Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tears of the Giraffe and The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith

Tears of the Giraffe and The Kalahari Typing School for Men are the second and fourth in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Somehow, on my last trip to The Cracked Book, I missed the third. :( Oh well! Luckily this is a series that you don't have to read in order to enjoy.

I read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency a year or so ago, and got the second in the series to take with us to Turks & Caicos earlier this summer. Reading Tears of the Giraffe, I was reminded why I had made a mental note to read the rest of this series. These books are super entertaining, and I find myself laughing out loud as I read them. So I had to go out and get the next (or what I thought was the next) book in the series as soon as I got home!

Mma Precious Ramotswe is the Head Detective/Proprietor of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Gabarone, Botswana. The series tells of her many adventures in solving sometimes sad, sometimes hillarious cases that people in her community have. As I read these, I find myself longing for the old days, a simpler life. Precious and her friends and co-workers live in a small town in Africa that is very traditional, they have fairly new technology but aren't attached to cell phones and computers like we are. I don't know, maybe I just want to go to Africa. :)

Regardless, Tears of a Giraffe and The Kalahari Typing School for Men were great easy reads that provide lots of laughs, a couple of tears (more in an, "aww, how sweet!" way than a sad way), and some good old fashioned lessons in morality. I highly recommend the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series if you want a good set of books for a beach or pool read!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

For years now, I’ve been reading what Oprah Winfrey tells me to read. She hasn’t once steered me wrong, so there was no reason for me not to pick up her latest book club selection. Especially when I found it at my favorite used book store, The Cracked Book, for half price! (Oh, how I love this store.)

Middlesex is a story of self-discovery. It’s about accepting who you are and what you feel, and traveling down the road of life to your true identity. It’s about finding a place in your life for all of your quirks, and those of your family. Callie, our narrator, comes from a Greek family—her grandparents come to the United States from Greece in their early twenties with a huge secret that no one in their family from that point on discovers until both are dead. While Jeffrey Eugenides exposes their secret (and Callie’s) quite early on in the book, I’d rather not spoil it here. Suffice it to say that Middlesex left me reflecting how, sometimes, the completely “abnormal” can have astonishingly “normal” results.

Middlesex is one of those books that infiltrated my life. I compared the journeys of Callie, the main character, to my own life, and had dreams that I was experiencing the same genetic flaw she experiences. Middlesex makes you question your own identity. I ask myself how many people are really able to experience and find peace with the journey of self discovery. I know from experience that it’s not always easy to just be okay with who you are. It takes a long time, and a lot of self-questioning. Callie is faced with a choice about her identity, and only at that junction in her life she truly able to take a look at herself and those around her and realize her own path to happiness and peace with herself. Not to say that as soon as you realize which way this path leads that happiness is achieved immediately, but I think we often don’t take the time to stop and really assess our own happiness. We take little steps that will give us momentary pleasure, but neglect to truly look around us and find where we belong. We don’t stop and look up to find the right route, because we’re too busy making sure we don’t trip over the tiny obstacles in the way. But really, when it comes down to it, it’s easy to get back up from a fall and keep going in the right direction. It’s not as easy to get back to the right path and continue in the right direction once you’ve completely lost your way.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by JK Rowling

In anticipation of the release of Book 7, I decided to read Book 6 again. In the past, before each release, I’d reread all of the previous books. This time that was gonna be a little too time consuming, and I have the advantage of being able to watch condensed versions of the first 5 books in movie form, so it was just a revisit to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince that was required to prepare.

I was glad I decided to read this one again. For one thing, when it came out I read it in about 24 hours, so that was a long time ago. I forget things. For another, I just LOVE these books! JK Rowling truly has created a magical world that feels like home when I’m reading her books. When the book’s not in my hands, I find myself daydreaming about what Harry and company are up to at the moment. I can’t wait to find those precious minutes to read more.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is mostly a lead up to the grand finale. In Book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), we learn that evil Lord Voldemort has truly returned, and HBP is Harry’s chance to prepare for the fight of his life. The entire book feels anticipatory—what can Harry possibly do to be ready to fight such darkness? When I read it the second time, I remembered the ending and found myself crying long before the actual tragic end to one of the main characters. It was like losing a close family friend. When I finished the last page, I found myself thinking about Harry as you might think of a friend who’s about to embark of the challenge of his life. You reflect on that friend’s strengths, reassure yourself that he is, indeed, capable of success, and feel butterflies in your stomach at the prospect of how it’s all going to go down.

I still haven’t stopped stopping to think and root for Harry a little bit every now and then. And in 8 short days, I’ll get to find out how it all ends. I am on pins and needles.