Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Radium Girls

Subtitled  "the Dark Story of America's Shining Women", the title is sufficient to spark fear - of content, of just how shocking this story can be, of more abuse against women. You get the picture.

I've read quite a dose of non-fiction lately, and this stands out.

It's not that difficult to read. Ok, some reviewers have commented that it's not a quick and easy read, and it isn't. Reading about radium poisoning was always going to be an experience for which you wanted some interruptions. But I loved the way that Kate Moore personalised these stories. She owned each one. It felt like she had tea with them, their families, their neighbours, and she understood the inflections, the uniqueness of each powerful story, and most importantly, the character of the woman who should have been alive to tell it herself.

As should be the case with a good historical account too, you should learn something about what you're reading. I hadn't realised that not only was radium not considered dangerous in those times - it was only good for you - the green juice of the times, as it were.

I couldn't read enough of these women's powerful stories, I couldn't put the book down, and I was enthralled by every minute.

ISBN: 9781492649359
4 stars
You may also enjoy Hidden Figures by Margot Shatterly or what about Difficult Women, by Roxanne Gay?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Friday Books - Blood Sisters

For BookBeginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader and the Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice this week, I'm featuring...

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

Here's My Beginning..

Alison is cutting some glass. She's an artist, now. 15 years ago, she was one of the three little girls in the accident. One died.

My Page 56

Kitty was also involved in the accident 15 years ago. She cannot speak anymore, but we can hear her thoughts. She doesn't remember names, hence "Very Thin Carer", "Smiley Carer", "Tea Trolley Lady", "Bossy Supervisor", and so on. 

Blood Sisters flips between Alison and Kitty's accounts.

I loved this book. It was funny, scary and I couldn't stop reading it. Here's my review.

What are you reading this weekend? 

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach

Goodreads Blurb

"Humans have built hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don't even know how a pen or a toilet works. How have we achieved so much despite understanding so little? Cognitive scientists Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue that we survive and thrive despite our mental shortcomings because we live in a rich community of knowledge. The key to our intelligence lies in the people and things around us. We're constantly drawing on information and expertise stored outside our heads: in our bodies, our environment, our possessions, and the community with which we interact--and usually we don't even realize we're doing it."

An Audible listen, this book was very interesting. Starting with studies on how little detailed understanding we have of things like toilets, zippers and other every day objects. it then moved to the fascinating observation that, despite this, we rate ourselves "experts" on most things. When asked to explain, few can, and when asked to explain in a "cause and effect" manner, we usually realise our deficiency.

There were many studies and anecdotes punctuating such observations. Most of them jaw dropping  - like the "facts" about the world that so few people got correct. 

Page 172 "Public opinion is more extreme than people's understanding justifies. Americans who most strongly supported military intervention in the Ukraine in 2014 were the ones least able to identify the Ukraine's location on a map...Apparently, the fact that a strong majority of people has some preference does not mean that their opinion is informed. As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding. They often emerge in the absence of understanding." 

The authors then go on to talk about how recognising our lack of knowledge and understanding can lead to better decisions. And then - more scarily - how often if we have strong emotions about things, we are even more inclined to believe errors, and when corrected, or probed, less likely to change our beliefs, even when confronted with contradictory evidence.

Page 192 "We had hoped that shattering the illusion of understanding would make people more curious and more open to new information about the topic at hand. This is not what we have found. If anything, people are less inclined to seek new information after finding out that they were wrong. Causal explanation is an effective way to shatter the illusion, but people don't like having their illusion shattered. In the words of Voltaire: 'Illusion is the first of all pleasures.' Shattering an illusion can cause people to disengage. People like to feel successful, not incompetent.

Nothing about this collection is brand new. Yet how it was constructed had me thinking about the impact of this way of thinking on hard to solve  societal problems.

I enjoyed the process.

ISBN: 9780399184352

You may also enjoy Misbehaving by Richard Thaler or The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis.

