The Gentleman by Forrest Leo – Review & Playlist

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo book review Muse Monthly

The Gentleman was one of those books that came along to me as an underdog. A lot of the time when I’m choosing a book, there are a few options for each month, but one stand out. Then, like this month, there were a lot of books that seemed exciting but were just not right for some reason – either the story just wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped, or it’s too similar to something we’ve done before. And then something different, something I would have never thought to look at will emerge from under my disastrously large To Be Read pile, and it will be perfect. A diamond in the rough.

And that’s what we do over here at Muse Monthly – we’re all about finding that hidden gem.

And The Gentleman was just awesome. It’s a fun, easy read, which we all need sometimes. We all need a laugh, especially when the real would can be so stressful.

What stands out for me about The Gentleman is how easily writer Forrest Leo captures the style of Victorian literature. The narrative voice of lovelorn poet Lionel Savage is strong throughout, colored by the sassy footnotes of his fictional editor. For someone who enjoys the anachronism, it was refreshing to read something so wonderfully stylized. And the story itself brought to mind the best of adventure stories – Around the World in 80 Days meets the tales of Allan Quatermain meets Doctor Faustus, with hilarious mishaps and trysts along the way. It’s safe to say, you’ll never read another book like The Gentleman. It’s nerdy and weird and funny, and best read with a lovely cup of tea – or maybe a glass of wine.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – Review & Playlist

The Muse by Jessie Burton Muse Monthly book review

So I will admit that I was a little hesitant to pick this book up, simply because of the title. Cuz, you know. It’s a bit too obvious a choice, right? But I’m so glad I did, because I was really blown away by how perfect this book was for Muse Monthly. It was just the right thing at the right time, and everything seemed to fit together so well. I was looking for a book that not only had a great story with historical elements, but also shown a light on the complexities of women – and The Muse does just that.

If I had to pick a single word to describe this book, that word would be ‘passion’ – and we talk about passion in lots of different ways. We can talk about the obvious – about passion between people and of people, about lust and the many facets of human affection. We can talk about passion turning to obsession. We can talk about the dangers of passion, and how quickly it can become desperation. We can talk about Odelle and the slow burn between herself and her Mr. Scott, about passion that builds slow and steady as someone’s walls come crumbling down. We can talk about passion that is immediate and intense, like when Olive sets eyes on Issac like he’s a target. We can talk about passion in secret, passion that hides away, that comes through in stolen glances. And we can talk about passion that leads to heartbreak, and the tragedy of Theresa wanting what she can’t have.

But at the same time we can also talk about passion as it relates to art, and an artist’s passion for their work and for creating. I think the story of Olive’s talent having to be hidden away due to her family circumstances is a compelling one when we think about the lengths she took to get her work seen. We still live in a world that can be difficult for women who make art, and many women (famously JK Rowling and and the Bronte sisters) adopt male personas to sell or market their work. It is this act that causes the lives of two families to intertwine and tangle. But did she have another choice? At the same time we also have to talk about Marjorie Quick and her passion. The enigmatic Quick is the point around which the story spirals, and we see her careful passion for art and her work, as well as the secrets and lies that she has built her life upon. And Quick showcases another important aspect of the story – a support for other women, and the importance of female friendships and the relationships between women in the novel.

The Muse is a novel that a reader can easily get wrapped up in. The writing is intense and realistic, and the story unravels in the most brilliant way. It’s exciting to follow the lines that connect people through history, and Jessie Burton does an amazing job of showcasing all the passions of a full life.

Binge Life: 10 TV Shows We Love To Marathon

Muse Monthly Doctor Who Stranger Things Parks and Recreation Broadchurch Jessica Jones Buffy the Vampire Slayer Chef's Table Sense8 Narcos Long Way Round

I love good TV just as much as I love good books – it’s all about the telling of a great story. And I don’t think I’m alone in loving shows that are best viewed all at once instead of on a week-to-week basis, aka the Binge Watch. Here are some TV shows we love to watch over and over again!

