Nonfiction November:Wk 1 A Year in Nonfiction

I am so excited to be participating in Nonfiction November this year! It’s my first time ever and I am looking forward to this challenge. Our first week is hosted by Julz Reads and our prompt for this week is a look back at our year. I haven’t read all that much this year in the way of nonfiction, just a few, so I am going to just post those titles near the end and slide right into my favorite.

Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

If you ask anyone who knows me, they could answer what my favorite nonfiction read of the year so far has been. Hands down, it was The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating.

I picked this up right around New Year’s last year, but it sat on my shelf waiting to be read. Then in February, my aunt passed away. This devastated me and left me heartbroken. My aunt was like a second mother to me my whole life, from childhood on. Everything big or important, she was there. Always. And then she wasn’t anymore. As a reader, reading is an escape. But nothing was working – until I picked this book up. It was perfect for me in my grief, quiet, gentle, slow. A tale of a woman dealing with her own debilitating illness and finding hope and peace in the slow movements and life of a common garden snail that lived in a pot by her bed. This book fascinated me and entranced me. I felt hope and peace, in bits and pieces, inspired by Bailey’s story. I talked about this book to anyone who would listen. My friends know far more about snails than they probably should. Then in June, our family faced heartbreak once again, when my stepdad passed away suddenly. My mom had just lost both of her best friends within a few months, her sister and her husband, and for a week she lived with us, casting about for something as well. I gave her this book and while it didn’t make her grief go away, because nothing can but time, it worked its magic on her as well.

My snail love still is going strong. I had snails off and on all summer, hanging out in our terrarium for a bit before I let them go again in the garden. Then right before fall, one came to me, right to my door practically. We decided to keep this snail around for the winter, safe and warm in our house. We have named him Sampson and he loves apples! I imagine that is why he was hanging out at our house, with all of our apples from our apple tree.

This is by far my most recommended nonfiction book so far this year. I have sung its praises far and wide, asked my book club to read it, and extolled its virtues to my family and friends.

When I read nonfiction lately, it is generally nature nonfiction. I love memoirs and John Lewis Stempel, and in November I have a few nature books lined up to read already. But I feel my nonfiction reading is going to take a bit of a turn as well this month, veering off into food. Maybe it is the holiday at the end of the month, but I feel like reading about pie and foodways in addition to my nature reading. Here are the nonfiction books that I have read this year! Reading nonfiction is relatively new for me, and I am really enjoying it.

I am excited to participate, see what other people are loving and reading. There is always more room on that old TBR list after all!

Book Review: The Vine Witch

Goodreads Summary:

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley. 

My Thoughts:

Oh man did I love this book! I got it from the Amazon First Reads program and I immediately started reading it. And that cover is a thing of beauty!

I love this world that Smith has created – a place of magical realism with witches that help tend the vines that supply the wine, nurture the land with their own brand of magic, watch over the vineyard for curses and spells and add their own magical flavor to the terroir. In this world, bierehexe also exist, doing the same for the beers in the Alps, bakers that create treats that you crave only when you are in love, and other various supernatural elements.

Elena was on her way to being the best, her powers creating amazing wines and flavors for her vineyard, Château Renard, when she is cursed to the swamps for seven long years. This book picks up as the curse is ending, and we join her as she returns to her home and lifes calling. She finds the vineyard changed though, now under new ownership, an owner who is not a believer in magic or vine witches. Jean-Paul believes in science and fact and logic and straight farming, although in this world, that puts him at a disadvantage. He needs a vine witch, his vine witch tied to his land, to help him find the glory he craves as a winemaker. Elena is more than happy to pick up her mantle again, but first she has to convince Jean-Paul. And of course, there is the pesky detail of finding out who exactly cursed her, and how she will get her revenge. Not to mention as well, that there is some sort of criminal running around draining animals of their blood, giving a bad name to the vine witches.

Inevitably, Jean-Paul and Elena fall in love – although this is sort of slow to start and honestly, could have used more development altogether. They have to fight a few battles together, against a few different evils and battles and hurdles. I felt like here is where the book could have used a bit more something. Regardless, I completely loved this book and am looking forward to the Smith’s next one, The Glamourist.

If you like witches, or wine, or both, then you will love this book! I recommend reading paired with a hearty Cabernet, if you are a wine drinker.

