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

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Outside of My Usual Genre

Today at The Broke and the Bookish, the topic is books we've read in the past year(ish) that are outside of our usual reading preferences or outside of our comfort zone. In case you haven't figured this out, I have fairly eclectic tastes, so I'm not sure what my 'comfort zone' is, but here are a few that stood out from the past year.

Outside Of My Comfort Zone Reads
1. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King: This book was difficult to read, because it forced me to confront the history that I'd been taught in school and the privileges that I hold as a white person in Canada. It was a good book, but challenging to process.

2. The Orenda by Joseph Boyden: I LOVED this book, but it was difficult. It's a heavy read, and there is violence and abuse in it, and even more, as with The Inconvenient Indian, it forces Canadians to see our own history from a different perspective.

3. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: I've blogged previously about how much I loved this book, but it was outside of my comfort zone, because I don't like thinking about the fact that my parents will get older and their health will decline (as will mine, obviously). I don't like having to think about the decisions we'll have to make one day. Having grandparents that have recently moved into assisted living, it was a really poignant read.

Atypical Books (For Me)
4. Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn: I have been a die-hard Star Wars fan since childhood, so I got on a kick shortly after watching the most recently film, even though I tend to dislike traditional science fiction (i.e., books with aliens and spaceships). I can't say this was my favourite book of the year, but it was fun to read more about some of my old friends Han and Leia, so I'll probably read the rest of the trilogy.

5. Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman: I never saw the TV show, and I tend to be very skeptical of popular memoirs, but something about this intrigued me.

6. Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders by Linda Sillitoe and Allan D. Roberts: The truth is, I only read this because we were doing a school presentation on the Mormon forgeries. It is the opposite of the kind of book I would usually pick up, since I generally have no interest in true crime. Also, this book was massively in need of a good edit....

7. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: I don't typically read Westerns, but this one was great!

8. The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey: I read this for a book club, but generally horror is not my thing.

9. The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett: I read this book because I took part in a summer reading challenge, and I needed a bestseller from the year of my birth (1980). I can't say I liked this book. I'm not a huge fan of spy thrillers and this wasn't particularly well-written, but oh well.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: This was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman. I think I get him a bit more now that I've read American Gods, but at first I was twisting my brain trying to figure out all the symbolism in The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

One year ago tonight, I was at my friend's apartment watching the Academy Awards and putting last-minute touches on an assignment due the next day, when I got a text saying that my friend Blaire and her unborn son had passed away. We were counting down the short weeks until her baby would make his appearance, and instead we never got to see him or celebrate.

The title of this blog post refers to a song from the musical Rent, which asks the question: "How do you measure a year in the life?" When we look back on a year, we remember the moments, the celebrations, the pains. When I look on a year without Blaire, I instead remember the moments we didn't get to share, the occasions that were once celebratory and now are times of mourning, the birthdays unmarked, and the times when I wanted to share a thought or a joke with her, and instead remembered that I can't. Now I will never know what Blaire thought about Rent, or Donald Trump's candidacy (though I have a pretty good idea.....), what she name she would have suggested for my new cat, or a myraid of other things that have happened since February 22, 2015. I am sad today, and every day, for the conversations we never had.

How do I measure a year without you, Blaire? How do I face another year when we won't get to laugh together or discuss Oscar fashions or just do life? I don't know. I guess we do it one minute at a time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Happy Valentine's Day

I'm not a huge V-Day fan, but in the celebration of love in its many forms, I dedicate this valentine to all my loyal readers. Love you all!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Valentine's Day Edition

Ah, Valentine's Day. So, this one time, I went to see the movie Titanic in theatres with my friend. (Yes, I am that old.) We went out for coffee beforehand, and I thought my friend was next to me, so I leaned and said suggestively, "It's almost Valentine's Day...." Yeah, that wasn't my friend. It was a man. It was very awkward. And that, friends, is my best V-day story.

Anyway, now it *is* almost Valentine's Day, and today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is anything Valentine's related, so I'm doing my favourite couples from literature.

1. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables: Duh.

2. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice: You all saw that coming too, didn't you?

3. Constantine Levin and Kitty from Anna Karenina: That would be the *other* lovers from the book, the less depressing ones. I adore this couple. Their engagement is the cutest thing ever.

4. Margaret Hale and Mr Thornton from North and South: This is one of my favourite books and I love this couple. It's like Pride and Prejudice, but with some politics and the Industrial Revolution mixed in. Margaret Hale is so feisty.

5. Henry and Clare de Tamble from The Time Traveler's Wife: Swoon!

6. Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell from Possession: Two academic nerds who fall in love while solving a literary mystery. Be still my heart!

7. Anne Eliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion: I love this happily-ever-after moment.

8. Lou and Will from Me Before You: Pardon me while I bawl my eyes out, but this love story is so tragic and beautiful.

9. Eleanor and Park from Eleanor and Park: A modern-day Romeo and Juliet. I loved their quirky romance.

10. Alana and Marko from the Saga series of graphic novels: They both have such strong personalities, and they go through so much to stay together.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Historical Settings

I looooooove history. I mean, I majored in it, and I still read a lot of history books for pleasure. I also like historical fiction, but I am super picky about inaccuracies, so I am frequently disappointed. Today at Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is favourite historical settings OR settings you'd like to read more of. I'm doing a little bit of both.

Favourite Settings
1. Nineteenth Century Russia: No surprise for here, given I'm a die-hard russophile. Actually, I'd extend this back into the eighteenth century too, since I am fascinated by Catherine the Great.

2. Mid-twentieth Century USSR: I'm thinking the 30s to the 50s. There was so much going on in this period, like intrigues, purges, war, but also art and literature.

3. World War II: Predominantly in Europe, but I'm fascinated by WWII and will read books about many contexts including China (Shanghai Girls), Malaysia (Breaking the Tongue), and Kenya (Nowhere in Africa - a fabulous film by the way).

4. Tudor England: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Queen Elizabeth I, and that interest has never died.

5. 1960s North America: It was definitely an era of change, and I find it fascinating.

6. Victorian England: I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the fashion...

7. Ancient Rome: I've never been a classics scholar, but books that take place in this time period really draw me in. One of my favourites is the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers.

Settings I'd Like to Read More of:
8. Historical India: I've read a few books, but not nearly enough.

9. Australia and New Zealand: Sadly, I know very little about the history of these countries, even though we are culturally so similar. Last year, I read Swords and Crowns and Rings on a friend's recommendation, and it was really interesting, so hopefully I'll get to more Australian historical fiction at some point.

10. Pre-Columbus Americas: I don't know that I've read anything that falls into this category, but I would love to find books that fit the bill.

What about you, readers? What are your favourite historical settings?