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Thursday Reading Links #75

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.

Just a few links today. Happy Reading!

All Possible Plots by Major Authors.

Girl in Dior.

The Unexpected Politics of Book Cover Design.

The Enola Holmes Movie is Getting Sued For Giving Sherlock Holmes Feelings.

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

xoxo, Jane

The Indignities Of Being A Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester

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?

xoxo, Jane

Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger

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.

Embed from Getty Images

Mr. Dior and his models.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #74

The rose garden at Hillwood Mansion & Museum. The museum is one of my favorite D.C. spots.

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.

A few reading links:

This made me feel better. Don’t feel bad: even Danielle Steel, author of 179 books, couldn’t write under lockdown.

I’m fascinated by royals and royal history. The New Yorker article 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.)

Ben & Jerry’s is launching a podcast about white supremacy in America.

The princess who thought she was made of glass. Fascinating read. The poor thing!

Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

A Recommendation: Madam, Will You Talk?

Image via BBC Radio 4

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.

Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

Small Moments of Happiness: August 2020

The staircase at Hillwood Mansion and Museum. The late owner, Mrs. Post, bought many Russian art pieces from her time as the ambassador’s wife to the USSR.

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?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #73

This is part of the “Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection, 1700–1830” exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I told my husband that if this was our dining room, we’d sit at opposite ends of the table just because.

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.

A Century of Shakespeare and Company.

Six Jane Austen Audiobooks Read By Celebrities. I love listening to Jane Austen books!

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.

Did West Germany’s first postwar President spy for the US?

And I leave you with a quote. “The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet.” – Nikos Kazantzakis

xoxo, Jane

July, August & September 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

Hello, there!

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?).

Have you read any of these books?

I’m still reading. Part II and Part III.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #72 (Some art for your soul.)

A silk needlework Coat of Arms of the Williams and Bell families of Boston, currently on view at the National Gallery of Art.

Today’s reading links are about the exhibits during my recent visit to the National Gallery of Art. The NGA is one of my favorite museums in Washington, D.C. and it’s open with advanced, timed tickets. The museum did an excellent job of controlling the crowd size.

Visitors had access to the ground floor galleries of the West Building, which allowed me to view the Rodin sculptures, the Degas at the Opéra exhibit and the ongoing Masterpieces of American Furniture exhibit. It was glorious!

I was charmed by this Manet painting. Flowers in a Crystal Vase, c.1882.

I was charmed by this Manet painting. I love the pink, blue and maroon color scheme in the bouquet. It may have been painted in 1882, but this is something we’d see in our homes today. Pretty and timeless.

Vines Seen through a Window, oil on paper. Max Hauschild, German, 1810-1895

I took some time to study this painting. I love the peek into nature. It’s a perfect prelude to the end of summer and start of autumn. I wonder if the artist conjured it out of his mind or if he was inspired after visiting a friend’s home. It’s on loan to the NGA from the Fondation Custodia in Paris and since I can’t be in Paris right now then at least the European paintings can come to me.

Study of a Tree, French(?), 19th Century. Private Collection London

Last painting, I promise. Out of all the paintings on display during my recent visit to the NGA, this painting is my favorite. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful. I’d love it if this was a wallpaper for my house. It belongs to a private collection in London and the artist is unknown. Thank you so much to the generous person for loaning their masterpiece to the NGA. How beautiful is this?

I hope you take some time out of your day to smell the roses and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #71

I mentioned earlier that I started keeping a Commonplace Book. I’m still trying to find my organizational rhythm with it, but it’s been one of the best creative decisions I’ve made in recent years. If you’re curious about it, this video talks about why it’s important to keep a Commonplace Book. How To Read Deeper – The Importance of a Commonplace Book.

I’m listening to Episode 4 of The Gilded Age series on American History Tellers. This particular episode focuses on reconstruction after the Civil War and the fight for ending voter suppression. It’s unbelievable how timely this episode is.

What I’m currently reading. And in case you missed it, a review of Paris to the Moon.

I made Ina Garten’s Weeknight Bolognese and it is so, so delicious! The only thing I’d do differently next time is use way less pepper flakes. Way less!

How to Frenchify Your Bookshelf.

According to The Cut, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex bought a home in Santa Barbara, CA. Santa Barbara is a dreamy, coastal town a few hours outside of Los Angeles. I am so happy for them and wish them a happy, productive and peaceful life.

I’ve adopted a new philosophy during my work from home phase of life. Work from Home Outfits & Why I Get Dressed To Go Nowhere.

xoxo, Jane

{Image via Pexels.com.}

What I’m Currently Reading

Hello, there! I hope you’re having a great day.

I have so many books on my To Be Read shelf that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the unread pile of books, but I’m happy to report that I started three new books (because the days of being able to relax and concentrate on one book at a time are behind us).

I’m reading a library book, Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger. It’s a beautiful graphic novel about Dior’s first fashion show in 1947. It’s completely charming. Speaking of Dior, I also started reading Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. It’s such a dear story. The main character, Mrs. Harris, works as a cleaner for several rich families in London. She travels to Paris for the sole purpose of buying herself a Dior gown. I love that the protagonist is an older woman with limited means who will definitely have a happy ending (at least I hope so!). It was also nice to learn (not through this book) that Paul Gallico was a close friend of Princess Grace. She didn’t have a large circle of friends, but he was a trusted friend to her. I can picture Princess Grace reading this very book.

Last but not least, I’m also reading Model Undercover by Carina Axelsson. I’ve owned the ebook for a number of years and finally decided to give it a try. It’s a super cute story of a teenager, Axelle, who wants to be a detective, but her parents prefer that she have a more fashionable job, such as modeling. They send her to her aunt’s in Paris hoping she will just grow out of her detective phase. However, once in Paris, she learns that a model has gone missing so of course she begins to investigate. I’d describe this book as a fashionable YA of a young Sherlock Holmes in Paris. Completely adorable.

What’s on your nightstand these days?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #70

From a recent scenic walk.

Hi there. I hope you’ve been well. I’ve been busy with work, writing and reading books. There are always good books to read, so at least there is that. I’m currently reading a fun YA, Model Undercover: A Crime of Fashion by Carina Axelsson and listening to the Gilded Age series produced by American History Tellers podcast.

Today’s reading links are a hodgepodge of articles, such as how a Russian defector became a warning from Moscow to London. Also, a very old article about the Irish Library founded in Monaco by Princess Grace. And, the myth and reality of the Parisian woman.

Happy Reading!

xoxo, Jane