Doctor Who

I am a huge Whovian – as evidenced by the very prominent Bad Wolf tattoo on my clavicle. It’s the best show in the world. It’s got everything you want – adventure, action, aliens, romance, snarky wit, social commentary, David Tennant, history, Shakespeare, and so much more. It’s the longest running show for a reason. Best show of all time. Anyone who says differently can fight me.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a new release on Netflix and it is excellent. The story centers around the disappearance of a young boy in a small town and the weird events that take place afterwards. Superbly acted on the part of Winona Ryder and the young actors in the show, it’s good and weird and creepy and totally engaging. Once you start watching, you won’t want to turn it off. But also, keep the lights on.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec is my favorite show. Parks and Rec is the show that I watch when I have an anxiety attack. It’s familiar and comforting and funny without ever making jokes at someone’s expense. Parks and Rec is about friendship, hard work, and a group of weirdos just doing the best they can. This is a show that is nothing but pure joy from start to finish.


I’m not usually one for detective stories, if I’m honest. It’s hard to find police procedural shows that are really well written and intriguing, that don’t have a predictable ending. Broadchurch is not only a masterclass in emotional range from David Tennant and Olivia Colman, but a police drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you love it, also check out Happy Valley on Netflix.

The Marvel Shows: Jessica Jones & Daredevil

So I eat up everything Marvel spits out, but these Netflix-exclusive shows have just been mind blowing. The writers have done a really great job of going in depth with well-known characters, and I always love shows that are gritty and emotional and have expertly choreographed fight scenes. I want to especially mention Jessica Jones and it’s perfect depiction of an abusive relationship. And, you know, more David Tennant. I can’t wait for Luke Cage and Iron Fist, and then the Defenders!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The best female led-show ever. Buffy defines the “strong female” trope. Buffy is funny and emotional and action-packed and smart. What isn’t perfect about Buffy? Nothing. That’s what. Nothing. Buffy is perfect. Fight me.

Chef’s Table

Besides being pure food porn, Chef’s table is a beautiful exploration of the creative process. The show features an in-depth profile of master chefs all over the world, delving into how their lives are woven into their craft. It’s beautifully filmed and absolutely engaging from start to finish.


Sense8 is another Netflix exclusive, like Stranger Things, that kind of came out of left field. I was told by a friend to watch it and was immediately hooked. It’s such a wonderfully diverse and inclusive show, and a story about beautiful souls helping each other and falling in love and banding together to fight the bad guys. What really makes this show is the cast’s chemistry. You won’t regret it, I promise.


I really love stories about criminals. I love when a well told show or novel makes you think about the world from a different perspective, especially if said perspective is that of the ‘bad guy’. The story of Pablo Esobar is really fascinating, and this show is so tense and thrilling that I couldn’t look away, even when the violence got out of control. Plus, there’s Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook. Mmmmhmmm.

Long Way Round / Long Way Down

The concept: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley Boorman drive on motorcycles around the world. The reality: Ewan MacGregor and his friend Charley spend 9 episodes being total goofballs while taking their motorbikes from London to New York – as the title so aptly puts it – the long way ’round, through Siberia. And then they do it again and travel from London to Cape Town, South Africa. Both series are hilarious and heart-felt, and have gorgeous views of their travels. It’s a really good watch, and you’ll totally fall in love with Ewan and Charley’s friendship.

What shows do you love to marathon? What Netflix gems do you recommend to all your friends?

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Review & Playlist

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi novel book book review Muse Monthly subscription box  Ghana

Okay, okay yeah, I know. It’s not a beach read. But bare with me, okay?

I go through a lot of books before making a choice for each month. Sometimes it’s 3, sometimes it’s more like 6. And sometimes, rarely, there is The One. Sometimes there’s a novel that is just the choice, the only choice, the most epic and brilliant thing I’ve read, head and shoulders above the rest. It’s like the clouds part and a choir of angels descend.

