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

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Resolutions for 2015

It's almost 2015! Go figure. I want to say that this year has flown by, but I feel like it has actually crawled by at a snail's pace. Anyway, it's not been the greatest of years, and I'm not actually that confident that we have a better one coming, but I can hope, right? On that note, The Broke and the Bookish link-up today is talking about resolutions, bookish and non-bookish.

I don't really do resolutions any more. I've only wanted one thing for the past two years, and that hasn't come to pass, so it seems silly to think that accomplishing anything smaller will actually mean much. On the other hand, I do like to think about the kind of person I want to be in the new year, so here are some resolutions.

Reading-related:
1. Read more non-fiction. I didn't do too badly this year with about 10 non-fiction books read, but I was better in 2013, and I'd like to keep that up.
2. Keep reading. When school piles up, it's easy to get bogged down and not read for pleasure any more, but reading is one of the few pleasures that I can still enjoy unfettered.
3. Do all my school readings. Hahahaha. Not really likely that I'll accomplish this, but a girl can dream, right?
4. Write more, and definitely blog more. I did great at this until school started...

Work-related:
5. Be a nicer boss. School and personal stress made me a bit of a grouchy person last year. I would really like to ensure I keep good relationships with my employees.
6. Start working on my resume and maybe Linked In profile to get ready to apply for jobs when I graduate.

Spiritually-related:
7. Pray more. Like lots more.
8. Do my Bible study homework daily instead of on the night before study. This happens way too often...
9. Find better channels for my frustration. It's unlikely that my issues will vanish, and I could do a better job at managing my angst. It could be exercise or prayer (see above) or whatever, but I need to work on that.

Seems unlikely-to-actually-happen:
10. Have a baby. And while I'm at it, I might as well lose 25 pounds and negotiate peace in the Middle East, but it could happen, right? ;)


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Infertility Chat: The Trouble with Miracle Stories

As an infertile woman, I've heard my share of weird comments meant to be encouraging. And I get that it's hard to know what to say. I really do. There are some responses, however, that I find really difficult, so I'm addressing one of them right now: The miracle story.

If you've been dealing with infertility for a while, and even if you haven't, you've probably encountered this. You share your struggle, how hard has been for you, the ups and downs. The person responds with something like, "You know, my cousin's best friend was infertile. They tried for years and the doctors told them there was nothing more they could do, so they gave up. Then after eight years, they got pregnant and have a beautiful daughter. That could be you!"

Sounds encouraging right? Why wouldn't this help you in your dark time? Am I just over-sensitive for hating this kind of response?  Let's break it down.

Firstly, we have no idea what was wrong in this case. Years ago, my pastor was diagnosed with cancer, and I remember his wife saying once, "I get so tired of the cancer stories. Everyone has a cancer story to share." The reason behind her frustration was that every cancer is different. Every person's experience is different. It's not really encouraging to hear about so-and-so's great aunt's recovery from breast cancer when your loved one has bladder cancer. They aren't the same thing at all. There are so many differing variables. Telling me that someone who had unspecified fertility problems was able to conceive is not helpful if we don't have the same diagnosis.

Sarah and Abraham:* Just because they had a miracle child doesn't mean I will...


Secondly, and this probably sounds both selfish and superstitious, there are only so many miracle stories. A few people do experience amazing conceptions long after they'd given up hope, but most couples don't. Impossible conception stories are the exception rather than the rule. I think you get to a point where you hear about someone else's miracle makes you irrationally think that there is one less miracle open to you. Yes, it makes no sense, but if infertility does one thing, it is to make you crazy.

Thirdly, and this is the most important point, you have to listen to the words in that story. Read "eight years", "nothing more they could do" and "they gave up" again and again. If you haven't been through infertility, you might breeze past those phrases. I myself have told these kinds of stories in the past as a testament to the fact that miracles exist, but I don't do it any more. When you have been in the throes of fertility treatments and had to confront the question of how far to go, you cannot hear "they gave up" without understanding the tremendous grief that it takes to get to that point. To give up on your dream of being a parent is a heartbreaking tragedy. Yes, it's amazing if you eventually conceive later on, but don't ever breeze over the part that the journey must have been agonizing. If this is my story, I will of course rejoice in a miracle pregnancy, but I can't read it now without feeling deep sorrow for the couple that had to go through the terrible grief of abandoning all hope. Even if they eventually had their miracle baby, I can't imagine they will ever lose the wounds of that time of their life.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there is no place for these stories. I'm not saying that I'm not at times encouraged when couples who have been trying a long time get to hold their baby in their arms. And of course, I'm one person and I don't represent ALL people dealing with infertility. What I am saying, though, is to use those stories sparingly, and to think about how they may be received before throwing them out in conversation. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The best thing to say to your infertile friend is "I'm sorry you're going through this, and I'll be there for you any time."

Infertility humour*

PS I'm linking up this week with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. So excited to get connected to others in this fight.

*Source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/82472236899285630/


*Image found at: https://dailybibleguide.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/isaiah-511-8/ 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Soooo... Christmas

It's Christmas again! How did this even happen? It feels like this year has both sped by and dragged along at a snail's pace.

As noted on multiple occasions, this year and especially the last month or so have not been good ones. I find myself having a hard time feeling Christmas-y at all this time. It's a struggle. Christmas is so closely associated with family and children, so my own personal sense of grief is magnified by a large factor.

But of course, it's Christmas. It's a season of hope and expectation and joy. It's a season when we are reminded that God loves us. And I am trying, bit by bit, day by day, failing yet getting up again, to find that hope and joy and even expectation that He will do something good in my life. Maybe it won't be the good I am asking for, but something good.

Merry Christmas to you and yours. May you find that joy.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Reads of 2014

With school finally done, I can actually get back to my link-ups. Today at The Broke and the Bookish, we're talking about the best books we've read this year. So.... 2014 sucked. There's no way around it. This year just sucked.  However, the bright light of this awful year is that I read a lot of great books while whittling away the hours in doctor's waiting rooms and attempting to escape reality. I haven't read quite as many books as last year, but I have read quite a few, and these ones were my favourites.

Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I can't remember where I heard about this, but it might be from a Facebook book club. Anyway, it's a very interesting look at a French girl and a young German man whose lives are somehow intertwined before and during World War II. I loved it.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok: A really fascinating look at the Jewish communities in Brooklyn in the 1940s told by the unlikely friendship of two boys.
 
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: I just love Dickens so much (well, except for Great Expectations for some reason, but I digress). David Copperfield is simply marvelous, with so many memorable and entertaining characters.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: There were aspects of this book that I found tedious, but I really appreciate it's perspective. It is the story of a young woman from Nigeria and tells about her schooling in Nigeria, move to America and experiences there, and the connection with her first love.
 
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: A time travel novel involving a modern African American woman who is accidentally brought back into the days of slavery. Fascinating and gripping.
 
The Giver by Lois Lowry: Not sure how it took me so long to read this book, but it's just fabulous and I appreciate a dystopian story that doesn't get bogged down into yet another teenage love affair. (Sorry, did I say that out loud...)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did, but I got pulled into the story of Cath, her roommate Reagan, the stilted relationship with Cath's twin sister, and their loving but absent-minded father. I fell in love.

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill: A fascinating look at a life during times of slavery that sweeps from western Africa to the American South to Canada and back to Africa.

Non-fiction
Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

It's been a heavy week. Aside from my hectic last week of school, which involved a flurry of exams and papers, I lost someone dear to me. One of my oldest and closest friends J lost her father to cancer last Saturday. Until last spring, he was a health enthusiast who did yoga and cycled regularly; we all expected him to live as long as his own father, who only passed away within the past two years. I have known Mr. C since I was three years old. He was one of the kindest men I have ever known. He welcomed everyone with open arms. He always made you laugh. He had a dozen funny nicknames for everyone, calling me Margaretta and even Margot Fonteyn (a reference that was lost on my seven-year-old self). I will miss him dearly.

The funeral for Mr. C was yesterday, a beautiful tribute to his generous spirit and the love and admiration that so many people had for him. My best friend came into town (she and I were university roommates with J) and we cried on each other's shoulders while a soloist sang Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It was a beautiful and heartbreaking day.

If I'm being honest (and why not), this year has been awful, just plain awful. It started on January 1 with the worst flu that Gil and I had had in years and it seems to have gone downhill since then. 12 months later later and we are still no closer to having a child and it feels like a constant cycle of grief: Grief for the baby we may never have, grief for the relationship that Gil and I shared before infertility took over our lives, grief for a man whose life was taken so soon.

While we were walking to church from my mother's house, we passed a long-time neighbour whose own wife lost her fight with early-onset Alzheimer's just over a year ago. Then last night, a high school friend posted on Facebook that his mother is probably in her last days. These are heavy days indeed. I knew that one day we would move into that stage of life when we have to watch our parents decline, but I had always thought that would be decades away.

As a Christian, if I'm being honest, I don't know where God is in all of this. I want to be that smiley-faced woman full of faith that His path is the right one and His timing is perfect, but the truth is that right now, His path feels rocky and arduous, and I don't know where it leads. I'm not saying that I will walk away and take a new path, just that I feel like the best I can muster right now is, in the words of Cohen, "a cold and a broken Hallelujah." I pray it is enough.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1 Corinthians 4:16-18

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter TBR List

Well, I've been pretty lousy at blogging since going back to school, but I do want to get back on the bandwagon and now that the semester is almost over, maybe I'll get my act together and write some posts in advance.  (Hahahaha, that seems unlikely.)  Anyway, I'm linking up again with The Broke and the Bookish to discuss my winter to-read list.  This was a hard one.  I've kept up with reading during the semester, but have not been reading as quickly as usual.  On top of that, because I do a lot of reading on the crowded subway, I'm having to read books that are either short or on my Kindle because I nearly took out a few people while lugging around A Discovery of Witches during rush hour.  That said, winter includes Christmas break, so hopefully I'll spend a few blissful days getting lost in massive tones.  Here's my (short) list:

1.  Alexandra Kollontai's biography by Carol Porter:  I have always been fascinated by her and am on a bit of a Russia kick at present.

2.  Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness:  But I'll have to finish this before school starts to avoid the aforementioned subway issues.

3.  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie:  Would you believe I've never read any of her books?  I grew up loving Poirot on PBS Mystery, so this should be a fun read.

4.  Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak:  A long-time desire, but this year I'll make it happen.

5.  We by Pavel Zamiatin:  Again with the Russian theme.  I started this once ten years ago, but my M.A. got in the way and I never finished.

6.  A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute.

7.  One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp:  A friend gave me this recently, and I really want to read it but I think it's one of those books that I need to read slowly with time to process, so I'm saving it for the holiday.  It's been a pretty hard year, and I need to focus more on the gifts God has given me rather on the things He has so far withheld.  Maybe this book will help.

Sadly, that's all she wrote.  I have a bunch of books that I'd like to read, but no formal list as I don't know how the winter will go in terms of busy-ness. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Please help out a friend!

I seem to blog only about two things these days: Books and infertility... but not books about infertility.  Maybe I should start that at some point.  Anyhow, I digress.

This isn't a post about my infertility, but it's related.  Today my friend Kristen made a Go Fund Me account to help raise money for infertility treatments and/or adoption.  She's an awesome lady who inspires me with her faith and sense of humour throughout this difficult and stressful process.  If you happen to have some cash on hand that you feel like being generous with, or just want to forward her link to a friend, please feel free to check out her site http://www.gofundme.com/8zujdc.

How happy I will be when she's a mom!

If you're not interested, stick around and come back Tuesday for your regularly scheduled programming. :)

ETA:  Oh, hey, this was my 200th post!  Cool beans.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Like to Re-Read

I've been on an unplanned hiatus from blogging lately as school has been super-busy, but this week's Top Ten Tuesday (as always, over at The Broke and the Bookish), was one I liked, so here goes.  We're posting on books we'd like to re-read.  I don't re-read a lot of books because there are so many new ones I'd like to read.  There are a few old favourites that I re-read somewhat regularly (as in, every few years, maybe), such as the Harry Potter series, Pride and Prejudice, and the Anne of Green Gables books, so I won't add those to my list.  Most of the ones on here are books that I read as a teenager and would like to read again from a different perspective. Here are some that I'd like to get around to one of these days:

1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2.  1984 by George Orwell

3.  The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood:  I re-read a bunch of Atwood last year, but I'd like to do some more.

