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My 20 Books of Summer

20-books

Did you participate in #20booksofsummer21 this year? I did. It’s fun! I like to do challenges now and then–they perk up my reading. All books are reviewed on this blog–just use the search feature to find the reviews. Thanks to Cathy of 746 Books for hosting this fun event. You can read my initial post for this year’s 20 Books of Summer here.

 

 

Did you participate in 20 Books of Summer this year? Leave me a comment or a link to your post–I’d love to see what you read.

 

 

Past Year’s 20 Books of Summer  Wrap-Up Posts

2020

2016

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Review: Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

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My Interest

I learned of this book via The Chocolate Lady’s review The story sounded good and it was set in the summer–I’m doing some seasonal reading this year (as I’m sure you are tired of hearing).

The Story

“The two were friends and had been for many years before Miss Douglas, a little battered by war experiences, had settled down in Threipford, to Mrs. Lorimer’s quiet content. … Both wrote; each admired the other’s work. Lucy possessed what Gray knew she herself would never have, a quality which for want of a better name she called “saleability.” “(page 1)

Mrs. Lucy Lorimer is the mother of four grown children–all but one married with children. The unmarried son and a son-in-law are officers in the navy and the others are making their way in the civilian world. Her husband, Jack, “the Colonel,” is retired from the Army and is devoted to his Labrador. Lucy’s summer gets off to a  rocky start when Jack refuses to buy the bigger estate nearby that would perfectly house their growing extended family of children, in-laws, grandchildren and nannies. Then the “new people” arrive and have a dreadful name, but a lovely daughter just the right age for Lucy’s unmarried son. As the family’s summer house party goes on Lucy helps with her children’s ups and downs, while occasionally dealing with correspondence from her publisher.

“First and foremost, it was a home, a house where people lived happy, useful lives, where a certain standard of conduct and thought was obtained, where money was assessed at its proper value because it had been earned, but was never allowed to usurp too high a position. It was always a servant, a useful servant, never a master. Mrs. Lorimer set the standard by which the household at Woodside was ruled; her quiet personality irradiated its every activity.” (page 29)

The Lorimer’s have two servants–a cook and a young housemaid, and live a life few today can imagine, though Lucy acknowledges that life has become much easier with her earnings from her book sales added to the family coffers. So, in the midst of a summer of family dramas, the return of an old flame, and the county Show [fair] and all its demands, Mrs. Lorimer never has to speed home in her little car and whip up dinner for poor Jack and his dog, June. While the Colonel has taken to Hoovering to supplement his obsessional gardening and daily walks with the Lab, Lucy is able to attend to her writing and do mostly what she likes. Who wouldn’t want that “miserable” of a summer?

“The Colonel never failed to receive news of an impending dinner party with horrified loathing.” (page 106)

“His back was eloquent of dignified displeasure.” (page 159)

My Thoughts

“The ground, far and near, was covered by the glowing mantle of heather in full bloom, the air was sweet with its honey-scent and loud with the bees busy plundering its sweetness. Above arched the faint blue of the sky, and all over lay the lovely clear champagne-coloured light of afternoon.” (Page 127)

While this was a fun little book, I was disappointed that more wasn’t made of the war-time experiences. We hear that Mary was useless as a housekeeper because she’d ferried planes in the war, but that is about it. Nonetheless, there is enough subtle humor in the book, as well as vivid descriptions of scenery, to have kept my attention very well.

My Verdict

4 Stars

Mrs. Lorimer’s Quiet Summer by Molly Clavering

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A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

 

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My Interest

My review of The Cornish Midwife is here. I enjoyed the previous book so much–I had to know what happens to Ella and Anna and their guys!

The Story

Ella and her boss, Anna Jones, are dealing with the good and the bad of life. The good–both have found love. Anna with Brae and Ella with old flame Dan. But how could such a problem beset two midwives? [No spoilers]. Will they adapt and be happy? Accept only a miracle?

Meanwhile, the two and their fellow midwives care for expectant mothers, deliver babies, and do follow-up visits all while raising money for a great cause now very dear to both their hearts.

