November Wrap-up & December TBR

Welcome to another monthly wrap-up and TBR post!

500November has been a busy month, and I didn’t get quite as many reviews posted as I would have liked, but I did hit a big milestone on this blog: 500 followers! I’ve been blogging for a bit over six months now, and I feel really lucky to have been able to connect with so many other book lovers!!

I’ve also been working really hard on my Instagram, and I realized this month while looking back at some of my earlier photos just how far I’ve come. Looking at two photos of the same book taken two months apart, I realized that I’ve learned a lot about setting up photos and also that you can’t compensate for crappy lighting through editing. 😂

@jennabookish on Instagram

But let’s move on to the good stuff: the books! All hyperlinks in book titles will lead to my reviews!

Books I reviewed in November…

The standout book of this month was probably My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. The protagonist was ridiculously precocious for her age and totally unrealistic, but the whole book was so charming and I adored how her grandmother’s fairy tales bled into Elsa’s understanding of the real world. This was my third book by Backman and I’ve really enjoyed all three; I have a copy of Beartown which I really need to make time to read. If you’re in need of a feel-good read that will also probably make you cry at some point, pick up one of Fredrik Backman’s novels.

And now on to December…

As always, I’ll be reading this month’s Girly Book Club pick. In this case, they’ve given me an excuse to reread one of my favorite books, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You can read my review of it here. This novel follows the story of Evelyn Hugo, an elderly woman who was a Hollywood starlet when she was young. As she is nearing the end of her life, she allows a young journalist to interview her for a biography to be published after her death. Evelyn Hugo is ready to reveal all of her secrets to the world.

I also have some new NetGalley approvals I’m hoping to finish this month:


Women Talking, by Miriam Toews
A story about Mennonite women facing sexual assault and the possibility of needing to escape their community into a world that’s totally foreign to them.

Killing Adam, by Earik Beann
This one looks like a fun science fiction/dystopian novel.

The Night Olivia Fellby Christina McDonald
This is a mystery/thriller about a teenage girl in a coma after a mysterious accident and her mother’s search for the truth. I’ve already started it, and I’m not super into it so far, honestly. It seems very similar to Reconstructing Amelia, and I’d be shocked to learn the author hasn’t read that book.

The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
This book may be a good fit for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale. It involves women essentially signing over their rights to live in a super luxurious retreat for nine months, all while carrying a baby for the wealthy clients of the Farm. Based on the blurb, it seems like there should be an interesting exploration of sexism, classism, and racism.

That’s it for today.

Thanks for reading! What was your favorite book that you read in November? Is there anything you’re most looking forward to reading in December? Share in the comments!


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Review – The Air You Breathe, by Frances de Pontes Peebles

The Air You Breathe
by Frances de Pontes Peebles

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 464 Pages

Release date: August 21, 2018


The story of an intense female friendship fueled by affection, envy and pride–and each woman’s fear that she would be nothing without the other.

Skinny, nine-year-old orphaned Dores is working in the kitchen of a sugar plantation in 1930s Brazil when in walks a girl who changes everything. Graça, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy sugar baron, is clever, well fed, pretty, and thrillingly ill behaved. Born to wildly different worlds, Dores and Graça quickly bond over shared mischief, and then, on a deeper level, over music.

One has a voice like a songbird; the other feels melodies in her soul and composes lyrics to match. Music will become their shared passion, the source of their partnership and their rivalry, and for each, the only way out of the life to which each was born. But only one of the two is destined to be a star. Their intimate, volatile bond will determine each of their fortunes–and haunt their memories.

Traveling from Brazil’s inland sugar plantations to the rowdy streets of Lapa in Rio de Janeiro, from Los Angeles during the Golden Age of Hollywood back to the irresistible drumbeat of home, The Air You Breathe unfurls a moving portrait of a lifelong friendship–its unparalleled rewards and lasting losses–and considers what we owe to the relationships that shape our lives.



“Fame is longing. Not yours, but the audience’s. A star is nothing more, nothing less, than the public face of private desire.” 

The Air You Breathe is a story about music, ambition, power, and love. Dores has a lopsided friendship with Graça, tainted by Graça’s selfishness and Dores’ position as a servant in her home. As the girls grow older, sexuality further complicates things. If your reading experience is anything like mine, you will find yourself in the unusual position of disliking Graça while totally understanding why Dores loves her. Despite all her flaws, she is charismatic, almost magnetic, and Dores would do almost anything for her.

