Monday, December 31, 2012

84. An Island Apart by Lillian Beckwith

This novel is a departure from Beckwith's Bruach series. Kirsty MacLennan is a hard working, resourceful spinster employed in a city boarding house. When boarder and Island man Ruari MacDonald suddenly proposes marriage, she hardly knows what to think. Suddenly her life is changed and many twists and turns bring the plot to a surprising conclusion.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

83. Bruach Blend by Lillian Beckwith

Another collection of amusing anecdotes and stories shared at céilidhs. "Miss Peckwitt" remembers various animals she's looked after from gulls to hedgehogs to lambs.

82. The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

This book is a collection of letters written to family and friends, by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, between 2 August 1716 and 1 November 1718. It seems she was the first woman to see and write about the private lives of women in Turkey at that time. She records an early form of inoculation against smallpox and describes animals, plants and food that would seem exotic to the letters' recipients.

Monday, December 24, 2012

81.The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe and her secretary/assistant Grace Makutsi solve cases that involve their friends with the help of their mentor Clovis Anderson, the author of "The Principles of Private Detection". Garage mechanic Fanwell, Mma Potokwane matron of the orphan farm and Mma Makutsi and her new husband Phuti Radiphuti, all find themselves victims of dishonest people who seek only personal gain. One by one, the cases get solved and hard working, honest people prevail.

Friday, December 21, 2012

80. Beautiful Just by Lillian Beckwith

A series of vignettes in the highland crofting life:"Miss Peckwitt" raises a calf and reluctantly takes him to market; whelk picking; more tales of the supernatural and local customs

Thursday, December 20, 2012

79. Making Life Rich Without Any Money by Phil Callaway

I ordered this thinking it was the book we're reading in my church book group. Turns out it's a very nice companion volume with great photos, quotes and top ten lists. Some great ideas like not wearing a watch on Sundays. I think I'll try that this week.

78. The Spuddy by Lillian Beckwith

The Spuddy is a grey-black mongrel who is befriended by a mute boy named Andy. After his mother walked out, Andy is left in the care of his Aunt and Uncle, in a Hebridean fishing village, by his father is away with the Navy. The exciting climax results in a surprising ending.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

77. Christmas at Thrush Green by Miss Read

A charming story that features all of my favourite Thrush Green characters including the curmudgeonly Albert Piggot who retires as church sexton and the redoubtable Ella Bembridge who is suffering from macular degeneration and then falls and breaks her wrist.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

76. Lightly Poached by Lillian Beckwith

Another enjoyable read filled with eccentric and lovable characters. Beckwith has, by now, thoroughly adapted to her new life in the Hebrides and finds it difficult to contemplate going back to town life in England. She's working, eating and dressing like a local and using their idioms too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

75. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

Philosopher Isabel Dalhousie is asked to help facilitate the return of a stolen masterpiece to its rightful owners. McCall Smith implies that in many real cases, thieves return works of art for ransom payments. They know that they can't sell the paintings on the open market and claim reward money from owners or insurance companies. I'm still puzzling over which suspect was the true culprit in this novel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

74. A Rope - In Case by Lillian Beckwith

"Miss Peckwitt" has got into the Hebredean habit of bringing a piece of rope when she goes out - in case. It comes in handy more than once in this book of amusing anecdotes and observations about working a croft, local customs,  belief in the supernatural and superstitions in the fictional Scottish island of Bruach.

Monday, December 10, 2012

73. Portmeirion by Jan Morris et al

This coffee table book is filled with wonderful photographs of the titled Welsh village built by architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Chapters are devoted to the history, gardens, buildings and pottery of Portmeirion.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

72. The Green Hand by Lillian Beckwith

Welshman David Jones is a "Green Hand" or novice fisherman in Scotland. His religious parents have disowned him for not following his father's footsteps in their community. David, with the help of some rough and ready skippers and crewmen learns the ropes and finds himself.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

71. Emma by Jane Austen

I really had to persevere to finish this book as I did not enjoy reading it. Emma Wodehouse, the title character, fancies herself as a matchmaker for her friends but vows that she will never marry. You can guess where this is all leading. Again, I have to say that I do not find Austen's characters sympathetic or very interesting. Of the five of her six novels I've read, Northanger Abbey is still by far my favourite.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

70. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I have to confess that after reading the first quarter of this novel I thought, "It's about a silly woman who wants to get her five daughters married off". I did not find any of the characters sympathetic. However, since I am very interested in Georgian England,I persevered and I'm glad I did. The true characters of the young men, who are prospective husbands for the sisters, are gradually revealed and things get more interesting.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

69. The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith

Another amusing glimpse of croft life in the fictional village of Bruach, on a Hebridean Island in Scotland. From every day farm labour  to special events like an election or a tinker's wedding, this third volume in the series is full of  entertaining stories and keen observances.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

68. Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

Well documented account of Jane Austen's life, works and the posthumous popularity of her books. Interesting how film and television brought her novels to a new audience in the 1990s. I have read only two of her six books: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. I've also see the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. Need to put Pride an Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma on my "to read" list.

