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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in April 2015

February2

books read In April 2015, I continued with the trend I began the previous month, and Canadian literature formed just about half of my reading. I was reading, in part, in order to be familiar with the visiting authors at the annual Read by the Sea in River John Nova Scotia in July. In the end, I missed that event, but my reading was enriched anyway.

Mysteries are detailed in a separate post.

 

1. BELONGING: Home Away from Home by Isabel Huggan (Nonfiction, Travel, Canadian) 4 star rating

Canadian author Isabel Huggan & her husband fell in love with southern France on a holiday trip there and decided to relocate their home to where they had left their hearts. They intended it to be ‘home’, not a holiday house nor a second home but their permanent residence.

I choose to think that those of us who settle here permanently—définitivement—are more kindly looked upon than those who just drop in for a few weeks of sunny weather. But I may be fooling myself.

 photo belonging_zpslvufitpe.jpgHuggan explores the concept of ‘belonging” not only in relation to fitting in and becoming a part of the French community, but also in relation to no longer ‘belonging’ in Canada when they visit.

Although I had initially thought that the part about acclimatizing to France would be the bit that ‘spoke’ to me, her thoughts on no longer belonging to her native land resonated more with me. I was born and raised and lived the first 48 years of my life in Ontario, but now that we have been in Nova Scotia for nearly 15 years, we find Ontario to be a foreign country when we visit.

It’s well worth reading this lovely narrative.

4 stars

 

2. ROOST by Ali Bryan (Fiction, Contemporary, Atlantic Canadian) 4 star rating

 photo roost_zpsqqnj4mda.jpgRoost was chosen as the One Book Nova Scotia selection for 2015.

Set in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it relates a slice of life for Claudia, a recently-single mom of two pre-schoolers, whose mother dies suddenly at the age of 60. Claudia must cope not only with her own grief, but also that of her brother, and of her father – who starts to hoard. Plus, her ex is moving to another relationship.

I found this to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it does contain a lot of crude language.

4 stars

 

3. A HUNDRED FLOWERS by Gail Tsukiyama (Fiction, Historical) 4 star rating

 photo hundred flowers_zpssvefyyeh.jpgSet in Mao’s China in 1957, the title of this book refers to the program—“Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend”—that saw intellectuals and artists feel free to express dissident ideas, only to find that it led to arrest and ‘re-education’ in labour camps, or even death.

Kai Ying’s husband, Sheng, is dragged away the morning of his son’s sixth birthday and sent to a labour camp.
Amazon describes it as “a powerfully moving story of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances with grace and courage.”

It was an interesting lesson in China’s history but it wasn’t powerful enough to sweep me off my feet.

4 stars

 

4. A BRIEF MOMENT OF WEIGHTLESSNESS by Victoria Fish (Fiction, Short Stories) 4 star rating

 photo brief moment_zpsmml5cycx.jpgEach story in this collection is rich – in language, and in relationships. For the most part, these are everyday situations: a family returning to the family cottage for their annual vacation, an elderly woman faced with having to enter a nursing home, a young girl grieving her mother who has died of breast cancer, but in each Fish plumbs the depth of the complex human heart.

The nature of short stories is that they are often unresolved, but I found these even more so, else I might have rated this a half star higher.

4 stars

 

5. A BUNCH OF PRETTY THINGS I DID NOT BUY by Sarah Lazarovic (Nonfiction, Illustrated) 3.5 star rating
 photo bunch of pretty things_zpsrptkq3qb.jpg
Oh, the irony! One of the books I indulged in buying new this year, rather than obtaining it second hand, or from the library was this one – about material things. It received such glowing comments in the Globe & Mail!

The author illustrated this herself, and I expected (and wanted) a sort of journal of lovely items that she had considered, the circumstances under which she considered them, and the reason she decided not to buy. Since reading this, I have thought that I might just make my own journal of such items (only, with cut and pasted pictures.)

Because this book wasn’t that.

 photo bunch of pretty things_zps8s0cjdxm.jpg

A small (5”x7”, 13cmx19cm) hardback (looking as though it’s missing its [non-existent] dustjacket), A Bunch of Pretty Things is more a treatise on (over)consumerism, and the learning process to minimalism. As Amazon says: “A witty, gracious, and charmingly illustrated anti-consumer manifesto”. I see now that it’s interesting, but not what I wanted at the time.

This is an excellent book for twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings to read through. The teenage angst and lack of thoughtfulness about consumerism throughout the first part of the book may irritate anyone older. The last chapter – Conclusions – includes a guide to recognizing quality and “simple rules for better shopping”, the things the over 60 crowd was taught in school (at least, I was).

3½ stars

 

6. THE WIND SELLER by Rachael Preston (Fiction, Middle-grade, Atlantic Canadian) 3.5 star rating
The Wind Seller by Rachael Preston photo wind seller_zpsbwcyz6nw.jpg

Set in 1924 in a Bay of Fundy coastal village near Economy, Nova Scotia, this middle-grade fiction explores the after-effects of the Halifax Explosion seven years earlier.

Honestly, I remember very little else about this but I did rate it at the time of reading – and I noted that the author has never lived in Nova Scotia. Was that important, I wonder?


3½ stars

 

7. A TOUCH OF STARDUST by Kate Alcott (Fiction, Historical, Women’s, Hollywood) 3 star rating

I love old black and white movies of the 1930s and ‘40s and am interested in the film stars of old. I’ve always been intrigued that Carole Lombard was purported to be, before her tragic death at age 36 in an airplane crash, the love of Clark Gable’s life.
 photo touch of stardust_zpsqfzb3iiy.jpg

Unfortunately, in an attempt to bring Lombard to life, Alcott infused her vocabulary with profanities that were rare by most standards until only a couple of decades ago. It seemed affected to me, and limited my enjoyment of this fictionalized account of the making of Gone with the Wind. Even if Lombard really did talk like that, was it necessary to use to make the point of her “strength”?

3 stars

 

What do you think? Was I too hard on any of these?

 

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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4 Comments to

“Books Read in April 2015”

  1. On February 4th, 2018 at 2:26 pm Judy Krueger Says:

    My goodness, you went everywhere that month!
    I read 10 books in April 2015. Thank goodness I keep a reading log because I wasn’t blogging that month–blogger burnout, I guess.
    Two of the best I read that month were A Brief History of Seven Killings by James Marlon and The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell.

  2. On February 5th, 2018 at 11:11 am Debbie Says:

    I did go a lot of places, didn’t I, Judy?

    I don’t recall hearing about the The Fifth Gospel; I’ll have to check it out.

  3. On February 7th, 2018 at 8:39 pm Naomi Says:

    I read The Wind Seller last year because of its tie-in with the Halifax Explosion. It had a lot of references to places around here, which I loved. And I think she did a nice job with setting – I don’t remember thinking she was writing about a place she didn’t know. I think I rated it 4 stars, which is not that much different than you!

    I loved Roost. She has a new book coming out soon!

  4. On February 7th, 2018 at 9:10 pm Debbie Says:

    I guess my noting that the author had never lived in NS was just me being snarky, Naomi. (I am sometimes, I’m sorry to say.) I’m not very familiar with the South Shore, really, so she probably knows it far better than I do.

    I’m glad to hear that Bryan has a new book coming out. Roost was a lot of fun to read.

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