Homegoing was definitely a ‘choir of angels’ moment. It’s an expertly woven tale of a family separated – two half-sisters at the start and their subsequent sons and daughters. Each chapter is a unique history, bringing us through time on two different continents. Through Gyasi’s storytelling, we as readers are absolutely transported. Homegoing gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”.

Gyasi has really written an epic of the black experience in America and beyond, a full-bodied story of humanity, each generation individual and rife with problems unique to the characters and their respective time periods. Each story stands both on it’s own and as a collective, creating an intricate puzzle of a family tree. It is a story of slavery, of racism and oppression, of loss and love, of family. But most of all, it is a story of resilience.

Since each chapter is a new person’s story, Gyasi has risen to the challenge of completely fleshing out these characters within a shorter time span. There is a sense of pride in these characters – even through hardship, their conviction remains strong, they remain truthful to themselves and their people even when they are being taken advantage of, and a lot of advantage is taken. But they remain, throughout all that, rooted in themselves and their families. There is always a sense of moving forward, and while where they came from is always important, never are they stuck.

I think there’s a lot we can take away from Homegoing, as readers. Personally I love books like this, where I get to experience a life (or in this case, several) that are so radically different from my own. It’s important to let literature open us up in this way – to open our eyes and our hearts to new experiences and new worlds.

And I want to thank Yaa Gyasi for doing just that.

Forever Recommend: Books to Live and Die by

Books Muse Monthly Book Recommendations Harry Potter JK Rowling A Clockwork Orange  Anthony Burgess The Secret History Donna Tartt One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer Stardust Neil Gaiman


Every bookworm has suffered the same question: “What’s your favorite book?”

What, like, of all time? You want me to pick one? Impossible.

For people who really love books, giving one single favorite is akin to climbing Everest. It’s easier to say, give a favorite one from each category, or favorite from the last year or so. We need a bit of a narrower category to really give a good answer. But give a favorite in the whole history of literature, out of everything we’ve ever read in our entire lives? Yeah, no. Can’t do it.

And being that I work with books, I get asked for favorites and recommendations quite a bit. People come to me when they need something new to read all the time….alright, alright, fine. Sometimes I give them without being asked. You know you do it too! I can’t help it, I love talking about great books.

So I’ve put together a list of my Forever Recommendations – books that I will tell everyone to read no matter what, books that changed my life and I think will enrich yours, books that occupy a special place in my heart.

the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

Because honestly, if you haven’t read Harry by now, what have you been doing with your life?

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This one is definitely not for everyone. You might be aware of the famous 1971 film adaptation and it’s iconic outfits, and if so, you’re probably aware that it’s an incredibly violent story. It very much centers around the nature of violence and human depravity, so it can be a very difficult read at times. That being said, I’m a sucker for great use of language, and Burgess did something revolutionary with A Clockwork Orange. The story is told in a mixture of cocky English, Russian, Shakesperian English, and slang to form a dialect unique to this story alone (well, this story and maybe Russell Brand). To me, the inventiveness of the narrative is what makes A Clockwork Orange stand out. If you’re okay with a little blood, this one is a must read.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History is one of those ones I almost don’t want to share. It’s like when you love a band and then they go mainstream, and you get really possessive and spiteful of ‘new fans’. And I am a jealous person by nature so I want The Secret History to be mine, but that’s not really how books work. So, read it. It gave me goosebumps and heart palpitations and the proverbial feels. Just fuck me up, Donna Tartt. Fuck. Me. Up.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude is gripping from the first sentence. It’s a book that will not only make you think, but will make your heart race and your soul ache. Marquez is a master of language and story, and if you’re someone who likes things a little bit weird and mystical and wild, this is definitely something to pick up. One Hundred Years of Solitude is also my first recommendation for anyone who likes fantasy and wants to get into something a little more adult, or who wants to try reading a book in translation for the first time. It’s an epic story, and one that I will champion until the day I die.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

