Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

Earlier this week, I wrote a draft about some of the fabulous books I’m looking forward to reading this year. But that got waylaid because of the awful events on January 6, 2021 right here in my backyard. I’ve been in shell shock ever since. I’m upset, scared and horrified. Domestic terrorists came to my town from all over the United States and caused brutality. But here’s the thing. Us non-terrorist Americans are pretty damn resilient. We don’t cower. We’ll continue to vote, we’ll continue to educate ourselves and stand up to tyranny. Also, the United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists, so my guess is the domestic terrorists will end up in a federal penitentiary. Good riddance!

Now on to books.

Speaking of resilient Americans, A Promised Land by Barack Obama is his post-presidential memoir. I miss him so very much. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings, really. This memoir was a very thoughtful Christmas present from my wonderful husband.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen is also on the list because I keep starting it, but never finishing. I’m determined to read it this month. Mansfield Park will be the last Jane Austen full-length novel waiting for me to read. After that, I plan to read the shorter or unfinished works she wrote. Hooray for Jane Austen in January.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling will be a reread (after first reading it over a decade ago) and this particular edition contains the most gorgeous illustrations I’ve ever seen. I’ve already started admiring the illustrations and can’t wait to really dive in. This is going to be such a fun read.

The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne tells the story of two women, one set in present day America, the other in Nazi Germany. Jane Thynne is a phenomenal storyteller. Her research is immaculate and makes you feel like you’ve been transported to the time period she writes about. I always enjoy reading her female characters, as she makes them real and likable. Jane Thynne’s books are auto-buys for me.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow is the story of Mary Bennet, the youngest (and annoying) Bennet sister. I bought this book last year but never got around to reading it. I love that Mary gets her own story and I’m very much looking forward to diving in and getting to know the real Mary Bennet.

What books are you looking forward to reading this year? Do you have any recommendations for me?

xoxo, Jane

Happy New Year 2021

Hello, friends!

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading my bookish posts. As someone who is a bibliophile, it really means a lot to me. Especially this year when I felt out of sorts and worried about so many things. It’s truly nice to be in touch with others who appreciate books just as much as I do and I hope you stick around as we turn the clock to 2021.

Speaking of 2021, may the new year treat all of us in a more gentle manner. Wishing you good health and lots of happiness.

Happy New Year!

xoxo, Jane

October, November & December 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

I finished the last book of the year just today! Hooray!

Here is the second part of my recap of the final quarter of this terrible, terrible year. (And the first part is here.) There is no rhyme or reason to my choice of books. I love classics, romance and modern fiction all the same.

The Weirdies by Michael Buckley is a fun audiobook about three weird orphans and the very kind woman who adopts them. It’s hilarious and completely weird. If you like children’s tales and don’t mind a dark side, I recommend this audiobook.

Nighthawk by Rachel Lee is an older romance (from the 1990s) from her famous Conard County series. I do love a classic romance. If you enjoy reading the older Conard County series, I’d recommend this one. Also, another romance I read is Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee, which I enjoyed reading very much. I wrote about it here.

I also listened to Snow Day by Julie Lipson. I previously mentioned it here, but it’s an adorable short audiobook with two very likable characters stuck together in a romantic Italian village over Christmas.

Pirates! Scoundrels Who Shook the World by Scott McCormick is an audiobook about the history of pirates. This is meant for young people, but I firmly believe it can be enjoyed for those who are young at heart! I also listened to Rivals! Frenemies Who Changed the World by the same author. Like the title suggests, it’s about the rivalries between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, Puma vs. Adidas and a few others. History made super fun. If you are searching for a way to get your child interested in history, I’d recommend these audiobooks by Scott McCormick.

Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit is about the history of walking. I am a walker, both of cities and trails, so the idea of this book fascinated me. The author talks about the famous walks of philosophers, of diplomats walking and talking business with each other, of people who love to meander through cities, and even characters taking walks in books. But there is also an underside to walking that the author did not gloss over, such as the harassment women face when they go out for walks. When women walk they are universally harassed. The author herself mentions the vile names she has been called just while walking in broad daylight. I read this book because I love to walk. But it brought back an unsavory memory of my time in Morocco when I dared to walk in broad daylight to the school I was volunteering at. A man followed me and refused to leave. He even grabbed me by the sleeve. I turned around and screamed at him to leave me alone. Luckily that did the trick. The attention from bystanders was apparently too much for him and he left. Anyway, really good book if you are fascinated by walking and its history.

