Friday, March 30, 2012

Surprising myself

Have you ever written something on a whim, with no idea where you're going with it, and get to the end and think "Yeah, it's alright" then, a few days later you read it again and you almost say out loud, "Wow, did I really write this? It's pretty good."
This happens to me every so often, and when it does, I feel almost sick with excitement and pride, and a little - okay, a lot - modest. But today I've decided not to be modest about it and share this small passage with you from my novel, Missing Since Tuesday. I think it's rather good. What do you think? Have you had a moment like this and would like to share? Leave me a comment or a link, don't be shy!

As the black chill of a cold July night enfolds the town of Owhiro Bay, a cloud of chimney smoke hovers over its small collection of houses as its residents retreat indoors, lighting fires to warm numb hands. Mothers cooks their families hearty winter meals; piping hot chunks of beef and potato swimming in thick gravy; steaming vegetable soup bubbling on the stove; sausage meat, mince and vegetables mushed together to form mum’s famous meatloaf.

When the children are tucked up in bed and their parents enjoy a moment of solace in front of the fire, they listen to the distant waves crashing against the rocky shore, a sound that makes them thankful to be inside and lulls the little ones to sleep.
Just a few hundred metres away on that rocky shore, a young man dressed in a once immaculate suit and tie walks out of time to the tune of the ocean as he stumbles over the rocks and his own feet as if in a dream, or rather, a nightmare, willing the movement to wake him up because the howling wind and stinging rain that burns his cheeks is simply not enough.
He trips one last time, this time on a piece of driftwood, and tumbles to the ground where he lies staring up at the grey clouds above that match the colour of his heart.
Sleep finally finds him, though he wonders if it is death in disguise as the rain pounds his sodden body, but he gives into it, content with the promise of relief from his pain, whether he wakes up from it or not.

Funky book storage

Found these while ambling through Google... wish I had a house... and some money to buy some of these awesome book storage ideas...


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life of late

I've seen this feature on a few of my favourite blogs, so I thought I would try it too. Ideally it will be called "My Week in Photos", but these particular photos are from the past two weeks, so for now it's called "Life of Late" - just a few snapshots of the funness happening in my life right now. It's not often we get to say "life is pretty great right now", so it's an amazing feeling to be able to say it this week and hopefully I'll get to say it next week too.
I hope you're having a great week, and if you're not, tomorrow when you wake up, tell yourself "I'm going to be happy today" and force a smile onto your face. Then do something that makes you happy. Even if you have to go to work, to a job you hate, eat your lunch in a pretty place that makes you feel calm or look around you instead of rushing to work and find something beautiful in your surroundings. You make your own happiness. You get to choose. Remember to smile. :)

These photos are from two main events in the past two weeks: a hike up a HUGE hill that nearly killed us but was worth it for the beautiful view and the amazing sense of accomplishment (see more here), and a photoshoot my sister did of Josh and I for her photography portfolio at school (more of those to come).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dreaming of... Cotswolds

The place "where time has stood still for 300 years". Oh my, is it not beautiful? I don't think you could possibly get more English than Cotswolds, especially with place names like Gloucestershire,
Worcestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Herefordshire. Cup o' tea luv?