So I’ve talked a bit before about how if a writer is really good, I fall in love a little bit. Well, Jonathan Safran Foer is the love of my damn life. I love him, I love him, I love everything he does, I am absolutely mad for him. I will read everything he produces forever and ever. I have stopped strangers on the train because I saw they were reading his book.  Really, read everything by JSF, but I recommend this one first because it was my first one, and because it made me cry in my university library in front of a whole load of people. So, there’s that.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Neil is another great love of mine, a fantastic and epic love that has taken me to so many new worlds and new adventures. Neil is a perfect human being in everything he does, and has produced such a wonderful body of work that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Again, Stardust was my first, and as a child of fairy tales, it’s my go-to Gaiman. It’s a beautiful story about love and destiny and magic, and it absolutely cannot be beat when it comes to adult fairy tales. Read everything by Neil Gaiman, but if you need a starting place, this one won’t let you down.

Of course, I have many more favorites, including ones I’ll never admit to. My bookshelves are overflowing with books I have loved and given myself to, so these are just a short selection. But there is something about each of these that touched me, that infected me, that became part of me. And I’ll love them until the very end.

What are some of your forever recommendations? Share the book love!

#BOOKSTOUR: Tour Manhattan’s Independent Bookstores!

A good bookstore is a sanctuary – it’s the smell of paper, crowds around tables of bestsellers and staff recommendations, the feeling of being surrounded by stories and like-minded bookworms. There’s just something so special about a tiny spot (or a big one!), where the staff knows their stuff and the walls are lined with beautiful books, and maybe you find a quiet corner or a comfy chair to tuck in to and curl up with a new story. There’s nothing like a good bookstore, and certainly nothing like going home with a bag full of new things to read.

New York City – and Manhattan especially – is delightfully filled with bookstores, and considering how hard it is for indie bookstores to stay open against the corporate competition these days, Manhattan has done surprisingly well at keeping the culture thriving. I set out with Phoebe Lett of the New York Times and Olivia from RainyDaysCoffeeandBooks to tour the best of Manhattans indie bookshops, all the way from the upper east side to Chelsea on the west side.

Eight stops. One Day. Here we go!

Rizzoli, 1133 Broadway
Rizzoli Bookstore Mahattan Independant boosktore Muse Monthly books tea DSC01918

Our first stop was Rizzoli on the East side. Rizzoli was quiet at 10am, and so beautiful that black and white floor spoke to my minimalist heart, and the store was just so elegant all around. It has a great selection of fiction and non, but I think the strength here was the Art and Architecture sections. There were so many beautiful books to look at! Plus, the staff was so sweet and helpful. This is a great stop for your lunch break!

Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th st
Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Independent Muse Monthly

Books of Wonder is a specialty children’s bookstore and a hotspot for the YA crowd – with author signings and readings for children of all ages (there was a super cute storytime for the youngins going on when we were there), Books of Wonder is definitely a place to hang out for a long time. While the selection is extensive, what I love most about Books of Wonder is the featured vintage and first editions along the back wall. I love old books and Books of Wonder has a fantastic selection of classics – everything from the Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter. It’s truly breathtaking.

The Strand, 828 Broadway

The Strand Independent Bookstore New York City Manhattan Union Square Muse Monthly books bookstore bookshop bookworm DSC01926

The Strand is Home. The Strand is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever see. The Strand is three floors of pure joy. Boasting 18 miles of books, the Strand has literally everything you could ever possibly want and more  – including rare, vintage, and first editions, the Strand is just….heaven. Just heaven. It doesn’t get better. I could just live and die here.

Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe, 126 Crosby St

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookwormHousing Works Bookstore Cafe bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
(featuring Phoebe’s come-hither look)
Housing Works is another one of my personal favorites – it’s a beautiful bookshop specializing in (100% donated) secondhand books that doubles as a charity – along with the thrift shop next door, 100% of Housing Works profits go towards helping those living with HIV/AIDS and homelessness in New York City. Housing Works works to provide Heath services, job training, and housing resources for those who need it, and work tirelessly to advocate for these people. The bookstore & cafe hosts all kinds of events – readings, musical performances, parties, and even Literary Speed Dating for Queer Ladies – all to help raise funds for this wonderful cause.

