Books I read in 2021: Part 1

Today I will be sharing the titles of the books I read between January and March of this year. By the end of March I'd finished 11 books. Since I don't want these types of posts to get too long, they will be taking a different format to the ones I wrote last year. My full reviews are on Goodreads and I will link each book to that site so you can read the book blurb from there, but I will include a few short sentences about the plot of each book and what I liked or disliked about it . If you are a Goodreads member you can find me under my real name (Lorna Dykstra) and read my reviews directly on the site.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood spends one summer in New York working for a popular woman's magazine. The future looks bright. Or does it?

Sincerely Loree: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This American classic surely needs no introduction but it is definitely not an easy book to read. Plaths's description of Esther Greenwood's descent into insanity is so accurate that it's chilling. What makes it even harder to read is the knowledge that this novel is semi-autobiographical and published just a few weeks before Plath's suicide in 1963.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Tita loves Pedro and Pedro loves Tita. But they cannot get married because the tradition in the De La Garza family is for the youngest daughter to take care of her mother until she dies. In desperation, Tita pours all her emotions into the food she cooks, which sometimes has hilarious, disastrous or unexpected consequences.

This novel abounds in magical surrealism - so I would only recommend it to those who don't mind a hefty dose of fantasy in their novels. It is also peppered with an earthy humour that some may find offensive. Like Water for Chocolate is divided into 12 chapters and each chapter starts with a recipe that sets the tone for what comes next.  This book is probably best described as a folk-tale centred around the cuisine of Mexico.
3.5 ⭐

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

At the age of ten, Patroclus is banished from his father's kingdom and sent to the court of King Peleus. There, he and Achilles form a strong bond of friendship that finally turns into love. Eventually, the two join the rest of the Greek heroes in the war against Troy - and the rest is the myth that is famous all over the world. 
Sincerely Loree: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Growing up, I was a Greek mythology geek and had even created a 'family tree' for the pantheon of Greek gods, goddesses and their numerous offspring. Miller does not stray far from Homer's Iliad  so, for those like me who are familiar with the story, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. However, the final poignant chapter really takes this book to another level. I also loved Miller's portrayal of Thetis, Achilles' sea nymph mother, as a strong-willed, formidable, unflinching and, frequently cruel, woman who finally has the opportunity to redeem herself. 
3.8 ⭐

The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy

In Paris in 1940, three seamstresses: Claire, Mireille and Vivienne go about their work - all of them hiding a secret. Two generations later, Claire's grand-daughter Harriet moves Paris determined to learn the truth about her grandmother.

This is another World War II story with a dual timeline. Unfortunately, the modern storyline does nothing for the book and I felt that the story would have been stronger if it had focussed on the wartime narrative. The Dressmaker's Gift is an enjoyable read but not a remarkable one.
2.9 ⭐

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Kya Clarke is abandoned by her family and left to live by herself in the coastal marshes of  North Carolina. Labelled the "Marsh Girl" she becomes an outcast, unfit for polite society. When popular hearth-throb Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately start to suspect her. 
Sincerely Loree: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Prior to reading this book, I'd seen nothing but rave reviews. Most people considered it to be a 5-star read and I was really looking forward to reading it and was prepared to be blown away by the story. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed with it and what marred my enjoyment most of all is the ending. Although many readers felt like it 'made' the book, I felt cheated; but I won't say anything else just in case some of you want to read it. 
3.2 ⭐

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

Lucius, a twenty-two-year-old medical student  who has very little experience of the world is sent to  a remote medical outpost in the Carpathian Mountains. It is ravaged by typhus and his only companion is the intriguing Sister Margarete. One day, an unconscious soldier is brought in who will change their lives forever.

I found it really hard to rate this book. in some places it was brilliant, in others a little too slow for my taste. I enjoyed learning a bit about the Eastern front during WW!, a subject I knew nothing about and which I mean to correct. Some readers may find the medical descriptions rather gruesome but I  think what I most wanted was for it to have a happy ending. Alhtough I do understand why Mason ended it as he did.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

The dual storyline in this book takes us from 17th century London to the early 2000s. The central characters are Ester Velasquez, a scribe to a blind rabbi and Helen Watts, an ailing scholar with a special interest in Jewish history. Although a distance of 350 years separates these two women, there is much that they have in common, especially their formidable strength of character.

