Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

Friday Reads: 44 Scotland Street, a Scottish Delight!

posted in: Books, British, Entertainment | 2 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

I discovered the 44 Scotland Street series while listening to Confessions of A Serial Novelist by Alexander McCall Smith, an obscure audio offering in the OneClickdigital App. I downloaded it because I had read The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency some years earlier and was curious to hear what nuggets of wisdom such a successful author as McCall Smith might have to share.

The recording turned out to be a one hour lecture given in New York City in 2006 and featured more humor than substantive advice on how to succeed as a novelist. (Although, perhaps that is a good lesson in itself. Perhaps humor is the secret to success as a novelist?) The highlight of the lecture came at the end: an excerpt from the second 44 Scotland Street novel: Espresso Tales.

44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is <a href="http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/" target="_blank">Edinburgh Castle</a>, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.
44 Scotland Street takes place in Edinburgh. Pictured above is Edinburgh Castle, one of many Edinburgh landmarks mentioned in the series.

The passage was about a six-year-old boy named Bertie whose mother forces him to learn Italian and play tenor saxophone. This was interesting. I immediately checked the app for the 44 Scotland Street audiobook and downloaded it. While the passage McCall Smith read focused on Bertie, the series features a much larger cast of characters, some of whom are listed here on his website.

The first book of the series focuses primarily on the residents of the building the book is named after. (While Scotland Street is a real street in Edinburgh, there is no number 44.) There is Pat, a young girl of 20 on her 2nd gap year, working as a receptionist at an art gallery. Pat’s flatmate is Bruce, a rugby shirt-wearing narcissist with a passion for hair gel who works as a surveyor (real estate appraiser in the US). Across the hall is Domenica: world-wise anthropologist, widow, advisor to Pat, and friend to Angus. Angus lives on a neighboring street: a 50-something portrait painter and companion to Cyril, a beer and coffee-drinking dog with a gold tooth.

There’s also Matthew, the somewhat dejected owner of the art gallery Pat works at, who often enjoys long coffee breaks at Big Lou’s. Before Big Lou purchased Big Lou’s, it had been a bookshop. After the purchase, Lou moved all the remaining book inventory to her residence. She reads them whenever she is not running her coffee bar, giving rise to thoughtful and occasionally spirited philosophical discussions over coffee with customers.


With all the characters and funny storylines, I am reminded of Julian Fellowes and Downton Abbey. The books are fun to binge on, another thing in common with Downton Abbey! I discovered the series in August, four months ago, and I am already on the fourth book of the series: The World According to Bertie.

I have plenty more to say about the books, their author, and the narrator of the audiobooks, Robert Ian Mackenzie, but I will save it for a later post. For now, I will leave you with this interview with Alexander McCall Smith that I discovered from The Guardian. In it, he discusses the 44 Scotland Street series in his usual light-hearted and modest style. Happy Friday!

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The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Connelly Classic Despite a Rough Start

posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Entertainment | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Lincoln Lawyer is the 16th book of Michael Connelly’s and is the first in the Lincoln Lawyer Series. The main character is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney in Los Angeles who works out of his car, a Lincoln, hence the name of the book.

Mickey is doing fairly well defending drug dealers, prostitutes and motorcycle gang members. One day, he gets a call to defend a man accused of attempting to rape and kill a prostitute. The defendant claims he is innocent, and thus we begin the journey of Mickey trying to defend his new client and get an acquittal.

The Lincoln Lawyer Review

Skeptical at First

This book was difficult for me to read for a couple reasons. My first and biggest reason for not immediately liking this book is that the defendant is not a likeable guy. From the beginning, you are very suspicious of him. He doesn’t seem trustworthy.

The second reason I had a hard time with this book is that in the beginning, the storytelling is very choppy and we are introduced to a lot of characters. Now, maybe I would have been able to keep track of who was who if I didn’t read it before going to sleep, but I’m not so sure. There are a lot of names and it became confusing.

Eventual Redemption

I won’t spoil the ending, but for all my dislike of the first three-quarters of this book, in the end, I actually liked the Lincoln Lawyer. The ending was satisfying and brought all of the characters that Michael Connelly introduced along the way together.

This book was made into a movie in 2011 starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller and Ryan Phillippe as the defendant. I didn’t see the movie before reading, so I didn’t have any spoilers while reading the book. This fact made the ending all the better.

