February Books

This post is a little late but here’s a recap of the books I read in February. I’ve already reviewed four of the February books in previous posts (see PP:DOTD, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Austenland & Pride & Prejudice).

Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters by Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters

For the sake of full disclosure I have a little bit of a crush on the author. I met him at a lecture and he was amiable and charming, so I may be a little biased when I say I really liked the book. The book is set within the Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility story only this time with a Sea Monster infestation. One of the bigger players in the book, Colonel Brandon has a face of tentacles (don’t worry he’s not a bad guy). I thought this book was fun and had a more natural monster infiltration. I appreciated that the author really took the time to get the Austen writing voice right.

Recommended for those that enjoy the ridiculous.

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I warned you that February would be full of Austen. I love stories about second chances, especially second chance love stories. The main players in our story are Anne Elliot and Capt. Fredrick Wentworth. Anne falls in love with Wentworth, the family objects because he is poor so Anne rejects him. Wentworth joins the navy and gets his fortune and comes back rich, a Captain and also bitter towards Anne. This book is my third favorite of the Austen novels. It’s heart wrenching to read the interaction between the two when Wentworth comes back.

Recommended for lovers of second chances and Jane Austen.

Across the Nightingale Floor (Tale of the Otori book 1) by Lian Hearn

A wonderful tale of secret legacy and feudal Japan. The story is fast paced and engrossing. A great book to pick up on cold days where you just want to stay inside and cuddle up with something fun. I liked that there wasn’t always a happy ending with the story lines. I think it’s those disappointments that pave the way for sequels. A friend lent me this book as a primer to his ninja ways. This book does a good job of alluding to the mythology of the ninja, though they never expressly call themselves that. Very enjoyable read.

Recommended for boys who like adventure and ninjas.

Grass for His Pillow (Tales of the Otori book 2) by Lian Hearn

I feel like the 2nd book in a series tends to be the weakest. The first book sets up the back story and the second is that middle coming of age story that sets up the big battles in the third. Takeo made choices in this book that surprised me, which I enjoyed. This book isn’t a main course story but merely the appetizer for the big battles to come in the third. Looking forward to it though.

Recommended for anyone who loves adventure stories.


A Woman’s Wit

One of the great things about New York is that it is chock full of museums. Art, culture, books, music, science, there is a museum for it all. The things that makes me giddy is that most museums offer free hours, most are only once a month but many are every week. I choose this week to take advantage of the free hours at the Morgan Library. They are hosting a Jane Austen exhibit through March, that I was eager to check out.

Now if you are unfamiliar with Austen, you are likely a man who has had little or no interaction with women. Surely you have heard of Pride & Prejudice or Mr. Darcy. Austen’s stories center on the lives of women and are mainly stories about people falling in love despite social constructs and the usual obstructions to love. In other words Austen is the foundation of every romantic comedy you have ever seen.

The exhibit showcased many of Jane’s letters to her sister Cassandra. I am sad that hand written letters are seemingly obsolete. Jane had writing on every nook and cranny of the page. Paper was expensive and therefore precious in her time. Her letters were full of wit and good humor. Like every other Jane Austen fan I think Jane and I would be great friends and pen pals if she were around today.

One of the highlights of the exhibit was a complete manuscript of Lady Susan. This is the only surviving full manuscript of any of Jane’s novels. Looking at the pages you can really see the expertise she wielded in her craft.

We spent a lot of time in the Austen exhibit taking everything in, but we also were able to check out J.P. Morgan’s personal library. Wowzers! I love a grand personal library and this is one of the grander I’ve seen. It is my dream to one day have a library; filled floor to ceiling with beautiful hardbound books.

This was just one of the rooms of the library. He had every type of book there; history, children’s books, novels. I personally wouldn’t put them behind the glass doors he had (books shouldn’t be jailed) but it was beautiful nonetheless.

My roommate was so kind as to join me for my little bookworm adventure and we capped off the evening with some hot cocoa and Sense and Sensibility.

What I’ve been up to

Yes I know it’s been a while, but I’m back and ready to catch you up on what’s been going on with me out here.

Most exciting thing to happen since I got back.

I saw Ira Glass! I was walking to the subway after finding out an event he was hosting was full and met him along the way. He was in a hurry but gracious, and yes he sounds exactly like he does on the radio.

I spent a fun Friday evening with my new roommate Tianne exploring the lower eastside. First stop was the KGB Bar.

We came for a poetry reading and were surprised to find the placed packed. The room was overflowing with people sitting on the narrow stairway straining to hear the poems. The little that I heard was good, but we didn’t catch much of it because we decided to leave and head to a little wine bar around the corner. I would like to come back though and check out another reading. This place is known to host some up and coming literati.

I couldn’t find a link to the wine bar, but it was a classy establishment. I enjoyed a lovely glass of white wine.

Next stop was some grub at Katz Deli.

Tianne and I split a pastrami sandwich. It was delicious. The pastrami was much more flavorful than Carnegie Deli’s. Half a sandwich was a perfect portion.

Next up a dark and stormy at Pianos.

This place was great. Two rooms with music, the type varies from week to week. Lots of seating. It can get pretty loud, but it encourages close conversations. A fun place to go with a group of 3 or 4 friends.

