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

Monday, 28 September 2015

Overwhelm book cover reveal!

Today is a fun day! I mentioned last week that one of the books on my fall TBR list is Overwhelm by Layla Messner. Layla was my housemate in university, and I am honoured to be able to promote her book. Today I'm taking part in her book cover reveal, hosted by:


Here is the book summary:

Overwhelm by Layla Messner
Release Date: November 13, 2015

The living crystals that feed elemental power to Atlantis are exhausted. They give and give, but the Altantians just want more energy to fuel their magical city. Sixteen years ago, the crystals came up with a plan to make it all stop, a plan that revolves around three teens:

KALIOPE is a soulsinger, an empath with the power to sing the souls of the dead to their next lives. She just wants to grow up, but her mother won't let her.

DANICA is Kalipe's whipping girl. She gets punished whenever Kali disobeys.

CHIARAN is a firestarter, so reckless even his family considers him a monster.

When Chiaran arrives in Atlantis, he's the first fire person to set foot on the island in a hundred years. Kaliope naturally considers him an enemy and uses the last of her depleted power against him. But the battle reveals that the two have more in common than anyone could have guessed. 

Anyone, that is, except the crystals.

Three teenage antiheroes, a bisexual love triangle, and an island about to sink. 

Overwhelm is a darkly sensual fairy tale about growing up against all odds.

About the author:
Láyla Messner is a young-adult author and the founder of Chrysalis Sanctuary for healing childhood sexual abuse. She has an M.A. in embodied writing from Goddard College and her novels provide New Sexual Mythology for teens.

She believes that love is real. She does not believe in unsolicited advice or the word "impossible".

Author links:

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books To Read - Fall 2015 Edition

Today over at the Broke and the Bookish, we're posting our TBR list for the autumn. I've had trouble paring this down, though with school, work, and a practicum, I don't know how much time I'll realistically have to read so much. Here is what I have so far:

Forthcoming Books:
1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell: I'm typically not one to pre-order books, but this one is coming my way as soon as it's published. It's Rowell meets Harry Potter, so what's not to like? Squeeeeee!

2. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson: I've become slightly addicted to The Book Geek's reviews and vlogs, and this was recommended. I don't know that I've ever read a real Western, so I'm looking forward to the experience.

3. After You by Jojo Moyes: I feel like I'm likely to be disappointed by this book since I loved Me Before You so much... but I can't not read it.

4. Overwhelm by Layla Messner: Layla was my housemate in university, and I have pre-ordered her first novel (well, first to be published, anyway). Can't wait! I'm giving it as much book publicity as I possibly can.

5. Ms. Marvel: Last Days: I'm slightly obsessed with this series after reading Volume 1 for a graphic novels course this past summer. Cannot wait for the next one to come out on December 1! Although this one may not get read by the end of fall because I'll be getting it via the library.

6. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: I love her. End of story.

I have a 50-book list courtesy of the Classics Club blog, although I'm not officially participating because I don't blog about my books. Nonetheless, I still am attempting to read those fifty books within five years (by June 2018), and I'm hoping to cover at least two before winter:
7. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne: I'm supposed to finish this by October 23 as part of the Classics Club "spin". 

8. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser: This has been on my TBR (and my Kindle) for ages, so it's high time that I actually read it.

9. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: I absolutely loved Wolf Hall, so hopefully this one will be a winner for me too..

10. The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King: I heard him interviewed on CBC Radio and was fascinated by this book. Also, I am woefully uneducated about the issue facing Native Canadians, and am hoping to rectify that.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Advocating for the Infertile: Why I Don't Think We Should #StopAsking

A lot has been going on in infertility circles lately. A few months ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his wife are expecting a baby girl, but also noted that she had undergone several miscarriages. Last week, celebrities Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, and Gabrielle Union opened up to the media about their struggles with infertility. Tyra and Chrissy apparently discussed infertility and IVF on the program FABLife today, and though I haven't seen the segment (since I don't have cable), I hope to find a way to watch it. I am thrilled about these developments (although obviously I'm not thrilled that *anyone* had to go through this battle.) On the other hand, I have an issue with something that Tyra said. Her FB feed posted the following:

"I can’t believe that I’m talking about how all of this personally affects me Monday on my new show FABLifeShow but I hope that by sharing my story, I give someone the strength and courage that all your stories have given me. As women we shouldn’t feel ashamed or pressured to talk about plans for a family. But we shouldn't feel pressured to either. We need a space where we can really help each other – and most importantly listen to each other – because a lot of social media is about snap judgments and being well...judgy and just assuming things. The questions hurt. Why? Because you never know what someone may be going through. So you know what? Let’s ‪#‎StopAsking‬."