McNally Jackson, 52 Prince St

McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm McNally Jackson bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Soho Muse Monthly books bookworm
Right around the corner from HousingWorks is McNally Jackson – a two floor bookstore with a beautiful cafe attached – seriously, that ceiling. There are books hanging from the ceiling and lining the walls. It’s so beautiful. McNally Jackson has become a recent favorite for one reason – not only do they have a large fiction section, but it’s divided up into regions, so you can find American fiction alongside African, Asian, Indian, Australian, and more. To someone who loves books in translation, it’s such an amazing find. It’s a great spot to find something new! Pick up something just because it looks cool, grab yourself a coffee and a muffin, and dive in.

Bookbook, 266 Bleecker st

Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm Bookbook bookstore bookshop New York City Manhattan Greenwhich Village Muse Monthly books bookworm

Bookbook is (as you might be able to tell from the name) a super cutie-pie bookstore in Greenwich Village. It’s tiny and full of best sellers and classics – plus they have a sale table out in front, which is always a good thing to have. It’s such a small space but there’s lots to look at, and we had a lovely conversation about poetry with some fellow shop goers, and then Phoebe read Kipling to us from the floor. Beautiful.

Three Lives & Co, 154 West 10th Street

Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm Three Lives and Company bookstore bookshop Manhattan New York City Independent bookstore Muse Monthly books bookworm

Okay so Three Lives & Co is honestly gorgeous. It’s pretty much a closet, but it’s one of those bookstores you walk in to and it smells like books and it looks like your dream library, and so you can’t help but fall in love a little bit. It’s got a great selection of new releases and travel books, but what really caught my attention was the lack of a YA/Children’s section. Three Lives definitely strikes me as a shop for someone who might be a bit of a lit snob – you know, the tweed jacket with elbow patches type. Aka, me. Yeah, I’m that kind of nerd.

192 Books, 192 Tenth Ave

192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm 192 Books bookstore bookshop Independent bookstore New York City Manhattan Muse Monthly books bookworm

We arrived at 192 books just as the beautiful afternoon sun was starting to stream through those big windows, flooding the shop with light. It was an enchanting effect, and we took the opportunity for lots of photos. 192 Books is small, but the place is literally stacked floor-to-ceiling with awesome things to read. It’s the type of place you could spend some time digging through stacks and piles to find something different and exciting. The staff were delightful and all too happy to chat about their favorites. I definitely recommend coming here towards the end of the day, and then finding a coffee shop nearby with outdoor seating to tuck in with your new find.

It was an exhausting day, but one I would gladly do again – I’m such a bookstore junkie that this tour was a dream come true for me. I’ve found several new favorite stops, and I’m already dreaming about going back for a visit to spend some more time among the stacks.

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream – Review & Playlist

The 100 Year Miracle by Ashley Ream book review tea Muse Monthly bookworm subscription box
It is, primarily, a story of hubris.

The 100 Year Miracle begins with Dr. Rachel Bell, a member of a small research team who have set out to study the Artemia lucis, a small sea creature that glows a bright green during it’s mating period, which lasts for five days every 100 years, only around an island off the coast of Washington. Dr. Bell, however, betrays her research team to conduct a study of her own – investigating the mythical painkilling properties of these sea creatures in order to cure her chronic pain from a childhood accident.

The story has a very mystical quality – because of the nature of these sea creatures that anchor the story, the tone is set that we are witness to something strange and delicate, something otherworldly and mythical. And indeed, Dr. Bell’s research about these creatures involves Native American folklore surrounding them, which is what sets her on her quest. According to the stories she’s found, the people native to the island used the Artemia lucis as both painkiller and hallucinogen, and as a way to access the spirit road. It is clear that these creatures are not to be disturbed, however, Rachel’s quest leads her down a destructive path. When she meets Harry, a resident of the island who is also suffering from chronic pain, she begins to unlock the powers of the Artemia lucis despite the negative effects it begins to have on her and those around her.