I also read more Charles Dickens. The Chimes is a Christmassy/New Year’s short story. I also re-listened to A Christmas Carol because it is that good. This time though I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Grant. It was fantastic. Then I read another very short story by Charles Dickens, Christmas Festivities.

The book I finished today is High Rising by Angela Thirkell. This was my first time reading Angela Thirkell. While the book was an enjoyable romance set in a small English village in the 1930s with a crew of lovable and interesting characters, I was taken aback by the main character’s occasional foray into antisemitic comments. I guess this book is very much a book of its time, but it still shocked me. For this reason, I probably won’t be reading any more of Angela Thirkell’s books (unless I am 100% certain there is no antisemitism in them).

And that’s a wrap! How did you fare with your reading?

Happy New Year!

xoxo, Jane

Christmas Book Haul

Hi! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas holiday.

I must have been on the nice list this year because Santa brought me some lovely books to read and enjoy.

My TBR pile just got a little longer, but I don’t mind. I received A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer. It’s a murder mystery and I’m very excited about it because I love a good manor house story. It will make for a perfect winter read, so I actually plan to read it soon and not wait for the next Christmas season.

Next on the list is Walking Dickens’ London. At least this way I can armchair travel through Dickensian London.

There is also an illustrated Harry Potter book which features so many pop-up pages, maps and other magical items that I think I may lose my mind from joy. I’m still a kid at heart.

I also received President Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land. I think it will take me a while to pick up this book because I miss him and I’m still sad about what came after his presidency. I don’t know if I will ever get over the travesty, chaos and horror of the last four years. But I’m happy to own this presidential memoir written by America’s first African-American president. I only wish it was signed. Maybe if I reach out to his office, his staff might send me a signed bookplate?

Last but not least, Santa also brought me Geoffrey Munn’s latest book, Wartski: The First One Hundred and Fifty Years. I’m over the moon excited because jewelry and royal history is my catnip. Wartski specializes in selling antique jewelry, such as Fabergé items of imperial provenance. This book details the history of their first 150 years of business.

Did you get a lot of reading done over the holidays?

(PS. Many thanks to my wonderful husband who masquerades as Santa Claus every year.)

xoxo, Jane

Favorite Books of 2020

I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve read this year, but there are a few that touched my heart in one way or another.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico is a charming novel about an elderly woman who works as a housecleaner for several households. One day she comes across a gorgeous dress by Dior and decides she needs to own one just like it. She isn’t rich and decides to do without a number of little luxuries, like tea, to save money for the dress. Finally, after meeting her financial goal, Mrs. Harris takes a trip (her first time on an airplane) to Paris to visit the House of Dior. It’s a heartwarming tale of going after what you want.

Persuasion by Jane Austen was a re-read, which proved to me how much I still love this novel. Anne Elliot is a nice woman who gets her happy ending with Captain Wentworth. This is the kind of book I like to read. Life is hard as it is, so it’s nice to lose myself in a fantasy world.

How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman is her amazing experiment of living like a Victorian for an entire year. I enjoyed following the author along on her Victorian journey. I highly recommend it for those who are fascinated by the Victorian era.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens really touched my heart. I’ve put off reading Charles Dickens because I thought his stories would bore me. And maybe some of his books will bore me, but this story is something special. It tells you everything you need to know about Charles Dickens. He cared for social justice very much, which is evident in every aspect of this story. I think he did a lot for humanity by writing A Christmas Carol. For example, before this story was published, it wasn’t normal for employers to pay their employees to take time off (even for Christmas). We also get a number of our Christmas traditions from Charles Dickens. He did so much good by writing this story and I’m glad I finally read it.

Square Haunting by Francesca Wade details the lives of five women (H.D., Dorothy L. Sayers, Jane Ellen Harrison, Eileen Power and Virginia Woolf) who lived on the same London street between the two world wars. It’s a touching account of the struggles and sexism they endured to get ahead in their chosen professions. The author did an excellent job of tying all five women together.

What are your favorite books of 2020?

xoxo, Jane

October, November & December 2020 Wrap-Up Part I

The first part of the last quarter of 2020 was dominated by Victorian-themed reading and began with How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. I’m glad I read this book first because it gave me a deeper understanding of the Victorian period which helped me better understand the literature written during the Victorian era. Ruth Goodman spent a year living like a Victorian (literally) to write her book. It was a fascinating inside look of the era. I wrote more about it in an earlier post.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is my first Charles Dickens story and certainly not my last. It was nice to finally meet Ebenezer Scrooge in the written form.

