On this rainy, cool Monday afternoon, a hot cup of tea fits the bill perfectly. It is not my special chai tea, as I don’t have the patience to wait for it to steep properly (I need a cup of tea NOW!), but it is still hot and milky, with a few grains of brown sugar, so I’m happy at last.
I did have a wonderful used book sale shopping experience last Friday, despite the rain. I purchased a number of books, mostly ones I had not already read, and have nearly completed my collection of Elizabeth George “Inspector Lynley” paperbacks. I went back the next day shortly before they closed at noon, so I managed to fill a bag with hardcovers and quality paperbacks for $5.00, a real bonus, since you can fit a lot of books into a reusable shopping bag. I also ran into my former landlady, now living in Stratford, who is still a member of CFUW and was volunteering for a few hours at the sale, so that was an added surprise. I’ve had to purge my bookshelves to make space for the new titles, so I also went to a used bookstore on Sunday with some of my books that I thought they might be interested in purchasing. They took some titles, and the rest will go into the pile for the yard sale I am planning to have sometime this summer. So it’s a win-win situation.
Since my last post, I’ve read Peggy Blair’s The Poisoned Pawn. This is a mystery novel written by an Ottawa author, the second in the “Inspector Ramirez” series but the first I’ve read. This novel tells of two parallel investigations, one in Ottawa investigating a possible murder and one in Havana which begins with the murder of an elderly woman and then expands to include a series of poisonings. These investigations eventually connect, and the results are complex and interesting. The main characters are also interesting, particularly Inspector Ramirez and his experiences when he comes to assist with the Canadian investigation and arrives in Ottawa in January. His comments regarding Canadian weather, airport security, and architecture, among other things, are both humourous and insightful. Because this book is written by a woman but most of the main characters are male, I think this book would have appeal with a wide audience. Having just been in Cuba, this mystery had particular appeal for me. I haven’t read The Beggar’s Opera, the first in the series published in 2012, but I have it on hold at the library. I think I would have appreciated the story more if I had read that one first, since this one is a continuation of the mystery presented in the first, but I thought the author clarified things well enough for a first-time reader to understand what was going on. I actually just read that The Beggar’s Opera has been nominated for the Arthur Ellis First Novel Award (the Arthur Ellis Awards are for Canadian works of crime fiction and non-fiction). I would definitely recommend this mystery to just about anyone, as it had suspense, humour, strong characters, flawed characters, Canadian history, Cuban history, a bit of romance, and some useful domestic advice (when commenting on the inaccessibility of the internet in Cuba, Ramirez tells Canadian Detective O’Malley that, in Cuba, if a man wants to know everything about a particular subject, he uses the traditional method - he asks his wife). Blair is a former lawyer.
Since finishing that novel, which I have included in my list of “required reading”, I began another novel on that list, Y by Marjorie Celona. This Canadian novel tells the parallel stories of Shannon, a girl who is abandoned by her mother in front of the YMCA when she is only hours old and grows up in a series of foster homes, and her teenaged mother Yula, who has issues of her own to deal with. These stories will eventually converge, but I’ve not reached that part yet. So far, Shannon has finally settled into a foster home, but she is beginning to ask questions about her origins. I am also close to reaching the point in Yula’s story when she reveals why she abandoned her baby. Alas, I have had to set this novel aside to finish reading my book club selection, and so I will finish it later. It is an interesting story, with possible appeal for some young adult readers, as the story is bleak and it contains plenty of teen angst, yet I feel that it is really written in a style that is meant for adult readership. More on that one when I have a chance to finish it.
And I’m halfway through The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, the selection for Friday’s book club meeting. This book is written from the point of view of Renee, an overweight, unattractive Parisian concierge with bunions on her feet and Paloma, a twelve-year-old who plans to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday to avoid becoming trapped in the goldfish bowl that she envisions will inevitably become her life. Both Renee and Paloma are more intelligent than they let on to others, and although Paloma lives in the building where Renee is concierge, their stories have not yet intersected, although I expect that is just about to happen. While this novel has been on book club lists and bestseller lists for a very long time, I can’t say that I would stick with it if I didn’t have to lead a discussion on it in just a few days. It is more philosophy than story, which does not exactly suit my reading mood right now, but I can see that there are many sections that are insightful, so I’m sure it will prove to be a worthwhile reading experience once I’ve finished. I am also sure it will evoke a lively discussion with my ladies, which is always satisfying for me, particularly when I’ve included on the selection list a title I have not already read.
That’s all for today.
Bye for now!