A Woman on a Boat

She stood at the ship’s railing and looked out at the open sea.

Wisps of brunette hair had escaped from the chignon under her hat and drifted lazily in the breeze.  Her grey wool suit was well tailored and cinched at the waist with a thin belt, the skirt fell to mid-calf with a kick pleat in the back.  She wore black pumps with a sturdy heel on her feet and silk stockings with a dead straight seam.    Her clutch, which matched her shoes and belt, was clasped firmly under her arm and she wore grey kid gloves on her hands.  A red and white polka dot scarf tied around her throat finished it all off and was the only splash of colour in an otherwise sombre outfit.

Woman on a Boat

It was quiet, the only sound that of the ship’s hull slicing through the waves.  The sun slowly dipped below the horizon turning the sky pink and purple and as I stood there watching her, I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was.

I looked down at what I was wearing and felt frumpy beside her.  My black leggings and oversize shirt with a stain on the collar where not the height of fashion; I had simply put on the first thing I could lay my hands on that morning.  This woman’s outfit was no mere coincidence, a happenstance of fate; no that outfit had been planned with care. I wondered again what her story was.

Was she waiting for someone?  I didn’t think so, she looked too sad.  Well, I couldn’t see her face, but her posture made me believe she was unhappy.  There was an air of loneliness about her as if she were saying good bye to someone she loved.

I wondered where she came from; where she was going.  The journey was a long one, as there was no land in sight; just the unending expanse of the ocean.  Was she leaving a lover behind?

I imagined her smiling, sunglasses on and a broad brimmed sunhat on her head as she held on to a tanned man piloting their Vespa around the sun drenched streets of Tuscany.  A summer holiday in Italy, a summer romance.  A beautiful Italian man with sun kissed skin and toned muscles.  Halting English and a delicious accent, declarations of love in the language of romance.  Stolen kisses and tender looks, the accidental brushing of hands as they walked along cobbled streets in the twilight.  I imagined them picnicking among the grapevines of a picturesque vineyard and sharing an evening meal in a secluded corner of a restaurant.  Long looks over candlelight as they sipped dark red wine and picked at the olives and cheese between them.

Or maybe it had been a Frenchman in Paris.  Him showing her the sights, bribing a guard so they could visit the Louvre after closing.  I see them lying on great white beach towels soaking up the sun as the waves gently lap the shoreline in the South of France and walking the streets of Paris, arm in arm.  She is wearing a white halter neck dress with red polka dots, red lipstick, her hair flowing free and a large straw hat to protect her delicate skin.  They share croissants and coffee in a corner café, he feeds her plump red strawberries dipped in chocolate.  As she takes a bite, the juice runs down her chin and he wipes it away with a crisp white napkin.

Perhaps she is not saying good bye to someone, but rather looking for them.  A husband, a lover gone away in a desperate attempt to realise a dream or seek their fortune.  She has had no contact for far too long and is worried about his fate.  She sets off with the determination to find him, to tell him she loves him, to help him make his dreams come true.  To tell him that he is enough.

Then again, it could be she that has set off in search of her dreams.  Travelling alone to an unknown country, spending the last of her savings and forsaking all for a brighter future.  She is strong and capable and is bigger than the box they put her in so she is striking out, breaking through and stamping her independence on the world.  She is determined and she has a well-defined sense of who she is, where she wants to go and what she wants to achieve.  The hardships that she faces are mere obstacles to be overcome, they will not stop her, they will not hold her back.  She is on the voyage of a lifetime and determined to prove everyone wrong.  She will succeed; she will be triumphant.

“’scuse me maám,”a voice says as I am jostled out of my reverie.

Looking around I see the humdrum hustle and bustle of the shopping centre and my life snaps back into focus.  I look at the woman standing at the railing.  The canvas is life-size and captivating.  The pose of the woman, the atmosphere of the background, it is a beautiful piece of art.  I squint through the glass at the price.

Alas, she will not be coming home with me.


Outside of a dog…

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read – Groucho Marx

I am always a little disappointed when I read the final sentence of a book.  I always want to know what happens next! I want the story beyond the happily ever-after, which is probably why I read so many series.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a little obsessed with books.  I am happy, even a little proud, to admit that I am a prolific reader.  I currently have over five hundred physical books in my library and nearly seventy iBooks.  I will say that I haven’t read all of them, but the ones I haven’t read could be counted with my fingers and toes.

