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ExUrbanis

Urban Leaving to Country Living

Books Read in June 2015

February12

books read

In June 2015, I hit the ground at home running after my luxurious vacation the month before. That left not too much reading time. Here’s what I managed.

A post detailing the four mystery books in my list will follow.

 

1. THE JAGUAR’S CHILDREN by John Vaillant (Fiction, Contemporary, Immigrants)5 star rating

Desperate to escape their dire circumstances in Mexico, Hector & Cesar pay for passage to America and allow themselves (with great trepidation) to be sealed inside an old water–tank truck.

 photo jaguar_zpsuu5tjymf.jpgAs drinking water runs out and people start to die, Hector finds a number on Cesar’s phone for Annie Mac and leaves messages for her on her voice mail, hoping that they will transmit when there “are bars”.

Before the truck can reach its destination, it breaks down and the driver and his assistant abandon the truck in a desert wilderness area.

The tension in this story is exquisite. Will the driver return? Will anyone survive? What will Annie Mac do when she receives these increasingly despairing messages?

This story is especially relevant today with the issue of non-legal immigration across the USA’s southern border being such a hot button topic. Warning: there are many words and phrases, even entire sentences in Spanish. If, like me, you know no Spanish, this can impinge a little on reading enjoyment, although even I got the gist of such remarks as “And a dead indio will be something to discuss at la comida.”

I highly recommend The Jaguar’s Children.

5 stars

 

2. COOL WATER (released in USA as JULIET IN AUGUST) by Dianne Warren (Fiction, Literary, Canadian) 4.5 star rating

 photo juliet_zps0sl9r5bp.jpgThis cool and still story of the fictional prairie hamlet of Juliet, Saskatchewan for a 24-hour period one August won the Canadian Governor-General’s Award for Fiction in 2010. The ‘Welcome’ sign to Juliet announces a population of 1,011 people but more than you can imagine happens here.
Warren draws a selection of the townspeople in a clear and sure voice.

Her prose has been described as “leisurely and unpretentious” and like a “drink . . . from a deep well after crossing the parched sand hills of the west”. This is one of the books that you will finish and then sit back and realize that much more happened than you thought was happening.

It’s a richly rewarding read.

4½ stars

 
3. ALL CLEAR by Connie Willis (Fiction, Historical, Time-travel) 4.5 star rating

 photo all clear_zpsfciaxs3l.jpg

 
This is the second half and wrap-up of Blackout, which I read in May.

Oxford historians from 2060 are stuck in WWII because of incorrect facts and unforeseen circumstances.

This is a favourite excerpt:

Pg431 (American tourists Connie & Bob at the Imperial War Museum, London)

“Is that the museum schedule?” Bob asked, pointing at the brochure [Colin] was holding.
“Yes.” He handed it to him, and he and Brenda pored over it. . . .
‘The Secret That Won the War,’” she read aloud. “What’s that one about?”
“I don’t know,” Bob said impatiently.
“I believe it’s about Ultra and Bletchley Park,” Calvin said.
“Ultra?”
“The secret project to decode the Nazis’ coded messages,” he said.
“Oh.” Brenda turned to her husband. “I thought you said the American forces were what won the war.”
Bob had the good grace to look embarrassed.
“There were all kinds of things that won the war,” Bob said. “Radar and the atom bomb and Hitler’s deciding to invade Russia—“
“And the evacuation from Dunkirk,” Colin said, “and the Battle of Britain, and the way Londoners stood up to the Blitz—“

This passage tickled me because when I visited the American Pavilion at Epcot in 1989, the film presentation there told me the same thing: “The American forces won WWII.” I remember nothing else from that film, but 30 years later, that glaring bit of self-aggrandizement remains clear in my mind.

I enjoyed this second half of the All Clear story even more than the first – perhaps because things were wrapped up and I understood more of what was happening.

4½ stars

 
4. THE PENDERWICKS A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (Fiction, Children’s Chapter) 4 star rating
 photo penderwicks_zpsboo5gvih.jpg
A widowed botany professor and his four daughters (Rosalind 12, Skye 11, Jane 10, and Batty 4) rent Arundel Cottage, part of the Arundel estate owned & occupied by the snobby Mrs. Tifton and her (very interesting) son Jeffrey, 11.

The Penderwicks won the annual U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2005.

I think I thought this was delightful when I read it but I’ve forgotten just about everything about it. Get it into the hands of your tweens and read it aloud to your younger children. I suspect that’s when the magic happens.

4 stars

 
5. WHEN ELEPHANTS FIGHT: The Lives of Children in Conflicts in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda by Eric Walters and Adrian Bradbury (Nonfiction) 3 star rating

 photo when elephants_zpsccekeknq.jpgIt seems that armed conflicts are happening in every corner of the globe and, sadly, they affect civilians by the millions. This book focuses on a specific segment of that civilian population: the children, who may have been injured or maimed, left without parents, whose homes have been destroyed, whose schooling has been interrupted, and who go to sleep scared and hungry.

It’s a tragic story and one we should all be aware of so that we can available to help – perhaps be the agents to bring that help about.

My sister recommended When Elephants Fight, but I must say that I found this volume very dry, and have learned more about the effect of war on children by reading novels (for example, Half of a Yellow Sun) or memoirs (one was A Long Way Gone).

3 stars

 

I didn’t read a lot this month, but I seem to have enjoyed most of it. What’s your take on the All Clear excerpt?

 

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 June 2015”

  1. On February 13th, 2018 at 3:38 pm Judy Krueger Says:

    My take on All Clear? I feel the same way you do. Funny thing: my husband (sound engineer for Disney Imagineering) just returned from an update on that Epcot thing. American mythology.
    In June 2015 I only read 7 books. Two favorites were The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi and Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. What else, besides history, is there these days but the apocalypse? Ha Ha.

  2. On February 14th, 2018 at 3:48 pm Debbie Says:

    LOL, Judy – um, dysfunctional families? Maybe the apocalypse isn’t so bad.

    I guess every country has its mythology.{sigh}

  3. On February 14th, 2018 at 1:43 pm Naomi Says:

    I have every intention of reading both The Jaguar’s Children and Cool Water – both are sitting on my shelves wondering when I’m going to get to them. Glad to know you liked them so much!
    I would also like to try Connie Willis sometime.

  4. On February 14th, 2018 at 3:49 pm Debbie Says:

    I think you’ll very much enjoy them both, Naomi.

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