More Books

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

We stumble into The Music Shop in the 1980s - it’s a bit like the wardrobe in Narnia, the ring in Lord of the Rings. By the worn carpet, the crackle of the needle on the LP, the sponginess of the headphones on our ears, we are transported to another place, where things are just, well, nicer.

Frank, with his uncanny knack for finding music that will heal your soul, runs the place, and is a stubborn vinyl supporter - to his own detriment, when CDs are arriving with all their practicality and none of vinyl’s charm. Crazy Kit assists, with his love for exclamation marks and badly constructed “advertising”. Maud, a quiet tattoo artist works down the drag, with the Williams brothers, who run a funeral parlour. Mr Novak, the baker and Father Anthony who has a shop filled with religious paraphernalia also pop in from time to time.

Into this weird world filled with whacky way out people walks green-clad Ilse Brauchmann, who promptly faints outside, throwing them all into a bit of a quandary, especially Frank, who falls in love.

Rachel Joyce, famous for the acclaim created with The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, has done her music homework. The notes soar high and clear, and you’ll enjoy this whimsical, nostalgic novel with its almost fantasy-feel. You’ll never believe it, but you probably won’t mind.

5 stars


You may also enjoy Faithful by Alice Hoffman, or A Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman, or for something a little different, what about The Nix by Nathan Hill?

Some more books.


Monday, 4 September 2017

We are young

I was thinking about friends this morning when I woke up. You know, those people who are supposed to be there for each other through thick and thin, encourage each other to do the right thing - like exercise and eat healthily. But more often than not, when together we drink too much, party too hard, and let each other down in the morning. Which can also be part of the fun.

I'm definitely running this morning. But before I go - a shout out to my friends and the endless discussions about how we're going to get fitter, stronger, and eat better. Don't forget your green smoothies, and I want to know you're also making healthy choices this week.  😜 I'll be confessing all my unhealthy choices to my running buddy as I go.

There's only one song on my mind on this topic today. It's Fun. We are Young.

Because even though we can get fitter, and eat better, and reduce our Discovery ages by another year "if we do, we will never be younger than the actual age we are today.  And that, my friends is the best reason to get right out of bed and get on that track. Let's do this.

"But between the drinks and subtle things, the holes in my apologies
You know I'm trying hard to take it back
So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I'll carry you home

We are young
So let's set the world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun
We are young
So let's set the world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun"

Here's the Pentatonix version.

And for those sticklers for the original version...

Happy Monday, happy week.


Friday, 1 September 2017

Friday Books - The Secrets She Keeps

Happy Friday everyone. 

Friday fun is finding books on 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. We get to share excerpts from a current book - the beginning and - you guessed it - page 56.

This week, I'm featuring

The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

Here's My Beginning..

Anyone agree with me that this is reminiscent of Girl on The Train? Sounds like Agatha (the heading of the chapter) is kind of watching Meg, In a creepy way. I haven't got more than a few pages in, so I could be completely wrong, but that's the feeling I get from those lines.

My Page 56

You can be thankful I've spared you the next line - it got more descriptive, and ended with a "You're  disgusting." I didn't want to offend any visitors - besides I think that's bad enough. 

What are you reading this weekend? 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

House of Eliott by Jean Marsh

Two sisters, Beatrice and Evangeline. Dad dies, and they are left destitute. They also realize that  father dearest wasn't all he made out he was. His fortune had been philandered, and they are the worse off for it. Not to mention a predatory cousin who wants to claim his right to be their guardian, and marry one of them, and a revolting aunt, who is no help whatsoever, and flitters and flounces in and out of their lives, making things generally worse.

Beatrice, the elder, knows they need jobs. Evangeline just wants to dance - and she possibly could. Until she lands in some hot water and can’t anymore.

But fortunately these sisters have a sense of style that is soon noticed by all. By Beatrice's employer and his clients, and then the rest of high society. The girls quickly apply their fashion sense and dressmaking expertise, together with a sense of the outrageous, yet flattering, and stylish, but not overdone to revolutionise the fashion industry with their genius.

