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Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed the mini-series of Vanity Fair. Tina reviewed the novel The Tuscan Secret by Angela Petch, set partially in England but also, obviously given the title, in Italy.

Book: The Invisible Library, The Masked City, The Burning Page, The Lost Plot, and The Mortal World by Genevieve Cogman
Genre: Historical fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Publication date: 2015-2018

Source: e-books borrowed from the library

First in a series of books about a library that connects alternate worlds

Summary: The Invisible Library is a library that connects alternate worlds. Librarians, like our heroine, Irene, collect unique works of fiction from each of the worlds. Sometimes, the books are simply purchased, but that wouldn’t make the stories in this series very exciting. Instead, expect theft, duplicity, threat, and other adventures.

The collecting activities strengthen the library, naturally, but they also help balance the forces of chaos and order in the worlds, making them more stable for human inhabitants.

The alternate worlds are on a spectrum from chaotic to balanced, with the Fae promoting chaos and the Dragons promoting order. Humans have the most freedom and choice in worlds that are in the middle. When the worlds are too chaotic, humans become simply props in the stories that the Fae enact. When the worlds are too ordered, the humans behave like automatons, corresponding to the rules of the world.

Thoughts: Those alternate worlds seem kind of complicated, but the series works because each book is set in a different city with a different flavor depending on that world.

The first novel, The Invisible Library, is set in a steam-punk sort of Victorian London. This London ends up being Irene’s home base so we get glimpses of it in other novels, too.

The Masked City takes us to a chaotic version of Venice, one where Carnival never ends.

From Venice, we travel to St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace in The Burning Page, to a version of Chicago that’s overrun by gangsters in The Lost Plot, and to 1890s Paris in The Mortal Word.

I really love the sense of place in this series!

Book lovers will also enjoy the books that show up in some of the alternate universes — extra novels from worlds where Jane Austen lives longer, another book by Herodotus called Myths.

Genevieve Cogman announced the sixth book in this series last month on her blog: The Secret Chapter. According to Goodreads, we can expect to see this book on December 3rd.

Appeal: The bookish element will appeal to librarians and people who love libraries. Others will be intrigued by the off-kilter historical fantasy worlds. This series reminds me most of the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde that began with The Eyre Affair.

Have you read The Invisible Library series? What did you think?


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Joy's Book Blog by Joy Weese Moll - 1w ago

Book: Free Spirit Doodles, Quirky Cute Doodles, and Twirly Girly Doodles by Stephanie Corfee
Genre: Juvenile art
Publisher: Savvy Books
Publication date: 2016
Pages: 31 each

Source: Hardcover from library

Summary: These three books encourage children (and adults) to draw fantastic things from their imaginations. Each begins with a different About this Book page that encourages doodling and then presents the same two-page spread of Doodle Tools. After the introductory material, each book presents different ideas and projects — from unicorns to skateboards, plus lots and lots of flowers.

The covers of the books display the fun, creative energy that budding artists will discover inside.

Thoughts: Every few years throughout my life, I become entranced with drawing. Generally, it lasts for a few days before I get annoyed at my lack of skill and give up — only to revive my interest when the frustration dies down and the fascination builds up.

My current foray seems destined for more staying power, partly because I set the bar so low for myself. I’m aiming to fill a sketchbook with inspiration from drawing books for children. Inspired by these three books, I already filled half of my sketchbook.

Here is one of my first exercise from early May.

Twirls and swooshes copied from a page in Free Spirit Doodles.

Here is one from this weekend. I think it’s evident that I’ve grown in confidence and skill.

My name in doodled form

Besides the books, I use You Tube when I have questions about how to use tools that I own. I had a few Tombow markers from a previous foray into art and I learned better ways of using them from CraftTestDummies and Smitha Katti. I love coloring in my own doodles, especially flowers and paisleys.

This page was inspired by art motifs from India

Appeal: These would be great books to prevent boredom of kids home for the summer. And, they provide an easy entrance for adults who want to wake up their creativity and improve their skills with pen and paper.

What are your experiences with making art?

