Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Austen Quote of the Day

Our heroine: "What beautiful hyacinths!—I have just learnt to love a hyacinth."

Mr Tilney: "I am pleased that you have learnt to love a hyacinth. The mere habit of learning to love is the thing."

Friday, April 29, 2011

heroines pt 4, or, Austen Quote of the Day

Her passion for ancient edifices was next in degree to her passion for Henry Tilney.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Does she have any prospects?

Here's a clip from one of my favorite shows, Black Books. These are the questions to ask whenever you're thinking of doing the underpants charleston.

heroines pt 3

When a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chickflicks and Why Women Love Edward Cullen

I've been watching a lot of Target Women this evening. I kind of want to force you to watch all of them. But I'm just going to post here two that can be applied to the topic at hand: the romance genre.

heroines pt 2

From fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Yes, you guessed it, I'm rereading Northanger Abbey!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wedding Magazines

I recently read the third book in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet. The series is about four women who run a wedding company called Vows. The first book follows the wedding photographer, the second book follows the florist, and the third book (the one I just read) follows the baker, the one who makes the fabulous wedding cakes.

One of the great things about these books are all the sensual beautiful details: lavender and silver ribbons, gold candles, mocha cake with apricot filling, silk, lace, roses, hyacinths. Whether or not such details are attached to weddings, I love them. So whenever I read one of these Bride Quartet books, I start getting a strange urge. An urge no feminist, and possibly few single women, wants to admit to: I want to look through wedding magazines.

Not to plan my future wedding. Just to look at pretty pictures of pretty things. If I ever get married, anything seen in one of these magazines is way out of my budget, so flipping through them doesn't do me a lot of good planning-wise anyway.

I didn't want to be seen in public looking through wedding magazines. What would people think of me? There was only one thing to do: I went in disguise. I put on an impenetrable disguise and proceeded to my friendly local library.

Me in my going-to-the-library disguise, on the phone with Katie
holding the third Bride Quartet book. 
Why yes, I AM wearing a Kate Beaton t-shirt with the Brontes on it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Fragrance of Old Books

There are a number of perfumes inspired by books and libraries. Here are a few of them:

Paperback by Demeter Fragrance ("A dusty old copy of a Barbara Pym novel did it for us. This Demeter scent is sweet and just a touch musty, a lot like Pym's world come to think of it. Read her if you haven't. Her writing is wonderful, if slightly musty, English satire from the 60s and 70s.")

In the Library by CB I Hate Perfume ("In The Library is a subtle scent, and it’s not so much the exact recreation of the musty, antique smell of the pages of old book as much as it is the entire book…a hint of worn leather bindings, a whisper of the frayed cloth and the wisp of wood polish from the shelves it sits on and even a bit of sweetness we can’t place.")

Opus II—Library Collection by Amouage ("A majestic Fougère inspired by the heady and evocative fragrances of old books, dark wooden shelves and antique leather armchairs. Opus II opens with a rare and magical combination of Pepper, Pink Bay, Absinth and Lavender in the top notes. These notes unfurl to reveal a heart of Jasmine, Rose, Cinnamon and Cardamom. The base of Cedarwood, Amber, Frankincense and Patchouli conclude the fragrance with a soft, smoky, masculinity that contrast beautifully with the floral heart notes.")

Hamman Bouquet by Penhaligons ("It is warm and mature, redolent of old books, powdered resins and ancient rooms.")

Sacre Couer by Ego Facto ("Think old-style gentlemen’s club—cool wine, a whiff of Havana from the humidor, a deep leather chair and the comfortably musty smell of old books—perked up with a dash of humor.")

Zadig et Voltaire Tome 1 by La Pureté ("A pure and spiritual fragrance, which wraps the soul and the heart in a delightful and innocent whirl. The pack (a book) and the bottle are white. The perfume is composed in the same spirit: patchouli oil, musk, milky blends.")

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Duchess by Night—Review

Duchess by Night by Eloisa James.

Harriet, Duchess of Berrow and a widow, is tired of feeling matronly and dowdy, old beyond her time. So when a friend plans to go to the abode of the scandalous Lord Strange, Harriet decides to cross-dress as Harry Cope in order to accompany and chaperone her friend. When Lord Strange (the usual: tall, dark, and handsome) gets a look at feminine Mr Cope, he decides the boy isn't going to survive in his house of rogues, loose women, and risque parties. So Lord Strange takes Harry under his wing to turn him into a man, to teach him to ride, fence, and go after the right women. But what will Lord Strange do when he finds out Harry isn't a man at all?

What this book had going for it:

  • Cross-dressing. As I mentioned in my first post on this book, cross-dressing allows for numerous possibilities of erotic tension.
  • Sex scenes—James did not skirt around sex. Well, not as much as some romance authors. She used real words for male anatomy. And she included ORAL SEX. Why is oral sex a big deal, you ask? Women mostly orgasm from clitoral stimulation, but many romance novels conveniently ignore this fact. Much to my EXTREME ANNOYANCE.
  • The game. The game, well, I can't tell you, because if you plan on reading Duchess by Night it will be a small spoiler. But the game is an intriguing idea.
  • Fencing. And the various scenes and dialogue that accompany the fencing.
  • Did I mention the cover is a delightful shade of green?

