Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Penguin Gets On The Train with the Girl

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  I am getting ready to go overseas to Europe for six weeks so I guess that is why I am drawn to bicycles as in Anne Mustoe (previous post) and now The Girl on the Train.  Trains, planes, motorbikes, bicycles even horses.  All of these appeal because I have not been off this island. When one lives on an island it is important to get off and see something new. I am ready.

There has been so much hype around this book that I was put off for quite a long time in reading it. But having read a little synopsis about it I knew that I would probably enjoy it.

This book is Paula Hawkin's first thriller type book.  It is the story of three women. Megan, Anna and Rachel.  Rachel is an alcoholic whose husband Tom took up with Anna and she lost her marriage. She now drinks too much, living in a room in her friend's house not too far from Tom and Anna.

Each chapter rotates between the three women and the tale is told from their point of view. I always enjoy this format for the most part and it was no different here.  Megan who lives a few doors down from Tom and Anna goes missing one night. Rachel is in the area stalking Tom and Anna at the same time and is blacked out drunk.  Things happen all at once. But she has no memory of it. Rachel is interested in Megan as she sees her from the train window every morning. But the fantasy is no where near the reality.

I won't say anything more because I don't want to spoil it.

I found the story very good. It kept my interest and I found I read it in two sittings, the last being too late into the night. I cared about all of the women and I wanted to see what happened to them.

I found the actual writing to be a bit uneven in places but as I enjoyed the characters so much I ignored this.  I don't think this is a great piece of literature but an evening's entertainment and better than some of the television series I watch.  I could see this book easily becoming a movie. I would go see it if it did.

It takes place on the outskirts of London in a quaint suburb but for the life of me I could not get the Melbourne suburbs out of my head. The whole book took place in Melbourne in my mind. I could see the descriptions matching the suburbs I have ridden through on Melbourne trains.  It was very clear in my head.

I thought all of the characters were developed quite fully with perhaps Megan's character being a bit of the weakest.  There were a few red herrings tossed in to the story I didn't think were needed but they did add another layer of suspense in regards to who disposed of Megan. Or did they?

It was an enjoyable read, I didn't have to think much and as I usually spot the ending, I didn't in this story. I always like it when I am taken by surprise.

I think Paula Hawkins can only get better in her next attempt at thriller fiction and I will certainly pick her next book

up, crawl into bed with my dogs and my hot drink and enjoy an evening's entertainment without much hassle.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Riding Around the World on a Bicycle

Her first trip in the later 1980's
I think Travel Writing must be my favourite writing. Not just any travel writing as there is a lot out there. But really purposely, well written travel writing. I think this series of books by Anne Mustoe must be at the top of the genre.
 I read the book A Bike Ride when it first came out and really enjoyed it though there was much I didn't understand.  Anne Mustoe was an English headmistress of a private girl's school who decided at an age of mid 50s to ride around the world on her bicycle. She hadn't ridden a bicycle before but for some reason the wanderlust hit her and off she went.

A Bike Ride is the first book she wrote. She had a purpose to this ride. As she was classically trained she decided to follow the route of Alexander the Great and ride along the path of some of the old Roman roads. Her trip takes her from England through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and right on through Eastern Europe eventually to Australia, the United States and back to England.

There is something about a road trip, of any kind that pulls me towards adventure. People walking, hitchhiking, bicycling, horseback riding, motorbike riding, there are all kinds out there doing the big adventure thing. Now a days with technology it is so much easier. But when Anne took off she didn't have a smart phone or a tablet with wi-fi.  She rode 50 miles a day and hopefully when she reached her destination there was somewhere to stay.

I love the way she writes about the people she meets. Little snippets of the culture, the mood of the people she  meets, the funny episodes. There are a few times the reader really worries about her too.

There is a lot of history in this book. Sometimes at times there is too much. She can go off on a tangent at times. When she is in Turkey she does get carried away but this reading I understood much about it as I have visited Turkey and have seen some of the places she writes about.

One of her later books and on my TBR
reading list.
Quite a bit of time has passed since I read her first two books. I didn't know she hadn't written more. I was thinking of her last week. Don't ask me why but her name popped up into my mind. I looked her up on the web to see what had happened to her and was saddened to know she was on a bike trip in Syria in her 70's, became ill and died. For some reason that really resonated with me. But for 20 years she continued her bike rides. There are now several books on sale written by her and I hope to get through a few of them. The one she wrote about riding through South American especially looks appealing.

