Monday, September 13, 2010

Books That Have Stayed With Me

Once again, I am borrowing an idea from a friend on Facebook. Mostly I ignore these things, but one of my book club friends did this and since I really do love reading, I thought that I would give it a try myself. Here are the instructions.

List books you've read that have stuck with you. List as many as you can recall.

In Alphabetical order:

All Quiet on the Western Front
– Erich Maria Remarque
This novel tells the story of a WWI veteran from the perspective of a German soldier.

Animal Farm – George Orwell
Definitely not a children’s book.

The Bread Bible – Beth Hensperger
This is the book that really got me started making my own bread in a way that my bread machine ultimately failed. Because of the awesome recipes in this book, I now happily make pretty much all of my own bread by hand. Normally I hate a cook book without pictures, but the recipes are so good that despite this failing, it is still probably my most used reference book in the kitchen.

A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
This is a book about Physics that is written for mainstream audiences. It is a great overview of various subjects in cosmology that is simple enough to understand without specialized knowledge, but with enough scientific detail to keep it interesting and genuinely informative.

The Brothers Lionheart – Astrid Lindgren
It’s a children’s book about two brothers who have adventures in a fantasy world while fighting battles against the forces of evil. I remember reading it at night in my room with a flashlight and loving it. This is the same author that wrote the Pippi Longstocking series.

The Blue Castle – L.M. Montgomery
I read this one as a teenager and it is probably the least well known of her books, but totally the best (in my humble opinion), about a woman that decides to stop caring about conventions and to say/do exactly what she thinks and feels, with hilarious consequences.

A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens
Great Christmas reading.

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
This is a dystopian novel that takes place in the near future. In describing the adventures of the violent and amoral protagonist/anti-hero, the author practically invents a new language, which is meant to portray futuristic slang but is oddly understandable within the context of the story.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
This was the first book that I read by her and definitely my favourite. I wish that they would make a better movie version.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
Hilarious comedy of manners.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
What’s not to love about Jane and Rochester’s forbidden love affair?

Les Liaisons Dangereuses – Choderlos de Laclos
A controversial and much banned book written in the 1700’s as series of letters between two morally corrupt aristocrats, this was the book that movies like Cruel Intentions and Dangerous Liaisons were based upon (originally set in 18th century France).

Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
This is a story of doomed young love set during the Mexican Revolution. The heroine is forbidden to marry her true love due to a family tradition that demands the youngest daughter must not marry so that she can care for her mother until she dies. She is only able to express herself while cooking, and each chapter begins with a recipe. Reading this will make you hungry.

Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe
The full title is really the best plot summary I can think of so I will quote that:
The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Etc. Who Was Born in Newgate, and During a Life of Continu’d Variety For Threescore Years, Besides Her Childhood, Was Twelve Year a Whore, Five Times a Wife (Whereof Once To Her Own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon In Virginia, At Last Grew Rich, Liv’d Honest, and Died a Penitent. Written From her own Memorandums.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
A murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in 1327.

Night – Eli Wiesel
A haunting and tragic memoir of a Holocaust survivor.

Pride & Prejudice – I started reading Jane Austen in High School way before it was cool. Other kids thought I was weird (and probably still do, oh well), but I am glad about the current trendiness because it means lots of movies and adaptations. I love anything by Jane Austen, but P&P will always be my favourite.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy
I know, I know, the movie was sketchy, but I love post-apocalypse stories and the book really drew me in with its sad tale of a man and his son trying to survive and retain their humanity in a world gone terribly terribly wrong.

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
About a young boy that finds a mysterious book and attempts to find out more about the author, only to discover that someone has been systematically destroying all of his works.

Stitch’n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook – Debbie Stoller
This is the book that really got me addicted to knitting. I am a pretty lazy knitter and mostly stick to easy stuff like hats and bags, but I love that I can make something by myself that is one of a kind, inexpensive and fabulous.