Harvest Full Moon

Tonight is the full harvest moon – and coincidentally, Friday the 13th!! OOoooooOOO…

The Harvest Moon is the moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox which is coming up on the 23rd. This time, the moon is also a micromoon, meaning it will appear smaller in the sky, the opposite of a supermoon. So much happening in our skies right now! We are spending this harvest moon with my brother and his family, having a fire in the yard and eating cheesy corn chowder and apple bread made from the apples growing on our tree. The moon won’t rise in our area until after midnight, so it probably won’t be Friday the 13th anymore technically, and I kind of am ok with that.

I have been reading Harvest Moon books to Wyatt this week, in preparation for this moon that signifies harvest season and family. And because I am always curious and forever reading more on things, I also looked up books on superstitions for my own reading. Mine haven’t come in at the library yet, so I won’t get to read them until maybe next week, but I am looking forward to flipping through them.

These were all great reads, but our favorite is Possum’s Harvest Moon. This little possum just wants his friends to get together and celebrate before winter arrives, and meets with a little resistance at first! Eventually, all the friends have a great time together, hanging out at the Harvest Moon. Kind of like we are going to do with my brother and his family – although we will see him after winter arrives too. I am guessing though, historically, that for people in the “old days”, that once the snow fell you might not see your neighbors until spring, so maybe people back then had celebrations of their own, before snows kept them isolated.

I have to admit, the superstition of Friday the 13th does get to me… my family is very superstitious, I blame our Irish and Scottish ancestry! As I mentioned above, I went digging for some books on superstitions, as my curiosity usually does lead me to do. These were the few I found that looked really interesting!

We actually had the Encyclopedia of Superstitions in the library I used to work at, and the kids checked it out like crazy. I had to order a new one for the library eventually, it became so worn out. So, I figured that had to go on my list! I am sure I won’t read these cover to cover, all of them, but you never know I guess! What the Moon Said is a kids chapter book that drew my interest as well, it looks really interesting. They had me at Little House though…

How about you guys? Any plans for tonight? Any suggestions for a harvest moon play list?

A Few Mini-Reviews

It’s been a minute since I have posted any mini-reviews and I have been reading so many good mini reviews lately that I have decided to do a few of my own!

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: I love this podcast and I was so excited to read this book, that I never even bothered to read what this book was about! I figured it was going to be more true crime, but it was more self-help than anything. I still really enjoyed it, and while I find Karen and Georgia fun on their podcast, it was nice to hear their voices describe their own lives and past mistakes and how they have moved on, without all the banter. Some good truths in this book! I found it so relatable, but maybe because I was a less than perfect teen and twenty year old, who made some crazy mistakes too. (If I’m being honest, I still do!)

Brazen: Rebel Ladies who Rocked the World: This book blew me away, honestly. I learned about women I had never heard of before, I read about women I had heard about, and it was all presented in graphic novel form. I picked it up on a whim, and loved the illustrations, the message, the facts. I even found some new role models! Amazing read, loved it and read it all in one afternoon! I plan on seeking out more of Bagieu’s work soon.

Leaving Time: Another one that really was amazing. This is my first Jodi Picoult book and if all of her writing is like this, no one wonder she is so loved. This was our book club pick for my neighborhood book club, and the woman who chose it told me she thought I would like it. And I did! Half of the book was about elephants, and if you are familiar with my blog, you will know that I love animals and learning about animals. And these elephants will break your heart; you will never look at an elephant the same way again. At it’s core this book is about loss and grief and mothers and healing, and is so beautifully written. And then the end, I just didn’t see it coming. Excellent book.

What Wyatt’s Reading – August

We have been reading like crazy over here! I usually do this post at the end of the month or I try to, but we have been reading so much that I posted early. These are our favorites so far this month… some his, some mine lol.

I am Not a Skunk is a super adorable book about a cat that was mistaken for a skunk – when the family realized it really was a cat, they gave him a home! We were graciously gifted this book by author Ellen Pilch, and Wyatt loves it! The cat in the book looks so much like our Maggie cat!

We read two Mermaid books too – Wyatt loved the story of Pearl, a mermaid whose job it was to raise the moon, and I loved Tallulah, and her petoskey stone. (plus, we are Michiganders!)

I have read Over in a River over and over and over…this was a favorite of Wyatt’s. It had a great map of some of the rivers of the United States and the animals that call those rivers home. Really cool.

Leo Lionni, Kevin Henkes, and Eric Carle are perennial favorites, am I right? I totally love Henkes books and was so excited to share them with Wyatt when he was born. He loves them too, and he is also a fan of Lionni, an author I never really was super drawn to but now see the appeal, thanks to the kiddo. And Eric Carle is just so talented! I do have to say the illustration in this book of the grouchy ladybug saying “Go away” kind of makes me giggle, which is wrong, I know. Something about it though…lol.

