Themed Reading for January 2022: Paris

“Paris is always a good idea.” – Sabrina

Happy New Year!

I hope 2022 brings you good health, good books and happiness.

I’ve decided to read Paris-themed books for this month. I love Paris and now I live in Paris. So why not immerse myself even more?

I’m currently reading How Paris Became Paris by Joan DeJean.

It’s the fabulous history of the most wonderful city in the world. Each chapter is about a specific neighborhood, which includes plenty of historical mansions, which comes with detailed explanations of the occupants of said mansions. It’s fascinating, fun and I can’t put it out.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, Paris was known for isolated monuments but had not yet put its brand on urban space. Like other European cities, it was still emerging from its medieval past. But in a mere century Paris would be transformed into the modern and mythic city we know today.

Though most people associate the signature characteristics of Paris with the public works of the nineteenth century, Joan DeJean demonstrates that the Parisian model for urban space was in fact invented two centuries earlier, when the first complete design for the French capital was drawn up and implemented. As a result, Paris saw many changes. It became the first city to tear down its fortifications, inviting people in rather than keeping them out. Parisian urban planning showcased new kinds of streets, including the original boulevard, as well as public parks and the earliest sidewalks and bridges without houses. Venues opened for urban entertainment of all kinds, from opera and ballet to a pastime invented in Paris, recreational shopping. Parisians enjoyed the earliest public transportation and street lighting, and Paris became Europe’s first great walking city. 

A century of planned development made Paris both beautiful and exciting. It gave people reasons to be out in public as never before and as nowhere else. And it gave Paris its modern identity as a place that people dreamed of seeing. By 1700, Paris had become the capital that would revolutionize our conception of the city and of urban life.


Next up will be Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Alfred. I’ve never read anything by Nancy Mitford, but added this to my reading list because it’s set in Paris. The plot is supposed to be a comedic romp. The main character, Fanny Wincham, collides with royals and Rothschilds after her husband becomes Britain’s ambassador to France.

Fanny Wincham—last seen as a young woman in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate—has lived contentedly for years as housewife to an absent-minded Oxford don, Alfred. But her life changes overnight when her beloved Alfred is appointed English Ambassador to Paris. 

Soon she finds herself mixing with royalty and Rothschilds while battling her hysterical predecessor, Lady Leone, who refuses to leave the premises. When Fanny’s tender-hearted secretary begins filling the embassy with rescued animals and her teenage sons run away from Eton and show up with a rock star in tow, things get entirely out of hand. Gleefully sending up the antics of mid-century high society, Don’t Tell Alfred is classic Mitford.


Lastly, I plan to read Ambition & Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams. Josephine loved Paris and was as Parisian as they come. It will be an interesting historical read about an interesting woman. Also, I’m having a lot of fun retracing her steps throughout Paris and learning about Paris then and now. (For example, the place where she married Napoleon is now a bank.)

Their love was legendary, their ambition flagrant and unashamed. Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife, Josephine, came to power during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of France. The story of the Corsican soldier’s incredible rise has been well documented. Now, in this spellbinding, luminous account, Kate Williams draws back the curtain on the woman who beguiled him: her humble origins, her exorbitant appetites, and the tragic turn of events that led to her undoing.
 
Born Marie-Josèphe-Rose de Tascher de La Pagerie on the Caribbean island of Martinique, the woman Napoleon would later call Josephine was the ultimate survivor. She endured a loveless marriage to a French aristocrat—executed during the Reign of Terror—then barely escaped the guillotine blade herself. Her near-death experience only fueled Josephine’s ambition and heightened her  determination to find a man who could finance and sustain her. Though no classic beauty, she quickly developed a reputation as one of the most desirable women on the continent.
 
In 1795, she met Napoleon. The attraction was mutual, immediate, and intense. Theirs was an often-tumultuous union, roiled by their pursuit of other lovers but intensely focused on power and success. Josephine was Napoleon’s perfect consort and the object of national fascination. Together they conquered Europe. Their extravagance was unprecedented, even by the standards of Versailles. But she could not produce an heir. Sexual obsession brought them together, but cold biological truth tore them apart.
 
Gripping in its immediacy, captivating in its detail, Ambition and Desire is a true tale of desire, heartbreak, and revolutionary turmoil, engagingly written by one of England’s most praised young historians. Kate Williams’s searing portrait of this alluring and complex woman will finally elevate Josephine Bonaparte to the historical prominence she deserves.


I’m really happy about my reading list for January. It’s already taken me down a few rabbit holes (the Midford family was something else…).

