I thought I would take advantage of this extra day this weekend and post on the holiday Monday so I could enjoy a delicious breakfast at our favourite Greek restaurant yesterday - YUM! This weekend has actually been filled with yummy food, as I got some delicious dolmas (grape vine rolls) from Al Madina’s at the Kitchener Market on Saturday, as well as another yummy heart-shaped jam-filled cookie from my friend at Bittersweettart. And I baked Date Bread last night, so I have a slice in a bowl next to the steaming cup of chai on the table in front of me! Have no fear, though - I’ve had plenty of opportunities for long walks to work off these treats!
OK, enough about food. I have two books to tell you about. I spent most of last week reading Second Life by S J Watson. This is the second book by the acclaimed author of the excellent psychological thriller, Before I Go To Sleep, and I had to eventually put it down, it was that bad. In the wake of estranged sister Kate’s brutal murder in a Paris alleyway outside a bar one night, Julia conducts her own investigation, certain that the police are not “leaving no stone unturned”. She determines that the key to finding out who murdered Kate necessitates delving into Kate’s online personal life, where she engaged in cybersex and illicit encounters with strangers. Beginning by impersonating Kate, Julia soon finds herself connecting with a younger, sexy stranger who brings her back to life after months of grief and gloom. But when this affair turns violent and threatens Julia’s marriage and family, things go awry and… I don’t actually know what happens next, as I stopped reading the book halfway through. I found it so unenlightened and non-page-turner-ish that I didn’t think I could slough through another 250 pages because, in the end, I didn’t really care what happened to Julia, and thought that husband Hugh and adopted son (Kate’s biological child) Colin would actually be better off without her. The text was very repetitive and cyclical, and reminded me a bit of the book I read many, many years ago, 9 ½ Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill (well before Fifty Shades of Grey fame - am I dating myself by bringing up that title?). I’ve never read Fifty Shades, but I’m no fan of books about women who want to be sex slaves to handsome, controlling men. So I don’t recommend it, even to fans of Watson’s first book, which was well-written and suspenseful.
After putting this book down, I picked up a Young Adult novel, Bystander, by James Preller. I read his more recent title, The Fall, in November of 2015 and thought it was awesome, so I had high hopes for this book, which I decided to read in honour of Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 22nd (http://pinkshirtday.ca). Eric has just moved to a new town with his mother and younger brother to make a “fresh start”, a “new beginning”, but as the new kid in seventh grade at his middle school, it’s going to be tough. When popular, charismatic, charming Griffin makes overtures of friendship towards Eric, he thinks that all his problems are solved, but there’s something suspicious and not-quite-trustworthy about Griffin that keeps Eric feeling on edge. When he witnesses an episode during which Griffin is clearly bullying another student, David Hallenback, he has to decide whether to do something about it or be a bystander. As the truth about Griffin surfaces, bit by bit, Eric faces tough choices as he finds himself at risk of becoming the bully’s next victim. It was a good book, one that definitely shows how bullying in schools can continue, that these situations are not always clearly defined and easy to confront and resolve, that there are often grey areas when kids face really difficult decisions. I have a "Bullying Awareness" display at both of my schools, and this book will definitely be on it, as will The Fall, which I personally enjoyed more, probably because of the first-person narrative, which was engaging, conversational, almost confessional in tone. I think Bystander is an important book because it shows how bullying can continue as a sinister undercurrent of school life, something that doesn’t always have climactic results, but is just a way of life, furtively happening, and that the roles of bully and victim can often be blurred. It was a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading about bullying in schools.
Oh, in honour of “Freedom to Read Week”, which is February 26th to March 4th, I’m drinking my tea from my new Banned Books mug. I was planning to read my favourite banned book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the occasion, but during that week, I have to read a book for my book club meeting on March 4th. I planned to read my banned book this week instead, but I have a stack of eight library books that are ready to topple over if I don’t try to get through them, so I guess I’ll have to wait until mid-March to read something banned. I did, though, pick up a secondhand copy of Lolita yesterday at a used book store, so maybe I’ll read that in March instead of Lady Chatterley… hmmm, so many great banned books, so little time!
That’s all for today. Get outside and enjoy the gorgeous day! and Happy Family Day!
Bye for now…