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

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.