Reading Round-Up: March 2013

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for March, 2013…

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #9), by Alexander McCall Smith – Another sweet installment in the adventures of Precious Ramotswe & co.  Mma Ramotswe is busily investigating her latest case, that of a woman who is looking for her family but doesn’t know her name or where she was born.  Mma Makutsi, meanwhile, is negotiating another relationship hurdle: her wealthy fiance, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, has bought her a bed but, inadvertently, it was left in the rain and ruined.  Should Mma Makutski come clean, or should she try to replace the bed on her own?  I’ve come to care about these characters, and I always enjoy visiting with them.

How the Light Gets In, by M.J. Hyland – Meh.  I read this book – about a troubled foreign exchange student – because it was on “Rory’s Book List” from Gilmore Girls, and I’ve been on a GG kick lately as my sis-in-law discovers Stars Hollow for the first time.  But I have to disagree with Rory on this one.  The writing was a little too Salinger-esque for me, but not in a good way (only Salinger himself can pull off that level of teen angst) and I just didn’t care about the protagonist.  I found her exasperating, irritating, and a whole mess of other things that end with -ing.  Not for me.

Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris, by Paul Gallico – Much better!  Mrs ‘Arris caught my eye on the “1001 Books to Read Before You Die” list because the title was so cute.  I’m so glad I discovered this one.  The jaunts of a London charwoman in Paris – where she has come to buy herself a Dior dress after two years of scrimping, just for the pure joy of owning something beautiful – were sweet, charming and uplifting.  I’ve been recommending this one to everybody, and I’ll recommend it to you, too.  It’s 150 pages, the work of an afternoon, and such a jolly romp.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell – Another one from the “1001 Books” list, and WOW.  This book blew. my. mind.  Six stories, each remarkably different – different form, different style, different tone – all tied together via literary tricks and possible reincarnation.  The skill that went into this book is incredible, and the stories are each so captivating.  I don’t want to talk too much about the structure of the book, since that would be giving too much away, so I’ll just say that it was so fresh, so unique, and – I think – absolute genius.  Plus there were several twists that really shocked me (and I can usually smell a twist coming 100 pages away), including one absolute bombshell that left me on the floor.  Literally.  I fell out of my chair.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #10), by Alexander McCall Smith – Okay, I keep saying this, but I think this was my favorite Precious Ramotswe mystery yet.  Mma Ramotswe has been called upon by a football (soccer, for my American friends) magnate to find out what is wrong with his team.  They’re a good team, with plenty of talent, but they keep losing (sound familiar, Sabres fans? ugh, I don’t want to talk about it) and the owner thinks there’s a traitor in their midst.  Mma Ramotswe knows nothing about football, but she’ll get help from an unlikely assistant detective: her young foster son, Puso.  Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi has her own problems: the treacherous Violet Sephotho has gotten a job at the Double Comfort Furniture Store and is trying to poach the proprieter, Mr. Phuti Radiphuti, from his rightful fiancee.  Ultimately, Mma Makutsi will get her help from an unlikely quarter as well.  I loved this one.  Seeing Mma Ramotswe out of her depth at a football game was classic, and I loved that she teamed up with Puso to solve the football mystery.  And Violet Sephotho is a bad, bad lady.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland #2), by Catherynne Valente – Back to Fairyland!  I read the first Fairyland installment over the summer and I’m so glad it’s a series, because I was certainly left wanting more.  This second jaunt was even better than the first: the language was less jarring after reading it all through the first book, the story was captivating, and the ending was sweet and hopeful, even more so than the first.  Just wonderful.  I hope there are many more to come!

The Double Comfort Safari Club (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #11), by Alexander McCall Smith – This was a particularly fun installment, as Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi journeyed into the Okavango Delta to track down a safari guide who had received a bequest from a grateful past visitor.  The Okavango Delta hadn’t featured in the series before – most of the mysteries take place in Gaborone or the surrounding area, or around the Kalahari – and it was fun seeing Mma Ramotswe in a different place.  (The scene where Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi take a water taxi to the safari camp might be the funniest image in the entire series.)  I looked up the Okavango Delta after reading this and WOW, beautiful.  I now need to plan a trip.

