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Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe wrote poetry, specifically a love poem?

I didn’t know this until I listened to Audible’s Classic Love Poems. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a number of poems, but the audiobook features a very sad love poem titled “Annabel Lee.” His wife died not too long into their marriage and I think this is something that affected him. Perhaps the fictional Annabel Lee symbolizes the loss of his wife.

I listened to Classic Love Poems for one reason and one reason only: it’s read by the amazing actor Richard Armitage (Mr. Thornton!!!). If you enjoy listening to poetry, then I recommend this audiobook. It’s very short, only 19 minutes. It includes poems by a variety of amazing poets: William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christopher Marlowe and a few others. But again, the highlight of the audiobook is Richard Armitage narrating it. (His voice is smooth and dreamy. There, I said it!)

Do you listen to audiobooks?

xoxo, Jane

Annabel Lee

By Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago, 
   In a kingdom by the sea, 
That a maiden there lived whom you may know 
   By the name of Annabel Lee; 
And this maiden she lived with no other thought 
   Than to love and be loved by me. 

I was a child and she was a child, 
   In this kingdom by the sea, 
But we loved with a love that was more than love— 
   I and my Annabel Lee— 
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven 
   Coveted her and me. 

And this was the reason that, long ago, 
   In this kingdom by the sea, 
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling 
   My beautiful Annabel Lee; 
So that her highborn kinsmen came 
   And bore her away from me, 
To shut her up in a sepulchre 
   In this kingdom by the sea. 

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven, 
   Went envying her and me— 
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know, 
   In this kingdom by the sea) 
That the wind came out of the cloud by night, 
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. 

But our love it was stronger by far than the love 
   Of those who were older than we— 
   Of many far wiser than we— 
And neither the angels in Heaven above 
   Nor the demons down under the sea 
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul 
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams 
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes 
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee; 
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride, 
   In her sepulchre there by the sea— 
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

My Favorite Quotes

Just for fun, I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes. (I saved my number one favorite for last.) If you have favorite quotes, or if any of the below resonate with you, please leave a comment.

xoxo, Jane

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

Elie Wiesel

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

Michelle Obama in Becoming

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Winston Churchill

“Once we give up searching for approval, we often find it easier to earn respect.”

Gloria Steinem

“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

“The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet.”

Nikos Kazantzakis

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Favorite Books of 2021 So Far

We are past the half-way point of 2021. Time to have a quick look at my favorite books thus far. The following books are my favorite because they touched my heart in one way or another.

I really enjoyed reading A Most English Princess by Clare McHugh. It’s a well-researched, fictionalized account of the early life of Empress Vicky of Prussia. Vicky was the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. While her marriage to the Crown Prince of Prussia was an arranged union, it was a happy and fulfilling partnership. Vicky’s first child was Wilhelm II (yes, that Wilhelm). The novel charts the ups and downs of her marriage amidst the turmoil of 19th century Europe. I wrote more about the novel here.

Chère Annette: Letters from Russia is a compilation of letters from Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia to her favorite daughter Anna Pavlovna in The Hague. Maria Feodorovna was the wife of Paul I and the mother of Alexander I. The book’s editor traveled to the Netherlands to read and translate the letters from French into English. (The Russian court spoke French during this time). I love reading letters; it’s an authentic glimpse into the lives of women from history. Maria Feodorovna doesn’t have the best of reputations today and she isn’t as well known to modern audiences, but I loved getting to know her.

Salonica: City of Ghosts by Mark Mazower chronicles the history of the city of Thessaloniki in Greece. The true story of this amazing city really touched my heart. Salonica went from being a city of Byzantium to an Ottoman stronghold to finally gaining independence by merging with the Kingdom of Greece. The book charts the history of the Greeks, the Jews and the Muslims. It’s a fascinating account of a fascinating city. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in Ottoman history, Greek history or the history of city planning.

Do you have any favorite books of 2021?

xoxo, Jane

July 2021 Wrap-Up

The Reader by Renoir.

Happy August!