However, Rachel’s obsession is, on one level, understandable. It’s a very human thing to want the pain to stop, especially if it’s a pain that’s been ailing you for the majority of your life. It’s very human to get greedy with it, to become to single-minded that we fail to see the chaos that is happening on the other side of our blinders. I’m sure that a lot of people with chronic illnesses – especially illnesses that effect who we are as people and take away parts of us that we value – would jump at the chance to find a painkiller that would make it stop, even if that painkiller comes with some pretty intense side effects. It’s a matter of the good outweighing the bad, or rather, it’s a matter of priority.

And maybe Rachel’s ego gets in the way a bit. Maybe she goes overboard, and certainly there are ethical issues involved with her research and the disturbing of the Artemia lucis’ mating season. But would any of us be any different, given the chance? It is so easy to access those darker parts of humanity – the parts that allow us want to play God, to be selfish to the point of destruction. It’s a thin line between ground-breaking discovery and dangerous obsession.

Ream does an incredible job of showing us something mythical being torn apart and analyzed, being overtaken by human egoism and destroyed. It’s important to look at nature in this way – as something not to be disturbed – and to recognize how our human greed can effect the lives around us.

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Raphael Montes, Muse Monthly May

I think it’s a sign of a good crime novel that the story makes you very, very, intensely uncomfortable.

I will admit that crime and suspense is not my area of expertise. There are people – my mother is one – who eat up crime dramas and police procedurals. And of course, there are plenty out there to consume, but for some reason I tend to avoid things that are too Law & Order, as they seem to be all the same.

However, y’all know I cant resist a sociopath.

I love fucked up people doing fucked up things, I love reading stories about the build up before someone snaps, I especially love when said sociopath has intimate medical knowledge and is fascinated by dead bodies. That, to me, is setting up for an incredible story that will keep me on the edge of my seat. I am the person who cheers for the bad guy.

And Teo is all those things – he begins by saying his best friend is the cadaver they practice on in medical school, that he feels isolated from his peers until he meets Clarice. Of course, like any person who is unfamiliar with, well, people, Teo misconstrues Clarice’s flirtations and becomes obsessed with her to the point of kidnapping her with the intention of making her fall in love with him. Now, I’ll point out that for the first maybe third of the novel, I am all for this. I want to see Teo go crazy, I want to see him keep Clarice drugged and tied to the bed, I am all for him telling people that they’re dating, they’re engaged, I am all for him lying to both of their mothers and digging himself into a deep, chaotic hole that he’ll never be able to get out of. I just can’t wait for all of the madness to unfold, you know?

But I slowly stopped cheering for Teo and cheering for madness. I began to get panicked, to be worried for Clarice and wishing for someone to come along and save her, or better yet, for her to find her own way out somehow. And this is due to Montes’ masterful writing. Slowly Teo becomes more and more despicable, even for me. Slowly we start to see the depths of his depravity and the extent of his misogyny and homophobia, which transforms from slightly cringeworthy to throw-the-book-out-the-window very quickly. Frequently Teo comments on how disgusting Clarice is for wanting to kiss girls, how she is better at cleaning because she’s a woman, he calls her his ‘Lolita’ (which is a huge red flag), and it gets to the point where you can’t wait for this motherfucker to meet his end.

And…well, you’ll get there.

But the truth is, Perfect Days defied all my expectations. Not only was it expertly written and deliciously creepy, but the twists and turns are expertly navigated to tear up your emotions.

Just make sure no one is in the way when you throw the book across the room.


NYC Tea Tour! Muse Monthly & Bad Girl Good Tea Explore Manhattan’s Tea Houses

It’s no secret that I love tea, and I love Manhattan. I really do. But the thing about New York (and probably every city) is that it’s super easy to find coffee, but not so easy to find tea that isn’t Starbucks. Which is ridiculous, because for a city that prides itself on having an amazing, authentic food scene, you’d think there would be more places for tea. And so, the Muse Monthly Tea Tour was born – a quest to visit Manhattan’s best tea houses and shops and find some amazing places to stop for both cold and iced tea all over the island.

