Girls on Trains

imageThe reading of this book went a lot faster than the previous one I ploughed my way through, and when I finished it I gave it four out of five stars.  Then I read some reviews and was surprised to see so many negative ones.  The biggest complaint was its comparison to “Gone Girl” with reviewers saying it either didn’t live up to expectations or that they didn’t like either one since the characters in both  were unlikable dysfunctional idiots.

Well, it was full of those, but I liked it anyway.  The story is told in bits and pieces by three women.  Rachel is an alcoholic who has blackouts and often a less than firm grasp of reality.  She has lost her home, her husband and her job and spends most of her time feeling bad about her situation, telling lies and making excuses and riding on the train.  She wallows and is unable (or unwilling) to change.

Anna (married to Tom, Rachel’s ex) lives in Rachel’s old house with Tom and their new baby.  She is exasperated by Rachel’s inability to let Tom go, her drunken phone calls at all hours and her lurking about, and she fears for the safety of her child.

Megan lives a few doors away with her husband, does not have the idyllic life that Rachel imagines as she observes the couple each day from the train, and has her own set of issues and secrets to deal with. For a short time she helps Anna out when the baby is small.  And gets herself up to even more shenanigans, but we don’t learn about that until later.

When Megan disappears, everyone left is a suspect, including Megan’s therapist who was seen by Rachel (from the train)  kissing Megan on her deck the morning of the day she went missing.

I can’t count how many times I sighed and thought OMG Rachel, what kind of asinine thing are you going to do next?  But hey, it kept me interested and reading right up to the end.  There’s a real art to giving out just enough information to get readers headed in a certain direction and then having them find out some new thing that changes their minds.

I stand by my four stars.  Even if you figure out the mystery well before the end, it’s still an enjoyable journey getting there.

The Little Red Hen

Another story from the 1920’s grade 2 Primer, written in cursive, so for that alone a true relic from the past.  I know that we had access when we were kids to these readers saved from my mothers childhood and although I don’t know who was responsible for all the underlining, I will plead guilty to the colouring.  That red hen was not red enough for me.

My grandmother was an avid reader, but I never saw her read a book without a pencil or a pen in her hand, underlining what seemed to me to be completely random words and phrases.  She would have loved hi-lighters.  Mom gave me one of grandmas “doctored” books as a keepsake.  It’s full of squiggly pencil underlining from beginning to end.  Maybe she passed this habit on to one of her kids when they were learning to read.

Anyway, here’s the story, underlining, bad colouring and all.  Sorry some of it is hard to see, but the pages have been around for almost a hundred years.  We should all look as good when we’re this ancient.


Rain Stories

Rain was a popular subject for primary school children learning to read in the early 1900’s.  I am basing this assumption on these stories from the Ontario Readers Primer, authorized by THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION (that part was important enough in the book to print in all caps bold) published in 1920.


How lucky am I to possess books that are almost a hundred years old? Even if the stories are blatantly sexist.  Wimpy little girl afraid of the rain vs. bold adventurous little boy having fun.

In this case the smart males all seek shelter and the silly female goose doesn’t. Girls just can’t win.
Isn’t that delightful? The pages are well-read, faded and stained, the cover is worn and falling apart and the binding disintegrating and barely holding everything together. It’s one of the things my mother felt was worth saving, and it is one of my treasures.

A Finished Book

Look at me, all done reading a book!  And not knowing how to explain why it’s been so long since the last time I did that.

I remember reading Kate Morton’s other books…

  • The House at Riverton
  • The Secret Keeper
  • The Forgotten Garden
  • The Distant Hours

…so I didn’t think it would be a stretch to like The Lake House.  And I did like it.  I just didn’t love it.  There was way too much messing about getting to the point.  And far too many coincidences and characters and back stories and sub plots and descriptions and hopping around in time.  Just too many words.  I guess that’s why I could never write an entire novel, lacking the patience to expand everything to death without giving the ending away in the first chapter.