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Joy's Book Blog by Joy Weese Moll - 1w ago

Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, reflected on the eighth season of Call the Midwife. Tina reviewed A Keeper by Graham Norton. Jean made a good attempt to read collected short stories of Walter de la Mare.

I read the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray in high school. I thought that I remembered nothing except that it was a large and impressive book.

Recently, I watched the mini-series produced by ITV and Amazon Studios. It aired last fall in Britain and is available for streaming with Amazon Prime.

The 1848 novel by William Makepeace Thackeray has been made into film and TV series several times. This 2018 version stars Olivia Cooke as the main character, Becky Sharp.

It turns out that I remembered much more than I thought. The character and place names, especially, were familiar.

Watching this mini-series solved a long-running mystery of my mind.

I started reading historical novels set during the Regency period probably a decade after high school ended. I always wondered why the Battle of Waterloo and the parties that preceded it in Brussels were so familiar to me. Now, I know — I read about them in Vanity Fair in very memorable scenes.

I don’t remember enough to say whether the mini-series is faithful to the book. Critics mostly say that it did pretty well.

Becky Sharp is a wonderfully complicated character. She is selfish, often, but occasionally manages a moment of selflessness. She’s not admirable on all fronts, but she displays a confidence and ambition that modern women still struggle to balance with other aspects of humanity. For myself, I want that confidence, but hope to display it with more compassion than Miss Sharp usually manages.

Have you read or seen Vanity Fair? What did you think?


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Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. Tina tried to like The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan. Jean enjoyed the two memoirs by E. H. Shepard, illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. Becky loved the historical novel The Gown by Jennifer Robson, that features the making of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress in 1947. Georgette Heyer’s mystery Footsteps in the Dark didn’t grab Becky’s attention quite so well.

PBS recently aired the 8th season of Call the Midwife. I managed to watch the episodes in the two-week window that each episode streamed from PBS.org. The DVDs have been published and are likely at your local library. Netflix has the Christmas Special that began Season 8 — eventually, I imagine, they’ll get the rest of the episodes to stream.

As I wrote in my post about binge-watching the first six seasons, I’ve always appreciated the stories of strong women from this series.

Season 8 magnifies that by focusing on women’s rights issues. A thread runs through the whole season about the dangers of back alley abortions with unexpected impacts on the midwives.

In Episode 2, though, we get a glimpse of an earlier struggle for women’s rights. Nurse Lucille fights for an elderly patient who once fought for voting rights for women. Miss Millgrove takes a while to warm up to Lucille.

Miss Millgrove and nurse Lucille in the 2nd episode of season 8 of Call the Midwife.

The phrase “woman of substance” invaded my thoughts in the weeks since I watched this episode — a goal that I strive for.

Sister Monica Joan and Nurse Crane guide Lucille from frustration with Miss Millgrove to admiration.

As a resident of Missouri, one of the states where legislation recently passed that will effectively ban safe abortions, I was deeply moved by the last part of Season 8 of Call the Midwife. Illegal abortions damage women in so many different ways. Here’s what a character from the last episode says to one of the Nonnatus House nurses about the situation in London in 1964:

“Until you girls, with all your training and all your learning, sort something out with the men who make the law, there will be names being whispered, and money changing hands in every back street in England. Because when lives go wrong, they can put them right.”

Have you seen Season 8 yet?


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Joy's Book Blog by Joy Weese Moll - 3w ago

Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I watched the 1939 version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, featuring Basil Rathbone as the detective. Tina was looking for a lighter read and found one (mostly) with The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary.

Today, May 24, 2019, is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Queen Victoria. How do you celebrate a queen’s 200th birthday?

The Royal Mint has issued a commemorative £5 coin. I think we can be sure that it won’t circulate since you’ll pay £13 to get it!

The £5 coin to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday

Besides the portrait of Victoria, the front of the coin has a bit of a steampunk theme going on with all the gears encasing pictures that demonstrate progress made during the Victorian age. The reverse of the coin shows both Victoria and Albert — Albert’s 200th birthday is in August.

Two new exhibits begin today at Kensington Palace, where Victoria spent her formative years.

Victoria: A Royal Childhood tells the story of her childhood “in the rooms where she was born and raised.” This is a new permanent exhibit, so we may all dream of seeing it someday.

