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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

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

Although many argue that there’s a lack of women authors acknowledged in the literary world, I’m consistently surprised, impressed and intrigued by the women protagonists kicking ass in the mystery and thriller genre, written well by authors of both genders.

From the talented hand of Sue Grafton, private investigator Kinsey Millhone has had many bestselling mysteries and is starring in Grafton’s 21st, U IS FOR UNDERTOW out 12/1/09.  There’s also V.I. Warshawski written by Sara Paretsky, the Women’s Murder Club series from James Patterson, and I’ve also discovered many strong female characters on both sides of the law in John Sandford’s titles.  I’ve found the mystery genre is especially generous with women in important roles (CERTAIN PREY, my favorite Sandford title, features a hit-woman) instead of simply being the victim.

Kay Scarpetta?

One of the most iconic and recognizable female characters is Kay Scarpetta, penned by the renowned Patricia Cornwell.  Cornwell’s latest, THE SCARPETTA FACTOR, hit the NYT bestseller at #2 (behind only Dan Brown).  For those rare readers unfamiliar with the series I urge you to give them a try (and I have found they’re not necessary to read in order); not only are they tantalizing and smart mysteries but you’ll want to be ahead of the media storm when, drumroll please, Angelina Jolie appears on the big screen as Kay Scarpetta (watch Cornwell share this information on Good Morning America).

Because I enjoy Scarpetta’s character, when shopping for a new mystery I found the following quote from James Patterson:

“Karen Vail is as compelling a character as any created by Patricia Cornwell, or yours truly…”

I bit it hook, line and sinker and proudly walked away from the register clutching THE 7th VICTIM by Alan Jacobson in my hands.

Some may say my standards were set too high by the Cornwell quote, but whatever the reason my disappointment was genuine.  Karen Vail is supposedly a profiler (comparable to Benton), so I find it either too far fetched, or just doubt her skills, that she would be completely clueless as to the background of her own immediate family.  Additionally, I understand we as readers are supposed to connect with “flawed characters” – but she was too unrelatable.

Also, I enjoy mysteries with some clues to keep the pages turning and not just assumptions, hints and lucky guessing.  This book offered very little to the reader by way of the serial killings taking place and seemed to focus much more on the personal life and happenings of Karen Vail.

Bottom Line: Scarpetta gets a blackberry in her latest, and while SCARPETTA FACTOR may not be my favorite Cornwell title, it’s worth reading.  While I suggest avoiding THE 7TH VICTIM for reading purposes, I think the book is very high quality as it’s been keeping my big heavy window open for the last three weeks with hardly a divet in the board of this repurposed hardcover.

**Mark your calendars to join me this Tuesday, November 24, as I guest blog about mysteries (and working on some of the biggest names in the genre) on Meritious Mysteries! **

I miss you!

I’ve been reading all sorts of good books lately and haven’t even had the chance to update my spreadsheet (nerd alert) and have been trying to keep track via my cell phone.  I owe you reviews for the following, which are the books I felt most strongly about one way or another:

KNIT THE SEASON (Kate Jacobs)

(though check out some great KNIT THE SEASON reviews and interviews with Kate Jacobs at Nat’s Book, Like, and Sinker and Susan’s Suko’s Notebook)

CERTAIN PREY, WICKED PREY, ROUGH COUNTRY (John Sandford)

LITTLE WOMEN (Louisa May Alcott)

HIGH FIDELITY, JULIET, NAKED (Nick Hornby)

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG ASS (Jen Lancaster)

DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM (David Sedaris)

And I stayed up way too late last night reading THE SCARPETTA FACTOR (Patricia Cornwell)

Me and my friend Maggi enjoying a glorious autumn in Central Park!So you see, it’s not actually that I’m not reading, I just haven’t been reviewing.  I’ll do my best to rectify this situation shortly… but most likely after the weekend, as it should be a busy one!

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the season as much as I am.  It’s my first time witnessing the leaves turning in NYC and it’s a glorious sight!

 

Love,

Lydia

 

 

 

 

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