April Book a Month: Hons and Rebels (Also, the Elite 8!)

HonsAndRebelsAs part of our 2014 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions about the featured work—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. You may use the questions to reflect back on each book once you’ve finished it or to guide you as you read. Either way, we hope these features will enrich your reading experience. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!) 

If there is a more fascinating family than the Mitfords in recent history, we have yet to meet them! Our April selection, Hons and Rebels, is the “fabulously true story” of Jessica “Decca” Mitford, the fifth of six aristocratic English sisters whose personal and political scandals during the early- and mid- twentieth century continue to captivate us today. In this “gloriously entertaining” memoir, Decca recounts her unconventional childhood, her elopement with Winston Churchill’s nephew, and their adventures in Spain and the United States. Continue reading

Tournament of Classics 2014

Happy birthday, Bluestocking Salon! You’re one year old today. (They grow up so fast, don’t they?) Some of you may remember we launched this blog in 2013 with Bas Bleu’s Tournament of Classics, a literary take on the NCAA’s annual March Madness extravaganza. The result was a battle royale so intense that, in honor of the Bluestocking Salon’s big 0-1, we decided to play again!

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Way back when, epic poet Homer recounted the tale of Odysseus, a Greek king taking his sweet time sailing home from the Trojan War. Along the way, he faced dire situations and tough choices, not the least of which was running the gauntlet between Scylla (a six-headed sea monster) and Charybdis (a deadly whirlpool). Three thousand years later, novelist William Styron wove his own tale of impossible choices, about a woman named Sophie forced to decide which of her children would die at the hands of the Nazis.

Today we’re proposing a series of considerably less awful—yet still book based—conundrums in a gleeful little game of Would You Rather, Bas Bleu style. (Thanks to the folks over at Book Riot for the idea.) So, dear bluestockings, gather your book club, your dinner guests, or your carpool crew, and play along if you dare! Continue reading

The Queen’s English

If you’ve ever traveled across the Pond to the United Kingdom, you probably found yourself wondering, “Wait a second: I thought they spoke English here?” They do—but there’s a catch. Just as American English is rife with slang and colloquialisms that can baffle an outsider, so too is British English. So this week in the Bluestocking Salon we’re offering all you Anglophiles, travelers, and word-lovers a crash course in the more colorful side of “the Queen’s English.” Continue reading

Chatting With the Bas Bleu Editors

We’ve all been there—the cocktail party, the business dinner, the boring car trip where conversation grinds to a halt within the first five minutes. That’s why we love the handy Chat Packs that you’ll find on page 21 of the Bas Bleu Summer 2013 issue. They’re packed with fun, interesting questions to get the conversational ball rolling. And who knows? You just may learn something surprising about the relative or coworker you thought you knew everything about!

With that in mind, the Bluestocking Salon invited Bas Bleu editors Christie Hall and Ann Gregory to take a seat and answer a dozen randomly selected questions from Chat Packs: Extremes. (Go big or go home, right?) Here’s what they had to say: Continue reading

Exquisite Corpse

May is National Short Story Month, so to celebrate, the Bluestocking Salon is hosting our first-ever game of Exquisite Corpse. For those of you not familiar with this party game, its roots can be traced to the Surrealist movement of early-twentieth-century France, when a group of poets devised it as an exercise in collective creativity. As the story goes, their game began with a single word written on a piece of paper, which was then folded and passed to the next player, who would add his own word (the rules dictated which part of the sentence—noun, verb, adjective, etc.—he was required to submit) without knowing which words preceded it. Allegedly, the inaugural game produced the final sentence, “le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau” or, ”the exquisite corpse will drink the young wine.” Hence the (awesome!) title.

Almost a century later, we thought it would be fun to try Exquisite Corpse as a collaborative story-writing game. Rather than working word by word to build an unseen sentence, we will provide an opening paragraph. It’s up to you, our readers, to add to the narrative thread with a short paragraph of your own.

There are a few rules:

  1. Entries should be no longer than one hundred words.
  2. Expand upon, rather than shut down the previous train of thought. Instead of using your installment to remind us of the laws of physics or the fact that squirrels cannot speak English, show us just how creative you can be!
  3. Don’t try to get in the last word. Your submission should leave the story open for others to contribute.
  4. This is a game. Have fun with it!

Please post your contribution in the comments section below, then check back with us at the end of the month for the complete story.

For those of you who would rather read (or listen to) short stories instead of write them, we’ve got you covered, too.




Let the game begin:

For Ella Stone, the anniversary of her birth was a terrible thing. Not because she feared age or wrinkles or writing stilted thank-you notes for gifts she did not want, but because of the cake. Vanilla, chocolate, carrot; what lay beneath the strokes of frosting mattered not. What mattered was the candle, driven like a stake through the heart of her year and needing only one breath to extinguish all she’d built in the preceding months. She feared that winking candle, its burning ember hot with promise, because every birthday wish Ella Stone had ever made came true.

Welcome to the Bluestocking Salon!

Spring is in full bloom at Bas Bleu, and we’re celebrating by hatching something new: our very own blog!

Inspired by the eighteenth-century literary gatherings hosted by legendary “bas bleu” Elizabeth Montagu, the Bluestocking Salon will take a closer look at some of our favorite titles and authors; offer behind-the-scenes insight into how we select the books and gifts that fill our catalogs; share bookish stories, links, and photos we think might tickle your fancy…in other words, revel in the wonderful world of reading!

To kick things off, we’re celebrating March Madness in true Bas Bleu style, with the Tournament of Classics. Below you’ll find our customized bracket of classic novels. [This post has been updated with the final bracket.]


Final Classics Bracket 2013

It’s up to you to decide which of these Sweet Sixteen titles will advance to the Elite Eight: Just log your picks in this blog’s comments section or cast your votes on our Facebook page. We’ll announce the winners of each round on Facebook and let you know when it’s time to vote again.

Full disclosure: These literary competitors were chosen by popular opinion, not statistics, and we couldn’t possibly include all of the worthy contenders. The only prize is a confirmation of your own good taste…and perhaps a heated book-club discussion or two. And if our bracket inspires you to explore a never-read classic or to revisit an old favorite, all the better!

We hope you’ll return to the blog each week to see more of what we have to offer. In the meantime, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Pinterest and Twitter. And, as always, happy reading!