Friday, November 09, 2012

67. The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell

Liza, at the age of sixteen, runs away to live in a caravan with her boyfriend after her mother has been arrested for murder. Liza has been witness or has knowledge of three. During her upbringing in the gatehouse of "Shrove" a secluded mansion, Liza was home schooled by her mother who sought refuge from a troubled history. Although not street smart, Liza can read and speak French and Latin and is a voracious reader of classic fiction.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

66. The Spoilers by Desmond Bagley

A wealthy American movie mogul's daughter dies of a heroin overdose in London. He finances an operation, headed by her doctor, to infiltrate the opium trade in Iraq and Lebanon, with explosive results.

65. The Looking Glass War by John le Carre

Written as a follow up to "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold", this cold-war espionage novel has become a classic in its own right. I wonder how good the film versions were?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

64. Blindness by José Saramago

I'm not sure whether to classify this novel as Science Fiction, Horror are a bit of both. An epidemic of sudden blindness, where the victim sees only a milky white fog, brings out the worst in humanity. It's interesting how none of the main characters are given names and are referred to as " the girl with the dark glasses" or " the boy with the squint". A disturbing  and yet compelling tale.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

63. Who Could That be at This hour? by Lemony Snicket

A 13 year old Lemony Snicket  and his chaperone are commissioned to recover a statue of the Bombinating Beast and return it to its rightful owner. In true Snicket style, one is never sure who is who and who is the rightful owner. Quirky characters, weird setting and plot twists are reminiscent of the Series of Unfortunate Events. This book is the first of a four part prequel called " All the Wrong Questions" which will overlap the Baudelaire's story line.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

62. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

First published in 1915, this novel follows the rise of a Swedish-American girl to international stardom as an opera singer. Not your typical rags to riches story, Cather paints a more realistic portrait of Thea Kronborg and the passion and sacrifices that shape her life. Beautiful descriptive passages of the people and places of the fictional town of Moonstone, Colorado create memorable vignettes.

61. Mastering Art: Drawing by Anthony Hodge

Good guide to drawing basics like materials, colour theory,  perspective, composition and the human figure. Suitable for children and beginners.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

60. Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

Whimsical tale of a naive kitten who thinks the moon is a little bowl of milk and tries several ways to reach it.

59. Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg

Brothers Danny and Walter learn about getting along together after discovering a board game in the park which takes them on a ride through outer space to the planet Zathura. 

58. Night of the Gargoyes by Eve Bunting

Illustrated by David Wiesner. A poetic picture book about the adventures of museum gargoyles when the sun goes down.

57. Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice

Told in the third person by the young Jesus of Nazereth, between the ages of 8 and 12, this novel seeks to explore what every day life would have been like for the Holy Family. Rice, better known for her vampire novels, has researched and read the skeptics as well as the gospels to fill in the gap between Christmas and Jesus at age thirteen.

Monday, October 22, 2012

55. The Sea For Breakfast by Lillian Beckwith

In this second book of the series, "Miss Peckwitt" returns to the village of Bruach and sets up a croft of her own. It's a steep and humorous learning curve and we meet new members of the community and get reacquainted with old favourites.

56. Picture This! Activities and Adventures in Impressionism by Joyce Raimondo

Very kid-friendly biographies of Impressionist painters and descriptions of their works. Excellent art activities and ideas

54. The Sea of Sleep by Warren Hanson

Illustrations by Jim LaMarche.
In essence the text is a lullaby in poetic form. A young sea otter its mother, various sea creatures and landscapes are beautifully depicted in pastel and watercolour.

53. When Grandma Came by Jill Paton Walsh

Illustrated by Sophy Williams.