A child disappears and it takes seventy years to solve the mystery of what happened to him.  People with secrets!  You just want to give them a shake.  How’s that for a book review?

If the reading of this book hadn’t started well before Christmas and proceeded in fits and starts up until this afternoon I suppose I might have found it shorter.  Mostly I read in bed when I was already tired and rarely came across anything riveting enough to keep me awake.  Not even half way through I found myself no longer caring what really happened or why, but FINALLY the end arrived and it all came together in the neatest little package ever, tied with a bow.  I don’t know why that felt trite and disappointing, but it did.  Just too darned neat and tidy and resolved.

Anyway, it’s a story and it’s been told.  If you like Kate Morton you will enjoy this.  But I don’t think you will be blown away.

Stretching It All Out

What can I say, right now, with certainty?  “It is time to get up off the couch and do something about these atrophying muscles before I am unable to get up off the couch at all.”  I am quoting that annoying little voice in my head.  Some days it makes a lot of sense. aging backwardsThis morning I came across this interesting looking book in an e-mail from Amazon.  They are always sending me suggestions on how to spend my money.  And although normally I am very boring and predictable, sometimes I do things that are spontaneous and insane, like spending almost eighteen Canadian dollars on a book and an author I’ve never heard of before. I blame my ignorance on rarely watching television.  And a few other things that I don’t feel like getting in to here.

But who is there among us who would not like to be 10 years younger and 10 years lighter?  Excepting of course 40 pound ten-year olds.  But what really sold me was this phrase.. gentle, scientifically designed workouts based on Classical Stretch and Essentrics…

I don’t believe the aging process has any hope in hell of ever being reversible, but staying as fit as possible, for as long as I can, definitely appeals to me.  As does not doing anything strenuous which might cause me to break out in a sweat. So I downloaded the book, had a shower, fixed my hair and put on a bit of make up, just in case anyone drops by, so that they will not sadly shake their heads at me and wonder why I am letting myself go, now that I don’t go to work anymore.  No one has actually done that yet, but I like to be prepared, because you never know.

Normally I would not do any of these self grooming things before getting some exercise (whatever that even means anymore, it’s been so long).  Then I started to read.  And I read and read and read, eventually skipping through a bunch of pages and then going back to the table of contents to see if we were EVER going to get to the part where we’re told what to do to scientifically stretch our damned muscles.  There was really no need to sell me on the WHY of all this.  Let’s just do it, for the love of essentrics.

Okay!  I did 9 ceiling reaches, which is a little over half of the recommended dosage.  The process involves much stretching, as promised, and a lot of breathing.  Both good for you.  I went on to the Hamstring Stretches and discovered I could actually do them, even though the pictures had made me extremely skeptical.  Then there’s a bunch more leg stretches and pretzel positions, much like I remember getting entirely frustrated about when I tried yoga a hundred years ago. You are supposed to stop if you experience pain.  Excellent rule.

The Open Chest Swan Sequence for Posture is my favourite, so far.  Except I had to keep getting out of the various positions to tap the kindle to turn the pages.  There are nine steps involved.  The whole procedure is supposed to take about 30 seconds to get through.  HAHA!  By this time my 30 minutes was up.  How the hell did that happen?  And my arms felt like lead weights were attached to them.  So I quickly went through some lunges, noting that I was making almost all of the common mistakes so helpfully noted and illustrated.  Then I did a few side leg lifts, just to see if was possible.

She lost me at the modified sit ups.  I’m saving those for tomorrow.  Or whenever I happen to get to them within the allotted 30 minute time frame.  I’m excited about the zombie position and spine rotation and plies.  There are also Squash Lunges and Barre Footwork things and frankly I don’t know what else yet.  No wonder she put all this at the back of the book to give us lots of time to think about it.

Anyway, it all looks awesome!  And like being double jointed is not a requirement!  I feel like I stretched a few muscles that I didn’t even know I had.  I don’t think the eighth of January is too late to spontaneously come up with a sort of resolution.  I would really like to keep this up. I felt virtuous and proud and down right energized making my ridiculously healthy smoothie after I was done.  There are also pain relief exercises and things to do for balance and mobility.

