Book Haul Update

IMG_2214

I bought more books to add to my Penguin Clothbound Classics collection. This should be the last ones I buy because I now own the full-length Jane Austen novels in this collection. My goal wasn’t to own the entire Jane Austen set, but the pandemic forced me to do a little bit of retail therapy to support my small, independent bookshop.

I bought Northanger Abbey from the collection which I’ve read before and enjoyed the movie adaptation. I also bought Mansfield Park, which I haven’t read and is up next. I am a little bit weary of this novel because it’s about cousin love (the hero and heroine are first cousins !!). I’m hoping I can enjoy the book regardless. We’ll see.

Oh, and can you spot my new book-inspired vase?

In other news, I’m currently listening to the Catch and Kill podcast by Ronan Farrow. If you don’t know what it’s about, it’s the podcast where Ronan Farrow and his guests (journalists, victims, private investigators, etc.) talk about the Harvey Weinstein investigation process and everything they endured because of it. If I didn’t already hate predators as much as I do, I would hate them even more now. I’ll probably read Ronan Farrow’s book, Catch and Kill, afterwards. If I don’t explode from anger first. Have you read it?

xoxo, Jane

My reading life during the pandemic

IMG_2166
Enjoying a cup of tea while reading Square Haunting.

I no longer have a reading routine. It’s become quite erratic. I used to be able to sit down and devour a book in days. Now, almost nothing can hold my attention. I flitter from book to book, leaving unread novels collecting dust on the coffee table. With few exceptions, I don’t actually like not finishing books so I promised myself I’ll get back to these unfinished books someday soon.

Currently, I’m dividing my sporadic attention between two books: Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic and Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.

IMG_2058
On the upside, the pandemic is forcing me to enjoy slow living.

Mary Stewart writes an excellent romantic suspense novel. She has the ability to transport the reader to the actual crime scene, almost as if we are embodying the heroine. This Rough Magic is set in Greece, where the heroine, Lucy, discovers a dead body on the beach. Normally, I’d feel invested in solving the crime, but I just want to finish the book to see who did it. What has happened to me? Also, I can’t tell who the male hero is supposed to be. There are several male characters in this book and all of them seem hero-ish to me. My only complaint with Mary Stewart books is that it takes her a long time to get to the romance portion of the plot. I suppose my complaint is not legitimate because she is the queen of romantic suspense so the romance aspect of the book will be secondary.

Square Haunting is set between the two world wars and focuses on five women (Hilda Doolittle, Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf) living and working in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. While it’s fascinating, and I look forward to reading a page or two every day, it’s taking me a long time to get through it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s very academic and at times dense or because of the uncertain times we live in. Maybe a little of both. It’s a fascinating read about these five inspiring women because it gives me an intimate glimpse into their lives and now I feel invested in them. I plan to write my thoughts in a future blog post when I finish the book.

I hope we will all see a light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, I hope you can get lost in, and concentrate on, good books.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (The Other Bennet Sister)

IMG_1171.jpeg

Normally I pair tea with books I’ve read. Today is an exception because I haven’t read The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow yet, but I will. I’m currently half-way through Square Haunting and am looking forward to picking up The Other Bennet Sister.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, “an introvert in a family of extroverts.” Janice Hadlow gives Mary, the sister I’ve always found annoying, a voice in a story that’s over 600 pages long. So it’s definitely a tome to get lost in and forget the troubles around us. And boy do we have a lot of troubles right now. I’m looking forward to reading Mary’s story and getting to know her better.

I’m going to assume, this being a Jane Austen continuation, there is a wedding. If not Mary’s wedding, then at least someone else’s. Fortnum’s Wedding Breakfast Tea would pair well while reading this book. What do you think?

xoxo, Jane

PS. Speaking of tea, if you love tea as much as I do, then stop by my Instagram where I post about tea (and books and flowers).

