"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Reads Set Outside of the US

Today's topic at The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list our favourite books that take place outside of the United States. When I looked through my recent reads, I found that the majority were not set in the US, probably because I read a lot of classical British lit as well as Canadian literature, but it's an interesting topic anyway. I limited myself further by looking only at the last two years of my reading, and also not using classics (since most of the ones I like are set in the UK) and nothing set in a fantasy realm or other planets.

1. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. Setting: Russia (St. Petersburg, Siberia, Chechnya). I just finished this recently and it's probably my favourite book of the year. It is a series of connected short stories that made me think and laugh and gasp at the beautiful language.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafรณn. Setting: Barcelona, Spain. A mysterious page-turner with intriguing characters and also beautifully written (though I'm sure it's even better in the original Spanish).

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Setting: Nazi Germany. The moving story of a young girl taken in by a foster family in the 1930s who discovers a love for books and also befriends the Jewish man who is later hidden in their basement.

4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Setting: Wartime Britain and France. It's hard to fully describe this story of an unlikely friendship without giving away too many details. Suffice it say that I was blown away by the intricacies and the way it all worked together in the end. 

5. The Passion by Jeannette Winterson. Setting: Venice, France, and the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. It's hard to describe this short book with it's intriguing characters and fantastical elements, but I couldn't put it down.

6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Setting: Occupied Poland, Germany, Lithuania, and the Baltic Sea. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its four complex narrators telling the story of the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II. (Hmmm, I guess I'm reading a lot of books set in WWII recently!)

7. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Setting: England. Okay, so this is set in an alternate UK where magic is real, but it's a wonderful and gripping novel about a power struggle between two magicians and how the magic returned to England. 

8. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis. Setting Ukraine and Israel. An Israeli politician sneaks off with his girlfriend to his birthplace of Crimea to escape a political scandal. There are so many levels in this novel. I loved it.

9. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. Setting Huron lands in what is today Ontario, Canada. This is a gripping novel about the interactions between the Huron, the Iroquois, and the French in the early years of colonization. 

10. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Setting: Wartime Malaya and Australia. I didn't love this book as there were elements that I found annoying, but I enjoyed learning about post-WWII Australia and the description of wartime Malaya was fascinating and heartbreaking.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Three Years

This week marks two things: It makes seven years since my first date with Gil, which was in 2009. It also marks three years since we started trying to have a child.

Celebrating one year of dating, in 2010. I look so young!
Three years is a long time. If you're in my shoes, and you're involved in infertility communities, you might be tempted to think that it's not so long when faced with others who had longer journeys, but one thing I'm learning is that it's okay to feel like my three years have been an eternity. Three years is enough to get a Bachelor's degree without Honours, or even with Honours if you do a lot of extra grunt work. It's 75% of the way through high school in Ontario and also 75% of the term of an American president. It's apparently the life cycle of an iPhone, according to Apple, unless you're someone like my dad who always needs the newest model. It's the length of time audiences had to wait between episodes of the Star Wars franchise, both the original trilogy and the much lamented set of prequels. It's 36 months - and if you're infertile you probably felt the passage of each month with a heart growing heavier each time. It's 156 weeks or 1095 days, which makes approximately four full-term pregnancies back to back. You certainly feel that the most when you're infertile, because you probably have friends who have had more than one child while you've been waiting.

My friends with young children frequently say things like, "I can't believe he'll be 2/3/4! The years fly by so fast." On the contrary, I feel like the years have crawled by in my childless life as I've watched infertility mark every aspect of my life with sorrow. For the past 2.5 years, ever since we were officially labelled as infertile, there has rarely been a day that didn't hurt. There are no mornings when I wake up and don't remember how much I want to be a mother. I never see a pregnant belly without feeling a tiny bit sad. Someone told me recently that she is afraid to ask her infertile friends about their issues because she does not want to reopen a wound. I told her that what she's missing is that for us in the journey, our wounds never close. I feel like the walking wounded, and every moment that I'm smiling or laughing or going about daily life, it's because I've learned to live with the constant ache. I've learned that most people - even the ones that say they care - do not want to hear that you are wounded. They want you to pretend it doesn't hurt. Trust me, time does not fly by when you are always nursing an open wound.

