Thursday Reading Links #58

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Today’s reading links are brought to you by Mother Nature. Enjoy! Have a great day!!

The debate: how many books should you have on the go at once?

This was really fun. Highly recommended to take the quiz. This Soothing Quiz Will Tell You What Feel-Good Book To Read.

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Our new lockdown game: judging famous people by their bookshelves.

Ok, I loved this! I own the same books as a duchess. Footnotes: The Duchess of Cambridge’s viral bookshelf.

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This article is old but it still applies, especially now. The Guardian view on the joy of books: time for guiltless pleasures.

And in case you missed it, pairing books with tea (Emma).

xoxo, Jane

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

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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

Things I love about reading books

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My beloved Persephone books.

Last week I wrote about things I notice when reading books. Today, let’s talk about what we love about reading books. Here is my list, but please chime in below with your list.

  1. Getting lost in a new world.
  2. Learning a new culture or country.
  3. Becoming reacquainted with an old character in a book series.
  4. Laughing out loud at the funny parts.
  5. Getting to know the author.
  6. Beautiful covers.
  7. Sumptuous illustrations.
  8. Falling in love with a dashing hero.
  9. Grabbing inspiration from the kick-ass heroine.
  10. The happily ever after.

What do you love about reading?

xoxo, Jane

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson is a historical fiction set in Canada and England. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author. The story centers around three women, two from the past and one in our present day.

Description:

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

All three main characters are lovely, but I connected the most with Frenchwoman Miriam. Miriam is a survivor of Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp for women. (If you want to learn more about this concentration camp, then visit this page on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.) It is clearly obvious the author did her research and she did it very well. Miriam reminded me of my mother who also survived the Nazis (though unlike Miriam, my mother was not sent to a concentration camp).

Even though Miriam was kind, well-spoken, a diligent seamstress and never gave anything away about her past (at least initially) I could sense her sadness and despair. I really bonded with Miriam as a character. This is what makes Jennifer Robson such a good author.

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What I love

I love the history and background about the Queen’s wedding dress. We (the reader) are literally in the sewing studio, watching the seamstresses hard at work. I was able to visualize every stitch. The author got everything right because she interviewed one of the four seamstresses who worked on the actual royal wedding dress. Again and again, it becomes obvious that serious research went into this story. But in a seamless way, which made this book so enjoyable to read.

There is one scene, where Heather, the modern-day character, spends an afternoon shopping at Fortnum & Mason. This really made me smile as I love Fortnums and was happy it played a small part in the novel.

What I don’t love

There is a rape scene. It’s not graphic or detailed, but it’s a major reason why one of the characters ends up on a different path in life. Had I known there was a rape scene in this book, I probably would not have read it. I’m really sensitive to scenes where women and children get hurt. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t know about it, because I’m happy I read The Gown. It was heartwarming and touching and I will be thinking of the characters for months to come.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but all three women have their happy ending. I guess I just want to throw that out there in case you think the subject matter is too sad. It was a phenomenal book and the months-long library hold was worth it.

Will you be reading The Gown?

xoxo, Jane

First image of the novel and a peek of my own wedding dress by me. Second image via Pexels.com

 

July, August & September 2019 Wrap-Up Part I

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I love this painting. I wrote about it here.

It’s time for a (late) quarterly wrap-up. I read way more than I expected to read, which is great for my reading life, but not so great for my writing career.

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Lessons from Madame Chic

This is the first book in a three-part series. I really love this series because it inspires me to organize, clean the house, explore the arts and do some self-care. It’s easy to put self-care on your to-do list, but difficult to execute when you have a full-time job and a household to run, so it’s really nice to read this book for inspiration. My original review is here.

Fortune’s Homecoming by Allison Leigh

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love romance novels best of all. I used to be embarrassed to be caught reading them because people were so judgmental and made rude comments to me. While reading on the metro or in the lunch room at work, I’d hide the cover with something else, like an envelope. But I’m now at an age where I don’t give a fudge what people think. It’s incredibly liberating. So, yes, I read this novel in public, during my commute. It was a perfect read about a nice cowboy and a nice girl who fall in love with each other and live happily ever after. My original review is here.

Naturally Tan by Tan France

Tan France is such a cutie. He seems to be a geniounly nice guy. This memoir recounts his early life in England, how he got into his line of work, how he met his husband and how he ended up on the hit show Queer Eye. I finished it in record time because I was enjoying myself so much. My more in-depth review is here.