I was joined by Sam from Bad Girl Good Tea, an incredible small tea company out of Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine a better tour partner and we had a blast. It was exhausting, but super fun and we had a lot of laughs along the way.

Seven stops. One Day. Here we go!

Alice’s Tea Cup, 156 E 64th

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Alice's Tea Cup: NYC Manhattan Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our first stop was Alice’s Tea Cup, which I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. There are three locations in Manhattan so there’s plenty of Alice themed goodness to go around. Alice’s is popular with moms and their daughters – Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise, for example, and is a great stop for brunch. The interior is cute and comfy – not completely Alice themed, but there was Alice art on the walls and their signature tea blends are Alice/fairy tale themed. Sam and I both had brunch and tea, which comes in a personal pot (just the way I like it). Sam enjoyed the Alice’s Blend and I had Sparrow’s Soul. Both delicious (but I thought hers was better). 

Radiance Tea House & Books, 208 E 50th
Radiance Tea House & Books: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea IMG_1172
Our second uptown stop was Radiance Tea House and Books. I will freely admit that one of my shortcomings as a tea drinker is more traditional, pure teas. I don’t know as much about traditional teas as I would like, and so I purposely scheduled in a few teahouses that catered to a more Japanese tea style. Radiance was the first of these, and it did not disappoint. Radiance is definitely more upscale – it’s in a part of town that has a lot of businesses and so it seemed like a nice spot for lunch, but it was also very quiet, which meant our giggling and texting felt a little out of place. However, our server was very kind and willing to suggest teas we might enjoy, and she even helped us style the photo to the right. I had a lovely oolong and Sam had a sweet green tea, both of which were lovely. Radiance is a beautiful spot to visit and stay for a while, especially if you’re a lover of traditional teas.


Thirstea, 280 E 10th St
Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Thirstea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Our third stop was Thirstea, the first of our East Village stops. There are a few cute little tea shops within a few blocks, so we got a nice little tour of the neighborhood. By the time we got here, it was nice and sunny out, which made it a perfect day for sitting out on the bench and enjoying our tea. We had a lovely chat with one of the owners about being a small business and thriving in a digital world vs having a brick-and-mortar location, about tea and the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life. We also did our first periscope here (which Sam was dreading, but I made her do anyway) – the sound is terrible but you can watch it here on Facebook
Thirstea isn’t exactly a place to sit down for tea like the other two were. It’s a little, brightly colored hole-in-the-wall with a few barstools inside, but not a lot of space. They have a wide selection of teas and a few original blends, as well as bubble teas and smoothies. But this was one of my favorite spots on our tour – not only was the shop itself adorable, but the man we talked to was so nice, and that’s what really made it for me. It’s one of those perfect New York places with good people and good atmosphere. It’s definitely a perfect place to visit on a warm summer day. 

Physical Graffitea, 96 St Mark’s Place
Physical Graffitea: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
So I will admit that the East Village is not my neighborhood – I’m a SoHo girl, but I love the Village and it’s iconic culture. Physical Graffitea is a definite part of that. The location was first a vintage clothing store and is now a tea shop under the same management, and it definitely has that local New York charm. Stepping into Physical Graffitea is like stepping into the 1970s. It’s definitely the place you’d meet that cute hipster boy with his mustache and thick-rimmed glasses, or the singer-songwriter girl who plays acoustic guitar and dresses like Stevie Nicks. They had a huge selection of teas and plenty of friendly faces. At this point, we’d had too much tea so we didn’t drink anything, but I could definitely see myself bringing a book here and holing up for an afternoon. As a matter of fact, I might just do that. 