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Set in London and France during the French Revolution. It took me some time to get into it, but I loved the story and particularly some of its unforgettable characters. My personal favourite is the twisted and vengeful Madame Defarge.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
I love time travel stories, especially when the various time jumps do not result in inconsistencies. It’s confusing, but they all line up in the end. I am hoping that the movie will not be a disappointment.

The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams
A classic children’s story about a much loved stuffed bunny. I really have to get this out of the library to read to the monkey.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Epic novel set in Russia in the period leading up to Napoleon’s invasion and how this eventually impacts the lives and fortunes of various aristocratic families. It is long, but totally readable.

The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks
It's nice to know that I am not the only one out there that is obsessed with zombies. When in doubt, aim for the head.

Friday, April 2, 2010

How Many of These Books Have You Read?

Okay, I stole this from a friends facebook.

Supposedly, the BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. I don't know if that is actually true or not, but I thought I would see how my own reading habits stack up, mostly because I really love to read books.

[x] 1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
[x] 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
[x] 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
[ ] 4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
[x] 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
[x] 6 The Bible
[x] 7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
[x] 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
[ ] 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
[x] 10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
[x] 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
[ ] 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
[x] 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
[ ] 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
[ ] 15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
[x] 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
[ ] 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
[x] 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
[ ] 19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
[ ] 20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
[ ] 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
[x] 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
[ ] 23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
[x] 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
[x] 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
[ ] 26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
[ ] 27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
[ ] 28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
[ ] 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
[x] 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
[x] 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
[ ] 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
[x] 33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
[x] 34 Emma - Jane Austen
[x] 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
[ ] 36 The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
[x] 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
[ ] 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
[x] 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
[x] 40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
[x] 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
[x] 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
[ ] 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
[ ] 44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
[ ] 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
[x] 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
[ ] 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
[x] 48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
[x] 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
[x] 50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
[x] 51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
[ ] 52 Dune - Frank Herbert
[ ] 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
[x] 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
[ ] 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
[x] 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
[x] 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
[x] 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
[x] 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
[x] 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
[ ] 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
[x] 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
[ ] 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
[ ] 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
[x] 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
[x] 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
[ ] 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
[x] 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
[ ] 69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
[x] 70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
[ ] 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
[ ] 72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
[x] 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
[ ] 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
[ ] 75 Ulysses - James Joyce
[ ] 76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
[ ] 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
[ ] 78 Germinal - Emile Zola
[x] 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
[ ] 80 Possession - AS Byatt
[x] 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
[ ] 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
[x] 83 The Color Purple
[ ] 84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
[x] 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
[x] 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
[x] 87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
[ ] 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
[ ] 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
[ ] 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
[x] 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
[ ] 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
[ ] 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
[ ] 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
[ ] 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
[ ] 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
[ ] 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
[ ] 98 Beloved - Toni Morrison
[x] 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
[x] 100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Assuming that I counted correctly, I got 51 out of the 100 titles on this list, so I guess that I am doing alright. I suspect most people would have read rather more than six though. I might refer to the list in the future when I am looking for books to get out of the library.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Attack of the Zombie Borg

So, the husband and I were going off on a bit of a tangent the other day, and for whatever reason, we happened to be discussing the Borg (yes, we are geeks, in fact we were watching Deep Space 9 season 5 at the time, so there), and he brought up the interesting question as to whether or not the Borg would be able to assimilate Changelings. After some debate, we decided that they could not, but we both agreed that they could and would assimilate the Jem Hadar (spelling???) if they ever got the chance.

Anyhow, this led to the even more interesting (in my opinion) question of what the consequences might be of the Borg finding themselves exposed to the zombie virus. At first, we felt that what with the Borg nanoprobes and such, that they might be able to maintain remote control over the zombie Borg, despite their zombie-ism. The infected Borg would become zombies, but the collective would maintain control over them through the nanoprobes and their linked consciousness.