4.  Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

5.  The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

6.  The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje:  I loooooved this book the first time around, but I was pretty young and I think I missed a lot.

7.  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

8.  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne:  I have strong memories of reading this when I was 14, around the time the awful Demi Moore movie came out.  For some reason, my local library only had the book in large print so I read it on the subway every day lugging this massive brick of a large-print book with me. Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot about the actual plot (besides the obvious).

....And that's all I can think of for now.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Sites Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

I've been lax in my blogging lately, but today's topic was a fun one, so I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish to discuss places that books have made me want to visit.  I just love how books can transport me to someplace new and different.  Here's my list:

Fictional
1.  Hogwarts:  I'm slightly in denial that Hogwarts isn't real, actually... :)

2.  Narnia:  Oh how marvelous it would be to stroll the halls at Cair Paravel and meet Reepicheep, and of course Aslan.

3.  Rivendell:  I'm not sure I'd want to visit all of Middle Earth, since some areas are kind of scary and the inhabitants aren't the most welcoming, but Rivendell sounds pretty amazing.  I'd probably swing by the Shire on my way.

Reality:
4.  Prague:  When I was in high school, I developed an obsession with Milan Kundera and was just dying to see Prague.  I actually did make it there in university while I was living abroad, and it was gorgeous.  Sadly, I had an atrocious migraine during one of my three days there, so while I loved Prague, I'm not sure it loved me all that much.

5.  Derbyshire:  Because Elizabeth's aunt Gardiner is certain that Derbyshire is the most beautiful county.  I love me some Pride and Prejudice.

6.  Tahiti:  I'm pretty sure most of us would be happy to visit Tahiti, but earlier this year, I read a book called All Good Things by Sarah Turnbull, which really brought the area to life and made me want to hop on the next plane to visit.

7.  Malaysia's Cameron Highlands:  I already want to see Malaysia because my in-laws are there, but The Garden of Evening Mists painted such a beautiful picture of the scenery that it made me want to see the Cameron Highlands specifically.

8.  Cornwall:  The Shell Seekers made Cornwall out to be a quaint and beautiful area, full of beaches and pretty scenery.  I'm there.

9.  Prince Edward Island:  I grew up reading the Anne of Green Gables series, and as devotees can tell by my blog name, I still love them.  I therefore spent many years wishing I could walk the lanes where Anne walked, and in 2007, I got my wish.

Me at Green Gables, 2007


10.  Monterrey:  John Steinbeck's books brought this area to life and now a visit there is on my bucket list.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2014 To-Read List

This week over at the Broke and the Bookish, we're posting lists of the top ten books on our to-be-read list for the autumn.  Mine is shorter than usual, since I'm anticipating that school will cut into my pleasure reading time, and I may even have to start doing some school readings on the bus instead of vegging out on my Kindle - Horrors!  Anyway, here's my list:  

1.  A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness:  Several people have raved about this series to me.  The only quandry that I have is I might need to read the second and third book ASAP, so I hope it doesn't cut into my study time. :) 
2.  Main Street by Sinclair Lewis:  My prof mentioned this book the other day, noting that it's about a librarian.  That was enough for me to add it to the list and download to my Kindle.

3. On the Road by Jack Kerouac:  Not sure why, but I've been curious about this book lately.  I've also been trying slowly make my way through the books on the BBC's Big Read list, and Kerouac is one that I haven't read.

4.  The Chosen by Chaim Potok:  This book has been of interest for a while, and I should be able to get it at the library.

5.  The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis:  Actually, The Betrayers comes out today!  I'm waiting to see if I get a gift certificate for my birthday before buying it, but I love Bezmozgis, so this is a must-read.

6.  The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez:  I saw a blog on this recently, and added it to my TBR.

7.  The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro:  I have had mixed feelings about Ishiguro; I loved Never Let Me Go, but hated The Unconsoled, so I'm interested to see if this one will be more to my style.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How Infertilty Has Changed Me

I actually wrote this piece in July, anticipating our one-year anniversary of trying, but have been back and forth on whether I wanted to post it or had more to say.  After an emotional day (for no real reason, just because), I've decided it should go up.  Please excuse the length.

When I was 14, I wrote a short story in which a teenage boy witnessed his female friend slowly lose her personality, while her body became weaker, only to realize that her boyfriend was an alien who was slowly sucking out her soul. (Spoiler alert: She died in the end.) I'm not sure why my Grade 9 self was so morbid, but in retrospect, it seems my story from half a lifetime ago mirrored my life to come. Truly, sometimes it feels like I've lost my personality to infertility.

Not to romanticize my former life, which had its fair share of sad and frustrated moments, but I really was a vibrant, interesting person at one time. I mean, I got to brief generals and the chief of staff to a cabinet minister at my job. One year, I traveled to Hawaii AND South Africa. I learned languages, led youth groups, and had fun and crazy girls nights with friends that involved photo scavenger hunts and corn mazes. I think it's safe to say that I was fun once. Now it feels like my whole life is ultrasounds, blood tests, and waiting for ovulation. My mood is dictated by whatever hormones are being pumped into my body this week (either naturally or through supplements), and the simplest things like seeing a cute baby in a store can set me into a day-long slump. I cry at everything. I hate this person that I have become.

Probably the worst part of the emotional fall-out is that it is so hard to share joy with others. I want so badly to rejoice at pregnancy announcements and new babies, but it is hard. I have pulled so many brave faces that sometimes I am not sure what I actually look like any more. I know, logically, that it isn't like there are only so many babies to go around, but sometimes when I see another pregnancy announcement online, it is like a physical punch to the gut of “Once again, it's not me.” As a friend once said: “You are happy for them, but sad for you.” Sometimes, though, I am so sad for me that whatever happiness is underneath, it just can't get to the surface. As much as I know this is normal, and I have heard it from infertile women of all stripes, there is no way not to feel like the world's most selfish person.