Pairing books with tea (The Mistress of Spices)

IMG_1259.jpeg

I read The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni many moons ago. I was a college student and reading literary novels and essays and the required literary criticism, like all good English majors do. But I was bored and found myself fighting to keep my eyes open after reading yet another western, white male writer. Not that there is anything wrong with reading white male writers. But my life seemed to be consumed by them and I could not relate to any of them or their stories. (Except for the part where they locked themselves away in their studies, you know, those studies that are filled with overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookcases, where they whiled away the hours writing, which I envied.)

I never stopped to think about why it was that I was only given male authors to study and I hope today it’s different at universities across the country. But when I read the first few lines of The Mistress of Spices I realized I was missing something in my life: women writers who wrote interesting stories about the nuances of life and provided a satisfactory happy ending.

The Mistress of Spices is one such book. The main character, Tilo, is trained from birth to understand the magic of the spices. When Tilo’s training is complete, she is ordained as a Mistress of Spices. Tilo is magically transported to Oakland, California where she practices her magic while running a spice shop. Although she is young and beautiful, she is placed inside the body of an elderly woman.

I am a Mistress of Spices. I can work the others too. Mineral, metal, earth and sand and stone. The gems with their cold clear light. The liquids that burn their hues into your eyes till you see nothing else. I learned them all on the island. But the spices are my love.

Through Tilo’s spices, and her new identity inhabiting the body of an elderly woman, she begins to live her destiny, which is to fix the lives of others.

Each chapter is named after a spice. For example, one of the chapters is titled “Fennel” because fennel is the “spice for Wednesdays, the day of averages, of middle-aged people.” Tilo orders a customer in an abusive marriage to take a pinch of fennel, promising her that it will give her mental strength for what she must do. Tilo doesn’t say anything else. After all, no one must know what or who she really is.

One day Tilo meets a man named Raven who looks into her eyes and sees exactly who she really is. Raven knows that she isn’t an old woman and slowly they begin to fall in love with each other.  However, this is against the rules for Tilo and falling in love causes a catastrophe. It’s a wonderful, magical story that has stayed with me all these years.

Which tea shall we pair with this book? I think a chai tea pairs best. Tilo would certainly approve of all the spices that go into this Chai tea by Fortnum & Mason (my favorite purveyor of teas).

xoxo, Jane

The Occasional Weekly Recap

IMG_1130.jpeg
A lovely tea set through the window of an antique shop during a social distancing walk.

I hope you had a good week! My week was fine, but I have so many worries lingering over me that it’s hard to really enjoy much right now. I know you probably feel the same.

On a lighter note, this week was another busy book blogging week. Below is a recap for your reading pleasure.

Happy reading!

IMG_1102.jpeg
From the same walk, but I promise I was not near anyone.

Favorite Book Series: Clara Vine

Pairing books with tea (Let’s Bring Back)

What to read when you need an escape

Thursday Reading Links #51

London Book Haul

Also, come have tea with me on Instagram. I’m on Twitter too, but Instagram is my fave.

xoxo, Jane

London Book Haul

IMG_1146.jpeg

My trip to London may have been cancelled, but my book shopping need not be. I happily supported my local bookstores and then I happily supported a couple of the bookstores I was going to visit in London.

I decided it would be a nice treat if I subscribed to a six-month book subscription from Persephone Books, something I have been wanting to do for a number of years now. Much to my delight, the first book, Mariana, arrived earlier this week. Mariana is written by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. It’s a little bit biographical and the main character, Mariana, is a young Englishwoman, going through all the motions of life. It’s supposed to be humorous and interesting and well-written.

IMG_1200.jpeg

I also bought Square Haunting by Francesca Wade and The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. I’m looking forward to reading both.

Square Haunting is the story of five women writers living in London (Bloomsbury) during the years between the two world wars. I was planning on buying it in London, so I thought it only right to order the British edition. I was supposed to stay in Bloomsbury and haunt all of these squares myself, but it will have to wait for another time and that’s okay.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, the overlooked sister from Pride and Prejudice. I recall feeling annoyed by her, so it will be interesting to see how Mary’s life turns out.

