Monday, April 28, 2014

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

Betting on Birds (Charming)

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson is a novel that centers on two men who want to ask the same woman to the annual Hunt Club Ball, but they don’t want to put her in the awkward position of having to choose between them.  So, how do they settle which one of them should invite Rose, a lovely widow, who leads a bird walk every Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya?  The men engage in a wager. Whoever can identify the most number of bird species in a week’s time will have the privilege of inviting Rose to the dance. And just to keep things honest, there are three committee members in the Asadi Club to officially record their bird spottings every evening and see the rules are adhered to. You do not have to be an ornithologist, or even like birds to read this book. Human relationships prevail over the feathered variety. Of all the people he’s competing against, Mr. Malik’s opponent happens to be his old high school rival. Harry Khan is a loud, boisterous, and a somewhat cocky character. Of course, I was rooting for Mr Malik especially when faced with unexpected obstacles.  Apparently, crime in “Nairobbery” is as common and natural as a small oxpecker bird resting on the back of an enormous rhinoceros.  And this proves to be a hindrance for the honorable and more reserved of the two gentlemen.  The story was original, charming, and left me feeling good.  In fact, the last line made me chuckle out loud. I loved this book!  It was as beautiful and welcoming as sighting a great blue turaco.

Chances are if you like Alexander McCall's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books, you'll like this one. 

Happy Reading,


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Monday, April 14, 2014

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Mrs. de Winter’s Frosty Reception (Classics)

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier starts with one of the most famous literary opening lines: “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”  It’s about a widower who marries a young, na├»ve woman and brings her to his estate called Manderley. There, an unfamiliar world of servants and social expectations await her. The new Mrs. de Winter tries to fit in, but quickly discovers all is not what she thought it would be. Mrs. Danvers, housekeeper and devotee to the late first wife, Rebecca de Winter, does not make her life easy. Eventually we discover more about the mysterious Rebecca and what happened to her. This classic novel is a mystery, a love story, and a drama all wrapped into one of my favorite books of all time. First published in 1938, Rebecca has never been out of print, so obviously I’m not the only one who loved it. 

My book club didn't fall into that category of book love.  Most commented that it was difficult to get into because it was wordy and overly descriptive.  However, they all agreed that once they arrived at Manderley, they enjoyed the book, especially the twists and turns. (So, hang in there.) 

I learned at our meeting that Daphne du Maurier wrote The Birds, which was made into an Alfred Hitchcock movie as well as Jamaica Inn.  Hitchcock also directed Daphne's movie adaptation of Rebecca, which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1941. 

Happy Reading,

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Monday, April 7, 2014

I Guess We Missed the Boat by Barry Finlay

Vacation Escapades (Travelogue)

I Guess We Missed the Boat by Barry Finlay is a travelogue in which a group of retirees reminisce about their world travels. This book is filled with amusing anecdotes, annoyances, and mishaps of their vacations in awe-inspiring and even exotic global destinations. They raced through Scotland on a warp-speed bus tour with sightings of the Queen.  There were memorable camping trips, Cuban boat tours, and topless beaches in the Dominican Republic. I enjoyed the fact that the author didn’t take his travels for granted. He appreciated the experiences and the people he encountered. At age sixty Barry Finlay actually climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with one of his sons—and that’s a whole other book you can read—Kilimanjaro and Beyond: A Life-Changing Journey. But back to I Guess We Missed the Boat.  This book was like a pep talk.  It renewed my itch to go out there and see the world, or at least as much of it as my budget will allow. I may never get to see giraffes and elephants on the Serengeti, the great pyramids of Egypt, the ruins of Pompeii, or ride in a gondola on the canals of Venice, and I’m sure you’ll never find me climbing a mountain, but that’s okay. The point is to seek your own adventures (within your own budget).  So, watch out Portland and Chicago, here I come!  Thanks for the inspiration, Barry!

Happy Reading, Happy Travels,


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