Madeleine's atypical Grandmother travels the world and periodically stops to visit. In each successive visit, we see that time has passed and Madeleine has grown up. Grandma compares her granddaughter to the things she has seen in the remote corners of the world.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

52. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

A charming description of the lives of French missionary priests in the newly created state of New Mexico in the mid-Eighteenth Century. Beautifuly written descriptions of the land and its people.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

51. After the Falls: Coming of Age in the Sixties by Catherine Gildiner

Gildiner, a Toronto clinical psychologist writes about her teen and college years in the 1960s. The adjustments she makes from living in Buffalo, NY to college life in Athens, Ohio are testimony to her resilience and depth of character. I really enjoyed her accounts of the donut factory fiasco and sorority life at college.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

50. Framed by Gordon Korman

In this third book of the series, Griffin gets framed for stealing a super bowl ring that was given as a gift to his school. A stint in the "Jail for Kids" and an electronic monitoring anklet can't keep the "Man with the Plan" from trying to clear his name.

49. Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh

Sayers passed away before completing this mystery novel which takes place in 1936. It was finished by Walsh and published in 1998.  Lord Peter Wimsey and his new bride, the writer Harriet Vane, are adjusting to domestic life together when an acquaintance is found murdered in her suburban home. The historical backdrop includes the death of George V and Hitler's rise to power.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

48. Evelina: or the history of a young lady's entry into the world by Fanny Burney

Published anonymously in 1778, Evelina was the highly successful debut novel of Frances "Fanny" Burney. Originally released in three volumes it is written as a series of letters between Evelina Anville, her guardian and various relatives, friends an acquaintances. It is part romance, part mystery and a whole lot of social commentary on Georgian society.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

47. Black and White by David Macaulay

I'm not sure which is more clever and creative - the illustrations or the text. It's actually four intertwined stories. Great book for teaching about monochromatic colour schemes and points of view.

46. Lemons are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Objects seem to "magically" change colour as you turn the pages with cutout shapes. Another fun book to create colour awareness.

45. Why is an Orange Called an Orange? by Cobi Ladner

Beautifully illustrated in watercolour by Lisa Smith, a fun look at colour, fruit and word play.

44. Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni

A fun way of introducing colour theory concepts, particularly primary and secondary colours, to young children. 

43. Zoobreak by Gordon Korman

This second book in the Griffin Bing series is as wacky as the first. This time Griffin and the gang plan a "zoobreak" to rescue Savannah's pet monkey who has been kidnapped by the unscrupulous owner of a floating zoo. Mayhem ensues.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

42. Time Remembered by Miss Read

Reading this autobiography, which retells Dora Saints early years and school experiences, I found myself nodding and smiling when I realized how she had used those experiences and characters in her fiction writing. Both the Fairacre and Thrush Green series are set in English villages similar to Chelsfield, Kent where Saint's family moved from London when she was four years old.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

41. The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse

 In this novel, we return to Wrykyn a year and a half after The Gold Bat. It centres around the sport of boxing rather than cricket or rugby. In today's terms, we'd say the theme was bullying. The morals of the story are "believe in yourself" and "hard work pays off."

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

40. A Fortunate Grandchild by Miss Read

Charmingly illustrated reminiscences of visiting maternal and paternal grandparents in Edwardian England by Dora Saint who writes under the pen name Miss Read. (Read was her mother's maiden name).

39. The Head of Kay's by P.G. Wodehouse

I'm learning a lot more about life in a turn of the 20th Century English "public school" as well as rugby and cricket while reading these Wodehouse novels. The moral of this story is if you plan to fail you'll most likely be successful.

Monday, October 01, 2012

38. The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse

Two things occurred to me while reading this: I wonder how much of this is autobiographical and I know very little about the game of Rugby which features so much in the story. First published in 1904, this is typical Wodehouse with off the wall characters getting in and out of scrapes. It is set at the fictional boys school Wrykyn where a group of students seeks to uncover the identities of members of a secret society calling them selves "the League" who are wreaking havoc.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

37. Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Richly illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet, this powerful story follows a little girl, saddened by her urban environment, on a quest to find beauty in her community. Upon finding it, she takes action to do what she can to clean up her quarter of the world.

36. Psmith Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse

While holidaying in New York, Psmith meets Billy Windsor the sub-editor of "Cosy Moments" magazine the contents of which are as sappy as its title. While the editor is away, Psmith and Windsor publish stories about a notoriously bad tenement which prompts its owner to hire gangs to stop them. First published in 1915, it has interesting connections to the book "New York" that I read a few weeks ago.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

35. Heart of a Peacock by Emily Carr

\This collection of short stories by Emily Carr focuses on her love of animals and her experiences travelling to remote aboriginal villages. One can learn a lot about Carr's formative years and family relationships but very little directly about her art. You do, however, get a sense of what made her tick and inspired her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

34. Klee Wyck by Emily Carr

klee.jpg (150×242) Carr's first book, published in 1941, is a collection of vignettes she wrote about her experiences in native villages of Vancouver Island. It won the Governor General's Award and has been in print ever since.