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May 2021 Wrap-Up

The Reader by Renoir.

Well, hello there! Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Reading during the beautiful month of May consisted of one book and two short stories.

I read a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald as part of a creative writing course. The story we read is called Three Hours Between Planes. It’s short but very powerful. It’s a story about mistaken identity and about the “one that got away.” I was amazed at how much of a plot there was in just a couple of pages. And I say this as someone who does not enjoy reading F. Scott Fitzgerald. His writings usually leave me feeling depressed. What do you think of his works?

I also listened to a short romantic audiobook (novella-sized), A Vineyard Valentine by Nina Bocci. The setting takes place at a winery over Valentine’s Day. It was a short listen (just under two hours) but it’s a sweet and romantic story. The heroine is the owner of the winery and she meets a patron who happens to be handsome and funny! Sparks fly. Happy Ending ensues.

Last but not least, I also read Salonica: City of Ghosts by Mark Mazower. The book chronicles the history of the city of Thessaloniki in Greece. Salonica went from being a city of Byzantium to an Ottoman stronghold to finally gaining independence by merging with the Kingdom of Greece. It’s not just about the Greeks and the Christian population. It’s also about the Jewish history, the Muslim history, it’s about the story of families and the story of the foreigners who came to Salonica for one reason or another. It’s comprehensive and well-researched. At certain times during my reading the true stories took my breath away. It’s a fascinating account of a fascinating city. If you are interested in Ottoman history, Greek history or the history of city planning, start with this book.

xoxo, Jane

Shopping My Shelves: Summer 2021 Reading Recommendations

Hooray! Summer is upon us. If you need some light (and not so light) reading recommendations, then please come in! I shopped my bookshelves to share a few reading ideas with you!

Let’s start out with a very light reading recommendation. The Wind off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart is a novella (more of a long short story, really) set in the breathtaking Canary Isles. It’s a Mary Stewart classic so this means there will be a ton of suspense packed in while a romance is brewing on the side; hence perfect read for the beach getaway. (Or if you’re like me and not traveling far because of the pandemic then read it at home with a frosty beverage. Win-win.)

You can not go wrong with Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson. It’s the charming tale of Miss Buncle and her adventures. Miss Buncle, you see, is in need of some funds. So she sets out to write a book set in her village which features all of the villagers. Unfortunately Miss Buncle did a terrible job of disguising the actual people she wrote about and the villagers become quite upset with her. All kinds of mayhem ensues. If you love classics, romance and English villages then this is the summer read for you!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson is a little bit more serious but just as charming of a read. Miss Pettigrew is a governess who endured hardship most of her life. But thanks to a plucky young American she finally (after a very long day gallivanting around London) may just get her happy ending. I’d compare this story to Cinderella but without the stepsisters.

Summertime should be all about adventures. So what better adventure than the Harry Potter series? I just love this series and will never tire of it. I wonder if they are teaching Harry Potter in schools yet? I think they should. The school curriculum in the US is extremely outdated (we can all live without reading Lord of the Flies ever again) and I think they should replace a few of the books for the Harry Potter stories, in my humble opinion.

Can we let summer pass without reading a Jane Austen novel? Not in this house! May I recommend the timeless, sparkling tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? If you need another Austen recommendation, Persuasion is a good book for any time of year. Persuasion happens to be my most favorite Jane Austen novel. If you’re interested, I ranked the Jane Austen novels in an earlier post.

Which books would you recommend for summer reading?

xoxo, Jane

Currently Reading: Salonica City of Ghosts by Mark Mazower

Salonica: City of Ghosts by Mark Mazower is literally the biography of Thessaloniki in modern-day Greece. The story begins in 1430 when Salonica fell to the Ottomans. The book ends in 1950, though I’m only half-way through.

It’s a remarkable story for a remarkable city. Before 1430, Salonica had enjoyed seventeen hundred years of life as a Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine city. But after it fell to the Ottomans, Salonica’s bright light wasn’t extinguished. The city carried on, a multicultural gem in the heart of the Ottoman Empire. Christians, Jews and Muslims lived near each other, though within their designated quarters. Christians and Jews were classified as unequal to Muslims: their court testimonies did not count, paid higher taxes then Muslims and Muslims were not charged with a crime if they murdered a Christian or a Jew. Salonica gained freedom from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, reverting to the Kingdom of Greece. It’s a fascinating account of a fascinating city.

