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First Half Of 2020 Film Round Up

I originally wrote a long tract for this paragraph; in sum, thank you Amazon for enabling easy, affordable, and constant, access to films from all over the world. You may be problematic but you (and Netflix most likely – I don’t have that) are doing what other companies and cinemas over here rarely if ever bothered with. On the more usual topic, the list below is a bit patchy, as might be expected at this time, but it also contains more than a usual number of long-awaited films, so for that I’m happy.

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Booksmart (USA, 2019) – Two US college near-graduates realise that by way of working hard they’ve missed out on the social experience and decide to spend the night before graduation at various parties. When I saw this advertised on the Underground, my quickly-get-on-the-train brain may have taken the title literally and considered a film about literature students; never mind, it’s a good film anyway.

Emma (UK, 2020) – Based on the book. Not perfect but a heck of a lot of fun. The way it diverts from the original story had obviously been much considered.

Jawaani Jaaneman (Youthful Lover) (India, 2020) – A 40-something-year-old man who still enjoys a party (understatement) meets a very attractive young woman in a club; it turns out she’s his daughter and he’s soon to become a grandfather. A pretty fun film; goes down a few ‘filler’ avenues and certainly isn’t Saif Ali Khan’s best, but it was a good few hours.

Little Women (USA, 2019) – Covering both part one and part two of the original. I think this is the best adaptation I have ever seen. I’m planning a review of it at some point but in sum, the production team have taken the autobiographical basis and applied it to perfect effect – it’s full of background context and studies of the various ‘controversial’ aspects.

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Oklahoma! (USA, 1955) – A young man invites a woman to a dance but he doesn’t do it in the specific way she wanted so she says no and the rest of the film is spent getting them back together. Wanted to see this one since childhood; didn’t like it.

South Pacific (USA, 1958) – A lieutenant on an island army base is roped into a sudden relationship, and a nurse falls in love with a Frenchman who has taken up residence on the island, but then doesn’t want to be with him because he has children who are mixed race. Absolutely hated this one; I’ve since read that the idea is it explores issues of racism but I didn’t see that myself – the racism is there, certainly, but the commentary…

The Wedding Party (Nigeria, 2016) – Two people from wealthy families become engaged to be married; multiple clashes between the two sets of parents and the interference of an ex-girlfriend lead to many problems but the couple are determined. Until the sequel was released, this was the biggest Nigerian blockbuster and it’s not hard to see why; the characters are fantastic and it is often absolutely hilarious.

The Wedding Party 2 (Nigeria, 2017) – The English bridesmaid and the brother of the groom from the previous film have continued their relationship; owing to a misunderstanding they become engaged after a few short months and plans are afoot for a destination wedding. Even better than the first – you know most of the characters by now so the humour starts early on and the additional jokes work well.

What have you been watching in these strange times?

June 2020 Reading Round Up

The rabbits are almost there. We had to go through what I can only describe as emotional flashbacks but there have been no more fights, only two minor arguments (both decide to hog the litter tray at various times). Taking a blogging break was a good idea, though I’m happy to be back.

I read a good amount in June; I only finished three books but I had a couple on the go, so that July currently stands at two. Here’s what I read and finished.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: Season Of Crimson Blossoms – When Reza breaks in to Binta’s house the woman finds a desire for him under her terror and when he returns in peace they begin an affair. This was a re-read; a very good book about a relationship between a young gang leader and an elder of the community that looks at society as well as the self.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim: The Whispering Trees – A collection of short stories full of folklore and magical realism. This has to be one of the best collections I’ve ever read; I reviewed Susmita Bhattacharya’s Table Manners earlier this year and the quality of it; Ibrahim’s collection is of similar calibre though very different in content, and the shocks and surprises get bigger and bigger as the stories continue.

Roselle Lim: Natalie Tan’s Book Of Luck And Fortune – After her mother dies, a woman travels back to her childhood home in San Francisco’s Chinatown where the locals are being pressured to move out; Natalie’s grandmother was a highly-regarded cook and restaurant owner and as Natalie gets used to being home she starts to consider the choices she made, her relationship with her mother, and the role she can play in breathing life back into the area. A great story that looks at a variety of cultural, personal, and economic discussions with a strong helping of magical realism.

I enjoyed this month’s reading a lot, and I think that enjoyment is what I’m going to remember over any specific story. I read some of each outside in the good weather, which was lovely (the temperature’s since dropped) and really helped the continuing bit of frustration I have over the pandemic.

In July I’m going to be doing more re-reading and have a couple of review copies to get to, which is quite novel at this time. I’ve Roselle Lim’s and Orlando Ortega-Medina’s August releases and very much looking forward to.

How are you getting on in this ongoing new normal, and what have you been reading?

Podcast Episode 17: Roselle Lim

Charlie and Roselle Lim (Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune; Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop) discuss weaving culture, mental illness, and magic into your fiction, an aid for your eyes when chopping onions, and children you excitedly take to tourist attractions who wonder what you see in them.