While factors like classism make the scenario in The Air You Breathe particularly extreme, I think most of us will relate to Dores on some level. We’ve all had a friend or significant other who was clearly less invested in the relationship than we were. We’ve all felt unappreciated and stuck around anyway, at least for a while. The relationship between the two girls is so well developed and believable, and watching it change as they grew up together was captivating, with love and resentment playing equal parts.

“If remembering tells us who we are, then forgetting keeps us sane. If we recalled every song we’d ever heard, every touch we’d ever felt, every pain no matter how small, every sadness no matter how petty, every joy no matter how selfish, we could surely lose our minds.” 

The novel is intensely atmospheric, transporting us from 1930’s Brazil to 1940’s Hollywood. Bazil is characterized by the samba music both Graça and Dores fall in love with. Hollywood is equal parts glamour and struggle, as fame and success can’t shield the characters from racism and suspicion.

The author’s writing style is eloquent, almost poetic, and simply watching her play with words was one of the highlights of the novel. This worked particularly well as it is told from Dores’ point of view, and she is passionate about writing. Dores develops a distinct voice and her love of language shines through on every single page. The Air You Breathe is an emotional, beautiful read.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! If you’ve read The Air You Breathe, please share your thoughts in the comments! What’s another novel you’ve read lately where relationships between female characters were integral to the plot?


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Review – Rage Becomes her: The Power of Women’s Anger, by Soraya Chemaly

Rage Becomes Her
by Soraya Chemaly

Genre: Nonfiction, Essays

Length: 364 Pages

Release date: September 11, 2018


A transformative book urging twenty-first century-women to embrace their anger and harness it as a tool for lasting personal and societal change.

Women are angry, and it isn’t hard to figure out why.

We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive, or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too made-up. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. Yes, yes it would.

Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and an entire lifetime of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. We’ve been told for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet our anger is a vital instrument, our radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.

We are so often told to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements in this world would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women no longer interested in making nice at all costs.

Following in the footsteps of classic feminist manifestos like The Feminine Mystique and Our Bodies, OurselvesRage Becomes Her is an eye-opening book for the twenty-first century woman: an engaging, accessible credo offering us the tools to re-understand our anger and harness its power to create lasting positive change.



“In my experience, it is difficult for many adults to accept that boys can and should control themselves and meet the same behavioral standards that we expect from girls. It’s even harder to accept that girls feel angry and have legitimate rights not to make themselves cheerfully available as resources for boys’ development.”

Rage Becomes Her is a timely and extensive exploration of women’s anger. Chemaly discusses varying aspects of this topic, from the differences in the expectations we set for male and female children, to the ways race intersects with gender to set our expectations. (For example, angry black girl stereotypes vs. the image of Asian women as inherently submissive.) There is a clear effort to make the topic intersectional and to show respect for the varying backgrounds and experiences of women.

While Chemaly is definitely making arguments and sharing her own opinions throughout the essays, the book is also brimming with facts. It’s evident that the work was very well researched and the author frequently cites studies to support her points.

Chemaly doesn’t make the argument that the sexism imbued in our society never harms men, but she does make an interesting point about her personal experiences from speaking to students in high schools throughout her career. When she asks students to give examples of sexism against their own gender, the girls, as a general rule, speak from personal experience. They talk about things that happen to them or things they have personally witnessed.

The boys tend to speak in hypotheticals and generalizations: disparities in family court, or the expectation that a man be the provider in a relationship. It’s very commonplace for feminists to talk about ways that the patriarchy ends up inadvertently hurting men, but Chemaly seems to worry that this tendency is an indication of missing the point; men have set the rules that now hurt men. Then the men who are hurt… blame feminists.

This review feels painfully brief, but I find it difficult to express my feelings about this book. If you are a woman, you will probably find the contents extremely validating and sometimes enraging. If you are a man, I hope you will find it eye-opening. It’s something that is at times difficult to read, but I think it’s important. Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! If you’ve read Rage Becomes Her please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


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WWW Wednesday 11/28/2018

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. To participate, just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


I’m currently reading…


The Night Olivia Fell
by Christina McDonald

This is a NetGalley ARC for a January release. It follows the story of a teenage girl named Olivia and her mother Abi, alternating viewpoints between them. Abi’s sections take place after the night of Olivia’s apparent accident which has left her brain dead, and Olivia’s sections are through flashbacks leading up to the accident. So far, this feels eerily similar to Reconstructing Amelia, but I’m withholding judgement until I see where it’s all going.