Monday, March 26, 2012

We don't know how lucky we are, mate

Have you got the song in your head now? Sorry about that... but I do too. It's a song that pops into my head often, especially when, from my seemingly secluded place in the quiet, friendly suburbs I call home, I am 15 minutes drive from the beach, albeit a rocky, rugged beach. I'm 40 minutes from golden sandy beaches. I'm 30 minutes from the city. I'm 5-20 minutes away from stunning bush walks (they're everywhere) where you feel like you're on another planet that is far, far away from the city. I'm 5 minutes away from a river where many childhood summer days were spent cooling off and jumping off cliffs. I'm 20 minutes away from a regional park where my friends and family and I have more than once rocked up with a couple of tents and a chilly bin and set up camp wherever we wanted, taking up as much space as we needed, for just $5. I'm even just an hour away from "the country", a place full of farms, side-of-the-road fruit stalls, world class vineyards, and boutique bakeries.
Now, I hope you don't think I'm showing off... But I truly love where I live. I feel so lucky. How many other places in the world can you be within an hour of pretty much EVERYTHING?
I didn't always feel this way. As a teenager, I always dreamed of travelling the world for years and years, of experiencing all the beautiful places there are outside of New Zealand. But what I have begun to realise over the last few years (even though I do still want to travel, but for months, not years), after leaving New Zealand once for three months to travel across America and then moving away (within New Zealand) from where I grew up, is that I live in one of the coolest places in the entire world.
I now see the city of Wellington in a whole new light. I look around in wonder as I walk to work, marvelling at the historic buildings, thinking of the people who created them; the buskers and travellers sitting on the footpath selling their wares and entertaining lunchtime crowds; the harbour with wind that literally nearly knocks you over, the historic houses piled up on the hills; the cable car that has carried many generations of Wellingtonians up to the Terrace and down to Lambton Quay.
When I see tourists fresh off the cruise ships that dock in the habour, I swell with pride, knowing that this is my city. These are my buildings, my people - it's all of ours and that makes us all extremely lucky.
A five and a half hour hike up Belmont Regional Park last weekend drove this point home yet again. Even though we've lived here all our lives, we still can't get over the fact that just 20 minutes drive away from home, you can be in the absolute wilderness, climbing up a hill.
It was all my idea, of course. You might remember I wrote a post about my fitness goal: to walk the Tongariro Alpine Crossing next summer, to make my gym efforts worth it. So I roped in my family to come hiking with me and we thought we would start small with a nice walk through Belmont Regional Park. We went up one hill and I decided we hadn't quite done enough, so we walked up another hill because we had been told there were amazing views. I don't actually know how long it took to get up there, but it was absolute torture. Every time we emerged from the bush and saw a small clearing, we thought it was the end. But there was no trig station in sight. So we had to keep going. With Josh walking behind my sister and I physically pushing us up the hill, we made it to the top, lungs burning, legs aching, faces beetroot red, trying not to think about the fact that we had to walk back down the hill.
But man was it worth it.
There we stood, on top of the world, our world, with a 360 degree view of all that we call home.
Lucky, lucky, lucky.

Happy Monday :)

The sun is shining and it's set to be a beautiful week here in Wellington, so Happy Monday people, hope your week is off to a good start. :)

“If things start happening, don't worry, don't stew, just go right along and you'll start happening too.”

- Dr. Seuss

(This photo is part of a wee adventure we had in Wellington on the weekend which I shall tell you about later in the week:)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dreaming of... Bora Bora

Oh my lord... just look at this place!!! Just a little something to put a smile on your dial for your weekend - I've just upped our OE budget by a couple of hundred... Have a good one! :) xo

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Just read this beautiful little story on the NZ Writers' College blog, about the hard and terrifying road to becoming a writer, and I thought I would share it with you. It's so true in so many ways, and I'm sure all you aspiring writers out there will take some encouragement from it - I know I have.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Books that changed my life

Was it a childhood favourite that helped you discover the full power of your imagination? Was it an inspirational true story that taught you not to take life for granted? Was it a self help book that made you realise you were not living your life to the full? Or was it a novel in your adult years that taught you about love?
For me, two books have changed my life - one in my childhood, and one on the cusp of adulthood.
In the newspaper on the weekend, I read a great feature where eight well-known Wellingtonians - writers, politicians, a broadcaster, a sportsman and a comedian were asked what book changed their life, so I thought I would share mine with you.
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
I was delighted to discover that Bill Manhire - writer and the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University - and I share a life-changing book: The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.
Being a shy, quiet child who preferred reading to sport, I read a lot of books in my childhood and Enid Blyton was there through it all. I read as many of the Famous Five books as  could get my hands on, and then discovered her foray into fantasy which I struggled to put down and read over and over again.
I will admit that I don't remember much of the story, but I do remember how it opened up my imagination and made me believe in another world, another reality that is closer than you think. It sticks with me today, and I even think it influences how I write - not shying away from magic, other worlds, and the possibility of a force, a sort of electricity around us that we can neither see, nor touch, nor understand, that would explain things like spirits and demons and people that don't quite make sense in this world.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
At the tender age of fourteen, I went to my local library after getting frustrated with the lack of mature fiction in my school library. I was bored with every book I read, so I asked the librarian if she would point me towards something a little different, something exciting. And that's when my obsession with Jamie and Claire Fraser began.
You've all heard me talk about Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series - I seem to find a way to slip it into every post I write about books - but it's just so GOOD!
Looking back now, I do wonder if it was appropriate for a fourteen year old girl to be reading a book so full of very, very detailed sex scenes. But in a way, I'm grateful because it taught me that sex is not just physical - it's the most intimate thing you can do with another person and when you love them more than life itself, you bear your soul to that person. And Diana Gabaldon herself taught me that the intense, all-consuming, impassioned love that exists between Jamie and Claire is possible in the real world - because she experiences it herself.
And then there's the time travel. I LOVE time travel stories, and this book started me on the road to writing my own novel - which I've dreamed about doing all my life - which also has a time travel element to it.
Again, it was not just the book, but the author who influenced me here. She came to Wellington a few years ago promoting the seventh book in the series, An Echo in the Bone, and spoke to a packed audience about her books.
At the end during question time, someone asked "What advice to you have for aspiring writers?" And she said, "Just start writing".
Then someone asked, "How do you find the time?" and she said, "How many hours a day do you spend watching television?"
Simple, I know. I mean, of course all you have to do to start writing a book is to "Just start writing", but so often we have this perception of an author having a degree in English Literature and a masters and a PHD to top it off - oh, and you have to be graying around the edges.
But - although Diana Gabaldon has three degrees in science: Zoology, Marine Biology, and Quantitative Behavioral Ecology - she was just a woman who wanted to write a book, so she just started writing - in her thirties while raising three young children.
So that's how Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton changed my life.

