Posts Tagged ‘alexander mccall smith’

I did a lot of reading over the last few weeks, and now is the reckoning.
I Started off with this book:  Chuck Palahniuk can't be happy to save his life.

Diary: A Novel
Chuck Palahniuk

That being said, this was a gripping book. Written as a diary of a woman who's husband is in a coma after an attempted suicide, it is written to tell him of her life now that he's brain dead.  Palahniuk does his homework.  Not only does he make you believe the story, he throws in all the details that make it visceral.  The muscles of the face and how they work, Misty's sagging breasts, the odd and unique costume jewelry.  The sardonic weather forcasts were also an especially nice touch.  However the book does divert a bit from the diary format and it drove me nuts.  Also Palahniuk's penchant for repeating sentences.  It was really annoying.  This books twist, and the end of Misty May were really interesting, and I found it fascinating. I was also on the south side of depressed when I was done.  I needed something more enjoyable.

That is when I attempted this book:

It was singularly Useless!  I'm a pop culture person.  I giggle when people use "frack" in conversation.  I give Joss Whedon a mental high five everytime someone says "jealous much?".  I am the pop culture guru of all my friends.  But even I found this self agrandizing book too much.  Really, listening to the author go on for almost an hour on 'the Real World', the MTV 'reality' show, was way too much for me.  I resolved to give it more time, and one day I rode back and forth to work while Klosterman went on and on on the relative merits of Billy Joel.  It wasn't even funny, or sardonic.  It was just a man who thinks his opinions are the wittiest and most insightful ever.  He just likes to see his words in print.  He could have used a better editor, and, truthfully, someone to tell him that he's really just a pompous windbag who should try and accomplish something real in his life.  Therefore I decided that even the abridged version that I had on CD was too much  of a waste of my time.  So I took it back to the library.

I decided that I'm going to read this book to make up for Klosterman's nonsense:

I haven't started it yet, beyond the first page.  It is already brilliant.  This is the inscription.

"The author would like to thank the French government for introducing the thrity-five-hour week and giving him time to do more interesting things on a Friday afternoon than work. Merci"

The book is by a British Ex-pat who is working for a French company in Paris for a year.  It looks very fascinating.  I'm very much looking forward to this read. It should purge the uslessness of pop culture ruminations that Klosterman came up with.

I have also read Prepared for Rage, the latest book by Dana Stabenow.  I have been a long time fan of Stabenow.  I enjoy her Kate Shugak books, and the Liam Campbell series, and her stand alones also keep my attention.  This is second in a series of loosely connected books that invlove terroism and the Coast Guard.  I appreciate that the Coast Guard is getting it's day in the sun.  They face a lot of the issues that are at the forefront of all the so called 'war on terror'. This book involves a plot to shoot down the Space Shuttle. Stabenow does a great job weaving a story, and creating characters. She is an excellent researcher, and storyteller, but this isn't her best work.  While it is still good, the books she writes best are the ones set in Alaska, and I long for her to go home again and write from there.  The high seas, and terrorism are intersting, but I miss the lyricism of the previous books. 
I also read the first in the Sookie Stackhouse Vampire mysteries: True Blood.

I had accidentally read the second in the series first, so I went back, now that season 1 of the HBO show based on it was done.   I enjoyed the book a lot, but prefered book two better.  This book had a lot more focus on sexuality, and less on the mystery, and I didn't like it as much.  It felt too kinky, which is odd since I love the TV show which has it all over the book in the kinky department. 
I did actually, like the book though, and probably will continue the series as it is a good diversion.  I think the books have a much lighter nature than the book, and I enjoy Sookies voice that come through.  I'll follow her and Vampire Bill Compton for a while.

I also read the latest Alexander McCall Smith story

"The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday."I enjoyed very much the latest installment of Isabel Dolhousie and her antics as a philosopher, mother, lover, and amature sleuth.  Again Mccall Smith has done an outstanding job of creating characters and exploring the situations they find themselves in.  He was excellent at keeping characters true, rather than altering them to fit the story line.  I'm enjoying seing Isable and Jamie's relationship progress, and how she and Cat are trying to keep going. In the midst of it all she tries to get to the bottom of Marcus McCrief's shame. I enjoy these books much, but know they are not for everyone, as there is a lot of philosophical ramblings.  Everything becomes a moral, ethical, or philosophical question.  It was enjoyable, and a welcome diversion.  It made me want to go back and Visit Edinborough.
The last book that I'm reading is Writing in the Dust. 