IMG_1204.jpeg

In more local news, I also paid a visit to my neighborhood used bookstore and bought Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene (humorous) and From Splendor to Revolution by Julia P. Gelardi (Romanov history).

Even though I’m in book heaven, I’m not used to purchasing so many books. (I talk about that here.) I honestly don’t know how soon I’ll get through reading this new stack. Regardless, supporting our bookstores is the right thing to do and binge reading will be a good diversion from the current troubles.

What is your good diversion currently?

xoxo, Jane

What to read when you need an escape

IMG_0942.jpeg

When I need a distraction I turn to my bookshelves. I’ve always loved books and reading. I grew up in a family of six in a one-bedroom apartment (!!!) and I still remember searching for quiet corners to escape with my library books.

Once again, I feel the need to escape with my books, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite novels with you.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I love Persuasion! You probably know that the plot focuses on Anne Elliott, the 27-year old heroine. Anne was persuaded to end her relationship with Wentworth, the man she loves, because he didn’t have any future prospects. Well, it turns out he made quite a killing (pun intended) in the Napoleonic Wars and is now very rich indeed. Captain Wentworth (the name alone makes me swoon) re-enters Anne’s life and causes havoc in her heart. My favorite movie adaptation is the one with Ciarán Hinds.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I admit this is the only book I’ve ever read by Charlotte Brontë (or any of the Brontë sisters). I’m not an expert on Brontë literature, but Jane Eyre has my heart. Clearly, I am under-explaining the plot here, but it’s about a young lady, Jane Eyre, who, after a violent and unloved childhood, decides to forge her own path in life with nothing but her spirited independence and her brilliant mind. She leaves behind the elusive Mr. Rochester when she finds out he is married, but at the end gets her happily ever after. “Reader, I married him.”

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Thornyhold is a must-read tale. It has everything you’d need for a magical time: an enchanted cottage nestled in a forest, a reclusive, handsome hero and an intelligent, kind heroine. I’d give this book a read if you really want to forget about the outside world for a few hours.

Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson

In times of troubles, read Miss Buncle’s Book. It will make you laugh. Set in an idyllic, sleepy English village, Miss Buncle decides to take pen to paper. The book she writes becomes a hit, but the problem is that she doesn’t do a very good job of camouflaging the actual village people she writes about. Chaos ensues. Laughter will be in abundance.

Happy reading and stay safe!

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Let’s Bring Back)

IMG_0653

Descriptions: The Huffington Post’s “Let’s Bring Back…” columnist, Lesley M. M. Blume, invites you to consider whatever happened to cuckoo clocks? Or bed curtains? Why do we have so many “friends” but have done away with the much more useful word “acquaintance”? All of these things, plus hot toddies, riddles, proverbs, corsets, calling cards, and many more, are due for a revival. Throughout this whimsical, beautifully illustrated encyclopedia of nostalgia, Blume breathes new life into the elegant, mysterious, and delightful trappings of bygone eras, honoring the timeless tradition of artful living along the way. Inspired by her much loved column of the same name and featuring entries from famous icons of style and culture, Let’s Bring Back leads readers to rediscover the things that entertained, awed, beautified, satiated, and fascinated in eras past.

Let’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By written by Lesley M. M. Blume is a charming encyclopedia of things that should come back in style. Such as bows and curtsies or town criers. I wholeheartedly agree!

IMG_0800.jpeg

With 240+ pages and clever illustrations of forgotten things, this book is a fun, leisurely read. I recommend reading a few pages over breakfast every day. As such, the tea to pair with this book might be a breakfast tea. I recommend Tokyo Breakfast Tea by Mariage Frères.

Coincidently, one of the things that should come back in style is Tea Time. The author quotes Henry James, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Ms. Blume ends this entry with a thought, “And yet we’ve swapped it out for dreary Starbucks runs.”

