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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.

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From The Sundowner to Cascades.

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The posts I’ve done so far have been about books, so seeing as I did call this the ……Book and Film Blog, I think it’s about time I did a post about film.  I have always loved film, be it on the small screen or big screen.   When I was about ten or so, I decided I wanted to be an actress.  I would watch Dallas every week, and I decided I wanted to be like Pam and Sue Ellen, and be married to a handsome man who wore a cowboy hat/stetson.  Never mind that I was a shy kid, and at the time lived in a small Zimbabwean farming town and the men didn’t wear cowboy hats.  Anyway.  I digress.  Back to Dallas.  It was the first soapie I ever watched, – and yes, it even showed in Zimbabwe in the eighties.  We weren’t totally backward back then and we didn’t have elephants and lions roaming around our small town.  Believe it or not, my hometown had a Cinema called the Sundowner.  Quite civilized.  At home, we only had a black and white television, so going to the cinema was always a treat being able to watch in colour and on the big screen.  Before high school, I would often cycle to the cinema, especially for the Friday or Saturday matinees for us kids.  Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill movies were often matinee favourites.  My preteen years saw me watching Superman, Spiderman,  Star Wars, ET, Indiana Jones etc. A couple of other movies that stick out for me then, for some reason, were Coal Miner’s Daughter (about Loretta Lynn)  and Neil Diamond in Jazz Singer. and    There were also the animations that I enjoyed, particularly The Lady and the Tramp and The Fox and the Hound.  Which makes me think of Old Yeller and sobbing my heart out.

My teenage years saw me watching the likes of Say Anything, St Elmo’s Fire, Fame, Karate Kid, Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Rocky, Gorillas in the Mist and more.

All good things must come to an end, and so I left town, heading for better and bigger things, with stars in my eyes. No, I didn’t make it big like Charlize Theron.  Apparently her hissy fit in a bank got her noticed, – as for me, I was too demure for that sort of behaviour, hence the fact that I never became an actress.  I ended up in a South African city and while not huge in comparison to the likes of New York (the city I dreamed of as a teenager) it was certainly considerably bigger to my small Zimbabwean hometown.  Not long after I started working, the shopping center just down the road from where I worked and lived, opened up a cinema complex.   I didn’t have a car at the time, so it was an easy walk to the Cascades Cinema in my spare time. By then it was the start of the 90’s and a new era for me.  I watched plenty of movies back then.  Some of my favourites were Ghost, Dances with Wolves,  Point Break, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Silence of the Lambs, Forrest Gump, Prince of Tides, Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, A Few Good Men, Mrs Doubtfire and Sleepless in Seattle.  Once again, all good things must come to an end, and a few years after I was married, the Cascades Cinemas closed, probably due to the burgeoning market of “home entertainment”.  The days of cinema, were for me, magical days. The last movie I watched at the cinema was Elysium – about a year ago.  Quite sad really that I probably only go to the cinema around once a year now.  Mostly I watch my movies on television or on my laptop.  How times have changed.

Reading Classics.

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As much as I enjoy reading, I have to admit I have not read many classics.  The likes of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte etc.  Sure, I’ve read a few, but several of which were in high school and a few in later years.  So, I am setting myself a goal and that is to read a classic every now and then.  I am not going to set myself a really difficult goal, by saying once a month I’m going to read a really long one, but I do want try and start reading them on a somewhat regular basis.

I’ve started with A Tale of Two Cities.  I just read a few pages in the early hours of the morning, so I really can’t give much of an opinion for starters.

At the moment I’m reading Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer.  I read Into Thin Air a couple of years ago, about the ill fated 1996 Everest Expedition, and found it really interesting.  I knew very little about climbing Everest at the time, and all the time and finances that goes into it, so I certainly learned a fair bit from the book.  Not that I have any desire to go climbing Everest, even if I did have the time and money……. Maybe a trek to base camp, but that’s as far as I would go.  I watched Into the Wild when it first came out, with my mother, and she got quite upset trying to make sense why someone would do what Christopher McCandless did.  I think that as a mother, she related more to his parents angst, and felt he was selfish doing what he did to his parents.  I felt I could understand to a point why – not his being unforgiving towards his parents, but at times I wish I could chuck it all in, hit the road and free myself from the restraints of society, but only a few of us have the courage to actually do what he did. Sadly, or even maybe selfishly he held onto his anger with parents for a long time.  If he’d been able to let go of that anger sooner, maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been as tragic.  Both books though, show that ultimately nature does not let us off lightly.

Chasing the Devil, The Search for Africa’s Fighting Spirit

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Gosh, I can’t believe it’s over a month since I posted. As always, I have intentions to post more often, but unfortunately all too often, those intentions fall flat, and all too soon another Christmas is almost upon us. However, I have read a few books since Taylor’s Gift, and I have just finished Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher, which stands out as the best of them.
chasing the devil

After reading his previous travel book, Blood River, A journey to Africa’s Broken Heart and enjoying it, I finally got around to reading Chasing the Devil and likewise enjoyed it. Brave man indeed. In Blood River he sets out to traverse the length of the Congo River as the Victorian explorer Henry Morton Stanley had done so in his 1876-77 expedition and like Chasing the Devil, this book is not just about himself and his travels, but of the average citizen on the ground and the lives they live in order to survive in such politically unstable & often war torn environments.

