Book Reviews · books · Uncategorized

Happy Christmas?! – Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon: Book Review

Mystery in White - J. Jerfferson Farjeon

I’ve had Mystery In White on my shelf for almost two years now. I bought and began reading it a few days before Christmas back in 2015 and just didn’t get round to finishing it, so after having a browse of some of the books I hadn’t yet read, I thought i’d give this story another go.

Mystery in White was first published in 1937 during the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and to my surprise, despite having written over 80 books, author J. Jefferson Farjeon is today, pretty much unknown. Nonetheless, the synopsis caught my attention and similar to other stories of this genre, I became interested in finding out ‘Whodunit’.  

The plot is  fairly straightforward: we’re introduced to a group of several passengers travelling by train during a heavy snow storm, their journey, as a result of the heavy snow comes to a halt and they eventually find themselves seeking refuge in a deserted country house – the fire has been lit and the table laid for tea but nobody is home. Things take an even stranger turn when secrets, lies and murder get thrown into the mix.

This novel covers most of the conventional styles and clichés of the genre, however Farjeon writes in a way that makes you question the motivations of each and every character, even the ‘detective’ of the story elicits an air of ambivalence which is clever because it made me focus more on the characters movements than I did on noticing clues. Some of the crime-solving involves a Sherlockian style debrief, which I, in regards to preference and enjoyment, remain unsure of; particularly as it, in some ways takes away from the reader feeling like they’ve come close to solving the crime.

Farjeon’s writing style was a bit jarring for me at times – it reminded me of James Joyce’s writing (shudders) – whereby you really have to pay attention to the text, particularly the dialogue, he has a tendency to switch from character to character without using pronouns to differentiate between each character; he relies on his characters being distinct enough for the reader to know when a character is speaking or not. And though this isn’t an uncommon way to write dialogue, for a novel which already asks for you to think about the ‘whodunit‘, where and what each of the seven plus characters are doing and how their stories all interconnect, trying to figure who is saying what and when, does become somewhat of a pain. There are also a number of filler chapters throughout this book, which again, adds more to your impression of the characters but does little in furthering the plot in an intriguing way. Whether the payoff is satisfying is debatable – for me, the build up, the suspense and the unexpected revelations make up for what the story lacks.

Overall, is Mystery in White memorable? No. Would I buy another of Farjeon’s detective novels? Yes!

If you’ve read the book, let me know what you thought about the ending in particular!

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3.7 / 5
Food · Lifestyle · Uncategorized

Breakfast is Definitely the Most Important Meal of the Day!

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I admit it, I used to skip breakfast – Being a mature and responsible adult meant that I no longer had my parents nagging me about having something to eat before I left the house and honestly getting that extra 20 minutes in bed was far more important than anything else that anyone then could tell me. I’d love to say that my new-found love for breakfasts came about a long while ago, but really, it’s only been around 4-5 months. Toward the end of last year I began going to the gym more regularly and after feeling like I was going to pass out half way through my workouts, I quickly learnt that eating only cereal bars or only two bananas or apples before a workout just wasn’t enough to sustain my body. So I did what every person does when they’re looking for a quick fix, I went on Google.

Out of all the breakfast foods I saw, the one that required the least amount of prep and was also readily available in my kitchen cupboard were porridge oats. Quaker Oats So Simple (Big Bowl) is my choice of brand, obviously because they’re so simple. When i’m in a rush, i’ll usually just whip up a bowl in the microwave for 2 1/2 minutes (with some soy or almond milk – shout-out to my lactose intolerant people out there – the struggle is real!), and then have a banana or apple on the go. If i don’t feel like porridge i’ll usually op for some granola or bran flakes and again have a piece of fruit on the go.