The more I thought about that though, the less sense it made. Maybe, the nanoprobes could succeed in destroying the virus, but assuming that they could not, I think that the virus would cause the infected Borg's conciousness to be severed from the link with the Borg collective. What seems more likely, would be that an infected Borg (in the early stages of the infection) would probably spread the virus throughout the cube when it tried to link up with its friends (kind of like spreading it through a blood transfusion), and once the virus took over completely, their link with the collective would be severed and they would start feasting on whatever brains they could get its hands on.

Probably, the rest of the collective would realize that something had gone terribly wrong, and use their linked minds to set the infected cube on auto-destruct or something. Or else they would just destroy it with weapons, since the zombie Borg wouldn't be able to operate the cube and what with being in outer space, they would be rather effectively isolated. It would be cooler if the virus could be spread to other cubes, but that somehow seems unlikely. So anyhow, yes, this is the sort of thing that we sometimes like to think about.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Getting Crafty With It - Homemade Advent Calendar

So, I was feeling crafty this weekend, and being the Christmas fanatic that I am, I decided to make a homemade Advent Calendar for the upcoming holiday season. Let's start by giving credit where it is due, I got the idea and inspiration mainly from two different websites that showed similar projects. My own project is an amalgamation of ideas from both sites:

My first step was to obtain the necessary 25 matchboxes for this
project. Not as easy as you might think, though not especially difficult either. I initially tried my luck at the local craft store, but they didn't have matchboxes. The closest thing that they did have were similarly sized little gift boxes, but at over a dollar a piece I would have rapidly blown my budget. The very helpful lady that worked there suggested that I try the nearby dollar store.

Heeding her advice, I headed over there and was pleased to find that they sold packages of six little matchboxes for merely a dollar, much more to my of liking. The only problem now, what to do with all of the leftover matches. I settled on dumping them out the boxes, which resulted in a funny looking mini mountain of matches.

I used some long neglected scrap booking paper (purchased years ago on a momentary whim to become a scrapbooker, which never really came to fruition) to wrap up the outsides of the boxes. To make this easier I cut a stencil out of cardboard to the exact sized rectangle that I needed to cover the boxes. I decorated the boxes with some stickers and also labeled each with a number to indicate each of the days of December leading up to Christmas.

Next, I printed up and cut out little strips of paper containing Christmas or holiday related tasks and activities, folding them up and placing them inside of each of the boxes. I checked over the calendar to make sure that certain tasks fit on specific days, but for the most part you can be pretty flexible with this. I plan on adding some small goodies to each box as well, if I can find ones that are small enough to fit. I placed them all in a cookie jar and positioned it on the mantle. Final step, stand back and admire my supreme craftiness. I must say, I am pleased with the way that this turned out.

My list of Christmas/Holiday/Just-plain-fun activities is as shown below:

1. Write letters to Santa Claus
2. Paint everyones' toenails
3. Make paper snowflakes to decorate the house
4. Have a Christmas movie night
5. Make and hang edible gifts for the squirrels and birds
6. Enjoy hot chocolate with all of the trimmings
7. Choose some puppets to use to tell the bedtime story
8. Fold origami decorations for the Christmas tree
9. Dance and sing to Christmas music
10. Give everyone crazy hairstyles
11. Make decorations for the tree
12. Play a game in the backyard (or hot chocolate party if it is raining)
13. Pick out a nice Christmas tree, add decorations, and consume eggnog
14. Make a list of things that we are thankful for
15. Bake a batch of Christmas cookies
16. Have breakfast for dinner (pancakes, waffles, etc.)
17. Finish Christmas Cards for family and friends
18. Go star gazing or take a night time walk with flashlights and check out the Christmas lights
19. Go to see the Nutcracker Suite Ballet
20. Family Games Night
21. Bake another batch of Christmas cookies
22. Wrap a toy and bring it to a charity Christmas tree
23. Dress up fancy for dinner time
24. Prepare a special Christmas Eve treat for Santa Claus
25. It's Christmas! Remember that you have a family that loves you and that's the most important gift of all.