What are you reading this month?

xoxo, Jane

How to save money on books

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on Pexels.com

I’ll be the first person to tell you that I don’t buy a lot of books. Yes, I feature the occasional “book haul” on the blog, but they are few and far between. Plus my book hauls are usually just a few books; not 20 or a high number like that. Why do I not buy a lot of books? It’s because of space issues. I only have room for two bookshelves in my home library. I’m fine with that because I don’t like a messy, cluttered look. It’s also nice to save money by borrowing most of my books from the library. Since my tax dollars fund my local library, it’s win-win. Since moving to Paris, I also bought an annual membership at the American Library in Paris. Worth every penny. I have access to their entire book collection, the New York Times, and other databases that I use for research and for fun.

So, whether you are frugal or simply want to be a good environmental steward by not over-consuming on stuff, there are many ways you can save money on books.

Photo by Hoang Bin on Pexels.com

Public Library

This one seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised by how many people I meet who don’t use their library. If you don’t like the idea of making time to drive to your library to check out books, you can simply check out ebooks and audiobooks from the comfort of your own home. You could even place books on hold and have them ready for your pick-up. This will save you time inside the library. With your library card you can check out books, ebooks and audiobooks. Speaking of libraries, check with your local library on whether they host used book sales. My home library is a gold mine because sometimes you can pay just one dollar to fill a bag with books.

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores have an amazing array of books. I love going to thrift stores for the sole purpose of checking out their book selections.

Neighborhood Lending Library

You can start a lending library program with your neighbors; if appropriate maybe you could start this at your place of work too.

Little Free Library

Neighborhoods across America have Little Free Libraries. Verify if your neighborhood has one.

Project Gutenberg

You can read all of the classics for free on Project Gutenberg. This is thanks to the kind souls around the world who volunteer their time to upload out of copyright books so that everyone may have access to literature. If you want to give Project Gutenberg a try, you can start with the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. (Special Note: Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright terms of their countries before accessing, downloading or redistributing eBooks.)

NetGalley

For an honest review, NetGalley will give you free ebooks. You just have to be willing to give them feedback on the books you read. The feedback can be left on your blog as a book review or you can leave the feedback on their website.

What do you think? Was this helpful? Do you have any tips to share with us?

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.

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

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

Shopping My Shelves: Summer 2021 Reading Recommendations

Hooray! Summer is upon us. If you need some light (and not so light) reading recommendations, then please come in! I shopped my bookshelves to share a few reading ideas with you!

Let’s start out with a very light reading recommendation. The Wind off the Small Isles by Mary Stewart is a novella (more of a long short story, really) set in the breathtaking Canary Isles. It’s a Mary Stewart classic so this means there will be a ton of suspense packed in while a romance is brewing on the side; hence perfect read for the beach getaway. (Or if you’re like me and not traveling far because of the pandemic then read it at home with a frosty beverage. Win-win.)

You can not go wrong with Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson. It’s the charming tale of Miss Buncle and her adventures. Miss Buncle, you see, is in need of some funds. So she sets out to write a book set in her village which features all of the villagers. Unfortunately Miss Buncle did a terrible job of disguising the actual people she wrote about and the villagers become quite upset with her. All kinds of mayhem ensues. If you love classics, romance and English villages then this is the summer read for you!

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson is a little bit more serious but just as charming of a read. Miss Pettigrew is a governess who endured hardship most of her life. But thanks to a plucky young American she finally (after a very long day gallivanting around London) may just get her happy ending. I’d compare this story to Cinderella but without the stepsisters.

Summertime should be all about adventures. So what better adventure than the Harry Potter series? I just love this series and will never tire of it. I wonder if they are teaching Harry Potter in schools yet? I think they should. The school curriculum in the US is extremely outdated (we can all live without reading Lord of the Flies ever again) and I think they should replace a few of the books for the Harry Potter stories, in my humble opinion.

Can we let summer pass without reading a Jane Austen novel? Not in this house! May I recommend the timeless, sparkling tale of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice? If you need another Austen recommendation, Persuasion is a good book for any time of year. Persuasion happens to be my most favorite Jane Austen novel. If you’re interested, I ranked the Jane Austen novels in an earlier post.

Which books would you recommend for summer reading?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #66

Photo via Pexels.com

Hi, there! So, I bought the audio book for The Heir Affair from Audible. It’s the sequel to The Royal We. Have you read it? It is partially inspired by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but completely fiction. I enjoyed the first book so much. Apparently the whole world did as well, which is why there is a sequel. Hooray for fun sequels!

