44 Scotland Street

Smith, Alexander McCall. 44 Scotland Street. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.

Reason read: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is in June.

This is a delightful book if the characters do not drive you nuts. You will meet the community of 44 Scotland Street and the surrounding neighborhood: Tim, Jamie, Bertie, Irene, Stuart, Big Lou, Hugh, Angus, Ronnie, Mags, Pete, Christabel, Melanie, Domenica, Matthew, Bruce, Gordon, Raeburn, Todd, Sasha, Lizzie, and Pat. Twenty year old Pat is at the center of the story. Newly relocated to 44 Scotland Street, she rents a room from vain Bruce Anderson and finds a job in an art gallery with Matthew. She is sort of at a loss as to what to do with her life (she’s on her second gap year from university). It is only after a painting from the art gallery goes missing that the plot picks up, albeit a little predictably: Bruce is an exaggerated narcist who Pat can’t help but fall in love with, while Matthew, sweet and a little bumbling, falls in love with Pat. There are heroes and villains at 44 Scotland Street. They all have their moments of love and loss. At the center of it all is a painting that may or may not be worth some money.

Author fact: Smith has a new book coming out in October. Check it out here.

Book trivia: 44 Scotland Street started off as a daily in a newspaper so it was written as it was being published. Before that, it was an idea from a conversation with Armistead Maupin at an Amy Tan party.

Playlist: “As Time Goes By,” “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen,” “Good-Night Irene,” “Play Misty for Me,” Red Hot Chili Peppers,

Nancy said: Pearl called 44 Scotland Street “entertaining.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scotland: More Than Haggis, Kilts and Ian Rankin” (p 198). Interesting to note that Ian Rankin does appear in 44 Scotland Street as himself.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Smith. Alexander McCall. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built.

What is that saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same. When we catch up to Mma Ramotswe and the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Mma Ramotswe is now still at the agency but she is now married to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. Her assistant, Mma Matekutsi is still at the agency (although there is no mention of her typing school) and she is engaged to a well-to-do furniture salesman. The big drama lies with Mma Matekutsi. She has a competitor, another woman trying to steal her fiance away with immoral tactics. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe’s home life is doing well with the exception of her beloved tiny white van. As it becomes older it gets harder and harder to fix. She soon begins to hide the troubles from Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for fear he will tell her to get rid of it. It seems unusual for Mma Ramotswe to love the tiny white van as much as she does but she considers it part of the family and goes to great lengths to keep it around. The one “mystery” of the book involves an always-losing football team. The manager is convinced someone is a traitor and losing games on purpose. Mma Ramotswe has been hired to find the culprit, which of course, she does.

A very good line, “Until you hear the whole story, until you dig deeper, and listen, she thought, you know only a tiny part of the goodness of the human heart” (p 60).

Reason read: This concludes my time with Mma Ramotswe and her friends. I started the series back in January with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in honor of Mystery month. I am sad to be ending this journey because I fell in love with the series.

Book trivia: Tea Time for the Traditionally Built isn’t the end of the series. It goes on but unfortunately I won’t be along for the ride.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Botswana” (p 42).

Full Cupboard of Life

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Full Cupboard of Life

Reason read: In honor of Mystery Month I started this series way back in January. The Full cupboard of Life is the fifth book in the series recommended by Nancy Pearl in either Book Lust, more Book Lust, or Book Lust To Go. I am nearing the end of my time with Mma Ramotswe and her family at the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I started in January with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and now have one more book to read after The Full Cupboard of Life.

When we return to Mma Ramotswe we learn she is still engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. They have yet to set a wedding date. There is no doubt Mma Ramotswe is patient lady! Although, in this 5th installment she is losing faith and dares to ask Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni the dreaded “when” question. It is even starting to weigh on Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni as he dreams about a wedding date.
The one noticeable difference about The Full Cupboard of Life is that, unlike previous books in the series, the plot is not as seamless as the others. Instead of picking up where the reader left off Smith takes the time to bring the reader back to the very beginning of the series, explaining who Mma Ramotswe is and how she came to have the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana. He also takes the time to reintroduce us to Mma Ramotswe’s beloved daddy and other early relationships. There is less emphasis on “mysteries” to solve.