On top of the inner guilt for not rejoicing with those who rejoice, you have the imposed guilt from everyone who tries to convince you to “buck up” and “be positive” and “stop saying those negative things about yourself”. So now you feel badly for being a downer, and for making everyone else sad. If infertility is one thing, it is a series of masks that you wear to pretend you aren't a mess just so you can get through that baby shower, that work day, or even just that trip to the store, without causing an incident.

In the worst moments of infertility, you feel yourself pull away. I go through days when the thought of visiting my friends back in Ottawa is unbearable, not because I don't like them, but because I know there will be subtle glances at my stomach and hints around when we will be trying. I contemplated going to the summer women's Bible study, but wondered if I could bear being around all those women, with all those potential questions. I don't call or email friends for weeks because I don't want to be a drag, and I have nothing happy to share. All I want to do is sit on my bed watching Harry Potter movies and pretend that magic is real, that one day someone will whisk me away to a special place where I will be so much more than what I am now.

On the other hand, infertility has stretched me as a person, and taught me a lot about myself. I feel like layers have been stripped off, the veneer of “successful” and “satisfied” that I felt was over my life, and I have been forced to look at what is underneath and analyze where I came from. In the first place, I've realized how much I have taken my health for granted. It's true that I've resented my body over the past year more than ever before, but I've also realized how lucky I am that this is the first time I've had to really engage with the medical system. I have never really been sick. Sure, I had pneumonia as a toddler (which was far more traumatic for my parents than for me), and mono as an adult, but aside from flus and for few minor and stupid accidents, I have only seen doctors for an annual check-up. For 32 years I took it as a given that my body would do what it was supposed to. This is a privilege that many people don't have.

In the broader scheme of things, I have come to realize how much of my life has been easy. I was born into privilege, maybe not into riches, but into a loving, middle class home where I had everything I needed and more. I might have been shy, but was also smart and articulate. I have always lived a life in which you work hard and reap the rewards. As a Christian, I do believe in my head that we cannot expect God to gives us only good and not hardship, or that I can have all my desires granted in a sinful world, but I am only just realizing that my theology and my life expectations don't match up. There have certainly been difficult times and soul searching in the past, particularly in times of family drama, but when I look back, I realize how much I have always naively believed that things will turn out in the end. Getting pregnant is the first thing that I have really “failed” at, and the first time that I have had to confront the idea that God can be good even if our longing for a baby is never granted. It is hard, but it is a lesson I will surely need to learn at some point.

I have learned again and again that I need to take care of myself. My default has always been to keep busy, so that when troubles come, I can put them aside until tomorrow. A dozen or so infertility-related breakdowns later, I am realizing that it's okay to pull back. It's okay to quit Mandarin classes for a while because medical appointments are taking over my schedule, and something's gotta give. It's okay to show up for an hour at that baby shower, and duck out early because you are hurting. I've also learned that while sometimes the resentment against my body is high, I still need to take care of my health, to exercise and rest, because it will ultimately make me feel better.

To some extent, going through infertility has shown me how much I dislike the veneer of pleasantness that we paint over ourselves in polite conversation and social media. I am still figuring out how to navigate honesty and privacy, but I hate knowing of the many Facebook pregnancy announcements I've seen, some of them must have been following difficulties like ours, but when they go out online, it makes it look like everything has always been rosy. I hate the idealized photos and snippets of family life that make everyone who is barely getting by feel like they are failing. I want to live a life – online and in person – that is more honest, where people can feel encouraged by my story instead of feeling like they have to aspire to a lifestyle that I don't even have. I want to be more real, and to find people with whom I can be real.

I'd like to be able to say that I learned how strong I really am.... but I'm not sure that's the case. I guess I have learned that whenever I think I can't make it any longer, as TobyMac says, I “get back up again.” I know that even though I loathe to think we will still be in this game a year from now, five years from now, after getting through the past thirteen months, I know that even if it takes that long, we will still keep getting up and finding joy where we can.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Need To Read More Of

Today's Top Ten Tuesday (over at The Broke and the Bookish) is looking at authors that we've only read book, but would like to read more.  Here's my list:

1.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:  I read Americanah earlier this year after seeing it on someone's blog (though I can't remember who).  I would love to read more of her work, as I appreciate her unique viewpoint.

2.  Orson Scott Card:  I'm like the only person who hasn't read Ender's Game or really anything else by Card.  I enjoyed PastWatch (because, hello!, time travel), but would like to read more of his work.

3.  Yael Hedaya:  I saw Eden at the library and picked it up on a whim.  It was the first book I've read taking place in modern-day Israel, and I would like to read more of her work.

4.  Cathy Marie Buchanan:  The Painted Girls was great, and I appreciate her attention to detail in historical fiction.

5.  Tan Twan Eng:  Because The Garden of Evening Mists was sooooo good!

6.  Henryk Sienkiewicz:  I loved Quo Vadis, but have yet read his other books that take place in the more recent past.

7.  Audrey Niffenegger:  I don't know how I've missed reading more of her, but it might be because I loved The Time Traveler's Wife so much that I was worried that her other work would be a let down.  I'll get around to reading her again eventually.

8.  Lawrence Hill:  After The Book of Negroes (AKA Someone Knows My Name), I was so impressed that I will definite pick up his next book, Any Known Blood.
9.  Charlotte Brontë:  How is it possible that I've read Jane Eyre several times, but never picked up any of her other books?  One day soon, I promise!
10.  Louisa May Alcott:  I loved Little Women as a child, but never read the sequels.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books or Authors

I'm finally doing another Top Ten Tuesday (hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish).  Sorry it's been so long, but life just got crazy and there were a few topics on which I was a bit uninspired.  Also, sorry for posting this one day late.  Yesterday was a rush and I forgot to go on and push "Publish".  Yep, it was that kind of day.  Anyway, this week's topic is underrated books or authors from any genre.  I am honestly not great with dividing books into genres, so I'm just listing books and authors that I like, but that I find many people have never heard of:

1.  David Bezmozgis:  I found his book of short stories, Natasha and Other Stories, at the library by serendipity and enjoyed it.  I ordered his first novel, The Free World, as soon as it came out.  As a russophile and a Torontonian, there is so much in his work that I find interesting.