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë was my second Brontë novel, after Jane Eyre. The story centers around two friends, Shirley and Caroline, and their romantic interests. It is a fascinating study of Industrial England after the Napoleonic wars but left me feeling that Jane Eyre will remain my favorite Brontë novel, whether I read the other works or not. Fun fact: Shirley is originally a male name, but this novel helped transform Shirley into a female name. Today it’s predominantly female.

I also read Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I really do enjoy reading classic literature (as is evident by this blog) but I didn’t enjoy Cranford as much as I thought I would. It’s not a novel, rather a set of interconnected short stories about a group of people in a fictional village in England. While the writing is beautiful, I found myself feeling bored due to the lack of plot. But don’t let this turn you off from reading Gaskell.

The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski is a spooky novella from the 1950s republished by Persephone. I say spooky because the main character takes a nap and wakes up in someone else’s body. It’s short and thought-provoking.

Outside of the realm of the Victorian, I also read Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch. This is a fun compilation of important women of the Regency era. I love reading books about women and women’s history. I wrote more about this book in an earlier post.

So, have you read any of these books?

Find Part II here. Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane

Victober 2020 Finale

Victober reading.

This post is later than I had originally planned because the US elections consumed my every waking moment, driving me into the abyss of madness, stress and sheer exhaustion. However, all ended well. #relieved #thankgoodness

I enjoyed my first Victober reading challenge and will definitely partake again next year. Here is a run-down of the challenge and my thoughts.

  1. Read a Victorian book that equates to your favorite modern genre. I picked Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s a collection of short stories about the fictional town of Cranford. Truth be told, it didn’t have much of a plot and sometimes I was bored. It was nice to read vignettes of Victorian English village life though.
  2. Read a new to you book and/or short story by a favorite Victorian author. I decided to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It was my first time reading anything by Dickens. I loved it! Why I waited so long to read this story I shall never know. I finally meet Mr. Scrooge and the ghosts that haunt him. It is very cleverly written. I love that we get our Christmas traditions from Charles Dickens’s Christmas stories. I’m also a little obsessed with Charles Dickens right now so feel free to tell me your favorite Dickens tidbits.
  3. Read a Victorian diary or collection of letters. I read a collection of letters written by Queen Victoria. I have mixed feelings about Queen Victoria. I’m no expert on her reign, but it really bothered me that she wrote letters about frivolous things while so many families (especially children) went hungry. The starvation during Victorian England was an epidemic so I was annoyed reading Queen Victoria’s letters raving on about that minister or that gathering when real life was horrific for the 99%.
  4. Read a Victorian book you’ve been meaning to read for ages. I read How To Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman and The Victorian Chaise-longue by Marghanita Laski. This is the category where I cheated because both of these books were written long after the Victorian era, but that’s okay. Rules are meant to be broken, right?
  5. Read a Victorian book while wearing something Victorian. I don’t own anything Victorian so I wore perfume. The Victorians enjoyed perfume, so I think this counts.
  6. The Readalong: As part of a month-long readalong, I read Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. This was my second Charlotte Brontë book. The story is a bit of a love triangle with a lot of drama and some laughs. Everything ends nice and tidy though. While it was a wonderful story, I felt like it went on too long. There could have been a few scenes cut, methinks. But the Victorians, they loved their big books.

How did you fare with your Victorian reading?

xoxo, Jane

Nonfiction November

As part of Nonfiction November, I’m reading Mad & Bad: Real Heroines of the Regency by Bea Koch. I’ll circle back with my thoughts once I’ve finished reading it.

Description: Discover a feminist pop history that looks beyond the Ton and Jane Austen to highlight the Regency women who succeeded on their own terms and were largely lost to history — until now. Regency England is a world immortalized by Jane Austen and Lord Byron in their beloved novels and poems. The popular image of the Regency continues to be mythologized by the hundreds of romance novels set in the period, which focus almost exclusively on wealthy, white, Christian members of the upper classes. But there are hundreds of fascinating women who don’t fit history books limited perception of what was historically accurate for early 19th century England. Women like Dido Elizabeth Belle, whose mother was a slave but was raised by her white father’s family in England, Caroline Herschel, who acted as her brother’s assistant as he hunted the heavens for comets, and ended up discovering eight on her own, Anne Lister, who lived on her own terms with her common-law wife at Shibden Hall, and Judith Montefiore, a Jewish woman who wrote the first English language Kosher cookbook.

