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Amsterdam Book Haul

A scenic view of a canal in Amsterdam.

My husband and I took a trip to Amsterdam over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend. I’ve never been to Amsterdam before and didn’t know what to expect. Amsterdam was a very pleasant surprise. The city was beautiful, friendly and had wonderful museums and restaurants. Plus, bookstores galore. Win-win.

I visited countless bookstores and bought two books from two places, Waterstones (I was pleasantly surprised and so happy to find a Waterstones in Amsterdam) and The Book Exchange (an English bookstore with three floors of used books). We also explored the many scenic canals.

And visited the flower market.

Sadly, I didn’t bring any tulip bulbs home. Next time.

I did bring home The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett from Waterstones. It’s a detective/mystery novel that features Queen Elizabeth II solving crimes. A very plausible scenario, in my opinion.

I purchased Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams from The Book Exchange. I’d like to think that I know quite a bit about Josephine, but that’s probably not the case. Kate Williams is a British historian, writer and tv presenter. This will be my first time reading her and I’m looking forward to diving in when I’m done with Victober reading.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today. Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

My Victober 2021 Reading List

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

We are almost half-way through October, so I thought I’d share my Victober reading list with you. To recap, Victober was founded by Katie, Books and Things, Kate Howe and Lucy the Reader. I’m not following the challenge exactly as listed below. I’m cheating a little to suit my reading needs. Let me know what you’re reading this month (Victorian or not)!

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

THE 2021 CHALLENGES

1. Kate’s challenge: Read a Victorian sensation novel – Not really a sensation novel, but I’ll be reading A Rogue’s Life by Wilkie Collins.
2. Katie’s challenge: Read a Victorian book set in the countryside AND/OR the city – I’m slightly cheating here by not reading a book for this challenge since everything I’m reading this month is set in the country or in the city.
3. Lucy’s challenge: Read a Victorian book with a female main character – Not a novel and not Victorian (though written during the Victorian period), but I’ll be reading The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
4. Group challenge: Read a popular Victorian book you haven’t yet read (how you define popular is up to you – could be popular now, popular on Booktube, popular in the Victorian period itself) – I’m counting A Rogue’s Life by Wilkie Collins for this challenge. I know it’s cheating, but it’s a busy month. The point of this challenge is to read something Victorian, even if it’s just one book.
5. Bonus challenge: Read aloud a section of a Victorian work, or have it read aloud to you (ie, by a friend or an audiobook) – I’m listening to Oscar Wilde’s Collected Stories.

Photo by JJ Jordan on Pexels.com

THE READALONG

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell – I’m currently reading Gothic Tales and it’s quite an enjoyable read. Several of the short stories are based on facts and I’m impressed with Elizabeth Gaskell’s ability to draw from real life situations and turn them into gothic suspense mystery stories.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. Stop by and say hi.

September 2021 Wrap-Up

With September behind us and October ahead of us, here is what I read last month. I reread Pause by Kylie Scott because why not. I also read Smoke Signal by Marie Benedict and Kate Quinn. It’s a historical novella which takes place during and after WWII. The best part about this story is that Agatha Christie is a main character. The mystery tale, which is based on a true story, is perhaps an homage to the great lady herself. Have you read it?

The big read of the month was Lotharingia by Simon Winder. It’s a historical account of France, Germany and the smaller countries in-between and how they came into existance. It’s action-packed history and reading the book made me feel like I was listening to a gossip session with a historian. If you are into history and gossip (haha), then I recommend this book. But if you frown upon making history fun and being gossipy about historical figures, then you’d best skip it.

A moody picture of Chateau d’ Amboise in the Loir Valley for your Victober inspiration.

I’m currently reading Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell in honor of Victober. Are you participating in Victober this year? I hope so!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. Stop by and say hi.

Autumnal Reads Recommendations

Happy First Day of Fall!

I love every season, but autumn is one of my favorites. What’s not to love about it? There is the crisp, cool air, the changing colors of the leaves, copious amounts of tea and long, cozy evenings at home.

In that spirit, I shopped my bookshelves to share a few autumnal book recommendations.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski makes the list because it’s a super spooky read. A woman takes a nap and wakes up stuck in another body, in another era. She is literally imprisoned in her new life and can’t figure out how to get back. A nightmare. My nightmare. I still can’t believe I read this book in one sitting. I must have been too scared to move. If you read it, let me know your thoughts.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is on the list because the plot is set in a spooky, gothic castle. I know I’m always recommending Jane Austen novels, but that’s because Jane Austen is an author for all seasons. In Northanger Abbey you can lose yourself in Bath, England and join several of the characters on their quest for love and happiness.

