts between parents and kids... Try not to snort that coffee, it's most unattractive.

We definitely need to play out with some uplifting music, don't you think? Yip.  I know it's contrived, and all, but I do love Claire Ryann. (Remember the little girl who sang You've got a friend in me with her Dad?) And her sweet brother, handsome father and beautiful mother. Here's Beauty and the Beast.

All together now...Aaaaaahhhhhh......

Hope you found something to make your weekend more interesting today.

See you all same time and place next week. Thanks for being here and sharing all this with me.

Last week's ten.

More tens.

Friday Books - The Last Anniversary

Happy Friday everyone! So glad you stopped by to check out what I'm reading. 

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice are the hosting sites for the 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.

What am I reading? Well, I'm so glad you asked. It's 

Don't you love that opener? A funnel-web is a spider, in case you were wondering. (And yes, I did have to Google it). I'm reading Liane Moriarty again, because after Big Little Lies in 2015, I tried to read everything I found by her. And now that the series has been on TV, I'm reminded how much I enjoyed her books, and I found this one in the local library. Mine is the cover on the left, which I'm partial to.

The dialogues are my favourite parts of this book. So funny. It's great when they're authentic, and the way they're communicated, together with the thoughts behind them, you just get a person.

One thing I do love about the Big Little Lies TV series is the music, though. It's wonderful. We need soundtracks with our books, don't you think?

What're you reading today? 

Thanks for visiting. Have a great weekend.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Sympathiser by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Told in the first person, this is the account of a nameless half-Vietnamese half- French fighter serving during the Vietnam War in 1975. 

”I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. I flatter myself that this is a talent..."  he wryly observes.

The author, in the afterword, has this to say.

"The tendency to separate war stories from immigrant stories means that most Americans don't understand how many of the immigrants and refugees in the United States have fled from wars - many of which this country has had a hand in.”

That may be true. And if so, this novel explores and opens up that world. Delving into the atrocities and horrors experienced in Vietnam, and the sometimes worse squalor and skanky environment that he returned to in the US, now haunted by his experiences, this is a novel of love and friendship set in a world of espionage, treachery and war.

I have to admit,  I did tire of the complexities and political intricacies that played out alongside the human drama, there was a point where I stopped caring. It was too intense.

The audible narration was excellent - authentic and just the right tone and pace for the book.

4 stars

ISBN: 9780802123459

You may also enjoy Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

1984 by George Orwell

I've wanted to read this book for a very long time. Somehow I missed having to read it at school, and it's always better when you don't have to read a book.

Written in 1949, about the year 1984, thus futuristic, that's all I knew about this book before I picked it up. The protagonist, Winston Smith lives in Airstrip One, a province of Oceania, in what was Great Britain before.

It's eerie, dark and chilling. Big Brother is Watching You. The Ministry of Truth and the Thought Police. Children spying on parents and reporting them. Newspeak and War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength. Of course, Winston is invited to be part of a kind of revolution and we all wonder whether he will break out and become a leader in a new society, truly free.

Yet the book is easy to read, the plot shoots through the dull concrete world of people living almost automated existences like an arrow, and you find yourself hoping against hope that Winston will win.

It's amazing to think that George Orwell dreamed up a telescreen that disseminated information and also spied on the general population. Also fascinating in 2017, when we think of Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" and allegations that microwave ovens can spy on us.

I'm glad I read it, and I am astounded at the ideas, and world that Orwell created from the environment he lived in 1949.

Onwards and upwards to The Handmaid's Tale, Animal Farm and A Brave New World.

4 stars


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

An English nurse, Lib Wright, is brought to a small Irish village just after the Crimean war, where she served under the great Florence Nightingale. She doesn't know what her assignment is when she arrives. She is taken to the local pub/inn where she is informed that she is there to verify a story. Her patient, Anna, who is eleven, hasn't eaten for four months, asserting that she is sustained by 'manna from Heaven'. It seems that the community is inclined to believe her, and already the family are receiving visits from strangers to worship, admire and gawk at this miracle. Lib's partner in crime is a nun, not a nurse, and not trained in these things. They must observe 24/7.

From the very first page, I was steeped in the miry bog of Irish atmosphere, which is the perfect setting for this creepy tale of shadows, suspicion, subterfuge - or maybe miracles, awe and wonder? Which is it? The undertones of faith and religion, playing out in an impoverished superstitious village quickly develop into a story that is completely gripping and will absorb you with its intensity and drama. 

Not to mention the characters - Anna, just a little girl; Lib, who wants to do her job and the right thing, which seems agonising at times; the young priest, all the village elders and the family are embroiled. 

It only struck me afterwards, when I couldn't stop thinking about the themes, how difficult it is to navigate these complexities, and the extraordinary talent that Emma Donoghue has in steering us expertly through all the ditches and trenches we could so easily have fallen into.

I was thoroughly immersed and completely enraptured by this book. I loved every morsel.

5 stars


You may also enjoy Room by the same author, or Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Ten of the Best #88

Welcome to my weekend.

Been here before? You can skip this bit. You know how it works. About two years ago, I decided that a good waste of my time at the end of the week would be to keep track of all the things I didn't have time to read/watch during the week, for binge watching. In my house, that works best early on a Saturday morning. Wifi speed is better before the teens wake up. And here's where I share it with you. The news, from your timelines on my social media feeds. Hope you find something you enjoy too.

In news earlier this week, United Airlines overbooked their flight. No, that's not news, that happens all the time. But in this case, that led to a passenger being unwilling to take the $800 on offer to vacate his seat, and being forcibly removed, shockingly. Here's Ellen's take on it. Click here for the United Airlines incident report.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Friday Books - Peacekeeping

Happy Good Friday everyone! Yay, it's the weekend. Time to read.

BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Readerand The Friday 56 - hosted by Freda’s Voice are the hosting sites for the 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.

What am I reading? Well, I'm so glad you asked. It's 

My thoughts - I'm enjoying this. After abandoning Southern Ruby (sort of  -  I'm still listening to it occasionally), I needed something different. And this is. Set in Haiti, it's about the mishmash of people and politicians and peacekeepers there. It's good. And I'm nearly done.

Really don't know about this second cover. Cute, yes, but I feel like I'm reading a childhood Richard Scarry. What do you think? And the conversation gives you a taste of what the book is like. See - I told you it's good.

What're you reading today - tell me in the comments below.

Thanks for visiting. Have a fabulous weekend.