Tea Drunk, 123 E 7th St
Tea Drunk: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea Drunk was the second of my traditional tea spots. Tea Drunk is a beautiful, serene spot that offers tea classes as well as these pre-curated tea tasting menus for those (like us) who are new to the world of traditional teas. We had the green tea tasting  which featured three beautiful green teas that ranged from sweet and light to full and flavorful. It was a beautiful ceremony guided by a very knowledgeable tea master. We also got to hang with little tea friends – they’re made from   Yixing clay leftover from the creation of clay teapots and they “drink” the extra tea, meaning you pour your leftover tea over them and they absorb the water.  I had a lot of fun with my little elephant!  Yixing clay tea elephant: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea

Sanctuary T, 337 W Broadway
SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea SanctuaryT: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Now, SantuaryT is definitely more my speed. It’s tucked on a nice corner in Soho and is a very swanky, modern tea house/bar/restaurant complete with gorgeous Australian servers and parmesan truffle friends. By the time we arrived here, it was sunset on a beautiful warm day. We took a table by the open storefront to people watch and had an incredible, relaxing time. I had a hot Soho chai which was delicious, and Sam had an iced matcha. This was maybe my favorite stop along the way. That might have had a little to do with how hot our server was. Tea and cute boys and a beautiful New York sunset – what more do you need?


Tea and Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Ave
Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea Tea and Sympathy: Manhattan NYC Tea Tour with Muse Monthly and Bad Girl Good Tea
Tea and Sympathy is hands down one of my favorite places in New York. My sister discovered this spot years ago and we’ve been coming here pretty frequently ever since. It sings to my little anglophile heart – owned by a British family, it’s the cutest little hole in the wall, decorated like your English grandma’s kitchen with food to match. Here you can get an incredible selection of teas in mismatched teaware as well as a full English breakfast or Sunday roast. The same family owns A Salt & Battery, the fish & chips shop next door, and a little shop inbetween that sells British food and gifts. It’s a beautiful little haven. 
By the time we got here, it was late at night and we were both exhausted, so of course we finished strong with some vanilla tea and cake. Because, duh. 

The Tea Tour, in my opinion, was a complete success. Not only did we have some amazing new teas and find some fantastic spots, but I made a new friend and had some really special conversation. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Good friends and good tea. Nothing better.


Check out our friends Bad Girl Good Tea!

Sudden Death by Alvaro Enrigue – Review & Playlist

Perfect Days by Alvaro Enrigue Riverhead books book review Muse Monthly

It’s like getting drunk with your Art History teacher.

Which, for me, is pretty much exactly what I want in life. You can’t deny that it would be amazing to split a bottle of wine with your former professor and chat about prostitutes that starred in your favorite paintings, corrupted popes, and the secrets of Spanish conquistadors. And then by the end of it, you’re shitfaced and thinking, ‘wait, is this all true?’ This is essentially the experience of reading Sudden Death – and it is quite the experience.

The novel is multi-layered: first, a story of a tennis match between Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo and famed artist Caravaggio (who is my absolute all time favorite, just as a side note) intersperced with the history of tennis as a developing sport; second, an intensely realistic and human history lesson spanning from Italy to Mexico; third, Enrigue’s email’s back and forth with his editor during the writing of this novel. What Enrigue does brilliantly with Sudden Death is blur the line between reality and fiction – you could, if you were that type of reader, read this along with a history textbook or your google search open, and fact check the shit outta this, but I don’t think you really need to. Did de Quevedo vs. Caravaggio really happen? Did Galileo keep score? Does it really matter?

What Enrigue has done is create a novel that reads more like a Samuel Beckett play, that creates this hyper-reality in which things are just a little bit weird and unbelievable, but not too much that the reader is aware of it. He breathes life into these historical names that we typically feel so far away from – and it’s a real, gritty, dirty life, tangible humanity, with all the bumps and brusies and vomit and sex that you could possibly want. At some points, you may ask yourself, ‘why is this so engrossing?’ The answer is, because it’s written with such skill and personality and humor that you can’t help but get caught up in it.

Sudden Death is a really unique novel. It’s an incredible reading experience that cannot be compared to anything else I’ve read before.

And I’m definitely sending a copy to my art history professor so we can grab drinks and talk about Caravaggio.