As one of the owners of the successful romance-only bookstore The Ripped Bodice, Bea Koch has had a front row seat to controversies surrounding what is accepted as “historically accurate” for the wildly popular Regency period. Following in the popular footsteps of books like Ann Shen’s Bad Girls Throughout History, Koch takes the Regency, one of the most loved and idealized historical time periods and a huge inspiration for American pop culture, and reveals the independent-minded, standard-breaking real historical women who lived life on their terms. She also examines broader questions of culture in chapters that focus on the LGBTQ and Jewish communities, the lives of women of color in the Regency, and women who broke barriers in fields like astronomy and paleontology. In Mad and Bad, we look beyond popular perception of the Regency into the even more vibrant, diverse, and fascinating historical truth.

The challenge consists of reading four nonfiction books over the course of the month, but I will probably just stick to this book for November since I’m also writing a series of short stories for NaNoWriMo. I believe this challenge was founded by Olive at A Book Olive, but please correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m missing any other founders. November will be a super busy month, but it should be fun and interesting. Also, the holiday season is upon us, my favorite time of year!! This year I’m decorating before Thanksgiving because 2020 is a bear. I’m sure no more explanation is needed.

What are you currently reading?

xoxo, Jane

Reading Links #81

Currently Reading Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Hello, everyone. How was your week? Mine was fine, but I can’t believe Halloween is just around the corner. The weeks seem to be going by quick which, honestly, is a really good thing. I’m not watching the presidential debate tonight. My poor heart can’t take it. I’m going to bed early with my book (and my husband). I hope your weekend is filled with good books and that you have a safe place to call home.

My favorite museum guidebooks.

This article from April on what I’m enjoying during isolation is still…sadly…relevant. I sure didn’t expect us to still be in this hot mess. Let’s vote the **%#%* out of office. Ok?

What to read when you need an escape. Sadly, still relevant.

A very short history of the Lutetia Hotel in Paris. (This is a must read for a little history so we never forget the past.)

My pairing books with tea archives. In case you are looking for a rabbit hole or two.

I read A Christmas Carol and loved it!

Also, Where Do Reading Lists Come From? (And Why Do We Love Them?)

Have a great weekend!

xoxo, Jane

Victober Update

Let’s have a little Victober check-in, shall we? I finished reading How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. It was a fabulous read. The author lived like a Victorian for one year so she could write this book. The details were just riveting. It was so interesting that I lost myself in the book for hours at a time, but every once in a while I was jolted out of my revery when I came across the most unsavory details (like learning all about the privy). Parts of it were also painful to read, such as the section on fashion which described what corsets actually did to the body.

I don’t know if you could convince me to live like a Victorian even for a day, but I am incredibly grateful that Ms. Goodman lived the Victorian experience so I could read all about it in this book. I think it gave me a better understanding and appreciation of Victorian literature.

A few interesting tidbits from the book:

  • The Victorians believed that women were weak and that corsets would hold them together.
  • When the new fancy toilets began to appear in households, Victorians believed that servants or institutionalized people were not smart enough to use a toilet.
  • America was the leader in the production of toilet paper. The first brand was launched in 1857. The first British toilet paper company began production in 1880.
  • Mutton-chop side burns were all the rage.
  • Hunger was a pandemic.
  • School beatings were beyond cruel. Some children died from the beatings.

Gosh, Charlotte Brontë did not exaggerate in Jane Eyre, that’s for sure. Not that I ever thought she was exaggerating, but How to Be a Victorian brought the Victorian era to life for me. And what about Charles Dickens? He definitely didn’t exaggerate in his novels, not one tiny bit. His personal experiences from living in a workhouse made their way into his books. But Ms. Goodman’s book wasn’t all doom and gloom. It discusses the bravery of the feminists, improvements in the treatment of children, and fun-to-read details about the many innovations that came out of the Industrial Revolution.