I hope you’ve been well!

xoxo, Jane

 

 

Favorite Book Series: Clara Vine

IMG_0778

Clara Vine is a brilliant series written by author Jane Thynne. Clara Vine is a British out-of-work actress who, upon the advice of an acquaintance, relocates to pre-war Germany to find work at the Babelsberg Studio in Berlin.

However once there, she finds herself entangled with the wives of high-ranking Nazis. This comes to the attention of British intelligence who persuade her to spy for them. This series has it all: romance, suspense and espionage. It will grip you from beginning to end.

Clara Vine is a very nice woman: intelligent, kind, and thoughtful. Caught in a web of espionage, she tries to keep secret that she is partly Jewish. But to stay alive as a non-Aryan in Nazi Germany is not easy. There is a very good reason why, after five novels, she doesn’t return to Britain. I don’t want to spoil it for you so I won’t say the reason, but as a woman I completely understand Clara’s reasoning.

If you need to lose yourself in a new series, especially now in our troubled, sad and uncertain times, I highly recommend the Clara Vine books.

You can learn more about Jane Thynne here. Also, there is a very good Q&A about the Nazi wives on the author’s website that I recommend giving a read.

Have a wonderful day and stay safe!

xoxo, Jane

New book: The Little(r) Museums of Paris by Emma Jacobs

IMG_0657.jpeg

After hearing about The Little(r) Museums of Paris: An Illustrated Guide to the City’s Hidden Gems on the Tea and Tattle podcast, I had to buy it. I don’t impulse buy anything, ever. But this was too charming to pass up. Pages and pages of gorgeous illustrations, lovely descriptions of lesser-known Parisian museums – I can’t wait to dig in.

If you are so inclined, I recommend listening to the Tea and Tattle podcast featuring the book’s author, Emma Jacobs.

And since we can’t be in Paris right now, maybe we should try to discover a lesser-known gem in our own neighborhoods (when we’re not in quarantine, that is.)

Have a great week-end! Stay safe.

xoxo, Jane

Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan

IMG_0428.jpeg

Reading good books with interesting historical plots makes me want to know more about the real life history. The Queen of Paris is no exception. Reading it just made me want to learn more about Coco Chanel, especially about her collaboration with the Nazis. What really led her down that awful path? Did she regret it? Is that why she fled to Switzerland after Paris was liberated?

The author of The Queen of Paris, Pamela Binnings Ewen, said she used Sleeping with the Enemy by Hal Vaughan as part of her research, which inspired me to buy this book.

I am hoping my questions will be answered in Sleeping With the Enemy. Mr. Vaughan’s findings from his investigation into Coco’s life during Nazi-occupied Paris are revealed for the first time in this book.  It was published in 2011 and since then other books about her Nazi past have been written, but this is the book that started it all.

Also, Mr. Vaughan’s book dedication gave me the chills: “This book is dedicated to those French men and women who, though bent by the Nazi yoke, refused to to collaborate. And as always, for Phuong.” 

I look forward to reading this book and learning more, even if it will be unpleasant.

What’s on your nightstand?

xoxo, Jane

Local Book Haul

IMG_0823.jpeg

I don’t impulse buy books. I generally use my local library for books and, as a special treat, I purchase books during my travels. I was looking forward to my trip to London this week and had several London bookshops on my must-visit list. But it wasn’t to be…

That said, the current crisis is upending the independent bookstores in the USA. I don’t want them to suffer or shutter, so I purchased several books from independent bookstores in my neighborhood.

I bought three books for moi and three books for the most delicious, sweetest little baby girl in the whole wide world. I bought her Uni the Unicorn, Baby Astronaut (trying to mold her mind) and Baby Touch and Feel Mermaid.

For moi, I bought The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne (a most excellent writer), Women in Art by Rachel Ignotofsky and The Little(r) Museums of Paris by Emma Jacobs.

I plan to purchase more books locally. We’re in this together!

xoxo, Jane