My Thoughts

In a Cornwall as different from that of Daphne DuMaurier as night is from day or Dr. Pepper from Champers, I still am in love with this crew! This books was exactly what I needed for my commute this week. I hope there is another book to come!

My Verdict

4 Stars of Fun and Happiness

A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

My review of The Cornish Midwife

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Classics Club Spin #27 Review: Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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My Interest

I love participating in the Classics Club Spins! It’s such a fun way to read through classics you might never try.

 

The Story

Impoverished gentlewoman, Emily Fox-Seton, supports herself being useful to busy ladies. She’s the Victoria equivalent of Door Dash, Stitch Fix, Amazon and more rolled into one. She does errands to keep herself barely above penury. She fears the Work House and lies awake at night fretting that genteel ladies will no longer need her to walk a hundred miles to pick up fish and save their dinner parties from the shame of no fish course!

But, being “the right sort,” only down-on-her-luck financially, she is at least in the company of people who think nothing of hosting a house party for 20 for at least a month. Sadly, the poor thing doesn’t ride–not to the hounds or just in the home park.Nonetheless, her circumstances have the advantage of putting her in the path of well-off men, some of whom are single. Now, she’s a bit past her sell-by date in Victorian terms, but still within her childbearing years albeit at an age where a husband could only likely expect about 10 children instead of 18.

After saving the above-mentioned-dinner-party, she is rescued by the Marquess of Walderhurst–an eligible, older widower with no heir. She is a lovely, quiet, sensible thing and James Walderhurst sees her potential. He has a money-grubbing distant relative as his heir presumptive, so why not take a chance on this little chit who colors so prettily when he speaks to her. Better still, his sister likes Emily, too.

My Thoughts

This was a delightful story. Could you see the plot a mile off? Of course! Was the putative “Cousin Matthew” [Downton Abbey] hatching schemes at a rate that would have made Miss O’Brien need a cuppa and a fag out back with Thomas? [Downton, again]. Oh, yes! But this story is Victorian and we know it ends on a happy note–it must, it simply had to hadn’t it? (Yes, sadly, there are racist comments about an Indian servant. Be aware.)

I listened to the excellent audio book from Persephone Books which is only $4.99 on Audible (linked)

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hogsdon-Burnett

My Verdict

4 Stars

To learn more about The Classics Club and their “Spins” read this post.

For my past Spin book reviews click the title to go to my review:

Wide Saragaso Sea

Tortilla Flat

Excellent Women

Groves of Academe

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Review: The Salt Fields: A Novella by Stacy D. Flood

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My Interest

I remember reading the announcement of this book but dwelling on “ghost story” and how I do not like those. Well, happily, I was once again between audios and this one was available. I’m so glad it was. Some times I enjoy things when I find them at moments like this that I would otherwise skip. A spontaneous “Oh, sure, why not” to a book can enliven my reading. Are you like that, too? Or do you plan all of your reading? I do both. Here is a good discussion (about 10-12 minutes in) on planned vs spontaneous reading on the podcast. Tea or Books? #97: Spontaneous or Planned Reading, and Tension vs Thank Heaven Fasting.

Now back to this incredible novella….

 

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Image credit: Copyright Pearson Education Inc. Found here (click)

The Story

Minister Peters has had enough of the hard life in South Carolina where he is a teacher, but lives surrounded by ghosts. The ghost of his wife, of his little daughter, of family members, friends, lynching victims and more. When a mass grave of infants born to enslaved people is uncovered he is “done” and joins the Great Migration to the North that took thousands of southern Blacks to the great cities of the North.

His journey must start somewhere and his starts on a segregated train, leaving a segregated railroad station. He is thrown together randomly by the availability of seats with a couple–the wife so fair-skinned she could “pass” as white, the husband, a bit of a braggart and player. The other man is a returned soldier, navigating post World War II life back in the world of Jim Crow. Along the way, thanks to the slow-moving, long-stopping local train, they all have new experiences, share confidences and jokes, and reveal themselves carefully to each other.