2.  Connie Willis:  I've posted about her books a few times before, but I can't believe she's not that well known.  For those who like time travel, she's a must-read.

3.  Octavia E. Butler:  Again, I've mentioned her before, but she's awesome, and her dystopian work is leaps and bounds over most of the dystopian fiction being published now.

4.  Elizabeth Gaskell:  North and South is similar in many ways to Pride and Prejudice, yet has nowhere near the fan base of Austen.  Maybe it's because there are too many smokestacks and not enough turns around the garden?

5.  Francisco Goldman:  When I was in high school, I had a gift certificate to spend at a big book store, and I recall spending at least an hour scouring the shelves to pick *just* the book that I would get.  For some reason, I came away with Goldman's The Long Night of White Chickens, possibly for the title alone.  I loved it and have enjoyed other work by him, but I've never met anyone who had even heard of him.

6.  Yevgeny Zamyatin:  Okay, speaking honestly, I never finished We, probably because I started in grad school when I was already having to read hundreds of pages a week, BUT it's an important novel.  Brave New World and 1984 get all the credit for the dystopian genre, and Zamyatin's influence is sadly overlooked even though he predated Huxley and Orwell. I do plan on picking it up again one of these days.

And a few underrated books:

7.  The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith:  I love this book and probably read it a dozen times as a child, but invariably people tell me they never knew the movie was based on a book.  Folks, the book is so much better.  Read it.

8.  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra:  I thought this was fabulous, but have never met anyone that has heard of it.

9.  Dracula by Bram Stoker:  Okay, not really underrated as everyone knows about it, but I've been surprised at people who say things like, "Why not just read Twilight?"  Dracula isn't just another vampire novel; it is THE vampire novel.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Big News and End-of-Summer Update

I've been neglecting my blog lately.  I'm sorry.  I can't even say that it's been too busy, because the truth is that we had a slow summer.  Honestly, there were a few Top Ten Tuesday topics that left me flat, and otherwise I've been feeling pretty blah about life in general... BUT I'm back now and want to give a few life updates.

Firstly, some BIG NEWS:  No, I'm not pregnant, but instead I'm going back to school!  The idea of being a student again has been in the back of my mind for over a year, but I finally bit the proverbial bullet and applied.  My classes start this week and I will be studying Information Science to one day be a librarian!  Everyone around here must know how much I like reading, so this seems like a perfect fit for me.  I'm a bit intimidated, since it's been close to a decade since I was in school, but from the orientation last week, I think I'm going to like it.

Fertility update (seeing as I've posted on this earlier in the year):  Nothing to say here.  As you may have gathered from some of my posts in the spring, this year has been very difficult for me, and I have no cheery news to share now.  To be brutally honest, I have never before felt so isolated and hopeless as I did these past few months, which is probably why I've had no real desire to plaster my thoughts up on the Internet.

Family update:  I have a new niece!  Eve Audrey was born last week, a little sister for Ezra.  Our family is growing a lot, seeing as my step-brother and his wife had baby Luke last March.

Husband update:  Gil is fine.  We had a quiet summer and mostly stuck close to home. Even though this year has been trying, I'm still loving life with my husband, and I couldn't have made it through the last few months without Gil (and also the World cup, but mostly Gil, haha).

Mandarin update:  Stunted.  Like I said, this summer has been sad and emotionally draining, and eventually I decided I just needed to cut things out of my life that were stressing me out.  I hope one day to resume my classes, but for now I will be busy enough with school.

Cat update:  Still cute!  Thank goodness for adorable fur babies when the going gets tough.

See, she's pretty cute!


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

I've been a bit lax lately, but I'm back and linking up again with The Broke and the Bookish to discuss the books I'm not sure I want to read.  Some of these link back to a post from last year on books that intimidate me - and I have made a point to read two of the books from that list since then - but others are just ones I'm unsure about.

1.  The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling:  Because I just love Harry so much and I've heard very mixed things about this book.

2.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy:  I'm torn because I loved Anna Karenina, but this book is just. so. long.

3.  Anything by Cassandra Clare:  She's so popular, but I'm wary that I'll end up not liking it.

4.  The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon:  Again, I hear of people that adore this, but I am snobbish about historical fiction, and again, the books are so long.

5.  A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin:  Sometimes I'm drawn to this one, but then I think about how many books I could finish in the time it will take me to get through these weighty tomes, plus I have heard the multiple perspectives are confusing.

6.  The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory:  I'm torn on this because I have a lifelong fascination with Tudor England, but I've read that this is not so accurate, so I might end up hating it in the end.

7.  Anything by Haruki Murakami:  I have seen his books on so many books-to-read-before-you-die lists, but I also hear they are a bit confusing and maybe hard to understand.  One day, I'll read one of his books.... maybe. :)

That's really all I've got.  I generally either want to read a book, or I don't.  Reading this list, you'd think I don't read a lot of long books.  It's not true at all.  I'm currently about 600 pages into a biography of Peter the Great and I love it, but I guess it's that some of the above are series of a lot of long books, and it's a big time commitment.  Maybe?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Own the Most Books From

It's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, and we're posting about the authors that we have the most books from.  I guess that should be "authors from which we own the most books", but that sounds awkward, so I'll go ahead with my possibly poor grammar.  :)  This was a fairly easy week, since it only required counting, but I had to decide whether Kindle copies counted or not.  I decided that I'd only have authors on the list if I have paper copies of their books, because often I binge-buy Kindle books, especially free ones, without reading them... but if I already had a few paper books by an author, I could throw the Kindle books into the list as well.  Without further ado:

1.  C.S. Lewis Technically, I only own three books by him, but one is all seven of the Narnia books in one volume, and another is The Signature Classics, which consists of seven non-fiction classics, so that takes Lewis to the top of the list.

2.  J.K. Rowling All seven HP books, plus Prisoner of Azkaban in German and Russian.  Yes, I know.  I have actually read the German one, but the Russian translation will probably take me the rest of my life to read.  Oh, and I have The Cuckoo's Calling on my Kindle.

