The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith #TuesdayBookBlog #Humour

Peppermint tea

 

It is summer in Scotland Street (as it always is) and for the habitués of Edinburgh’s favourite street some extraordinary adventures lie in waiting.

For the impossibly vain Bruce Anderson – he of the clove-scented hair gel – it may finally be time to settle down, and surely it can only be a question of picking the lucky winner from the hordes of his admirers. The Duke of Johannesburg is keen to take his flight of fancy, a microlite seaplane, from the drawing board to the skies. Big Lou is delighted to discover that her young foster son has a surprising gift for dance but she is faced with big decisions to make on his and her futures. And with Irene now away to pursue her research in Aberdeen, her husband, Stuart, and infinitely long-suffering son, Bertie, are free to play. Stuart rekindles an old friendship over peppermint tea whilst Bertie and his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson get more they bargained for from their trip to the circus. And that’s just the beginning . . .

Reading this book was a welcome return to the characters of Scotland Street, Edinburgh.  All ages and all sorts of characters are represented. Problems are solved and worries assuaged, usually by the kindness of others.  Like the other books in the series, there are interesting philosophical discussions and relationships develop.

My favourite characters are 7 year Bertie Pollock, his simple friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson and their helpful adult comrade Angus Lordie with his cheerful dog Cyril.  The book is sprinkled with humour, be it the vanity of handsome Estate Agent, Bruce, making a fool of himself when he tries to show off his knowledge (or lack of it) about whisky to the owner of a distillery; or an account of the Scotch Pie company once called Pies for Protestants, then Inclusive Pies and now with the surge of nationalism, named Pure Dead Brilliant Scotch Pies (Nae Messing).

By the conclusion of the novel young Pat has found a new, rather young, boyfriend, Bertie’s father has found romance and Matthew has found a way to cheer his lonely wife who struggles with triplets Rognvald, Fergus and Tobermory.  For a feel good, thought provoking read you cannot beat the wit of Alexander McCall Smith.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

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A God in ruins is a slow boiler. It tells the story of Teddy, a beloved son and brother whose comfortable life changed so dramatically when the second world war began. Moving back and forth through his life, we see him as a gentle, loving grandfather, a much-respected pilot and a dutiful husband. But it is a life full of quandaries; should he marry his childhood sweetheart, how can he communicate with his wayward daughter and how can he defend bombing Germany?

Looking through Teddy’s eyes the juxtaposition of different eras flows logically. I was more at ease with this book than with the artifice of “Life After Life.” Once immersed in the story I could read it forever, but there is a finale and that is both a surprise and yet absolutely right.

There are so many facets to this book such as the delightful stories of the mischievous child, Augustus, written by Teddy’s aunt with him as a model, the awful behaviour and total lack of empathy of Teddy’s daughter, Viola, and the very British, stubborn manner in which Teddy’s wife, Nancy, deals with illness.
I tend to ignore essential words at the beginning of a novel, so it is important to return to the quotes Kate Atkinson begins with, especially the source of her title:

“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we wake from dreams.“ – Ralph Waldo Emerson – Nature

I could write so much more about Kate Atkinson’s descriptive prose, her pithy comments, her understanding of humanity and the savage consequences of war, but it would be much better for you to read her book.

Manipulated Lives by H A Leuschel #TuesdayBookBlog

manipulated

Sometimes a book’s title and cover can deter you from opening the first page. You suspect it will be rewarding but you are worried that the experience might be distressing. But opening Manipulated Lives gives instant gratification. From the first paragraph of the first novella “The Narcissist” I was involved with the feelings of the protagonist, lying trapped in a hospital bed. It is difficult to avoid spoilers when describing this book, but what is plain is that, “Nothing is but what is not.” The author manipulates her readers.

The manipulation of another, by a character in each story, is not creative. It is abusive and is fuelled by selfishness and a need to control, but the study of how charm and deception can entrap a victim is intriguing and believable. At times, we too feel empathy for the manipulators, even though they are incapable of considering others. In the story of “Tess and Tattoos” we come to realise the complexity in the back life of a lonely old lady and in “The Spell” we begin to understand why an intelligent, talented young woman can become entangled in the lives of a busy, single father and his loveable son.
The novella, “Runaway Girl” is perhaps the most fulfilling to read. It is easy to identify with Lisa, from the point of view of her mother, her teacher or one’s own teenage years. You feel a sense of impending doom, as her life starts to fall apart and yet the story ends with such promise. The final story of “The Perfect Child” will remind any reader of mothers they have encountered or children they remember. Putting children on a pedestal has become the norm in modern society but what calamities are we laying up for ourselves by this action and who is happy? Neither parent nor child.