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Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

This was a silly, fun read. Dave Barry is a good writer and a great columnist based in Miami. He wrote this book after traveling in Japan for three weeks. The book is from 1993, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. It’s a laugh-out-loud book. My original review is here.

Hopefully you’ve been reading a great stack of books too!

xoxo, Jane

 

Naturally Tan by Tan France

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Naturally Tan by Tan France is a memoir that’s both funny and heartwarming. I am so touched by this memoir. I don’t often read memoirs and was not expecting to feel so touched. This one really tucked at my heart strings.

Description:

In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional South Asian family, as one of the few people of color in South Yorkshire, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and marrying the love of his life―a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

From one of the stars of Netflix’s runaway hit show Queer Eye, Naturally Tan is so much more than fashion dos and don’ts―though of course Tan can’t resist steering everyone away from bootcut jeans! Full of candid observations about U.S. and U.K. cultural differences, what he sees when you slide into his DMs, celebrity encounters, and the behind-the-scenes realities of “reality TV,” Naturally Tan gives us Tan’s unique perspective on the happiness to be found in being yourself.

Who is Tan France? Tan is a British-born designer, made world-famous because of his role in the Netflix show Queer Eye.

I picked up this book because I was incredibly curious about how a gay British (and Muslim) man ended up with a gay Mormon in Utah. It’s an intriguing story, at least to me. And I am so, so glad I read this memoir. Tan France seems like the nicest of men. And it left me thinking, Good for you, Tan. Good for you!

What I love

Oh gosh, what don’t I love is more appropriate as I was truly touched by everything. Tan begins his memoir where all good memoirs begin, with stories of his youth in England. He was born in the UK and grew up in a religious Pakistani family in England.

Unfortunately, this means that his youth was spent combating racism and enduring punches from the boys who weren’t keen on ethnicity (for lack of better words on my part). This really made me teary-eyed. Either I’m overly compassionate or it brought back memories of my own volatile youth in Germany. My hard-working parents were foreign guest workers in the German automobile factories. This means that while they were hard at work bringing back the West German economy, I was frequently beat up (yes, really!) by German kids because, well, I don’t know really know why. Maybe because my skin was a bit tanner or maybe because I had an accent when speaking German or maybe because I always smelled like garlic. I don’t really know, but I can still feel that forceful tuck of my long braid at the hands of the bullies. And maybe that’s why this portion of Tan’s memoir captured my heart forever and ever.

But the book is not as dire as it sounds. Most parts are laugh-out-loud funny, like the time his father, who was forever competing with his brother (Tan’s uncle), bought Tan a Barbie house just because Tan’s uncle bought his daughter a Barbie house. Tan was secretly overjoyed at his new Barbie house, but had to act nonchalant about it.

It’s also really obvious that fame and fortune has not gotten to Tan’s head. He doesn’t spend his money in a frivolous manner and still lives in Salt Lake City with his husband.

Tan also gives the reader a super valuable clue: celebrities don’t live like celebrities. Meaning, even they don’t spend their money on the designer clothes and jewelry for events. It’s all loaned to them or given to them for free. This really hit home for me because so many of us try to keep up with the Joneses when the truth is that the Joneses don’t spend their money on luxury goods.

I also really love that he ignored the messages and Facebook requests from all those mean people who reached out to him after he became famous. I would have done the same thing. Good for you, Tan.

What I don’t love

I think all the times he had to endure racism in England and here in the US (those unprofessional Border Patrol workers at the US airports, don’t even get me started!), that’s what I don’t love.

Tan’s story tucked at my heart strings and I’m so happy he found his happily ever after.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Do you read memoirs?

If you’re off today because of Labor Day, enjoy! I hope you have a great day with some good books and a nice cup of tea! xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. Thank you for supporting my book-loving blog. xoxo, Jane

A fun little Q&A

Hi, friends. So, I was inspired by kitty marie’s reading corner to do this fun Q&A.  Thanks for humoring me!

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?

Any Jane Austen novel.

If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one book character, who would you choose?

Anne Elliott from Jane Austen’s Persuasion because she is the nicest and is never judgmental. Plus Captain Wentworth would miss her a lot and come rescue us anyway.

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Not book-related, but I just love this quote by Vaclav Havel and it’s more true today than ever.