I want to end this on something positive. I'm sure that I've grown in some positive ways in these past few years. I hope so, anyway. I've obviously gone back to school and traveled and made new friends. When I look at these years, though, I grieve. I'm sad that half of my marriage has been marred by infertility, that we cannot remember any more what it's like to believe we'll be parents. I grieve the relationships I had with friends back when I was sunny and emotionally able to support others, back before I greeted each morning with tears. I grieve the big family that I was going to have, because even if we do conceive, we certainly do not have the time to try again several times. I weep for the moments that I imagined and may never experience: The first time I would feel my baby kicking; the look in my husband's eyes when we would find out we were expecting; the joy of seeing my baby on the ultrasound screen. I grieve the self that I feel like I've lost. My pastor recently said that we rarely see God's hand in the present. It's when we look at the past that we are aware of where He's been working. I hope that one day, I will look back on these three years and see the sparks of light that I missed, because most days things still look very dark.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Good Books With Few Reviews

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic looks at books that we enjoyed that have under 2000 ratings on Goodreads. This was actually kind of neat to look at. I didn't even realize that I could arrange my Goodreads lists by number of ratings. Some of the books on the list were random finds that perhaps aren't that well known. Other cases really surprised me.

1. The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: Granted, this book only came out a few months ago and it's a book about names and not a paranormal romance, but I was surprised that it only has 50 ratings. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

2. A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin: This was a random library find. I guess it's not that well known. It is a memoir about the author's experience emigrating from the USSR to the United States.

3. When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman: I read this years ago after picking it up on a whim at the Ottawa public library. I found it to be a fantastic and gripping history book.

4. Tor! The Story of German Football by Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger: Perhaps German soccer enthusiasts have yet to flock to Goodreads. :)

5. Black Man In a White Coat by Damon Tweedy: I read this last year and keep referring back to it as I found it fascinating and I learned a lot about the American medical system and the socioeconomic issues facing African Americans.

6. The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis: What?! How does this book have so few ratings? Bezmozgis is quite involved in the Canadian literature scene and this book was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, so I can only guess that his main demographic is not that into Goodreads.

7. The Free World by David Bezmozgis: Again, I find this really weird. This is Bezmozgis's first novel about a family who has left the Soviet Union and are in immigration limbo in Italy.

8. The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West: I just read this about a month ago. It's somewhat of a modern class, but apparently not a lot of people have read it, or at least rated it! It tells the story of a young American widow who moves to Paris, and her romantic life from thereon.

9. Cape Town by Brenda Hammond: A Young Adult novel about a young Afrikaner ballet dancer whose horizons are broadened when she moves to Cape Town towards the end of the Apartheid era. I really enjoyed this book.

10. Eden by Yael Hedaya: This was another random library find, which I found to be a deep and interesting story of the overlapping experiences of a group of people in modern Israel.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite 2016 Releases Thus Far

I almost skipped this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, because I don't have much of a list. We're posting about our favourite 2016 releases, and I've only read three books that were released this year, so that's not much of a list, but in the interest of keeping connected, here goes.

1. The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: I am a secret name nerd. I love names. I can spend half an hour deeply contemplating what I would name 10 children, even though it's looking less and less like I'll even have one, let alone ten. This book was all about names, and as a bonus, the author is around my age and grew up in Toronto, so I felt a kinship with her.

2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: I was really stoked to read this book, and I wasn't disappointed. The book deals with a group of refugees during World War II, and the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was a massive sailing disaster that almost no one has ever heard of. I found the frequent switch of perspectives a bit difficult at first, but overall really enjoyed the book and blew through it quickly because I couldn't put it down.

3. Quantum Night by Robart J. Sawyer: This book was pretty meh for me. My dad introduced me to Sawyer years ago, and we have continued to read his books because he has some interesting concepts and he is a local author, but this book fell flat with me. I had trouble liking the characters and the premise seemed too far-fetched for me to get into it.

Well, that's all I've got for 2016 releases, but I'd love to hear some of your picks for best reads from this year!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

For the Love of Sadie

This past week was bittersweet. There were some ups: I graduated from my Master's program on Thursday and got to celebrate with friends and family, but a day before, my sweet cat Sadie passed away.

Sadie was my roommate's cat. I moved in with Dana in early 2006. She had a cat, and I had a cat. Somehow, when she left, I had both kitties "temporarily". That was nine years ago!

