68 and humid. A full day, so far, without rain, but the humidity is 92%. Mixed sun and clouds.
I haven't done so well in reading choices lately.
I'm not one who reads or watches the latest releases--I'm the kind that picks up books and DVDs in thrift stores, usually ones that were published quite a while back. Lately my picking instincts have not been very good. But there were a few winners in the batch.
First I tried a book by Jacqueline Mitchard, No Time to Wave Goodbye. Her earlier book, and the story on which this effort is built, was an Oprah selection, and I was hopeful after reading the jacket blurb that this one would be an engaging read. Not so. Mitchard's first book, The Deep End of the Ocean, was well written, but in this book, the story line sagged. For example, the author went into detailed descriptions of how attractive Beth Cappadora, the mother of the kidnapped boy, was. Why would that be important to the story? The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, as were the reactions and emotions of the major characters to the return of the kidnapped son, and the kidnapped boy's own reactions. Most bothersome, to the point that I finally just skimmed over or skipped major portions, was the part of the book about the Academy Awards--what people wore, how glamorous it all was, the food, the name-dropping of stars and famous people all read like a teenager' gushing. I soldiered through to the bizarre and unbelievable end, but I wouldn't recommend anyone doing the same. A disappointing book all round.
Second was Jamie Ford's book, The Songs of Willow Frost. Oddly, the theme of this book was also about a child separated from his mother. I enjoyed Ford's first book, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. set in Seattle, that book captured so much history of the area during the time of the Second World War, and the characters were memorable and moving. This second book is set in Seattle during the Depression era, and focuses on a boy in an orphanage who believes his mother might be the movie star and singer, Willow Frost. I tried to get into this story, but after the first five chapters, I put it down. The writing is excellent, but the story just didn't fire my imagination. Maybe at another time I will try it again.
My next choice was more successful, but that was no surprise as it was yet another title in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith--Teatime for the Traditionally Built. Mma Ramotswe and crew did not disappoint. The "mysteries" this detective agency takes on are often not the stuff of most mystery books, but the conversations and philosophy are engaging and frankly, just delightful. It helps immensely that I listened to the first few books on CD so that the pronunciations and accents are in my head as I read. The series is set in Botswana, and if you haven't yet tried them, I heartily recommend the series.
Another tea-themed read, The Teaberry Strangler by Laura Childs, was yet another disappointment. Like No Time to Wave Goodbye, the author seemed to revel in name-dropping, pushing high-end brands, and making her heroine so wonderful that she was just not believable, or likable. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, and centered around an elite tea shoppe and its owner, the murder seemed like an afterthought to the activities of Theodosia, the tea shoppe owner and supposed solver of crimes. Little to no grief or sorrow was evident in Theodosia, although she claimed the victim was a good frend. The author seemed more concerned with expensive clothes and furnishings, high-class social events and showing off the many accomplishments of all the tea shoppe staff, and less interested in developing a decent plot and storyline. I will definitely be avoiding any other books by Ms. Childs.
Currently I am reading An American Family on the African Frontier: the Burnham Family Letters, 1893-1896. It's an intriguing read, although decidedly shocking in places, given the family's casual references to the disposability of native people. Today their attitudes and vocabulary would be racist and elitist in the extreme, but the book offers a startling look into the realities of that time. Descriptions of the family's travel and the places they see is really well worth the read. I am a lover of books of diaries and letters, and I am enjoying this one, although I cannot say I like the Burnham family much so far.
Tying in with the Africa theme was the movie, Beyond Borders, starring Angelina Jolie. The story begins with a relief worker doctor crashing an upscale AIDS fundraiser in London. His impassioned plea so moves one woman, played by Jolie, that she raises money herself and travels with supplies to the doctor's remote refugee camp in Ethiopia. The scenes of desperation and violence are shocking and yet feel realistic, which is even more deeply shocking. Hard to swallow is Jolie's character's lovely wardrobe in the places of squalor to which she traveled as a UN rep. It's not a story with a happy ending, but the acting is superb and the scenery, terrible at times, beautiful at others, kept me watching.
Tonight's movie was simply entertainment for our tired minds. Sometimes I just need something brainless after a hard day, so Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine fit the bill. It's silly, that's a fact, and Steve Martin over-acted his part in my view, but Michael Caine was debonair and perfect. The story of two con men who scam women quite successfully but end up having to compete with each other--well, you can imagine how that goes. Or maybe not. Cringe through Martin's performance and the movie might be worth some time in the end. I'm planning to follow this up with the classic To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. A bit more on the same theme, but if I remember right, the acting and the story line will be much more sophisticated.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.