In Chasing the Devil, he treks through Sierra Leone and Liberia, and briefly Guinea, but mostly it’s about his trek on foot through Sierra Leone and Liberia. He follows author Graham Greene’s trail, who trekked through the countryside and jungles, with his cousin Barbara in 1935, through those countries. He describes well Graham Greene’s journey and their hardships and of course the differences in 1935, compared to that of the late 2000′s.

Before reading Chasing the Devil, I knew little of the two countries, besides the brutal “diamond war” in Sierra Leone, watching Blood Diamond with Leonardo Di Caprio, and the Charles Taylor trial at the Hague. I did know that Liberia was never colonized, but had been “given” to freed American slaves, but other than that I never knew of the deeper history of these two countries and Tim Butcher does a good job of explaining their histories and also gives you a good understanding of why there has been such conflict/war in those countries.

Of course Mr Butcher details his own trip and his hardships with his travel companion and their two guides/assistants (compared to about a dozen or so porters that the Greene’s used), but he describes well how the people out in the harsh countryside and jungle survive, not only facing the natural dangers, but eking out their living and doing the best they can, in the face of recovering from war, and living in a such poverty stricken countries, that are still somewhat politically unstable. Not only that, he describes well their traditional beliefs and again gives one a good understanding of such matters and at times brutal acts. Where there is little Western interference, such beliefs that Westerners may consider backward and evil, remain dominant and a part of everyday life. Along the way he meets interesting characters, many local, good and bad, and a few foreigners whether involved in aid, or trying to do their bit to spread “light” to this part of Africa that has seen so much brutality.

I found this a thoroughly interesting and engrossing book.

Taylor’s Gift

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Taylor's Gift

I hadn’t intended on reading this book, (if that makes sense). A colleague left it at work and asked me to put it away for her but I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. Some books are just meant to be read and for me this was definitely one of those books. It is the story of the Storch family who lose their thirteen year old daughter and sister, Taylor, who died in a skiing accident. It is just so heartbreaking, and I had to put it down a few times, such was the tragedy of a family dealing with the loss of a member of their family. They found the courage to donate Taylor’s organs and despite their heartbreak, lives were saved. Even if you aren’t a churchgoer, there is just something special about this book and story. How can one not believe in God, especially after reading a book like this?

One Hundred and Four Horses

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one hundred and four horses

Zimbabwe is the country of my birth and where I grew up, and even though I no longer liver there, part of me will always remain a Zimbabwean. I always keep an eye out for new books about the country and when I saw this one, I knew I had to read it. Most current books about Zimbabwe are books about the events that have happened there during and since the farm invasions and One Hundred and Four Horses is no different. It is about Mandy and Pat Retzlaff, husband and wife, horse lovers and owners, who end up losing their farm but in the process end up taking not only their own horses but the horses of fellow farmers who left the country, across Zimbabwe and into Mozambique. It is a heartbreaking and bittersweet book, but descriptive and well written, giving the reader insight into those times of uncertainty and hardship that most Zimbabweans had to endure – and still do. When most people would have given up and called it quits, the Retzlaffs never gave up on their horses. I don’t come from an equine background but I love animals and have ridden a couple of times (long ago!). However, regardless of whether you ride or not, or come from an equine background, this book is well worth the read.

Interestingly, Mozambique is now facing uncertain times ahead with upcoming elections and worries that the country may be plunged back into civil war. Let’s hope not. So far, only Central Mozambique has had “incidents”, so let’s hope that the situation can be resolved peacefully and not spread and affect the rest of the country, because as usual, if not, it’s the innocent who as usual will suffer.

The Thorn Birds

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The Thornbirds

The first book on my new blog. The Thorn Birds. No, it’s not a South African book I know, and this blog won’t just be about South African books and films. I will of course blog about South African and African stories, but I’m not going to focus only on South African/African content.

I was a teenager when I watched the Mini Series starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward, not mention a number of other well known actors and actresses. It is a tragic story of forbidden love. Over twenty years later I have finally gotten around to reading the book. It’s a long yarn, nearly six hundred pages and if that’s what you’re into, it’s well worth the read. I was caught up in every word, and thoroughly enjoyed the book, despite it’s almost overwhelming underlying sadness. I felt the book was telling me that the best of love may well be the hardest and that we all have our flaws, but when we accept them, life becomes a little easier, but at the end of the day, life is never easy, no matter how matter what your background. I’ve never been to Australia but reading the book I could imagine I was there, due to Colleen McCoullough’s rich descriptiveness.

I have been reading mostly on kindle for the last two years. Even two years ago, Kindles were not available in South African shops, only in the last year have they become available. A bit slow on the uptake I know. Luckily for me, I was given a kindle as a birthday present two years ago and one thing I must admit I have enjoyed about it, is reading stories by authors I wouldn’t have otherwise read, had it not been for kindle. All those “unknown” authors. Authors who I’m sure would love to have the opportunity to be seen on a level footing with the bestselling authors. Sure, some of those books have been good books and some have been average, but mostly they’ve given me a good deal of reading pleasure. It’s not to say I haven’t bought any books by the more well known writers recently, I have, but thanks to self publishing and Kindle, I’ve been able to read a wider variety of books and give those “unknowns” a chance.

That said, I read The Thorn Birds in paperback. It’s about $5.00 on kindle, but I got it for R10 which is about a dollar I guess, at the local hospice book shop, where many a gem of a book can be found at a bargain, and all for a good cause. Good to read a “real” book for a change, and actually turn a page, and smell the mustiness of an old book.