Book Review: Jane of Austin

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Title: 
Jane of Austin
Author: Hillary Manton Lodge
Genre: Romance
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Pages: 312
Format Read: Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Friend
Date finished reading: April 6, 2020

Goodreads Description: Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.

But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper.

While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected—Texas.

In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

My Review: I am a sucker for all things Austen, including retellings. Jane of Austin was no exception. I will admit that Sense and Sensibility is not my favorite Jane Austen, but I always loved the sisterly bond of the Dashwood sisters. That bond is prominently displayed in the relationship between the Woodward sisters in Jane of Austin. Their tale of love and loss is assisted with a great cast of interesting supporting characters, including a three-legged dog named Dash.

The Woodward sisters are founders of a tea business called Valencia Street Tea. When their landlords in San Francisco force them out of their location, the sisters decide to pack up and move themselves and their business to Austin. I am a proud coffee lover, but I really appreciated the care Jane Woodward gave in preparing her teas, and I loved all the recipes that were provided throughout the book, many of which included a special tea ingredient. These recipes included cakes, scones, kolaches, etc. This book definitely made me hungry for all baked goods.

Let me face the ultimate reason that I enjoyed Jane of Austin, because I am 100% biased. This is more than an ode to one of Austen’s classic stories, this is an ode to Austin, Texas, one of my favorite cities. As I now live in Texas, I got many of the Texas references. Before moving here, I had never tried a kolache or had brisket. I also just made my first Texas sheet cake a couple months ago. All these Texas dishes were mentioned in the book. I loved the shoutouts to Torchy’s Tacos and Amy’s Ice Cream too.

This sweat and enjoyable novel was exactly what I was needing in my life right now. Maybe I will now have to try some of those amazing recipes in the book, especially the Raspberry Cream Cheese Kolache!

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

2018 Texas Book Festival

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I decided that this would be the year that I attend my first book festival, and the Texas Book Festival in Austin did not disappoint. There were so many different authors from so many different genres and activities for all ages. When you want to attend all the sessions, it is hard to narrow down your must see/do list. I was fortunate enough to attend the book festival with a friend, who help me have the best experience. Here is what we experienced:

DAY ONE – SATURDAY 10/27

Meet the Indie Next Authors! Featuring: R.O. Kwon, Tommy Orange, Nicole Chung

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Book signing

Earth and Beyond: A Conversation with Scott Kelly in the Texas State Capitol

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Litsy Meetup on the lawn of the Texas State Capitol

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Book signing with Sarah McCoy

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Souvenirs – thanks to Texas Book Festival and Book People Bookstore

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Lit Crawl Austin – American Short Fiction authors play Ex Libris at Stay Gold, featuring Jamel Brinkley, Rita Bullwinkel, Rebecca Makkai, Jennifer duBois, Owen Egerton and Tommy Orange

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Lit Crawl Austin – Noir at the Bar where crime fiction authors read from their recent their novels at Stay Gold, featuring Lou Berney, Max Booth, Meg Gardiner, Mike McCrarry and Scott Von Doviak

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Won a crime fiction novel raffle with signed copies!

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DAY TWO – SUNDAY 10/28

Alternate Realities: Sci Fi in 2018 with V.E. Schwab and John Scalzi

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John Scalzi taking a selfie wearing V.E. Schwab’s cat ears

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The last presentation was amazing, and we were too tuckered out to continue with any more sessions, so we wandered around Austin a bit longer and then hit the road back to Houston. All the author/presenters we listened to were amazing, personable and friendly. We just wanted to be friends with all of them. Now I have to find a place in my house for all my lovely new books!

 

 

20 Years of Travel #2: Austin, Texas in 12 Hours

29790786_10155580257592986_4937089739783844434_nI am continuing with my 20 Years of Travel series with one of my most recent travel adventures.

Do I recommend spending only 12 hours in Austin, Texas? NOOOOOO! However, when you just started a new job and only have a weekend for a mini-vacation, you take whatever time you have to enjoy yourself. Since moving to Texas a year and a half ago, Austin has been on my list of places I could not wait to see, and yet it has taken me this long to get there. Thanks to my bestie’s visit, I got to finally go.

We hit the road on Friday morning. As we headed outside of Houston, I had to stop and show my friend (who has never really been to Texas) what a Buckees is. If you have never been to a Buckees either, it is a gas station as well as a great place to buy Texas souvenirs, fudge, brisket and basically anything you might need. It is a must do when you are hitting the long empty roads of Texas.

A couple hours later, we came to the town of Lockhart, Texas, which was our stopping point for lunch. If you are a fan of barbecue, you will find the best Texas 29684155_10155580256852986_6996878003957027781_nbarbecue in Lockhart (at least that is what I’ve been told and have not personally had any BBQ in Texas that has contradicted this statement). Lockhart is the home of Black’s BBQ, a cafeteria style restaurant with the best brisket I’ve ever had (see picture on the right). If the line to Black’s is too long, I was told by a gentleman at another table to also try Smitty’s Market just down the main street (on my bucket list for the next time I road trip to Austin). We were so stuffed on barbecue that when we got to Austin, we decided to just relax by the pool. Most of the country was still under feet of snow, so I felt that if we could get some sun by the hotel pool, why not?! On a side note, anyone that knows what real Culver’s frozen custard tastes like, do NOT go to the Culver’s on William Cannon Drive. You will be sad and disappointed. I don’t know what that was, but it was not frozen custard.

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The next morning, we got a Lyft into Austin and spent the entire day (at least 12 hours) in the city. This is what we managed to do in our one day in Austin:

  1. Breakfast @ Voodoo Donuts. (I was so excited to find out that I don’t have to go all the way to Portland anymore to enjoy these delicious donuts–not that I would mind going back to Portland).
  2. Local Farmer’s Market.
  3. Short walk to the State Capitol (see picture above), where we took a free tour inside the Capitol. I’m going to be honest. We went through two or three tour guides before finding one that could speak audibly enough to a large group so we could all hear. However, that guide was fantastic. I learned a lot more about Texas history and what makes this capital building unique.
  4. Lunch @ Scholz Garten – which claims to be the oldest German restaurant in America. I have not been able to confirm that information, but the restaurant has been open since 1866. I could drink beer and eat spätzle all day every day. Plus, there was some live music in the biergarten.
  5. Book People – A trip with me has to include a bookstore. I had been dying to visit this independent bookstore for a while. It was even more amazing than I imagined. It is large with two floors of books and gifts, a coffee shop, and plenty of space for events, which they have all the time (including book signings, readings, etc.).
  6. 29790108_10155580257852986_3592580044067433490_nA walk along Town Lake — it was a beautiful day with lots of people soaking up some sun and listening to the Urban Music Festival that was being held at the Auditorium.
  7. A stop @ Stevie Ray Vaughn’s statue (see picture on right).
  8. Riverboat cruise (see picture below) – A must see in Austin is surprisingly….bats. Lots and lots of bats. Around dusk thousands (@ certain times of the year…millions) of bats that are hanging out underneath Congress Avenue Bridge, take flight together in search of food. You can view this scene from a riverboat like we did or by standing on the Congress Avenue Bridge. While I am not a fan of bats (I do not think they are cute!), I dislike mosquitoes even more, so eat up bats!
  9. Perfect end of the day dinner @ Home Slice Pizza with dessert @ Amy’s Ice Creams.

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Did we see everything? NO! However, we did see a lot and walked more than 35,000 steps. Austin City Limits and brewery tours will be the focus of my next trip to Austin.

No road trip in spring is complete without stopping on the side of a interstate to smell the flowers (see picture below).

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