Kategoriarkiv: Smith, Alexander McCall

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith

no1ladiesI don’t know that I have much to add, since I actually managed more than one line on this book the first time I read it. We agreed in the book club to pick a few «light» reads to cover over the summer, and for everyone to bring suggestions, rather than just one of us (we’ve been taking turns in suggesting the next read so far). The idea was to read crime novels and such ilk, and since there is a limit to how many crime novels I read I was somewhat stuck as to what to suggest, until I remembered that Mma Ramotswe is indeed filed under «Crime» in most bookshops. Since one of my missions in life is to get everyone in the world to read at least one Alexander McCall Smith novel (I figure most sensible people will continue on to read more once I get them to read one), <em>The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency</em> was the perfect choice, I thought, and luckily it was indeed one of the four titles chosen for our summer reading.

Anyway, I reread it. I loved it all over again. And I now strongly suspect I will have to reread some of the other early books in the series. We’ll see.

Boktema: Den morsomste boken jeg har lest

Mange av bokbloggene jeg leser fast skriver innlegg basert på et tema lansert av Anette hver uke. Denne gangen føler jeg meg kallet til å delta, Temaet er «Den morsomste boken jeg har lest» og minst to av mine favoritter ikke er nevnt av noen andre, så langt jeg kan se.

boktema

Jeg har selvsagt lest mange morsomme bøker, og jeg husker sikkert ikke alle i farten. Jeg vet i alle fall at jeg ved flere anledninger har skremt sidemannen på bussen ved å begynne å le høyt av boken jeg holdt på med. Noen av de jeg har ledd av har også andre skrevet om. Douglas Adams, for eksempel. Både Julie, Astridterese og Nina har skrevet om The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Jeg ville kanskje heller valgt Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency og The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul dersom jeg skulle plukket den morsomste Adams-serien, men Hitch-Hiker er utvilsomt også høyt på listen over verdens morsomste (og ellers beste) bøker. Mari har blandt annet valgt Bridget Jones’ Diary, som også har fått meg til å hikste av latter. Mai Lene nevner Doktor Proktor, og jeg kan godt være enig i at de bøkene fortjener en plass på listen. I samme slengen burde man selvsagt nevne Roald Dahls bøker, som Nesbø utvilsomt er inspirert av, mye å le av der.

Litt i samme gata som Hitch-Hiker er Red Dwarf serien. Hitch-Hiker startet som et hørespill for radio, mens Red Dwarf startet som tv-serie, i begge tilfeller anbefales det både å høre/se og å lese, for bøkene følger slett ikke direkte handlingen i andre medier. Den første boka i Red Dwarf serien heter Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers og har forfatternavnet Grant Naylor (som egentlig er etternavnene til de to forfatterene Robert Grant og Doug Naylor). Morsomme er bøkene i alle fall.

Den andre boka jeg vil nevne er også er slags serie, jeg har de tre bøkene som har kommet samlet i ett bind under tittelen The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom. Den består av de tre bøkene Portugese Irregular Verbs, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs og At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances og handler om Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, som er professor i filologi og utrettelig misfornøyd med oppmerksomhten arbeidet hans får – særlig sammenlignet med arbeidet til hans to kolleger Dr Dr Florianus Prinzel og Dr Detlev Amadeus Unterholzer. Bøkene er skrevet av Alexander McCall Smith, som er mest kjent for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, men selv om sistnevnte definitivt får meg til å trekke på smilebåndet er det The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisom som bokstavelig talt har fått meg til å le høyt og da særlig den midterste i rekken, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. Anbefales på det varmeste.

PS: I anledning av at denne bloggen snart er ti år gir jeg bort bøker. Se dette innlegget.

Ah, poor, neglected bookblog

I guess a catch-up post is in order, and then I need to get back into proper posting. But, really, APRIL? How am I supposed to remember all I’ve read since April?

What with moving house and all, there’s been less time for reading than I could have wished, so there’s less to remember, but still.

Ah, well, let’s see:

Somewhere South of Here by William Kowalski, engaging, now bookcrossed.

Seventy-Seven Clocks by Christopher Fowler. Less funny than I had hoped, but still entertaining. Bookrcossing copy.

Theatre of Fish by Gimlette, found in my father’s colloection, an interesting account of Newfoundland, a place of which I knew very little, now I know a little more.