Sincerely Loree: The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

This book is heavy in the philosophy of the early Enlightenment and modern Biblical criticism and, because of this, there were times when I found it slow and hard-going but I found the overall story of the two women fascinating . The Weight of Ink also make me realise that anti-Semitism did not start with the Nazis and that the history of the Jews is fascinating and something I need to learn more about.
3.7 ⭐

Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII's Fifth Queen by Josephine Wilkinson

This biography of Katherine Howard sheds interesting light on Henry VIII's fifth wife. Like her cousin Anne Boleyn before her, Katherine was beheaded after being found guilty of adultery (and hence treason) against the king. She was just 19. Wilkinson believes that the charges brought against Katherine were false and the 'confessions' were given under torture. According to this biography, Katherine Howard, was a victim of sexual abuse by men older than she was who ultimately paid with her life for circumstances over which she had little to no control. 

Was Katherine as innocent as Wilkinson portrays her? I suppose I will have to read a few other biographies to make up my mind.
This book will only be of interest to those who have a morbid fascination (like yours truly) with the Tudors.
3.8 ⭐

Lea by Pascal Mercier

Two strangers, both from Bern, meet in Provence and, on a whim, decide to drive home together. During the journey Martijn van Vliet, a former research scientist, talks about his daughter Lea, a celebrated violinist, whose ruthless ambition drives a wedge between them that slowly starts to tear them apart.  To keep her close, he performs a desperate act that ultimately destroys them both.

Sincerely Loree: Lea by Pascal Mercier

Lea is not an action-packed book. Essentially, it is a monologue with van Vliet recounting his story to the book's narrator. It is an example of the extent to which some parents may go to make sure their children are content. The story is slow and depressing in places and the only glimpses we get of Lea are through her father's narrative.
2.9 ⭐

The Girl on the  Train by Paul Hawkins

Rachel, a young woman who catches the same commuter train every morning, builds an ideal world around a couple she glimpses when the train stops at a signal  overlooking a row of back gardens. They seem so happy. And she wants to feel happy too. But, one day, she sees something shocking that makes her realise their world may not be so perfect after all.

If you can put up with an unpredictable narrator, a few swear words and marital infidelity, I can guarantee that you will not want to put this suspense-filled thriller down. I could have read it in one sitting but managed to prolong my agony to three days. 
3.9 ⭐

Tell It To The Skies by Erica James

Lydia and her sister Valerie are orphaned at a young age and sent to live with their cruel grandparents whom they've never met before. Lydia grows up quickly, learns to keep secrets and trust sparingly. When Noah, a boy with a limp, starts to attend her school, the two form a tentative friendship that eventually turns into an inseparable bond. Then the unthinkable happens and  Lydia flees, leaving everything she had worked so hard for behind.
Sincerely Loree: Tell It To The Skies by Erica James

Tell It To The Skies  is a fast and easy read that's a perfect book to take along with you on vacation. It's entertaining enough but not a story that will leave you with deep thoughts. Throughout the book I felt like I was constantly inside the main character's head. The narrative was constantly interrupted by the rhetorical questions that Lydia keep asking and there were too many coincidences thrown in to the story to  make it entirely believable. 
2.9 ⭐

I hope I didn't ramble on for too long. And I hope you don't mind my weird rating system. Each time I rate a fictional book I use the same five criteria and give 'points' for plot, characters etc. What I try not to do is compare one book with another. Instead I try to rate it, as much as possible, on its own merits. Naturally, we are all drawn to different things and will not necessarily enjoy the same types of books. But I hope I have helped you find a few books you may add to your library or your future reading list.
La Contessa said...

I am not a BIG reader when it comes to BEST SELLERS..........
When you do your reviews it always intrigues me to BUY and start reading.................
Congratulations on 11 books in a couple of months!!!YOU must be a NIGHT, the son the home your photography YOU DO IT ALL!

Debbie Nolan said...

Loree your book reviews are so helpful. I have wanted to read Where The Crawdads Sing. May get to it sometime. The Bell Jar may be a little too dark for me. As always I enjoy a good thriller gets me turning the page. Thank you for helps when someone else has read something that entertained them. Have a wonderful week. Hugs!

Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.