What book, or books, changed your life?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Monday :)

Good morning friends and a happy Monday to you! Hope you had a great weekend. I for one am a little worse for wear this morning after a five hour hike up a really high mountain yesterday that was a lot harder than we thought it would be - and it was all my idea but I only have myself to blame. But it was worth it for the view and the amazing sense of accomplishment we all felt when we made it to the top... and then to the car at the bottom. It was great practice for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which we plan to tackle in January 2013. I will post photos of our amazing adventure later this week as part of my WellyLove feature, so watch this space. I also have a little business venture to tell you about, which is small, but super-exciting and something I have been wanting to do for a long time.
So here is some Monday inspiration, have a great week!

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.

Katherine Mansfield

Friday, March 16, 2012

Strangely beautiful

The weekend before last, my partner and I were driving past Petone Beach a day after the "weather bomb", which included buckets and buckets of rain and gale force winds that battered the whole country for a day, and he pointed out how "ugly" the beach looked with tree branches and all sorts of debris washed up from the storm.
"It's kind of beautiful in a weird kind of way," I said, and he turned to me with that crease between his eyebrows that he gets when I say something odd, "You find beauty in the strangest things," he said.
He's right, I do. Crumbling down houses are beautiful because, although they will most likely be torn down one day or give in to the elements and simply crumble, once upon a time it was brand new, and someone lived there, families were raised there, there was a story. Washed up debris on the beach after a fierce storm is beautiful because it makes us humans aware of our vulnerability and how no man is a match for Mother Nature.
So that is why I want to show you this town in America that has just gone up for sale.
It's called Buford, it's in Wyoming, and it's population is: 1.

Isn't it fun to dream?

Source unknown

Monday, March 12, 2012

Happy Monday :)

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Dreaming of... Lake Wanaka in Autumn

In a few weeks time, Lake Wanaka, Queenstown will start to look like this...

Couldn't you just imagine being that couple sitting together on the bench, all wrapped up looking out at the lake, surrounded by fallen autumn leaves?
It's funny how New Zealand is such a small country and I have lived here my whole life, yet I've only seen half of it. I feel a southern roadtrip calling...

Happy weekend xo

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Making the pain worth it

So a couple of weeks ago, I joined a gym. I've never been a sporty person - in my adult life, the closest I've come is watching rugby and the occassional game of soccer. So joining a gym was not the most natural thing in the world for me, but, much to my surprise, I'm thoroughly enjoying it, especially the Body Combat class which involves punching and kicking the air mixed martial arts-style to the tune of motivating music for an hour. I feel healthier, stronger, and much more energetic.
Although I do have a couple of general things I want to get out of the gym - making my shoulders stronger so they don't hurt so much, strengthening my core, and improving my fitness, I decided I needed a big goal - something I can do at the end of the year to prove I have achieved all these things.

So I've decided to walk what is said to be the best one-day hike in New Zealand, just a few hours drive from home - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

It's a world-renowned trek, with 19.4km of alpine meadows, craters, scattered pumice, active volcanoes, mountain springs, lava flows, emerald lakes, piles of scoria and statue-like mounds of volcanic desert. It's New Zealand scenery at it's best, and it sounds like a challenge with its ever-changing terrain and weather, and steep mountain climbs. Can't wait!

Simple pleasures

Good morning friends, hope you're having a lovely day... just wanted to share this gorgeous photo with you because it made me smile. I hope it makes you smile too :)

Photo from here

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A shipwreck and the magical musical clock

It’s my favourite building in the whole of Wellington, one I walk past every day on my way to work, and one I have always admired, yet, even though I have been inside before, I never truly appreciated it’s beauty until Tuesday afternoon.
Usually when I see a great old building, I’m often disapointed with the pictures that come out of it because while it may look pretty on the outside, the inside is most often a stock-standard building full of the same old shops or offices. But it was almost impossible to pick which photos to put on here. When you’re not shopping and you’re just looking, taking it all in, that building has got to be one of the most interesting I have ever been in.