When I have a little more time and because I want to pack on some extra calories to keep me fuller, I like to add toppings. The options are endless but I generally go for:

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• Granola
• Peanut butter (Melted in a microwave)
• Fruit – (a sliced banana, apple or strawberries)
• Crushed nuts
• Cinnamon

You can mix and match as you like and to your taste but I find when I have a good amount of toppings I can work-out and go by my day so much better.

Speaking of my day, another reason why having a good breakfast every morning, means that I don’t spend the rest of my day snacking on junk foods – I’ve eaten half a pack of chocolate digestives, a Snickers/Cadbury/Twix bar, brownies, Oreos, Custard Creams etc. as substitutes for breakfasts I’ve missed. It’s kind of embarrassing when I think about it. And then because I’ve already got a pack of almost finished biscuits with me, guess what I do for the rest of the day? – I continue snacking on those because i’ve bought them and hey why not.

Now that I’ve mentioned, it the money I could have saved! Because of the logistics of where I live, it’s about a 20 minute walk to my tube station and by the time I get to the platform and onto the tube – probably standing, my stomach is already preparing for an epic session of obnoxious grumbling. I’m sure you’ve all been there before… having a stomach that sounds like you’ve hidden a baby dinosaur under your shirt, in a quiet office or classroom isn’t how anybody expects to start their day. And to avoid this, guess where I would be? Yep. In the nearest supermarket buying snacks that I would pass off as my ‘breakfast’.

Moral of the story, eat breakfast!

*A moments silence for all the sleep I’ve sacrificed to be a half functioning and responsible human being.*

Book Reviews · books · Literature · Uncategorized

Review: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – ‘All is not as it seems’

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Fun-Fact: Did you know the word Scientist didn’t exist when Frankenstein was first published in 1818. Before the word was coined in 1833 by William Whewell, Scientists would have been referred to as Natural Philosophers, who were studiers of nature and the physical universe.

Gothic literature isn’t my go-to genre but it caught my attention when I had to read a book called, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764) for a module I was taking at university. The book also happens to be the first gothic novel and became a source of inspiration for future gothic writers. When I think about it, I don’t actually like Gothic or horror movies at all, i’ve dabbled a bit but after watching Nosferatu (1922) as a kid when I was supposed to be asleep, I pretty much stayed away from the genre up until a couple of years ago where again I had to watch a number of gothic films for a module.

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When you hear the word Frankenstein, I’m sure some version of the image to the right comes to mind, comes to mind – along with the indistinct groans, the out-stretched arms and every Halloween costume sold during the month of October. However, all was not as it seemed… When I began reading the book, two things became very clear:

1 – Frankenstein is not the name of the monster; but the name of his creator.

2 – The monster is not a mindless creature in a blazer but is in fact, an intellectual, compassionate, conscious being who speaks as if he’s a character taken straight from one of Shakespeare’s plays. He craves human interaction, to the point where he is so lonely that he begs his creator to create another being like himself, after he is rejected by human beings. Who would have thought it?

Victor Frankenstein spends the majority of the story becoming increasingly deranged after he creates the monster’ and the rest trying to avoid then search and destroy his creature. The two main narratives make for sympathetic characters which enables the reader to gain enough of an understanding as to why both characters make the decisions they do. Ultimately the story becomes one of revenge, remorse and regret. It’s interesting, had the story been written solely from the perspective of Victor, I probably would have shared his opinions about the monster but as the story progressed and I learned the drastic reasons behind his motivations, the scary ‘Frankenstein’ monster many of us imagine upon hearing the name, began to steadily disappear.

Overall, I rather enjoyed reading Frankenstein, it wasn’t the story I expected when I started reading and I definitely didn’t expect to feel sympathy for the monster. Moreover, the questions it raises about creation, evolution and humanity become very intriguing, particularly when you consider the time the novel was published in.

Would I recommend reading this novel? Absolutely! The story was compelling, it’s an easy-read and I feel, a good introduction to the monster side of the gothic genre. And for you English-lit buffs out there, I think one of the better (Western) literary canons.

4.1 / 5