Do I sound a tad cynical? Well yes, this is an unlikely tale, based on a TV series, that went on to tell more about this fashion house. But if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s fun. Jean Marsh tells a good and happy story, filled with flighty, yet intelligent women, who are able to plot careers, and create gainful employment. It’s a fun and pleasurable afternoon, and they do all live happily ever after, with a few about-turns and near misses on the way.

It’s not bad - the writing flows, and it’s a diverting, if not wildly interesting read.

3 stars


You may also enjoy Kit by Marina Fiorato or Georgette Heyer’s Powder and Patch

More Books


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone starts with a mother, driving her two young children far from home. They’ve been on the road for a while, and you can sense her desperation, their worry, a quiet sense of panic in the car. Then she must stop for refreshments, and after she has, someone is following her. It’s a cop. Is he going to pull her over? Yes? No? Maybe he will, and maybe it’ll be ok? Maybe he will, and maybe it won’t be ok? It’s the sheriff and he does. And even though you can read more in the blurb, I’m not telling, because you need to discover for yourself.

Stories about mothers trying to escape, in fraught circumstances with their children always ensnare me. This one is no different, yet completely different. The tension you feel from my opening paragraph is the first few pages. Then it gets worse. And then some more injustice and accusations are added to the pot. And when you think you can’t breathe anymore, and you’re wondering if you can dare to keep reading, and also wondering if you dare stop, there is a tiny glimmer of hope.

Haylen Beck is the pen name of Stuart Neville, and he’s renowned. In Here and Gone, he tells the story of Audra, Sean and Louise with a style that is fast paced, yet empathetic; true to life - some broken people trying to make the world little better, and a mother prepared to fight to the death for the future of her children.

Don’t read anything about this book - not even the blurb. Just go and get a copy, clear your diary, and wallow. Maybe have the kettle boiled - you may need to distract yourself with a brew in those “I can’t anymore” moments.

A tense, twisty, completely enthralling thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

5 stars

ISBN: 9781911215592

You may also enjoy The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer or Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Sing Your Song

Good morning everybody.

Time to shine. Get up, and onto that exercise track. It's Monday. No better day to start, now is the  time, no more excuses.

Look at that sunrise - get your shoes on, you want to see it from the road, glinting through the trees - black branches so starkly in focus, with the golden background, the beauty hurts your eyes - the colours in the sky, the shape of the trees and the light streaming through them. 

Sometimes when we start running on a Monday, I feel like we're joining in a song that's already been playing, painting our part of picture already sketched, journeying a road many have pounded down - some only minutes before. The universe is welcoming us  to be a part of its - and our unfolding story. There's a familiarity that calms me, and I know my part, when it comes. It's better joining in than starting all alone.

So here's our song for today. It's a favourite. Symphony - Clean Bandit

And now your song is on repeat
And I’m dancin' on to your heartbeat
And when you’re gone, I feel incomplete
So, if you want the truth...

I just wanna be part of your symphony
Will you hold me tight and not let go?
Like a love song on the radio
Will you hold me tight and not let go?

Enjoy your workout today, and have a great week.

Last week's motivation - Tame the Crazy

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Ten of the Best #101

Yes, I know I said I'd never again.

But - and there are a few:

1.  You guys make this such fun. There's such amazing stuff on your timelines, and I can never read/watch it all in a busy workweek, and I do so want to.

2. You've asked, so nicely, that even if I don't do this every week, I do it every "now and again". Ok, ok, that's not what you've asked, but that's probably all I can promise for now.

3. What else is there to do early on a Saturday morning, when I'm awake, and no one else is up? (Except all of you looking for this post). I love the tweeting birds in my ears, the morning air on my skin, and my fingers tapping the keys as I search for the stuff. I could do without the earphones in my ears, but then I may be divorced, so we'll leave those in, for now.

So here we are, checking out the best of last week on social media. You know how it works - click the pic/video link, and use your back button to come back here for more.

It's been a week. There was (always is) Trump. But there was also Manyi, who became a media baron, when the Guptas gave him a Gifta - ANN24 and New Age newspapers. Here's Poplak, hilarious as usual. Click Zapiro.

The NYT said it so well - the test of Nazism that Trump Failed.