These novellas are beautifully written, carefully revealing characters and situations through a variety of viewpoints. H A Leuschel is a writer to watch. Her understanding of human psychology, cause and consequence, make her stories credible and fascinating.

To read an interview with Helen Leuschel go to Portobellobookblog

Rosie's Book Review team 1

I read this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith #FridayBookShare ~ @ShelleyWilson72

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

The different way in which adults and children look at life, has always fascinated me and I am always horrified that some adults believe the opinions of children are of no importance.  Alexander McCall Smith demonstrates this so clearly in the relationship between Bertie and his mother in his Scotland Street books, especially The Importance of Being Seven

First Line:  If there was one thing about marriage that surprised Matthew, it was just how quickly he became accustomed to it.

Recruit fans by adding the blurb

Despite inhabiting a great city renowned for its impeccable restraint, the extended family of 44 Scotland Street is trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence. Matthew and Elspeth receive startling – and expensive – news on a visit to the Infirmary, Angus and Domenica are contemplating an Italian ménage a trois, and even Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. But when Bertie Pollock – six years old and impatient to be seven – mislays his meddling mother Irene one afternoon, a valuable lesson is learned: that wish-fulfilment is a dangerous business.

Warm-hearted, wise and very funny, The Importance of Being Seven brings us a fresh and delightful set of insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most loveable residents.

Introduce the main character  Bertie is highly intelligent, very polite and longs to escape from his mother.

Delightful Design

being-seven

Audience appeal:  Anyone with a sense of humour and a philosophical attitude to life.

Your Favourite Scene

Bertie would have liked to play games, but it seemed there was little time for such things, what with yoga sessions, his psychotherapy with Dr St Clair, Italian conversazione with his mother and his saxophone lessons.  He had asked his mother whether he could give up some of these but she had been unwilling.

“But you love all these things that Mummy plans for you, Bertie!” she replied.  “All of them.  You have such fun, and you’ll thank me, when you are a big boy for helping you to do all these things.”

Bertie did not think that he would, but he knew that there was no point in arguing. His mother was so sure of everything.  He had suggested that he might give up his weekly psychotherapy session with Dr St Clair.

“Dr St Clair is helping you a lot you know.  He’s helping to make sure that you make the right decisions.  He’s helping you to understand things – to grow up without neuroses. You’re a lucky little boy to have this opportunity.  There are quite a few young people who could do with his help.”

“Such as?” asked Bertie.

“Well, Tofu, for one.  There’s a young man who needs a lot of help to curb his aggressive urges.”

Bertie had to agree but he did not think that Dr St Clair would be a match for Tofu. Tofu would never agree to go to yoga and would resolutely refuse to play the saxophone or to speak Italian.  Tofu was a member of Bertie’s cub scout pack as was his arch-enemy, Olive.  And that was difficult.  Tofu had already spoken to Bertie about that evening’s meeting.

“There’s going to be trouble, Bertie.” he said. “I can feel it coming.”  Then he added, “Hah!”

 

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

#FridayBookShare After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

After Dark is the second book I have read by Haruki Murakami.  It is slim and easy to read but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to understand.

First Line  Eyes mark the shape of the city.  Through the eyes of a high flying night-bird, we take in the scene from midair.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home. The musician has plans to rehearse with his jazz band all night, Mari is equally unconcerned and content to read, smoke and drink coffee until dawn. They realise they’ve been acquainted through Eri, Mari’s beautiful sister. The musician soon leaves with a promise to return before dawn. Shortly afterwards Mari will be interrupted a second time by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, the girl has heard Mari speaks fluent Chinese and requests her help.

Meanwhile Eri is at home and sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘too perfect, too pure’ to be normal; pulse and respiration at the lowest required level. She has been in this soporfic state for two months; Eri has become the classic myth – a sleeping beauty. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00 a faint electrical crackle is perceptible, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television’s plug has been pulled.

Murakami, acclaimed master of the surreal, returns with a stunning new novel, where the familiar can become unfamiliar after midnight, even to those that thrive in small hours. With After Dark we journey beyond the twilight. Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?

Introduce the main character –Enigmatic, solitary, observer.

Delightful Design

After Dark

Audience appeal  Curious, adventurous readers

Your favourite line/scene

All of a sudden out of nowhere I can bring back things I haven’t thought about for years.  It’s pretty interesting.  Memory is so crazy!  It’s like we’ve got these drawers crammed with tons of useless stuff.  Meanwhile all the really important things we just keep forgetting, one after the other.

It’s because I can pull the memories out of the drawers when I have to- the important ones and the useless ones- that I can go on living this nightmare of a life.

You can find After Dark on Amazon here

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.