Sunday 26 February 2023

Last post for February...

It’s hard to believe that February is nearly over and March is right around the corner.  It’s bright and chilly this morning, and it certainly feels like we’re finally experiencing winter, but who knows what kind of weather March will bring?  It is my least favourite month for that very reason, the uncertainty and fluctuation of the weather, and I feel as though February was already very March-like in that way… *sigh*... it’s like two months of my least favourite weather patterns. But I’m going to enjoy the winter weather while we have it and get out for a long walk this afternoon.  For now, I’ve got a delicious steaming cup of Pu-ehr Exotic tea to keep me warm and cozy as I write this post.

I was at our local independent bookshop last weekend where I discovered that one of my favourite psychological thriller writers, Michael Robotham, has a new “Cyrus Haven” book out in paperback, which I bought immediately.  I tried reading a couple of the Silver Birch books from the library, but was too excited about this new purchase to focus, so I sat down with the book and devoured it in just a couple of days.  Lying Beside You opens with forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven coming to terms with the fact that his older brother Elias will soon be released from a secure psychiatric hospital after spending the past 20 years there for murdering his parents and younger sisters. Cyrus was the sole survivor, and only because he wasn’t at home at the time of the murders.  Elias is schizophrenic, but with medication and treatment, he has been deemed ready to re-enter society, with Cyrus’ help, of course.  Cyrus has not only his own complex emotions surrounding this release to contend with;  he has twenty-one-year-old Evie Cormac to consider.  Evie has been living in Cyrus’ grandparents’ house with him for the past year, after being taken in once she was no longer living at the children’s home.  She also has no family, and has witnessed horrific things in her short lifetime, and Cyrus wants to protect her as well, while still honouring his responsibilities towards his brother.  Cyrus works as a consultant with the police and when a man is murdered and his daughter disappears, he is called in to provide a profile of the killer.  The lead investigator is a former rival of Cyrus’ who is not overly welcoming, but must acknowledge that he is a valuable asset to the investigation.  When more women disappear and the bar where Evie works is involved, she, too, becomes entangled in the investigation.  She is also dealing with her strong feelings of attraction towards Cyrus, and is frustrated that they are not reciprocated.  Can Cyrus manage both Elias and Evie, and help identify the killer before more women are murdered?  You’ll have to read the book to find out.  I have to say, while it was a page-turner and grabbed me right away, it wasn’t his best.  I think the second in the series, When She was Good, was the best, followed closely by Good Girl, Bad Girl. This is the third in the series, and I was hoping it would be as good as or better than the previous two, but it was a bit of a disappointment.  Oh well, it was still a good book, and I discovered much about the complex relationships between Evie and Cyrus, and Cyrus and Elias.  If you are new to this series, you should definitely start with the first one - I actually have a sudden desire to reread the first and second books myself, they were that good!

OK, that’s it for today.  Enjoy the sunshine and don’t forget to pick up a good book!

Bye for now... Julie

Monday 20 February 2023

Long weekend post on another sunny late-afternoon…

It’s been a gorgeous weekend so far, great for walking and hanging out laundry (I have sheets out there being kissed by the sun right now).  There’s actually a word for that:  apricity means “the warmth of the sun on a chilly day” (Word Perfect, Susie Dent).

I read a very strange, very disturbing, very curious book this past week, Just Like Home by author Sarah Gailey.  I loved, loved, loved Gailey's previous novel, The Echo Wife, and when I was at the big library Super Conference a few weeks ago, I saw at one of the vendor stalls that there was a new book by this amazing author.  Well, I must have gushed about Gailey sufficiently for the woman to whom I was gushing to suggest that I come back after 2pm and I could have the display copy, as they wanted to bring back as few books as possible.  I read it this past week and found it to be extremely well-written, incredibly compelling, but completely different in storyline and genre to The Echo Wife, and not necessarily in a good way.   Just Like Home is a darkly gothic thriller that opens with thirty-year-old Vera returning to the house that she swore she would never return to, called home by her dying mother, a woman from whom she’s been estranged since she was forced out of the house at the age of seventeen.  Her father, who was the only one who loved her, has died in prison, a convicted serial killer to whom Vera still has strong feelings of love and loyalty.  Since leaving, her mother has rented out the shed to visiting artists and authors, and one neighbour wrote a book about the Crowder scandal, a book that brought much interest to the house and kept Vera’s mother Daphne solvent with individuals interested in taking a piece of the fame with them.  Vera went away but was never really able to escape the house, the memories and the perversely loving clutches of her dead father, so returning to the Crowder house, the house that her father built with his own two hands to keep her safe, felt just like coming home, except for the dying Daphne...  oh, and the lodger/artist staying in the shed, the son of the man who wrote the book about the murders.  Can Vera come to terms with the thing that is haunting the house (is there really something haunting the house?) before she loses her own sanity, or will the memories and shadows claim her before she can escape?  This was one strange novel, one that I kept hoping would be redeemed at the end when everything would make sense, but alas, I didn’t find that this was the case.  It really was well-written, somewhat too descriptive and dragging in parts, but the text was compelling and kept me hoping for a moment of clarity when all would be revealed, but this unfortunately did not happen.  I found it very disappointing and I can’t think of anyone to whom I would recommend this book.  Maybe I was expecting something different, so I guess if you like graphic gothic novels in which the houses breathe and live along with the depraved characters, this might be a good book for you.  I’m hoping that the next book I pick up will prove to be a better selection for me.

That’s all for now.  Enjoy the rest of your Family Day weekend!

Bye for now…

Sunday 12 February 2023

Delicious post on a sunny late-afternoon...