I was especially touched by how the author ended her book. “If I could speak to any of them [Victorians] back down the years, I would like to say ‘thank you.’ I cannot imagine that any of the great improvements that have made my life so much more comfortable and healthy could have happened without their efforts. It is not just the revolutionary ideas or the actions of the powerful that make the world, it is the cumulative work of everyone. Victorian Britons – we owe you.” – Ruth Goodman

On a lighter note, next up in my Victober reading is Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. Cranford is about the imaginary village of Cranford and its inhabitants. Originally it wasn’t meant to be a novel, but vignettes of village life. I’ve never read Gaskell before and am so looking forward to it.

What are you currently reading?

xoxo, Jane

July, August & September 2020 Wrap-Up Part III

Hi guys! It’s the end of the third quarter of the worst year of our lives. Hooray! Also, in case you missed it, Part I and Part II.

I listened to the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Mary Stewart’s romantic thriller Madam, Will You Talk? And.it.was.fabulous! Sadly it’s not available anymore. I also listened to Audible’s A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod. I have no idea what possessed me to listen to several hours worth of dinosaur history but I enjoyed myself immensely. This is a guide to dinosaurs for grown-ups! If you are a dinosaur buff, then this audiobook is not for you. But it’s perfect if you are like me, totally clueless. I think I slept through science class because everything in this book was new to me. (Shame on me!)

I listened to Albion: The Legend of Arthur by Robert Valentine because I was in the mood for an Arthurian adventure. If you are a die-hard fan of the Arthurian Legend, then this book might disappoint you. It’s a completely different story and not part of the original stories. I enjoyed listening to it because the acting was superb. It had a full cast with talented actors and an amazing soundtrack. The only things I didn’t like were the grunting when the characters where eating and the sex noises (I really think that the sex scenes could have been left out as they added no value to the story). So that said, this book is not appropriate for young listeners but is a decent adventure story.

Photo via Pexels.com

The Indignities of Being a Woman by Merrill Markoe and Megan Koester is a comedic stroll through women’s history. I wrote about it in-depth here and I highly recommend it. If women’s history is your thing and you don’t mind salty language, please check it out.

Model Undercover: A Crime of Fashion by Carina Axelsson is a fun YA. I don’t often read YA but this one was enjoyable enough. It began a little slow and picked up speed towards the middle. It’s the first book in a series where the main character, Axelle, works as a model and solves crimes. This first story takes place in Paris. A few scenes even take place underground in the famous catacombs. The scenes were so realistically written that I began to feel claustrophobia.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a short read and perfect for October. If you are looking for a short, gothic tale then look no further.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs. Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico was the most charming book I’ve ever read. Yesterday, I wrote about how wonderful it is. If you missed it, hop on over here.

The last book on the list is a re-read of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Sigh. My absolutely favorite novel. I love it more and more as the years go by.

This wraps up my quarterly reading. I’m really looking forward to Victober so I think the last quarter of 2020 is already starting out well. I just hope it ends with a new President-elect (fingers crossed!!!!).

xoxo, Jane

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris & Mrs Harris Goes to New York by Paul Gallico is the most charming book I’ve ever read. If I knew how charming and heart-warming it was, I would have picked it up much sooner.

Originally published in the 1950s, this newer edition contains both stories in one novel. Though both stories are wonderful, I’ll focus on Mrs Harris Goes to Paris. The book introduces the reader to Mrs. Harris, a widow in her 60s who works as a housecleaner. Mrs. Harris, after falling in love with a particular Dior gown at a client’s house, decides she too must own such a fine creation.

It takes Mrs. Harris a few years to save up for the dress and a trip to Paris. She foregoes her weekly cinema excursion, economizes on her loose tea leaves and, at one point, even plays the lottery to win some money. After a few years of scrimping and saving, she meets her financial goal and sets off for France. This is her first time leaving the British Isles and she begins to feel nervous about it. Unfortunately, when she arrives to Paris, things don’t go as planned. For example, after one look at Mrs. Harris, the Dior staff refuse to help her. Soon though, her warmth and kindness win them over. Through her inimitable ways, Mrs. Harris charms the Dior staff (and practically all of Paris) who make her dream of owning a Dior gown come true.

Mrs. Harris may be a fictional character, but she is incredibly relatable because we’ve all known that one special person who always seems to remember our birthdays or surprises us with little unexpected gifts. It’s nice to read a book where a nice person is given a good life and a happy ending.

If you’re looking for a feel-good adventurous romp through Paris, then this book might be for you. Be sure to grab the copy that contains both stories because the New York adventure is just as charming and endearing. I loved getting to know Mrs. Harris and her entourage.

xoxo, Jane