The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens is a biography of the British ghost. I actually haven’t read this book yet, but I will. I love reading British stories the best. Well, I should clarify that I love reading all kinds of books, but as you can guess from this blog I’m a bit of an anglophile. So I’m definitely looking forward to getting lost in the spooky pages of a British ghost history book.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling is a re-read for me. What’s better than starting autumn with a magical feel-good back-to-school story? The story of the young Harry Potter is always a good idea. Do you agree?

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. Stop by and say hi.

Paris Book Haul

Just a quick post to share with you my recent Paris book purchases from two fabulous bookstores.

Smith & Son: I purchased Lotharingia: A Personal History of France, Germany and the Countries In Between by Simon Winder. This is the book I’m currently reading. My goal is to finish it before September ends so I can start on my Victober 2021 planning and reading. Smith & Son is a British bookseller with an excellent tea room. If you are in Paris and have the time, I’d recommend you pay them a visit. Smith & Son is right across from the Louvre and the Tuileries Garden at 248 Rue de Rivoli. You can stop by for refreshments after your sightseeing excursions. They are open Monday through Sunday, but the tea room is closed on Mondays.

Galignani: Just a couple blocks further away at 224 Rue de Rivoli, you’ll find Galignani. A bookseller known for their excellent selection of decorative and fine arts books, they have been selling English fiction and nonfiction books since 1801. While browsing, I discovered Freya Stark‘s travel memoir, The Valleys of the Assassins. Freya Stark was one of the first Europeans to travel throughout the region known today as the Middle East. What a brave and interesting woman she must have been. I am so looking forward to reading her memoir. I also purchased Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation by Roderick Beaton. Roderick Beaton is not Greek, but he devoted his career to studying and understanding Greece. I’m looking forward to reading it as there are not many well-written books about modern Greece. It’s a fairly recent book; published in 2019.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. Stop by and say hi.

Currently Reading: Lotharingia by Simon Winder

I’m currently reading Lotharingia: A Personal History of France, Germany and the Countries In Between by Simon Winder.

Simon Winder is a witty, sarcastic type of writer. I like his writing style a lot. Lotharingia chronicles what happened after Charlemagne’s three grandsons each inherited a country: France, Germany and Lotharingia. As you probably already guessed, Lotharingia doesn’t exist anymore. It ended up becoming all the countries in between Germany and France: Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands…

Mr. Winder traveled widely throughout Germany, France, Austria and all the other countries in between. He compiled his personal experiences into a set of three books. Lotharingia is the third and final book in this series. The book is not a memoir, not even a travel memoir. It’s simply history retold through the personal experiences of the author. If you like history, then you might want to check out Simon Winder. But if you don’t like history told through a personal perspective with a lot of sarcastic remarks, then he might not be the writer for you.

A snippet of his writing style: “Bouillon’s fame is over nine hundred years old, through its association with Godefroy of Bouillon, the leader of the homicidal outing later known as the First Crusade.” As you can image, I’m laughing quite a lot while learning about history.

What are you currently reading?

xoxo, Jane

PS. Enjoy two moody, brooding pictures of the Tuileries Garden below.

Flaneuring in Paris

Spotting the Tour Eiffel from the grounds of the Louvre.

Even as I’m writing this, it doesn’t quite feel real to say that I live in Paris now. It’s very surreal. My husband’s job brought us to the City of Light and it still hasn’t sunk in. But that hasn’t stopped me from taking advantage of every possible sight during my every spare moment. It’s a dream come true to flâneur* in and around Paris. Strangely enough, I don’t have many pictures to share with you because I’ve been mostly soaking in the sights and sounds without a camera. I do plan on changing that, so stay tuned for Paris pictures in the coming weeks.

A gorgeous display at Librairie Galignani.

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I visited as many bookshops as possible. My favorite bookstore is Librairie Galignani on Rue de Rivoli. It’s the oldest English bookstore in Paris, founded in 1801. They have a wide variety of English-language books, especially books not published in the United States. They are also known for their excellent selection of fine arts books. It’s a dreamy bookshop and I’m so happy I discovered it.

A very short flower walk video. Enjoy!

I will leave you with a short flower walk from my recent visit to Invalides.

Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

*flâneur noun – someone who walks around not doing anything in particular but watching people and society (Cambridge English Dictionary)

If you were coming in the fall by Emily Dickinson

Via Wikimedia Commons.

