Still without a computer to call my own. So I have to catch up at night as best I can which means trying to remember all the things I wanted to do, e-mails to send, books to order, blog posts to write.
I thought I would catch up on the book reading and movie watching we've done lately. And, side note, I'm currently on both Shelfari.com and GoodReads.com--two book cataloging/organizing social websites that essentially do the exact same thing--which means I'm updating and reviewing books on both sites. If you're on either one, look me up. Maybe one of these days, one site will win out over another but right now I have friends on both and I like certain features on both.
Books - I feel I need to fully recommend Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Several people have asked me lately if they are really all that good. I just finished book 6 last night (I believe it is my favorite so far) and I can wholeheartedly recommend them, especially for light summer reading that won't leave you sorry in the morning. McCall Smith is an older Scottish gentleman who lived in Africa for some time. Amazingly, he writes Mma. Precious Ramoswte, the traditionally built Botswana woman who opens the first detective agency in Gaborone, with skill and humor. The books are not Murder She Wrote mystery novels, especially as the series continues, but novels about Africa, about relationships, and about the dreams of the main characters. McCall Smith has a unique style that is readable and enjoyable. You can clearly tell that he loves Africa and its people as much as his characters. In fact, Africa--Botswana, the Kalahari desert, the heat, the dry season, the politics, the changing culture--is as much a character as the imposing Mma. Ramoswte. My favorite character though is actually Mma. Grace Makutsi, the assistant detective and secretary who graduated with an unheard-of 97 percent at the Botswana Secretarial College, a fact that she frequently brings up. She is somewhat awkward and shy at times, dogged by a background of poverty and a peculiar complexion--certainly not a glamorous woman who becomes a secretary with the intention of snagging a handsome executive. But her hopeful attitude toward her future, her ability to rise to challenges, her humility and kindness, and her less than worldly ways make her a great counterpoint to her Boss. Plus, you throw in a manipulative orphanage matron, two foster children, the best mechanic in Gaborone, two feckless garage apprentices, and a mystery or two to unravel and you have a pleasant read for a warm summer night. My only warning--read only one or two in a row. Also, McCall Smith's Scottish "mystery" series--The Sunday Philosophy Club--is also enjoyable though I've only gotten to read the first one so far.
Movies - Two favorites and one I really wanted to like
After reading two glowing reviews from sources I trust, I moved these up in our queue: Lars and the Real Girl and Once. Lars was sweet and quirky and clean (I promise!). I loved how the family and community rallied around Lars and was willing to "become all things" in a way to help him. Once--what can I say? I nearly hit "play" again as soon as it was over. Simply beautiful, affirming, and refreshing (you just have to get past all the f-words, they are Irish after all).
This weekend, we watched The Ultimate Gift with James Gardner, Abigial Breslin, and some others. Gardner plays a recently deceased multi-billionaire. In his video will, he leaves his grandson with a series of tasks (gifts) to accomplish to get to the ultimate gift. It is clear his spoiled, trust-fund grandson needs to learn some values and lessons. For most of the movie, this is done without sap and sentimentality, and even humorously. Then, it jumps the shark with a plot point involving Ecuadorian drug lords and ends predictably. But I'm glad we supported the producers for making a movie with values and morals we share. And they did it better than most. The soundtrack did include some Switchfoot and Sara Groves so it wasn't too bad.
Summer A to Z - We're still trying to make it through the alphabet before school starts. We did accomplish "J" is for "Jumping" with a series of jumping activities outside and an attempt to jumprope. I actually did okay, though my bladder isn't what it used to be. "L" was for "Lemonade" and R and I squeezed lemons for refreshing lemonade with our cookies. Wish I had pictures, but that's more complicated on D's computer. We'll do a few more this week with my mom and brother who are coming down later.