Looks like a good book!  And like it or not, I will try to keep you posted with my newly young stretched out fingers and admirable computer desk posture.  Hey, those are good goals too. image

On Being Human


The Humans, by Matt Haig is a book I downloaded because oregana at As I See It  posted a lovely review.  That’s really all you need to read to be enticed, but I was never one for failing to add my two cents worth, so that’s what this is.

What a delightful summation of human life from an aliens point of view.  Well, sometimes not so delightful, since the blunt truth can give us a jolt.

I know these are long quotes, but seriously, I had to stop myself from quoting the entire book.  That’s how good it is.

“Humans were always doing things they didn’t like doing.  In fact, to my best estimate, at any one time only point three per cent of humans were actively doing something they liked doing, and even when they did so, they felt an intense amount of guilt about it and were fervently promising themselves they’d be back doing something horrendously unpleasant very shortly.”

“….they are born, they make some friends, eat a few meals, they get married, or they don’t get married, have a child or two, or not, drink a few thousand glasses of wine, have sexual intercourse a few times, discover a lump somewhere, feel a bit of regret, wonder where all the time went, know they should have done it differently, realise they would have done it the same, and then they die.  Into the great black nothing.  Out of space.  Out of time.  The most trivial of trivial zeroes.  And that’s it, the full caboodle.  All confined to the same mediocre planet.  But at ground level the humans don’t appear to spend their entire lives in a catatonic state.  No.  They do other things.  Things like: washing, listening, gardening, eating, driving, working, yearning, earning, sighing, reading, gaming, sunbathing, complaining, jogging, quibbling, caring, mingling, fantasizing, googling, parenting, renovating, loving, dancing, fucking, regretting, failing, striving, hoping, sleeping.  Oh, and sport.”

“Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode.

Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass.”   ― Matt Haig, The Humans

It’s another one of those books that made me laugh out loud on one page and shed tears on the next.  Can’t give it any higher praise than that.

The Cats Pajamas

cats pajamas

“We carry our ancestors in our names and sometimes we carry our ancestors through the sliding doors of emergency rooms and either way they are heavy, man, either way we can’t escape.”

“Her father is fastened to his room, with his records and his drugs and his quiet. She crawls under her covers. It is her fault for triggering one of his spells. Normally she can tightrope through his moods. At least it had been brief. Most girls do not have to deal with a father like hers. They would be afraid of the way she lives, lawless in a roachy apartment. They would be scared of his fits. Madeleine would be scared too, she thinks, falling asleep. If she had only experienced finished basements and dads who acted like dads. But Madeleine loves her father, and how can you be scared of someone you love?”

Marie-Helene Bertino, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas 

There is no picture on the cover of this book so I drew my own damn picture.

There is no picture on the cover of this book so I drew my own damned picture.

I don’t know why I included the word “damned”  in that caption.  Maybe because convalescing is dull and I think profanity will jazz up the experience.

Anyway, speaking of profanity and jazz, here’s the blurb about this book from Amazon:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, precocious nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer. As she mourns the recent death of her mother, she doesn’t realize that on Christmas Eve Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

I was a bit in love with Madeleine from the first page.  And crazy about her by the last one.  Sometimes the quirky prose in this novel reads like poetry.  It’s a good story, written from several different perspectives, over a time span of just 19 hours.  You’d be surprised at how much can happen to so many people in such a short time.

It’s a book made to be read in one sitting I think, and I might have done that if I hadn’t been so doped up on pain pills and falling asleep so much.  Today I haven’t taken anything, so I guess I can’t blame my sketch on mind altering drugs. This is how my brain sees a bar in the middle of the night.  What can I say.

I hope Marie-Helene Bertino writes another book soon.  I’ll illustrate it for her if she asks.  Huh.  Maybe the drugs aren’t completely out of my system.  But I’m very clear-headed when I say it’s the mark of a great author when she leaves you wanting more.