A very interesting theological response to September 11 by Rowan Williams, Arch Bishop of Canterbury, who was near the Twin Towers on that Fateful day in September.  He really explores the question of God in the midst of all of this horror and pain.  He talks about suddenly realizing that God is not the deity of easy platitudes who fits our agenda's.  He talks about the reality of forgivness and the messiness of facing into this place of pain, and try to understand why.  He ask where we go from here?  How do we make a way from devisation that is not panic or dangerously retalitory. An excellent, thoughtful, gracious book.  A quick read, but with a lot to absorb.

So that is the list.  It was diverse and interesting (mostly). It puts me over my 50 in 365 quite handily.  I'm also re-reading the twilight series for the group I lead, and Persepolis for book club.

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I've read a bunch of books over the past month and here they are….with the exception of the one I know I read but can't remember what it is.

The Thief Lord
Cornelia Funke

I find myself being very wary of authors who are touted as the rightful heir to the J.K. Rowlings place in our hearts and on our shelves.  I take a long time before I expend any energy on one such author.  I got stuck though, needing a book on CD and there wasn't much of a selection at the library, so I foraged amongst the "children's books" and came across this gem.  It is the story of two orphan boys who are in Venice trying to hide from relatives who want to separate them following the death of thier mother.  The two fall in with a group of street kids who are the benifactors of Shepio the "Thief Lord". The book explores the choices you have to make for the family you make for yourself, and brings a little of the supernatural in along the way.   The book, by the German author Cornelia Funke, was precious and lovely.  I enjoyed it very much.  It was well worth the read, and I'm definately going to be reading more of her books.

Time Travelers Wife was probably one of the more melencholy books I've read in a long time.  It was earthy and splendid.  It was sparse and fascinating.  Dealing with loss and joy and things you long for on the road of life.  I felt deeply with the characters the pain and love of their journey.  This book spans the much convoluted  life of Henry DeTamble who has a genetic glitch that moves him across the time and space of his life.  I was surprised at how glibly the author flows across what could have been really problematic themology and difficult scientific ideas.  It was quite a moving read.  You become quite convinced of the love between Henry and Clare, and the issues they face are unique to them and common to us at the same time. 

I then embarked on another series by one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith.  I have found that Smith is really quite interesting, and a remarkable judge of character.  He writes people and understands thier motivation, and mannerisms, and can capture a character to page like few other authors I've come across.  I started a few months ago with 44 Scotland Street, which I've already reviewed, but continued the series with

Espresso Tales and Love over

Scotland Street.  These two novels, like thier predecessor, were written strictly in serial form and published originally as in daily bites in a scottish newspaper.  Since these books were written in serial form the structure of the novel is different than your average book. You have to have hooks in each installment that make you want to continue reading, and your cast of characters has to be large and colorful.  A less talented author would have made the characters much larger and more overwhelming than necessary, and would have created issue after issue for them to deal with. McCall Smith did not succum to the pressure. He kept you hooked by spinning day to day life issues with unique perspective, made intersting by the people experiencing them.  He never let anyone do anything out of character for sensational purposes.  Each character had life, heartbreak, joy, mundanity, and the little things we do that embarass us.  I enjoyed the tales of Bertie and his Crushed Strawberry dungarees, and also Cyril the dog with the gold tooth, and a marked propensity for winking at women.  The other thing that I really respect in McCall Smith's writing is his ability to keep an arc going through the whole story that you think is going to be the climax of the book that he just skirts right by, and brings to a conclusion in a remarkably low key way, and yet you don't feel gypped. The books are open ended but yet complete.  Another gem of a series.

I also have recently been very much enjoying the HBO series "True Blood". I guess I have a soft spot for vampires.  I found out that they were based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris.  I checked at my library and picked up "Living Dead in Dallas" and enjoyed a lot.  It was mostly an easy read with a few barbs and social analysis.  Sadly this was the second in the series so I have to go back and read the first one before I go on. I enjoyed it, and will read the rest.

