A Cup of Tea & A Good Book | August

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

C. S. Lewis

Outside, the dry flies are droning, the leaves are drooping, & the humidity has reached acute misery levels. Such is late summer in the South. But dropped into the mix is the occasional cooler, breezier day that reminds us that fall is just around the corner, & not a moment too soon.

With our beach vacation behind us & the mosquitoes & humidity making outdoor activity entirely undesirable, I’ve spent a lot of time this month reading in the air conditioning, & I’ve come across some really enjoyable reads.

I kept hearing this book referred to as a mystery in classic Agatha Christie style, so I knew had to check it out. It did not disappoint. With lots of Christie-esque elements—a country house setting, a reading of the will that blindsides the family, a menacing housekeeper—it kept me reading late into the night. This was the first of Ruth Ware’s books that I’ve read, & I plan to read more.

I read Anthony Horowitz’s The Magpie Murders a few months ago & really enjoyed it, so I was excited to see he had a new book out. It’s a mystery with an intriguing premise—a woman goes into a funeral parlor to plan her own funeral & a few hours later, she’s found murdered—but what really intrigued me was the fact that Horowitz put himself into the story.

Drawn into the investigation when a private detective working on the case convinces Horowitz to write a book about him, he acts as a kind of Watson to the detective’s Holmes. It’s definitely a unique idea & I was interested to see how well he pulled it off, especially since this is the first of a new series for this writer (who also writes the Alex Rider middle grade series—the hacker is a big fan of these stories about a reluctant teenage spy).

I really enjoyed the book, but I’m on the fence about the writer’s character. Sometimes I felt that it came across as a little pretentious—like when he discusses various celebrities he knows. Maybe pretentious isn’t the right word. There were times when that aspect of the story jarred me out of the fictional world. But that may just be me. On the whole, I enjoyed it & do recommend it. I’m interested to see where the series goes.

This one isn’t technically a mystery, cozy or otherwise. It falls into the ever-growing domestic thriller genre made popular by books like The Girl on the Train & Gone Girl. The story follows a group of women who live in the same subdivision & reveals that while their family life might look perfect on the outside, on the inside it’s nowhere near ideal.

I was especially interested in this book because the main character suffers from postpartum depression & having dealt with PPD in my own life, I wanted to see how the issue was handled.

It’s a pretty fast-paced read with lots of questions that kept me turning the pages. One reason I recommend it is that I really liked the ending. Many domestic thrillers (Gone Girl is a good example) have fairly bleak endings, which I don’t enjoy. There’s enough bleakness in the world, & I’d much rather read books with hopeful endings.

The Netherfield Affair

I’ve been a fan of H.Y. Hanna’s Oxford Tearoom mystery series for a while & recently got an email that she’s created a “starter library” that makes the first book in each of her series available for free to her newsletter subscribers. I knew about some of her other series, but didn’t realize that she writes an alternative-Austen mystery series under the name Penelope Swan.

The Netherfield Affair is the first in a four-book series that reimagines Pride & Prejudice as a series of mystery stories. I’d never read any alternative-Austen stories before—and I still have no intention of going anywhere near Pride & Prejudice & Zombiesbut I really enjoyed this one & plan to purchase the rest of the books in the series. So if you’re a cozy fan & an Austen geek like me, check this one out!

Shakespeare in the Park

I also spent part of August immersed in Shakespeare. On a birthday outing with the ballerina, I came across a poster for the Nashville Shakes Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was enough to spur me into digging out my complete works of Shakespeare & rereading the play. 

Before seeing the live production, the ballerina & I watched the 1990s movie version to give her a general idea of the plot. The only Shakespeare she’d seen before was parts of Henry IV Part I (the Hollow Crown version), & she never fails to crack up at Faltaff’s antics. She was offended when the hacker turned down seeing the live production with us & said “Shakespeare is boring.” She informed him that he was wrong & Shakespeare is hilarious. 

The Nashville Shakes production was fantastic, & we enjoyed it so much that we went back to see it a second time. After the second show, the ballerina requested her own copy of the play & now likes to quote random lines from it.

Even I admit it’s almost too hot for a cup of tea right now, but I can’t quite give up my daily Barry’s fix. I did, however, find a new tea that’s perfect for summer while I was on vacation. Heath & Heather’s Organic Green Tea & Coconut is probably meant to be drunk hot, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to try it iced. A couple of years ago, a new coffee shop opened in a nearby town & they had an iced green & coconut oolong tea that was fantastic. This version is only green tea, not oolong, but I’ve been making it by the half gallon all summer & can’t get enough. Sometimes I switch out one of the coconut bags for one of green tea with citrus blend (mine is just Kroger brand), & it makes a very refreshing summer tea.

How about you—are you still enjoying summer, or are you counting down the days til fall like me?

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