Maybe in Another Life
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This one is a quick read with an interesting premise. It follows the protagonist, Hannah, through two wildly different story lines, hinging on whether or not she leaves a party with her ex boyfriend one night. I think we’ve all thought about how seemingly small choices can set us on a path that changes everything. What if leaving for work at one time vs. two minutes later is the difference between being in the right place or the wrong place  when a horrible accident takes place? What if you’re scheduling college classes and the best friend you haven’t met yet is in the 9:00 AM class while you’re considering taking it at 10:00? Maybe in Another Life is kind of a fun thought experiment that takes this premise and runs with it. Hannah’s life in either scenario bears little resemblance to the other. Both have challenges and joys that have nothing to do with the single decision that set her on that path; what was the “right” choice?

The Gilded Wolves 
by Roshani Chokshi

This is a super fun book and I really feel like I should have finished it by now. Oops. It’s a young adult fantasy novel with super interesting magic and world building, as well as lots of attention put into representation. It takes place in Paris in 1889 and has a fun heist story at the center of it. Basically, just read it. It’s good.

I recently finished reading…

The Air You Breathe
by Frances de Pontes Peebles
(Full review to come)

This was a book of the month pick over the summer that I finally made time to read, and I’m so glad I did. It’s a historical fiction novel which follows the story of Dores, a servant on a sugar plantation in Brazil in the 1930’s. She has a close but fraught friendship with Graca, the daughter of the plantation owner. The story opens when they are both young girls and follows them through adulthood as they bond over their shared love of music and dream of running away and becoming radio stars. If you liked The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, you may want to consider picking this one up.

A Spark of Light
by Jodi Picoult
(Full review here)

Jodi Picoult used to be a favorite author of mine, but I’ve enjoyed her work less and less as time goes on, in part because her books have started to feel excessively formulaic to me. A Spark of Light sounded intriguing based on the premise (a hostage situation at a women’s health clinic which provides abortions) but it felt like the story itself was overshadowed largely by rhetoric surrounding both sides of the abortion debate. I know Picoult often writes her novels as a means to explore a particular hot-button issue, but in this particular novel it left the story itself feeling overly thin.


The Only Woman in the Room
by Marie Benedict
(ARC – full review to come)

This is another historical fiction novel, but it’s based on an actual historical figure, Hedy Lamarr. It took me a little bit to get into this one, but once I did, I could not stop reading. Hedy Lamarr (born Hedy Kiesler) escaped Europe while Hitler was on the rise and traveled to Hollywood to become an actress. She meets with success there, but it haunted by a sense of survivor’s guilt over what’s happening with the war, and is driven to find a way to help with the war effort. I really enjoyed this novel, but I was a bit disheartened over where it ended. Hedy Lamarr died in 2000 at the age of 85, but The Only Woman in the Room ends during WWII. If you are interested to know more about her later life, I highly recommend checking out the documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. As of this writing, it’s available on Netflix.

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger
by Soraya Chemaly
(Full review to come)

This is a collection of essays and it’s extremely clear while reading just how much research went into it. Chemaly cites study after study to back up her arguments, and also makes great efforts to be intersectional in  her feminism. Rage Becomes Her addresses not just the oppression of women, but how it intersects with other factors such as race and sexual orientation.

Up next…

Killing Adam
by Earik Beann

This book will be released in January and I recently received an ARC through NetGalley.

“The world runs on ARCs. Altered Reality Chips. Small implants behind the left ear that allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine. The network controls everything, from traffic, to food production, to law enforcement. Some proclaim it a Golden Age of humanity. Others have begun to see the cracks. Few realize that behind it all, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society, there exists a being with an agenda all his own: the singularity called Adam, who believes he is God.

Jimmy Mahoney’s brain can’t accept an ARC. Not since his football injury from the days when the league was still offline. “ARC-incompatible” is what the doctors told him. Worse than being blind and deaf, he is a man struggling to cling to what’s left of a society that he is no longer a part of. His wife spends twenty-three hours a day online, only coming off when her chip forcibly disconnects her so she can eat. Others are worse. Many have died, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs.

