April, May & June 2020 Wrap-Up Part II

Hello, there. Welcome to the second portion of my quarterly wrap-up. You can read the first part here.

I listened to To Tempt a Sheikh by Olivia Gates. This was my first time reading Olivia Gates and what I liked the best is that the hero (sheikh) wasn’t an archaic caveman. I plan to read/listen to more of her books.

In a previous post, I wrote about Square Haunting by Francesca Wade. The story of the five women covered in this non-fiction book made an impact on me. If you’re searching for a book about women, feminism and London between the two world wars, then this book is for you. I wrote about my thoughts in a previous blog post. Please consider reading it if you are curious about Square Haunting.

Faberge Treasures from the Kremlin is a small museum guide book I bought at my local library sale for $1.00. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas hosted an exhibit titled “Faberge: Treasures from the Kremlin.” The treasures traveled to Las Vegas from the Kremlin and were (mostly) Faberge creations of royal provenance. They were discovered in 1990 during the renovation of a house in Moscow. Though the book features exquisite photography of the jewels and decorative art pieces, what piqued my curiosity is the person who hid them. Did they plan to sell the treasures once the revolution was over? But since freedom never really came, did it dawn on that person that a sale would never be possible? Was the hiding spot forgotten after the jewel-taker’s death? I’ll never know the truth, but I have already concocted a story in my writer’s mind which I will share with you someday soon.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey is a novella easily read over a weekend. The story takes place during the course of a wedding day and focuses on the bride. Unfortunately the bride is not marrying the man she loves (not a spoiler). I found it poignant and somewhat funny. The insightful dialogue kept me gripped from the first page to the last. Admittedly, the story left me feeling sad.

Waiting by Jane Odiwe is a short story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. In a previous blog post I described it like eating chocolate, short and sweet. The story takes place right after the end of Persuasion where we find a nervous Captain Wentworth and Anne awaiting permission for their marriage from Anne’s father.

The other Harlequin book I read was The Billionaire’s Housekeeper Mistress by Emma Darcy. Give me a Harlequin with the word billionaire on the cover and it’s an auto-read.

A Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Alexandra Deutsch and Betsy Bonaparte by Helen Jean Burn are two well-researched, well-written biographies of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte. Madame Bonaparte of Baltimore was the spouse of Jerome Bonaparte, youngest brother to Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately for the young couple, who were madly in love with each other, Napoleon had their marriage annulled. Jerome, being accustomed to the finer things in life, didn’t want to be cut off by his brother so he caved and married Princess Catherine of Württemberg. Napoleon made Jerome the King of Westphalia. Elizabeth Bonaparte spent the rest of her life seeking recognization and a title for their son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte. Fascinating woman, fascinating story, sad ending depending on who you are or whose side you are on.

What’s on your reading list?

xoxo, Jane

Another Small Book Haul

Happy Canada Day to my Canadian friends. Canada and Canada Day will always have a special place in my heart because once upon a time after returning home to the US from Montreal (during Canada Day weekend) I met my husband. Le sigh.

This year is quickly becoming the year I bought the most books. Let’s start with Mrs Harris Goes to Paris. I won’t lie, I bought it because of the adorable title. Luckily, the plot is just as cute. This edition contains two novellas, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris and Mrs Harris Goes to New York. Mrs. Harris is a Londoner and senior citizen who travels to Paris simply to buy a Dior dress. I’d love to own a vintage Dior dress myself, so I can sympathize with Mrs. Harris. It’ll make for a fun summer read.

I also received in the mail the latest book in my Persephone Books subscription, The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It was written in 1924 and takes place in a small town in America. The premise of the story is that after the husband and father of the family hurts himself and becomes wheel-chair bound, his wife takes a position at a department store to support the family. The father then becomes the home-maker. It was written in a period where it wasn’t normal for men to stay home and raise children. I also learned that the term “home-maker” is an American term not used in the UK. Persephone Books lists it as a feminist book but is quick to note that Dorothy Canfield Fisher did not consider herself a feminist. I’m grateful that I learned about her through Persephone Books. Even though she was a prolific writer in her day, I had never heard of her, nor did we study her in school and college.

After hearing Miranda Mills of Miranda’s Notebook review The Almanac Journal by Lia Leendertz, I had to buy it. It’s a journal where you record your thoughts and notes on the firsts of every season. Such as when you notice the first rose, the first snow, the first anything. The idea of the journal is to help you enjoy and appreciate nature.

The last book on my list is not a book. It’s a book of stickers, The Antiquarian Sticker Book. It was definitely a splurge (for me) and I could easily live without it, but I really wanted it. The stickers are gorgeous. I plan to use them on letters, cards and in my planner.

The book itself is a beautiful hardback. It contains over 1000 stickers, all themed in the Victorian era style. I’m very happy with it.

Have you bought any books lately?

