I recently read (for the first time) Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It’s a gothic tale set in New York during 1790. It’s perfect for Halloween-themed reading because of the Hessian headless horseman. If you have a couple hours to spare and are in a Halloween state-of-mind, treat yourself to this tale. It’s more than just a gothic story. It features a love triangle between Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel and Abraham Van Brunt. To me, this makes it a love story. I won’t tell you who gets the girl, as it will spoil it for you. But if you want to read it, it’s short and free.
From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel.
I’m listening to Jane Austen’s Persuasion on Audible. It’s a comfort read for me and I’m enjoying it very much. Captain Wentworth is always a good idea!
I’m also reading a new-to-me nonfiction book, How To Be A Victorian. It’s really great. The author, Ruth Goodman, spent a year living like a Victorian and wrote about her experiences. It’s fun, interesting and educational. I’m never going to want to actually live like a Victorian (I love my modern amenities too much), but, as a history buff, I enjoy learning about the past. Plus it feels like the perfect autumnal read to me.
I normally only read biographies of historic royals. But I had to read Finding Freedom: Harry & Meghan by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand because I am a huge fan of the Duchess of Sussex. I was horrified at the awful and biased treatment she received from the British press. I’m sad that she and Harry left royal life behind (at least for now) because I was looking forward to seeing her perform royal duties. Anyway, I digress. This is a great biography. The book takes you from Meghan’s early years to her acting days in Toronto. It talks about her impeccable work ethic and her ambition for an independent life. It talks about how Harry and Meghan met, about their joined values and the life they want to live together. It’s almost like you’re gossiping with a very good friend, who is filling you in on Harry and Meghan.
It’s interesting that the book begins with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson about making your own path in life, almost like a foreshadow of what’s to come. I’ve learned that when it comes to women, few people like or approve of a woman who goes her own way in life. That’s probably why so many are mad at Meghan and Harry. They dared to go their own way. I think what we have to understand is that we don’t own Harry and Meghan. They are not our friends and don’t owe us anything. They are humans who are entitled to live the life they want to live. If you are a Meghan super fan, this book is for you. If you are angry that they are living a private life, you should probably pass.
The Real Sherlock by Lucinda Hawksley is an Audible Original about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle. It features the usual narration, but also interviews and interesting tidbits. If you’re a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, then this audiobook may be too elementary for you. I didn’t know Arthur Conan Doyle very well and it was fun to learn about him and how he created his most famous character.
Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger is a graphic novel about the life of French fashion designer Christian Dior. If you like fashion and graphic novels, it might be a fun read for you. This link takes you to my earlier review.
The Secret Garden retold by Elizabeth Goodnight is a young child’s version of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I borrowed the audiobook from the library not realizing it was the shorter, condensed and retold version. Now that I listened to this version, I can tell you that it’s the perfect audiobook for children’s bedtime. The narrator’s voice is soothing and charming. Perfect for young children.
The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is the sequel to The Royal We. If you enjoy royal fiction, then this is a great series. But you should start with The Royal We. The Heir Affair begins where The Royal We left off, with Bex and Nick married and in self-imposed exile. But when they’re discovered at their secret location, they return to Kensington Palace to face the music. The plot is almost slow and uneventful, until Bex discovers a huge royal secret with serious consequences. Bex and Nick try to figure out what to do with this earth-shattering secret. I won’t give it away, otherwise I’ll spoil it for you.
I hope you’re reading lots of fun books right now. I’ll post Part III at the end of September.
Hello! I hope you’re doing well. What are you currently reading? I’m listening to A History of Russia by The Great Courses. I use my Audible credits on The Great Courses and it’s so worth it for me because I love learning about new subjects and histories. Check out your library first if you are interested in The Great Courses. They may have their audiobooks or CDs for you to borrow.
Netflix has an upcoming documentary series about Challenger: The Final Flight. It will be a difficult watch for me knowing the fate of the dear astronauts. It’s just so sad and I wish the outcome was different.
And I leave you with a quote: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor
I subscribe to Audible, Amazon’s audiobook platform. They recently made a huge chunk of their catalog (Audible Plus Catalog) available to the monthly subscribers. This means that I don’t have to spend my credit on anything in the Audible Plus Catalog and can listen to as many books as I want. Sort of like a Netflix for audiobooks. I still have my monthly credit which I’ll use for those books that aren’t part of Audible Plus. Ok, all this to say that one of the free listens was The Indignities of Being a Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester. I am so glad I listened to this history book.