Book trivia: The Full Cupboard of Life is  the last book I will read in order in the series. After this I am actually skipping THREE others: In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, Blue Shoes and Happiness, and The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (does this mean I missed the wedding?). I wonder why Pearl doesn’t include them in any of her recommendations?

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith is currently on a lecture tour but (unfortunately!) comes nowhere near me. Bummer. I’m a huge fan now.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171). But, of course. As an aside, this was the first book I listened to on cassette and sadly, the tape was a little warped. This listening experience was not as enjoyable as the disc versions.

Kalahari Typing School for Men

Smith, Alexander McCall. The Kalahari Typing School for Men. New York: Anchor Books, 2002.

You don’t have to read the first three Mma Ramotswe books in order to enjoy Kalahair Typing School for Men but I think you would enjoy them better if you did. In the fourth installment of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency the plot continues to move away from solving mysteries (as it had been in Morality for Beautiful Girls) and the emphasis is placed more on character development. To bring you up to speed: Mma Precious Ramotswe is Botswana’s only female detective. She is engaged to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and together they have adopted two children, a brother and sister, but still haven’t set a wedding date. It seems Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is content to stay engaged for an indeterminate amount of time. Mma Ramotswe has two cases of interest. One is a gentleman wishing to repair his not so sterling past. He wants to make amends for a series of wrongs he has done as a youth. The other mystery is a typical marital woe of a woman thinking her man is cheating on her. The title of the story comes from Mma Matakutsi’s side business of starting a typing school for men.

Now that I am actually reading I have a few favorite lines, “That was the trouble with people in general: they were surprisingly unrealistic in their expectations” (p 5) and “We do not care about other people’s hats in the same way these days, do we? We do not” (p 158).

Reason read: to continue the series (started with The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) in honor of Mystery Month in January. Note: up until this point I have listened to the series in CD. I appreciated Lecat’s narration and pronunciation. For example, if I had read the series from the beginning I wouldn’t have known that “Zebra Drive” (where Mma Ramotswe lives) is pronounced Zeb – bra Drive and not Zee – bra Drive.

Author fact: You just have to check out the videos on Alexander McCall Smith’s website. He is quoted as saying he is very fond of Botswana and he wrote the Mma Ramotswe series as a tribute to the country. (see link on Morality for Beautiful Girls book review).

Book trivia: This is the fourth book in the series. Next up is The Full Cupboard of Life.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).

Morality for Beautiful Girls

Smith, Alexander McCall. Morality for Beautiful Girls. Read by Lisette Lecat. Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003.

Let’s recap the last two books shall we?: In The Number #1 Ladies Detective Agency Mma Ramotswe has started Botswana’s only detective agency. She not only builds the reputation of her shop but her relationship with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni (owner of an auto repair shop). Continuing in Tears of the Giraffe Mma Ramotswe takes on more complicated cases and becomes engaged and a mother (practically at the same time). Now in Morality for Beautiful Girls Mma Ramotswe becomes more involved with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s mechanic shop business and the two children she has adopted with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. She takes on one major case involving a government man who is convinced his brother is being poisoned by someone in the family. This case requires her to leave home overnight. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe’s assistant, Mma Makutsi, is climbing the business ladder as well. Not only does she become acting manager of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s repair shop while he is ill she also becomes an assistant detective and handles a huge case on her own because Mma Ramotswe is out of town. It’s this case that is the title of the book. Mma Makutsi is hired to find out which contestants of a beauty competition are beautiful on the inside AND out. Mma Makutsi is charged with finding the morality in the girls. In this particular installment of the series MCcall Smith focuses on morality on all levels. The initial focus is on the beauty queens but really he questions all of Africa’s morality as well.

Reason read: This continues the series started in January in honor of Mystery month.

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith has his own website here. I particularly like the birds flying around. It’s charming.

