Sincerely, Loree is a lifestyle blog that focuses on travel, books, culture, fashion and slow living on the small Mediterranean island of Malta.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Books I read in 2020: Part 3 (July - September)

Welcome to the third edition of Books I Read in 2020. Today I will be sharing the books that I read during the summer months. Usually, my list of summer reads is rather short but, this year, I managed to keep up the pace and got through nine books. These are the books I read this summer:

1. The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith 4/5 stars

2. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult 3/5 stars

3 About Grace by Anthony Doerr 4/5 stars

4. Venice by Jan Morris 4/5 starts

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald4/5 stars

6. I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman 4/5 stars

7. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh 4/5 stars

8. History of Wolves  by Emily Fridlund 3/5 stars

9. A Dog Called Hope by  Jason Morgan with Damien  Lewis 4/5 stars

Sincerely Loree: The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith

The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith

For the impossibly vain Bruce Anderson - he of the clove-scented hair gel - it may finally be time to settle down, and surely it can only be a question of picking the lucky winner from the hordes of his admirers. The Duke of Johannesburg is keen to take his flight of fancy, a microlite seaplane, from the drawing board to the skies. Big Lou is delighted to discover that her young foster son has a surprising gift for dance but she is faced with big decisions to make on his and her futures. And with Irene now away to pursue her research in Aberdeen, her husband, Stuart, and infinitely long-suffering son, Bertie, are free to play. Stuart rekindles an old friendship over peppermint tea whilst Bertie and his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson get more they bargained for from their trip to the circus. And that's just the beginning . . .

This is another instalment in the lives of the residents of 44 Scotland Street. Like all the other books in the series it can be read as a stand-alone. This is book ⋕13 in the series and last year I read ⋕10. It's always a pleasure to read about the inhabitants of Scotland Street and their various friends and acquaintances. These light-hearted books always bring a smile to my face and little Bertie Pollock is one of McCall Smith's most memorable characters. I think I will eventually try to read the whole series.

Sincerely Loree: About  Grace by Anthony Doerr

About Grace by Anthony Doerr

Growing up in Alaska, young David Winkler is crippled by his dreams. At nine, he dreams a man is decapitated by a passing truck on the path outside his family’s home. The next day, unable to prevent it, he witnesses an exact replay of his dream in real life. The premonitions keep coming, unstoppably. He sleepwalks during them, bringing catastrophe into his reach.

Then, as unstoppable as a vision, he falls in love, at the supermarket (exactly as he already dreamed) with Sandy. They flee south, landing in Ohio, where their daughter Grace is born. And then the visions of Grace’s death begin for Winkler, as their waterside home is inundated. Plagued by the same horrific images of Grace drowning, when the floods come, he cannot face his destiny and flees.

About Grace is Doerr's debut novel and, although it is nowhere near as haunting as his Pulitzer prize-winning novel All The Light We Cannot See, this book still bears the trademarks of the author's excellent capacity to put the reader right into the shoes of his characters. This is not an easy book to read, nor a happy one.  About Grace is the story of a depressed recluse with a broken heart and a gut-wrenching pain that threatens his sanity. It is a book that can inspire interesting discussions about mental health and the fragility of the human psyche but it is not a book I would recommend to anyone who is looking for a happy diversion. If you're wondering why I gave it such a high rating, it's because Doerr was able to make me empathise with Winkler, even though I did not agree with many of this actions. In my opinion, it takes a brilliant writer to be able to do that.

Venice by Jan Morris

Often hailed as one of the best travel books ever written, Venice is neither a guide nor a history book, but a beautifully written immersion in Venetian life and character, set against the background of the city's past. Analysing the particular temperament of Venetians, as well as its waterways, its architecture, its bridges, its tourists, its curiosities, its smells, sounds, lights and colours, there is scarcely a corner of Venice that Jan Morris has not investigated and brought vividly to life.

Although I enjoyed this book very much, I think that it can only be fully appreciated by someone who has been to Venice and fallen under the spell of La Serenissima, as it goes into many details and descriptions that will probably bewilder someone who has never been to this unique city.

Sincerely Loree: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fiztgerald

Jay Gatsby’s opulent Long Island mansion throngs with the bright young things of the Roaring Twenties. But Gatsby himself, young, handsome and mysteriously rich, never appears to his guests. He stands apart from the crowd, yearning for something just out of reach – Daisy Buchanan, lost years before to another man. One fateful summer, when the pair finally reunite, their actions set in motion a series of events that will unravel their lives, bringing tragedy to all who surround them.

