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

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?