3.  L.M. Montgomery All eight of the Anne of Green Gables books, and I may have a set of the Emily of New Moon series in my childhood bedroom too.

4.  Jane Austen All six of her standard canon.  Surprising no one.

5.  Margaret Atwood:  Six books.  Bonus points:  Two of them are signed by the author.  [Insert fangirl swoon.]

6.  Milan Kundera:  Five books, courtesy of my high school obsession.

7.  Charles Dickens I have three of his books in paper form, and two more on my Kindle.  I used to have more, but I think I gave away my copy of Nicholas Nickleby a while back.

8.  John Piper:  Again, I have three hard copies and two on my Kindle.

9.  Francine Rivers I have the first two of the Mark of the Lion series, plus Redeeming Love, and another book on my Kindle.

10.  J.D. Salinger Three books.

It actually surprised me how few books I had from most authors; however, I've moved many times over the last 10 years, so I ended up selling and giving away quite a lot of books, and I currently rely heavily on the public library to keep up my reading habit.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Top Ten Characters to Have on a Deserted Island

I've been on a brief hiatus, but am back now linking up again with The Broke and the Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday.  This week we're talking about characters we'd like to have with us on a deserted island.  I have limited (read: no) survival skills, so a lot of my choices are people who would keep me from perishing.  Here goes:

For Survival:
1.  Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, because of his super-human strength.

2.  Hermione from the Harry Potter series.  Not only is she an amazingly talented witch, but she's level-headed and has survival skills.  Maybe she could conjure up one of those expanding tents...

3.  Katsa from Graceling.  She's gifted with survival.

4.  Robinson Crusoe for the experience (though I've never actually read the book).

5.  Lauren from The Parable of the Sower.  She is tough as nails and knows how to survive in harsh places.

6.  Kristy Thomas from the Baby-Sitters Club series.  She has big ideas and is a bit bossy.  I feel like she'd keep this group of people in line.


For Companionship:
7.  Marmee from Little Women.  She can take care of me and encourage me to be a better person.

8.  Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series, to keep Hermione happy and to make us all laugh.

9.  Thursday Next from the series by Jasper Fforde.  She can go into all the books of the world and keep us entertained.

10.  Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice to be my friend and give me someone to talk to.  Plus I think she'd enjoy the adventure and all the walking.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

I've Got the Fever....

...WM Fieber that is!  I love this German term, which translates as "World Cup Fever".  I am a World Cup junkie, and have been for well over a decade.  International soccer is my drug of choice, and I am unashamedly addicted.

Why do I love World Cup so much?
1.  I love the sport of soccer.  I am amazed by the athleticism of these men, who can run in terrible heat for 90+ minutes: The quick bursts of speed when the match is almost over, the shots with perfect accuracy that sail past several players to hit the back of the net, and the perfect passing.  These are part of what made me fall in love with it.

2.  I love the atmosphere.  Here in Toronto, we have people from all over the world, and I have been seeing flags decked out in flags from so many different countries.  I love the kinship I have when I ask the couriers who come by our work about their teams, and they realize that I am one of them.  I enjoy seeing the crazy fans with their costumes and face paint.  There was a US fan the other day who was sitting in the hot Brazilian sun wearing an eagle head over his face.  I can't imagine how uncomfortable he must have been, but he sure was a fan. 

Fun Spanish fan in Gdansk


3.  It brings back memories.  I've mentioned this before, but the 2002 World Cup was a huge deal for me and my friends when I lived abroad, and I can't sit through a Germany game without wanting to email my old friends and reminisce.  Likewise, Gil and I really cemented our relationship when we went to South Africa for the 2010 cup and had the pleasure of going to Poland for Euro 2012 when we were still hapless newlyweds.

With friends following the 2002 World Cup final.  Yes, we deliberately coordinated our shirts. :)

4.  I love sharing soccer with my husband.  He told me once that before we met, he was talking to a his friend's mom, who he considers kind of a second mother, and he lamented that he wished he could meet a girl who would watch sports with him.  I love that a love of the 'beautiful game' is something we share.  Over the past week, we have spent some lovely days hanging out at home, watching games, and I will miss that when the tournament is over.

If you've been following along here, it's no secret that I've been having a rough time this year.  Somehow, pouring myself into the World Cup has been like a balm for my soul, giving me at least one thing that makes me crazy happy, and reminding me of wonderful experiences in the past.  Have you been watching?  What's your team?  And of course, LOS GEHT'S DEUTSHCLAND!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Classic Books

HAPPY CANADA DAY!  Hope all my Canadian readers are enjoying the celebrations!

There, now that my patriotic enthusiasm is out of the way, we'll move on to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as usual by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week was a topic right up my alley; we are talking about our favourite classic books.  If you have been here a while, you know that I read a lot of classics and love them.  This week, the hardest part wasn't filling in the list, but narrowing it down.  I've limited myself to books written before 1900, just because I was running wayyy over 10, and have tried not to use too many by the same author.

1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:  Duh.  It's no secret how much I love this one.

2.  Persuasion by Jane Austen:  One of Austen's most adult works... and by adult, I mean more mature and not "adult-themed", of course. ;)

3.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë:  I love Jane.  She's so smart, and feisty, and she stands up for herself.  I could read this book a hundred times.

4.  Bleak House by Charles Dickens:  To be honest, I don't remember much of the plot, other than the fact that I loved it, and it is so far my favourite Dickens.  (My sister-in-law hotly disputes this and says Bleak House was the one Dickens she wanted to throw in the recycling bin after reading, so I guess it's an acquired taste.)

5.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy:  I thought this would depress me, but I loved it.  I was probably helped by the fact that I read it in Russia (though not in Russian, because I'd still be reading it now, 11 years later).  I fell in love with Constantine Levin.

6.  North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell:  It's a lot like Pride and Prejudice:  Feisty, thinking heroine meets stubborn and misunderstood man, but with different social issues thrown in.  Loved it.

7.  Middlemarch by George Eliot:  I loved reading a classic book that didn't end once the couples got married, so you could actually see the trials of married life.

