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Retail Therapy: Book Haul

I needed a little retail therapy so I treated myself to some new books, which I’m very excited about.

I’m becoming a fan of Georgette Heyer, so I picked up another novel by her. This one, Devil’s Cub, is a Regency romance (possibly Georgian, I haven’t figured it out yet) and the hero is dashing and the heroine is smart and has a mind of her own. Yes, please.

I also bought The Odyssey by Homer. I’ve been meaning to read this book for, oh, about 25 years or so. So I thought now might be a good time. I also bought the audiobook version so I can listen while I’m cooking or cleaning. I have a feeling this book, while a fascinating and adventurous tale, might take me a while to get through.

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali is set in 1953 Tehran and in modern-day USA. I will admit to you that I picked up this book purely because of the beautiful cover, but it appears to be a poignant story of an idealistic teenager in Tehran and I look forward to diving in.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre is a nonfiction book about a KGB spy, Oleg Gordievsky, who ended up helping the West. In my mind, I have a vision of Costa Ronin who played Oleg in The Americans. It’s described as “a riveting story of Cold War intrigue…” and I cannot get enough of Cold War tales so this is on the top of my list.

Have you read any of these? What’s on your nightstand these days?

xoxo, Jane

Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World by Richard Kreitner

Description

A practical, armchair travel guide that explores eighty of the most iconic literary locations from all over the globe that you can actually visit. A must-have for every fan of literature, Booked inspires readers to follow in their favorite characters footsteps by visiting the real-life locations portrayed in beloved novels including the Monroeville, Alabama courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird, Chatsworth House, the inspiration for Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice, and the Kyoto Bridge from Memoirs of a Geisha. The full-color photographs throughout reveal the settings readers have imagined again and again in their favorite books. 

My Thoughts

If you miss traveling, then I think Booked: A Traveler’s Guide to Literary Locations Around the World by Richard Kreitner might be for you. It takes you to all the real-life locations mentioned in various novels (even Harry Potter earned a spot).

I like that the essays are organized by region (Americas, Europe, Africa, etc.) and that there is plenty of scenic photography to provide visual context to the literature. The section on Pemberley is my favorite part of the book.

As a writer and reader, I appreciate the sentiment in this thoughtful book. If you are in need of some arm-chair traveling, then this book might fill that need. The only downside is that the author primarily focuses on literary novels. I would have also liked to have read about cozy mysteries or romance novel locations. And it was a little disappointing that just one Jane Austen novel location is featured in the book.

Many thanks to The Unapologetic Bookworm for bringing this book to my attention.

xoxo, Jane

January 2021 Wrap-Up

I usually write quarterly wrap-ups, but this year I want to aim for monthly reading wrap-ups. In January I read A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen and an adorable book for children (but for grown-ups too), Jane Austen: An Illustrated Biography.

January Reading

Now that I’ve read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen I can finally state that I’ve read all of the full-length Jane Austen novels. Initially I avoided this particular Austen novel because of the cousin factor. First cousins Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram, who grow up together in the same household, fall in love with each other. I know it used to be a social norm to marry your first cousin, but I still couldn’t get past it. While I enjoyed reading Fanny’s journey, she is very sweet and dear, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the other Austen novels. But don’t let me put you off, it’s truly an excellent book that touches upon several of society’s dark undertones. I don’t regret reading it, but it won’t be a re-read for me. Have you read it?

January Flowers

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer is a Christmas-themed, cozy murder mystery. The setting is a Tudor-era estate in the English countryside. In the beginning of the novel I was overwhelmed by the numerous character introductions, but once I got past the initial chapters I enjoyed reading this mystery. The owner of the Tudor estate is killed while in his bedroom, but the issue is that the door is locked from the inside and presumably none of the guests were able to enter the room to commit the murder. I thought I had the murder solved, but I was wrong and taken by surprise by the actual murderer. If you like murder mysteries set in the English countryside this book might be your cup of tea.

Last but not least, I read Jane Austen: An Illustrated Biography (Library of Luminaries). It’s a whimsically illustrated biography and the perfect introduction to Jane Austen for the toddler in your life.

xoxo, Jane

Happy Book Birthday to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice was published on this day in 1813!

And just like that, readers were introduced to the ever-popular enemies to lovers romance trope. It’s true! Mr. Darcy and Lizzie Bennet initially loathed each other, but later fell passionately in love. It’s a trope still popular in romance novels today.

Pride and Prejudice is a romantic and humorous tale set during the Regency era. It’s the story of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. But it’s also the story of Elizabeth’s sister, Jane Bennet and her beau Charles Bingley. It’s a love story filled with humor, misunderstandings and silly people. It’s one of my favorite Jane Austen novels. If you haven’t read it yet, you are in for a treat.