Victoria: Woman and Crown features surviving items from the queen’s adult wardrobe, including a stylish pair of silver boots. The exhibit also explores Queen Victoria’s fascination with India, including the diaries that she wrote in Urdu.

Silver boots to be displayed at Kensington Palace starting today.

Osborne Palace points out that many of Victoria and Albert’s birthday celebrations occurred at that location. Seven gifts given between members of the royal family are featured in their exhibit to honor the 200th birthdays. The Royal Presents at Osborne page includes descriptions and pictures of each.

I love the quote that Osborn Palace shared from Queen Victoria’s diary that she wrote on her birthday in 1852 when she turned 33:

It is always a delightful moment going into the room where my presents are arranged, and I still have the same feeling I had as a child.


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Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I learned about what happened to The Crystal Palace after the end of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Tina returned to give us the review of Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly after providing us a teaser a couple of weeks ago.

The Hound of the Baskervilles from 1939 was the first of fourteen films that starred Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson.

With a classic story, like this, it’s hard to remember which versions I’ve seen.

I remember reading The Hound of the Baskervilles about twenty-five years ago (in my early 30s) since I somehow missed reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories when I was younger.

The 1939 version with Basil Rathbone as the detective
By Source, Fair use, Link

I know I’ve seen Rathbone and Bruce in these roles, but I can’t be sure if it was this film or another. I probably saw Jeremy Brett play Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles — I certainly saw many other episodes of the series that ran on ITV from 1984 to 1994 and was rebroadcast in the US on PBS.

More recently, of course, I saw how this story was handled in Sherlock, the modern take on this character with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. I delighted in the references to the original story that peppered the new version in off-kilter and unexpected ways.

The 1939 version is more evocative of Golden Age Hollywood than England.

The costumes and architecture work as passably Victorian and English.

The landscape looks like a Western with fog. They presumably filmed it in California.

The acting and cinematography pull me right into the mood of black and white films of that era like The Thin Man films or Stella Dallas. Not a bad thing, of course, but an entirely different mood than I get from most things I enjoy for British Isles Friday.

What are your experiences with The Hound of the Baskervilles?


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Joy's Book Blog by Joy Weese Moll - 1M ago

Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I gushed over Mary Poppins Returns. Heather enjoyed A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews, a romance that takes the reader from London to India in Victorian times. Becky read The Tempest by William Shakespeare and shares some great quotes. Gaele reviewed The Silver Ladies of Penny Lane by Dee MacDonald and They Call Me the Cat Lady by Amy Miller — both with intriguing titles!

The Crystal Palace keeps invading my thoughts recently.

I’ll start with the sad part, so we can move on to happier things. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire in 1936. The historic photo, available on Wikipedia, feels particularly painful after watching the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral a few weeks ago.

As we saw in Paris, a huge crowd developed to watch the fire. In 1936, the crowd included Winston Churchill who said, “This is the end of an age.” Besides the loss of the structure, Churchill and other Londoners were likely also thinking of the abdication crisis broiling at that moment, causing many people to question the idea of what it meant to be British.

Season 3 of Victoria featured the Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition and I wrote about my connections to that history in my review post in March.

At the end of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was moved to the top of Sydenham Hill in southeast London, and substantially redesigned in the process. It housed many exhibits over the years. During World War I it was used as a training ground for sailors. After the war, it became the first site of the Imperial War Museum. It went into decline in the Edwardian period but had been restored and was returning to popularity at the time of the fire in 1936.

I was motivated to learn the later history because of a scene in Mary Poppins Returns. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” reminiscent of “Step in Time” from the original Mary Poppins, is an athletic dance routine performed by London’s lamplighters in front of the Crystal Palace.

Nothing in the film says that the big glass building in the background is the Crystal Palace, but I’m not the only one who thinks so. BBC America published several of the concept art pieces in this article and they, also, identified the location as the Crystal Palace.

See what you think:

Trip a Little Light Fantastic (From "Mary Poppins Returns") - YouTube

These feels like the lines for our times:

So when life is getting scary
Be your own illuminary,
Who can shine the light for all the world to see,
As you trip a little light fantastic with me.


