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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in December 2014

March6

books read 
Since we don’t celebrate any of the holidays in December, the month usually means a bonanza of reading time for me when the stores are closed and my husband is off work. 2014 was no exception.

Mystery books are in a separate post.

 
The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Shelden Cohen, translated by Sheila Fischman (Nonfiction, Picture book, Canadian) 5 star rating  

The Hockey Sweater (30th anniversary edition) by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen photo 9ed6663e-89c0-4930-9f51-dd6824526a42_zps53qq8lmc.jpgIt’s impossible to say anything about this book and keep it to a paragraph or two. So I am going to have to write a separate post so that, if you are Canadian, you will know that you must be familiar with this story and treasure this part of your heritage (despite our Prime Minister’s opinion that there is no Canadian identity) and if you are not Canadian, you will understand a little about what makes this country tick.

I LOVE this book. 5 plus, plus, plus stars

 

Adé: a Love Story by Rebecca Walker (Fiction, Contemporary, Literary) 4.5 star rating

Ade: a Love Story by Rebecca Walker photo 03448ab5-b9fb-4dd2-964e-27087fe51cac_zpsicwl0c4a.jpgThis is subtitled a “love story” but this is no romance novel. An American (or was she a Brit? It doesn’t matter really) falls in love with a native Swahili man while in Kenya. When an epidemic breaks out, they attempt to flee to the first world.

Adé is a love story in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet. Haunting and heart-breaking, it deserves to be a classic of 21st century literature. I have not been as touched by a book in a long time as I was by Adé.

I’m not saying more—you’ll just have to read the book. It’s short, it’s lovely, and it will stay with you a long time.

4½ stars


 

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Fiction, WWII Pacific front) 4.5 star rating

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan photo 91d4f2bc-1886-4c85-906b-06e26f888104_zpssaylhk85.jpgThis 2014 winner of the Man Booker Prize is a look into the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway (“The Death Railway”) during World War II by Australians in Japanese POW camps. They worked in horrendous conditions in the Burmese jungle.

The modern-day part of this novel was annoying and superfluous but the WWII events will stay with you. Harrowing and powerful.

4½ stars


 

Sheep by Valerie Hobbs (Fiction, Children’s Chapter Book) 4 star rating

Sheep by Valerie Hobbs photo 6275f7fb-5958-42a5-8c1d-88145c0840f3_zpsz05ysqjy.jpgThis chapter book for older children and adults, that tells the tale of a homeless border collie (his sheep farm burned) looking for a home, and an orphan, will pull your heart-strings.

It’s told from the point of view (mostly, as I remember) of the dog.

A great story that I’d like to read to my grandchildren.

There is a sequel called Wolf, which I’ve added to my reading list.

4 stars


 

The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (Fiction, Children’s Chapter) 3.5 star rating
The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder photo a2228701-ac17-4881-8501-83cc07318900_zpsvnxvvdcs.jpg

In the woods next to her family’s new home, young Robin finds an abandoned house. Inside she finds beautifully decorated rooms, including her favourite: a room done entirely in plush – the velvet room of the title.

If I had read this as a child, I would have loved it. And I think it would stand up to a rereading as an adult. But finding it for the first time in my seventh decade was not a perfectly satisfying experience.

3½ stars


 
Other People’s Lives by Johanna Kaplan (Fiction, 1970s) 3 star rating

Other People's Lives by Johanna Kaplan photo 0a9ef591-0a3c-4494-9f29-2b85b5bb3353_zps0apuj3ns.jpgThis is a book that I requested from NetGalley because I was intrigued by the cover and title. I had hoped, I think, to peek in many apartments and many lives.

Instead, the book focused on one woman and her rather odd story.

Of course, that’s only my opinion. Other People’s Lives was the winner of a Jewish Book Award and was a finalist for the 1976 National Book Award.

3 stars

 
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell (Fiction, Contemporary) 3 star rating

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell photo 8023e038-8dc4-453e-9804-c052452feadc_zps4j122zc9.jpg
This is another book that I chose to work through the trauma I had felt going through my deceased’s mother home and belongings.

This fiction offering deals with adult children disposing of their hoarder mother’s ‘stuff’. It should have had a big impact on me but I don’t remember the plot at all.

3½ stars


 
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Fiction, Contemporary) 0 star rating

I loved McEwan’s Atonement and was prepared to enjoy this book very much.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan photo 727ed2c9-544b-4286-a3f2-cfa7d59b4699_zpsfxbx27l0.jpgJudge Fiona Maye is dealing with an impending split in her marriage while she is reviewing a difficult case in her court. The case involves a blood transfusion for a seventeen-year-old minor who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It perhaps goes without saying that I was disappointed in her court decision, but I knew it could go either way – that’s real life.

However, McEwan’s portrayal of Witnesses is so off that it was completely wrong. Their vocabulary, their explanation (or not) for their stand, and their reaction to the ruling were all very wide of the mark.

It appears to me that he studied only one court document of an actual case like this one, and it makes me question the authenticity of any characters he represents in his other novels. It completely put me off McEwan and I couldn’t assign this even one star.

 

Holy Bible by Vanessa Russell (Fiction) 0 star rating

Holy Bible by Vanessa Russell photo 8eb77b60-f81b-4952-aa11-3f87bbca9e90_zpsd1lrajle.jpgAnother portrayal by an outsider to a faith – in this case, I believe it was based on the author’s youth in the Christadelphian ecclesia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Christadelphian, but I did have a well-adjusted, kind, and intelligent aunt who was.

I categorically cannot believe what is portrayed in this book. Perhaps some of the practices Russell describes in Holy Bible are based on fact, but they surely have been satirized to an extreme for effect, without explicit indication of this to the non-Christadelphian reader.

I did not find it at all conducive to opening up understanding and tolerance of other faiths.

*   *   *   *   *

 

So a month of reading HIGHS and LOWS.

Have you a favourite book that defines your country’s identity as I feel The Hockey Sweater does Canada’s?

 

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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