8.  Silas Marner by George Eliot:  I bought this book for like $0.50 at a thrift store, and was surprised to find it short, but so touching.  A beautiful story of an unlikely father and daughter.

9.  Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz:  A sweeping story set in first century Rome.

10.  Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy:  I can't remember the whole plot any more, but I adored spirited Bathsheba and gentle Gabriel.  Sadly, this book made me excited to read Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Tess left me wanting to throw things at the wall.  Oh well!

That's all for today.  I'm off to enjoy a rare day off with my husband by watching soccer and being incredibly lazy. :)

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR List

How is it mid-June already?  How???  Anyway, with the rapid approach of summer, this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (at The Broke and the Bookish) is Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR List.  I actually read *all* the books on my spring list, as well as some others, and am excited for those lazy, hazy days of summer reading.  Here are the books on my list:

1.  Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome:  It just seems like something to read in the summer, because what's more summer-y than taking a leisurely boat trip?

2.  Summer by Edith Wharton:  I've been on a Wharton kick for the past year or so, and this one seems a natural for summer reading.

3.  Dune by Frank Herbert:  I've had my dad's old copy in my basement for ages, and I really need to finally read it.  Sidenote:  Was anyone else traumatized by the movie as a child?  My dad was not great at paying attention to the recommended ages of movies...

4.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett:  Because I think I'm one of the only people who still hasn't read this one.

5.  Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card:  Because it's on my Kindle and I love time travel/alternative history.

6.  Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie:  Woohoo, historical biographies!

7.  The Remedy:  Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz:  Because my husband has somehow made me interested in epidemiology (but apparently not interested enough that it didn't take me three tries to spell epidemiology).

8.  A Labrador Doctor by Wilfred Grenfell:  Grenfell was a medical missionary who founded hospitals and nursing stations in remote areas in Newfoundland and Labrador.  I've been meaning to read this since we visited Grenfell's house and the museum devoted to his life last year, so maybe on the anniversary of our trip, I'll get around to it.

9.  David Copperfield by Charles Dickens:  Because I love Dickens, and am slowly making my way through all his works.

10.  Landline by Rainbow Rowell:  This one's a maybe since I'm on the hold list at the library for when it arrives, but not sure how long it will take to get to me.

So what's on your to-read list this summer?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books Read This Year (So Far)

This week on Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), the top is the top 10 books we've read this year.  2014 hasn't been the best year for many reasons, but at least I've read some great books.  Apparently it's easier to fit reading into your day when you have roughly 87 doctor's and ultrasound appointments...  Anyway, here are my top books for the year:

1.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen:  I read this in high school and didn't like it as much as Austen's other books, but reading it again recently, I realized just how funny it is.  I didn't appreciate the satirical elements when I was 15.  I will definitely be reading this again one day.

2.  Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell:  I didn't like it as much as North and South, but a great read, with interesting characters and a story that drew me in.

3.  The Giver by Lois Lowry:  Don't know how I missed this growing up, but what a great book!  Given the prevalence of "dystopian" YA fiction, I've appreciated reading some older dystopians as comparison, and The Giver is definitely a must-read.

4.  Kindred by Octavia E. Butler:  I love time travel, and this one was recommended by a good friend.  WOW!  A time travel story involving an African American woman who is unable to keep from slipping between the 1970s and the Antebellum South.  Gripping and well-written.

5.  Someone Knows My Name/The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill:  So apparently, I've read a lot about slavery recently... This book tells the fascinating story of Aminata, a young girl from Africa who is captured and sold into slavery.  Her tenacity and intelligence lead her from the South, to New York, to Nova Scotia, and back to Africa.  A fantastic book.

6.  The Reader by Bernard Schlink:  From slavery to post-WWII Germany, I'm a barrel of laughs today.  This book isn't for everyone, but it's a really thought-provoking read about a teenage and his much-older lover, as well as a metaphor for dealing with the legacy of WWII.

7.  The Secret History by Donna Tartt:  The disturbing tale of a group of undergraduate students and their odd Greek professor, and how their relationship turned from friendship to betrayal. 

8.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:  Yep, I did read at least one happier book.  The story of Cath, moving out to go to college and adjusting to her new roommate, the strained turn in her relationship with her twin sister, and her obsession with writing Simon Snow fan fiction.  I loved this book.

9.  Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin:  I mentioned this recently, but Team of Rivals ranks as one of my favourite biographies of all time.  I raced through this because I found Lincoln and his companions so interesting.

10.  Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum:  I've had this on my shelves for a couple of years, and only now picked it up.  This book chronicling the history of the Soviet GULAG system, as well as what life was like within it, is certainly a heavy read, but it is extremely well-researched, thorough, and interesting. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for your Beach Bag

Gosh, I had to take my car in to get the brakes fixed this morning, and almost forgot it was Tuesday!  This week's topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish) is "Top Ten Books That Should Be In Your Beach Bag" OR "Top Ten Books That WILL Be In Your Beach Bag".  I'll be talking about my summer reading list in a couple of weeks, so instead I'll do books that SHOULD be in your beach bag.  I've said this before, but I don't really do "beach reads".  On my last beach vacation, I lay in the sun reading Bernhard Schlink's The Reader.  Still, I appreciate that people like to read something not so heavy when the sun is shining.  My top qualities for a recommended beach book would be: 1) fast-moving (not something where you read each page twice); 2) fun or funny; 3) not likely to make you weep.  With all that said:

1)  What Alice Forgot by Kate Moriarty:  I actually found this book quite thought-provoking, but Alice's character was hilarious and it was not heavy enough to leave me in a mess, so probably a good beach read.

2)  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen:  I read this on my last vacation too.  It's a bit ridiculous at times, but a fun read.  I mean, there are circus elephants in it, what's not to love?

3)  The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde:  So silly and fun.

4)  Georgiana Darcy's Diary by Anna Elliott:  Obviously this pales in comparison to Austen herself, but it's a light-hearted return to my beloved Pemberley, and it made me smile a lot.

5)  Attachments by Rainbow Rowell:  Beth and Jennifer's emails made me laugh out loud, and this is a quick read for a few days at the beach.

