Tag Archives: Alexander McCall Smith

Reading: Spiderwick, The Art of Gratitude and Hamish Macbeth

Despite being so busy this month, I was sitting back the other day, thinking about what I’ve been reading, and am quite amazed to realize that I have actually been reading!

Reading: Spiderwick Chronicles

Spiderwick Chronicles, Boxed SetOver the weekend, I finished reading the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. I’d seen a review of the books at Brizmus Blogs Books, where Audrey thought the Chronicles would be a much better read if you read all the books back to back. It was a rather serendipitous moment for me, as I’d just seen an omnibus volume of all the books in the series at Costco that day, and as I’d been intending to give the series a try, I ended up going back to purchase the omnibus collection.

I’m very glad I did. Audrey was right – Spiderwick is a great read if you read all the books in the series straight through. I polished the omnibus collection off in one sitting, and enjoyed it as a result. After I finished the first book in the series, I could see how it would have been quite a letdown if I didn’t have the next books in the series on hand.

And the illustrations are absolutely wonderful, of course!

Reading: The Lost Art of Gratitude

The Lost Art of GratitudeI’m also in the middle of The Lost Art of Gratitude, the latest Isabel Dalhousie book by Alexander McCall Smith.

I’ve been taking this one slowly – it’s just so enjoyable getting back into Isabel’s head. I find that it really doesn’t matter very much what the plots of the Dalhousie books are; they’re sometimes dubbed mysteries but they’re not really that mysterious. And even though I love mysteries, a good strong plot, the riveting nature of a story of good against evil, I don’t really care that the Isabel Dalhousie series has none of this.

For me the beauty of this series is the pure enjoyment of being in Isabel Dalhousie’s world once again. I fell in love with Isabel and her Edinburgh very early on, in the first book in this series, The Sunday Philosophy Club, and have looked forward to, and enjoyed, every new book in the series ever since. I love the way she thinks, and the way she goes about her world. I love the gentleness of the books, and the way they make me feel every time I dip in.

Listening: Hamish Macbeth

And finally, on the audiobook front – because I simply can’t get by without having at least one good audiobook on the go.

I had the tough task of choosing an audiobook to follow the last Harry Potter book. I’d just finished listening to the entire Harry Potter series in audio and was really feeling quite sad. It had been quite lovely listening to Harry and his friends every night before bed, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to pick something equally enthralling.

Death of a Poison PenI decided to choose a completely different genre, and ended up listening to M.C. Beaton’s Death of a Poison Pen. This was my very first Hamish Macbeth mystery, and I was in for a surprise. For some reason, I’d always thought these stories were older, set in the 30s and 40s, much like much of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Well, they’re not. And they are such fun, light reads.

So I’ve been enjoying getting to know Hamish and the village and villagers of Lochdubh. After finishing Death of a Poison Pen, I moved onto Death of a Gentle Lady, which I should be finishing up tonight. There’ve been quite a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, too, which also surprised me.

What’s Up Next

Mary PoppinsAll in all, I’ve been quite enjoying the Hamish Macbeth series. I’m not sure if I’ll go for another Hamish Macbeth novel when I’ve finished up with Death of a Gentle Lady. I recently discovered the audio version of Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, one of my favorite childhood stories (all the books in the series are so magical, and while the Disney movie version is very sweet, it doesn’t really quite capture this magic); I suspect I might dip into that for a listen when I’m finished with the current Hamish.

And I think I will start Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart series. I have Book One of the trilogy, and since I’m eager to dive into another children’s fantasy series, this seemed like a good bet.

What Are You Reading?

So that’s what I’ve been up to, reading-wise. What have you been reading/listening to lately?

Saturday Thoughts

I haven’t done a Saturday “this is what’s going on with me” post for ages, so I figured it was about time. And after this week, I actually might be posting something like this regularly on Saturday – because starting next Saturday, I’ll have more time.

The Big List of Book Giveaways

Why will I have more time?

Tomorrow will be my last “Big List of Book Giveaways” post for The Sunday Salon. I will still be posting a giveaways list on Sundays, but after a lot of thought, I’ve decided to change the theme of the list and focus only on giveaways that are open worldwide. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since I read this post at J. Kaye’s book blog, where she mentions that Bookworming in the 21st Century posts Link a Contest Thursday every Thursday, and it’s so easy – if you have a giveaway, you just enter it into her Mr. Linky.

