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.

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

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.

Blue Shoes and Happiness

Oh joy, oh frabulous joy! A new No. 1 book! Amazingly enough I found it in one 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.

Espresso Tales

Espresso Tales is the second bound installment of the serial novel published in The Scotsman, the first installment of which you find in 44 Scotland Street. Bertie-fans (and surely there are many of us) will have their moments. Domenica is as egaging as ever, and Bruce runs into well-deserved trouble. You gotta love it…

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs

sausage_dogs I was planning to wait and read The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs only after I’d got my hands on Portugese Irregular Verbs and so read them in the proper order, but it was lying so handily nearby when I was looking for a new book to start that I decided to be improper, just this once.

This, incidentally, is a book of the Laugh Out Loud variety. There is the unfortunate incident of the sausage dogs and the lecture and then there is the even more unfortunate incident of the sausage dog and the veterinary institute and towards the end there is the rather catastrophical incident with the sausage dog and… Oh, but that would be telling, so I’d better not.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

In which we amble pleasantly.

no1ladiesAlexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is said by people who ought to know to paint a fairly accurate picture of life in Botswana. I have no idea as to the veracity of this, but it seems likely to be true. There is a wonderful sense of unhurriedness in this book, about Precious Ramotswe, who, following her father’s death and her inheritance of his amassed «fortune» – cattle, which she sells – becomes the first Lady detective in the country. It is not a detective novel in the sense of western European literary traditions. There is mystery, definitely, and crime and cruelty, at least potential cruelty, but there is no temptation to turn to the last page to check «whodunnit». In fact, there is an amazing contradiction in the «feel» of the book, for while it feels unhurried and relaxed, like a good cup of tea in the shade under a tree, there is also a drive to the story which makes the pages fly by.

Highly recommended, by both me and Pia (who lent me the book), which ought to be more than enough for you. Go read it!