I’m currently reading The Grimaldis of Monaco. It is so good!! It reads like historical fiction, except it’s all real. Those Princes of Monaco were bad boys. I’m simultaneously reading Paris to the Moon, a collection of essays inspired by the author’s time of living in Paris.

Coronavirus isolation: How to be alone, during a pandemic or anytime. This was really interesting to read. I love staying home, but I take for granted that it can be hard for some people to be alone or stay at home for extended periods of time.

The truth about Christopher Columbus. It’s possible he had two identities.

How to take afternoon tea like a Brit. I’ve been stirring my sugar all wrong!!

21 Writers on Their Favorite Children’s Books.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #65

I’m not sure how good June was to you, but I sure hope July will treat you better. Remember, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay safe! Here is a mix of reading links, not all are related to one or the other, but interesting nonetheless.

Inside Story: Handbags That Made History.

How To Start An Online Library Book Club.

Black Lives Matter.

This Victorian painting depicting two women in love was nearly lost forever.

What Is Owed. “As we focus on police violence, we cannot ignore an even starker indication of our societal failures: Racial income disparities today look no different than they did the decade before King’s March on Washington.” A very powerful essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones for The New York Times.

French history lovers check this out, French Revolution: remains discovered in walls of Paris monument.

My recent book haul, always a happy moment.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #64

I have to admit, I’m surprised at how many confederate statues there are. Every day there is yet another story of protestors tearing down a statue. I say, good for them. Tear them down faster.

I don’t understand people who say you can’t learn about history (and the Civil War) without the racist statues. To them, I say: I’ve learned so much about so many countries and world events without ever setting foot in those countries. It’s called reading.

I’m writing a book where Nikita Khrushchev loiters in the background. I’ve never seen a statue of him (nor was I able to invent a time machine and travel to the USSR circa 1959) yet I know who he was and what he stood for.

Have you learned anything about something without visiting the country where the event took place?

**

A travel writer contemplates a less mobile future.

Speaking of reading, what does it mean to be well read?

The Brooklyn Book Festival is going completely virtual.

Have you seen this video of Ken Burns talking about the monuments? The video begins with a poignant interview given by James Baldwin.

DW has a really cool series of short videos called Meet the Germans. It’s all about German culture as discovered by a British woman living in Germany with her German husband. Super fun and interesting!

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #63

Another week is drawing to a close, though each week seems to melt into the next. This weekend is the official start of summer and I plan to celebrate it. I don’t know how quite yet (maybe a scenic drive) but I will do something to commemorate it. Also, I have a new thing I’m doing. I listen to the ocean sounds while I work. Sometimes it’s the rainforest or a waterfall. It helps with stress and makes for a nicer work day.

How are you?

xoxo, Jane

The best short stories for every taste and mood.

Your daily dose of joy: Dog ‘adopts’ nine orphaned ducklings.

Interesting read! As a consumer, how can you tell if companies support Black Lives Matter? Do companies really support Black Lives Matter?

The race-related things that have changed since protests began around George Floyd’s death.

Black Owned Tea Brands! This tea lover says: Yes, Please.

Thursday Reading Links #62

Hello! I hope you’re doing well under the circumstances. Here are a few reading links that caught my fancy.

Inside the Culture of Racism at Bon Appétit.

Muriel Bowser and Black women are going after Trump. And they’re winning. And may they keep on winning!

If this doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what will: A teen who spent ten hours cleaning up after a protest in Buffalo is rewarded with a car and a college scholarship.

A Brief Feminist History of Bike-Riding.

Parents must teach their children to oppose racism.

And last, but never ever least: Black Lives Matter.

Be well and stay safe! xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #60

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Hello, there. How are you?

Today’s readings links are brought to you by yours truly.

This was an interesting read about how boredom can spark creativity. I do love being bored and having a lot of downtime. Though it hasn’t resulted in a masterpiece yet. Here’s hoping.

Just when I was telling you that I’m not going to buy any more of the Penguin Clothbound Classics, look what I found: this Sanditon edition. Of course, I couldn’t resist ordering it and it’s on the way. Yippee!

Photo Essay: Bookstores Are Opening, Cautiously, Across the Country.

20 Must-Read Free Classics You Can Find on Project Gutenberg.

In case you missed it, yesterday I wrote about my thoughts on Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting.

This is so cool. Roman mosaic floor found underneath vines in northern Italy. I can’t believe how beautiful (and new) the recently discovered Roman mosaics look.

Have a great day!

xoxo, Jane