It’s a Long Way from Penny Apples, autobiography by Bill Cullen. An absorbing read. My two gripes were that though it’s supposed to be a memoir the author is referred to in third person throughout, which to me makes it more impersonal, and that in passages the sentences are waaaaay too short (unlike mine, as you can tell, I rather like run-on sentences). Now bookcrossed.

The Importance of Being Seven and The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith. Brilliant, as usual.

The Bronte Project by Jennifer Vanderer. Picked up at a bookcrossing meetup in Mainz (of all places). Nice enough, but left me feeling a little, uhm, I don’t know, deflated perhaps?

Tonje Glimmerdal og Vaffelhjarte av Maria Parr. Disse fortjener egentlig egne innlegg, særlig Tonje Glimmerdal som muligens er den beste boka jeg har lest dette årtusenet, uavhengig av genre.

Peat Smoke and Spirit by Andrew Jefford, a reread in preparation for this summer’s  trip to Islay.

Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950ies by Jennifer Worth. A very worthwhile read. I see it’s available from Amazon in a set with its two sequels, and I think I have to ordr it, because I do want to read the sequels.

Vidunderbarn av Roy Jacobsen. Vidunderlig, sår, ekte og gripende.

The Comfort of Saturdays – Alexander McCall Smith

We’re actually getting to the point where we’re wondering if Alexander McCall Smith isn’t just TOO prolific. Here we were thinking we need to get hold of The Lost Art of Gratitude after seeing it in hardback earlier, and then I discover we’ve actually completely missed The Comfort of Saturdays! Really, the speed that man writes at! How are we supposed to keep up?

All is forgiven, though, the moment I start the first paragraph. As always, Smith amazes me with his ability to make me feel like I’m strolling along at a comfortable, sedate and philosophical pace while what I’m really doing is turning the pages as fast as is humanly possible. Or thereabouts.

Isabel Dalhousie is a lovable lady and her tendency to overthink achingly familiar in many ways. And her wry observations make me laugh:

The modern world was a tolerant place: even murderers brazened it out these days: they wrote their memoirs, telling all, and publishers fell upon them with delight. There was no shame there, she thought, unless the memoirs included an apology to the victims, which they usually did not; on the contrary, they sometimes blamed the victims, or the police, or their mothers, or even, in the case of one set of memoirs, the mothers of the police.

What could be better?

I can only see one drawback to this series so far and that is that it makes me devastated for a second every time I emerge from the books and realise I’m not actually in Scotland. But they are worth it.

Summarising again

Really, where does the time go? Recent (well, since may…) reads in no particular order (and probably missing a few):

The Harry Potter series. All in a row. Lovely. I am still pretty happy with the ending, but noticed a few minor inconsistencies along the way this time. Not that it matters much, it’s still a fantastic series.

Lessons from the Land of Pork Scratchings by Greg Gutfeld. Abysmal. Didn’t finish it. I’ll be writing more about it at some point, because, really! But, you know, take this as a warning to stay WELL away.

Packaging Girlhood. Quite illuminating. Meant to write more on this, too. Ah well.

Consumer Kids. Followed naturally. Very informative on how kids are not only inundated with ads, but used to advertise to friends and provide market research, quite frequently unknowingly. Should probably be read by every parent.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith. Perfection, as usual.

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. Keyes back on great form and with a serious theme this time, which she excels at treating.

The Brontes Went to Woolworth by Rachel Ferguson. Reread because I had to take it down to copy out one of my favourite quotes ever:

A woman at one of mother’s parties once said to me, «Do you like reading?» which smote us all to silence, for how could one tell her that books are like having a bath or sleeping, or eating bread – absolute necessities which one never thinks of in terms of appreciation.

Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer. As usual Archer spins a pretty – and gripping – tale. However, knowing how it all ends spoiled it a bit for me. Not that I know all that much about Mount Everest climbs and such, but I do know a little, and the prologue reveals what I didn’t. I suppose part of it is knowing it doesn’t end in «they lived happily ever after», which I’m a sucker for and which Archer frequently delivers with aplomb. Still, exceedingly readable.

And that made me realise I’ve forgotten to note reading A Prisoner of Birth, also by Archer, which was REALLY good, just what the doctor ordered, and Archer – to me – at his best. I happen to love courtroom dramas, too, so this had pretty much everything. No idea when I read it, though, so I popped it in here… Probably shortly after the paperback was issued, but I’m not sure.

