Monday 13 April 2020

Tea and a healthy treat on Easter Monday morning...

I have a steaming cup of delicious steeped chai tea waiting for me this morning, along with a bit of a healthier treat:  homemade apple sauce with cottage cheese and a sprinkling of homemade granola on top. With the self-isolation and distancing restrictions in place right now, I haven’t been going to City Cafe as often as I normally would, so I’ve had to improvise for treats.  I’ve been baking, but I ate my last piece of homemade Date Bread yesterday and I haven’t been motivated to bake another yet.
Good thing I’ve been motivated to read!  I was talking to my cousin last week, and she said she had just started reading a book I’d given her some time ago, Before the Poison by Peter Robinson. I had started two different books by that point and neither had grabbed me, so I thought maybe I should reread Before the Poison and we could talk about it during our next phone call.  I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d read this great standalone mystery, but in searching my previous blog posts, I read it first in June 2012 and again in June 2013 for my book club.  Here is what I had to say about it in previous posts:

(from 2013)  “I finished reading Before the Poison by Peter Robinson well before my book club meeting, and I enjoyed it as much this time as I did the first time I read it.  It tells the story of Chris Lowndes, a British-born American-transplanted composer of film music (“music no one listens to”) who, shortly after his 60th birthday, returns to Yorkshire and takes up residence in Kilnsgate House, where he hopes to compose music that people will actually listen to and enjoy.  His wife has recently passed away, and we suspect that he is using this time away to grieve and to sort out his life. While inquiring about the former estate owners, he discovers that there was a family who lived there from the 1930s to the 1950s, but that the wife was hanged for poisoning her husband. Chris, who may be ultra-sensitive to otherworldly spirits, experiences what may be visions of the woman, Grace, during his first evenings in the house, and he is determined to find out more about the story and hopefully uncover the truth, which he hopes will prove that she was wrongly accused and convicted, that she was in fact innocent of the crime for which she was hanged.  It’s a British mystery, a haunted house story, a bit of a love story, and a story about what it means to be family. “ 
(from 2012)  “This novel is a ghost story, not a police procedural... it reminds me of one of my favourite novels, Rebecca...  (T)hey both deal with the "ghost", or "presence", of a past resident of a huge house that is practically a character in itself, a woman with a mysterious past, and the house's new resident who is obsessed with the story and with finding out the truth about the past.  (There are) similarities with Minette Walters, particularly with the use of article excerpts to fill the reader in on the story about the mysterious woman. (Robinson) also uses this woman's diary entries later in the book... The only "criticism" I have, and I'm not sure that it's really a criticism, more of a comment, is that the main character, Chris Lowndes, is not really that interesting as a character.  I mean, he's just kind of "there" to move the story along, but he is portrayed as rather bland - the novel does not make this reader want to know about his life before the story begins. In fact, I just had to look at the inside flap of the book to check what the character's name is, which illustrates my point exactly. I find that very interesting in itself, since Inspector Alan Banks is such an interesting character that I would be willing to read a novel about his "life" even if there were no murders or mysteries to solve.  I guess the difference is that this is a stand-alone so the character will not appear in the next book in the series, and it is not really about the character or his personal or psychological development. It is more about the discovery of the past and the characters that existed and the events that took place half a decade before... In both books, the real "stars" are the dead women, Grace Fox and Rebecca de Winter, and the story is really concerned with the mysterious events surrounding their deaths.”
My experience rereading this novel was similar to those of reading it in previous years, and I even thought that my cousin might find it too boring, not complex or psychological enough, because the main character, Chris, is too bland and uninteresting, but I just spoke with her again this past Friday, when she was nearly halfway through, and she said she was really enjoying it.  It’s definitely worth reading right to the end, as the twist at the end is so unexpected and so interesting, and it also explains alot about Chris’ behaviour and his process of grieving over his wife Laura’s death. I would definitely recommend this novel to just about anyone.
And I finished an audiobook early last week that was fabulous.  Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close is so very different from the types of novels I normally read or listen to that I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it.  Narrated by Emily Janice Card, this novel is told from the points of view of several different young women whose stories are all linked together by various weddings, showers, and other dating or marriage-related events.  It opens with Isabella, aged twelve, preparing to be a bridesmaid in her sister Molly’s wedding, what she believed was “the most beautiful wedding anyone would ever have”. But ten years later, after college and a move to New York, crammed in with her roommate, Mary, Isabella has become disillusioned with the whole dating and romance scene.  She is looking for a job, a boyfriend, and a way to be happy, but her pursuits are met with disappointment again and again. What follows are different stories involving various friends of Isabella’s, including studious Mary and boozy Lauren, as they all search for love “in all the wrong places”. This is the ultimate “chick lit” novel, where the trials and tribulations of being a woman are dealt with in a lighthearted way, a genre that I generally avoid.  But I’m so glad I took a chance this time and trusted my instinct when I chose to judge this book by its cover, which is what really drew me in. I listen to audiobooks mainly when I’m outside walking, and I was particularly thankful for social distancing as I was chuckling and laughing out loud at some parts of this delightfully insightful, humourous book. I enjoyed it so much that I have downloaded another book by this author and look forward to listening to it soon.  I would recommend this novel to any woman who needs an upbeat, entertaining book to keep her spirits up during this rather challenging time.
That’s all for today.  I hope the rain stops so I can get outside for a long walk, but for now, I’ll settle in with another cup of tea and read... maybe I'll even bake that loaf of Date Bread.  Stay safe and keep busy!
Bye for now!  Julie

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