Fun Facts about Pride and Prejudice

  • Jane Austen enjoyed weaving a really good bad boy into her stories. Pride and Prejudice is no exception. Mr. Wickham is probably the baddest boy in her literature. He elopes to Gretna Green with the youngest Bennet sister, Lydia.
  • Jane Austen loved a man in uniform. She grew up surrounded by brothers in the military as the Napoleonic wars raged in the background. In Pride and Prejudice, the Bennet sisters are beyond excited when the militia comes to town (Fleet Week, anyone?).
  • The novel was initially titled, First Impressions. Makes sense, because the first impression between Mr. Darcy and Lizzie Bennet was…not so good.
  • The first edition of Pride and Prejudice cost 18 shillings. According to a historical currency calculator, that’s about $80.00 today.
  • Also, a gorgeously illustrated edition was published by The Folio Society.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice?

xoxo, Jane

Podcasts for Royal History Lovers

Via Wikimedia Commons. Empress Joséphine in her coronation regalia painted by François Gérard, 1807-1808.

If you like reading about royal history, then you may enjoy listening to podcasts about royals. There are a number of excellent podcasts I subscribe to that I think you might find of interest.

The Exploress Podcast is incredibly well-researched and a fun way to learn about ancient historical women. The recreations of historical dialogue are entertaining and a must-listen. Though there are many episodes on historic noble women, some of the women featured are commoners. It’s still an entertaining resource and I highly recommend the outstanding four-part series on Cleopatra. Plus, the website has a page devoted to book recommendations. Enjoy!

Noble Blood is a podcast about the footnotes of royal men and women; the stories we don’t learn in school. It’s well-researched and told in a narrative style, as if a good friend is sitting near you and whispering a gossipy tale. The episodes are about tyrannical royals, murdered royals and tragic princesses. Very entertaining. I can’t recommend it enough.

The History Chicks is run by two very good friends who enjoy talking about historical women. They began the podcast ten years ago because they couldn’t find any podcasts devoted entirely to women. Though a good number of royals are featured, they are not the main focus of this podcast. However, it’s worth perusing their catalog since it features many episodes of interest to royal history fans. I recommend their episodes on Gilded Age HeiressesCatherine the Great and Empress Sisi of Austria

The Art of Monarchy is no longer updated, but the past episodes about decorative arts of The Royal Collection are a must-listen for royal history lovers.

Last but not least, if you enjoy royal fashion, then you may enjoy listening to Dressed. The two hosts are experts in fashion and textiles and are a joy to listen to. Their well-researched episodes feature everything from the history of haute couture to Oscars fashion and feature a good amount of interviews with experts.

xoxo, Jane

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

Books for the Romantic

With the holidays behind us and Valentine’s Day in the near future, can we talk about books for the romantic at heart?

It’s no secret that Persuasion by Jane Austen is my favorite novel. It’s about the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Anne is persuaded to end her relationship with Wentworth because he has no prospects, a decision Anne regrets almost immediately. Luckily for her, the young man, now an older Captain Wentworth, returns home, rich from the Napoleonic wars. Captain Wentworth, at first weary and hurt, plays a little hard to get. No one said the path to love wasn’t going to be rocky. It’s a very satisfying and fulfilling love story.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson is the story of an older, down-on-her-luck governess. She has no money to buy food, no money to pay her rent and the workhouse is looming. Things can’t get any worse when she accidentally lands a job with a young American nightclub singer, Miss LaFosse. Miss LaFosse, not a child nor in need of a governess, nevertheless takes Miss Pettigrew under her wing. Before the employment agency is made aware of their error, Miss Pettigrew embarks on a mad-cap tour of London with Miss LaFosse, where she finds mayhem and true love. It’s silly, frothy and romantic. It’s a Cinderella story and Miss LaFosse, young, beautiful and silly, acts as Miss Pettigrew’s godmother. I highly recommend reading it.

Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole is a short story set in the court of King James IV. Agnes Moor, an African woman, is considered the “exotic” of the court. She also acts as an informal adviser to the King. But when the King organizes a tournament, a Scottish knight vies for Agnes’ heart and uses the tournament to prove his love for her. It’s so romantic and perfect to read for Valentine’s Day. If you are in need of a Scottish Highlander tale, then look no further.

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett (of The Secret Garden fame) is part Cinderella-story, part dramatic thriller. The heroine, penniless and with no options left to better her situation, attracts the eye of a wealthy Marquess. They marry and live happily ever after. Or at least that’s how the story is supposed to end. But in this story, the ending doesn’t come with the wedding. After the wedding, ominous characters appear out of the woodwork to make the Marchioness disappear. I won’t give away anymore, but I’ll just say that love conquers all.

