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The Crown – Season Four.

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When I first began this site, I named it The South African Book and Film blog. I have since realized it was probably a little misleading, because other than the fact that I’m South African, many of the books I read and films I watch are not South African. Most of the films I watch are most certainly not South African. Not because I don’t want to watch South African content, but because there is not enough South African content, and not enough content to hold my interest. Fair enough, if I enjoyed soapies, which I don’t particularly, I would have enough South African content to keep me occupied. On the other hand, I can find many more South African books (and Zimbabwean or other African books) that hold my interest, than South African films. Of course, when I do find South African films that I think I will find interesting and/or enjoy, I will watch them.

I am now watching the fourth season of The Crown on Netflix. The relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher is very interesting. According to The Crown, Margaret Thatcher did not think very highly of the (privileged) lifestyle of The Royal Family when she was invited to Balmoral and had little in common with how the royals’ outdoor hobbies and how they relaxed together, like playing after dinner games. It seems The Prime Minister would rather have been working on solving the problems facing Britain at the time than walking around in the mud on Balmoral grounds. Too much leisure time, it seems for Margaret Thatcher was a waste of time, and time much better spent working. She was Prime Minister of Britain for eleven years, so she obviously did something right by remaining in office at 10 Downing St. Many did not like her at all, particularly the miners and the IRA, but it seems she did not care, and felt if she made enemies, she was doing a good job. Episode 2 is called The Balmoral Test, and which apparently Margaret Thatcher failed dismally. On the other hand, Lady Diana Spencer’s first visit to Balmoral (with the Queen in residence) was a success, and which she passed with flying colours.

One thing I have enjoyed about The Crown, is watching Queen Elizabeth mature from a young woman, reluctantly becoming Queen and in the beginning, trying to assert herself in a male dominated world of royalty and politics to that of an experienced Monarch, but one with frailties and imperfections (like all of us). Most of the time I have enjoyed how she has been portrayed, although the one scene between her and Prince Charles, after Charles received his Investiture in Wales, left me feeling disappointed in her (if indeed it was true, mind you). Surely there were better ways in preparing your son for a lifetime of duties as a Royal? I guess she was a product of her era though, that of loyalty and duty. You got on with the job and tradition, you put your personal feelings aside and that was that.

So, eight more episodes of fourth season of The Crown to go. I don’t want to rush through them though, but I’m sure by the end of this coming weekend I will have!

Oh what a year.

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It’s almost as if my year ended in January. My first post in January was a carefree one. It really feels like the other day, and what’s happened in between until now all feels rather surreal. I went to the local Hospice Bookshop back then, bought myself a few books, the money supporting a worthy cause. Afterwards I had coffee and a piece of delicous carrot cake at the cafe there, overlooking a forest on the edge of the city, and looked forward to reading my books. That was when Covid had not reached the shores of South Africa, and it seemed unimaginable that what was happening in China would spread around the globe in no time at all. Certainly Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul that I bought then, was much needed inspiration in the months to come. I read recently that 1500 nurses have died from 44 countries worldwide – although many believe that this number is much higher. As many nurses have died from Covid as did nurses during World War 1. We went into lockdown at the end of March, and in the hospital I work at, the months leading up to the surge were stressful, simply because we did not know if it was going to be bad, and for almost two months, in July and August it was bad. I didn’t get much reading done then. Just a little when I could concentrate on reading. It seemed easier to lose and numb myself in countless games of spider solitaire during my spare time, and watching Netflix, when I’d had enough of thinking about what was going on and enough of people’s cavalier attitude towards the virus, and of the countless conspiracy theories. Even one ex colleague (retired) told me we were getting hysterical over the virus. In my 30 years of nursing – of which I’ve been nearly 24 years in the hospital I am now, nurses were never so badly affected by the flu, and that’s the common excuse for people who are dismissive of Covid, ie “it’s just the flu”. Well then 2020, was a hell of a bad fu season, the worst I’ve ever seen. So please do understand all the precautions we had to (and still are) take in the hospitals.

Anyway, with only 3 patients in the hosptial now with Covid, the situation is easier, despite a bit of an increase of cases in the community, it feels for now at least, we have a respite.