After being unwittingly recruited by a rogue singularity to play a role in a war that he doesn’t understand, Jimmy learns the truth about Adam and is thrown into a life-and-death struggle against the most powerful mathematical mind the world has ever known. But what can one man do against a being that exists everywhere and holds limitless power? How can one man, unable to even get online, find a way to save his wife, and the entire human race, from destruction?”


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What are you reading this week? Any thoughts on the books listed in this post?  Please feel free to discuss or share WWW links in the comments!

Review – A Spark of Light, by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light
by Jodi Picoult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Length: 352 Pages

Release date: October 2, 2018

Publisher: Ballantine Books


The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.



Jodi Picoult was one of my favorite authors back in high school; I still vividly remember staying up late to read My Sister’s Keeper and crying my eyes out. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to find her books a bit too formulaic and found myself gravitating away from them. But there was so much hype around the release of A Spark of Light that I decided to check it out. Unfortunately, my experience with this book was rather underwhelming.

Let me start with the structure: the timeline is backwards. Why? Good question. It doesn’t feel like it adds anything substantial to the story. When Megan Miranda did this with All the Missing Girls, I didn’t care much for it then either, but at least it had the function of placing a big reveal late in the novel which happened chronologically early. I’m not sure what Picoult is going for with this other than trying to make it different for the sake of being different, but it just made it unnecessarily difficult to follow at times.

I liked that Picoult made a solid attempt at portraying varying viewpoints, although I think she fell a little flat in this regard. The writing seemed to suffer when she was portraying a viewpoint that wasn’t her own; consequently, some characters’ arguments fall rather flat and don’t always seem to ring true even in their own heads.

The father-daughter relationship was probably one of the biggest strengths of the novel. Hugh McElroy, the hostage negotiator, doesn’t realize his daughter Wren is inside the clinic when he first makes contact with the shooter. I think the uneasy and sometimes secretive nature of the relationship between a father and his teenage daughter will feel familiar to a lot of readers. Wren loves her father, but there are some things she could never tell him, and needing birth control goes at the top of that list.

Overall, though, I think the biggest drawback for me was that facts about abortion and musings about abortion rights took up what felt like a disproportionate amount of the book. It’s not that I have an issue with that subject matter; I read collections of essays about feminism on a semi-regular basis, so I obviously willingly encounter this topic often. Given what I gathered about the story from the blurb and the site of the hostage situation, I obviously expected these themes to come into play, but I did not expect them to overshadow the rest of the story. The events felt very secondary here, like a mere vehicle to insert rhetoric. Basically, it ended up not feeling much like a novel at all.

Purchase links

Amazon | Barnes & NobleBook Depository | IndieBound

Thank you for reading! Have you read A Spark of Light or any of Jodi Picoult’s other work? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


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Review – On a Cold Dark Sea, by Elizabeth Blackwell

On a Cold Dark Sea

by Elizabeth Blackwell

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 279 Pages

Release date:


On April 15, 1912, three women climbed into Lifeboat 21 and watched in horror as the Titanic sank into the icy depths. They were strangers then…

Con artist Charlotte Digby lied her way through London and onto the Titanic. The disaster could be her chance at a new life—if she hides the truth about her past. Esme Harper, a wealthy American, mourns the end of a passionate affair and fears that everything beautiful is slipping from her grasp. And Anna Halversson, a Swedish farm girl in search of a fresh start in America, is tormented by the screams that ring out from the water. Is one of them calling her name?

Twenty years later, a sudden death brings the three women back together, forcing them to face the impossible choices they made, the inconceivable loss, and the secrets they have kept for far too long.



Elizabeth Blackwell’s On a Cold Dark Sea is a rather ambitious novel in a certain sense. It seeks to sketch out the lives of three separate women, each from varying backgrounds and social classes, over the course of 20 years, with the focal point being the moment their lives converged: the sinking of the Titanic. Charlotte, Esme, and Anna end up on the same lifeboat and their lives are forever changed in drastically different ways.

While I found each of these characters interesting in her own right, particularly Charlotte with her background of a life of crime sparked by her infatuation with a disreputable man, it felt like the novel did not have enough space to fully develop each women’s stories, with its length of less than 300 pages.