The Big List of Book Giveaways post had gotten to the point where it took up a big chunk of my Saturdays, but I’d been reluctant to give it up because it seems to be so helpful to everyone. Reading through the comments I’ve gotten, I saw that a lot of people liked the fact that I state whether a giveaway is open worldwide or not. So it makes sense to me to narrow down the focus to just international book giveaways – hopefully the list will continue to be helpful for everyone (since everyone can enter), and I get to take back some of my Saturdays!

I’m A Cheerleader for the October Read-a-thon!

I never know what I’m going to be doing on any given day until that day comes (in addition to being a moody reader, I also like to adjust my life around whatever I happen to feel like doing at the moment). So, while the idea of participating in the October Read-a-thon is so tempting, I know myself well enough to know it’s probably not a good idea.

Cheerleading, on the other hand? I can do that! So I’ve signed up to be a cheerleader for the October Read-a-thon, and am in the process of dusting off my Twitter and commenting pom poms. I will try to follow the lead of that great Read-a-thon cheerleader, Beth Fish Reads, whose impressive cheering performance during the April Read-a-thon was really what inspired me to sign up to cheer this time around.

If you’d like to participate in the Read-a-thon, or want to give cheerleading a try, just head on over to Dewey’s Read-a-thon.

100-Mile (160.1 km) Fitness Challenge

Fitness Challenge I’ve been noticing that I seem to have gotten, um, a bit more rounded, shall we say, over the past six months. With both the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts approaching, now seems like a good time to start running again.

Synchronicity struck – I was over at Amanda’s The Zen Leaf and she mentioned she was signing up for the 100-Mile Fitness Challenge. Perfect! So I’ve signed up, too, and hope this is the motivation I need to get running again. I’ve been noticing that my thighs feel sore after I go upstairs – I truly feel like I’m climbing the stairs, like they were some big huge mountain. Not to mention that out-of-breath feeling. So it really is time to do something about it.

My treadmill gives me Canadian distances, so for me, the challenge will be, roughly, 160.1 km over the next three months It turns out my treadmill gives me miles, not kilometres!. And I’m probably going to start out by walking first. I’ve got a ton of audiobooks waiting to accompany me, so my challenge posts will actually be bookish!

So, What’s Up With NANTUCKET?

I haven’t written anything about my progress with NANTUCKET because I haven’t made any progress with it since the last time I posted about it. I know – it’s a very sorry state of affairs. I still have three scenes to write, after which I can say, “I did it! It’s finished!”

You’d think it would be easy to get motivated to write those final scenes, but I have a small confession to make. NANTUCKET has always been my “practice” novel. After not having written anything for so long, I needed to show myself that I could do it. Since I wanted to use that first book to get myself back into writing, I decided to use one of my good ideas, and not one of the ideas about which I am really passionate.

And it’s worked, too. I have been able to write regularly, consistently, even when inspiration seemed far off. I have sat at the keyboard and invited my muse, rather than waiting on the sidelines for my muse to show up first (she never does, I’ve noticed).

But I haven’t felt inspired to write the ending, and worse, I haven’t been sitting down, so the muse hasn’t appeared.

I’m going to finish this manuscript though. I have to, because I’m itching to start the prep work for my NaNoWriMo novel (code name WAVERLEY), and I’m using this itch as an incentive to finish NANTUCKET. And I’m looking forward to pulling that first draft out of a drawer six weeks later and seeing how it reads, too.

So this is my long-winded way of saying, yes, I’ll be writing that “I’m Finished!” post soon.

Currently Reading

I am about a quarter of the way into Tana French’s The Likeness, and while I’ve been enjoying it, I got tempted out of the book when I picked up a copy of The Lost Art of Gratitude, the latest Isabel Dalhousie novel by Alexander McCall Smith. I haven’t been able to resist dipping into it, and I’ve quite enjoyed the handful of pages I’ve read so far.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I like the Isabel Dalhousie series so much. It’s certainly not for the mystery, because it’s definitely not the mystery that drives each of these books. I think it’s because I like how Isabel Dalhousie’s mind works, how, as a philosopher, she is always going off on these strange thought tangents all the time. She’s just so interesting, intelligent and self-aware.

