Friday, December 13, 2019

Dear Abby - Merry Christmas (With Vintage Dachshund Photos)

Dear Friends,

I want to thank you all for reading my blog this year, and wish you a happy holiday season!  I am taking some time off from blogging until the New Year.  I will be back the second Friday in January (January 10) and look forward to catching up then.

I have big plans for the holidays including sleeping, snuggling, opening presents, eating treats, visiting with company, and sleeping and snuggling some more!

Here are a few vintage Christmas photos that feature dachshunds.  These were long ago and I don't know the people or the dogs, but the dachshunds all look so happy and loved!

A woman in a cheery red dress sits in front of an old fashioned Christmas tree with her dachshund.  That tinsel on the tree looks fascinating!

A man shares a Christmas stocking with his dog (on second glance, this may be a little Chiweenie pup).

A dachshund happily watches a very young Santa Claus in this black and white photo.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  I look forward to chatting with you more in 2020.


Abby xoxoxo

My Top 10 Reads Of 2019

Last year I put together an informal favorite reads list at my Birdhouse Books page on Facebook.  It was interesting and thought provoking looking back at my reading trends - and favorites - for the year, so I wanted to share here for 2019.  This is, of course, a highly subjective list, based on my reading preferences.  It is not intended as a critical 'best list," but truly a list of favorites.

10. Lies in White Dresses by Sofia Grant - Historical novel set on a ranch in 1952 Reno, Nevada, where three women wait out their divorce residency.  A lovely look at women's lives, friendships, choices.

9.  No Judgments by Meg Cabot - Women's fiction about an artist who waits out a hurricane in the Florida Keys, only to find new purpose rescuing pets that were left behind during the storm.  First in the Little Bridge Island series.  Light, breezy, and so life affirming!

8.  The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin - Historical fiction about a pilot and Red Cross volunteer stationed in London during World War II.  Second book in the Sunrise at Normandy series.  A love story that wonderfully evokes 1940's Britain.

7.  The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr.  "All love stories are ghost stories in disguise."   A gothic historical novel about a poet, a postmortem photographer, a mysterious chapel made of glass, and a ghost (or two).  An evocative and totally unique book.

6.  Lethal White by Robert Galbraith - Mystery about London detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, who work together to solve a mystery involving a member of Parliament.  Fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series.  I think this the best book yet in my favorite current mystery series.

5.  The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff - Complex triple storyline historical novel about three women working in Special Operations during World War II.  Dazzling storytelling and such a moving and unusual look at women during the war.

4.  Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts - Historical fiction about Maud Gage Baum's unlikely friendship with a young Judy Garland on the set of The Wizard of Oz.  In a book with Frank Baum and Judy Garland, Maud Gage Baum somehow manages to steal the show!

3.  The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan - Historical novel (with a mystery) about a middle aged woman who travels to London during World War II when her adult daughter goes missing. She becomes involved in a twist-filled adventure as she learns about her daughter's double life.  A perfect combination of cozy mystery and historical suspense.

2.  Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy - Historical fiction about Marilla Cuthbert and her life before Anne of Green Gables.  A fascinating look at a beloved character from children's literature in a novel rich with descriptions that read like poetry.

1.  The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman - Historical fiction about an Army nurse stationed in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor.  A love story and mystery in a book that beautifully evokes 1941 Hawaii.

What were YOUR favorite reads of 2019?   I'd love to hear from you about the books you loved most.

Book Review - The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams

Book Synopsis
The dazzling narrator of The Wicked City brings her mesmerizing voice and indomitable spirit to another Jazz Age tale of rumrunners, double crosses, and true love, spanning the Eastern seaboard from Florida to Long Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

1924. Ginger Kelly wakes up in tranquil Cocoa Beach, Florida, having fled south to safety in the company of disgraced Prohibition agent Oliver Anson Marshall and her newly-orphaned young sister, Patsy. But paradise is short-lived. Marshall is reinstated to the agency with suspicious haste and put to work patrolling for rumrunners on the high seas, from which he promptly disappears. Gin hurries north to rescue him, only to be trapped in an agonizing moral quandary by Marshall’s desperate mother.

1998. Ella Dommerich has finally settled into her new life in Greenwich Village, inside the same apartment where a certain redheaded flapper lived long ago…and continues to make her presence known. Having quit her ethically problematic job at an accounting firm, cut ties with her unfaithful ex-husband, and begun an epic love affair with Hector, her musician neighbor, Ella’s eager to piece together the history of the mysterious Gin Kelly, whose only physical trace is a series of rare vintage photograph cards for which she modeled before she disappeared.

