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The Radiance Tea House & Books -and- The Great Jones Spa

The title should actually be “oases,” since I have plural to share, but let’s just admit the correct form looks funny and doesn’t carry the same impact as the palm-tree, sunshine and calm that “oasis” does.

This was a much anticipated weekend for me, since not only was it extended (thank you, President’s Day), but one of my best friends and much-missed roommate from Chicago was visiting for the first time.

Radiance Tea Room NYC experiences

Beyond the hugs and laughter, booze and bars, shopping and strolling, was an overall fantastic NYC experience (I like to think phase one of her eventual move here).  One of the places we visited (in addition to the New York Public Library – which was gorgeous and inspiring) was the Radiance Tea House & Books.

You all know I fear disappointment, and having been here once before with my Mom and Sister for a tea tasting that was absolutely fabulous, I was nervous that my second experience wouldn’t live up to my very high expectations.

Luckily I was wrong (and I don’t say that often).

The ambiance is tranquil, with moving water, soft scents, colorful accents and tea sets for sale and a book collection – all with Asian overtones.  Charlotte and I shared a pot of tea for two and the best soup I’ve ever tasted. Not being one for extremely healthy bittles, I was skeptical of the all natural, gogi berry, fig, chicken, broth concoction, but my new age-y side came out and I tried it – to find it absolutely delightful and rival the dumplings for my favor.

Now, for the books that compare to this delightful experience are as follows:

  • SHANGHAI GIRLS by Lisa See: Though this book is far from tranquil as it follows the struggles between sisters as they escape China and have to carve out new lives in the different world and culture of LA in the 1930s, it’s an obvious choice due to its Asian focus and the detailed description of culture and color, which immediately bring my rich Tea House experience.
  • LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH by Emily Giffin: The obvious is that much of this chic-lit novel takes place in NYC.  But there’s also the deeper, underlying questioning we women tend to do upon making any big decision, and there’s no better solution than to talk things over with your best friends – hence this choice.
  • I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE by Sloane Crosley: Another NYC setting, but this one depicts the city in all its reality, told in a fresh and real voice.  Crosley’s essays are relevant, hilarious, often too relatable and she has that enviable skill to be an incredibly talented writer that at the same times makes you feel as if your own stories are worth sharing.

After Charlotte leaves early Monday morning, I lie in bed, drained from our activity and other debauchery.  Luckily, I happened to be swept away on a wonderful date to the rejuvenating oasis of Great Jones Spa.

Armed with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, a bikini and very pale skin (though luckily, Char and I had indulged in a nail session, so my fingers and toes were appropriately glowing) – we arrived at the “Water Lounge” around 3pm.

Needless to say, it was a decadent experience.  Traipsing between the “River Rock Sauna, Chakra Light Steam Room, Thermal Hot Tub, and Cold Plunge” then relaxing in a chaise reading while wrapped in a fluffy robe it was the perfect way to spend a snowy day off work.

I plan to make this a yearly President’s Day thing – I have no doubt the company may change, but I’m hoping the experience remains the same!

Corresponding reading material:

  • PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen: Though the Bennett sisters lacked the accommodations of the spa, there was plenty of innocent flirting taking place throughout the watery haven.  There’s no better place to read about Jane & her Mr. Darcy than drinking tea under the lights of a fake palm tree.
  • OLIVIA JOULES AND THE OVERACTIVE IMAGINATION by Helen Fielding: Why? Well because it’s fun, frothy and an escape from reality.  Though Fielding does a nice job integrating bigger issues (9/11) into this frolicking tale.  It’s an experience akin to reading The Economist (not kidding, my man friend did) at the spa.
  • ROUGH COUNTRY by John Sandford: Though Virgil Flowers may not be an obvious choice, this hilarious mystery does take part near a women’s spa/camp in Minn.  And Flowers is known for enjoying a relaxing time in his fishing boat, so I don’t doubt he would enjoy the sound of running water here.

Great Jones Spa

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One of my many resolutions for 2010 is to be more consistent about updating my blog!!  It falls higher on the list than running the elusive 5k I’ve successfully avoided the last five years, but lower on the list than trying to maintain a budget, part of which is packing my lunch vs. eating out (benefits the waistline and the wallet!).

In mid December, it occurred to me that  a mere year had passed since my world was first turned upside down when I was laid off from my advertising gig in Chicago (pink slip rather a symbol of solidarity in the Recession of 2008/2009, yes?).  Was I passionate about the job – No. But it could have been worse and the people there were fabulous and are still my friends today.  After some indecision and stress over uncertainty, the event ultimately propelled me into my dream publishing job, for which I am undoubtedly grateful.

I look back on 2009 with fond memories, including the arrival of my nephew Alton, who has made me realize I may have more maternal feelings than I thought (which still isn’t saying much) and my move to NYC (a city that I’m really starting to appreciate the intoxication when here).

Looking back upon my, eh, totally nerdy book spreadsheet, I realize 2009 has also been a fabulous year for the written word.  I know there are innumerable year-end lists floating around by those far more qualified than me, but just in case anyone is interested in the books that stood out in my eclectic reading list (disclaimer- all were read in 2009, though may have been published in different years):

  • THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett: This book has appeared on many “best of” lists, including the Book of the Year (USA TODAY), #1 chosen by book bloggers (BBAW) and more.  I can’t recommend it highly enough and find it offers a unique ability to immerse the reader in the time and deilect of the courageous women in the story.
  • MY HORIZONTAL LIFE: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler: No literary award winner here, but as I mentioned in my original review, this book had me laughing uncontrollably over Handler’s antics and story telling.  Not G-rated, but not completely smutty either.
  • THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Deception by Allison Hoover Bartlett: I love books about books.  While I tend to shy away from nonfiction, this “cat and mouse tale” set in the world of rare book collecting had me captivated (and seeking the elusive first edition of GONE WITH THE WIND).
  • ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant: This novel really struck a chord within me and I found the characters compelling and utterly relatable (full review).  I’ve recently rediscovered my own Sam Blaine (read the book and you’ll understand!) and have found myself frequently thinking fondly of the story.
  • THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by Rona Jaffe: I have attempted to write a full review of this book so many times, but find it impossible to convey my thoughts and feelings.  I think a list of the irresistible attributes are appropriate: Publishing, NYC, girlfriends, relationships, trysts, ambition, books and intertwining lives.

Ok those are my top five in no particular order.  Surprisingly, all women authors (I swear I read men too – JULIET, NAKED, ROUGH COUNTRY and 13 REASONS WHY would all be in my top ten).  Does anyone else have any overlap on their top titles?

Now, back to drinking hot toddies with my roommate as I try to make my sore throat disappear, prepare myself to drift into a peaceful slumber and avoid the potentially bad news I learned today.  I wish you all the best in 2010 and hope to see more of you as I keep up with my resolution to be a better blogger!

Cheers & hugs-

Lydia

According to Jane

According to Jane

Yes, this is my FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY so please be kind and participate!

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…

I am not a Jane Austen fanatic.  Truthfully (ashamedly), I’ve never even read

My Austen "collection"

My Austen "collection"

the works of Ms. Austen, though I have her large red omnibus on my bookshelf, along with an old garage-sale copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the same book with the irresistible, re-designed cover from Penguin classics.  They are on my ever growing, never dwindling shelf of to-be-reads (I’m sure many of you can sympathize).

So even though I’ve never officially been introduced, I now feel I’m on intimate terms with Jane, after hearing her wit and euphemisms through the voice of author Marilyn Brant and in the head of protagonist Ellie Bartlett, in the debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Press, Sept. 29, 2009).

While the premise sounds odd (Jane Austen in a role similar to an invisible friend or “A kind of literary twilight zone thing”), the witty banter, lovable characters and unforgettable story take me to my happy “I don’t actually want this book to end but I just want the characters to find what they’re looking for” place.

Brant manages to jump around time and place without making you lose a second of the story to confusion.  She has the rare ability as an author to take you from reliving your awkward high school years along with Ellie (and the traumatic male/female interactions) to within the psyche of a single, searching, adult woman in the next paragraph.  Ellie is a unique female protagonist that I find endearing in her failures and utterly relateable in her fears, while trying to find herself (though I wish she weren’t already worried about marriage at the mere age of 26!).

It’s no surprise to me that this book took home the coveted Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements in 2007.  Brant has the humor of Sophie Kinsella with the best-friend-esque (made that up) intimacy of Jennifer Weiner.  The sex scenes are humorous in an actual funny, relatable way as opposed to the over-done, awkward to read (unless that’s just me) scenarios found in other novels featuring “strong romantic elements.”

Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant

In an effort of full disclosure, I was lucky enough to meet Marilyn back in June, when I wrote an article on the romance genre.  But, just because I like you doesn’t always mean I’ll like your book – so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my friendly, vivacious penpal can translate her personality so splendidly to an entire book!  I invite you all to hurry and visit Marilyn at her personal blog Brant Flakes ASAP, so you can boast about how you “knew Marilyn Brant before she was a huge author”!  Even better, visit her blog and let her know you’ve already pre-ordered ACCORDING TO JANE and are anxiously awaiting its arrival (discounted to only $10.29 – a steal! I’m thinking book club…)!

I admit, I’ve already read my bound manuscript twice and have thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing even more — in one instance, out loud at sushi by myself in NYC – now that got me some looks.

And now for the fun part:

  • Do you like free books?
  • Are you a Jane Austen fan?
  • Ready for some new chick-lit/women’s light contemporary fiction?
  • Enjoy reading a new voice?

Marilyn was nice enough to send me two extra bound manuscripts PERSONALLY SIGNED (!!!) for your reading & reviewing pleasure!!!! Hurry now for these limited pieces.

To enter to win your copy of ACCORDING TO JANE, please comment below including your email address.  For an additional entry, share your most embarrassing high school makeout (ok kidding…unless you want to – I would reward you!) – for an extra entry up to 1/day, tweet this giveaway with a link and include my @novelwhore handle.  The contest ends Friday, September 25 at 11:59PM EST.  I’ll contact the two winners via email, and you must respond within two days to claim your prize.

NovelWhore Tweets

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