It’s nearly 5pm, and the sun seems especially infused with goldenness (is that a word?  if not, it should be!) as it prepares for a later and later sunset.  I’ve got a few minutes to write this quick post before I resume preparations for the coming workweek.

I started reading books that will be contenders for a Silver Birch nomination later this year, and since I can’t tell you anything about these until the nominations are announced in October, there will be many weeks when I just won’t have any books I can write about.  This is the first of those weeks, but I did want to tell you about a delicious cookbook that I’ve been using recently in my efforts to adopt a more vegan lifestyle.  The Buddhist Chef:  100 simple feel-good vegan recipes by Jean-Phillippe Cyr is written by a, you guessed it, Buddhist chef who manages the kitchen at a Meditation Centre, I’m not sure where, but he’s from Quebec, so he’s practically “local”!  Since borrowing this cookbook from the library before Christmas, I have tried numerous recipes and want to try many more, as time permits (there’s only so much tofu and tempeh I can eat in a week!).  One of my favourites is for eggless mushroom and leek mini-quiches, which are simple, tiny bites of heaven made with chickpea flour and broth instead of eggs.  I’ve also made a spicy flavourful lentil dish, normally made with pork, called Cretons, which I guess is a very popular breakfast spread in Quebec, and I’ll admit that it’s delicious on a toasted Jerusalem bagel on a Saturday morning.  Almost all of the recipes are simple and are made with ingredients I already have or are readily available, such as lentils, tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, and, of course, maple syrup.  I would highly recommend this book for fans of lentils and mushrooms, as many of his recipes call for mushrooms as meat substitutes.  I’m thrilled to try out new recipes from this book, and was so excited about them, I bought a copy of the book for myself.  There’s a second book, The Buddhist Chef:  vegan comfort cooking, that I like less than the original, but it, too, has lots of good recipes.  I just made Breakfast Date Cookies from that book, which I borrowed from the library, and they are yummy.  So if you are interested in exploring vegan cooking, I would recommend either of these as a simple way to start your journey.

That’s all for today.  Enjoy the rest of the sunny day, and try to take in at least some of the sunset!

Bye for now…

Sunday 5 February 2023

Two-for-one “takeout special” on a Sunday evening…

It’s nearly supper time, but I realized that I hadn’t blogged in a couple of weeks, and I also had a book club meeting yesterday, so I decided to write this super-quick post for two books, not like a full dine-in experience, more like ordering takeout.

Two weeks ago, I read my first mystery by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason, The Darkness Knows, the first in the “Detective Konrad” series, and since I hope to one day visit Iceland, it was more than just a mystery;  it was a bit of an education and a trip prep.  In this novel, a group of German tourists are hiking on a glacier when a dead body turns up under the ice, preserved as if the individual died yesterday.  Due to climate change, this shrinking glacier revealed its decades-old secret, and newly retired detective Konrad becomes unofficially involved in the reopened case of a missing businessman, a case whose main suspect had to be released due to lack of evidence.  Now that the case is reopened, the suspect is reinterviewed and Konrad, who was involved in the original investigation and who has been haunted by this unsolved missing persons’ case for decades, resurrects his investigative role to soothe his own conscience and hopefully to finally lay to rest the niggling doubts he has about the original investigation.  This was an interesting read that, while fairly slow-paced, still had me turning pages to find out what Konrad would get up to or uncover next.  It was very interesting to read about Iceland and the necessary evil that is the tourist industry for the Icelandic economy.  I’m sure I’ll read other mysteries by this author, but not right away, as I once again have so many books to read and so little time.

And my volunteer book club met yesterday to discuss Hana Khan Carries On by Canadian author Uzma Jalaluddin.  Set in Scarborough, Ontario, this novel centres around Hana Khan, a twenty-four-year-old Muslim woman who lives at home with her parents while she works as an intern at a radio station after completing her Masters degree in broadcasting, as well as helping out at the Three Sisters Biriyani Poutine restaurant, owned and run by her family, mainly her mother and older sister.  When a rival halal restaurant slated to open in the same neighbourhood threatens to shut down Three Sisters, Hana tries to do everything in her power to stop this competition, even though the owner is a very cute guy with whom she has a discordant relationship.  Meanwhile, she pours her deepest feelings into her podcasts, and engages with her favourite follower, StanleyP, as they trade messages about life, love and family secrets.  Speaking of family secrets, did I mention that there are some family secrets in Hana’s life that come to light when her cousin and aunt make a surprise visit from India?  Will Hana be able to save the restaurant and keep the rival out of the neighbourhood?  Can she get a real job and help pay the bills?  Can she overcome the trauma of racism she experiences?  And will she and her rival overcome their differences and accept their budding romantic feelings, or will she finally agree to reveal her identity to StanleyP?  You’ll have to read the book to find out the answers to these and many more questions!  This book was a really good book club selection.  Everyone enjoyed it, and felt that Hana was a strong female protagonist who was mature almost beyond her years.  We found the racist attack very disturbing, and felt that it really changed the dynamics of the story, giving it a more serious tone.  We liked all of the characters, but I think we all agreed that cousin Rasheed was our favourite.  I thought it was very much like a Jane Austen novel, a comedy of manners exploring social customs, but with a cultural twist.  At this point, I can’t think of any other specific points we brought up, but we were so engaged in our discussion that we lost track of time and were forced out by a group of bridge players who were the next occupants of the room.  I would highly recommend this novel that could be a Teen crossover novel if you were looking for some light reading that was not all fluff and had a distinctly Canadian flavour.

Speaking of flavour, it’s time to enjoy a big bowl of Curried Pumpkin Soup.  Have a wonderful week, and keep reading!

Bye for now…