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Book Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

I borrowed the Audiobook version from my local library and we listened to it on a car trip up to my mother-in-law’s place and back again. I found it difficult to catch everything that was read (maybe our car is old and noisy), so I’m sure that affected our enjoyment of it.

Image result for my italian bulldozer

Paul Stewart is a food writer who is going through a serious case of writer’s block in large part due to his girlfriend of four years, Becky, leaving him for her personal trainer. His editor, Gloria, suggests that he do some in-the-field research for his overdue book on Italian cuisine by going to Tuscany. Upon his arrival at the airport, he discovers that his rental car is not available and, after some frustrating moments, Paul is offered the use of a bulldozer. Thus begins his three-week adventure in Italy.

Although Paul is a food writer in Italy, I found that there wasn’t really much devoted to that in the book. Also, the bulldozer didn’t feature that prominently either.

What the book did focus on was Paul’s obsession with Becky and his seemingly inability to move on with his life. He meets someone in Italy and wonders if this new friendship might possibly blossom into something more.

I think the best way to sum up this book is “A romance book with a male protagonist”.

It was okay, but not as enjoyable as McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.


Book Review: The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed this from the library.

This is book #8 of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I am on a McCall Smith kick at the moment and borrowed a small stack of his books from the library. Not all the titles from this series were available at the library when I was there, but I did manage to get about seven and am trying to read them in order. Although the series features a detective agency, it is not really the cases themselves that form the focus of the books. Also, the cases are not that difficult to solve. Rather, with each book, the characters and their relationships with each other grow and develop, and it is this — plus the philosophical questions raised — that make for great reading and contemplation (and discussion).

good husband of zebra drive

In this installment, Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate some deaths at a hospital — three deaths in six months in the same bed. Coincidence or not?

Also, who is behind the thefts at the printing works? Mma Potokwani, the matron of the orphan farm, suggests that love and trust go a long way in giving a thief much-needed self-esteem. Will giving the suspected thief the keys to the  printing supplies work?

Meanwhile, Charlie, the older of the two perpetual apprentices at the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, wants out of his apprenticeship and wants to start his own taxi service. Will Charlie finally behave responsibly?

Mma Grace Makutsi, the Associate Detective of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, also seeks greener pastures. She goes to a job recruitment agency and comes face to face with her old nemesis from the Botswana Secretarial College, Violet Sephotho. (This Violet Sephotho is probably the personification of evil itself and appears in several later books as well, each time doing a different line of work, but each time making life difficult for Grace.)

What does it mean to trust? Should trust be unconditional? What happens when trust is betrayed? How to balance grace/mercy with justice? These are some of the questions one has to face and try to answer in this book.

Highly recommended.


Book Review: The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed this from the library.

I discovered this author about a month ago and he is now on my list of  Favourite Authors.

The Full Cupboard of Life is the fifth book in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. The stories are set in Gaborone, Botswana and feature Mma Precious Ramotswe, the Senior Detective; Mma Grace Makutsi, the Associate Detective; Mr J. L. B. Matekoni, the owner of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and Mma Ramotswe’s fiancé. There are also a handful of minor characters.

Full Cupboard of Life

In this installment, Mma Ramotswe is asked by a woman who runs a successful hair salon to do a background check on her four suitors. Are they really interested in her or her money?

Mr J. L. B. Matekoni is approached by Mma Potokwani of the orphan farm (again) to do a good deed (again) which requires him to summon all his courage (more so than adopting two children). She wants him to do a sponsored parachute jump to benefit the orphans. Even kind, gentle, magnanimous men have limits to their selflessness. But one does not simply say “No” to people like Mma Potokwani. Will he be able to pull it off?

On a personal level, he has been engaged to Mma Ramotswe for a long time now and so far, no steps has been taken to upgrade the relationship status. When will there be a wedding?

On a professional level, Mr J. L. B. Matekoni encounters an unscrupulous competitor and tries his best to redeem the reputation of all Botswana mechanics.

As with the other books in the series, McCall Smith’s writing style is gentle and slow-paced, but full of questions of morality and ethics. My nine-year-old and I took turns reading this and she loved it — especially the ending!




Book Review: Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed from the library.

This is the second book about Precious Ramotswe as a seven-year-old written by Alexander McCall Smith. This book is on the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge List for Grades 3-4 (eight to ten year olds). My nine-year-old read this out loud to me. Although this books was written for children, the story is not at all childish or patronising.

This time, Precious’ two new friends at school enlist her help in finding their missing cow. Where did it go and how will she find it?

As in the first book in this series, there is mention of African outlook and ways of life; names of people, places and animals; and universal themes of friendship and loyalty.

A fun tale about friendship and using intelligence and cunning to help one’s friends.

Precious and the Mystery of Meerkat Hill


Book Review: Precious and the Monkeys by Alexander McCall Smith

Borrowed this book from the library.

The full title is: Precious and the Monkeys: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case

I found this book in the Junior Fiction section of my library. It appears in the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge Grade 3-4 list, so the target audience is 8-10 year olds. We have taken part in the VPRC before but have not done so for several years now. My children do read a lot, so reading is not really a “challenge”.

Precious and the Monkeys

McCall Smith is a very talented writer who writes just as artfully for children as he does for adults.

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Book Review: Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

Source of book: Borrowed from the library

This is the second installment in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. My nine-year-old and I took turns reading this out loud and she is now a firm fan of this author.

I have not had a chance to read the first book, but I did manage to borrow about seven books from the series and will try to read them in order. The cases in each book are all separate incidents; however, the personal life developments and relationships flow and grow over the course of the series. These are not too difficult to catch up on as McCall Smith always succinctly manages to bring the reader up to date on such matters.

tears of the giraffe

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Book Review: Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith

I borrowed a small stack of McCall Smith’s books from the library —  rather haphazardly I’m afraid, as I didn’t properly check to see which book belonged to which series, let alone what number in the series each book was. I was attracted to this book as I happened to catch a snippet of an audio recording on YouTube before the trip to the library and thought it held promise.

bertie's guide to life and mothers

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Book Review: The Cleverness of Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith

I first heard of this author — or rather, his book series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency — a number of years ago on a homeschooling forum board. I didn’t pay too much attention then (big mistake!)

I was reminded of the series when I read a book review and decided to check out this author. While I was at the library, I was at first somewhat disconcerted to not see any books written by this prolific author. I knew that some considered our library to be poorly stocked, but I didn’t think it was that bad. After I tried looking in the online catalogue, I realised I had been looking in the wrong place! The author’s surname is McCall Smith — and not just Smith as I had previously thought — and the library had many of his titles, thank you very much. So I borrowed a small handful, just to see.

I decided to start with The Cleverness of Ladies because I wanted to start with something quick and easy before delving into a longer work.

The Cleverness of Ladies is a collection of short stories each with a female protagonist.

The Cleverness of Ladies

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