An “inner dialogue” gives us Preacher’s thoughts and opinions of his fellow migrants and gives us much of his background.

My Thoughts

This is one of the finest “inner dialogue” stories I’ve ever read. The audio is superbly performed by Sean Crisden who should be considered for an Audie Award. If Novellas in November happens again this year, keep this book in mind. It is not to be missed.

My Verdict

4.0 Stars

Salt Fields: A Novella by Stacy D. Flood

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Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

My Interest

I liked the sound of the story! And, Lisa Scottoline’s essays are favorites of mine. I’ve read one of her thrillers as well.

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The Story

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro are lifelong friends. Nearing the end of high school, as the world veers toward World War II, the three are coming of age in Rome. Elisabetta, the daughter of an unloving mother and a drunken father, Marco the son of cycling champion turned barkeeper, and brilliant Sandro–a Jewish boy with a future ahead of him as a mathematician. The three are in a triangle as they come to the age of boys and girls starting to fall in love. Elisabetta sees the merits of both young men. Rome has long been a tolerant city–Jews have played a full role in its history. They have been there since the time of Christ and have a treasure trove of libraries and historical records.

Marco’s father is a Fascist of the First Order–one of the first. But, will he follow his father? To modern readers, it is unbelievable that Sandro’s father is ALSO a Fascist. After all, El Duce has a Jewish mistress–he is no anti-Semite, and no one in the 1930s had reason to suspect that Mussolini would partner with Hitler. After all, Romans had gone to school together, played together and have both Catholic and Jewish neighbors. Their families are friends and celebrate with each other. That was Rome.

This is the story of the three young people, their families, their city, and their country both as it moves toward war and then through the war. Elisabetta is the first to take on full adult responsibilities, then Marco, and later Sandro. As their world changes, their hearts race. The boys wondering which of the two best friends will win Elisabetta for his wife. Elisabetta seems to know, but does she?

My Thoughts

Lisa Scottoline has written many a bestselling thriller. This is her first foray into historical fiction. Thankfully, she brought her ability to keep a reader on the edge of their seat with her to this book. She has peopled the books with real folks–and real emotion. Are there flaws? Yes, of course, but minor ones. It was hard to think of the three main characters as high school students even at first. They were so adult. Another was this,  [MINOR SPOLIER ALERT] could someone please explain why the sister came back?? That made no sense to me.  Those are tiny flaws that do not matter in the course of the bigger story.

There were a few others, such as coming dangerously close to my pet peeve of inserting discussions of the news to move the story along, but, never mind–this is a riveting book! Yes, there were some places that were maybe a touch too thriller-ish, but the truth is I couldn’t stop listening. I got through all 19 hours of the audio in ONE WEEK. I loved it. Some have said a few scenes were eye-rolling–no, they weren’t because of how they ended. I sincerely hope Lisa Scottoline writes more historical fiction.

Warning: There is one brief moment that animal lovers may want to skip. No spoilers intended, but its when some extended family moves in–ok? Most people won’t be bothered by it. Just warning those who are extra sensitive about animals. Lisa Scottoline has and loves animals, so this did surprise me, but it is very, very brief.

My Verdict

4.0

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

If you’d like to read my reviews of Lisa Scottoline’s essays, use the search feature.

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Review: Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki

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My Interest

I learned of this book on Twitter. The title went so well with my goal of reading seasonally that I found an e-book version on from my library and started to read it right away. An additional interest was that it is set in Greece. Not being fascinated by mythology, I haven’t read much set in or about Greece unless you count biographies of the late Danish-Greek Prince Philip. Add to this the fact that a few of my favorite book bloggers have/are reading it this summer and you can see why I wanted in on the story.

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The Story

“That summer we bought big straw hat. Maria’s had cherries around the rim, Infanta’s had forget-me-nots, and mine had poppies as red as fire” (p. 6).