You can see the list of books she wrote here. 

I would have enjoyed meeting her but now with these unopened books in front of me I am really looking forward to more of her adventures.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Journaling and Art

I am currently taking a Journaling course through Monash University online for 6 weeks.  Each Monday and Wednesday (Eastern time USA) a new lesson is released.  I must say I have really enjoyed it and though it is quite a basic class and there is a lot I already know, it is good to have it structured in order to work through it.

I am also enjoying the recommended reading. As always happens with Amazon I look for one entry and that leads to more entries in the same genre.  Journaling books are quite beautiful looking too. They always have illustrations of pens, pencils, art work, nature such as birds, leaves, flowers and the list goes on.

I wanted to share two of the books I am reading this week and enjoying very much.  I enjoy the writing side of journaling and learning different techniques to get in touch with my thoughts and emotions is good. But I am allowed to draw in my journal.  Now my drawing is appalling. No, really. I can barely  make a straight line with a ruler.  But of course a journal is private. I can draw whatever I want and no one sees it.

I remember once running a summer language group for early primary school students one year with my friend.  We did a lot of drawing.  I remember drawing some animals on a sheet of butcher's paper and one of the little 6 year old boys fell onto the floor in a huge belly laugh at the sight of my drawn animals.  He had tears going down his face. Of course that was contagious and all of us ended up crying with laughter. It was the best laughter because so much conversation ensued.

As I am older now I am able to take being made fun of in stride. I can even laugh about it.

These are pens made of wood and you press the eraser to get the point 
to pop out.  I really like the way they write as they are a bit thicker and
I can hold them easily.
These books outline the various kinds of journals one can keep. All of them with illustrations though. You might make lists in your journal, use writing prompts of which there are a million in books and online.  You might write dialogue or in the course now we are talking about unsent letters. Just make sure you destroy it once written. Or put a padlock on your journal.

I am reading about the different types of books you might use, or paper or tools such as pens, pencils, paint, crayons, stamps and stickers. I don't know many book lovers who don't also love stationary.

If you're interested in a book on journaling these are good but there are many others that are also fun. I have a few of them on the shelf that I pull down and look at quite regularly.

I am going on a 6 week trip in mid May overseas and I look forward to getting my journal in order to record a lot of what we do. I might even sketch an Italian city. Haha, more like I'll sketch a doorknob I see on a door or something easy like that.

So whether I can draw or not I am going to have a go at it and I'll enjoy the experience. After all isn't that what trying new things is about?

Do you keep a journal? Do you have any favourite books?

Saturday 11 April 2015

A Bit of Travellin' and A Bit of Penguin

I have just not been reading much this week.  I seem to be watching a lot of Taggart reruns on t.v. because I love the way he says, "We have another 'mudder" to work on. I also love the Glasgow area as it relates to the show.  I really do love this show.

However I did finish my library copy of Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis. I had read Parvana and written about it earlier as my intro into Young Adult genre. I had to read Parvana's Journey to see what on earth happened to her family. A good set of young adult books about a girl's life in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

After a spate of bad, windy weather my friend Chris and I decided to head out to Mt Field National Park on our bikes to camp a night.  We're in the midst of autumn and the weather has been gorgeous for a few days so we decided to take advantage of it.  I just wanted some "nature time" to get over the negative side of last week. It worked a treat and being in the forest next to a river always does the trick. 
Here are a few pictures of our camping. This park is absolutely beautiful and the shades of autumn even more so.  
The bikes packed with our camping gear. Had to laugh.Chris's bike with 10 bags, mine with 3. We had everything we needed. Yes, we were only camping one night.

Our campsite. The river is just to the left. I am in the small tent and Chris in the large one.

Love the symmetry of these trees.

There are some very old trees in this park. So beautiful. It is like visiting ancient ancestors.

We hiked back to Russell Falls The falls tumble over several levels and you want to stare into them all day.

The tree on the left looks like a tall skinny tea pot.The bark on these trees is gorgeous.

Autumn Leaves. So many colours around us.