The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly is an excellent regency romance. The heroine, Sally Paul, is living on her last penny when she meets Admiral Charles Bright. The Admiral swiftly marries her, but as they embark on their new life together trouble looms ahead. This Cinderella story has tension, a little mystery and a very satisfying ending.

These are just a few of the romantic books I’ve read over the years and still love very much.

What are your favorite romantic novels?

xoxo, Jane

New book for my TBR pile: A Most English Princess by Clare McHugh

I’m excited for my next read. A Most English Princess by Clare McHugh is a novel based on the life of Princess Vicky, the daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She married the Crown Prince of Prussia, Frederick (later Kaiser Frederick III). Before diving in, here are some of the facts I know about Vicky: She truly loved her husband and he loved her. Their eldest son, Kaiser Wilhelm II treated her in an atrocious manner. Shortly before she died in 1901, Vicky sent her letters and other documents home to her brother, Edward VII, because she knew Kaiser Wilhem II would confiscate or destroy them. This correspondence included letters her mother, Queen Victoria, had written to Vicky over the decades. Also, Vicky’s husband was Kaiser for less than 100 days before he died of his illness. Though this novel is fiction, I’m really looking forward to diving in.

xoxo, Jane

From HaperCollins Publishers:

To the world, she was Princess Victoria, daughter of a queen, wife of an emperor, and mother of Kaiser Wilhelm. Her family just called her Vicky…smart, pretty, and self-assured, she changed the course of the world.

January 1858: Princess Victoria glides down the aisle of St James Chapel to the waiting arms of her beloved, Fritz, Prince Frederick, heir to the powerful kingdom of Prussia. Although theirs is no mere political match, Vicky is determined that she and Fritz will lead by example, just as her parents Victoria and Albert had done, and also bring about a liberal and united Germany. 

Brought up to believe in the rightness of her cause, Vicky nonetheless struggles to thrive in the constrained Prussian court, where each day she seems to take a wrong step. And her status as the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria does little to smooth over the conflicts she faces. 

But handsome, gallant Fritz is always by her side, as they navigate court intrigue, and challenge the cunning Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, while fighting for the throne—and the soul of a nation. At home they endure tragedy, including their son, Wilhelm, rejecting all they stand for.

Clare McHugh tells the enthralling and riveting story of Victoria, the Princess Royal—from her younger years as the apple of her father Albert’s eyes through her rise to power atop the mighty German empire to her final months of life.

Introducing The Royal Archivist

Hello, friends! I have some exciting news. You may not be aware, but I’m a serious lover of all things royal jewels and royal history. So I’ve decided that 2021 is the year I do something about it. I launched The Royal Archivist!! It’s where I write about the history of royal jewels and royal women. If you are interested in royal history, do take a look (or tell all of your friends and their friends to stop by). Thank you for the love and support!

xoxo, Jane

PS. I’ll continue to blog about the books I read, since reading and talking about books brings me joy. And I’m still working on my book series. I hope that 2021 is bright and hopeful for all of us.

Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

Earlier this week, I wrote a draft about some of the fabulous books I’m looking forward to reading this year. But that got waylaid because of the awful events on January 6, 2021 right here in my backyard. I’ve been in shell shock ever since. I’m upset, scared and horrified. Domestic terrorists came to my town from all over the United States and caused brutality. But here’s the thing. Us non-terrorist Americans are pretty damn resilient. We don’t cower. We’ll continue to vote, we’ll continue to educate ourselves and stand up to tyranny. Also, the United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists, so my guess is the domestic terrorists will end up in a federal penitentiary. Good riddance!

Now on to books.

Speaking of resilient Americans, A Promised Land by Barack Obama is his post-presidential memoir. I miss him so very much. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings, really. This memoir was a very thoughtful Christmas present from my wonderful husband.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is also on the list because I keep starting it, but never finishing. I’m determined to read it this month. Mansfield Park will be the last Jane Austen full-length novel waiting for me to read. After that, I plan to read the shorter or unfinished works she wrote. Hooray for Jane Austen in January.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling will be a reread (after first reading it over a decade ago) and this particular edition contains the most gorgeous illustrations I’ve ever seen. I’ve already started admiring the illustrations and can’t wait to really dive in. This is going to be such a fun read.

The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne tells the story of two women, one set in present day America, the other in Nazi Germany. Jane Thynne is a phenomenal storyteller. Her research is immaculate and makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the time period she writes about. I always enjoy reading her female characters, as she makes them real and likable. Jane Thynne’s books are auto-buys for me.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow is the story of Mary Bennet, the youngest (and annoying) Bennet sister. I bought this book last year but never got around to reading it. I love that Mary gets her own story and I’m very much looking forward to diving in and getting to know the real Mary Bennet.

