Daily Archives: February 1, 2010

Books Read in January, 2010

Anything Can Happen, George Papashvily and Helen Papashvily

Published in 1945, this is the true story of a Russian (actually Georgian) immigrant’s first years in America. This autobiography begins not at his beginning (he really doesn’t tell a lot about his life beforehand) but at the beginning of his life as an American.

We see our land and culture with a fresh view and learn the personal experience of one who was a 20th century addition to the Melting Pot.

Most of the book is uplifting and humorous, but we also learn what it’s like for a person to go 2 years without hearing anyone else speak his native language. Happily, he does discover others who speak Georgian and they form a very socialable group.

This is a very upbeat and charming book. If for no other reason, I recommend it to read about how he melted a battery to adjust bolt sizes on a wheel when he was stranded on a trip to California. Ingenious!

Here is the link to reader’s reviews of it on Amazon. This is one of the few books I’ve ever seen listed where all of the contributors gave it high marks: 4) 5 star reviews and 1) 4 star.

Hamish McBeth mystery Death of a Dentist, M.C. Beaton
This was the 13th volume in the Hamish McBeth series. Beaton has written Hamish’s character as a bit more likeable than Agatha Raisin, so I enjoy reading these stories about the Scottish Highland constable a bit more. All the regular players are included: the doctor and his wife (the cat lover and poor housekeeper), Archie McDonald ( the fisherman whose wife is such an excellent housekeeper than she boils his suits), the twin spinster sisters, the honorable vicar’s wife, the fake ‘seer’, and so on.

As most of us know, authors and screenwriters inject their own viewpoints into their work. Apparently, at least some of Beaton’s viewpoints are conservative because she gets in an occasional dig at what she calls the “nanny state” of the U.K.

From chapter 2:

There had once been a lot of industry back in the fifties, paper mills, brick works, electronics factories, and the tower blocks had been thrown up to house the influx of workers from cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh. But the workers had brought their love of strikes north with them and gradually the following generations had preferred to live on the dole and not even pretend to work. Factories had closed down and the winds of Sutherland whipped through their shattered windows and fireweed grew in vacant lots. It was like one of those science-fiction movies about the twenty-first century where anarchy
rules and gangs roam the streets. The last industry to go was the fishing industry, killed off by the European Union with its stringent fishing quotas and restrictions which onl the British seemed to obey …

If that quote gives the impression that her books are preachy, then I’ve described them poorly, because they are not preachy. They are fun with a little common sense thrown in occasionally. Liberal writers do it all the time; in fact, often their books are centered around their viewpoints. Beaton just throws hers in once in a while.

A very entertaining read.

Agatha Raisin mystery There Goes the Bride, M.C. Beaton
Published in 2009, There Goes the Bride is the latest Agatha Raisin mystery. It opens at the scene of her ex-husband’s marriage to his new bride and of course, Agatha’s jealousy of youth and beauty. This and how she deals with it, is a running theme throughout the book

I suppose that part of Agatha Raisin’s charm is that she is only somewhat predictable, except where men are concerned.

Not quite as well written as some of her other books, it’s still an pleasant diversion and much better than watching poorly written television programs (which I’ve done a lot of in my life).

The Scent of Water, Elizabeth Goudge

How wonderful to discover a new (to me) author that is so gratifying and soothing to read. I’ve been around books and libraries for a long time, and even read about them so I assumed that I was familiar with most of the authors in my favorite genres. Brenda over at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me introduced Elizabeth Goudge to us, her blog readers, and I’m so happy that she did.

The Scent of Water is set in a small English village sometime after World War II. A middle aged woman has inherited a cottage from a mostly unfamiliar cousin and decides to relocate there instead of selling it.

This is the England that many of us long for but I couldn’t find when I was there and is probably gone ( Close knit villagers, local characters, shabby cottages (no electricity), domestic help and antique treasures to discover.

However cozy and pleasant the general theme, the author deals with some very serious subjects: war wounds, making a new life, the destructive and seductive nature of bitterness, grown children who go bad, and honor. The running theme of a relationship with God is beautifully presented.

It was very poetic in places and occasionally some of the meaning was lost on me, as I am not a poetic person. However, that said, I was so pleased with it that I immediately ordered two more of her books (Pilgrim Inn and Green Dolphin Street), which await me when I finish reading my current book.

Highly recommended, especially if you like Miss Read.

The Sea for Breakfast
, Lillian Beckwith

Published in 1963, this is a wonderful non-fiction companion to the Hamish McBeth novels by M.C. Beaton. It’s the account of an English schoolteacher who retires to an island in the Hebrides (island off the northwestern coast of Scotland). Her goal is to become a crofter.

Croft, n. Small piece of arable land close to house; ; crofter’s holding. crofter, n., joint tenant of divided farm in parts of Scotland.

(One of my best souvenirs from our time in Windsor was an old English dictionary. I’ve used it many times to look up words from British novels that don’t appear in our American ones.)

Miss Beckwith shares her experiences with the locals as she tries to understand them and become part of their community.

Although M.C. Beaton lived in Scotland, I think she must’ve read this book, too; it’s a great companion book to her Hamish McBeth series.


The Rules for Cats
, Fancy Mews

A clever little volume for cat lovers, this is a short read (probably 15 minutes).

Cute illustrations accompany such bon mots as:

“Do not forget that your claws are not only a defensive weapon but also a remarkable decorating device that can perform miracles on humdrum upholstery as well as knit garments.”


“Should you make a faux pas, always act as if your action was deliberate and intentional.”

Makes me think the author (Susan Waggoner) had a camera inside my home watching our own feline companions.

Highly recommended for those who love cats. Makes a good gift.


Filed under 1940s, Books, Cats, Cozy, Current Events, Faith, Fiction, Humor