Fresh Fiction’s review of Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, as quoted

Release details: recorded 9th June 2020; published 22nd June 2020

Roselle’s social media: Twitter || Instagram || Website

Go back to the list of episodes

Show notes:

Question Index
Book Purchasing Links
Photo Credit Line

Question Index

02:03 Tell us about your writing background
03:45 Is Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune one big metaphor?
05:27 You have a particular love of words?…
06:09 Was Natalie always planned to be unsure of herself?
06:53 How did your relationship with your own mother influence the novel?
07:51 What’s your favourite meal to make?
08:55 Have you had experience yourself of food solving, or helping to solve, a problem?
11:16 What was behind the decision to incorporate recipes into the narrative?
12:37 Does chewing mint gum help when chopping onions?
13:14 Was the thread about outsiders, trying to disrupt for their own gain, based on a particular event?
14:09 Introduce us to San Francisco’s Chinatown
15:24 Do you love classical music?
16:12 Was the romance between Natalie and Daniel always in the book?
17:26 How much was filial piety in your mind when writing?
18:53 Is Vanessa Yu Miss Yu from Natalie Tan?
19:20 (We discuss Paris and London – Roselle went there to research Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop)
25:28 Did you ever wonder about using a different name to Natalie, given that that is your daughter’s name?
32:25 Vanessa Yu – is it fair to say this is a very different book to Natalie Tan?
33:09 Are you writing your next book?
33:35 Natalie Tan has been optioned for a TV show…

Purchasing Links
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I am an Amazon Associate and earn a small commission on qualifying purchases.

Photograph used with permission from the author. Credit: Shelley Smith

Necessary (Official) Short Hiatus

…Official because I know I’ve been away anyway.

Brief details: sick rabbit now better but he and his sister were mistakenly separated by the vet. Separating bonded rabbits is not something you’re supposed to do; I now have two very sad, single rabbits, who desperately want to be together but whose species instincts mean they can’t just be put back together because they will fight. They need to be reintroduced slowly, effectively have very short playdates for the next few weeks. This all kicked off last Monday – hence my last post was that day as it had been written at the weekend – and is taking a lot of my time and energy.

I have a podcast episode online this coming Monday which I will post here, but besides that I will be back to blogging on Monday 6th July.

Thank you for baring with me and I hope you are all okay.

Isla Morley – Come Sunday + Podcast

Today’s podcast is with Isla Morley! Email and RSS subscribers: you may need to open this post in your browser to see the media player below.

Charlie and Isla Morley (Come Sunday; Above; The Last Blue) discuss growing up and travelling back to South Africa, creating a negative heroine, the 1800s medical phenomenon wherein people were literally blue, and what it’s like owning five tortoises.

To see all the details including links to other apps, I’ve made a blog page here. You can also subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

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Working through grief to acceptance and forgiveness.

Publisher: Two Roads (Hachette)
Pages: 300
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-340-97651-7
First Published: 1st January 2009
Date Reviewed: 7th June 2020
Rating: 5/5

On Maunday Thursday morning, Greg is slow to get up and Cleo’s insistence on wearing unsuitable clothes is getting to her mother. Abbe has all manner of things to deal with and it’s got on top of her. So that she and Greg can get out for the evening, Abbe leaves Cleo with a friend; against perhaps better judgement, the friend chosen isn’t the one she thought of first. But it’s all good; until the couple return to pick Cleo up and find the road full of people, police, and Cleo nowhere to be seen.

Come Sunday is Morley’s superb first novel that looks at the progression of grief towards a new normal. When the revelation of the car accident reaches Abbe’s ears she begins a descent that sees her anger at the driver who couldn’t stop in time, her increased annoyance at her fellow cul-de-sac neighbours and the clique-y members of her minister husband’s church. And she begins to have an increasing number of thoughts about her childhood in South Africa.

Her book set mostly in Hawaii, Morley uses as the time frame the period of Easter – the book starts on Maunday Thursday, as noted, and ends on Ascension Day, however the narrative takes place over a year so the initial Thursday and Ascension Day are from different Easters. More than an extra aspect, the Easter period is used to line up events in the narrative, with the Thursday aligning with Abbe’s ‘betrayal’ of Cleo and the Ascension providing a resolution.

Christianity as a whole forms a fair part of the narrative; with Greg a minister and Abbe thus involved in the church (more than she’d like sometimes), the religion is often there and woven into the whole, however it should be said that this book is far from ‘inspirational’; it’s use is unlikely to turn you off if you’re not into it, however if you do appreciate faith included in books you will like it a lot.

The main themes are grief, later leading also to forgiveness. Morley looks at both carefully, closely. This is a character-driven book with Abbe’s grief front and centre. Greg’s isn’t glossed over, indeed some of Abbe’s choices stem from his own, but Abbe and her friends are more important here. There is a good element of sisterhood, largely informed by the forgiveness.

Abbe was brought up in South Africa, and her history informs a lot of her thoughts. Her grandmother had a servant who was black, so there are looks at racial issues as Abbe questions the relationship of Beauty and her family, and how her grandmother’s belief in equality fit into this. Abbe’s time in the country is brought to the fore as, together with her brother, she inherits her grandmother’s house which has since become a school for HIV-positive children.

I’ve left one of the first things you’ll notice about the story until the end – Abbe is a very negative character, aside from her grief. This is obviously difficult in a novel where a child’s death affects many, but Abbe does have her reasons for being as she is and there is redemption. The book is more about reading about her progression rather than necessarily relating to her all the time; you will relate to her on occasion and this reminds us of how normal it can be to be overwhelmed, to be a result of events, to be in the wrong place.

Come Sunday is exquisite. You’ll find many new meanings and explorations here to other books that look at the same subjects, and it’s all brought together with the use of writing elements, methods, that are very enjoyable. I highly recommend it.


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