The Indignities of Being a Woman is a comedic walk through women’s history. The writers, who are comedians, broach serious subjects relating to women such as Inequality, Beauty, Religion, Fashion and Politics (and much, much more) but in a comedic way. You’ll definitely laugh. But you’ll probably get angry too. During Europe’s witch-burning years, many of those put on trial and burned as witches were married women without children because not having children as a married woman signified witchcraft. I would have been put to death for sure if I lived during that era. And since women’s history is generally not good, you may even cry a little. For example, marital rape in all fifty U.S. states was not illegal until 1993. (!!!)
What did I learn after listening to this book? I learned that I would have been killed in previous eras (or put in a sanitarium during the Victorian era). Basically, in the past, a woman who wanted to use her brain risked jail or death. I kid you not.
My favorite thing about The Indignities of Being a Woman is the two writers. They were funny, supportive of each other and had a lovely rapport. I felt like I was eavesdropping on two best friends chatting and laughing away. I didn’t know it was possible to make awful subjects funny, but they somehow succeeded. I should also warn you that a personal rape experience is discussed in this audiobook and it comes up several times.
Should you listen to this audiobook? If you are a feminist, interested in learning more about women’s history and want to support two female comedians/writers/creators then yes, you should listen to this audiobook.
Who should not listen to this audiobook? If you love Donald Trump, if you love to hate women and if you hate that women have rights, then this amazing, well-written, and funny audiobook is definitely not for you. But this begs the question, what the heck are you even doing reading my blog?
Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger is a graphic biographical novel about Mr. Dior and his eponymous fashion label, House of Dior. Originally published in French, it was translated into English in 2015.
The first Dior fashion show took place in 1947 in Paris. The story is told through Clara, a fictional character. The reader experiences, through Clara’s eyes, the very first Dior fashion show. This is where the world was first introduced to the “New Look.” The story doesn’t gloss over how controversial the New Look was. With war and austerity now behind France, Dior created feminine, waist-cinching skirts and dresses that reached down to the ankles. Women, however, didn’t want to go back to wearing longer dresses. They liked their short dresses just fine. But Dior, through his passion and a vision for a new post-war ideal, persevered and made his fashion house a success.
Clara also introduces the reader to the House of Dior and Dior’s “muses.” Though Clara is a fashion journalist, she soon quits her job to become one of Dior’s muses. This was a clever ploy because Clara and Dior become confidantes. This dynamic gives the reader a glimpse into the intimate details of the House of Dior and inside the mind of Dior himself. It worked because I found myself feeling sad for Dior’s lonely state since his wife’s passing. I saw him as a human, not just a famous fashion designer.
The book takes the reader from that very first show to the end of Mr. Dior’s life in 1957. It’s a very touching tribute to fashion and to the elegance that continues to be the House of Dior. In fact, I would describe this book as a love letter to fashion. If you are a fashionista or a lover of the history of fashion, then you’ll appreciate this book because the drawings of the dresses are sumptuous. Annie Goetzinger didn’t just write the novel, she also illustrated it.
I have one criticism about this book. Clara is a one-dimensional character. She lacks depth and has no strong feelings about anything. She quits her job, works for Mr. Dior, marries a rich man, quits her job again, spends time conversing with Mr. Dior, and so on. I think Clara’s sole purpose was to narrate the story of Mr. Dior. If you read the story knowing this, then you’ll be fine. Just don’t expect her to be multi-faceted, like heroines of other novels. That said, this is a charming book and it might help us, for just a few minutes, to get our minds off the troubling times we are living through.
I hope the first week of September is going well for you! I am busy reading and there is a pile of books to get through (not a bad problem to have). I’m in the editing stage of my book (editing is boring, writing is much more fun) and am working on a new project.
I’m fascinated by royals and royal history. The New Yorkerarticle about the fall of Spain’s Juan Carlos is an interesting and intriguing read (also gossipy). (There may be a paywall if you’ve exceeded your article limits.)
Just a quick interruption to tell you that I finished listening to the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? It was great! An adventure in my ears. The story is a romantic thriller set in the South of France.
I discovered Mary Stewart in recent years and am making my way through the backlist. This dramatization is two episodes long. Make sure you wear a headset/headphones so you can be immersed in the background noise/clatter. It’s free to listen, but the episodes won’t be available for much longer. If you are interested and need the fun distraction of a virtual trip to France, then I highly recommend giving it a listen.
