Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Importance of Being Seven

Of all the Alexander McCall Smith series, I think my favorite is 44 Scotland Street.  McCall Smith writes these stories as a daily column for the Scotsman newspaper, and then proceeds to publish them in book form for all of his lucky readers.  Filled with quirky characters, the reader gets to eavesdrop on the daily trials and tribulations of the residents in and around this Scotland Street address. If you have NOT read any of these books, here are a few reasons for you to start:

1.  Poor Bertie.  It seems he will never be free of his interfering, domineering and oh-so-annoying
     mother, Irene.  I so root for Bertie.            

2.  Ulysses, Bertie's baby brother, screams and barfs whenever Irene picks him up.  Smart boy.

3.  Domenica, Antonia and Angus go to Tuscany.  Domenica wins.

4.  Bruce is back in all of his narcissistic glory.

5.  Cyril the dog still winks at people.

6.  Bertie is still in Cub Scouts.  Unfortunately, so are Tofu and Olive.

7.  Bertie's dad defies Irene.  It's awesome.

The Importance of Being Seven is the sixth book in the 44 Scotland Street series.  Read and enjoy!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken

Vish Puri, aka "Chubby", is back in The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken by Tarquin Hall.  I devour these books, much like the unlucky victim in the book devoured the butter chicken, because they are just SO GOOD!

The Delhi Cowboys are taking on the Kolkata Colts at Feroz Shah Kotla stadium, where Vish and Rumpi Puri are about to take their seats among 50,000 screaming cricket fans.  At the risk of stating the obvious, cricket is extremely popular in India.  What I didn't know was how popular gambling was, especially gambling on cricket.  But gambling on cricket is illegal in India, which makes it all the more attractive to dishonest and unsavory characters.  Making things even more interesting is the inclusion of eight Pakistani players on the Colts' team.  India and Pakistan don't really get along. (Google 1947 Partition to learn more from experts!)  So when the father of the Pakistani star of the Colts keels over dead in his butter chicken, Vish Puri finds himself right in the middle of a tense and dangerous game.  Amazingly the key to the mystery seems to lie with Vish's Mummy-ji.  Now, Vish believes that Indian mothers have no business being private detectives, just don't say that to Mummy-ji!  Together they uncover mysteries and lies hidden for over 50 years, and Vish discovers that even those closest to him can have unimaginable secrets.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these books!  I have never been to India, but Tarquin Hall brings India to me with all of its sights, sounds, triumphs and failures.  He obviously embraces his adoptive home, and passes that affection on to his readers.  I hope you enjoy The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken as much as I did, and you can even enjoy the title dish...there's a recipe in the book!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Murder in the Marais

When you buy something on Amazon they will recommend books they think you might like.  A brilliant marketing ploy, as I will often give those suggestions a try.  Most recently I decided to order Murder in the Marais by Cara Black.

Murder in the Marais was published in 1999 but set in 1993 Paris.  This is the first book featuring private investigator and computer expert Aimee Leduc, and she is dropped into a doozy of a case.  The Marais is the historic Jewish Quarter of Paris, a place that saw terror and tragedy during the Nazi occupation.  When Aimee is hired by an elderly Jewish man to decode a secret photo for a woman in his synagogue, she has no idea what a can of 50 year-old worms she has just opened.  And when the woman is found dead with a swastika carved on her forehead, she realizes that this case has become much more than a simple decoding job.  Soon agencies on all sides are trying to stop her from uncovering clues, but just how high up does this mystery reach?

I liked Murder in the Marais.  I have not yet been to Paris, but Cara Black made it easy for the unfamiliar reader to navigate its celebrated streets.  Maybe that is because Black lives in San Francisco, so she doesn't assume her readers are intimates of Paris or France. This is the first in a long series of books featuring Aimee Leduc.  I think I'll try the second.

Au Revoir!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Love the name of this book, also that I found it at the airport and it looked short enough to finish on a plane ride.  Looks can be deceiving.  Tinkers is a Pulitzer Prize winner by Paul Harding.  Now, sometimes I appreciate and love Pulitzer winners, and sometimes not so much.  This one falls somewhere in between.

Tinkers follows the memories of George Washington Crosby as he lays dying at home in New England.  He has much to remember, and his memory is VERY detailed.  These memories morph into the memories of George's father, who has memories of George's grandfather.  Sometimes it gets a little confusing.  However, if you want to know how to write a brilliant descriptive sentence, or learn about imagery in literature, then this book would be the perfect study tool.

I can see this book assigned for summer reading in high school.  I'm glad I'm not in high school.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Pilgrimage: "any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage"

When Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessey telling him she is dying he knows he must reply.  Queenie was a very important part of his past, one filled with joy as well as sorrow and missed opportunities.  As he sets out to mail his letter a chance encounter makes him realize he must not only send her a letter, he must go see Queenie.  So he begins to walk.  Oh, by the way, Harold lives at the very bottom of England, and Queenie is 600 MILES AWAY at the very top of England.  Harold left his house in yachting shoes.  He forgot his cell phone.  He also didn't tell his wife where he was going.  All that seems unimportant as Harold has decided that as long as Queenie knows he is walking to her, she will live.  So begins The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

The beautiful thing about Harold's journey is not only how it changes him, but how he affects the people he meets along the way.  A humble and unassuming man, Harold does little more than listen to those he meets, but listening is a great skill and a great gift.

"Harold walked with these strangers and listened.  He judged no one, although as the days wore on, and time and places began to melt, he couldn't remember if the tax inspector wore no shoes or had a parrot on his shoulder.  It no longer mattered.  He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other;  and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

Read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  You may not be walking 600 miles in yachting shoes, but you can share in Harold's quest and pay homage to Rachel Joyce for her amazing story.

Be back soon!
The Book Chick