Finally our pal Crinkleroot! I love these books to teach Wyatt about nature. This one is a little advanced for him but was a good place to start. And I learned from it too!

Have you read any of these?

Book Review: Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

Publisher Summary:

In 1920s New York, the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal.

In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance…

My Thoughts:

This book was the bee’s knees!! It checked a lot of boxes for me, and so much more. I love mysteries, and the 20s, but this book took those ideas to the next level. At first, it seems like a simple murder mystery, where a high society woman who happens to also be clever mixes in attempting to solve it. Julia however is much more than just a clever rich lady looking for a distraction. She is self-possessed, has a lover, independent, intelligent – and currently waiting for her 25th birthday when she can take control of her own inheritance and not depend on her older brother to dole an allowance out to her.

Julia becomes embroiled in the mystery of Naomi Rankin’s death through the admission of her friend Glennis, who is shocked by her sister Naomi’s sudden death, which appears as a suicide. Yet neither woman is buying that. Julia is pulled further into the mystery when Glennis invites her to a private family meeting about Naomi’s passing, and is shocked by how the family is more anxious to sweep it all under the rug without a second look. That family is a piece of work, and negotiating their family politics and relationships was a bit confusing – there were so many! All of them with different motives and personal agendas too, it seems…

As she and her friend dig deeper into what really happened that night to Naomi, Julia is also facing a few challenges herself, most importantly the fact that her brother Phillip has challenged the will, stating that he is entitled to the family fortune, which would leave Julia with nothing. She imagines her own dreams going up in smoke, of being an independent woman, and of continuing on with her own private press of books, Capriole. When Phillip proposes a wager regarding the cause of Naomi’s death, Julia doesn’t hesitate to accept.

Julia is led up and down and all around trying to solve this mystery, and her discoveries shed light on what life really was like for a woman in the 20s, where their financial freedom and sexual freedoms were not necessarily their own, as Julia herself comes to realize. We think of the Roaring Twenties as good times, jazz, dancing until dawn, and drinking, but we forget about the women fighting in the trenches for women’s rights. Sadly, even now, not every state has ratified the Equal Rights Amendment which is a proposed amendment that will guarantee equal rights to every citizen regardless of gender, in regards to divorce, property, employment, and other matters. Still to the day. Almost a hundred years later and the fight still continues. Benn’s novel does a wonderful job of marrying the mystery to the early days of the women’s right movement, and it fit the story perfectly.

I loved this book! I love even more that this book is listed as number one in the Julia Kydd series, meaning there will be more! I can’t wait to read more about Julia and where her journey will take her.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine

Publisher Summary:

It’s The Holiday on the Champs-ƒlysées in a great big love letter to Paris, charming old bookstores and happily-ever-afters!

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

My Thoughts:

A bookstore, Paris – what more can you ask for? When Sarah Smith gets the call from her friend asking to trade their bookstores for a while, she very much of out character replies yes. Sarah lives life safely, and quaintly, in her small town. She has a slower pace of life, friends that she loves, a bookstore that she adores, and a hot boyfriend to boot. But the siren’s call from the City of Love beckons even to her, and she thinks the opportunity is a dream come true. And best of all, her boyfriend can join her there, as his job as a journalist takes him all over the world . The idea of spending time strolling the streets of Paris with Ridge is almost enough to get her there all by itself, and her romantic nature can’t resist. Heck, I wouldn’t be able to either!

But when she gets there, she finds it is not necessarily the dream come true that she imagined – it is a lot more work and unhappiness that she had expected. She barely sees any of Paris in her early time there, as she works from sun up to sun down, everyday. And Ridge can never seem to find the time to join her as he had promised, which adds to her misery. Here Sarah is, surrounded by the beauty and charm of Paris, close enough to touch but it is still just out of reach!

The bookstore itself sounds amazing, a store that any book lover would love to wander into; historic, lovely, with many rooms and floors of books – it even has a writer in residence and a piano room! It has a wonderful history from decades past,  lending books to readers who can’t afford them. Sarah can appreciate the beauty and the history, although she also begins to feel chained to the place.

Sarah is not a quitter though, and as Christmas approaches, she puts plans into action to turn things around. And you will just have to read to find out if she does!

I enjoyed this sweet little book so much, although at times I was just frustrated as Sarah! I really loved it, and while the book does have some emphasis on the holiday season, it didn’t feel strictly like a Christmas book. If you like books and Paris, you will love this book!

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin books for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.