I am sure that this masterpiece of American literature needs no introduction. It's a book I had been meaning to read for a long time but I always held off as I was under the impression that it was  one of those huge tomes that would take me several weeks to finish. In reality, I was surprised at tis brevity. This novel can be finished off in one sitting but I wouldn't recommend that because, although it's short, as one of my Bookstagram buddies commented: not one word is wasted. I won't say much else as I am sure you are all familiar with the story.

Sincerely Loree: I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman

I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman

In 1942 Hannelore Wolff's life changed forever. Her father had been arrested and sent to a concentration camp. Six weeks later he was dead, and Hannelore and the rest of her family were deported to the camps and a life of unbearable suffering.

Yet despite the horrors she faced in various labour and concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Hannelore met and fell in love with Polish POW, Dick Hillman. After a few months they were separated, but Dick promised Hannelore that he would find her again, wherever she was. He kept his promise, and when both their names appeared on Oskar Schindler's list, Dick and Hannelore were reunited and married.

This memoir by a Holocaust survivor it is aimed at younger readers (pre-teen to early teens). It would  make a great introduction to the Holocaust to this age group but it still makes for an interesting read for anyone who is interested in this dark period of history.

Sincerely Loree: The Language Of Flowers of Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorians used flowers to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. For Victoria Jones, flowers and their meanings are her only connection to the world – although for her, they are most useful in expressing feelings such as grief, mistrust and solitude.

After a childhood in the foster care system, Victoria – now eighteen – has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes a meeting with a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realize what's been missing in her own life. As she starts to fall for him, though, she must confront a painful secret from her past – and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Victoria Jones is not exactly the most lovable character I ever encountered in a book. On the contrary, she is, initially, very annoying. But as the story progresses I began to realise that she is damaged and hurt and her obnoxiousness comes from a place deep inside her that is very dark.

This book is well paced and I found the Victorian language of flowers to be fascinating. There was a lot about this story that resonated with me, for a number of reasons that I will not go into here. But I'll just say that I've had quite a bit of experience with damaged people and it takes a great amount of loving to get through to them. So I was glad that the author let us see a flawed Victoria right up to the end. If she had rushed her healing process the story would have been much less believable.

A Dog Called Hope by Jason Morgan and Damien Lewis

When special forces soldier Jason Morgan awoke from a months-long coma, he was told he'd never walk again. Discovered face-down in a Central American swamp after a jungle mission gone wrong, he had a smashed spine, collapsed lungs and countless broken bones. It was a miracle he'd even survived.

Months of painful surgery followed, with Jason's life balanced on a knife-edge. Released from hospital in a wheelchair and plagued by memory loss, Jason's life fell apart. Left alone to raise his three infant sons, all hope seemed gone, until Jason met Napal, a handsome-as-hell black Labrador provided by a very special charity.

This is the true story of a wounded warrior and his service dog, Napal. I found it to be a moving account of the incredible bond that service dogs have with their human and of the way these dogs make life so much more manageable for people with severe disabilities. A Dog Called Hope is actually my husband's book and it wasn't in my pile of 'books to read in 2020' but, knowing how much I love Labs, he encouraged me to read it and I was taken back to my childhood when we owned (not at the same time) two very exuberant Labradors. And I will stop there before I go off on a tangent telling you why they are my absolute favourite breed in the world.

That wraps up my summer reading. You can check out the books I read in winter and spring here and here but before I leave I have a small question for you, dear readers. Do you prefer me to share books I really like in individual posts (like the ones I linked below) or would you rather I continue to share them with you as I have in this post?

You may also like: 

Book talk: my year in books 2019

Book talk: books I read for a book challenge

Book talk: The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana  Trigiani

Book talk: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay


Pipistrello said...

You've been busy! I see you are rather generous in your praises for your reading roundup, or are these just the worthies you've shared? A 44 Scotland Street was also in my latest clutch, in fact book 1. I'd previously read only one other, The Importance of Being Seven, #8?, and adored it as well. The books are just as enjoyable as stand-alone novels but I think I'm going to read them all in sequence. We "did" Great Gatsby in high school and I've not read it since. Perhaps it's time for a revisit?

Debbie Nolan said...

Loree looks like your reading list was quite diversified. I never read the Great Gatsby but seen part of the movie. I need to add this one to my list. Hope all is well and you are keeping safe. We are really struggling with the virus here in the USA. Not safe anywhere. Take are. Hugs!