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Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in July 2014


books read

Back at home in Nova Scotia, I eagerly anticipated the annual Read by the Sea Literary Festival in nearby River John in mid-July. I enjoyed readings by, and panel discussions with, Russell Wangersky, Steven Galloway, Frank MacDonald, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Sharon Butala and Sylvia McDonald. You’ll find books by some of them in my reading over the next couple of months.

The Glass Harmonica by Russell Wangersky (Literary fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 4.5 star rating
 photo glass harmonica_zps8oavdopq.jpgSet in St. John’s Newfoundland where the author lives and works as editor and columnist for The Telegram, The Glass Harmonica is the story of a neighbourhood. In the present, a man witnesses his neighbour shot and killed by a pizza delivery person, but the back story is woven in pieces by various neighbours, back and forth over the course of 40 years. Wangersky has been called a craftsman storyteller. I concur.

This book won 2010 BMO Winterset Award for the outstanding literary work in any genre by a Newfoundlander or Labradorian.

Read this if: you’ve ever walked down your street and wondered what goes on behind closed doors
4½ stars

A Possible Madness by Frank MacDonald (Literary Fiction, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating
 photo possible madness_zpszzkimdnf.jpg
Frank MacDonald is one of Cape Breton’s most celebrated writers.

A Possible Madness is set in the fictional mining town of Shean in Cape Breton which has seen its fortunes fall as the coal has been used up. Now a global corporation plans to build a seawall offshore and exploit the remaining coal. It’ll mean jobs but will the town agree to let it happen?

Read this if: you’d like to gain insight into the economics and everyday life of residents of a closed mining town, or you like literary fiction with a surprise twist. 4 stars

The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe (Literary Fiction, Canadian) 4 star rating
 photo englishmans boy_zpslzhyopwi.jpgAmazon: “It’s a story within a story–a shimmering romance about the myth of movie-making in Hollywood in the 1920s and an account of a real-life massacre of First Nations people in Montana in the 1870s. Linking these two very different stories is Shorty McAdoo, an aging cowboy, who as a young man acted as a guide for the American and Canadian trappers who perpetrated the massacre, and who is now going to be the subject of a no-holds-barred blockbuster set to rival D.W. Griffith’s epic Birth of a Nation.” (My note: The massacre actually took place in Saskatchewan but was spearheaded by American wolf-hunters from Montana.)

Winner of the 1996 Governor General’s Award for Fiction (beating out Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace), this is the first in a loose trilogy, although each book stands alone. Brilliant writing.

4 stars

The Bear by Claire Cameron (Literary Fiction, Canadian) 4 star rating

(True story:) In October of 1991, a pair of campers was attacked & killed by a black bear in Algonquin National Park, in northern Ontario, Canada. Author Claire Cameron was a counsellor at a summer camp at Algonquin that year. “The Bear [the novel] is based on my memories of and research into this bear attack. I added the kids.”

 photo bear_zpsnkkk1gp8.jpgThe Bear (the novel) is told through the eyes and voice of five year old Anna, one of those kids. She and her two year old brother Stick are the survivors of an attack that kills their parents.

With her dying words, her mother tells Anna to leave the island in a canoe, and thus begins the children’s sojourn alone through the vast wilderness that is Algonquin. The tension as the children suffer through each tribulation (hunger, thirst, mosquitos, shelter, and so on) rises steadily. I couldn’t put this down.

Read this if: you want to know if the children survived; or you think you ever want to go wilderness camping.
4 stars

A Traveller’s History of France by Robert Cole (Nonfiction, History) 3 star rating

 photo travellers history_zpsp0m95dtw.jpgI struggled through this for the sake of our planned trip to France, starting in June and not finishing it until nearly the end of July.

It’s dense and reads like a textbook: empires and republics ad nauseam. A great Paris-centric overview if you’re studying the history of France but for someone interested in traveling to France for a three week visit and who wants to understand the regions of France and their attitudes, it was not so useful.
3 stars

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White (Fiction) 3 star rating

I read this on my Kindle over a period of three months; it just took that long to get through.