All autumn

I have been slacking. In my reading, yes, but obviously even more so in my blogging. Anyway, here is a – I believe – complete list of what’s been «going down»:

Sahara – Michael Palin
Pretty good. Informative, evocative, serious and occasionally laugh-out-loud-funny. Reminded me that I need to get hold of the follow-up to Travels with a Tangerine.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones – Alexander McCall Smith
Quite delightful, as always.

The Tales of Beadle the Bard – J. K. Rowling
The best part being Dumbledore’s notes, and the wonderful confusion between Rowling’s footnotes and Dumbledore’s, that is: Between reality and fiction. You’d probably need to have read the whole Harry Potter series to really enjoy this (and if you’re into metaliterature as well, you’re in luck), but since that includes everyone and his grandma, I guess The Children’s High Level Group will see a nice profit, and nothing could be better. I had a cracking good time reading this, and managed to amaze my colleague by finishing most of the book during a one-hour flight. Yeah, impressive, I know. *rolls eyes*

Freedom’s Landing – Anne McCaffrey
As mentioned here, I got rather annoyed with McCaffrey for using «specimen» for «species» (twice!) and for including a couple of prejudiced, half-witted so-and-sos in order to introduce some conflict. I realise the second gripe is unfair, a conflictless book would, after all, be pretty boring, and so I put that down to my ongoing disagreement with Fiction in general. I rather enjoyed most of the book, and am looking forward to reading the sequel when Fiction and I are reconciled in the hopefully not too distant future.

Nød – Are Kalvø
In truth I only read about 50 pages, then started skimming and then I read the last few pages. I don’t know if it’s Kalvø or me, but it all seemed pretty pointless and tiresome.

Which brings the total tally this year to 45, methinks, and unless I am to fall short of the rather wimpy goal of one-book-a-week (oh, horror) I really need to get in some serious reading time over the holidays. We’ll see.

November to January, so far

The Tea Rose – Jennifer Donnelly
The plot must consist of pretty much every cliché in the book except the classic evil twin. At the last two «twists in the tale» I actually laughed out loud – that’s how madly «buy one plot-device, get three free» infested it all was. However, despite this, Donnelly had me caught well and good and I had serious problems in putting the book away and not sneak a few pages in under the desk at work. Not a Nobel candidate, then, but very well worth reading.

Shaman’s Crossing, Forest Mage and Renegade’s Magic – Robin Hobb
Ok, so this deals partly with those lost months… I had to labour a bit through the first two volumes (I never thought I’d say this about a Robin Hobb book), and got completely stuck at the beginning of the third. I don’t know if I could put my finger on it, but this trilogy just didn’t do it for me. I kept reading because I was just interested enough to want to know what would happen in the end, but not interested enough to want to spend 2000-odd pages getting there. It doesn’t help, of course, that the volumes are really too big to read comfortably (I might need to consider weightlifting if I’m to keep reading this size of book in hardback), and certainly too big to be tempting for bringing on the bus etc. I suppose I felt that Hobb might have been better off writing this as one book rather than a trilogy. It seemed somewhat unnaturally extended to me. It may be that she was caught in the probable contract with her publisher to produce trilogies, or it may be that she really felt this story needed three times 700 pages. I didn’t. I will still look foreward to Hobb’s next, but not with such bated breath as before.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl
Very gripping and full of intriguing twists. Found it hard to put it down towards the end, and wanted it to go on once it finished. Still, not the sort of book one rereads – the twist is not quite surprising enough to make me want to go back and reread to see what I’ve missed and knowing how it ends will ruin the rest of the story too much at a second perusal. Bookcrossing candidate if ever I saw one.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
A very engaging book, though I became mightily annoyed with the narrator. Partly the fact that «he» is death (which just didn’t work for me, don’t ask me why), partly the endless foreshadowing (or, rather, foretelling – «more of that later» hints – a bit of vague foreshadowing I can deal with) and partly the bulletin-style interruptions which, yeah, ok, I could make a convincing interpretation of if I had to write an essay on this book for an exam, but, hey, I finished school and I prefer to do my reading at my own pace, and, frankly, until I learned to «ignore» them I wanted to hurl the book across the room every time. Still, engaging. (Sent as a rabck.)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami
A bookring on bookcrossing and one of those 1001 books. This reminded me why I don’t like short stories (just when I start getting interested, they end), but I like Mr. Murakami’s way with words, so I will try him in novel-form when I get the chance.