After Pianos we got a little lost and found ourselves at a little dessert shop. Can’t remember the name now, but then again there wasn’t anything too remarkable to mention. It was a fun Friday night of exploring.

The other night I went to an Austen Mashups discussion at the Morgan Library.

They have an Austen exhibit on display until mid-March. I haven’t checked it out yet but will soon. The discussion included authors of various Austen mashups. If you’re a fan of Austen, you’re probably aware of the various pastiche stories (P&P from Darcy’s pov is a common incarnation). Recently there is a trend toward inserting monsters into literary works. For example.

and more recently

The author Ben H. Winters was on hand to discuss his inspiration for the Sea Monsters mashup. It was fun listening to the panel discuss Austen because they echoed so many of the reasons I love her writing. The language, cadence, dialogue, and suspense of her writing was highlighted. I can’t wait to check out the full exhibit.

In case you were wondering, I have read P&P&Z. I don’t really have a favorable review of that one. I’m giving S&S&S M a shot just because the author was charming and funny. I’ll let you know how that one is when I’m done.

Those are the highlights so far. It’s hard to believe it’s almost February. I’ll try to update more regularly now that I’ve finished unpacking and gotten over my cold, so till then enjoy the rest of Jan.

Completely Smitten

I love pretty things and get so much inspiration from my talented and design inclined friends. One of them being my friend Angelique. She is chock full of fun diy ideas and manages to find some of the coolest gifts. When I got back to NY I was delighted to find a package from her, and of course her gift indulged my pretty things & Austen obsession.

Thanks Ange! I’m in the middle of an Austen kick right now, so re-reading P&P in this beautifully bound version is perfect.

Also another inadvertent gift from Angelique is my new earring display.

I had a pretty white wooden box that used to hold my stationary that I re-purposed to hold my jewelry. I hate laying my dangly earrings so was brainstorming ways to hang them. I used the muslin bag included in the P&P package and another muslin bag from Ange’s wedding invitations. Thanks Ange, you’re the best!


I started listening to a podcast recently from the BBC where the premise of the program is you’re stranded on a desert island and you are allowed 3 albums (comedy albums & audio books count as well), 3 books (the Bible is out of the running, the Gideons reach apparently extends to deserted islands), and 1 luxury item (purely luxury, it’s too easy to say a boat) and why. The desert island question isn’t a new one but I thought it was an interesting way to tackle interviews with notable people and I think it reveals a little more about people than normal question answer sessions. It also got me thinking, what I would bring on a desert island.

3 books

–        The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I know it’s kind of cheating since they’re broken up into three books but Tolkien meant for them to be one book and it was the publisher’s decision to break them up so I’ll side with the author’s original intentions.  I love these books. Tolkien created a world you could get lost in, the detail and attention he paid to the lore of Middle Earth is astounding. I read this series the first time and got lost in the adventure, I’ve re-read it multiple times since to study the nuances of the world Tolkien imagined.

–        The collected works of William Shakespeare: Yes I know cheating again, but hey if they make it a complete one bound book edition I’m going to say it counts. I’m not an obsessive Shakespeare fan, but his command of words makes my heart swell with joy when I read/see/hear his work. My favorite tragedy is Hamlet and comedy is Much Ado About Nothing.  I would entertain myself on the island by performing the plays and basking in his genius.

–        Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen: I probably have most of it committed to memory already but my well worn copy of this book continues to get a lot of use. The scene where Mr. Darcy goes to tell Elizabeth that he’s in love with her never fails to make my heart beat quicken with girlish delight.

3 albums

–        Set List by the Frames: If any of you have seen the movie Once you’ll be familiar with Glen Hansard. He is currently touring with the girl from that movie as the Swell Season, but before that he was longtime front man to a band called the Frames. I prefer the eccentric rock and roll style of the Frames. They are so much fun to see live, it feels like you’re at a pub watching one of your friends play. Glen often introduces a song with a short story of what inspired it, most of the time it’s funny, sometimes sad but always entertaining. Set List reminds me of this experience.

–        In Rainbows by Radiohead: I know I’d want to have some Radiohead thrown into the mix but it was tough choosing one album. Kid-A  and Ok Computer are notable contenders. There’s just something about In Rainbows that makes me happy, a stupid grin is often plastered to my face while listening.

–       The Beatles Anthology (1-3): I was obsessed with the Beatles in 7th grade. When the Beatles anthology came out and played on TV I used to sneak downstairs with my sister to watch it since my parents didn’t allow us to watch TV on school nights. My siblings and I still quote lines from the movie A Hard Days Night. This was such a fun time for my siblings and me. I would pick this album not only for the great music but also the nostalgia it provides.

1 luxury item

–        Saturday NPR programming: This was a tough one but when I thought about what would most distract me from the loneliness of a desert island my first thought was NPR. Yes this is ridiculously nerdy but those power hours when Car Talk is followed by Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, then This American Life and topped off with Radiolab make me never want to leave my car. Yes my idea of luxury isn’t diamonds* it’s listening to Ira Glass and Carl Kassel on the radio. (*I’m not opposed to diamonds though)

So what would you bring to your desert island?