What are you currently reading?

xoxo, Jane

April 2021 Wrap-Up

Girl Reading in a Salon, 1876, by Giovanni Boldini.

Hello, friends! How are you?

April was another light reading month, but I trust you won’t judge me.

I re-read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and it was fabulous! If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It is such a funny satire. I really appreciate the gothic story within the gothic story; the heroine, Catherine Morland, is obsessed with reading gothic novels and one of them, The Mysteries of Udolpho, plays a role in the story.

I read Taken by the Border Rebel by Blythe Gifford. The plot is set during the border wars in Scotland and England in 1529. Though it’s a serious and dark chapter from history, it was an enjoyable romance novel.

Last but not least, I also read Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos. And all I have to say is: WOW! The book details the German royals who joined and aided the Nazi party. For me it was a very sad read, but a necessary read. What’s interesting (and infuriating) is that today most of these families live on their ancestral lands without having to pay retributions. Most of these families also refuse to open their family archives to the public. I assume it’s because they want to keep their Nazi past hidden. A very well-researched history book, if you’re interested.

What did you read last month?

xoxo, Jane

New Book: The Literature Book by DK

I’m really enjoying my new book, The Literature Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK. I love this book which is no surprise because I enjoy all the books published by DK. (Love DK!!!)

I would describe this book as bite-sized summaries and analysis of literature from 3000 BCE to present day (literally to present day: it ends with an analysis of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.). It’s not meant for helping you study. It’s just an introduction to literature for book lovers.

There are illustrations, author bios, charts, graphics and timelines to pore over. Also, since I’m a huge history buff, I appreciate the in-depth historical features. I’ve always thought studying literature should include reviewing the historical context stories are placed in. If you are a literature/history nerd like me, then this book is for you. If you are looking for something to help you pass an exam, this book is not for you. The Literature Book is for browsing, inspiration and fun learning.

Do you read books by DK?

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

This and That

Photo by Satoshi Hirayama on Pexels.com

Hello, all! It’s been as silent as the grave on my blog because I’ve been busy enjoying life and sometimes I just don’t have anything to share if I’m in the middle of reading books. I don’t read as fast as most of you. But right now I’m extra busy because I’m taking a course via FutureLearn. If you haven’t heard of FutureLearn I recommend you stop by to check it out. They offer free university courses on virtually every subject. The course I’m taking is a throwback to my BA in English, Literature of the English Country House. It focuses on studying literature through the historical context and through close reading. I admit I don’t close read most of the time, so this course is useful (and super fun!). I would also like to try my hand at writing poetry so the next course I plan to sign up for is How to Make a Poem.

Other things entertaining me: The Great Courses via Audible, my current course is American Heiresses of the Gilded Age. I’m also currently reading a Harlequin Historical novel, Taken by the Border Rebel by Blythe Gifford. And taking lots of walks and soaking up the blossoms before they disappear.

What have you been up to?

xoxo, Jane

March 2021 Wrap-Up

Gari Melchers (1860-1932) Woman Reading by a Window

March was a shamefully light reading month. In fact, I shouldn’t even be writing this blog post, but since my goal for 2021 is to write monthly wrap-ups (instead of quarterly wrap-ups), I’m going public with my shame.

So here we go…

I only read two short books in March! But in my defense, I listened to hours and hours of podcasts.

One of the books is An Accidental Birthright by Maisey Yates. The plot is quite unique. Bear with me here…the heroine is impregnated with the prince’s child due to a mix-up at an IVF clinic. It’s a weird concept (I can’t image this exact scenario happening in real life) but it worked for me. This forced a marriage with the prince (another concept that won’t work in real life but hey reading is fantasy, right?). I enjoyed this book because the prince is very kind and romantic; i.e. not a jerk at all. You know I hate the jerk heroes that seem to be prevalent in the older Harlequin novels. So, if you are looking for another Maisey Yates romance novel, then I recommend this one.

I also read Catherine Tinley’s debut novel, Waltzing with the Earl. I loved it! If you are looking for a historical novel with all the feels, then this is it. Set in 1814, it’s an updated version of the Cinderella story. In this story, the stepmother-figure is a distant aunt. Her two daughters take the part of the stepsisters and one of them provides comic relief with her antics and jealousy. The heroine, Charlotte, has to live with this family in their London home while her father finishes up his military campaigns on the Continent. It’s a really good take on the Cinderella plot, with a heroine who is intelligent, capable and independent. There is even a ball! The Earl is dashing. The conflict (the Earl can’t marry Charlotte because she’s poor) kept me on the edge of my seat! But my favorite part of this book really has to be the comical cousin. This book made me laugh and cry. I definitely plan to read the other books in this series.