Frost on My Moustache – Tim Moore
Funny.

The Careful Use of Compliments – Alexander McCall Smith
Isn’t it a lovely title? And isn’t it a lovely book?

Boksamlere forteller
An interesting anthology I found at an «antiques» fair. And by interesting I mean that the existence of such a collection intrigued me, especially printed in 1945. The book itself was unfortunately mostly dull. I normally love reading people’s descriptions of their collections, so I’m not sure why it should be so, but there it is.

June to October

Dreadful. And now I can hardly remember what I’ve read all summer (and autumn…). I’m bound to leave something out.

Anyway:

The Imperfectly Natural Baby and Toddler – Janey Lee Grace
Interesting and contains lots of tips for things I hadn’t heard about before, but reads a blit like a list of weblinks at times (this is good for usefulness but for readability? Not so good.)

First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde
Brilliant, but missing something that I can’t put my finger on. Still, definitely brilliant. Just not quite perfect.

Harry Potter 1-6
Just to make sure I was prepared.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling (duh)
Ah. Finally. Pretty happy. The first half was really rather depressing and dreary, but then again that’s a pretty good description of what being at war is really like, and the second half was a whole lot of tell in proportion to the show which we are told is a bad thing, but I really do not see how she could have managed it better. Hats off to Ms Rowling. I hope no one ever persuades her a sequel is a good idea after all, but I do hope she gets an idea for a completely different series (though if she does I’ll wait until the last book is published before starting the first, I’m not stupid).

A Widow for One Year – John Irving
Yay! I finally got around to finishing a John Irving novel! I brought A Widow for One Year to Austria planning to release it once I’d finished, but somehow didn’t get as much reading done as I’d intended. For a long time I thought I might just leave it even if I didn’t finish, as I didn’t feel compelled to keep reading, even half-way through the book, but that would have entailed having to buy something else to read, and I never found anything I wanted to buy. By the time we were packing our bags to go home I only had a couple of hundred pages left, and found that the story had grown on me and that suddenly I could hardly put it down. Strange stuff. I might just have to buy some more Irving (especially if I find more cheap second-hand copies like this one).

Death at La Fenice – Donna Leon
A bookcrossing copy I picked up in Vienna. Pretty entertaining, I’ll probably read more Leon.

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
On the 1001 books list. I can see why.

Intimacy – Hanif Kureshi
Also on the 1001 books list, which is why I read it. That is, I read the story actually entitled Intimacy, and struggled to get through that, despite its relative briefness and it’s status as a «classic». I’m sure it’s a brilliant portrayal of a middle-aged guy planning to leave his wife, but I just thought it was dreary. I then read the following story in the book, something Night-ish, and found that it was basically about a middle-aged guy who’d left his wife. And then I gave up. I’m sure I’m at fault rather than Kureshi, we all have our hang-ups and one of mine is that my empathy fuse blows when you mix infidelity into the story and so I fail to connect with the characters at all, which takes the fun out of it.

So Many Books, so Little Time – Sarah Nelson
Unfortunately not as good as I’d hoped. As many of the other readers of the bookcrossing-copy I read I would have liked more books and less life, I guess, but my main gripes were with Nelson’s way of presenting herself and her reading. Firstly, she talks about her «discovery» that you really don’t have to finish books you don’t like as if it’s something profound – a rite of passage, «growing up» – which rather irritated me, but then she goes on to say that she doesn’t want to discuss or give her opinion on books she’s given up on. What? You read 200 pages of a 400 page novel and then decide you really can’t be bothered to finish it, but you maintain that you don’t have the «right» to say that the book sucked (or wasn’t quite to your taste) since you didn’t stick with it to the bitter end? Seriously, if a novel doesn’t manage to capture your attention sufficiently to make you finish it has fundamentally failed in its object and you’re entitled to say whatever you like (well, ok, I’d stay away from such statements as «the ending sucked» if you haven’t actually read the ending, but you know what I mean…). It made me suspect that Nelson really hasn’t «grown up» and that she’s still uncomfortable about leaving books unfinished, for all her protestations that this is something she has learned to do. The other is with the project itself: She reads books for a living, for goodness sakes, and still 50 books a year seems to have been a daunting task? Even last year, when I really didn’t read a lot, I read that much, and I’m up to 43 (and two halves) this year, despite giving birth in January (which everyone told me would be the death of reading novels, as I’d never be allowed to, or indeed able to, concentrate for long enough). I’m not impressed.

