Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Storms In The Teapot

And now on to the main (or more interesting I think) event - yet another AMS.  He must be the most prolific author on this blog - of this series alone, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I've reviewed one a year since I started, so I think I'm up to my third already.  But I'm not going to go back and read old ones, so you'll get this on its own merits only :) Anyway, what I love about this series is the amazing sense of peacefulness and well-being they manage to convey, no matter what's going on.  That's accomplished largely by keeping the personal issues of the main characters somewhat on the DL and never in too dire straights.  But that does sometimes result in a *bit* of plodding, where it takes a while for me to get into the rhythm of the book.

So The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection was actually somewhat of a departure from this.  A departure in that personal issues really took front and center - and they mattered.  I suppose Mma Potokwane's orphanage isn't really directly related to the mains, but Mma Ramotswe certainly feels her pain sharply enough.  And of course Fanwell's trials and the suspicious circumstances of Mma Makutsi's house are closer still.  So the mood is just a little more... I don't know dark, but definitely more serious than usual.   With that still, we know everything is going to be alright (well we know that, because AMS was not about to write a tragedy) - but we *feel* it's going to be alright too.  Maybe that's because the book is actually fast-paced enough to deal with all this in pretty swift fashion.  In fact, it almost feels at times like a a real detective story :) In the way the action moves along and clues are discovered.  But don't worry, not too much action, at least I didn't feel that way.

So some of the charm of the earlier books wasn't quite as present here as usual. And I'm not sure I'd be a fan of many books in a row where all this happened.  But certainly, it was a good read this one time.  And Clovis Andersen's appearance was definitely an added bonus! All in all, all remains good in Botswana.  Not bad for number, was is it? 11? 12?, AMS.

Verdict: 3.75/5

Par For Course, I Suppose

Tsk, Tsk.  I have not been keeping up with posting (not that I've been reading a lot, it's just been keeping me from reading a lot :)) But my reluctance to finish the next book before reviewing the previous one has lead me into contempt of library, because I have a book that's almost a month overdue (oy vey).  So I finished that book and it's time to review the previous one once and for all... Unfortunately, the previous title is a Jill Mansell, meaning I wouldn't have a whole lot to say about it if I had finished it yesterday.  But let's give it a whirl.

So Jill Mansell... you know, these books vary, some are more fun than others.  I never like the ones where the whole tension of the book is the girl thinks the guy is a player, so they don't get together even though they like each other - I mean, you know there's no romance when there's no suspense.  So this (Nadia Knows Best) wasn't one of those but it wasn't any better - girl likes two guys, they both like her, which one does she chooose? Never mind that it takes her a whole book to make the no-brainer choice - where's the romance?! I can't say it wasn't chic lit, that would just be ridiculous - but those chic lit moments were few and far between.  Instead, there was a lot more... well a lot more actual plot going on with Nadia's family and Jay's issues taking up plenty of time.

I mean I suppose it wasn't bad overall - maybe I'm just used to her writing, but I felt like it wasn't as egregious as usual.  And maybe the book didn't even drag on as much as I sometimes feel it does, since there was always something going on.  I mean it's hard for me to even remember my feelings on this one, never mind going back father.  But overall, though it was nothing to write home about, nothing to disuade me from Jill Mansell forever.  But I do hope she goes back to some other chic lit meme for her next one.

Verdict: 2.75/5

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All the Adventure, As Promised

Oy veis mir.  Two behind and it's not even June anymore.  That's what comes of not writing these on the bus... but what's the point of lamentation? Let's get on with it.  Luckily, though I finished this like what 3 weeks ago, it's still relatively fresh in my mind... since this was like the 10th time (or something like that) I read it.  After the success of The Blue Castle, and before any of my new books came in at the library, I was eager to continue with the old favorites trend.  So I picked up a certified goodie, The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I'm obviously not alone in my enjoyment of this one - this book is a classic, and it's not because of any great literary value.  It really is the quintessential adventure.

I first valued TSP as a romance, because that's what I value everything as.  And of course, Sir Percy's hidden passion for Marguerite is very romantic.  But what makes this book stand out as a romance is the same thing that makes it stand out in general - the very awesome Scarlet Pimpernel.  I mean, I guess he's not the man nearest and dearest to everyone's heart, but handsome, brave, smart as a whip, quick, gallant (and of course rich ;))... yes, he's pretty much all that.  So who wouldn't want to read a romance starring him and a woman who is impressive enough in her own right?   And romance is very satisfying, as far as it goes.  But the truth is, it's not given *much* attention during the course of the book.

It's much more about the story, as it should be.  I've read this book a lot, I know the drill, and yet I still find it to be a page turner.  It's well-paced, with things moving along, and no gratuitous action scenes thrown in.  We get closer and closer to the mysterious identity of the SP, and then, when we find it, we are treated to a brilliant display of the abilities that have kept him bringing people to safety by the skin of his teeth time and time again.  I remember one time I felt compelled to actually clap at the conclusion of one his triumphs.  This time I didn't go so far, but trust me, I was impressed.  I don't know that there's much funner reading than Sir Percy's pitting of his wits against his enemies'.

To be sure, the book is guilty in some measure (no little one I might even say) of aggrandizing the situation for dramatic tone.   Every moment is milked for all its worth, every dilemma is agonizing, all the emotions are exquisite.  Not to mention the slightly strange emphasis at times on Marguerite's girlishness and how attractive it seems to make her (sorry not really the same thing, but it all comes down to that old "show, don't tell")  And I was even more aggravate than usual from having made the mistake of reading the forward and hearing how Baroness Orczy apparently felt "the beautiful Lady Blakeney" to be her alternate ego, her better self - don't read forwards, especially not if you plan on writing your own review.  BUT... this is one book that can get away with pretty much whatever it wants.  It really does live up to the promise of all that drama, manufactured or not.  So with all the angst and all the throes of passion, it keeps on zipping along towards its extremely satisfying conclusion.  There's a reason so many people love this book.

Verdict: 5/5