It’s summer here and a hot day today. I have been reading a little more now, but also watching my favourite Netflix/Amazon shows. Most of my posts here have been on books, but I called it the Book and Film Blog, so today it’s all about my Watch List. I’m not one for binge watching really, unless they really keep me on the edge of my seat, wanting more. Normally I prefer savouring my way through series – Heartland for example, which is set on a Canadian horse ranch and revolves around Amy, a horse whisperer of sorts, and her family. It replaced the Aussie McLeod’s Daughters for me. Heartland is an easy going family show, perfect to forget about your troubles for a while. Chesapeake Shores is also another easy going family drama, that I’m watching slowly. Then there’s Suits and House of Cards on my list when I want to watch something with more twists and turns – series that also show us that life is not all clean cut and sparkly clean, unfortunately. That said, at the beginning of the year I watched several episodes of The Crown, and enjoyed them but for whatever reason, didn’t watch any more, but then about a month ago, I started watching it again, and found myself thoroughly immersed in it. I love history, and I found the Queen’s early years of her reign so interesting – not simply for the dramas of the royal family but for the backdrop of the historical events during those times – I can’t wait for season four next week. In the meantime, I’ve been watching Fear the Walking Dead. Yes, my interests are diverse to say the least! I really enjoyed The Walking Dead. Yes, it’s gory, but the characters were strong ones that I enjoyed, and the story lines were always good, so when that eneded I got onto FTWD. I enjoy science fiction and post – apocalypse, another show, a few years ago I enjoyed was The 100, and season 6 is out on Netflix now so I have that to get through also. There is also Snow Piecer another post apocalyptic series that I’ve watched a few episodes and enjoyed. When Game of Thrones ended, I started rewatching Vikings, so that’s also on my watch list at the moment. In between the gory and serious stuff, I enjoy watching old episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Friends, although The Big Bang Theory comes out tops for me, it’s just funnier.

Anyway, whatever part of the world you are in, whether it’s hot or cold, stay cool, keep warm and happy reading or watching.

The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye.

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So, who would have thought when I last posted way back in January, a virus called Covid-19 was hitting China, and most of us didn’t even imagine that in a matter of months it would spread around the world and send most countries into some form of lockdown.  Way back in January, when life was still “normal” for most countries, we had only just finished making our new year resolutions.

I always resolve to Blog more.  Read more.  Write More.  Run more.  Be more healthy.

Anyway.  I am reading often and trying to write more.  I have not posted on this site nearly as often I’d like.  If ever I have a valid excuse for neglecting this site, it’s Covid.  Covid will get the blame for everything that went wrong in 2020!  I’ve moaned about the virus, the lockdown, and our rather inept South African Government for months now but this site is not the site for me to vent my frustrations out on.  I have another blog site for that!  Time to re focus my energies on other subjects.

My last post, as I mentioned way back in January, I had just visited the local hospice bookshop and posted a photo of the books I’d purchased.  I ate a lovely (albeit pricey) piece of carrot cake with a tasty cappuccino – possibly the last cappuccino I’ve had.   It feels like the other day – or it feels like a lifetime ago, I’m not quite sure which.  I’m not sure if the bookshop is open yet.  I must find out.  We are still in our surge here in South Africa, so it may well not be open yet.

One of those books was The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye.  I read the original three “The Girl….” books, by Stieg Larsson starting with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, featuring Lisbeth Salander, a young woman, with a tragic childhood who is extremely intelligent, a genius.  A woman who takes the law into her own hands, and will not let evil people get away with their crimes, against her or anyone else.  The first three books kept me hooked.  I did not read the fourth installment, written after Mr. Larrson’s passing, by a David Lagercrantz.  The Girl Who Takes An Eye For Eye is the the fifth in the series, also by Mr. Lagercrantz.  Out of the original three, I certainly enjoyed the first one the best.  The next two were good, but not quite as good as the first.  The fifth book was good enough, typical of the antics of Lisbeth, out to avenge any wrongdoings she feels needs avenging and typical of her complicated relationship with journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  Probably a 6.5 – 7 out of ten I’d say.

 

Hello 2020

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It’s been over a year since I have bought any books – well, paper books. Mostly I buy and read e books, but I still enjoy reading paper books. I hardly buy new books, they are so expensive now anyway, so I go to the local Hospice bookshop. There is a coffee shop there, and it’s so peaceful, with lovely views of the forest in the distance. Being summer in South Africa, everything is so green from our rains and it was a lovely warm day. Just a little time out was what I needed. I’ve read a few stories from Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul and already gotten teary!

What I like when looking at second hand books is you never know what you will find.

Hopefully for 2020 I will read lots of good books and breathe some life into this blog.

I’ve read a couple of Alexandar McCall Smith’s The No 1 Detective Ladies Agency and enjoyed them, so I thought I would try the first in the 44 Scotland series. Having read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, I thought I would try The Girl who Takes an Eye for an Eye, albeit by a different author, as Stieg Larsson died in 2004, before he saw the first of his Girl series published. The reviews I’ve read for the later books suggest they are not as good as the first three, but never mind, I will read it and make up my own mind.

Anyway, Happy reading for 2020.