The World According to Bertie – Alexander McCall Smith
Perfect, as usual.

The Complete Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby

Yikes!

It’s been so long (12 November?!) that I’m not even sure I can remember everything, never mind which order…

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss – while I agree with the zero tolerance approach, this book didn’t quite do it for me. Not quite funny enough, and not quite extreme enough. Or something.

Faster, They’re Gaining by Peter Biddlecombe – entertaining enough, but that’s about it (will be bookcrossed).

A Good Man in Africa by William Boyd – received as a RABCK. I loved the film when I saw it years back, I struggled somewhat with the book, though. I think it’s probably just my old problem of needing to empathise with the main protagonist and, frankly, Morgan Leafy is not the most appealing of characters… However, as Morgan «grows» as a character, I get more caught up in the story, so that by the end I’m beginning to forget about the struggle with the first half (or so). Still, not, I think, Boyd’s best (and I’ve only read two).

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – Uhm. Yeah. Classic, you say? Why? Not my cup of tea. For one thing I find it hard to believe that ANYONE (let alone a seven-year-old child) ever spoke like that.

Ikoner i et vindu av John Erik Riley – Tja. Ikke dårlig, bare ikke særlig bra. Hovedproblemet, kanskje, er at de forskjellige fortellerstemmene lignet alt for mye på hverandre til å være særlig overbevisende som forskjellige fortellere. (Blir bookcrosset.)

The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle – another RABCK. Pretty enjoyable, this, but I agree with rednumbertwo who sent it to me that the religious/spiritual overtones were a little hard to swallow. Not giving up on L’Engle, though.

No Logo by Naomi Klein – a reread prompted by the Husband reading it for the first time. Somehow it’s stayed with me for longer and been more fundamentally upsetting this time round, probably because of the pregnancy. It seems worse, somehow, to contemplate the baby wearing clothes sewn by children or even adults in sweatshops than wearing such clothes myself (though I hardly like the latter thought). I suppose it’s a good thing to become more «hung up» on such issues, but it’s certainly made shopping a lot more difficult…

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – clever and entertaining, and a quick read as it was quite difficult to put down for any amount of time.

Pappa for første gang av Finn Bjelke – kjøpt til mannen i julepresang (kjempeoppfinnsomt, sant?). Lettlest (vi hadde begge lest den innen utgangen av 2. juledag) og underholdende, men med noen gode poenger (tror jeg da – vi får se hvordan realiteten blir…).

ABC for spedbarnsforeldre av Nina Misvær – sikkert nyttig…

The Baboons Who Went This Way and That by Alexander McCall Smith – another collection of folk tales from Africa.

The Outlaws of Sherwood and Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley – McKinley was a pleasant discovery. The Robin Hood version caught my eye, as I collect Robin Hood versions, and since they were both on sale and Spindle’s End looked intriguing, I bought both. In The Outlaws of Sherwood we meet a Robin Hood like no other Robin Hood I’ve ever come across. It’s a more realistic novel than any other Robin Hood novel I’ve ever read, and the characters are all more human and fallible. Much as I love the legend of the (almost) invincible outlaw, I hugely enjoyed this fresh take. Spindle’s End is Sleeping Beauty retold, with surprising twists to the tale, and rather a lot of «embroidery», seeing as filling a novel with just the basic tale would be rather difficult. It’s pretty and competent embroidery, however, and is to be recommended. I’ll be looking for more McKinleys – and not just on sale, either.

Vita Brevis av Jostein Gaarder – jeg nærmest skummet gjennom denne. Kanskje fortjener den mer oppmerksomhet, men jeg er ikke så sikker (nok en bookcrossing-bok).

Blue Shoes and Happiness

Oh joy, oh frabulous joy! A new No. 1 book! Amazingly enough I found it in on of the local bookshops before I even knew it was going to be out, and even more amazingly it was priced so reasonably that I didn’t have to wrestle with my conscience (who might otherwise have held the opinion that one could wait until end-June when we go to the land of hops and glory, i.e. the UK). Blue Shoes and Happiness continues in the same rather brilliant vein as the previous books, and only makes you wish it were longer.