Pairing books with tea (Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl)

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Entre Nous by Debra Ollivier is my favorite “French girls” book! I’ve had my weather-beaten copy since 2003 and it’s what inspired my very first solo trip to Paris. Even if you’re tired of these types of books, please believe me this one is a must read.

Debra Ollivier lived in Paris for a decade before returning home to the US. So she feels quite confident writing about that elusive ‘je ne sais quoi’ and how the rest of us can attain it.

The book has chapters on how to look stylish, how to shop like a French woman and how to feel comfortable eating by yourself in a Parisian bistro. How French women style their hair (spoiler alert: they keep it classic and simple and don’t alter their hairstyles as the seasons change, the way we do in the US.) How French women don’t chat up strangers and give away all of their secrets. There are interesting sidebars of observations about French women and society, fun tips and interesting quotes to live by. At times it feels like you are chatting with your closest friend. Which is maybe why the book is titled Entre Nous, French for between us.

So, have I found my je ne sais quoi? Probably not. I’m an eternal klutz and my hair won’t ever behave, no matter how hard I work at keeping it tamed. I can’t seem to master French, no matter how many classes I take and I seem to talk too much and overshare with the lady at the deli counter (all verboten in the world of French women).

But none of this stops me from living my best life, reading good books, attempting to look somewhat chic and returning to Paris as time (and money) permits.  Oh, plus I enjoy eating alone in restaurants. So, perhaps it’s mission accomplished after all?

Forget tea! Honestly, I’d pair a glass of French wine with this book. Voila.

à la prochaine, Jane

Four Books About The Cold War

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I’m intrigued by the Cold War era for so many different reasons. It’s why I set my own fiction during this era (more on that another day).

So, it’s no surprise that I read a lot of non-fiction books about the Cold War. I wanted to share a few of them with you. Let me know what you think or if you’ve read any of these.

Iron Curtain – The Crushing of Eastern Europe by Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum is a columnist for The Washington Post. Iron Curtain covers the horrifying period in Eastern Europe between 1944-1956. The dedication in this book gives me the chills: “This book is dedicated to those Eastern Europeans who refused to live within a lie.”

Vaclav Havel

Spymaster: My Thirty-Two Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West by Oleg Kalugin

This book is written by former KGB general, Oleg Kalugin, who spent decades spying in America. Eventually he grew disillusioned with the Soviet system and its institutional corruption. He went public about it all in 1990 and now lives in Washington D.C.

Spy Sites of Washington, DC by Robert Wallace and H. Keith Melton

This is a fun read and I highly recommend it. It covers espionage in Washington, D.C. between the years 1790 and 2016. I bought it for the extensive Cold War section. What’s fascinating (and fun) is that the book actually gives you physical addresses of buildings and homes where spy activities took place, including dead drop locations.

A Spy Among Friends: Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

If you are at all interested in the Cambridge Five, I’d read this book. It’s a comprehensive volume of Kim Philby’s life as a double agent. I am fascinated by Kim Philby. Not because he was such a stellar guy (he wasn’t) but because I can’t understand giving it all up to live behind the Iron Curtain. For those who don’t know about the Cambridge Five, they were a network of privileged young men recruited by the KGB at Cambridge. Philby was one of them. He defected to Moscow in 1963 because he was about to be outed as a mole. He died with full Soviet honors in 1988.

Do you have any favorite non-fiction books about the Cold War?

xoxo, Jane

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

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Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is a fun, nonfiction read about real-life princesses who didn’t have the perfect fairy-tale ending we read (or dream) about.

Description:

You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, and you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But real princesses didn’t always get happy endings. Sure, plenty were graceful and benevolent leaders, but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their majestic closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elisabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev slaughtered her way to sainthood. And Princess Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield with her toddler strapped to her back.

The book is organized in sections by type of princess. The sections are Warriors, Usurpers, Schemers, Survivors, Partiers, Floozies and Madwoman.

As an aside, I find it interesting that some of the women featured weren’t princesses, rather noblewomen or fake princesses (Anastasia, anyone?).

There were a number of princesses I was familiar with, such as Sophia Dorothea (Survivors), Roxolana (Schemers), Pauline Bonaparte (Floozies), Sisi, Elizabeth of Austria (Madwoman, ouch. A bit harsh?), and Charlotte of Belgium (Madwoman).

But I learned about new-to-me women such as Pingyang (Warriors), Wu Zetian (Usurper), Sofka Dolgorouky (Survivors) and Caraboo (Partiers). The biographies were not very long. Each princess had a few pages devoted to her, but they were long enough to give me a good grasp of the life and history of the featured princess.

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

What I love

Everything! It’s a really neat concept with bite-sized chunks of history about real-life women. I love reading women’s history and, in my opinion, there are never enough books on this subject.

The book features special inserts about historical eras or other tidbits, such as “Death and the Victorian Age” and “Seven Warrior Queens of Antiquity.” This is a nice touch because I think it helps place the princess in history. I also love the (few) illustrations.

The tidbits I learned were incredible. I didn’t know that Stephanie von Hohenlohe was part of Hitler’s inner circle. Bad Stephanie!! I think the author really dug deep into the archives to research and write this book.

What I don’t love

Sometimes the author inserted her opinion into the narrative which jarred me out of my reading. Otherwise, it was a completely fun and enjoyable read. History made super-duper fun!

As always, thank you for reading!!! 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