Set in pre-World War II Greece, the story centers on three sisters,  Maria, Infanta, and Katarina–the daughters of a divorced couple who live in the country. It is that time in life when boys go from being a girl’s friend to being her future. Each of the girls has her own personality, her own dreams, and desires.

From the awakening of sexual desire through to motherhood the girls travel at their own pace, plotting their course to womanhood with guidance, wanted and unwanted, from their mother, a maiden aunt, their grandfather and friends.

“The scent of dung and milk, thyme and billy goat met her. It rose and mixed in with the heat until it became something you could actually touch” (p. 52).

So much of the writing is so beautiful, it is hard to remember that this is a translation. As I read the descriptions of the landscape, the scents, the way of life, I felt I was there.

[Some] were saying dissatisfied women live in their own imaginary world, that is, they’re deluded….Dissatisfied women are simply unsuccessful women” (p. 105). 

Ouch, I thought. A discordant note.

I loved the way the secrets unfolded gradually and in a manner consistent with real life. I liked too that these were real girls–they went off in huffs, they flounced out, they fell in love, they daydreamed, they escaped the control of their mother whenever possible. All perfectly normal. I loved that. And then one would remark, “I like life a lot” (p.198) and another would stare out a window “as if to ask the night why life was so strange” (p. 108).

My Thoughts

On the surface this is a lovely story, but underneath, in the thoughts of the boys, one can see just how radically different the thinking was back then. While men may still think like this in the deepest recesses of their minds, most do not verbalize, let alone, act on such thoughts.

“The more she restrained herself, the more angry he grew. He wanted to beat her. If only he dared….” (p. 127).

Every woman’s life is a search for a master. Ah, the thirst for submission, the thirst for submission….” (p. 127).

“And that head of hers that she carried so high…He must break her, make her lower it….”

These sentiments, it is true, are surrounded with the man’s love for the girl, with his expression of desire, and of how he would enjoy her, but it is very unsettling to read such statements today.

“You should see…on really hot days, when you lie out on the ledge of the cistern and close your eyes, and then open them a little later, how a thousand little suns leap up and down before your eyes and all around water is reflected o the trunks of the pines, trembling and golden, like little waves, and everything glows, everything, and it makes you want to laugh” (p. 226).

In spite of the beauty of the language, I just did not connect with this book they way I thought I would. There were times when I grew bored and restless and put it down. Yes, it could be the every-present COVID reading-ennui, but I think this time it was the book. My rating means it is a perfectly good book, well worth reading–especially for the excellence of the translation. I’m certainly glad I kept at it–it was worth it to see Greece at that time and to see how alike girls are regardless of their era of history.

My Verdict

3.0

Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki, translated by Karen Van Dyck

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Review: The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

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My Interest

When I read the blurb, I first thought of Vita Sackville-West and Sissinghurst, so I knew I must read it. I gave a silent prayer that it wouldn’t be riddled with titles and mangled forms of address or full of cliches of country house life. Thankfully, my prayers were heard.

The Story

The garden at the country estate, Highbury House, has had years of benign neglect. Designed by famed Edwardian garden designer Venetia Smith, it has endured two wars and endured the indignity of much of it being plowed up to grow turnips and sugar beets during World War II. Now present day garden designer has accepted the commission to bring it back to Venetia’s glorious design. With a young squire and his wife in place in the big house, wanting to restore the whole place to it’s Victorian and Edwardian glory, Emma must hope to the original plans and descriptions are buried somewhere in the house’s archives or storerooms. Meanwhile, a former Land Girl of the World War II era has left behind a few drawings that help. And, the mistress of the big house during the same time period has left a secret. With descendants still in place to help, will the garden be revived and the secrets uncovered?

My Thoughts

This book was so enjoyable! Yes, there was a tiny stumble over a form of address, but it done by someone who had no association with the gentry. I could live with it. The richly drawn descriptions of the garden in all its phases made me almost smell the flowers. The triple timeline (yes, I’ve been very crabby about dual timelines lately) actually worked very well. I loved that it did not start with the cliche of finding granny’s old scrapbook, too. It was far better done than that. I wanted to marry Graham, board Charlie’s narrowboat (two books in one month mentioning narrowboats!) and be friends with everyone in the story.

