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

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.

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.

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

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