Book trivia: This is the third book in the series starring Mma Ramotswe. Now Mma Ramotswe’s life is getting a little complicated!

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust from the chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 171).

Tears of the Giraffe

Smith, Alexander McCall. Tears of the Giraffe. Read by Lisette Lecat. Prince Frederick, Maryland: Recorded Books, 2003.

If you read No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency you will appreciate the fact that Tears of the Giraffe picks up right where No. 1 Ladies left off. Someone on another review site called this next book in the series “utterly seamless” and I couldn’t agree more. At the end of No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has just proposed to  Mma Ramotswe and surprisingly she accepted despite having refused once before. Tears of the Giraffe starts off with the happy couple planning their life together, downsizing their maid staff (which doesn’t prove to be a simple matter), deciding who moves into whose house, obtaining an obligatory engagement ring…But it isn’t long before the story resumes Mma Ramotswe’s detective work. The very first case is an odd one. An American mother has come back to Botswana looking for her adult son who had disappeared from a farming commune ten years earlier. While she had thoroughly looked for her son ten years ago (when he first went missing) the recent death of her husband from prostate cancer has renewed the mother’s need for closure in all aspects of her life. It’s this case that threads through the entire book. The rest of the cases are small and are solved quickly. Tears of the Giraffe really focuses more on character development. Mma Ramotswe’s secretary has a bigger part as does Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni. In an interesting twist Mma Ramotswe makes her secretary a partner in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni makes Mma Ramotswe a mother. I won’t say anything more than that.

Reason read: This continues the story of Botswana’s number one ladies detective, Mma Precious Ramotswe (started in No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) in honor of female mystery month being in January.

Author Fact: According to the back of the cd case Alexander McCall Smith has written over 50 books. I’m really disappointed I won’t be reading Forensic Aspects of Sleep. As an insomnia that one sounds fascinating to me.

Book trivia: This is the second book in the Mma Ramotswe series and deals with Mma Ramotswe on a more personal level.

BookLust Twist: From both Book Lust to Go and More Book Lust. Book Lust To Go includes it in the chapter called “Botswana”  (p 42) and More Book Lust mentions it in the chapter “Ms. Mystery” (p 170).

January ’13 was…

When I look back on January 2013 I have a sense of relief. All things considered this month was better than the last. In the grand scheme of things January treated me kind. No major meltdowns. No minor catastrophes to speak of. I started training for Just ‘Cause in the quiet way. Four to five miles a day and I didn’t stress about the numbers. If I didn’t make five or even four I didn’t have a hissy fit or beat myself or moi up. I cut me & myself some slack; gave us a break. I know that as the months wear on this won’t always be the case, but for now it was nice to go easy on me, myself & moi. The running was a different matter. Just as relaxed a schedule but not so easy going on. The run is a little over six weeks away and I’ve done next to nil in order to train. New Guinea has been awesome in that I’m working on speed intervals on level five. Let me repeat that. Level five. Nothing to write home about. I used to operate at level nine. Enough said. On with the books! I am pretty proud of the list.

  • Lives of the Painters, Architects and Sculptors by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of National Art Month way back in October. This finally completes the series!
  • Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ in honor of Female Domination Day in Greece.
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray ~ in honor of January being the first month I read something from the first chapter of a Lust book. I admit I didn’t finish this one.
  • Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham ~ in honor of Maugham’s birth month. I also didn’t finish this one.
  • Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ Happy new year. Read something to make me happy.
  • Idle Days in Patagonia by W. H. Hudson ~ in honor of January being the best time to visit Patagonia.
  • The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ~ in honor of Lewis birth and death month.
  • Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson ~ in honor of the month all Creatures Great and Small aired.
  • Tatiana by Dorothy Jones ~ in honor of January being the month Alaska became a state.

On audio I listened to:

  • Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month.
  • No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith ~ in honor of Female Mystery Month
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff ~ last minute add-on. This was addicting!