I also like the fact that she’s an older woman in a stable relationship with a younger man. Many of my friends are in similar relationships, but I’ve noticed that this kind of relationship never shows up much in fiction. McCall Smith does a good job with it, I think.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. What about you? What have you been up to this week?

Review: The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday by Alexander McCall Smith

What This Book is About:

“In this fabulous new installment in the bestselling adventures of Isabel Dalhousie, Isabel is asked to help a doctor who has been disgraced by allegations of scientific fraud concerning a newly marketed drug. Our ever-curious moral philosopher finds her interest piqued. Would a doctor with a stellar reputation make such a simple but grave mistake? If not, what explains the tragic accident that resulted in the death of a patient? Clearly, an investigation is in order, especially since a man’s reputation is in jeopardy. Could he be the victim of someone else’s mistake? Or perhaps he has been willfully deceived by a pharmaceutical company with a great deal to gain.

Not every problem prompts an investigation (take, for example, her ongoing struggle with her housekeeper, Grace, over the care of Isabel’s infant son, Charlie), but, as we’ve seen, whatever hte case, whatever the solution, Isabel’s combination of spirit, smarts, empathy, and unabashed nosiness guarantees a delightful adventures.”

Ms. Bookish’s Quick Take: I have always had a place in my heart for Smith’s gentle mysteries involving Isabel Dalhousie, and The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday didn’t disappoint me. Isabel is true to form in this book: a very delightful and kind woman who thinks a lot. Her boyfriend Jamie might say she “thinks too much”, but the places to which her thoughts roam are just delightful. One caveat: if you’ve never read any of the Isabel Dalhousie books before, be warned that aren’t really mysteries. The mystery is more of a side story. What you get in The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday is the opportunity to spend time with Isabel Dalhousie and her outlook on life as a moral philosopher. Interesting and sometimes thought-provoking, but not very mysterious.
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The Sunday Salon – Currently reading: Charlaine Harris, Alexander McCall Smith & Beverly Bartlett

I’m currently reading three books right now, all of which I will be reviewing later this week (or when I finish them!).

I started Charlaine Harris’ An Ice Cold Grave last night, and was in for a pleasant surprise. I had actually read the first in the series, Grave Sight, last year and had enjoyed it – but I’d forgotten the name of the author and hadn’t realized it was the first in a series (the Harper Connolly series).

So far An Ice Cold Grave has been an engrossing read. I’m a third of the way through, and I only put it down because it was so late and I knew if I kept at it, I would be finished the book but it would be 5:00 a.m., which really wouldn’t do. If I get a chance to get back to it today, I’ll likely be able to finish it.

I’m also reading Alexander McCall Smith’s The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday. I really enjoy Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series; I know they’re “mysteries”, but they’re very different from the mysteries I normally read. With Isabel Dalhousie, it’s not really so much the plot, but Isabel herself who is so enticing. I fell in love with her from the moment I read The Sunday Philosophy Club, the first in the series.

The key to enjoying the Isabel Dalhousie series, I think, is to let go of the notion that they’re mysteries. Yes, each book involves a mystery of some sort, but the book itself is very much driven by Isabel’s character, her philosophical inner talk about everything that happens around her, and the application of ethics to every day life. If you reach for a book in this series expecting a rousing mystery, you’d probably be disappointed. But Isabel herself is so loveable; she tries hard to look at the world without judgment, and reading about her is always so enjoyable. It’s the kind of book you savor, rather than reading through in a breathless gallop – both are wonderful experiences, and I always like to have a little of each in my current reading.

The third book I’m reading right now is Beverly Bartlett’s Princess Izzy and the E Street Shuffle. The book quite surprised me when I first started reading. It’s written in something like the style of a biography, a Royal biography really, but with a chatty “talking to you, the reader” feel to it.

This is the first book I’m tackling for the From the Stacks Reading Challenge. I’m finding that while the book is interesting and fun as I’m reading it, when I put it down, my memories of it are not engrossing enough for me to pick it up again. But I’d like to finish this one by the end of this week.

Reviews Roundup: This past week, I’ve reviewed the following books:

Review: Doppelganger, by Pete Hautman and Mary Logue
Review: The Calder Game, by Blue Balliett (I really loved this book)
Review: The Riddles of Epsilon, by Christine Morton-Shaw
Review: Olivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer