Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ready, Set, Promenade

We are in the final stages of preparing for our much-anticipated Jane Austen tour of England. The tour concludes in Bath at the Jane Austen Festival, where we plan to join 600 other Janeites in full Regency costume to promenade from the Royal Crescent lawn to the Parade Grounds.

Why not join the 600 people (ticket entry only restricted numbers this year) dressed in Regency Costume for this world famous spectacular official opening to the Festival. Departing, with kind permission of the residents, from Royal Crescent lawn, accompanied by red coats and navy officers and led by our own town crier and drums we will certainly “be of all the consequence in our power, draw as many eyes, excite as many whispers, and disturb as many people as possible!” The Promenade lasts about 90 minues and ends in Parade Gardens near Bath Abbey.

Assembling our costumes has been as much fun as anticipating the tour. I've even reclaimed my inner seamstress. She's been in hiding since high school home economics sewing class, where I made a quite adequate duffel bag, thank you very much. Researching period costumes and accessories was so diverting, and of course, we had to re-watch the various adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park and my favorites, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey

Nevermind that Austenland just came out! We certainly aren't crazed Darcy-fan weirdos. We read the JASNA Newsletter for the articles...

Bloody Jack #1

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy (Bloody Jack, #1) by L.A. Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much better than typical "pirate romance" stories. Since it's a teen YA book there are fewer heaving bosoms. It would, however, qualify as a "kissing book" by The Princess Bride criteria, but it's a sweet one. The heroine disguises herself as a ship's boy to escape a horrible life as a London street urchin in the late 1790s. The fact that she finds the grim life on board a Royal Navy ship a walk in the park compared to begging and stealing on land tells you how horrible her former life must have been.

The story is well-written and paced. Here are several of my favorite passages:

Attending a shipboard sermon:
"A weedy little clerk what was on the dock the first day turns out to be a preacher, too, and after a few songs and some prayers, he gets up behind the box and tells us what rascals we all are, and how Jesus wants us to turn to the right path, and I think as how I always turn to the path that will most likely get me out of a scrape and I hopes that's the path he means."

Before going ashore in Palma:
"...I can't wait to get ashore. But not for oranges. We fidget and wait.

I know the men are anxious as well. They've been in a state of high hilarity the whole time since we set course for this place. They were barely able to contain themselves during the last Church we had, with the Deacon warning about loose women and vile vessels and evil seductresses and such, and working himself up into a fine froth. I don't think it made much of an impression on the men, though, for all that.

The Professor put his two pence in with the words for yesterday being debauchery, dissipation, and wantonness. I've a feeling that me and my sisters do not have a high standing in the worlds of religion and learning."

Shipboard lessons for the boys:
"Hamlet was a good one. I thought the deceptions in that one were pretty well thought up. Shakespeare and I could have come up with a couple of corkers together, I'll wager. Poor Ophelia, though. It's always the girl what gets it, be it song or story. Or play. 'Course they all gets it in the end and it serves that Hamlet right, he who could have had the love of a good girl and been prince and all, but, no..."

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Saturday, August 24, 2013


Blameless (Parasol Protectorate #3)Blameless by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #3 in the series is 3.5 stars. The Parasol Protectorate Series has become one of my guilty reading pleasures. Another reviewer called it "brain candy" and that's one way to look at it. I don't read much paranormal or steampunk, so the premise of a preternatural woman who can take away the supernatural powers of werewolves and vampires by touching them is already pretty just-for-fun to me. Put her in Victorian England and make her deal with social niceties and corsets and bustles (and a hulking Scottish lord of a werewolf for a husband!) and you've got a good romp on your hands.

The supporting characters were given more attention in this installment and I really liked that. The location settings in France and Italy were a nice change after two books set in the UK. Alexia found a new food to love: pesto (garlic for vampires, basil for werewolves--who knew?). And then when the Knights Templars come into the picture, it's just about perfect. That and the ongoing rivalry between the werewolves and vampires, sort a paranormal Hatfield-McCoy type feud played out across the last three thousand years of history, make for an engaging, light adventure.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen

The Lost Memoirs of Jane AustenThe Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading several biographies of Jane Austen this year, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this fictional memoir of the author. Syrie James fleshes out the mysterious "seaside gentleman" that has been hinted at in various Austen biographies, but never identified. Though we know there cannot be a happy ending for Jane and Frederick, they do have their "We'll always have Paris" moment a la "Casablanca" after spending several weeks together in London in 1810.

Quotes from a number of Austen works are sprinkled throughout the story and I found them to be nicely done. The domestic scenes within the Austen family were also rendered very well -- their homes and interests were those of real people, not just characters in a story. Jane's craft and process as a writer was a major focus of the novel, equally if not more so than her romantic adventures. This gave her character a greater realism than is often found in many historical fictional heroines. Bravo!

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Trim Your Bonnet

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .
--Jane Austen to Cassandra, Queen’s Square, Bath, June 2, 1799

Isn't she lovely? The Jane Austen Centre website has an informative page of instructions on trimming a Regency bonnet. Jane was quite the fashionista, and not the spinsterish blue-stocking some have think she was. How anyone could think that after reading her books is a mystery to me. The woman had such wit!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria

The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (Pink Carnation, #10)The latest novel in the Pink Carnation series was released on August 6, 2013.

"The Passion of the Purple Plumeria" is the tenth book, and gives readers a much anticipated adventure with Miss Gwen at the helm. Miss Gwendolyn Meadows has served as second-in-command to the Pink Carnation, one of England’s most intrepid spies, throughout the series. As a supporting character she has always provided hilarious scenes with the take-no-prisoners use of her parasol to enforce proper behavior among her charges. As detailed on the Goodreads site: In this latest novel she has just learned of an alliance forming between Napoleon and an Ottoman Sultan. But, when the Pink Carnation’s little sister goes missing from her English boarding school, Gwen reluctantly returns home to investigate the girl’s disappearance.

The stories in the Pink Carnation series are well researched and written, and seldom disappoint when you are in the mood for an entertaining, lighthearted book. I'm looking forward to reading the latest one!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cinnamon and Gunpowder

Cinnamon and GunpowderCinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A reader's treat, as much as it is an inspiration to reluctant adventurers and food lovers alike. I found myself savoring the words, like I do when I make every bite of a delicious meal last. My two favorite quotes, the first from early in the the story:

“I now have some intimacy with death, and like the hops in a beer, it has both embittered and fortified me.”

And this achingly beautiful one from near the end:

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied.”

If there such a genre as the philosophical romp, this novel belongs near the top of the list.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Difficile Far Niente

Most people are familiar with the phrase "Dolce Far Niente" which means "pleasant idleness" or literally "sweet doing nothing." After a particularly hectic day, I'll say to myself, or even out loud to my family (the more damning option), "Tomorrow I'm going to take it easy. Not going to do a thing!" Before lunchtime I'll catch myself scrubbing down the kitchen sink or cleaning out science experiments from the fridge. Wait! I was going to relax today. What happened? I need to change the saying to "Dolce Far Meno" (sweet doing less). It's far more accurate and I won't feel guilty when I slip into old habits.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chicken 65

We've been missing our Hyderabadi favorites.