Friday, 31 July 2009

The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier - Book 48, 2009

Title: The Rendezvous and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
Genre: Short-story
Rating: 8/10
Comments: A collection of short stories, some written before du Maurier published her first novel, reflecting many human emotions: romance, disenchantment, fantasy, nostalgia, ambition, irony, the longing for adventure. While they are of varying quality, her unique writing skill and ability to create suspense are evident in many of the stories.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith: Book 47, 2009

Title: Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: novel
Rating: 8.5/10
Comments: The continuing story of Mme Ramotswe, Botswana's sole woman detective. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has become depressed and disinterested in his garage.  Mma Makutsi, her secretary turned assistant detective, is harbouring dreams of a promotion.  Money, as always, is tight.  After some difficulty Mme Ramotswe convinces Mr. J.L.B. Matekonito see a doctor and go for a rest cure at the orphan farm where he adopted their children.  She decides to save on expenses by moving her office to the garage and promotes Mma Makutsi to Acting Manager of the garage where she proves to be singularly adept at whipping the lazy girl-chasing apprentices into shape, as she is with the paperwork in the office.  While Mme Ramotswe is off investigating a suspected poisoning case for an obnoxious government official, Mma Makutsi picks up a big-paying client who is deperate to ensure he selects a winner of his beauty pageant that will not bring the competition into disrepute.  As entertaining as ever, McCall Smith ensures the series does not get stale by focussing this time of developing some of the other characters.

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith: Book 46, 2009

Title: Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: novel
Rating: 9/10
Comments: The continuing story of Mme Ramotswe, Botswana's sole woman detective. At the end of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Mme Ramotswe became engaged to her neighbour, mechanic Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.  While Mme Ramotswe is tracking down the 10-year-old mystery of what happened to an American woman's son, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's generosity sees him expanding his family in unexpected ways.  He soon realises that his dream of passing on his love cars to a son will never be fulfilled but there is a caring wheelchair-bound girl who shows an unusual aptitude for all things mechanical.
This book is a seemless continuation of the first and a great read.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith: Book 45, 2009

Title: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: modern fiction, detective
Rating: 9/10
Comments: Easy to read and deceptively simple, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency presents a different side to Africa than is usually portrayed in news stories and charitable appeals.  After a disastrous marriage, the death of her only child and the passing of her beloved father, Mma Ramotswe uses her inheritance to set up Botswana's one and only female private detective agency.  As she uses her wits and intuition to track down missing husbands and wayward children, and to challenge conmen, Mma Ramotswe shows us the beauty and positives of her homeland - as well as the darkness that still lurks below the surface.

Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacott - Book 44, 2009

Title: Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie writing as Mary Westmacot
Genre: suspense, literature
Rating: 10/10
Plot summary: (From Library Journal)
Joan Scudamore, housewife and mother of three grown children, is happy, remarkably self-satisfied, and not-at-all introspective. Trapped alone in a foreign rest house she has nothing to do but reconsider her life. Self-analysis is at first unpleasant and then terrifying, as Joan probes deeper and deeper into her memories of interpersonal relationships. At last, mentally stripped to the core, she must reconstruct herself to face the future.
Comments: Agatha Christie said she wrote this book over one long weekend in the middle of World War 2, yet it is so perfectly paced and so complete one suspects she must have been mulling over it for years.  One of my favourite books of all time, there is a certain level of schadenfreude in watching a smug person having to face the fact that there is more to life than superficial appearances.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Woodbegoods by E Nesbit: Book 43, 2009

Title: The Woodbegoods by E Nesbit
Genre: children's
Rating: 8.5/10
Comments: Once upon a time children were not wrapped in cotton wool or bubble wrap but were left alone by adults to find their own fun and create their own entertainment.  The six Bastable siblings, banished to a country estate for the holidays after creating choas and destruction during their first days at home, lead their 2 cousins into all kinds of mischief despite all their attempts to be good - they are the Wouldbegoods because they would be good if they could, but somehow the best laid plans so often result in chaos and disaster.  As an adult, living with the Bastable children would drive one to insanity but it is impossible not to appreciate their good intentions and fundamental honesty.Another Nesbit nbook which more than stands the test of time.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Railway Children by E Nesbit: Book 42, 2009

Title: The Railway Children by E Nesbit
Genre: children's
Rating: 7/10
Plot description: When father is taken away by two men, Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis have to leave their lovely London home and go and live in the country with their mother and 'play' at being poor. They become fascinated with the local railway and friends with the people who work there. They have a series of adventures where they save the day and meet the man who will save their father.
Comments: I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as The Enchanted Castle. There were too many coincidences and things just fitted in a little too neatly. Also, as an adult living in the 21st century, I cringed at some of the dangerous activity around the railway line. Nonetheless, it is very well written and an enjoyable read.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit: Book 41, 2009

Title: The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit
children's, fantasy
Rating: 9.5/10
Comments: Written in 1907, The Enchanted Castle more than survives the test of time. Siblings Gerald, James and Kathleen wake a princess from an enchanted sleep and enter her world where magic and reality collide and where the phrase "be careful what you wish for" is certainly true. The princess turns out to be the niece of a housekeeper on an impoverished estate filled with secret hiding places and tunnels and where the statues come to life at night. A magic ring that turns her invisible proves very difficult to remove and the children struggle to protect the adults who surround them from the consequences of their magic. An enthralling imaginative read from the first to last page.