If anyone enjoyed this post or has done something similar that they would like to share, I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lest We Forget

It isn't easy to find the words to express some things, but for the sake of trying to remember a friend of mine that I lost this past year, I am going to attempt it. For the most part, I haven't really allowed myself to fully process or grieve for her passing. It is still in many ways too raw and painful to think about. What I remember most is the sick feeling of shock that rolled over me when I saw her picture in a news story, followed by the desperate hope that somehow it was all a mistake. I knew deep down of course that it wasn't, but I couldn't bare the thought of believing it. I still find it almost impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that she is really gone.

I remembered that it had only been a matter of days since I had checked out her latest photos on Facebook. I remembered thinking how happy she looked, and feeling proud of how successful she seemed to be. We had been closer many years ago, but for the most part we had lost touch with each other. Even so, as I tried to digest the news of her death, I felt myself reeling over from the shock. I collapsed into the chair on which I was sitting and I felt the tears pouring out of my eyes. Since that moment, it has been extremely difficult to really think about it, and for the most part I have avoided it.

It is easy enough in hindsight to say that there were warning signs, that someone should have known that something was wrong, but I think that everyone who knew her personally was just as shocked and stunned as I was, and probably more so. This was the first, and thankfully the only time in my experience, that someone I've known personally has chosen to take their own life. I had always believed that I would feel angry with someone for committing such an act, but I can honestly say that I have not been able to muster even the smallest shred of anger towards her. What I mostly feel is an aching sadness that no one had the slightest idea of the secret pain she must have carried around with her always.

There is the longing to go back in time to do something, say something, to make it somehow better. Even if I could just go back in time and stay a little more connected to her while she was still with us. She was a remarkable person, full of life, and talent, and kindness. Her story should not have ended this way. No one's story should ever end like that. To her family and loved ones, my deepest condolences for their tragic loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. Sad though I am, I know that I can scarcely imagine their pain. As for my friend, she was truly the kind of person that I feel fortunate to have known, however briefly. I can only hope that somehow she has now found the peace that seems to have eluded her in life.

Rest peacefully in Heaven. I will always remember you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bzz Hat

Spoiler Alert - J., don't read this. You know who you are.

Finished my latest knitting project at last. It is a pattern called Bzz Hat from the book, Stitch n Bitch Nation. I am giving it to my sister for Christmas. I know it is rather early for that but I am hoping to make several knitted gifts for presents this year, so I have to get the ball rolling sooner rather than later. I am pretty sure that my sister doesn't read this blog (does anyone?), so I am not particularly worried about spoiling anything. For my next project I have to do some quicky baby hats as gifts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle - Don't Judge a Book by its Cover

Wow. Like many people, I heard about this performance on the telly show, Britain's Got Talent, and so I decided to look up the clip on YouTube. I suspect that my initial reaction to this woman was much the same as the majority of others. I like to think that I am open minded and willing to judge people by their inner worth, but I am ashamed to admit that when I saw her, I just couldn't get past the thought that this poor lady was about to humiliate herself. Why? She looked, well, old and frumpy. She did not look at all like what I thought a star should look like. I wasn't proud of it, but a part of me was snickering right along with the audience.

But then she opened her mouth and started to sing and I was blown away, along with everyone else. To see the looks on everyone's faces, from the audience to the judges, was absolutely priceless - no less so, because I knew that the same look was on my own face. She took a hostile and derisive crowd that was chomping at the bit to tear her apart and instantly transformed and humbled them. The snarky and bemused laughter quickly stopped and was promptly replaced by looks of amazement and cheers. Even the terminally cynical Simon Cowell (and who can blame him, considering how many truly awful performances the man has been forced to sit through) was grinning from ear to ear.

There is something timeless and wonderful about the triumph of the underdog, and this was frankly one of the greatest come from behind victories that I have ever witnessed. So go, Susan go! You are my new hero. I don't actually watch any of the Idol/spin off type shows, but if I did, you would get my vote.