What books are you looking forward to reading this year? Do you have any recommendations for me?

xoxo, Jane

First book of 2021

Happy New Year! Here’s to a really wonderful 2021 (fingers crossed!).

The first book of the year is a Christmas-themed book. It’s a cozy murder-mystery by Georgette Heyer, A Christmas Party. The plot is set over Christmas in a Tudor-era home in England. So far, I’m liking it a lot. I also love the ambience of the Tudor estate. (Fun fact: I once stayed in a Tudor estate.) Though, I have to admit, most of the characters are completely unlikable. Since I don’t read murder-mysteries often, I wonder if that’s the point? If I’m supposed to figure out who committed the murder, then I can’t find every character charming, right?

Description:

A colorful assortment of guests at a festive holiday house party discover there is a killer in their midst when their universally reviled host is found dead-in a room locked from the inside. 

For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, the investigation is complicated by the fact that every guest is hiding something-throwing all their testimony into question and casting suspicion far and wide. The clever and daring crime will mystify readers, yet the answer is in plain sight all along…

What’s your first book of the year?

xoxo, Jane

Happy New Year 2021

Hello, friends!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my bookish posts. As someone who is a bibliophile, it really means a lot to me. Especially this year when I felt out of sorts and worried about so many things. It’s truly nice to be in touch with others who appreciate books just as much as I do and I hope you stick around as we turn the clock to 2021.

Speaking of 2021, may the new year treat all of us in a more gentle manner. Wishing you good health and lots of happiness.

Happy New Year!

xoxo, Jane

October, November & December 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

I finished the last book of the year just today! Hooray!

Here is the second part of my recap of the final quarter of this terrible, terrible year. (And the first part is here.) There is no rhyme or reason to my choice of books. I love classics, romance and modern fiction all the same.

The Weirdies by Michael Buckley is a fun audiobook about three weird orphans and the very kind woman who adopts them. It’s hilarious and completely weird. If you like children’s tales and don’t mind a dark side, I recommend this audiobook.

Nighthawk by Rachel Lee is an older romance (from the 1990s) from her famous Conard County series. I do love a classic romance. If you enjoy reading the older Conard County series, I’d recommend this one. Also, another romance I read is Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee, which I enjoyed reading very much. I wrote about it here.

I also listened to Snow Day by Julie Lipson. I previously mentioned it here, but it’s an adorable short audiobook with two very likable characters stuck together in a romantic Italian village over Christmas.

Pirates! Scoundrels Who Shook the World by Scott McCormick is an audiobook about the history of pirates. This is meant for young people, but I firmly believe it can be enjoyed for those who are young at heart! I also listened to Rivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World by the same author. Like the title suggests, it’s about the rivalries between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, Puma vs. Adidas and a few others. History made super fun. If you are searching for a way to get your child interested in history, I’d recommend these audiobooks by Scott McCormick.

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit is about the history of walking. I am a walker, both of cities and trails, so the idea of this book fascinated me. The author talks about the famous walks of philosophers, of diplomats walking and talking business with each other, of people who love to meander through cities, and even characters taking walks in books. But there is also an underside to walking that the author did not gloss over, such as the harassment women face when they go out for walks. When women walk they are universally harassed. The author herself mentions the vile names she has been called just while walking in broad daylight. I read this book because I love to walk. But it brought back an unsavory memory of my time in Morocco when I dared to walk in broad daylight to the school I was volunteering at. A man followed me and refused to leave. He even grabbed me by the sleeve. I turned around and screamed at him to leave me alone. Luckily that did the trick. The attention from bystanders was apparently too much for him and he left. Anyway, really good book if you are fascinated by walking and its history.

I also read more Charles Dickens. The Chimes is a Christmassy/New Year’s short story. I also re-listened to A Christmas Carol because it is that good. This time though I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Grant. It was fantastic. Then I read another very short story by Charles Dickens, Christmas Festivities.

The book I finished today is High Rising by Angela Thirkell. This was my first time reading Angela Thirkell. While the book was an enjoyable romance set in a small English village in the 1930s with a crew of lovable and interesting characters, I was taken aback by the main character’s occasional foray into antisemitic comments. I guess this book is very much a book of its time, but it still shocked me. For this reason, I probably won’t be reading any more of Angela Thirkell’s books (unless I am 100% certain there is no antisemitism in them).

And that’s a wrap! How did you fare with your reading?

Happy New Year!

xoxo, Jane