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Professing Our Love for The Great British Bake Off

Professing Our Love for The Great British Bake Off

posted in: British, Entertainment, Television | 0 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Great British Bake Off (or as it is known in the US, the Great British Baking Show) is an amazing television show. If you are unfamiliar, you might have guessed it is all about baking. In the US, it is shown on PBS and depending on where you live, you may have already seen series 6, are currently watch series 6, or your local PBS station hasn’t shown it yet. Our station just started showing it last week.

We started watching the show in 2013 after hearing about it in an interview with Tom Mison who was getting ready to star in Sleepy Hollow (another of our favorite shows). Immediately, we fell in love with GBBO as we increased our tea consumption and learned many new words not frequently used in the US such as courgette, sultanas, Stilton, and caster sugar.

the-great-british-bake-off-review

The Basics

Each series, or season as we call it in the US, has 10-13 contestants from all over the United Kingdom who are home bakers. Each episode consists of a Signature Challenge, Technical Challenge and Showstopper Challenge. The contestants know what the Signature Challenge and Showstopper Challenge will be prior to the weekend that they congregate in the tent. Contestants can practice and perfect it by baking it several times during the week, while the Technical Challenge is an unknown recipe chosen by one of the judges.

What Makes It Special

The Great British Bake Off is unlike any American competitive cooking show. The typical formula for an American competitive cooking show involves one part drama, one part backstabbing and one part acting. In this amazing show, the only drama comes from you sitting at home, crossing your fingers hoping the bakes come out just right. There is no backstabbing or acting, though there was a little thing called #bingate back in 2014. (We should also mention that there was an attempt at an American equivalent called The American Baking Competition, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy, which only lasted one season in 2013. It was not as good.)

Paul Hollywood is the dark and mysterious judge. You can’t tell what he is thinking behind the steel blue eyes; this makes the contestants cringe and makes us laugh. Mary Berry is the other judge that is like an eclectic grandma; you aren’t entirely sure what she is going to say and likes to drop some innuendos every once and awhile.

The hosts, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, are hilarious. We discovered, after some internet research, that they met while going to Cambridge and have been working together for over 20 years. This long time partnership is evident when they play off each other. They are also very punny, which is totally our kind of humor.

The Future?

Yesterday, we saw that the BBC lost the rights to air the series after the current series 7. This news struck fear into our hearts but Love Productions, the company that makes the show, has apparently signed a three year deal with Channel 4. Phew! This article also says that the first show on the new channel will be a celebrity edition, which sounds intriguing. We just hope that PBS will continue to air our beloved GBBO!

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The Tunnel Series 1 Review: Grim UK-France Crossover with a Quality Detective Partnership

The Tunnel Series 1 Review: Grim UK-France Crossover with a Quality Detective Partnership

posted in: Entertainment, Television | 1 | This post may contain referral links. See privacy policy for more.

The Tunnel recently wrapped up on our local PBS station. The following is our reveiw; it has some slight spoilers, but nothing major. It should be just enough to give you a basic flavor for the 10 episode series.

The show starts at the midpoint of the Chunnel (aka The Channel Tunnel) where a body is found half on the UK side and half on the French side. The Tunnel is based upon the Swedish-Danish show Bron/Broen. There was also an American-Mexican version that we had not previously heard of called The Bridge. All three series start with this premise.

Clemence Poesy is transformed from enchanting part-Veela Fleur Delacour of Harry Potter fame to Elise Wassermann, a cold, cerebral French cop with a hint of Rain Man about her. This was our first meeting with Stephen Dillane who plays Poesy’s English counterpart, Karl Roebuck. Dillane too has a Harry Potter connection, with his son, Frank, playing Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Roebuck’s wife, Laura, is played by Angel Coulby who we know and love as Guinevere from Merlin!


The antagonist of the series is a vigilante who torments citizens of both countries with violence supposedly justified as an attempt to illustrate the inequality of society. At first, the murders seem political, impersonal, and even pseudo-altruistic, but as the series progresses, the killer’s motive is revealed to have a much more personal origin.

While The Tunnel has some rather grim and depressing moments, its redeeming factor is the relationship between the easygoing, sociable Roebuck and the reserved, occasionally haughty Wassermann. By the end of the series, these two main characters are no longer such simple cutouts, but complex emotional creatures, fragility exposed and tragedy overcome. We look forward to the second series.

the tunnel

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