I wasn't sure at first why this bothered me. I mean, I completely agree that women shouldn't feel ashamed to talk about family plans. I also agree that sometimes people act like your reproductive choices are everyone's business, and they really, really, really aren't.

You know what, though, I don't think not asking is the answer either. I'm worried that the message that gets received is that we shouldn't talk about these things or bring them up. Yes, I've had experiences where people asked about our family plans, and the end result was pressure to discuss my private matters. On the other hand, I've had people ask questions which gave me the opportunity to open up in a way I hadn't been able to before. Usually the key factor in whether it's a negative or a positive interaction is context: What is the context of our relationship and what is the context of our conversation? If you're asking because you are curious or you feel like I 'ought' to be pregnant by now, chances are that the conversation will not be positive, but if you ask as my friend, I will feel safe to share my journey, and that's a good thing.

All that to say, I don't think the message should be "Stop Asking" but rather "Think Before You Ask". Think about whether you actually know this person and whether you are ready to potentially share their burdens with them. Think about whether you are asking out of a desire to be a loving friend or whether you are just merely curious. Think about whether you're in a situation where this person might feel comfortable sharing a struggle with infertility, miscarriages, or any other reason why they may not have chosen to have children yet or whether the setting is not conducive to a heart-to-heart (e.g., the person is working - happens to me all the time! - or you're at a family event with several others looking on... you get the drift). Don't be afraid, however, of bringing up something that's hard to talk about. Chances are, someone out there is longing to open up to someone who really does care.

ETA: I'm linking this post up with Amateur Nester's infertility link-up. Go check her out, as well as some other infertility bloggers.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My Life in 10 Books

This Tuesday is a freebie over at the Broke and the Bookish, so I'm using it to do a topic that I've seen a lot in the vlogging community. Since making videos of myself isn't really my thing, I'll do it on the blog instead. The topic is "My Life in 10 Books". Rather than doing your ten favourite books, it's about ten books that have changed you, that made a significant impact, that were a milestone for you, etc. Note: I've left off the Bible, which I do read every day (or almost every day), because it's in a different category for me than all these books that I read at some point in my life. Here is my list:

1. Matilda by Roald Dahl: I adore this book. I read voraciously as a child, and I was shy and awkward. It meant the world for me to have a heroine who was like me.

2. Kristy's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin: Okay, yeah, I know, but this series was my favourite forever. I devoured the BSC books and I think they had a role in making me into a real reader.

3. Letters to Judy: What Your Kids Wish They Could Tell You by Judy Blume: My true confession is that I found this book in my basement. It must have belonged to my step-mother. It contains a whole bunch of letters that teenagers had written to author Judy Blume. I used to read letters at night before going to bed. I'm not sure why this stayed with me for so long, but maybe it was reading that other kids were going through the awkwardness and stresses of adolescence, that it wasn't just me who didn't fit in, and that it was okay to feel different.

4. The Shining by Stephen King: This was the first adult book that I read, and marked a transition for me. I was twelve, so probably way too young, but I still remember the thrill of getting through it.

5. Emma by Jane Austen: Emma will always be near and dear to my heart because it was the first Jane Austen book that I read, and it set me on to a lifelong love of the classics.

6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I read this book in Grade 10, so in and around age 15. I remember it for a few reasons. Firstly, it was one of the books that I remember having a really emotional reaction to. I was literally weeping at the end, to the point where my mom asked what in the world was wrong with me! Secondly, it was one of the first books I had read where I was unsure about the main character. Sometimes I liked Scarlett, and sometimes I couldn't stand her, and it forced me to think. Thirdly (SPOILER ALERT), it's one of the first books that I remember reading with an open-ended ending. I actually couldn't sleep afterwards because I was trying to mentally conclude that Rhett and Scarlett would have a happy ending. I guess you could say the book introduced me to a lot of facets of more adult reading material.

7. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera: I credit this with pretty much the course of my life to come. Before it, I had very little concept of the East/West divide. This book drew me into a fascination with Eastern Europe, which led me to eventually study Russian and do a degree in East European and Russian Studies. The funny thing is, I read it on the recommendation of someone who said, "This book will change your life." It really did!

8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling: The book that started it all. I truly feel like the Harry Potter series are books that will be with me forever, like the characters are old friends. They have impacted me in a million different ways, and if I ever have children, I will relish seeing them experience the stories in a new way.

9. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery: You may know that I took my blog title from the later books in the Anne series. They are all fantastic, but Rilla is very close to me. For those who have not read it, the book tells the story of Anne and Gilbert's youngest daughter Marilla, and what she experiences during the First World WAr. I re-read it shortly before I got married, and I feel like I experienced it in a new way. The idea of going through a really hard time, and being thankful for the hardship because it changed you is something that I cling through during my infertility struggle.

10. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller: This book is hands-down the best marriage book I have read. I am not a huge fan of marriage books that are really practical, mostly because what works for one person may not work for another. Keller's book looked at the heart of what marriage is, and I think about it all the time.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Is it Tuesday already? I can't believe this school year is starting. Labour Day is over and we are on to my fourth and penultimate semester of graduate school. (Well, unless I decide that third time's a charm and I want yet another Master's degree, which I wouldn't rule out, knowing me!) All that to say, it's another Top Ten Tuesday and the topic is Ten Finished Series I Have Yet to Finish. If you know my tastes, you know that I don't get on the bandwagon for a lot of series. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about the fact that it appears some authors just can't write less than three books on a theme. I have, however, read a few of the big ones like the Hunger Games, Divergent and, of course, Harry Potter, and there are a few series that I have yet to finish.

1. The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness: I am about to start The Book of Life later this week, so that'll be knocked off my list.

2. The Legend series by Marie Lu: I picked up Legend on a whim at the library, and was suitably hooked that I'll likely finish the set some time this fall.

3. The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry: I've only read The Giver, but it certainly was compelling and I will likely give the others a go, especially since they are so short that I could read the whole series in a few days.

4. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot: Feel free to laugh at me on this one. Ten years ago, I worked at a large book store, and we were allowed to take books into the staff room to read on our lunch break. I got hooked on these books since they were hilarious and uncomplicated enough to be enjoyed in 10-minute increments. I think I only read the first two, however, and I'm unlikely to read the rest since it seems like there are at least ten.

5. The Little Women books by Louisa May Alcott: I don't even know if this counts as a series, but I did read Little Women and have never read the two sequels, so I'm including it.

That's all I've got. There are so many series that I probably won't get around to reading them all, but I'm really up for recommendations of which ones are worth reading. I would love your suggestions!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

What Do You Want For Your Birthday - Infertility Style

It's my birthday in a couple of weeks... Or it might have already passed, if you go by my mother-in-law's calendar which has aged me prematurely by twenty days or so. Milestones are hard for those undergoing infertility, or at least for me. Any occasion which marks the passage of time is a painful reminder that the years go by, but my inability to conceive remains the same. I used to enjoy celebrating birthdays with friends, whereas now I start to dread them months in advance.

I even had a birthday party with FIREFIGHTERS once. Yes, I used to be fun...

Around this time, I start to get questions like, "What do you want for your birthday?" I've always found it hard to give out wish lists as an adult, but now I find it particularly difficult? What do I want? I want to be a mother. I want nothing more than to be a mother. I want to wake up and not feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I want to feel hopeful again. I want to go back to when I read "If God is for us, who can be against us?" and to believe it in full, instead of seeing the see of baby bumps around me on Facebook, at the church, on the bus, and feeling like God is certainly not for me these days.