If you wrote a book, what would its genre be?

I do write books. I’m a romance and women’s fiction writer and working towards publication.

What is your favorite book?

Persuasion by Jane Austen. (I wrote about my love for Persuasion here.)

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What is your favorite coffee flavor? (Or another type of drink, if you don’t drink coffee.)

I am a tea connoisseur and I love Fortnum’s Countess Grey best of all. It’s a softer, lovelier version of Earl Grey.

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My precious copies of Persuasion and Jane Eyre.

What is your least favorite book?

I had to think about this one and it’s Catcher in the Rye. It kind of left me feeling depressed. I prefer uplifting stories.

Is there any book coming out this year that you’re looking forward to reading?

I have so many books on my TBR shelf that I don’t dare look ahead to what’s being published next week or next month. I need to give my TBR shelf a little TLC. #love.books.so.so.much

What completed book series would you like to see one more new volume for? 

Harry Potter. A girl can dream.

What genre do you read the most?

Romance and women’s fiction. But I read a lot of nonfiction too. Usually biographies.

Thanks, Kittie Marie, for the great questions and inspiration! This was super fun! Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments. I love getting to know my readers!! xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Belgravia)

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Belgravia by Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) is a saga of a story that encompasses the lives of two families. One family is from “old money” and the other from “new money.” Both families reside in Belgravia. What I loved about this novel is that the vivid descriptions and scenes of Belgravia jumped out at me.

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So which tea would pair well with this book? What about Twinings Lady Grey tea?

It’s light and flavorful and not too strong. Perfect for those drawing room scenes for both families. I can almost imagine the characters sipping Twinings Lady Grey (even if Lady Grey wasn’t invented until the 1990s) out of their Royal Albert teacups (again, Royal Albert wasn’t around then either but we are just having fun here). So I think this tea would make a great pairing with our book today. But what do you think? xoxo, Jane

Coco Chanel by Megan Hess

 

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Description:

Fashion is ever-changing, influenced by the key designers that capture a moment in history; and Coco Chanel is arguably the most significant influence on women’s fashion in the twentieth century. Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon is a compilation of Megan Hess’ stunning illustrations of the 100 most quintessential moments through Chanel’s history, from Coco’s incredible life, to the impact of Karl Lagerfeld and the incredible items that have become fashion icons – the little black dress, the luxurious bags and accessories, glamorous jewellery and of course the renowned Chanel No 5 perfume.

Interspersed with historical anecdotes and famous quotes from Coco herself, Karl Lagerfeld and other key fashion icons of the era, this book is an elegant and immersive introduction to the moments that shaped Coco and the iconic Chanel brand – and how fashion, in turn, shaped their lives.

When Coco Chanel by Megan Hess arrived in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised at its size. I assumed it would be much smaller, but it’s a perfectly-sized hardback that will look fabulous on my bookshelf or on a coffee table. (Look at the silver-plated pages!!!)

I was also surprised at the book’s substance. Besides the sumptuous illustrations, Coco Chanel has plenty of history, anecdotes and quotes.

The story begins with Coco Chanel’s humble beginnings and takes the reader all the way to the end of her life and to the Karl Lagerfeld era.

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Coco Chanel in 1932.

What I love

The illustrations! I bought this book purely because it’s a gorgeous, illustrated book for adults. I’m so happy I did! I loved reading it while enjoying Megan Hess’ creative drawings of Coco and her world.

I also enjoyed learning about the famous 2.55 Handbag. The book gave a lovely illustrated history of the handbag and explained why Coco Chanel named this particular purse 2.55. {Spoiler alert: Because she created it in February 1955.}

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A black CHANEL Handbag 2.55

What I don’t love

I realize this is more of a fashion book than an actual history book, but I wish that the book didn’t gloss over Chanel’s Nazi past. We learn that Chanel hunkered down at the Ritz during the war (with her Nazi lover) and that after the war she fled to Switzerland. I think the book should have mentioned the unforgivable act she committed during the era of Nazi-occupied Paris.

To make a long story short, Chanel took advantage of atrocious Nazi laws that allowed non-Jewish people to take Jewish-owned businesses away. This is exactly what she did to the Wertheimer family who owned a large stake in her company. She wanted to be the majority stakeholder again so she just took it back. This is unforgivable in my book and should never be glossed over. However, I am happy to report that today the Wertheimer family own and control the House of Chanel.