On the way home we stopped for a moment at the country market in Bushy Park.  They have a couple of book shelves that are filled with books people drop off. Every time I am in the area I stop in, talk to the country ladies, buy some of their excellent jams, chutneys and marmalades and look for Penguins on the shelves.

I found a Penguin I may have already, have not checked, but the prices are cheap and I like to rescue these little birdy books.  The Pterigan published by Penguin was a book I picked up earlier in a second hand shop. Thought I would share it here as Penguin published these books and they don't turn up around here very often. I also found this original Puffin in the market and it is in very good condition. Puffins are usually quite worn because after all they were written for children and they have been around quite a long time.
A nice cross section of published Penguin books. 

It was only a two day trip but it felt as though we were gone for a week.  It's good to explore our own backyard.

If you would like to see more photos feel free to join my Facebook page. I post up lots of my travelling' photos there.

You can connect at :    https://www.facebook.com/TassiePenguinHunter

Thursday 2 April 2015

Goodbye Ole Mate Brian

I have written about our friend Brian on here before. I met Brian about 20 years ago when I was in a lapidary club. He was the first person to come forward and show me the machines and he loved to talk about the rocks. He would slice them open and polish them only to see what was on the inside. No jewellery making or anything for him. He liked the colours of the rock and seeing the transition from muddy old stone to a beautiful colour.

I left the club after awhile and so did Brian. I learned he lived in South Hobart and had been here since he was born. I kept running into him.

Another love of his was books and movies. He loved stories about American boxers, he loved Zane Gray and Louis L'Amour westerns. He told us stories about Alan Villiers who Penguin published books about years ago. He lived here.  He loved Jack London and tales of explorers and adventurers.

Brian worked in a number of jobs over his life. He was a wharfie, he worked doing odd jobs on the mainland and he finally settled on the production line of the Cascade Brewery.  The only way I can describe this man is to say he was rough as guts with a heart of gold.

In his later years, once retired, once done with the grog, done with fighting and getting in trouble with pubs he settled down. Brian was the kind of person who many people would walk past, walking around on his little missions in his flannel shirt and big heart that no one knew of. He hated injustice and a myriad of other things he would read in the papers. People didn't appreciate how smart or well read he really was.

Night time seemed to be the time he would read. He was a terrible insomniac and he spent the nights listening to the radio and reading books.

In his latest years he was an op shop junkie.  His favourite was the Red Cross Book shop. They are a great book store that raises money selling books for their organisation. The volunteers are wonder and helpful and the ladies are older and very social.That is where I hooked up with Brian again. He would stop in there regularly and they would give him a coffee.

We talked a lot when we met and a friendship grew. As Brian never married that we knew of and lived a life that was rough his experiences were very different over the years. But we both had a love of books and could talk about them for hours.

He also told us his childhood stories of growing up in South Hobart. The "other side of the tracks" stories though we don't have any tracks here.  His laughter was infectious and he loved to hear the stories he told again and again.  They were funny.  They were tales of petty crime and who people were and family histories and what a crook the woman in the charity shop at the church is.

As we learned of Brian's illness and as he lived alone and didn't take the greatest care of himself food wise we started inviting him up for coffee. Coffee turned into meals and quiz shows on the tv and more stories of books.  Tom would fix him a chicken dinner or spaghetti bolognese and afterwards he would pronounce that was the best meal of his entire life. I think at times he meant it.

Monday, 30th March our mate Brian passed away in palliative care. It has been a sad time and I know we are going to miss his visits. His visits with a paper bag filled with chocolate bars, wafer cookies for our dogs and stacks of Penguin books.

His favourite line was, "Do you have this book?"  And I would always say "No, I don't think so, doesn't look familiar." and he would reply, "well you do now!"  It gave him so much pleasure to bring the Penguin books to our house.  He got pretty good at finding the vintage ones I collect.

He would bring me any book that had a Penguin logo on them. I would pass them on to other people because our small house can't possibly keep all the books Penguin published from 1935 to current times. I had to be careful what Op shops I would leave them at because they would find there way back to me.

In return I would get him his western magazines of the 50s I would find, Zane Grey. Zane's son Rumer Gray,  and boxing dvd's from America's eBay.

I could say a lot more about this friend but the one thing I know the most, Boy are we going to miss him.
I would like to dedicate this post to Brian and I hope he knows how much he meant to us.