My reading for July wasn’t as eventful as I’d like, but I kept busy by listening to several The Great Courses lectures. I love The Great Courses lectures and I regularly listen to new courses. Audible has a bunch of them and the courses really make learning so much fun. Anyway, here is what I read:

The Veil by Rachel Harrison is a short audiobook (Audible Original) set in the present day. Sally, the main character, falls in love with a young man who is from another era. Either that or he is a figment of her imagination. I’ll let you decide. Sally is married to her childhood sweetheart, but has long fallen out of love with him. This leads her to search for happiness and meaning in her life. I really, really enjoyed listening to this story. It is an otherworldly, spooky tale that actually made me laugh. The story is just under one hour long; perfect for taking a leisurely walk, cooking dinner or just lounging at home. I’d describe the story as Jane Austen novel meets Outlander meets Victorian England.

I also read The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. This very interesting story takes place in Victorian England during the Irish nationalist movement. Thaniel Steepleton, one of the novel’s protagonists, must solve a recent bombing of Scotland Yard. The Irish nationalists are blamed for the bombing. Thaniel soon realizes that the group may not be the cause of the bombing. There is a more nefarious perpetrator afoot. His investigation leads him to Keita Mori, a kind Japanese watchmaker living in London. They work together to solve the bombing and become close friends in the process. The mysterious Mori quickly became my favorite character.

Reading this story immersed me in a new type of literary Victorian England: a diverse London featuring characters from other parts of the world and characters who speak more than just English. The story takes place in England and Japan. It was fascinating to arm-chair travel to Meiji era Japan. I also like that almost all of the characters have some sort of education or a specialty that they are passionate about. The ending left me wanting more; good thing there is a second book in this series.

What did you read in July?

xoxo, Jane

My Favorite Quotes from Literature

There are books, long after you finish the last page, that will stay with you forever. These are some of the books that have stayed with me. Today I’m sharing quotes from my favorite books to entice you to read them.

xoxo, Jane

I can no longer listen in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me that I am not too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you with a heart even more your own than when you broke it almost eight years and a half ago.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the parson and clerk, were alone present.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The small, slender woman with apple-red cheeks, greying hair, and shrewd, almost naughty little eyes sat with her face pressed against the cabin window of the BEA Viscount on the morning flight from London to Paris. As, with a rush and a roar, it lifted itself from the runway, her spirits soared aloft with it. She was nervous, but not at all frightened, for she was convinced that nothing could happen to her now. Hers was the bliss of one who knew that at last she was off upon the adventure at the end of which lay her heart’s desire.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

The past, as we have been told so many times, is a foreign county where things are done differently. This may be true – indeed it patently is true when it comes to morals or customs, the role of women, aristocratic government and a million other elements of our daily lives. But there are similarities, too. Ambition, envy, rage, greed, kindness, selflessness and, above all, love have always been as powerful in motivating choices as they are today.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes

Marguerite suffered intensely. Though she laughed and chatted, though she was more admired, more surrounded, more fêted than any woman there, she felt like one condemned to death, living her last day upon this earth.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Melanie had found the Victorian chaise-longue on her last day of freedom when the threatening cloud was no larger than a man’s hand and could still, as by the finding of the chaise-longue, be replaced in her vision by toys.

The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski

As soon as they were gone, Elizabeth walked out to recover her spirits; or in other words, to dwell without interruption on those subjects that must deaden them more. Mr. Darcy’s behaviour astonished and vexed her.

Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen

Pairing Books with Tea (The Victorian Chaise-Longue) and some discussion questions

I’d describe The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski as a spooky Victorian thriller, even though I’m probably misusing the term “thriller.” I’ve also seen this story described as a ghost story even though there isn’t a ghost present. Or perhaps there is a ghost? That’s the beauty of this story, you can decide whether you spot a ghost or not.

Set in 1950s England, the plot centers around a young housewife, Melanie. After waking from a nap on her newly-purchased antique chaise-longue, Melanie discovers that she is now inhabiting the body of an older woman, Milly. To make the living nightmare even worse, it’s 80 years earlier and her husband and other loved ones are nowhere to be found.