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Coco Chanel’s suite at the Ritz Hotel in Paris.

If you’d like to own this beautiful book for yourself, please consider purchasing it through the links below. I’ll earn a tiny commission which I will use towards purchasing more books to review or perhaps treating myself to a croissant while I re-read this one again. xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links. xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Jane Thynne’s Black Roses)

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Black Roses by Jane Thynne is the first in a series set in pre-war Nazi Germany. It’s intense, nail-bitingly suspenseful and slightly romantic.

The main character, Clara Vine, moves to Nazi Germany from England to further her acting career. She is a talented actress but for some reason is not able to make the cut in England.

Upon the suggestion of an acquaintance, she relocates to Berlin to find work at the famous Babelsberg Studio. Once there, she unwittingly gets entangled with the inner circle of the Nazi wives. This proves to be of interest to British intelligence and soon they recruit her to spy for them.

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I love this series. It’s riveting. It has everything I want in a book: a strong woman, espionage, romance and history. I am waiting with great impatience for the next book in this series.

Which tea would go well with this book? How about Twinings China Rose? Clara is English. Twinings is a great English tea company. And China Rose tea is infused with roses. I’d say it’s a perfect match. What sayeth you? xoxo, Jane

PS. I also created a Pinterest board for this tea pairing because of course.

 

The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart

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The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart is a long-lost novella, recently republished.

Description:

In 1879, a wealthy young woman elopes with an impoverished fisherman, leaving her family, who live on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, distraught. In 1968, 23-year-old Perdita West, secretary to the famous author Cora Gresham, visits Lanzarote, the strangest and most wild of the Canary Isles, on a research trip. They meet Cora’s estranged son, Mike, and fall in love with the unusual, beautiful little island.

While snorkeling, a landslide traps Perdita in an underwater cave. No one knows where she is, so she can’t count on a rescue. And her efforts to save herself will reveal the solution to a century-old mystery.

Before the story begins, Mary Stewart’s loving niece, Jennifer Ogden, gives a loving tribute. “As her niece and also her constant companion for the last twelve years of her life, I came to know Mary Stewart (Aunty Mary) extremely well and also to realize how lucky we have been as a family to have had within it this extraordinary and fascinating woman.”

After the tribute, the story begins with a prelude which takes place in 1879 in Lanzarote, a Spanish island off the coast of West Africa. Mary Stewart visited the island with her professor husband during one of his research trips. It’s during the prelude we learn about the mystery that will be solved almost a century later by Perdita West. Fast forward to present day and Perdita discovers the mystery by accident while she gets stuck in a cave during snorkeling.

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The Wind off the Small Isles made for perfect in-flight reading!

What I love

Everything! It’s a charming short story (it’s categorized as a novella but actually I’d categorize it as a short story) with a sweet romance and a mystery.

Mary Stewart’s scenes are written so vividly that I felt I was right there. For example, the scene where Perdita gets stuck in the cave is described in such a vivid manner that I began to feel claustrophobia while reading. {My fear is being stuck under water or inside a cave.} During these scenes I felt as if I was right there with Perdita. Let’s just say that if I knew how vivid these scenes were described, I might not have read this novella. That’s how much I suffer from claustrophobia.

But this is what makes Mary Stewart so magical. Her beautifully descriptive writing is what she is known for. Even though this story was very short it did not lack in anything including character development. She writes in a way that pulls you (the reader) into the scenes.

I love the description of Lanzarote and now I want to visit it. The reader gets to know the island really well via the various conversations the characters have and the drive that Perdita takes with her boss, Cora.

I also love that the book is an actual hardcover, even though it’s only 80 pages long.

What I don’t love

It’s a Mary Stewart book, so there isn’t anything that I don’t love. We are lucky that this long-lost story has been republished for us. But if I’m allowed to give a teeny tiny criticism of the book, then I’d say that the book ended too abruptly. The mystery was solved and story over, just like that. It could have gone on for at least another page or so, just to end on a softer note. Either way, this was a charming read and I hope there are hundreds more long-lost Mary Stewart stories waiting to be rediscovered.

Have you read The Wind Off The Small Isles? xoxo, Jane

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to use the links, but it’s also ok if you don’t use the links. I’m just grateful you are here and reading my blog. xoxo, Jane