If you were coming in the fall

By Emily Dickinson

If you were coming in the Fall,
I’d brush the Summer by
With half a smile, and half a spurn,
As Housewives do, a Fly.

If I could see you in a year,
I’d wind the months in balls—
And put them each in separate Drawers,
For fear the numbers fuse—

If only Centuries, delayed,
I’d count them on my Hand,
Subtracting, til my fingers dropped
Into Van Dieman’s Land,

If certain, when this life was out—
That yours and mine, should be
I’d toss it yonder, like a Rind,
And take Eternity—

But, now, uncertain of the length
Of this, that is between,
It goads me, like the Goblin Bee—
That will not state— its sting.

In a Library by Emily Dickinson

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In a Library

By Emily Dickinson

A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

Victober 2021

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Victober is upon us. Last year I so enjoyed participating in the Victorian-themed reading challenge that I plan to do so again this year. I haven’t decided the books or stories yet, but if you have ideas feel free to share them in the comments.

What is Victober? Victorian October is about reading Victorian literature all month long. It was created by co-hosts Katie at Books and ThingsKate Howe and Lucy the Reader. So, for the purposes of this challenge, the definition of Victorian literature is a book written or published by a British or Irish writer, or a writer residing in Britain or Ireland, in the years 1837-1901. But I’ve decided to only read books that I own or can access from the library or Project Gutenberg. This means that I’ll alter the challenge slightly to suit my needs.

Will you participate?

THE HOSTS

Katie, Books and Things
Kate Howe
Lucy the Reader

THE 2021 CHALLENGES

1. Kate’s challenge: Read a Victorian sensation novel
2. Katie’s challenge: Read a Victorian book set in the countryside AND/OR the city
3. Lucy’s challenge: Read a Victorian book with a female main character
4. Group challenge: Read a popular Victorian book you haven’t yet read (how you define popular is up to you – could be popular now, popular on Booktube, popular in the Victorian period itself)
5. Bonus challenge: Read aloud a section of a Victorian work, or have it read aloud to you (ie, by a friend or an audiobook)

THE READALONG

Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

Gothic Tales includes the following shorter works:
Disappearances
The Old Nurse’s Story

The Squire’s Story
The Poor Clare
The Doom of the Griffiths
Lois the Witch
The Crooked Branch
Curious, If True
The Grey Woman

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane

August 2021 Wrap-Up

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

Hello, friends! Welcome to autumn, my all-time favorite season. I hope September finds you well.

My August reading consisted of wonderful, unputdownable books and some romantic poetry.

I listened to Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Audible’s version is performed by a full cast. I have no words! This is one of the funnest, most wonderful books I’ve read in a long time. I only regret that I didn’t read Jules Verne years earlier. The entire time I felt as if I too was on the adventurous race with Phileas Fogg and Passepartout. Have you read it?

Classic Love Poems by Audible is narrated by the fabulous, dreamy Richard Armitage. I won’t lie, I picked this poetry book solely because it’s narrated by Richard Armitage (aka Mr. Thornton and Sir Guy).

Elegance: The Beauty of French Fashion by Megan Hess is another one of her lovely, illustrated books. Megan Hess writes about fashion (and other non-fashion subjects) but her books always include her dreamy illustrations. I enjoyed learning about French fashions, but mostly loved what a gorgeous book I was holding in my hands. I wrote more about Megan Hess’s other books here and here.

I have a new favorite romance author, Kylie Scott. I read, back-to-back, her following books: Pause, Repeat and Lick. The books are not just plot-driven, but heavy on the emotions between the main characters. Steamy, slow-burn types of stories, if you will. Just perfect for what I look for in a romance novel. Thank you, Ms. Scott!

What’s next for September reading? I would like to re-read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I want to see if I can find similarities between the main characters in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Victorian Chaise-Longue.

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’m on Instagram where I post about books and tea. You should stop by and say hi.

The Mower to the Glow-Worms by Andrew Marvell

The Mower to the Glow-Worms

By Andrew Marvell

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light 
The nightingale does sit so late, 
And studying all the summer night, 
Her matchless songs does meditate; 

Ye country comets, that portend 
No war nor prince’s funeral, 
Shining unto no higher end 
Than to presage the grass’s fall; 

Ye glow-worms, whose officious flame 
To wand’ring mowers shows the way, 
That in the night have lost their aim, 
And after foolish fires do stray; 

Your courteous lights in vain you waste, 
Since Juliana here is come, 
For she my mind hath so displac’d 
That I shall never find my home.