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Tea with Mr. Rochester)

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I’ve been making an effort to read more short stories. They pack a punch in just a few short pages. I’m left thinking and rethinking about the plot for days after I finish the story. Tea with Mr. Rochester is one such short story collection.

When I think of Mr. Rochester, I think of the character from Jane Eyre. If that’s who you thought of too, then you can probably guess the common theme of each story in this collection: love. Most of the stories don’t necessarily end happily. Or maybe they do, depending on your view. The beauty of a short story is that it doesn’t tell you how or what to think. You are left thinking and analyzing for days afterwards.

Take for example, the sixth story in this collection, Spade Man from over the Water. It takes place inside the drawing room of a married woman, Mrs. Penny, who is entertaining her new neighbor. The new neighbor, Mrs. Asher, hopes she can become good friends with Mrs. Penny. All we know at this point is that Mrs. Penny has a husband who travels often. He seems to never be in the picture. Her husband discourages Mrs. Penny from having friends, but she yearns for the friendship of women. Mrs. Asher and her children move into the cottage near Mrs. Penny. She too has a husband who travels a lot. When Mrs. Asher sees a picture of Mrs. Penny’s husband she grows quiet and mysterious. They end the evening proclaiming they will become good friends. But that never happens, much to the disappointment of Mrs. Penny. The cottage is emptied virtually overnight. Mrs. Asher and her children disappear, never to be heard of again.

This ending left me stumped. The only solution that I can come up with is that Mrs. Penny’s husband leads a double life with Mrs. Asher. This might be why Mrs. Asher disappears after seeing the photograph of Mrs. Penny’s husband.

For this short story collection, I’d pair Fortnum’s Fortmason tea. The tea is black, strong and heavily infused with orange blossoms. You’ll need a strong tea to get through some of these (very excellent, some sweet, some bizarre) short stories.

xoxo, Jane

Pairing books with tea (Persephone Biannually)

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During this anxious time we are living in, I wanted to soothe my spirit and the best way I do that is by organizing my bookshelves. Well, during the organization I re-discovered my old copies of the Persephone Biannually.

If you haven’t read this magazine by Persephone Books, then you are in for a treat. It’s a literary magazine written and published by Persephone Books, a publisher that focuses on republishing forgotten female (and a few male) authors.

The articles in the magazine focus on their authors, the story behind the books and interesting details about their famous endpapers. There is no charge for the magazine (at the time of this writing) and if you are interested in their books, then you can sign up to be added to their mailing list so they can ship the magazine to you.

Today, I’m pairing a tea with this wonderful literary magazine. Which tea shall we pair? How about Harney’s Citrus Blend? It’s a black tea with an orange flavor. Light and citrusy, perfect for an afternoon of magazine reading. Enjoy!

xoxo, Jane

January, February and March 2020 Wrap-Up Part III

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Read more about this lovely painting.

I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen for the very first time. It was so good! Of course, I kept picturing Hugh Grant and Professor Snape. I’m sure you know the plot so I won’t rehash it here, but I felt the anguish the two older Dashwood sisters and their mother must have had to relocate from the only home they’ve known to a small cottage, further away. Jane Austen must have keenly felt the unfairness of the inheriting system. I also really loved John’s awful wife. There is something to be said for mean characters. They are so entertaining. And laughable. You can read it for free here.

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The Little(r) Museums of Paris by Emma Jacobs is just what it says it is. A book about the smaller, lesser-known museums of Paris, plus it comes with illustrations. It’s really cute. One of the museums it mentions is Musée de Cluny – Musée National du Moyan Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages). I have visited this museum before. It was part of a pass we bought from our hotel, but I’d never heard of it. When we stepped into the museum, I almost lost my mind from joy. This is the museum where the long lost unicorn tapestries are housed. This museum is a must-visit if you are in Paris. The author also gives the histories of the buildings the museums are housed in. This being Paris, you can imagine how fascinating those stories are.

Tea with Mr. Rochester by Frances Towers is a collection of short stories initially published in 1949, after the author passed away. The book I own is a loving re-issue by Persephone Books. The stories are not intertwined with each other, but they do have one thing in common: love. The stories featured are about unrequited love, young love, and happy-we-found-each-other love. For those who love a good cry, there is a love story about a soldier departing for World War I (and this being England, not coming back alive) and leaving a girl broken-hearted for the rest of her life. That story still haunts me.

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Not a book, but I also read the most recent issue of The Persephone Biannually. The magazine features articles about the books they publish, the history behind their famous endpapers and essays about their authors. I normally do not enjoy literary magazines, but this one is the exception.

And if you’re in the mood, here is Part I and Part II.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #52

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Discovered this wall during a social distancing walk.

Dear April,

Please be nicer to us. March was a bear.

xoxo, Jane

Congratulations, You’re Moving In with A Reader! Cute read.

A wonderful article about Maria Branwell, mother of the extraordinary Brontës.

