Little Bertie visits the home of a playmate and discovers the grass is greener in Ranald Braveheart MacPherson’s home Bertie can eat as much chocolate cake as the wants at the MacPherson home. Ranald suggests that Bertie might find new parents if he puts himself up for adoption on eBay, and Ranald can help since he knows his Dad’s computer password. Meanwhile Matthew and Elspeth bring their triplet sons home and find their new life impossible to manage until an au pair arrives. Domenica and Angus are responsible for selling Antonia’s next door apartment as she has decided to join a nunnery in Italy. They must make the difficult decision of where to live after their marriage. Who will give up their current home and all the comforts they had while they were single? Bertie Plays the Blues is number seven in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall-Smith. The fun continues as we commiserate with Bertie regarding his impossible mother and enjoy the many problems that seem to be insurmountable for the quirky characters on 44 Scotland street in Edinburgh.
Little Bertie is showing signs of brillance as a four year old. He already is able to divide twelve by three. Isabel and Jamie must decide what is important to teach Charlie and at what age. Everyone hates a push parent! But this time the pushy babysitter is the problem. Will they let Grace continue coaching Bertie in math?
Another question Isabel must ponder is why do people keep asking her to help them work out their problems. Her reputation for solving problems is getting around. This time a very valuable painting hanging in the home of a wealthy country gentleman has disappeared. Duncan Munrowe has inherited a number of valuable paintings including a Nicholas Poussin which he intended to donate to the Scottish Nathional Gallery. The theft of this favorite painting has left him heartsick so he calls on Isabel to help him recover it. Now she must deal with an unsavory women lawyer representing the thief and ransom payments.
This philosopher is always having to apologize for not paying attention to others speaking as her mind wanders off on rabbit trails that we accompany her on. All through this delightful book are thoughtful observations regarding human nature. McCall-Smith is excellent at pointing out the way we misunderstand each other by leaping to conclusions when simply stepping into another’s shoes will prevent so much of our unfortunate interactions.
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds is number 9 in the Isabel Dalhousie novels.
Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick is an American Library Association 2012 Teen Top Ten Nomination. I had heard good things about the book, but hesitated to pick it up because I’m not really into zombies. However, zombies or no zombies, it gripped my interest from the first few pages. Seventeen year old Alex has had a rough life. Her parents died in an accident and shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After multiple treatments that have not worked, her case is terminal. While her body and mind are still functioning she takes one last trip into the Waucamaw Wilderness where she has camped many times with her dad. Just a few days into her trip electromagnetic pulses are set off, wiping out power and electronic devices everywhere. To make matters worse, the pulse kills off a large portion of the population and turns most young adults into crazed zombies. Alex along with fellow survivors Ellie, a young girl, and Tom, a soldier who is on leave, band together to survive. The plot continually twists and turns and kept me on the edge of my seat. I always felt like some new horror was lurking around every corner (and more often than not it was). Although some of the action sequences are quite gruesome, this part horror/part post- apocalyptic novel kept me riveted until the end. If you like books wrapped up all neat and tidy at the end this is not for you! Virtually nothing is resolved by the end, and there is a cliffhanger worthy of the Hunger Games. Luckily, book number two of this planned trilogy, Shadows, comes out September 25th!
Delirium is the first book of a trilogy published in January 2011 by Lauren Oliver. If you like dystopian fiction, then try this series. Lena lives in a new America, where love has become a disease that nobody wants to catch. Luckily, scientists have figured out a surgical procedure that cures this deadly illness. Unfortunately, it is too dangerous to undergo this operation until you turn eighteen. To avoid catching the “delirium” Lena’s life, and everyone else’s, is strictly controlled. Everyone must follow the Book of Shhh (The Safety, Health, and Happiness handbook) and carefully avoid everyone of the opposite sex. Lena’s life has always been complicated. Her mother committed suicide when she was six because of the Delirium. Since then she has been living with her aunt, uncle and cousins, spending time with her best friend Hana, and being careful to watch out for signs of the disease. Then, with only 95 days to go until her cure, Lena meets Alex, and begins to question everything that society has taught her. Will she continue her controlled, safe life or choose to search out the “Invalids” who have rebelled against society and are constantly in danger of losing their lives. Pandemonium is book number two in the series and equally as good as the first. Book number 3, Requiem, is due to be released in March. And for those who enjoy the books, the movie rights have been acquired by Fox 2000.
If you’re looking for a new fantasy series, check out Dragon Keeper by prolific fantasy fiction writer Robin Hobb. It is the first book in her latest series, the Rain Wilds Chronicles and gets a starred review from BookList. There is great excitement surrounding the hatching of the new dragons from their cocoons. However, all does not turn out smoothly. The dragons are weak and deformed and unable to take care of themselves. The nearby inhabitants do their best to care for the dragons, but after years of providing food for the dragons, the task is burdensome and many fear the dragons could turn on them. Eventually, an agreement is made with the dragons to provide keepers to accompany them as they seek out their ancient home of Kelsingra. There’s only one problem, nobody, including the dragons, knows exactly where Kelsingra is or if it still exists. Dragon keepers are recruited from among those that society would like to forget existed. This volatile group of mostly teenagers and the dragons are accompanied by Captain Leftrin (who is hiding some secrets) on board his liveship and dragon expert Alise, a wealthy trader’s wife who is extremely unhappy in her marriage. Although there are quite a few characters to keep track of, the main characters are complex and realistic, and the fantasy world Hobb creates is richly detailed. Beware, though, there is not much of a resolution at the end of the book, so you will want to keep reading the rest of the series once you get started!
In the third book of the Corduroy Mansions series, Freddie de la Hay, the devoted canine who attached himself to William French is missing. While visiting William’s old school friend and his wife, Freddie follows the irresistible scent of rabbit and digs himself into trouble which involves a possible new home and life for Freddie. Meanwhile his master is in his own hot water when the wife of his best friend announces her secret long-held love of William. Free-loading Eddie has found someone to take care of him he thinks, but Barbara with all of her inherited money may have doubts. Other quirky characters charm us with their foibles and we continue to anticipate further antics in this London setting.
>The prolific Scottish medical lawyer and author, Alexander McCall-Smith, keeps me regularly supplied with reading . I can hardly keep up with his four different series along with all the other new novels calling to me as a librarian. He has written over 60 books including academic titles and children’s books.
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is the latest in his Isabel Dalhousie series. Edinburgh is the setting for this contemplative philosopher. This time Isabel is asked to help find parents of a woman who was adopted as a child. The complications involved in the discovery of the possible father make us evaluate when secrets are alright to keep. Should the man who wants to claim paternity be told that he probably isn’t the father, and should the one who would not be happy to find out about his child be forced to face his unknown history?
There are other story vignettes that keep us thinking about subtle moral dilemmas such as Isabel’s mushroom poisoning which involves the delicatessen Isabel’s niece, Cat owns, a paper submitted to Isabel’s philosophical publication that was written under an assumed name and the love story’s continuation between Isabel and her Jamie.