Browsing Archives for Books & Letters

Book Giveaway!

March 8th, 2011

For a chance to win a free copy of either Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – please visit Bridge to the Stars, a website dedicated to all things Phillip Pullman.  Pullman is the author of the His Dark Materials trilogy. If you are a fan of Pullman’s books, you will love this website which includes what appears to be a very lively forum.

You may remember a few years back when The Golden Compass came out as a movie starring Nicole Kidman.  The movie and the books have long been berated for their subtle atheistic message.  I wrote about my experience of reading the books here.





As to Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I have never read this book, but have long been intrigued by the title.  I entered the giveaway myself in a sort of haphazard attempt to finally satisfy my curiosity.

The two books in this giveaway are part of World Book Night – an even that promotes world wide literacy and the love of reading.  All the books that are given away as a part of World Book Night contain a six digit code inside the cover which can be registered at and then tracked as it passes from one reader to another. One million books were given away as a part of this project which includes twenty titles.  Visit Bridge to the Stars for your own chance at a free book.

The Lost Thing

February 28th, 2011

I was fortunate to get to see the Oscar nominated short films in Lawrence last weekend. Dear Charles had encouraged me to see them, so when the CD discovered they were showing at Liberty Hall in Lawrence last Saturday we loaded up three extremely reluctant children and headed out. We made a day out of it and watched both the animated shorts and the ‘regular people’ shorts.

Our sixteen year old was the least receptive to the idea of spending his Saturday watching obscure films with his parents. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, but he did seem to enjoy the films. And last night when he discovered that ‘The Lost Thing’ won the academy award, he called out to me,”Hey mom! The Lost Thing won the academy award.”

Me – What?

Calder – The Lost Thing… it won the Academy Award.

Me – It did?

Calder – Yes.

Me – Oh good! I really loved that one.

Calder – Yeah – me too.

And that was the extent of our conversation, but I would like to point out that it contained undeniable tones of civility and pleasantness.  And for this I would like to thank the academy for bringing a teenage son and his haggard, forlorn, perpetually weeping mother back together again like when he was a pliable, sweet, wonderful little boy of six… if only for 3.2 seconds.

The Lost Thing is a terrific story. I deeply identified with the ‘lost thing’ feeling very lost myself most of the time these days and only wishing that someone would find me and place me ever so gently in the brightly colored fairy land where I belong.

I think you can get The Lost Thing on I-Tunes. You can also watch the other short films on ITunes.

God of Love won in the live action category of short films.  It is the story of a lounge singer/precision dart thrower who receives a magical gift which he must learn to wield with honor and unselfish intentions.

With the exception of God of Love, the short live action films are all somewhat disturbing. Should you decide to view them, might I point out that watching them with your nine year old, your twelve year old and your sixteen year old might not be the best idea depending on your comfort zone with exposing your children to high levels of human desperation. They cover topics like ‘cancer ridden teen desperate for first sexual encounter before he dies’ and ‘proper Catholic child desperate for interesting material for first confession’ and ‘Rwandan henchmen desperate for Tutsi blood’! I will say that you and your children WILL NOT BE BORED!

And you will always have the memories!

Remember that one time me and your dad forced you to watch that film about the teenager with cancer who only wanted to have sex before he died?

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency

February 22nd, 2011

Now here’s a series that has been around for a long time that I couldn’t be bothered to read for far too long. I had heard about the #1 Ladies Detective Agency mystery series by Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith for years, but there was something about the title that made me squirm.  It seemed a bit blatant for my tastes.  Who names their business the number one of anything?   Some kind of ego-maniac?  Why would I want to read that?

But a few weeks ago while browsing among the shelves at a bookstore, I saw Tea Time for the Traditionally Built and I found this title appealing enough to offset the whole ‘#1 Ladies Detective Agency thing and so I purchased the book and brought it home.

Because first of all TEA

And second of all TRADITIONALLY BUILT!

The title seemed to embrace the sacred of tea while flying in the face of the perfection at the same time!

What more could you ask for in a book?

And I have not been disappointed.

I loved the book…


But I love the HBO television series based on the books by McCall Scott even more.

For one thing the main character Precious Ramotswe played so beautifully by R and B  singer/songwriter, Jill Scott is CONSTANTLY drinking TEA!  I mean non-stop tea drinking.  I mean tea drinking that can only be described as obsessive/compulsive tea drinking.  I love obsessive tea drinking.  And I love how Jill Scott brings Precious Ramotswe to life.

The rest of the characters in the series are equally appealing and often very quirky such as Grace Matuksi, the assistant to Precious Ramotswe.

And then there are the interiors!

The sets!

The natural surroundings!

The costumes!

The series was filmed in Botswana, where the books are also set, so the whole show has a look and feel that is beautifully distinct from any other television show I have ever watched.  Vivid African prints are set against a trim 1940s sensibility of feminine pastels and floral tea cups, thick high heels and smoothly coiffed hair-dos.  The tropical interiors are sparse, faded, pristine, and yet extremely homey .  There are kitchen scenes and garden scenes and office scenes and savannah scenes and suddenly out of nowhere a black mamba snake crawls across the road or two giraffe battle in the distance or a family of monkeys chatters on the roof.  At times the scenery in the series is so breathtaking, you lose sight of the storyline.

And then there are the graphics that accompany the show…

And the music…

If this show does not make you pant for a plane ticket to Botswana, I don’t know how to help you.

And have I told you how wonderful the characters are?

This is Precious Ramotswe the #1 detective of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency standing beside her assistant Grace Makutsi.

They sort of have a love/hate relationship with each other.

Precious is very practical and very much Marge in charge, but Grace is always yapping at her heels determined to make herself essential and important to the agency.  Plus – Grace wears great outfits that only she could pull off.

It took me a little while to get into this show.  Everything is so different.  The way the people talk, the clothing, the mannerisms, and the atmosphere.  It is not just set in a foreign country, it is almost set in a different time.  The combination of all these unique characteristics caused me to reject the show at first.  I needed something familiar to climb into the show.  Where was my skinny blond heroine wearing a black pant suit and a low cut blouse carrying a big gun on her hip while speaking in a clipped voice to her beefy masculine side-kick who is secretly in love with her and also secretly married…. to the mob….

But then

It took.

And I

Was hooked.

I only wish that HBO would make another season, but currently there are no plans to continue the show.

Thankfully there are eleven more books in this series for me to read.

I plan to enjoy each and every one.

And hopefully to drink some of that red bush tea in the near future.