Currently Reading:
Simply Christian by N. T. Wright in Book Club
Discovering Your Strengths: by the Gallup organization in a church group
Good People by Marcus Sakey: recommended by Kelly

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It's a truth, almost universally acknowledged, that most women have a crush on Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen's enigmatic and well known leading man.  This is a truth that we are rarely forced to defend.  It's sort of unspoken, or understood by most of the well read (or well watched in the case of this version) women of the world, and greeted by quite a few eye rolls from the men in our lives.
This last week I watched the last few hours of the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.  Then caught the tail end of the newest version of Persuasion.  Of course I decided to go for the trifecta of romantic sucker punches, and watched Becoming Jane.  It really got me thinking.
I realize that my romantic ideal for the perfect man is made up of a hodge podge of literary characters, and, while I don't ever compare men to this creation, I know it affects my idea of what I'm looking for.
So who is this perfect man?  Well perfect is not quite the correct term, as I like a man who's human, but here's the written standard that I've come to love (and the book(s) that they come from).

Captain Wentworth (Jane Austen's Persuasion) embodies faithfulness and passion.  This is a novel about constancy, and about choosing love over resentment, and even fortune.  He also has the great, passionate, letter to Anne Elliot, informing her of his love that has endured.  Who doesn't want to read "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever." written to them.  What Wentworth has done to me is firm up the belief that I deserve a man who is faithful to me over the years, and who loves me, and my spirit, and my mind, with a great passion.

Mr. Knightly (also from the Jane Austen repertoire) is a character that embodies one of the most important things to me.  The desire to see the loved one become what they can be, and saying so.  I have always wanted a man that would challenge me to be better (not to be confused with a man who doesn't think I'm good enough).  Mr. Knightly does this for Emma. He sees her choosing to be cruel, and choosing paths that are beneath her, and he calls her on it, and does so out of love.  I've always said I want a man with the strength to tell me to shut up, not because I relish being told off, but because I know how forceful I am, and I want a man who can, with love, stand up to me, and not let me always be the manipulative controlling person I know I can be at times.

Mr. Darcy, of Pride and Prejudice fame, is a man many women can fall for.  I'm no exception, but I can tell you what won me.  This is a man who recognized that the woman he loved was worth being a better man for.  He realized that the Elizabeth, the sassy, speak her mind, intelligent, loyal, woman (to whom I claim quite an affinity) had, as the Bible puts it "a price above rubies". He recognized that, in order to win her, he needed to rethink his priorities, and become a better person.  I like the idea that we should value our significant others enough to endeavor to be the best spouse/partner we can be for them.

Ramses Emerson, from the Amelia Peabody Emerson series by Elizabeth Peters, has always had a special place in my heart from the moment his irascible,  superbly intelligent,  person came on the scene, as a child, in this series.  I fell in love with his calculation, and his risk taking, and his deep love of what was right. (Not to mention his love of a red-haired woman)  He took chances, and thought deeply, and loved even more than that, but what appeals to me the most is his mind. (and the description of his hooded dark eyes).  I really long for a man that can meet me on the intelligence scale.  It's not something I find very often.  Ramses takes work, and the woman he loves takes work as well.  I want something like this. 
Honorable Mention in this catagory: Sherlock Holmes from the Laurie R. King series.  I want a man who takes puzzling out, someone not always easy to read, and someone who is going to take the time to do that with me as well.  Yes…I do find enigmatic sexy….but I'm not ready to go for brooding yet.

Mr. J.L.B. Matakoni from the Ladies No1 Detective agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.  This man has gentleness and Grace down to a science.  He knows when to just let his wife do things, but he's persistent enough to get things done.  He listens, and takes his time, and cares deeply.  Plus he finds, um, 'traditionally built' women attractive. As we all should.  He is also very giving, and generous, and a sucker for a well made cake.  Just the type of man I need…only he needs to be a sucker for well made pasta sauce.

Literary honorable mentions include Neville Longbottom (a boy so doesn't count) because he was willing to sacrifice everything, including his hard won friendships, Aslan (lion, not a person) because of the whole not tame or safe but good thing.  I mean I don't want a bad boy, but I want edge.
I'm sure I've forgotten some character or another, especially since I'm not sitting next to my bookcase.

So there you have it.  The Men that make finding a real one difficult.  I didn't even include the cinematic/television related ones in the mix. Oh well, it's not like my father hasn't already set the bar really high.

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