Wild goats take over Welsh town amid coronavirus lockdown. There are pictures! The pictures will certainly make you smile.

A Bookstore of One’s Own. The New York Times on Persephone Books. (There may be a paywall.)

A nighttime routine for a better sleep. Which I’m sure we all need right now.

Thank you for stopping by. Be well, friends! xoxo, Jane

 

Small Moments of Happiness: March 2020

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March was awful (awful!!) and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why. Instead, I’m going to focus on a few small moments of happiness and I hope you will too.

I decided to treat myself to a book subscription to Persephone Books. The first book, Mariana, arrived in March. It’s good luck that I received the book before the bookshop closed due to the virus. I also bought a number of books to support booksellers, both local and in London. This cheered me up immensely.

Some other small moments of happiness were books and reading in general, my community banding together to see us through this pandemic and our talented, selfless health care workers.

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And tea. At least there is always tea.

Your turn! What were some of your small moments of happiness last month?

xoxo, Jane

London Book Haul

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My trip to London may have been cancelled, but my book shopping need not be. I happily supported my local bookstores and then I happily supported a couple of the bookstores I was going to visit in London.

I decided it would be a nice treat if I subscribed to a six-month book subscription from Persephone Books, something I have been wanting to do for a number of years now. Much to my delight, the first book, Mariana, arrived earlier this week. Mariana is written by Monica Dickens, the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. It’s a little bit biographical and the main character, Mariana, is a young Englishwoman, going through all the motions of life. It’s supposed to be humorous and interesting and well-written.

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I also bought Square Haunting by Francesca Wade and The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. I’m looking forward to reading both.

Square Haunting is the story of five women writers living in London (Bloomsbury) during the years between the two world wars. I was planning on buying it in London, so I thought it only right to order the British edition. I was supposed to stay in Bloomsbury and haunt all of these squares myself, but it will have to wait for another time and that’s okay.

The Other Bennet Sister is about Mary Bennet, the overlooked sister from Pride and Prejudice. I recall feeling annoyed by her, so it will be interesting to see how Mary’s life turns out.

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In more local news, I also paid a visit to my neighborhood used bookstore and bought Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene (humorous) and From Splendor to Revolution by Julia P. Gelardi (Romanov history).

Even though I’m in book heaven, I’m not used to purchasing so many books. (I talk about that here.) I honestly don’t know how soon I’ll get through reading this new stack. Regardless, supporting our bookstores is the right thing to do and binge reading will be a good diversion from the current troubles.

What is your good diversion currently?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #14

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Photo by Aaron Schwartz on Pexels.com

Happy 4th of July to US readers around the world.

It’s fitting that today is Independence Day because I resigned from my corporate job for a position at a smaller company. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And I feel happy and free.

At my new job, I’ll be less stressed (and no longer harassed by entitled millionaires) and will have more time and energy to focus on my writing and my family.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Here are a few things that piqued my interest (plus an earlier blog post). xoxo, Jane

 

Do you subscribe to Book Subscriptions?

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Let’s have a chat, shall we?

I toy with the idea of treating myself to a book subscription. Then I talk myself out of it.

I mean, I already have a stack of books the size of [insert your favorite mountain here] to get through as it is. Plus, I really need to declutter my bookshelves and make a few donations. Why add to the pile? But then I always revert back to my original thoughts. Books (and reading) are good for the soul and they are never a waste of money!

If I were to do a book subscription, it would be Persephone Books. They republish 20th century forgotten women authors. Persephone’s mission is my cup of tea. If I end up getting a subscription, I’ll let you know.

Do you have a book subscription? If yes, which one?

xoxo, Jane

Trinket Tuesday: Persephone Books

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Not very far from the British Museum in London, there is this charming, little bookstore called Persephone Books. Persephone Books “reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly) women writers.”

One day while my husband was in London during a business trip, he stumbled upon this little bookstore (he got lost while looking for a pub). Since his trip was coming to a close and he still needed to buy me a gift, he went in and chatted with the friendly booksellers, got a few recommendations and brought home three books as a surprise. And that’s how my love affair with Persephone Books began. Eventually, I made my own pilgrimage to Persephone Books.

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My beloved Persephone books.

I love books and bookstores, reading books and listening to others talk about books (booktubers are the best). So a bookstore that gives old stories a new lease on life by specializing in reprinting books long out of print goes to the top of my happiness barometer. If you love good books and want a unique bookstore experience, then next time you are in London, I recommend you pay Persephone Books a visit!

Links for your enjoyment: Persephone Books, Tea & Tattle podcast episode on Persephone Books (Tea & Tattle is one of my favorite podcasts and I cannot recommend it enough), Guardian article on Persephone Books, Bloomsbury area guide.

Trinket Tuesday is where I share some of the lovely things I discover during my travels, research or around town. All pictures are my own (unless I state otherwise). I hope you enjoy!