Customer Reviews: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds (Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries Book 9)
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This is the ninth instalment in Alexander McCall Smith's series about Isabel Dalhousie, editor of an ethics magazine and occasional sleuth. The last couple of books in the series were somewhat of a disappointment to me, but I enjoyed this one considerably more. Whilst the plot is as slim as ever - centering on Isabel's efforts to assist in the retrieval of a stolen painting - the book weaves its gentle charm over you as you read it. The "action" is interspersed with Isabel's musings on subjects as diverse as how to deal with rudeness in others, with whether we owe more to the people who live near us than people abroad and how to deal with conflict in marriages. I think what I like most about this series is the way it gets you thinking about the simple ways that you can live a more considerate life, about the importance of manners and kindness, without feeling that you are being preached to.

While many familiar characters make an appearance in the book - Grace has a falling out with Isabel and Eddie has romantic problems - others are barely mentioned, if at all. Cat is largely absent (hooray! no unsuitable boyfriends for once), as are Professors Dove and Lettuce. I was grateful for this, as it made the book feel less formulaic. I remain unconvinced by Isabel's relationships with Jamie and Charlie. Neither to me feel realistic, but at least her relationship with Jamie is made up of a little more this time round than just thinking about how lucky she is to have him.

I'm giving the book 3 stars because I liked, it but never found it terribly compelling and I suspect that in a week's time I'll be struggling to remember any of it. Having said that, I think that fans of the series will definitely enjoy it.
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on October 29, 2012
I was so pleased that Alexander didn't axe the Dalhousie series after Isabel got married. I have found every book in the series a joy to read and love the way the author manages to weave his own beliefs through the characters without being long winded and pious. I guess I enjoy all his books because I subscribe to almost everything he has to say about life. If only the majority of the world were like minded.
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on January 4, 2015
This book was a disappointment. I usually like Alexander McCall Smith's work, but this one was hard to get through. The story is constantly derailed by Isabel's musings about just about everything but the plot. The main mystery of who stole the painting is never solved. The issue with Eddie and his girlfriend just disappears. And I can not understand Isabel's problem with Grace teaching her son mathematics. All in all a waste of time and money.
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on October 9, 2012
The series with Isobel Dalhousie is a real delight to read as are most of Alexander McCall Smith's books; he has a real insight into how people think and should behave. If you like a light read with pleasant characters and lots of philosophy and finishing a book with a smile on your face, then sit back relax and read the Uncommon Appeal of Clouds
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I adore Alexander McCall Smith books; they make me feel good/happy. They tickle my funny bone and they lighten my day. They are particularly good "palate cleansers" after difficult or depressing novels. In this case, I read "The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds" the latest in the Isabel Dalhousie series, immediately after reading "City of Women" by David R. Gillham, which is a wonderful novel of Berlin in 1943 but full of descriptions of Gestapo torture. So you can imagine how glad I was to revisit the lives of Isabel, Jamie, Grace and baby Charlie!

These delightful novels aren't really plot driven; they are a slice of time in the lives of Smith's beloved characters. In this installment, Isabel is asked to help a man who has been the victim of an art theft, or more aptly: an art "kidnapping" with a ransom that is also referred to as a reward. There are some wonderful scenes with Isabel and a nasty lawyer and of course the book is full of Isabel's internal ruminations about morals and ethics, mathematics, architecture and etc. as one expects from this series.

Bonus: I've acquired a "smart phone" since the last time I read an Isabel Dalhousie book and I found it very handy for looking up the works of art that are described in the book (Smith often discusses paintings in his novels). When I wonder what Poussin's "A Dance to the Music of Time" looks like, I just pause briefly and look it up on line! It really adds to my enjoyment of the story and also provides a mini art-appreciation lesson.
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on November 27, 2012
This latest installment in the Isabel Dalhousie series continues the low key but charming adventures of Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher, wife, mother, and Scotswoman. I love these books because the author permeates them with the aroma and beauty of Scotland. I feel that I know my way around Edinburgh and the countryside, including the many islands of the Hebrides. There is always a mystery, or, rather, a puzzle for Isabel to work out. I find the meanderings of her philosopical musings entertaining and illuminating. Any simple act, like mailing a letter, will set her off on a tangent involving thoughts and ideas dealing with the ethical and moral principles of this very intelligent yet lovable woman. The clouds in the sky are always with us, sometimes we notice them, other times we don't. Isabel finds her inspiration on how to solve the particular puzzle in this book after a rumination on a blue sky and it's passing clouds. The last sentence in the book is particularly appealing, but I won't reveal it so you, the reader, can be equally charmed.
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on December 27, 2012
I hesitate to spoil others enjoyment of this series of books which clearly has a devoted following. But I also want to spare others from disappointment. The heroine, who is supposed to be shrewd, has occasional good ideas, but (for me) often comes off as rather trivial in her observations. Others may find this charming, that it makes her approachable; she is like us. Perhaps, as a psychiatrist, I am saturated with hearing other's mental musings and meanderings. Her's didn't seem particularly interesting, and I found myself wondering if she wouldn't benefit from a stimulant for ADHD.
Ordinarily, I am a sap for a happy ending that resolves matters, but her saccharine conclusion fails (for me) in its attempt to make the reader feel that family animosity has been healed - even if we're no closer to having our guesses about whodunit confirmed. We are left hanging on this, supposedly to feel that it doesn't matter if the family will just be nice to each other from now on (which I seriously doubt would be the case). For me, not identifying the miscreant violates what mysteries are obliged to do.
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on August 8, 2014
I'm a huge fan of McCall Smith, and love the characters from his other series. This is the third book I've read in the Dalhousie series, and by the end...yes, I read to the just rolling my eyes with impatience. In real life have you ever met someone like her, someone who gazes into space in the middle of a conversation to follow their own thoughts? I have. It's rude. It's irritating.
Well, in Isabel"s case I guess we are supposed to like her because she is a Philosopher. While we"re at it, let's give her money--oh hell, make her independently wealthy. Give her a beautiful home, a trusty servant, a handsome husband, a bright little boy. Did we forget anything? Might as well make her slim and good looking in the process.
And what exactly are her qualifications to solve mysteries and crimes? She's a good listener. At least til the next time she gazes off to follow a random philosophical thought.
Sorry, AMS, I'm sticking to Precious and Bertie from now on.
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on February 20, 2013
Really not much to this one, hate to say. Pretty fluffy. Seemed like maybe AMS had to meet a deadline or something. It's a bummer, because I have liked the previous ones (and they're not exactly heavy reading to start with!)...
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on December 12, 2013
I purchased a Nook last week and this was the first book I downloaded. Thought I'd done something wrong because when I got to the end of the story, it felt like there was at least one chapter missing. Kept thinking, "That's it? But...but... What about the mystery??!"

Like other posters have written, I also kept wondering why Isabel simply didn't read the math book, research the pros and cons of early math intervention, and consult with a local school instead of automatically assuming Grace would be doing harm or that a teaching method from California would naturally be suspect. God knows if Isabel has enough time on her hands to take Eddie to the doctor's office, I think she could spare a few moments for a trip to the local education authorities.

I have fallen out of love with Dalhousie. Her philosophic musings about others' actions are interesting but it feels like the same spotlight is rarely turned inward (at least not as brightly).
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