My Verdict

4 Full Stars

So wonderful to find two new books in a row that fully lived up to their hype!

This would be a good period drama for PBS’s Masterpiece.

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Review: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

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My Interest

I’ve loved each of Chanel Cleeton’s books, so I knew I HAD to read this one. I listened to the audiobook, which was very well done.

The Story

Told through the eyes of three women: reporter Grace Harrington, wife and sometimes courier of information Marina Perez, and the title’s own Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba, real life heroine, Evangelina Cisneros, this story takes in all angles of the coming Spanish American War. From the vantage point of the yacht William Randolph Hearst charters to cover the war, to the prison where Evangelina is held, to the re-concentration camps and barely-surviving life of Marina, this story is amazing. Each woman’s take on life shows the emotions, dreams, and war-time experience of each woman. Throw in Hearst and his showgirls, Joseph Pulitzer, and a dashing, bantering, Rhett-Butler-ish blockage runner and you have a fabulous historical novel. (Seriously? Has anyone since 1937 heard the term “blockade runner” and not immediately thought, Captain Rhett Butler?)

My Thoughts

Aside from a stray phrase like “it’s complicated” or the word “helmed” supposedly used in 1897, and the over-use of the odd word “tenterhooks” (3 times–2 times too many) this book is everything the hype wants you to believe it is. Cleeton tells such a rich story–I did not want to stop listening. I created errands just to get in the car and listen to more!

My Verdict

4 Full Stars

Imagine, the Spanish American War with barely a mention of Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders! This one is all women!

My reviews of Chanel Cleeton’s other great books:

Next Year in Havana

When We Left Cuba

The Last Train To Key West

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If you like this approach to historical fiction, you will likely also enjoy Ribbons of Scarlet, a novel focused on the women of the French Revolution.

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Books With Flower Names in the Title

Summer is the time of beautiful flowers–so what nicer way to think of flowers than in the title of books–right? LOL It’s just for fun, people! When I do these posts I try to use mostly books I’ve read or books on my own TBR.

Magnolias

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The Ballroom on Magnolia Street by Sharon Owens

Review from my old blog: Nice, easy read with the sort of characters you’d enjoy having as neighbors. Sharon Owens is one of my favorite contemporary authors when I want something pleasant and fun to read.

Daisy

Daisy Miller by Henry James (read in high school)

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review is linked)

Poppies

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Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War

Tulips

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach (I DNF-ed this one)

Tulipomania by Mike Dash (on my TBR list)

Under the Tulip Tree by Michele Shocklee (on my TBR list)

Violets

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A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor (on my TBR list)

Roses

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

Permanent Rose and Forever Rose by Hilary McKay

Sweet Peas

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Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy (on my TBR list)

Lily

Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett (read in high school)

Lilies of the Field (movie)

Morning Glory

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I read this sweet romance years ago and loved it.

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

Marigolds

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach (my review is linked–scroll down to find it)

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel & Second Best Marigold Hotel (movies)

Dahlias

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert (Darling Dahlias Book 1) (on my TBR list)

Sunflowers

The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans

Sunflowers A Novel of Vincent Van Gogh by Sheramy Bundrick (on my TBR list)

Lavender

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My review from my old blog: I’ve finally done it! I made it thru a free kindle romance without laughing or gagging!! Ha!! This author, unlike many others of the genre, can really write! I was in the mood to just ESCAPE and this book provided me with a mini-vacation. I won’t pretend this is high-brow literature, but it was low-brow fun of the best sort. Bernard is every down-trodden woman’s dream. Good triumphs over Evil. What more needs to be said? This novella is a pleasant hour or so of escape! Lavender Vows by Colleen Gleason (Medieval Herb Garden Series)

Lilacs

The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy (read on a blogging hiatus so no review)

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (DNF)

Have you read any others? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.