I’m glad August is almost behind us. While I try to find something good in the everyday, it’s really hard to sit back and relax when the world around me is on fire. There was yet another shooting of an unarmed Black man by police. He is alive but paralyzed from the waist down. I can’t in all good conscience sit here and count my blessings when so many families are suffering from so much tragedy. That said, I did find the Democratic National Convention hopeful. It gave me hope for what is to come this November. My favorite part about the DNC was the roll call. If you want to virtually travel across the US and territories, then please watch this amazing roll call.
I also visited two museums in August, the National Gallery of Art (see a short tour here) and Hillwood Mansion and Museum. It was wonderful to meander through near-empty rooms admiring art. I won’t do it again anytime soon, but these two excursions should tide me over until there is a vaccine.
How are you? Are you slowly venturing outside again?
I listened to the first episode of a two-part series of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk produced by BBC Radio 4. It is a must-listen. Super entertaining. Episode 2 is available this Sunday. If you need a light distraction, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
I watched a documentary about the booksellers of NYC, The Booksellers. If you are a bibliophile, you might enjoy this documentary. There is a rental fee via an Amazon Prime subscription, but in my opinion it is worth the money. Trailer.
The story of ‘Randy Andy.’ It’s no secret that I’m a royal watcher. But I will never look the other way when men (royal or otherwise) do bad things. Prince Andrew’s friendship with the pedophile Jeffrey Epstein is a bad thing. If anyone needs their royal title taken away it should be this guy right here. Maybe he’ll have his title taken away when Prince Charles is king. One hopes.
My quarterly wrap-up. It’s not as rosy as usual. I guess not every book can be a winner. I’m still reading, so I’ll post Part II in September.
It’s time for the quarterly wrap-up. I began the third quarter of the worst year of our lives with romance novels.
I began by reading Honor Bound by B.J. Daniels, which is the last book in her romance series, The Montana Hamiltons, set in Montana. I didn’t read any of the prior books which may be the reason why I felt pretty lost within the various story arcs happening in this particular novel. There were too many mentions of earlier characters I hadn’t met yet. When I wasn’t feeling lost, this was a decent story about the love and trials of the daughter of a man about to be elected president. The president-elect in the series is a Republican and normally I wouldn’t care, but because of the turbulent times we live in, the mention of a Republican left a bitter taste in my mouth. The Grand Ole Party (founded by Abraham Lincoln) is no more and no amount of sexy romance novel heroes can convince me otherwise.
Diamond in the Rough by Diana Palmer is a modern-day Cinderella story. The plot follows the 19-year old heroine and the hard life she leads. She falls in love with a very rich rancher who keeps his wealth hidden from her to make sure she really likes him for him and not his money. While it has a compelling plot, I wasn’t fond of the heroine. She kept complaining how she was a poor, stupid girl and that she’d rather knit than go out and that her nicest dress is two years old. I have clothes older than two years old so I can’t fathom how this is supposed to demonstrate to the reader that she is very poor indeed. I think the author implies that rich women buy new dresses daily. This book wasn’t a winner for me, mostly because I prefer to read about women who don’t think ill of themselves. However, I finished this book because for the life of me I can’t not finish a book. It’s an awful habit that must stop so I can reclaim my reading time.
The Grimaldis of Monaco by Anne Edwards is one of my favorite reads of this quarter. It’s quite the gossipy and entertaining read. The book begins with an interesting tale of Princess Caroline in the 1980s. Just when the reader is sucked in to the drama of her divorce with Philippe Junot, the reader time-travels back to the very beginning of Monaco and to the very first Grimaldi. (Otto Canella, born in 1133, is the father of Grimaldo Canella, born in 1162, who in turn becomes the father of Oberto Grimaldi, born in 1188). It’s a very entertaining and highly recommended book if you are interested in Grimaldi history. The book was published in 1992, so obviously it does not cover the current Grimaldis. It is a good stepping stone into the early history of the Grimaldis.
Paris to the Moon is a collection of short stories by essayist Adam Gopnik. They are witty, entertaining stories about living in Paris as an American. I’m a proud Francophile and loved reading this book very much. If you are interested, this link will take you to my earlier review.
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown is a biography of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister. It’s a non-traditional biography in the sense that the reader peeks into glimpses of Princess Margaret’s life, most of the time not in chronological order. Each glimpse equals a short chapter. The chapters are so short that it makes for a fast read. I enjoyed this unique style of biography very much. Hint: Princess Margaret was an awful, selfish person. I’m sure she had some good qualities but it sounds like she was born in an era where royals were treated like God and didn’t have to earn respect. I think she’d hate being born a royal today because you can’t actually get away with being awful (or can you?).