But then I read the news. I see the thousands upon thousands of people clamoring for help, for a safe place to raise their children, for a roof over their heads and an escape from the perils of war. And then I feel like a real jerk for focusing on my dark little cloud when other people are in the midst of an unimaginable storm. I guess what I want for my birthday is for a better world, and to be a better person, to find that light within and pass it on to others.**

I know this post may feel disjointed. Please bear with me as I wrestle with various emotions right now. Thank you. <3

**If you have been moved by the plight of Syrian migrants, please consider making a donation here or here or here. Every bit helps.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I Didn't Click With

This week at The Broke and the Bookish, we're talking about characters that we just didn't click with for one reason or another.

1. Pi Patel from Life of Pi (Yann Martel): Admittedly, I didn't particularly like this book. It was so hyped that I expected to be wowed, and I wasn't. Pi was okay, but he came across as preachy and super philosophical for me.

2. Stephen Wraysford from Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks): I wrote about not particularly liking this book recently, but Wraysford was one of the reasons. It seems to be set up in such away that the (spoiler alert!) break-up of his love affair turns him cold, but I could never figure out his motivation for anything. Even when he was in love, it really just manifested itself in wanting to sleep with Isabelle. I had no idea what he thought or felt most of the time.

3. Isabelle Azaire from Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks): Like Stephen, Isabelle was a mystery. She was suddenly in love with Stephen, and she admittedly had a difficult back story... but what did she like? What did she want? Why did she leave Stephen? Her motivation was never, ever explained, and then the decisions she made after the war broke out left me scratching my head.

4. Lucy from A Room with a View (E.M. Forster): I would assume this is on purpose, as Forster writes in a very cold style so as to show the morality of the times, but I found it hard to connect with the heroine or know what I wanted for her. I mean, I wanted her to leave her fiancé, but that was mostly because he was a jerk.

5. Florentino Ariza from Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): Yes, he carries a torch for Fermina for decades, but he's soooo creepy, not to mention all the seductions. Break-ups hurt, but you have to move on with your life. Actually, I just don't think this book was for me, at all, even though I've read it twice.

6. Emma Woodhouse from Emma: A Modern Retelling (Alexander McCall Smith): The original Emma holds a soft spot in my heart because it was my first Jane Austen. I loved Emma. Even though she was sometimes manipulative and puahy, she tried hard, and she grew. I didn't love this adaptation though. I didn't think the story translated well into the modern era, for the most part. While it made sense for 19th century Emma to be matchmaking for penniless Harriet Smith, watching 21st century Emma try to essentially find a sugar daddy for Harriet was unnerving. It made sense for the original Emma to be sheltered and treated as the queen in Highmore, because she was. In a modern context, it just made her seem stuck up and unrelatable, in my opinion, and it was too bad.

7. Bella Swan from Twilight (Stephenie Meyers): I know she was a teenager, but I was a teenager once myself, and I never completely lost my identity in a boy. I just couldn't relate to her. Mostly I just wanted to shake Bella and yell, "Get some hobbies, woman!" :)

8. Tobi from MaddAddam (Margaret Atwood): This was a hard one as I enjoyed Tobi immensely in The Year of the Flood. I liked learning her back story and seeing her survival skills. In the third book (which I didn't like nearly as much as Oryx and Crake), Tobi seemed whiney and insecure. I didn't like how there was all this love drama with the scientists. I honestly wish Atwood had stopped at two books.

Okay, these last two aren't technically characters, but the authors themselves, but I had trouble connecting with them.
9. Ulli from Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life (Ulli Lust): I enjoyed this book, but I just wanted to wrap my arms around young Ulli and tell her to make safer choices. Maybe I just wasn't a 'real' teenager, but I was never reckless, and I had trouble relating to Ulli's lack of boundaries.

10. Cheryl from Wild (Cheryl Strayed): I understand that Cheryl had gone through a tremendous amount of heartache and difficulties before this, things that I can never fully relate to. On the other hand, I just couldn't understand why she kept making bad choices. Why did she keep running out of money because she spent it on stupid things? Why didn't she parse down her immensely heavy backpack from the beginning, when she realized she could barely carry it? Did she not realize it could literally be a matter of life and death? Maybe I'm just a boring and safe person! Oh well!