Tuesday, July 20, 2010

44 Scotland Street, Espresso Tales

Returning from Scotland I decided to re-read and read Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series. I read the first two books years ago, but didn't remember most of it. I really like the characters that inhabit this small section of the New Town of Edinburgh, even the ones I don't like (I'm looking at you Irene and Dr. Fairbairn).  Having finished this and the second novel I'm ready to return to Edinburgh any day now. In the meantime, I'm moving on to book 3.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Kidnapped was the other book I took to read in Scotland. I did start it there, but didn't finish it until after we returned home. I have to say that these sorts of boys adventure stories aren't really my favorites, and I think that Stevenson glossed over details of place and character that I generally enjoy. But the action was first rate even if the journey overland was a little rushed in my opinion. It was fun to get my map out and trace David Balfour's journey from Mull back to Edinburgh. We didn't go on quite the same route, but the places and sights were familiar enough to put me back in the scenery, and to commiserate with the conditions of such a journey. The Jacobite history listen we'd received also added a dimension to the story I wouldn't have appreciated as much before last week.


This was the book I read in Scotland finally finishing it the day before we left. Written by one of Scotland's leading sons as evidenced by the memorial in his honor in Edinburgh, I picked the book because it was all of his that I found at my local bookstore. Waverly or Rob Roy might have been a better choice given my surroundings since Ivanhoe takes place only in England, not in Scotland. But on the plus side, having now read Ivanhoe I want to seek out Waverly and Rob Roy and add them to the list of books I've read.

I'm not exactly sure why Scott named this book Ivanhoe as the title character is one of the more minor characters. The book was fascinating though, from it's descriptions of tournaments, to its assault of a castle to its surprise revelation of the identity of a veiled knight. The inclusion of Robin Hood and his merry band greatly surprised me, and I confess I couldn't help but picture them as the Walt Disney animal characters having recently watched that DVD with Sam.

I can see why people still read Ivanhoe. Despite the plethora of prose that often fills the page, the story with its tales of heroism, chivalry, chicanery and mayhem definitely stands up after all these years.

The Tea-Olive Bird Watching Society

This was a cross between Arsenic and Old Lace and those Mitford books by Jan Karon. It also reminded me of a book that's set in a fictionalized Pine Mountain, Georgia whose name completely escapes me at the moment. I felt like this book needed a better editor. There are characters and their circumstances that are introduced only to have their stories a) change or b) be utterly irrelevant. Much of the wind-up is that unnecessary bluster of a relief pitcher who then commits a balk. The book might be worth a read if you like small town life and the foibles often associated with it, but as a general read this goes down as a failure in my book.

The Boggart and The Monster

In contrast to the prior book, The Boggart and The Monster was just what I was looking for. It took place entirely in Scotland and for the most part on Loch Ness, an area we were planning to visit. A delightful tale of the true nature of Nessie and his plight. This book I would recommend.

The Boggart

In preparation for our trip to Scotland I read The Boggart hoping it would be something Sam would read to get psyched up for the trip. He didn't. And since most of it took place in Toronto, it's not really a shame that he didn't. An okay read that I wouldn't recommend unless you're looking for a kid's story of Scottish mystical creatures.