What did you read in March?

xoxo, Jane

Pandemic Coloring

To ease some stress during the pandemic, I took to coloring in adult coloring books! I asked my husband for coloring pencils and coloring books as Christmas gifts and he delivered!

I’ve been obsessed with all things Victorian so my husband gave me two Victorian homes coloring books. What I love about them is that they aren’t just for coloring; there are sections explaining the history of the Victorian house and the functions of each room.

***

Victorian Houses by A.G. Smith is a great one to pick up if you want to color (or draw) real Victorian houses. Each historic Victorian house illustration comes with an explanation of where it is located and what color scheme it currently is.

The Victorian House Coloring Book by Daniel Lewis (illustrated) and Kristin Helberg (written and researched) is a short history of Victorian homes. If you want to learn about the function of each room while coloring, then this is the book to pick up.

I’ve owned Secret Paris by Zoe De Las Cases since before the pandemic and am I ever so grateful for that. It’s a fun, whimsical book with illustrations of Paris life such as the picturesque streets, bistros and boutiques. It’s very cute.

What have you been doing to destress?

xoxo, Jane

Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court by Stefano Papi

As you can probably tell, I love royal jewelry and royal history. And I feed my passion by reading as much as I can on these subjects. One of my favorite books on royal jewelry is Jewels of the Romanovs: Family & Court (2nd edition) by Stefano Papi. The book is not just about royal jewelry, it’s also a Romanov history of sorts. 

I can’t rave enough about this book and have read every single word, more than once. Papi manages to tell a mesmerizing story with each jewel (this is the book where I first learned about the Vladimir Tiara and its fascinating origin story). This hefty tome is truly a treat. It’s not just an index of Romanov jewels and their whereabouts, but a history of the last Romanov family. 

The coffee-table book is divided in six sections. Papi begins with the story of the last tsar and his tight-knit family, then introduces you to the various family relations. The book ends with the tragic downfall of the last tsar and the dispersal of the royal jewelry.

There are plenty of images to bring the stories to life: photographs of the family and their sumptuous jewels, image reproductions and drawings. Each jewel has its own story to tell and Papi tells it magnificently. 

The only downside to this book? The cost. The list price is a hefty $75.00. However, last I checked Amazon had copies for approximately $60.00 or you may even be able to buy a less expensive used copy elsewhere. But don’t forget to check if your library has a copy for you to borrow. I still borrow many of my jewelry history books from the library. 

If you are interested in the Romanovs and their jewelry, I highly recommend this book. If you’ve already read it, please let me know your thoughts.

(This article is also posted at my other blog, The Royal Archivist.)

Hello

I haven’t been reading or writing much, which is why it’s been quiet on here. I’ve been taking long walks, cooking, watching a lot of tv and reflecting on life.

But this morning, I started reading a new Harlequin Historical so I think I’m back on track.

After the rain.

I don’t have any pictures of books to share, but I do have some spring flowers for you.

I took a walk after a rain shower and the reminder of spring and rebirth all around helped lift my spirits.

I can’t resist a blossom, that’s for sure. I read somewhere that it helps to find something to be grateful for every day. Well, today I’m grateful for the flowers all around us.

I hope wherever you are and whatever you are up to that you are safe and happy.

xoxo, Jane

March Library Haul

It’s always a good day when you have new library books to read. This month my taste runs a little wild: there are Nazis, royals and the decorative arts. I borrowed Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos because I want to read more about the infamous crown jewels theft by American military members based in Germany after World War II. They were caught and sent to prison, but sadly a large portion of the historic jewels were never recovered.

I also picked up the guidebook to Hillwood Museum & Gardens so I can do some museum armchair visiting. If you haven’t heard of it, Hillwood Museum is an incredible mansion filled with Russian and French decorative arts.

I borrowed Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia by Suzanne Massie so I can learn more about the Russia from before the Revolution.

A Taste for Splendor is another book by and about Hillwood Museum. The museum has a large selection of Russian decorative arts and I can’t wait to obsess over every page of this book.

What’s on your reading list for March?

xoxo, Jane