For the Early Review program with LibraryThing:

  • Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws (started in Dec)
  • Her by Christa Parravani

For Fun:

  • Leave Your Sleep the poetry book for children by Natalie Merchant

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

Smith, Alexander McCall. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. Narrated by Lisette Lecat. New York: Recorded Books, 1998.

As soon as you meet Mma Precious Ramotswe you realize she is a force to be reckoned with. As Botswana’s first female detective she spends most of her time solving mysteries by using her intuition and her ability to read people. She is a good judge of character so while she isn’t always solving major crimes like murders, she is making individual lives better. Take the very first case for example, “The Daddy.” A man claiming to be a woman’s long lost father moves into her house and starts to take advantage of her generosity. The woman has reason to believe the man is an imposter and goes to Precious for help. Precious tells the man his “daughter” has been in a terrible accident and needs a blood transfusion. Only he can supply the blood needed…and that the procedure is highly dangerous so there is a good chance he will not survive. BUT, he will save his daughter! Precious knows a true father will lay down his own life for his only daughter while a perfect stranger will not. Sure enough, the imposter admits he is a fraud and is run out of town. The list of “mysteries” solved grows longer and as a result so does Mma Ramotswe’s reputation. She becomes the number one detective agency for Botswana. The types of mysteries Mma Ramotswe solves range from deadly serious (the disappearance of a young boy) to the downright silly (a father doesn’t want his young daughter seeing boys). Probably my favorite cases are the latter because the daughter pulls a fast one on both her father and Mma Ramotswe but I also liked the time when Mma Ramotswe has to steal back a stolen Mercedes Benz and return it to its rightful owner without anyone knowing how it all happened.

Reason read: January celebrates the female heroine of mysteries. This is the first book in a very long series. I will be reading five more.  I can’t wait to read some of the others.

Author fact: Alexander McCall Smith looks a little like John Cleese to me. I have no idea why.

Book trivia:  Interesting fact – I heard that HBO made a series out of the books. That’s cool. Now I wish I subscribed to HBO!

BookLust Twist: Nancy Pearl must love this book. It is mention in all three “Lust” books: Book Lust (in the huge chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123)), More Book Lust (in the chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 170)),and Book Lust To Go (in the chapter called simply “Botswana” (p 70)). I have to admit I agree. This was a great book!

Jan ’13 is…

Holy crap I am late with the list. “I’m late, I’m late” said the White Rabbit! Okay, okay! I just finished The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland so sue me.
January 2013 is another year of hope and of promise. Kisa and I are going to see Trey Anastasio at the Palace in a few weeks. I officially started training for the 5th Just ‘Cause Walk and, and. And! I am training to run a 10k in March. Yay me. But, here are the books…before I get too carried away.

  • Rabbit Hill (speaking of rabbits) by Robert Lawson in honor of when All Creatures Great & Small first aired. Get it? Creatures = rabbits. This is a kids book so I’m hoping to fly through it.
  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith in honor of January being Female Mystery month. I’m listening to this on cd. It’s the first one in the series so expect to see Alexander McCall Smith on my book list for the next 4 or 5 months.
  • Lives of the Painters, Sculptors Vol 4 by Giorgio Vasari ~ this (finally, finally) ends the series started in October in honor of Art Appreciation month
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery ~ in honor of the first month of the year I’m reading something from the first chapter of More Book Lust.
  • Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron ~ in honor of the a Happy New Year. Another kids book to lighten the mood.
  • Ancient Athens on 5 Drachmas a Day by Philip Matyszak ~ Okay, get this – Female Domination Day in Greece happens in January, hence reading something Greek.
  • Tatiana by Dorothy M. Jones ~ in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January. Mo one locally has this book in their library so I had to ILL it. It might have to come from Alaska. How fitting.
  • Final Solution by Michael Chabon ~ in honor of January being Adopt a Rescued Bird month. This is another book I will listen to in the car or while working out.

For the LibraryThing Early Review program I am just finishing up Gold Coast Madam by Rose Laws. I also received notification of a January Early Review book but as always I won’t mention it by title until it’s in my hot little hands (or in this case, cold little hands since it’s 6 degrees outside).