The twenty years between the sinking of the Titanic and the later part of their stories are largely skipped over, with some rough sketches of the intervening years filled in through the reminiscing of each woman in the later timeline. While recounting each of these twenty years for each woman would surely make for an overly long and tedious novel, I can’t help but feel like there was something missing.

However, there were some things Blackwell accomplished quite deftly in this novel. One of the running themes of the story is that of survivor’s guilt and the varying degrees to which different characters suffer from it. In a way, this can become a defining trait of a person, and Blackwell illustrates the wildly different ways this can manifest; can a sense of being unfairly spared lead a person to try to live a more virtuous life? What are the ways this niggling doubt can destroy someone entirely?

“It was very dark and very cold. We did our best in trying circumstances. We survived.”

These doubts are exacerbating in some cases by the lack of understanding from the general public. Blackwell draws heavily on historical resources to make this point. There are passages loosely based on the transcripts from the Titanic Disaster Hearings which exemplify how difficult it was for the survivors to express the pressures and panic they endured as the ship went down. Why were lifeboats deployed at less than half capacity? Why was a safety drill cancelled the morning before the sinking? How could any one person, having endured the chaos of unthinkable disaster, reasonably answer these questions?

Blackwell also seems to have a great interest in exploring the moral quandaries raised by some of the survivors. Again, drawing on real historical resources, she posits scenarios which are clearly meant to make the reader ask what they would do in the given situation. Survivors on the under-loaded lifeboat are forced to ask whether or not they should attempt to rescue passengers who are stranded in the water, fearing their boat may be capsized in the attempt.

Overall, this was an interesting exploration of a real-life disaster, but its length left it feeling a bit lacking. The story was atmospheric and the characters were interesting, but they could have been fleshed out more thoroughly than they were. The 20 years between the sinking of the Titanic and the remainder of the story feel a bit hazy despite Blackwell’s attempts at filling in the gaps. On a Cold Dark Sea is an enjoyable read, but had there been a bit more substance to it, I think it would have been truly great.

Purchase links

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Thank you for reading! Do you enjoy historical fiction? Do you find yourself gravitating towards a particular time period in the books you read? Let’s discuss in the comments!


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Review – My Plain Jane

My Plain Jane
by Cynthia Hand,
Brodi Ashton,
& Jodi Meadows

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings

Length: 464 Pages

Release date: June 26, 2018


You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.



Let me preface this by saying that I thought My Lady Jane was loads of fun, and I went into this book with high hopes. My Plain Jane, like the prior installment of “The Lady Janies,” relies heavily on the reader connecting with the humor of the narrators. While My Lady Jane was good for more than a few chuckles, My Plain Jane fell rather flat. I was left with the overall impression that it was simply too ridiculous, which is really saying something, considering the prior book had a main character who frequently transformed into a horse.

But aside from the issues with the humor, I think I failed to connect with this book because the titular character simply did not feel like Jane Eyre to me. The narrators’ Jane is boy-crazy, unambitious, and bland. Her ability to see spirits should have been an easy route to make her more interesting, but her character simply never clicked with me. On a similar note, I was never cared much for Mr. Rochester in the original source material, but if you were, be forewarned that you will not be a fan of his characterization in this retelling. Despite Jane’s doe-eyed adoration, Mr. Rochester is not presented in flattering terms, to say the least.

Charlotte Brontë herself has also been inserted into the narrative; she was at Lowood with Jane and follows her after she leaves. She considers Jane to be her very best friend, and she is (of course) writing a novel with a protagonist inspired by Jane. The problem with the insertion of Charlotte is that she draws the focus away from Jane in a big way. While Charlotte is deeply attached to Jane, her story is also largely dominated by a desire to work with The Society (essentially, to become a ghost hunter) and a love interest. Jane has become almost a secondary character in the retelling of her own story. This is not necessarily a problem, but the plot lines pushing Jane out of the story must be sufficiently interesting to justify it. They were… not.

Perhaps My Lady Jane was too tough an act to follow. It was a weird, hilarious delight. My Plain Jane unfortunately fell short in comparison. I’m still curious to see what comes next in The Lady Janies series, but I’d recommend skipping this installment.

Purchase links

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Thank you for reading! Have you read or watched anything based on a classic novel lately? What did you think? Let’s discuss in the comments!


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