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Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I shared my latest discovery in a life-long journey of finding ways to quiet an active mind in order to fall asleep, The Honest Guys. Tina gave us the first lines of the suspense novel, Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly — now, I’m looking forward to her review! Gaele reviewed two books: The Time of Our Lives by Portia MacIntosh and A Perfect Cornish Summer by Phillipa Ashley.

The 1964 version of Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke is one of my favorite movies ever. I saw it for the first time when I was 18 — back in the days when you had to wait for a film to be re-released in theaters to see it. My mother felt bad that I was about to go away to college without having seen Mary Poppins, so she took me to see it during the 1980 re-release.

The 1964 original film 

In the VHS years, Mary Poppins was one of the few cassettes that Rick and I owned instead of rented. We wanted one movie in our collection that we could watch with children on the occasions that one or more of our niece and nephews spent time at our house. We borrowed the phrase “spit-spot” as a funnier version of “hurry up” and we still sing songs from the movie at any appropriate moment that involves spoons full of sugar, desires to sound precocious, or chimney sweeps.

With that long history, I was a little worried that I would be disappointed by Mary Poppins Returns.

Fortunately, I was delighted by the first minute. Lamplighter, Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda), sings a love song to London while bicycling around its greatest landmarks. The opening titles are backed by paintings of even more landmarks. I’ll have to watch it again to name them all, but here were some: the bell and clock tower of Westminster Palace, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Mary Poppins Returns sealed the deal, for me, as a worthy successor to the original film with the book-themed song-and-dance number during the animated sequence. This scene has giant books with pop-up scenes, a rapid-fire verse that needs a rap singer to perform it, and a gorgeous color scheme featuring purple. And, the dancing penguins from the original film. How could I not love this?

The 2018 sequel 

Here’s the introduction to “A Cover is Not the Book”, as sung by Mary Poppins (played by Emily Blunt):

Uncle Gutenberg was a book worm
And he lived on Charing Cross.
The memory of his volumes brings a smile.
He would read me lots of stories
(when he wasn’t on the sauce).
Now I’d like to share the wisdom
Of my favorite bibliophile.

What book lover could resist that song? It won’t ruin the plot to watch this number before you see the whole film, so take a look:

A Cover Is Not the Book (From "Mary Poppins Returns") - YouTube

Couldn’t catch all the words? Try this version:

A Cover Is Not the Book (Sing-Along Edition From “Mary Poppins Returns") - YouTube

Like the original film, there’s some darkness and depth in this version. The grown-up Michael Banks (played by Ben Whishaw) and his three children grieve the loss of his wife. The bad economic times impact the plot and some of the characters. As she did in the earlier story, Mary Poppins brightens the day without dismissing the reality of the pain.

Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns? What did you think?


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Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I shared my 11th post of my series to help Americans understand what’s going on with Brexit. Sim shared initial thoughts about A Discovery of Witches (and a photo of herself with the lead actor). Becky was saddened by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. Fortunately, Jane Austen is always good for some cheer — Sense and Sensibility.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how a bedtime story read by Stephen Fry helped me sleep in a noisy hotel room. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with various guided meditations and sleep music on YouTube.

My favorite discovery is The Honest Guys — here’s their website and here’s their YouTube channel. Originally, they were a couple of British guys who gave “honest opinions and reviews on various self-improvement methods and systems” on YouTube. Eventually, they developed their own guided meditations and stories, but they were kind of stuck with the name by then. The team also includes a woman who writes the scripts and has a fascination for J.R.R. Tolkien.

I’ve now had the experience of literally falling asleep while listening, but it doesn’t usually happen with the sleep meditations. I’m more likely to fall asleep with their stories that lead the listener into the hobbits’ Shire and the elves’ Rivendell.

I fell asleep to this one a couple of nights ago and listened to it again last night, just so I could find out how it ends.

GUIDED MEDITATION "The Company of Elves" MIDDLE EARTH MEDITATIONS - YouTube

Check out these two playlists for many more ways to visit Middle Earth: Middle Earth Meditations and Lord of the Rings Meditations.

Have you tried sleep meditations or bedtime stories? What works for you?


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