There is some beautiful writing but, even though there’s a hint of a murder mystery, the story doesn’t go anywhere. I kept reading because I thought something must be going to happen, but I was disappointed. Nothing did. 3 stars


*   *   *   *   *

My lone mystery this month was

The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Fiction, Mystery, Vintage) 3.5 star rating
The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart photo circular staircase dover edition_zpsgvjr9cxh.jpgMary Roberts Rinehart was considered the American Agatha Christie and for many years reigned as queen of the American mystery genre. The Circular Staircase was her second published book (1908) and featured the second, and last, outing of the tart-tongued middle-aged Miss Cornelia Van Gorder. Miss Van Gorder has invited her niece and nephew to accompany her to a country house for a relaxing summer. But instead of rural quiet they found murder and hijinks.

Roberts Rinehart wrote with humour and a great sense of place and time, but I found it just a little too madcap.
3½ stars


I read great Canadian fiction this month! Does anything look interesting to you?


P.S. The links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.


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10 Comments to

“Books Read in July 2014”

  1. On November 18th, 2016 at 2:35 pm Naomi Says:

    Why haven’t I heard of The Glass Harmonica? I’ve just added it to my list. Have you read Leslie Vryenhoek’s book? I loved it! (They’re still married, right?) Anyway, her book is good even if they’re not. 🙂

    I loved The Bear. Looking forward to her new one!

    If I ever make it to Read By the Sea, we should meet up! (We are usually on one of our many camping trips, and I always forget to plan around it. Will try harder.)

  2. On November 18th, 2016 at 4:12 pm Debbie Says:

    I’m not sure I would have heard of Glass Harmonica if I hadn’t heard the author read (although he didn’t read from that). I didn’t know that he was married to Leslie Vryenhoek and I haven’t read her book either – so that’s going on my TBR list. I learn so much from you!

    YES! It would be great to meet up at RBTS.

  3. On November 18th, 2016 at 10:04 pm Teresa Says:

    All the books reviewed sound interesting, but I CANNOT look at another book until I read some I have. I attended a historic preservation conference in Houston, Texas, this week and in addition to purchasing books about historic preservation, my husband and I visited Half Price Books–need I say more?

  4. On November 18th, 2016 at 10:15 pm Debbie Says:

    I completely understand, Teresa! I’ll bargain that was a FUN week!

  5. On November 21st, 2016 at 1:25 pm Judy Krueger Says:

    I read 8 books in July 2014. We made a trip to Michigan for our niece’s wedding so no reading got done that week! My favorite reads were Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky, The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi.
    Read by the Sea is a lovely name for a literary festival.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you Debbie. Wait, do you celebrate that in Canada?

  6. On November 21st, 2016 at 2:37 pm Debbie Says:

    Oh – I want to read Americanah, Judy – did you enjoy it?

    Canadian Thanksgiving is the second Monday in October.

  7. On November 21st, 2016 at 6:30 pm Buried In Print Says:

    What a great month! I hadn’t heard of the Frank MacDonald novel, which sounds quite interesting. I couldn’t put down The Bear either. And I loved The Englishman’s Boy, even though it takes me awhile to settle into his pace of storytelling (it simply can NOT be rushed, eh?), and eventually finished the trilogy, though I couldn’t choose a favourite amongst them in the end.

  8. On November 21st, 2016 at 7:46 pm Debbie Says:

    It was a great month, Marcie. I haven’t read A Good Man yet, although I did buy it at that Read by the Sea. I think I liked < The Last Crossing the better of the two I’ve read.

  9. On November 23rd, 2016 at 10:16 pm Naomi Says:

    And Leslie Vryenhoek’s book just got longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award!

  10. On November 26th, 2016 at 6:17 pm Debbie Says:

    I should have Ledger of the Open Hand in my open hands any day now. I`m excited to read it!

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