I am a discerning reader…there are some things I just refuse to read and other things that I have no interest in.  I have a very defined sense of why I read and I am protective of it.  My reading time is my escape time, it is my safe place, my recharge time and my de-stress space and I don’t allow just anything into it.  I refuse to read 50 Shades of anything, I am adverse to soppy Mills & Boon type books (although I do admit to reading them in the past) and I am not a fan of autobiographies and non-fiction material.  I also don’t read horror, but that’s more because I am a scaredy cat rather than because of my literary snobbery.  I will also confess to an avoidance of vampiric sagas although not of the entire Young Adult fiction genre, and I do try to read the classics, but sometimes the writing styles and language make it more of a chore than an enjoyment.  I read for fun, not to be “well-read”.

So you may be wondering why, after having read so many books, that I haven’t tried my hand a reviewing them.  I have Grade 7 English to blame for that.  I was required to write and then give an oral book review and the experience left me quite scarred.  In the interest of being thorough, I over did it and bored everyone to tears – and gave away the plot.  Consequently, I have been reluctant to repeat the performance…until now.

The catalyst of my change of heart was a bad review I read of a book I enjoyed.  The review was quite scathing and it made me realise that not everyone has as well a developed understanding of why they read as I have.  I know that not every book I read is going to be a masterpiece and I am ok with that.  There are times when I want to read something I can really get my teeth into and then other times when I just want to read fluff.  With that understanding it lets me (and the author) off the hook and I can enjoy a book for what it is – my escape.

So you are probably dying to know what book I am talking about.  Firstly, let me set the scene…I had just finished reading the entire ‘Wheel of Time‘ series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson).  It took me a good four months to complete the series…this is a long time for me as I have been known to read a couple of books per week.  To be fair, there are fifteen books, nearly 12,000 pages and over four million words in the series.  Needless to say, by the end of it I had a severe book hang-over.

Not being one to be without a book for long, I immediately read a book that was given to me for my birthday.  This wasn’t a book or an author I would normally read, but I gave it a go and actually enjoyed it.  It was Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts if you wanted to know.

Anyway, after finishing that, I was still suffering from the after-effects of WoT and couldn’t face another epic so early, so I went looking for something else to read and came across ‘The Heist‘ by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg.  I know and like Evanovich’s style and have read almost all of her books (the Stephanie Plum books being a favourite) and knew that this book would be perfect for me and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  After reading it, I went online to Goodreads to read what other people had thought about it.  Mostly the reviews were good with a few not so good ones, but one bad review stuck out to me.  The reviewer complained about one dimensional characters and bad plot development.  They also drew comparisons to TV shows and likened it to a bad screenplay.  It made me wonder if we had read the same book.

Here’s the thing…I knew what I was in for when I picked up the book.  I have read Evanovich before and I know the way she writes.  Going in to this book, I knew what to expect.  This is not a deep, thoughtful, realistic book.  This book is light, casual and definitely unrealistic.  This is the first book in a series, it is only 300 pages long, you are not going to get full character development with this. But because I knew this going in AND I knew why I was reading this book, I was able to dismiss all of that and just enjoy the story…and I did enjoy the story.

Kate O’Hare is an FBI Agent who has spent the last five years on the trail of con-artist Nicholas Fox. Ex-Navy Seal (there is a disclaimer about this at the beginning of the book explaining that, yes, the authors know there are no female navy seals, and no, they don’t care), Kate is well disciplined and fiercely dedicated to seeing justice prevail.

When she finally catches him, her very precise world is tipped on it’s ear and she is forced to question her own belief system when her superiors do a deal that leads to her working alongside the one man she has dedicated the last five years to putting behind bars.

This was a fun book to read. It is not a masterpiece, the background characters are a little interchangeable and the plot is a bit unrealistic, but it is funny and an enjoyable read.

Kate is likeable and I could identify with her ‘all work and no play’ lifestyle (being a busy career woman myself).  I liked her easy relationships with her sister and her protective but not overbearing father.  Nicholas is a charming rogue with a sharp mind and I couldn’t help but like him and wonder if there was a way he could be brought onto the straight and narrow and leave his life of crime behind. The plot kept me entertained and the supporting cast helped bring it altogether.  There is plenty of scope to further develop these characters in the forthcoming books.  Like the reviewer said, it did remind me of a screenplay, but my thoughts were more along the lines of, “Ooh, this would make a great TV series”.  All in all, I look forward to the next installment and to seeing where this strange partnership goes.

If you are looking for a book that is light-hearted, comedic and intriguing with slight romantic overtones and a promise of more to come, then you, like me, will enjoy The Heist.  If you are looking for something with a bit more tooth, then give it a miss, or better yet, save it for when you need something lighter.

The Heist (O'Hare and Fox #1)