Espresso Tales

Espresso Tales (44 Scotland Street, #2)Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another reread for me, audiobook narrated by Robert Ian Mackenzie. Just as delightful as the first time!

Book Description (from Amazon.com)
Back are all our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh. Bertie the immensely talented six year old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. McCall Smith has much in store for them as the brief spell of glorious summer sunshine gives way to fall a season cursed with more traditionally Scottish weather.

 

Advertisements

44 Scotland Street

44 Scotland Street (44 Scotland Street, #1)44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a reread for me, and one of my challenges for the year is to reread and catch up with this series, as well as focusing on this author in general. I loved revisiting these characters: Pat, Bruce, Matthew, Big Lou, Angus and his dog Cyril, Domenica, Bertie and his overbearing mother…

Pat moves to 44 Scotland Street, moving into an apartment with the very narcissistic Bruce. She is on her “second gap year” from college and takes a job with Matthew, whose very wealthy father has set him up with an art gallery. A painting which might be a Peplow? is inadvertently taken by Bruce and raffled off at the Conservative Party ball. 5-year-old Bertie tries to rebel when his mother forces him to learn Italian and play the saxophone. He is suspended from nursery school, and his mother takes him for psychotherapy with Dr. Fairbairn.

Audiobook narrated by Robert Ian MacKenzie.

 

 

At the Water’s Edge

At the Water's EdgeAt the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am just not sure what this book wanted to be. Historical fiction? A love story? A story about Scotland, its culture and superstitions? It didn’t really do any of them very well. I pretty much hated all the characters until Maddie finally started to WAKE UP in the last third of the book. Rich, privileged Americans abroad during wartime and oblivious to the lives of the people around them. The love story angle kind of came out of nowhere. Throw in some hot sex and – no, it just wasn’t believable. The ending was satisfying (just) but utterly predictable. Over all I was rather disappointed with this book, so three stars is maybe generous. It wasn’t helped by a narrator whose affected British accent really made me cringe. Or laugh. I couldn’t decide. They all sounded vaguely Irish. Most definitely NOT Scottish. Okay, I’m changing my rating to a 2. The premise sounded really interesting. I love Scotland, and the idea of Americans hunting for the Loch Ness monster. And a good love story. The author has an okay rough draft here, but it should have been so much more. It might have worked better as a love story between Ellis and Hugh. They seemed so obviously gay, at least Hugh was…. but it was never developed. Or develop Maddie more. She was just so superficial for most of the book. Or develop the monster more. It, too, was a bit too ambiguous. The potential is there. It could make a really good TV movie with the right actors.

Book description: After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year’s Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son’s inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel’s favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed—by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster—Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind. The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected.

Raven Black

Raven Black (Shetland, #1)Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally intended to be a quartet, there are now 6 in the series. 3.5 stars and I can’t quite round up to 4, but I’ll continue with the series. The setting is interesting, though I didn’t feel like I saw enough of it. It has been made into a TV show in Britain, and I think seeing the locale would help a lot. Like most of the main characters, I felt like an outsider looking in. I liked the shifting points of view – it helped keep the suspense. Everyone seemed unreliable and a possible suspect. All except the old man, Magnus, who had been already convicted in the minds of the townspeople. I also did not feel like I knew much about the inspector, Jimmy Perez, by the end. So there is plenty more to be learned in the rest of the series. It definitely shows promise.

Book description: Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.

The Anatomist’s Wife

The Anatomist's Wife (Lady Darby, #1)The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a period romance wrapped up as an okay country-house-type murder mystery, and the background of Lady Darby is intriguing. The author does work in some interesting historical details (Burke and Hare, jigsaw puzzles), but the setting in the Scottish highlands, near Inverness, just doesn’t work. I couldn’t figure out the social background of these people, and what they were doing in Scotland. There was nothing Scottish about any of it, certainly none of the names given to the characters. Kiera is decidedly a late 20th-century Irish name, Alana and Greer are also 20th-century names. There are other anachronisms (summer squash soup?, raccoons in 19th-century Scotland?, comparisons of eyebrows to cotton blooming?) and the dialog is far too modern. On the whole, I found the characters to be very flat — even the future love interest, Mr. Gage. The romance angle is very cliche. Maybe it is a notch above the usual Harlequin’s judging by the number of 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon, but I prefer more realistic meat to my historical reading. I read this for my “Wife books” challenge, and I won’t be reading any more of the series.

Book Description: Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage–a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…

The Importance of Being Seven

The Importance of Being Seven (44 Scotland Street, #6)The Importance of Being Seven by Alexander McCall Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a joyful start to a new year! I love the 44 Scotland Street series, and this installment brings some sweet rewards to some of my favorite long-suffering characters. To say any more would probably introduce spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that!

Book Description:
The great city of Edinburgh is renowned for its impeccable restraint, so how, then, did the extended family of 44 Scotland Street come to be trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence? After seven years and five books, Bertie is—finally!—about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. Funny, warm, and heartfelt as ever, The Importance of Being Seven offers fresh and wise insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most lovable residents.

Son of the Morning

Son of the MorningSon of the Morning by Linda Howard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you don’t think too much about the glaring plot holes and gratuitous sex scenes I suppose this is sort of a fun, fluffy book. I have no clue what the title signifies. I don’t recall the phrase “Son of the Morning” coming up at all. I enjoyed the fact that a lot of the book takes place in the Twin Cities. And I’ll read anything about medieval Scotland, and a modern-day scholar translating historical documents. But Grace’s reasoning and inner-thought process left me shaking my head – starting with why the heck didn’t she go to the police immediately after witnessing the murder of her husband and brother. Then, of course, there is the fact that this CLUELESS woman is extraordinarily lucky, not just once, but quite a few times. This book contains VERY explicit sex – if you like that kind of thing you’ll be in heaven. It’s not my thing. Nothing particularly romantic about any of it. I suppose the fact that they share sex dreams before they even meet is supposed to indicate that they are meant for each other. Whatever. But first she has to get over feeling like she is betraying the memory of her dead husband. But like I said, if you can get past the plot machinations, I enjoyed the adventure of her outwitting the sadistic, evil guy, and her relationship with the woman she rents a room from in Chicago. But really, the sex added nothing at all to the story.

Description: A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the legend of the Knights Templar – long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power – Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him – and to save herself – she must go back in time to fourteenth-century Scotland and to Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Audiobook read by Natalie Ross.