Two women, two generations, two urgent quests. But as Ginger and Ella track down their separate quarries with increasing desperation, the mysteries consuming them take on unsettling echoes of each other, and both women will require all their strength and ingenuity to outwit a conspiracy spanning decades.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Wicked Redhead tells the story of two women.  In 1924 Gin (Ginger) Kelly is in Cocoa Beach, Florida with her boyfriend, Prohibition agent Anson (Oliver) Marshall ... until they both make surprise trips back to New York.  In 1998, Ella Dommerich lives in NYC in Gin Kelly's old apartment.  Her life is up in the air, and she tries to learn about the mysterious Gin Kelly as she makes decisions about her future.

I wanted to read The Wicked Redhead because of the 1920's setting.  This is one of my favorite time periods to read about, and this novel certainly did not disappoint!   I was surprised, though, at how immediately engrossed I was in Ella's more recent (1998) storyline.

The author does an amazing job at crafting two very distinct voices in this dual-storyline novel.  Gin is lively and outspoken and quite a character.  Ella is more reserved and thoughtful.  I found the places where their lives intersected fascinating.  While Ella's story resonates more with me, Gin's voice was so distinctive and fun.  For instance:

"You can't lose a thing that doesn't ever mean to be lost, Anson.  You can't lose a thing that belongs to you.  A girl that was made for you, the same as you were made for her, like a handle for a bucket, like a pillowcase for a pillow.  A hearth for a fire" (p. 45).

As Ella looks deeper in "the Redhead" (Gin) and her life, she investigates a vintage photo, part of a series of risque pictures that Gin took in the 1920's.  My work is all about vintage and ephemera, so I found this storyline particularly interesting.

This is a big, engrossing book.  It is such a lively read with many twists and turns in both the 1920's and the 1990's!  I stayed up late reading this book and couldn't wait to get back to it the next day.  I recommend The Wicked Redhead for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who loves the 1920's.
Author Bio
A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off. She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Book Review - The Lost Books of Jane Austen by Janine Barchas

Book Synopsis
In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people.

Packed with nearly 100 full-color photographs of dazzling, sometimes gaudy, sometimes tasteless covers, The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes. Such shoddy editions, Janine Barchas argues, were instrumental in bringing Austen’s work and reputation before the general public. Only by examining them can we grasp the chaotic range of Austen’s popular reach among working-class readers.
Informed by the author’s years of unconventional book hunting, The Lost Books of Jane Austen will surprise even the most ardent Janeite with glimpses of scruffy survivors that challenge the prevailing story of the author’s steady and genteel rise. Thoroughly innovative and occasionally irreverent, this book will appeal in equal measure to book historians, Austen fans, and scholars of literary celebrity.


Purchase Links

Johns Hopkins University Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a coffee table book about different editions of Austen books over the years.  There is an emphasis on Jane Austen's work, but also on book history and the ways that different editions reflected popular reception of the novels.

I was interested in this book from first description because I love Jane Austen's books.  (My favorite is Sense and Sensibility.)  I have all the books in paperback and eBook edition (and they are downloaded onto my phone, so they are available at a moment's notice).  I also have a hardcover gift edition of Sense and Sensibility.  

Although I deal in vintage books and ephemera, I have never looked into vintage Jane Austen books, so that aspect of The Lost Books of Jane Austen was particularly fascinating.

I love the first thing the author writes:  "Cheap books make authors canonical" (p. ix).  She then describes how Victorian editions of her books were sold in cheap paperbacks at railway stations, given as prizes, and targeted to the British working class.

This is a beautiful, big book with lots of color photos.  The photos show differences in edition, and the author describes points that differentiate editions over time (i.e. binding, inscriptions, etc.).

The book is also rich with Austen related anecdotes, including Mark Twain's contempt for Austen's work -- accompanied by a photograph of his copy of Northanger Abbey - Persuasion

I found the descriptions (and photos) of penny editions of the books particularly interesting.  I had heard of Penny Dreadfuls, but wasn't familiar with the Penny Library of Famous Books.  

I also found details about the World War II vintage editions, which sometimes included advertisements in the backs of the books, to be very interesting.  

Equally fascinating was the story of Hotel Taft's giveaway editions of Pride and Prejudice, including a photo of a 1930 Art Deco design book.

I think my favorite section of the book, though, was Pinking Jane Austen, about the evolution of Jane Austen's paperback publications -- with lots of photo examples.  I loved seeing the changes in cover design, especially during the Mid-Century years.

The author is a literature professor, and the writing has a strong scholarly bent that will appeal to serious Janeites, as well as more casual fans like me.  The book includes end notes, works cited, and a detailed index.

The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a beautifully designed book, and it is sure to fascinate anyone who has an interest in Jane Austen's novels or book collecting. 

Author Bio
Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel. She is also the creator behind What Jane Saw (