Problems I had with this book:

  • Use of redundant adverbs. This is one of my pet peeves. J.K. Rowling does it too. "What's going on?" Harry asked curiously. If Harry wasn't curious, Harry wouldn't be asking in the first place, now would he?
  • Misuse of Sensibility. See previous post.
  • A couple characters (an eight-year-old, a low class woman) had inauthentic voices.
  • Harriet's widowhood. Her husband committed suicide after losing a chess game. OK, so he really liked chess. But he killed himself over it? We're going to need more character development for that one to be believable.
So, you can see, overall the problems I had with the book were nitty-gritty details. There were some tropes of the romance genre that didn't particularly strike my fancy, but I can't think of any examples at the moment. Generally, it was an enjoyable read, exceedingly pleasant, and I would read more from this author. If you've got an interest in the romance genre, Duchess by Night wouldn't be a bad way to go.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Diana Wynne Jones died on March 26. She was a fantasy author, mostly of children's books and YA. I rarely reread books, but I read her Deep Secrets multiple times. You've probably heard of her Howl's Moving Castle, a 1986 novel that was made into a movie by The Studio Ghibli.

Jones was the sort of author who was quietly subversive, blending zany new elements of fantasy with more traditional fantasy without giving into certain negative cultural norms. For instance, it was not unusual for her to have heroines that could fully hold their own. There were no off-to-the-side Hermiones nor modern-damsels-in-distress like Bella of Twilight. Another example is that her books neither danced around nor romanticized sex.

Give her obituary a read; it's full of interesting tidbits, like the time Beatrix Potter slapped Jones. And do read her books.

Well, there goes my dream of meeting her.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011


David Blázquez 

I would like to have this bookshelf. I think it would go very well in my living room.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


My excitement with Duchess by Night has wained somewhat. Eloisa James, the author as well as a professor of English literature, misused the word Sensibility. A professor of English literature misused Sensibility! I may die of horror.

Just so everyone is clear, what sensibility (connotatively) means today is not what sensibility meant in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Sensibility was the opposite of sense. Thus Jane Austen, Sense and SensibilityDuchess by Night is set in 1784. James should know about Sensibility. Since she made a special point of talking about Sensibility, she must have thought she was being clever in using a concept of the time. But she completely misused it.

Once again, so everyone is clear, here's Merriam-Webster on the subject:

Definition of SENSIBILITY

: ability to receive sensations : sensitiveness 
: peculiar susceptibility to a pleasurable or painful impression (as from praise or a slight) —often used in plural
: awareness of and responsiveness toward something (as emotion in another)
: refined or excessive sensitiveness in emotion and taste with especial responsiveness to the pathetic

Friday, April 8, 2011

In Which Breasts Play a Not-Insignificant Role

I started reading the next novel in my Great and Brilliant Romance Project last night: Duchess by Night by Eloisa James. I chose it because the cover is striking. OK, it's my favorite color (the picture below does not do the shade of green justice). I used to pass this book in the grocery store (good ol' Sammish Haggen!) and stop to laugh at the romances with titles like The Italian Millionaire's Virgin Wife.

I read the prologue and first three chapters of Duchess last night, and may I say I am so far quite excited and pleased? For one thing, the second chapter has the subtitle "Another chapter in Which Breasts Play a Not-insignificant Role." Points for humor. The second thing that makes me super excited is that it involves cross-dressing. The protagonist disguises herself as a man to sneak into scandalous Lord Strange's abode.

You may not know this about me: I love books with cross-dressing. There are so many erotic possibilities, so many sites for sexual tension. My two favorite manga in high school and college were Hana-Kimi, in which a girl disguises herself as a boy to join an all-boys' school, and Kaze Hikaru, in which a girl disguises herself as a boy in order to join a group of samurai.

Conclusion: I'm excited for Duchess by Night, and will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Pilgrimage starts the moment we become conscious that life itself is a sacred journey, carrying with it the responsibility to act accordingly.
—John Brierley

I'm going on a pilgrimage through Spain this summer. I don't tell you this because it relates to this blog's usual topic of books. It doesn't. I tell you because I will have internet access in Spain, so I'll be blogging about my pilgrimage right here on Jujubes and Aspirins. Be prepared.

It's called El Camino de Santiago. I'll be taking the route Camino Frances. I'll start in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, hike over the Pyrenees into Spain, west to Santiago, then a bit farther to Finisterre on the coast.

When I was making my itinerary, I didn't plan it this way, but the pilgrimage (not including plane and train time at either end) will last forty days and forty nights.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Esme's Bookshelf

Books I Finished Reading in March

Deepstep Come Shining by C.D. Wright
Stop in the Name of Pants! by Louse Rennison. One of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books. This is actually my second time reading it; I couldn't remember where I left off in the series so this is the one I got from the library.
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes.
Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts. The second book in the Bride Quartet.
Persuasion by Jane Austen.
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison. The final Confessions of Georgia Nicolson.
Crafting Wiccan Traditions: Creating a Foundation for Your Spiritual Beliefs and Practices by Raven Grimassi.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sorcery and Cecelia

Hank Green on Sorcery and Cecelia:

Adorable book! Like a mix between Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice... Two young women get caught up in a magical mystery that's dangerous and dreadful and all kinds of horrible things are happening. But what the story's really about are those infuriating boys in marvelous outfits.

For Hank Green's entire book-review vlog, go here. For my post on Sorcery and Cecelia, go... Oh, I never posted it. I wrote it up a year ago and didn't post it. Well, damn.

Here's what I said:

Sorcery and Cecelia is a bit like Jane Austen plus magic. Austen but more playful and slightly more risque. A Mysterious Marquis, a fake marriage, an enchanted chocolate pot: Could it get any better? And yes, it does have Lord Byron. I suggest you read Katie’s blog post on it.

Note: While a year ago I said that Sorcery and Cecelia is slightly more risque than Jane Austen, I don't know if I'd say that now—since I go to school to study sex jokes in Jane Austen. Indeed, that is what grad students in English do.