Sadie and Scout

She was a quirky little feline. She had the most delicate bones and features of any cat I've had. She was extremely skittish and afraid of men. When I started dating Gil, she would hide every time he came by. He didn't believe that I actually had two cats. She gradually got curious, and would sneakily try to check him out. In my old condo, the kitchen and living room were at street level, while the bedrooms were downstairs. We would be sitting on the couch talking or watching TV, and she would stand on the stairs and poke her little head up like a periscope, scoping out the situation but able to run away at the first sight of danger. The only male that she never seemed wary of was my mom's partner Brian. Somehow she loved him from the get-go.

Sadie taught me things about myself, and about love. She had a weird habit of sticking her butt in your face if you were patting her. This made it difficult to cuddle with her and have anything in your hands. I remember one time, she was walking all over me and sticking her bum in the air, and I blurted out, "Why don't you just let me love you?!" It made me think about how easy it is to love those who do what we want them to do, but the nature of real love is selfless, loving others even when we don't understand them or their motivations or they drive us crazy. I'm so blessed to be loved by people even when I am not always the most lovable.

Hiding in a box, as one does

Some people might say that she was only a cat, and I guess that's true. In the past few years, however, she was just what I needed. Sure, she didn't speak or understand my situation. But because she didn't speak, she couldn't say things like, "Sure you're infertile, but at least you get to sleep in on weekends" or "Don't you know that parenting is hard?" She didn't understand, so when I was weeping about my infertility and she walked away, I knew it wasn't personal and she wasn't choosing not to care. She never made me feel like I couldn't be sad over my infertility unless I'd exhausted every single option, or like I had to justify my infertility decisions before I could get any sympathy. Unlike people, she never snubbed me or ignored my pain any more than a cat does naturally. Unlike people, she loved me for who I was. She didn't say anything, but her presence was more than enough. So she was just a cat, but sometimes that made her the best friend I could have had in this messy, ugly, lonely ride through infertility. She was just a cat, but she was my cat, and I will miss her terribly.

I love you, Sadie Lady.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated 2016 Releases

Today's topic at The Broke and the Bookish is anticipated new releases for the second half of the year. I don't typically follow a lot of release schedules, unless it's an author that I love or a series that I'm really into, so I had to do some digging to find enough for a list.

1. Saga, Volume 6 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples: I love this series!

2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany: I was a bit on the fence about this, but let's face it, I won't be able to help myself.

3. Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson: I'm so into this series after reading the first book last fall.

4. Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer: I enjoyed Everything Is Illuminated, but never read his second release; however, I found this on a list of releases for the year, and a very intrigued.

5. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett: Sounds intriguing.

6. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty: Somehow, I missed out on Big Little Lies, but I've read a couple of her books and really enjoyed them, so I'll definitely check out her newest book.

7. Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English: A true story that looks completely fascinating.

8. Bolshoi Confidential by Simon Morrison: The Russophile in me is doing scissor kicks about this release! It comes out in October, so I'm crossing my fingers for a book store gift card for my September birthday to buy this book.

That's all I could come up with! What books are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads

Hey friends. I'm awful at posting lately. I'm sorry. I've been pretty low and still am, but today's Top Ten Tuesday topic evokes sunny, lazy days, so hopefully it will be a pick-me-up. We're talking about beach books today.  I tend to read whatever I am already in the middle of on my infrequent trips to the beach, but I guess I'd say my ideal criteria for beach books are that it's not too heavy and a fast read, and something that you can put down and pick up a lot without losing the plot. I've covered this topic before, so this time I limited it to books that I've read in the last year that I'd consider good 'beach reads':

1. The Diviners by Libba Bray: This one's pretty long, but it moves quickly and I loved it. It's also a little scary, so nice to read at the beach so you won't get too afraid!

2. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert: Covers some heavier topics, but a good beach read because when  you're reading about Hawaii, you want to be enjoying some warm sun and cool waves.

3. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: Fun, romantic, and hilarious. The ideal vacation book.

4. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Also funny and light-hearted. I devoured this in a couple of days.

5. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: A western with a paranormal edge. Quick and captivating. Also note: The second book is due out in 3 months. Squee!!

6. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: This wasn't my favourite of Rowell's books. I had some issues with it; however, I did read the whole thing in three days and it would be a great vacation read because there are wizards and romance.

7-8. To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: So cute. I fell in love with these books and was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed them.

9. This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki: A graphic novel about two kids at the cottage. What can be more beach-y than that?

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A fast-moving, suspenseful read that keeps you wondering.