While Melanie struggles to figure out how she can return home and back into her own body, the reader recognizes that the lives of the two women ran parallel. For example, the women experienced recent trauma involving a child. It’s implied that both women were involved in illicit affairs. Both women are stifled and isolated by the men in their lives. And as a final example, both women are capable of making their own decisions yet are treated like helpless children. It’s safe to assume that Melanie is in the body of her alter ego from 80 years ago.

Reading this superbly written novella made me feel as if I was being physically stifled. If you are looking for a spooky, thought-provoking novella then I’d highly recommend this story. The Victorian Chaise-Longue was initially published in 1953 and reprinted by Persephone Books in 1999.

As you know, from time to time, I like to pair a good cup of tea with a good book. For this particular book, I paired a strong English Breakfast Tea. Why? You’ll need something strong to stay alert and keep your wits about you. It’s an interesting, eery tale and I highly recommend it for your upcoming autumn reading lists.

For those who’ve read it, I have questions for you:

  • Is there a ghost?
  • Is the antique chaise-longue to blame for this spine-chilling situation?
  • What did you think of the ending? Was it left like that on purpose so we can draw our own conclusions?

Let me know your thoughts!!

xoxo, Jane

Nope Trope Book Tag

Photo by Ivo Rainha on Pexels.com.

Let’s do a little book tag, shall we? Today’s trope is brought to you by Zoe’s All Booked. Zoe invented this tag and you can check out her Nope Trope Book Tag video right here. I first heard about this tag from eleanor sophie who heard about it from Book Me Some Time. The tag pokes fun at the various book tropes we often come across in books, such as in romance novels. I do love me a good trope. Keep reading to find out which trope is my favorite!

1. Eavesdropping with miscommunicationName a book you heard great things about and expected to love but ended up hating.

I don’t have one. I can’t recall a recent book that I heard great things about but ended up hating. So I’ll have to pass on this question. Not a bad problem to have.

2. Love Triangles – Name a series where you can’t pick your favourite book.

Any book in the Clara Vine series by the inimitable Jane Thynne. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. The series is set in pre-war Nazi Germany. The main character, Clara Vine, is a British actress living in Berlin. Her secret is that she is an informant for British Intelligence and is also part Jewish, which doubles her danger. I’m left at the edge of my seat as I’m reading the books; they are so good and so suspenseful. There is also a little bit of romance. I love a good spy heroine story, don’t you?

3. Not Like Other Girls/Didn’t Know I’m Beautiful – Name a book that has a pretty cover but was boring as all hell.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Look how pretty the book is!! It’s clothbound. It has beautiful, foliage motif running throughout the front and back. But it was a very boring read. Vignettes of village life with no real plot to keep me hooked. Beautiful but boring.

4. All-Consuming Love –Name a book that gave you a book hangover.

Long after I finished the last page of Square Haunting, I could not stop thinking about it. Square Haunting by Francesca Wade tells the real life stories of five incredible women who lived in the same neighborhood during the interwar years. It tells of their struggles and passions. I wrote about it here.

5. Douchebag Boyfriend – Name a book that took you a while to get into, but you ended up loving.

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes was a surprise. Initially I read a free ebook sample which bored me immensely. To be fair, when I downloaded the sample I was tired and should have gone to bed. Sometimes being tired does not make for good Regency reading. I bought the book while I was on vacation in Europe after I heard too many people raving about Belgravia. I am so glad I gave it a second chance, because it’s one of my favorite novels. I also really enjoyed the miniseries based on this book.

6. Tell us your favourite or least favourite trope!

I do enjoy a good enemies-to-lovers trope, which is why I’ll always love Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

It’s your turn. I tag all of you!!

xoxo, Jane

June 2021 Wrap-Up

The Reader by Renoir.

Happy July, everyone!

I can’t believe we are more than half-way through 2021. Just yesterday I saw the 2022 planners at a bookstore. I was pretty close to buying a new planner (who can resist them?) but I forced myself to walk away from the table. Who am I kidding? You know and I know that I’ll go back this weekend to purchase that 2022 planner.

My June reading consisted of two fantastic books!

Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) is a novella and morality tale about not toying with children’s hearts and affections. The story begins at an Austrian resort in the early 1900s. It’s a dark tale. The main character, referred to as the Baron, desires a beautiful woman upon first sight. She, however, does not act on it. In his desperation the Baron befriends her young son just to get to her heart. The boy becomes enamored with his older friend. However he soon realizes that his friend, the Baron, wants nothing to do with him. The Baron finds ways to get rid of the boy so he can be alone with his mother. This upsets and hurts the boy very much, which leads to dangerous consequences that I don’t want to spoil for you. It’s an interesting story that teaches a lesson about how to treat and not treat children. Children are more perceptive than we give them credit for. I felt awful for the poor little boy and found the Baron a vile and selfish creature.

The pages of this story are filled with vivid descriptions and rich metaphors. The story evokes the romance and the travels of a bygone era. Even if this particular novella is not your cup of tea, I still recommend reading something by Stefan Zweig. In his day, he was the most widely translated author. He was Jewish and his incredible work was banned by the Nazis. Also, because of the Nazis, Zweig left Austria in the 1930s. He made his way to England and New York before settling in Brazil. Escaping the Nazis was not enough to bring the light back into his life. As European capitals fell like dominos, he became despondent. He committed suicide in 1942.

In his suicide note, Zweig wrote “my own language having disappeared from me and my spiritual home, Europe, having destroyed itself” and “I salute all my friends! May it be granted them yet to see the dawn after the long night! I, all too impatient, go on before.

The film The Grand Budapest Hotel was based on a compilation of his stories.

A picture from my walk for your viewing pleasure.

I also read The Two Mrs. Abbotts by D.E. Stevenson. It’s the third book in the Miss Buncle series and takes place in a charming English village during World War II. While the focus is on Miss Buncle, now Mrs. Abbott, and her niece, also Mrs. Abbott, numerous new characters are introduced. World War II looms heavily in the background. While the war is not mentioned too often, you know it’s there because the characters experience rationing, discuss their black-out curtains, and so on.

The story focuses on the intricacies of English village life and each chapter is a vignette of village situations. Not all characters have their stories resolved by the end of the novel. While it’s a charming story and I enjoy everything by D.E. Stevenson, there were times I was bored because nothing really ever happens. Yes, there were funny moments like the comical scene where an elderly woman discovers a German spy sleeping in the forest. While she clearly saves the day, we hear nothing else about the situation. Whatever happened to the spy? How did he make his way into an English forest? I guess we’ll never know.

I spotted these two friends during my walk.

What did you read in June?

xoxo, Jane

New Books New Books New Books!

I was in NYC recently! If you’re like me, NYC isn’t a visit unless you visit bookstores. On this trip I stopped by Strand Book Store and Rizzoli Bookstore. The pandemic isn’t over, but almost everyone in NYC was really good about wearing their masks and social distancing so I felt good about browsing indoors. I even found a few books that I’m excited about.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley looks really fun. It’s Victorian/Steampunk and takes place in Victorian London and Japan during the same timeframe. Thaniel Steepleton, the novel’s main character, discovers a pocket watch on his pillow. The mysterious item saves his life and takes him on an adventure to Japan. I’m really excited about this book and will start reading it this week.

Description:

1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

Next on the list is Lost Splendor by Prince Felix Youssoupoff. Felix is the man who killed Rasputin. He was one of the richest aristocrats in Russia. Felix fled during the Russian Revolution with his wife and lived the rest of his life in France. His memoir was first published in 1953. I’m a huge royal history buff. I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

I also purchased a short novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Burning Secret is set in an Austrian ski resort and “is a darkly compelling tale of seduction, jealousy and betrayal from the master of the novella.” Sounds intriguing. The novella was first published in 1913.

Not a book but I also bought a card game, The Mystery Mansion. It’s a murder mystery card game set in a mansion. The aim of the game is not to solve the murder but to create the scene, the location, the plot, the murder, etc. I actually bought it for plot ideas and am having a lot of fun with it.

No more books for me for the rest of 2021 unless they are from the library. Wish me luck!

xoxo, Jane

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