So I Googled it the day before I went and found out some fascinating facts about a shipwreck, a musical clock, and a man named John Plimmer, who I will tell you about in my next post.

My rush to get there (a great day to break in new heels) was less due to the fact that I had a short lunch break, and more to do with getting there at 1pm on the dot. Why? A golden ball-shaped clock hangs from the ceiling of the arcade, and on the hour, every hour, it opens to the sound of music to reveal a series of scenes depicting old Wellington and, when you go upstairs to get a closer look at the scenes, one of those wise old museum voices tells you a bit of history.

I didn’t get my hopes up that it would still be there because, like the trams that used to run through the city, it sounded like one of those classic things that would have become lost in the twenty-first century. But, as I stood pinned up against a wall trying to avoid the lunchtime rush and probably looking like a far-too-eager tourist, I held my camera at the ready and at 1pm sharp, the music started and it opened! Realising I couldn’t see it from below, I ran upstairs and there it was. Classic, timeless, beautiful.

A woman appeared next to me, who I have a feeling had seen me gazing intently at the clock and then rush up the stairs, so followed me to see what the fuss was about, and she asked, “how often does that happen?”. I replied, “Every hour on the hour apparently”, and she looked stunned and said how she had lived in Wellington for years and never knew it was there. I told her I had lived in Wellington all my life and even I didn’t know!

Another interesting feature of the Old Bank is the shipwreck buried underneath the reclaimed land.

The remains of the 1848 Inconstant were discovered not so long ago, in 1997 when the sadly neglected building was given new life and restored. In 1849, it set sail from Plymouth bound for South Australia with 209 Irish female migrants on board. Bound for Callao, Peru, with a cargo of tea and animal skins, it never made it to it’s destination. As it entered Wellington harbour in October 1849 to replenish the ship’s supplies, it hit rocks at Pencarrow Heads and was stranded.

The Royal Navy helped the crew haul the stricken ship off the rocks and towed it to Te Aro. No one had the money to make the Inconstant seaworthy. Shipwright William McKenzie bought the vessel at auction and sold it to John Plimmer in 1850 for £80. Plimmer gained Governor Grey's approval to locate the vessel on the foreshore at Lambton Quay. He then had to haul the Inconstant from Te Aro.

"...when the tide was down they fastened empty oil barrels and hogsheads all round her, and laid out a large anchor away in deep water... high water began to haul on to ropes with about forty men... And all the people passing came to lend a hand and in Barrett's Hotel she was christened the Noah's Ark..."

When the ship was in place, Plimmer had the bilges filled with spoil, a pitched roof was added to the midsection of the hull, and the upper works of the bow section were cut away. The lower part of the ship formed a basement and a small bridge provided access to the Ark from Lambton Quay.

In January 1855, the largest earthquake ever recorded in New Zealand, measuring 8.2, struck Wellington and lifted the shoreline at least a metre, tipping over the ark. Although the ark was righted, the water level around the hull was too shallow for vessels to dock at.

The ark was demolished in 1883 and the ship’s ribs were cut down to ground level to make way for the building of the National Mutual Life Association head office.

In 1899 the hull was exposed again during excavations for the new Bank of New Zealand head office and in July 1997, during excavations for the modification of the Bank of New Zealand buildings, the remains of the Inconstant's hull were uncovered, a discovery which led to an archaeological investigation of the site.

I didn’t want to leave, but time was short. So I left wearing a huge grin, tempted to take a ride on the cable car, walk to Karori Cemetery, visit the Alexander Turnbull Library and Katherine Mansfield's birthplace - all at the same time, if only it were possible. But we shall save that for another day. Stay tuned.

"Not possible. Maria had looked at those buildings thousands of times. The dates carved into the masonry were supposed to be old and worn, barely readable to those who had no interest in looking.
But they were new and pristine.
She stood, leaning against what she new as the Old Bank Arcade but was now actually a bank and the only one that, in her time, was not crammed in between high rises. It gave her a sense of comfort to lean against this building she had leaned against, walked through, shopped in, and had coffee in many times before, yet at the same time a sense of dread was slowly creeping in, settling itself in the pit of her stomach.
Maria was definitely still in Wellington, but she was a long way from home."
- Missing Since Tuesday, by Sarah Hardie


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dreaming of... the Similan Islands

As I look out the window from my desk at work, I see grey clouds drifting across the sky and the wind blowing the trees, and can think of nothing better than waking up in a warm bamboo bungalow next to Josh on a near-deserted island, walking out onto the golden sand and jumping in the ocean for a morning swim with the hot sun beating down on me.