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #12), by Alexander McCall Smith – Mma Ramotswe might just be in over her head this time.  She’s been asked to investigate some cattle killings by a gentleman who seems frightened, but might actually not be – and who, to make matters worse, could potentially be responsible for the crime.  Mma Makutsi is deep into her wedding preparations and, of course, her shoes are causing drama.  And then, as if this wasn’t enough, Mma Ramotswe is being haunted by the ghost of her tiny white van.  Sometimes, the truth isn’t always what it seems to be.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency #13), by Alexander McCall Smith – Lots of problems arise in this installment, and they hit close to home.  An unscrupulous businessman on the board of the Tlokweng orphan farm has engineered Mma Potokwame’s unceremonious dismissal from her post which, if you know Mma Potokwame, is unthinkable.  And Fanwell, the younger of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni’s two apprentices, is in trouble with the law – and after the ladies only just managed to learn his name!  Mma Ramotswe needs all of her ingenuity to right these wrongs, but she has a secret weapon: a tall American stranger who has appeared in Gaborone and who introduces himself as none other than Clovis Andersen, author of The Principles of Private Detection, which Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi can quote ad nauseum.  With Clovis Andersen’s help, Mma Ramotswe can do anything!

Well, I was busy this month.  My reading ran the gamut from a book I genuinely disliked – How the Light Gets In – to one that blew my mind – Cloud Atlas.  And there was Mrs ‘Arris, which was charming and sweet, the latest Fairyland installment, which was magical, and all the time I spent in Botswana with Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi.  I’m now completely caught up on the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels and, to be honest, a little sad about that.  I’ve grown to love the ladies and their cohorts – the garage staff, Motholeli and Puso, Phuti Radiphuti, and Mma Potokwame – and I’m going to miss them all.

5 thoughts on “Reading Round-Up: March 2013

  1. Mrs. ‘Arris Goes To Paris is a BOOK??!!!! You just made my day. I saw the movie with Angela Lansbury and loved it, but I didn’t know there was a book, too. *gallops over to library to find the book*

    • Glad to be of service! I got my copy from the Fairfax County library system, but I think there’s only one, so you may have to reserve it. Worth the wait! (And as for me, I didn’t know there was a movie – and I LOVE Angela Lansbury. So I’m about to do a bit of galloping of my own, over to Netflix.)

  2. I love the sound of Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris. I am going to see if I can find the book here. 🙂

    Thank you so much for the reco! I was looking for some heart-warming reads immediately. Any others like this that you would suggest?

    • I hope you find it – I think you’ll like it! It’s sweet and uplifting. The main character is one of the most delightful people I’ve encountered between the pages.

      As for other heart-warming reads, have you read anything by Miss Read? She wrote prolifically and her topic was life as a country schoolteacher in England after WWII. There are two major series – the Chronicles of Fairacre (20 books) and the Thrush Green series (I think 12 books?). I’ve read 17 of the 20 Fairacre books and they are absolutely wonderful. The first Fairacre book is “Village School.” Whenever I’m a bit down, over the past year or so, I’ve stopped by Fairacre and I’m always cheered by the children’s antics in the schoolhouse, the descriptions of the blooming flowers and thriving gardens of the town, and the adult characters – Miss Read herself (who is both author and protagonist), bossy Amy, sweet and gentle Miss Clare, dour Mrs Pringle, handy Mr Willet, and so many more. I think you’d love them! Aside from Miss Read, when my heart needs warming I can’t go wrong with L.M. Montgomery – the “Anne of Green Gables” series, “Emily of New Moon” trilogy, and two “Story Girl” books in particular, although there are others. So many choices! But I do think you’ll enjoy Miss Read very much.

  3. Pingback: Goodreads + Amazon = Love, Apparently | Covered In Flour

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