Anne Frank

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I’ve neglected my blogging.   I last updated in January.  I really didn’t think it had been that long. What can I say? The usual excuses.  It’s been busy at work, and by the time I get home I’m exhausted.    After I’ve caught up with the usual (boring chores) around home, it feels like I have little time left to catch up with blogging.  Even now, as it is, the spare time I have is under pressure.  The hubby will be home soon, and we will chat and catch up about our day.  Then I have to get food cooked, and get ready for work, as I am a night shift worker.

Anyway, my last post I blogged about the Goodreads challenge.   I’ve kept on track with it and it’s already half way through the year.

I’ve read some good books so far.  Mostly serious books.  One chick lit book.  One book, that I’d never read, but always wanted to read, was the Diary of Anne Frank.  I’ve watched movies and documentaries about her, but never read her actual diary, so finally, after some 40 years or so of reading, I thought it was about time I actually read the diary.  In the beginning of the diary it was mostly lighthearted, not that different from what mine would have been, albeit in a different era, the writing of a young girl whose life involved school, friends and boys, like most teenagers.  To start with, there were a few hints of the underlying situation in Germany but she either did not think things would deteriorate or she just did not want to talk much about the seriousness of those times.  Once they go into hiding and as time goes by, it becomes apparent, that as they try to hold onto some semblance of a normal routine, it is extremely difficult living with the same people in close quarters and no way to really take “time out” from one other.  It also was hard as for Anne as a teenager, to be sharing her sleeping space with an older man who was particular in his ways and couldn’t understand the mind of a young teenager.  It’s so sad that she had a fractious relationship with her mother while in hiding, but I do feel that happened because they were in hiding and not able to develop a normal relationship during Anne’s teen years.  What I found difficult while reading the book, especially towards the end, was knowing there was not going to be a happy ending for a young girl with all her dreams and aspirations. It’s so tragic that they got through most of the war, only to die not long before it ended.

Fever – Deon Meyer

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So, the first month of 2018 is nearly at an end.  For the last few years I have done the Good Reads reading challenge.  The first two years I read the amount of books I challenged myself to do so.  Last year, disappointingly I didn’t read what I challenged myself.  Maybe moving homes had something to do with it and adjusting to changes.  Such is life.  Anyway, this year, although it’s early days, I am on track.  I have settled into my new home, and have been reading more again, so I am a happy bookworm once more.  Fever was one of the last books I read in December, and it warranted a review, so here it is.fever 2

Deon Meyer writes South African crime thrillers, which delve  into the often bloodthirsty criminal world of this country, from urban crime to poaching.  So when I saw Fever, I was surprised.  The book imagines a South Africa (and the rest of the world) after a virus has killed  off over 90% of humanity.  No, not zombies or aliens, just a good old fashioned devastating virus.  I enjoy post apocalyptic stories (zombies and aliens, included from time to times), but admittedly, I prefer stories where the possibility of apocalypse is a reality and Fever is one such story.

It’s about a father and his young son who survive the fever, and the father’s quest to carve out a community that will become self sufficient.  That he does, with an an assortment of characters from various walks of life.  Of course not everyone in the community sees eye to eye, and there are internal conflicts that have to be dealt with as well as the external threats, like dealing with packs of vicious dogs, marauding bikers and unusual weather patterns.   We see the community grow and slowly flourish despite their hardships and we see the young son become a man, and how he deals with living in a harsh and dangerous new world.  My only gripe would be the ending.  I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read Fever, but I felt it was a little over the top when one finds out how the virus spread.  Other than that though, I felt it was a good read, which I enjoyed, and for those into this type of genre, give it a try, it won’t disappoint for the most part.

Thirteen Reasons Why.

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A very long time ago, when I was sixteen, I took a handful of tablets and tried to end my life.  Fortunately I didn’t succeed.  I was miserable, didn’t have many friends and just wanted some attention.  Yes, I got teased at times.  I was shy and quiet.   I lacked confidence.  I didn’t get much attention from the opposite sex, because I was shy and quiet.  That said, I never blamed anyone specifically for my suicide attempt.  I never wrote a list like Hannah did and blamed a whole lot of people for deciding to take my life.  Then again, I didn’t grow up with the internet and cell phones and bullying was taken to a whole new level.  While reading the book, I wished I could grab Hannah by the shoulders and say “It gets better, it really does.  You don’t have to go to school for the rest of your life.  You leave school and even though the real world can be hard, your life is own and it’s not all bad.  Yes, you have bad days, but you get through those bad days.  You learn to appreciate the simple joys of life.”  Was Hannah being selfish by committing suicide?  Or was she really simply not strong enough in the end?    It was a sad book and it had a bittersweet ending.  I don’t believe the book focused enough on how Hannah’s suicide impacted her parents.   I watched a few episodes of the series on Netflix and I think they did her parents grief more justice than the book did.  I don’t know though, if it will actually stop teenagers from wanting to end their lives.  Hopefully though maybe it will stop some teenagers from teasing others.  That even the lack of words of hurt.  Be nice to that quiet kid.  Don’t tease someone just because they aren’t good at sport, or don’t dress in the trendiest clothes, or because they are “geeky”.  We are all unique and we are all special.

Like Clockwork – Margie Orford.

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It’s been sometime since I’ve posted here.  Not for lack of reading books or watching films though.  I have my excuses, some valid and some not so, but it’s the excuses that I really shouldn’t let get in the way of my writing and blogging that are the ones holding me back.  So, not to bore any more.

For quite a while I have been wanting to read Margie Orford’s Clare Hart thriller series, which I eventually got around to doing so.  Well, the first one at least, Like Clockwork.  Set in Cape Town, the protagonist is police profiler Clare Hart.  It’s a grim murder novel, that delves into the criminal underworld of Cape Town, and human trafficking/prostitution and a serial killer.  In such crime/murder novels, for the most part, the detectives/investigators (or police profiler as in the case of Ms Hart) always have more than their fair share of personal problems, and Clare Hart is no exception.  I am always on the look out for books set in South Africa, which is why I had wanted to read the first of her books.  It wasn’t a bad offering.  It wasn’t a great offering either.  I’ve read better thrillers.  When reading such thrillers, I expect such stories to be on the realistic side, yes, harsh and sometimes brutal, as certainly crime in South Africa can be, but it’s got to be realistic yet I found the ending somewhat unbelievable, and a bit of an anti climax and one always feels a little let down when a book ends that way.  Nevertheless, it’s not a book that I’ve written off at all, and it had it’s merits, particularly in that it portrays the very grim reality of the criminal underbelly quite well.  Not a bad read.  I’ve got the second book in the series, so I will read it, and see if it does better than the first.

 

Science Fiction

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It’s been a while since I updated here, so time to do some catching up.  Since February,when I last posted, I have read some some average books, and some good books.  The two books I enjoyed the most were science fiction, Wool and Sand, both by the same author, Hugh Howey.

The first one I read was Wool, set in a world that is uninhabitable outside, so humans are living in silos. If you are into science fiction, it’s a really good read with lots of action and suspense, but also the necessary human emotions to go with it.  Next I read Sand, which I enjoyed more than Wool.  The opposite of living in silos, humans are living in a desert which is engulfing the land, but not everything is quite as it seems.  Again, good action and suspense, and characters that I enjoyed reading about.  Howey’s stories are plausible, because who knows what Earth will end up like many thousands from now.  According to google, Wool may be made into a movie and it wouldn’t surprise me, it deserves to be.

neverwhere

Neverhwere was an entertaining fantasy read, which I really enjoyed.  Imaginative and with lots of action and adventure, the story was about a young man thrust into an alternate London and what he gets caught up in. If this is your cup of tea, it’s a good read.

So far for 2016, my three best reads have been science fiction/fantasy.

The Bone Woman

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the bone woman

My fourth book for this year was not a particularly light read.  I can’t imagine digging up bodies for a living.  As a nurse I’ve seen dead bodies, but those bodies aren’t ones that have been cut up with machetes, as in Rwanda in 1994 or shot during the Bosnian War in the 90’s.  I’ve had people say to me “I can’t imagine being a nurse and doing what you have to do.”  Well, I can’t imagine doing what people like Clea Koff do.  Each to their own and respect to the likes of her for doing it.  It was interesting reading the Amazon reviews for the book.  She got some flak for not showing enough emotion and for being too over confident.  Well, when you are working in a church that has bloody hand prints on the walls, I would say one would need to be able to distance ones self from letting it get to you, in order to do your job professionally.  How do people know what she goes through in private, and what emotion she feels – she wrote about her nightmares, I’d say that’s emotion.  Considering she was in her early twenties when she began in Rwanda, she was young, and then she wrote the book ten years or so later, I would reckon that anthropology is not a common career choice for young people, so I’m not surprised that some people thought she was over confident.  I’ve read a fair bit about Rwanda but not much the Bosnian War.  I found the part about hospital staff and patients getting taken out of the hospital, and forced into trucks and taken to their deaths, particularly chilling.  Not to mention people being hacked to death in a church.  Mankind at it’s absolute worst.  Again, not a light read, but in some ways by reading a book like that, one is hopefully keeping the memory alive, of all those innocent people who lost their lives unnecessarily, murdered in absolute cold blood.

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