6)  Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella:  At first, I didn't like this book and found Becky annoying, but she did grow on me, and this is a fun, light read for summer.

7)  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis:  Punting!  Mediums!  Time travel!  A fun read guaranteed to make you laugh at least once.

8)  The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher:  A bit heavier than some of the above, but a real epic, romantic read.

9)  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen:  A good holiday read because a) it takes place during a holiday; b) the satire is hilarious; c) there's a happy ending (I feel like that's not a spoiler since it's Austen).

10) Austenland by Shannon Hale:  Okay, I'm cheating as I haven't actually read this book (though I saw the movie), but it seems like a great beach read for the ultimate Austen afficionado.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Biographies

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted as always by The Broke and the Bookish, is a freebie, so I can choose any theme I want. I decided to talk about biographies.  I know that's not a popular theme for this link-up, as it tends to be focused on fiction and especially a lot of young adult.... but I like biographies, so I'm writing it anyway.  I'm a huge nerd and a former history major, but I've tried not to focus only on historical figures since that might not appeal to a lot of people.  It's not everyone that will not only by a bio of Khruschev on sale, but also give it away to the university used book sale and almost buy it back after spotting it on display.  (Yep, guilty as charged.)  It's worth noting that I don't read celebrity biographies at all, tending more towards historical figures, political heroes,

1.  Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas:  Some hardcore scholars dislike this work as it's not as academic, but I really enjoyed it and was very moved.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my personal heroes, and I loved reading about his difficult, but inspiring life.

2.  Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin:  Amazing read.  I could barely put it down, and that's saying something as it's quite the weighty tome.  I love how Goodwin chose to look not only at Lincoln, but at three of his closest rivals and later cabinet ministers, and show how their lives all developed.

3.  Catherine the Great:  Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie:  A great and readable book about a fascinating woman.  I've got Massie's biography of Peter the Great on deck for this summer.  Fun fact:  When I was in St. Petersburg, I witnessed a drunk man unleashing a tirade of anger at a statue of Catherine the Great.  Apparently he wasn't a fan of her historical legacy, but he felt he knew her well enough to call her "Katya".  Put that in the "only in Russia" file.

4.  I, Rigoberta Menchu:  An Indian Woman in Guatemala by Rigoberta Menchu and Elisabeth Burgos-Debray:  Apparently this book is controversial, but I found it fascinating in the look it gave at traditional Mayan culture in Guatemala (a place I have visited many times), and the awareness of the horrible civil war there.

5.  The Verneys:  A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England by Adrian Tinniswood:  This book is the story of the Verney family, not overly famous or influential, but members of the English aristocracy.  The interesting thing about the Verney family is that they kept ALL of their correspondence, and even copies of the letters they sent to others, so it tells so much about life during the seventeenth century.  I know, this is really nerdy, but I found this book fascinating.

6.  In No Uncertain Terms:  A South African Memoir by Helen Suzman:  Helen Suzman is not someone many people would have heard of, but she was at one point the only person in the South African parliament who opposed Apartheid, and I found her life very inspiring.

7.  Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore:  An interesting look at the man before he became a dictator.

8.  Persepolis:  The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi:  The only memoir I can think of that is told in graphic novel format.  It's a really creative and interesting look at the Iranian revolution from the inside.

9.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot:  I read this last year for a book club and found it surprisingly interesting and engaging.  Henrietta Lacks was a poor African American woman, whose cells ended up being used for medical science without her consent.  It was written well enough that someone not into science could still understand, and gave a good look at the difficulties that many African American families faced in the middle of the last century (and many still face now), such as poverty and lack of access to education.

10.  A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova:  The memoir of a Soviet childhood, told by a woman who developed an obsession with English at a young age.  Since I too dreamed of foreign languages and travel as a youth, it was especially interesting to me.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list.  Y'all, you have no idea how many unread biographies I have in my shelves:  Books on Vaclav Havel, Fidel Castro, Andrei Sakharov, and Nelson Mandela that I swear, I will read one of these days. 

So, do you like to read biographies?  What are your favourites?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Top Ten Books About Friendship

It's Tuesday again (where does the time go?) and over at The Broke and the Bookish, the topic is Top Ten Books About Friendship.  Here's my list:  

1.  The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton:  This book is about five young married women who meet in the early 1960s and form a deep friendship.  There were some annoying aspects to the book, but I loved seeing how their friendship developed over time and how the characters supported one another.

2.  Me Before You by Jojo Moyes:  A book about developing relationship between Will, rendered paraplegic by a terrible accident, and Louise, hired as a caregiver.  This book left me in a weepy mess.
3.  Attachments by Rainbow Rowell:  There is a love aspect of the story, but I absolutely loved the back-and-forth emails between Beth and Jennifer.  It made me miss my own best friend, because when we worked at the same place, we might have sent quite a few non-work-related emails ourselves...

4.  Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan:  I really liked this book, which deals with a group of jazz musicians during World War II.  It showed the complicated friendships of the men, who are of different ethnicities (German, Jewish, African American), and the impact that the friendship, and then betrayal of the friendship, had on Sid's life.

5.  Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery:  Anne and Diana, kindred spirits forever!  I love how Anne finally finds the bosom friend she has always longed for.
6.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck:  The close relationship between George and Lennie.  It's rare to see books that focus on male friendships, and this one is a classic.

7.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:  Of course, they're sisters, but Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are friends too.  This book is why growing, up, I always wished for a bunch of sisters.

8.  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng:  The unlikely friendship between a Chinese woman, the only survivor of a WWII Japanese war camp, and a Japanese gardener.

9.  The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin:  I can't help myself!  I loved these books growing up.  I was a bit disappointed that turning 13 didn't exactly render me as grown-up as it seemed it would from the books, and that I never developed a group of friends as tight as Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, Dawn, Mallory, and Jessie. :)
10.  MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche:  Not a novel, but a book about friendship itself, and one woman's search for a new best friend when she moves to Chicago.  I loved the snippets of research on what makes friendships work, as well as the reminder that close friends don't always just drop out of the sky; sometimes you have to go looking for them.