I came across the Similan Islands on this great blog Mr and Mrs Globe Trot, which is the diary of American couple Julia and Yuriy, who got married then took off overseas for six months visiting all sorts of off-the-beaten-track places like Laos and Ukraine as well as some popular tourist spots like London and Paris. They have long-since returned, but still have a backlog of posts which I follow religiously because it's the kind of trip we want to do sometime in the next couple of years, except we want to see more of Europe, the UK and America rather than the Asian countries they've been to.

But, I think I can make an exception for Thailand, especially if it includes a trip to the Similan Islands. Check out Julia's post here - that would be the life wouldn't it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Happy Monday!

Good morning everyone, and a Happy Monday to you! After an awful storm on the weekend, the sun is shining and it's one of those chilly but beautiful days Wellington does so well. Hope you had a great weekend, bring on the new week!
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”
― Dr. Seuss

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's NZ Book Month!

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

― Dr. Seuss
Guess what! Not only is March the beginning of my favourite season - autumn! But, it's also New Zealand Book Month - a whole month dedicated to books! Yes it's a tad nerdy to be excited about book month, but hell, I am a nerd when it comes to books, you learn to love it.
So I hope Dr Seuss, my favourite childhood author (I still have a very battered copy of The Lorax on my book shelf) has provided you with some inspiration, and you can look forward to some more in the coming weeks as I share with you more quotes from my favourite authors.

And here is my Top Five list of books I think you should read this month because they're really quite good.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
A warning before you start reading this one: Put aside a couple of years because this is a seven-book series and once you get halfway through Cross Stitch, Jamie and Claire Fraser will rule your life.
The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach - an "outlander" - in a Scotland torn by war and raiding Highland clans in 1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into intrigues and dangers that may threaten her life and shatter her heart. For here she meets James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, and becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire, and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. Link

Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen
Even if you have seen the movie, I still highly recommend you read Water for Elephants. The movie does the book very proud, but misses out a bit of detail - even some of the characters. It's one of the best books I have ever read.
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski is tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It is the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie.
It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And Rosie, an untrainable elephant who is the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grows among this unlikely trio is one of love and trust, and, ultimately, their only hope for survival. Link

Goodbye Sarajevo, by Atka Reid and Hana Schofield
It is very hard to wrap your head around the fact that this is a true story, every word. But it's brilliant, and a poignant reminder that no matter how hard things get here in New Zealand with natural disasters and the up-and-down economy, we are one of the luckiest countries in the world to have been spared from war.
May, 1992. Hana is twelve years old when she is put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing the besieged city of Sarajevo. Her twenty-one-year-old sister, Atka staying behind to look after their five younger siblings, is there to say goodbye. Thinking that they will be apart for only a few weeks, they make a promise to each other to be brave.
But as the Bosnian war escalates and months go by without contact; their promise to each other becomes deeply significant. Hana is forced to cope as a refugee in Croatia, far away from home and family, while Atka battles for survival in a city where snipers, mortar attacks and desperate food shortages are a part of everyday life. Their mother, working for a humanitarian organization, is unable to reach them and their father retreats inside himself, desperately shocked by what is happening to his city.
But when Atka finds work as a translator in an old smoky radio station, and then with Andrew, a photojournalist from New Zealand, life takes an unexpected turn, and the remarkable events that follow change her life, and those of her family forever. Link

One Day, by David Nicholls
Although it didn't blow my mind at first like I thought it would, being a bestseller and all, it grew on me. The thing I loved about it was how it focussed on the unique friendship between a guy and a girl more than a tear-jerking love story. Having male friends myself who I love to pieces I had many "that's totally us" moments while reading One Day.
15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways.
So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows?
One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same. Link

The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons
It's the beginning of another series, but rest assured this one is only three books long - three long books you will struggle to put down. It is an incredible story of human courage, survival and finding love is the midst of World War II when the world felt like it was coming to an end in Leningrad, Russia.
Leningrad 1941: Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. It is a hard, impoverished life, yet the Metanovs know many who are not as fortunate as they.
The family routine is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. On that fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young officer named Alexander.
Tatiana and her family suffer as Hitler’s army advances on Leningrad, and the Russian winter closes in. With bombs falling and the city under siege, Tatiana and Alexander are drawn to each other in an impossible love. It is a love that could tear Tatiana’s family apart, a love that carries a secret that could mean death for anyone who hears it.
Confronted on the one hand by Hitler’s unstoppable war machine, and on the other by a Soviet system determined to crush the human spirit, Tatiana and Alexander are pitted against the very tide of history, at a turning point in the century that made the modern world. Link