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.

A Poem for Everyone

I fell in love with poetry on the laps of my mom and dad, snuggled up close, as they sang nursery rhymes to me, and then later on, Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky and yes, Dr. Seuss too. Poems like Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too tripped across the room, enchanting me with their rhythms and of course humor; my dad read The Owl and the Pussycat to me every single night before bed. And who, old or young, doesn’t love Listen to the Musn’ts. Even after my parents stopped reading Silverstein to me, my cousin and I used to spend family holidays curled up in a corner, reading Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic together, and we still talk about these poems sometimes.

As I got older, I didn’t read as much poetry anymore. Then my senior year of high school I took an Advanced English class where we spent a whole semester on poetry, and I fell in love all over again. I was introduced to Emily Dickinson, Edward Arlington Robinson, T.S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Dorothy Parker, who I discovered on my own that year. I wanted to be Dorothy Parker, with her sharp. clever wit. I wanted to be a big time journalist, and sit at the Algonquin Round Table. (Ok, I still want to do that) I started smoking – yeah, I started smoking not due to peer pressure or anything, but because all my favorite writers and authors did it- and she even influences me a bit now. A craft cocktail bar opened up in Detroit about 8 or so years ago, and what did I order? A whiskey sour, like my old idol Dorothy Parker. I no longer smoke, but I do still enjoy a whiskey sour every now and again.

Last Friday my husband, Wyatt, and I stumbled into an art show celebrating the beauty of the spoken and written word, titled Pose and Poetry. For the entire month of April, works of art inspired by poems are on display, as well as a night of open mic spoken word. We had attended a Free Spirit Fair in the same building, and saw the exhibit going on, and decided to check it out too. I am so glad that we did. I loved it. There was this beautiful, delicate piece of artwork, a sculpture of glass shaped into a little nest, with strips of Dickinson poems tucked throughout. It was exquisite and lovely and I adored it. I can’t stop thinking about it really. Dickinson is a favorite of mine, and this piece was really a gorgeous tribute to her work.

Patrons were encouraged to participate as well, by writing a line from a favorite poem and sticking it to the window. I of course had to do this too. The problem was, which of my favorites would I leave a line from? Degrees of Grey in Phillipsburg flitted through my mind, and I considered Hope is the thing with feathers by Dickinson but she was already so beautifully represented. But in the end there was no other poem I could have chosen besides The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, my very favorite of them all.

These days I read a lot of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry; different poets affect us at different points in our lives, and right now, Oliver and Berry hit me where I am. I think there is a poet or two out there for all of us, even in some of us. Or maybe just a singular poem that calls to us, even just a line that sings to our soul. What do you think? Is there a poet or poem that you love? Feel free to drop a line in the comments! I would love to read who or what speaks to you.

My Sunday-Monday Post

 

 

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

This past week was a bit blah. I never seemed to have enough time to get stuff done – it was one of those weeks. Too much to do, not enough time! My husband and I did manage to get a few hours at Ikea together, when we left the boyo with his grandparents for a visit. It was nice, although we did spend a bit more than we wanted! And darn it, right on the heels of a Target shopping trip for essentials that should have cost around forty bucks, but ended up being a *little* more. I am also spring cleaning – I am on a purge and splurge I guess! LOL.

We also splurged and bought tickets with my brother and his family to see the Jurassic World Live Tour in November! Wyatt will not like it yet, really loud noises and things jumping out at him startle him too much, so he will be hanging out with a grandma, but it will still be fun – and we will get to hang out with my niece Bean, who loves loves all things dinosaur, especially Blue from Jurassic Park. So it will still be super fun – in November! Lol. We jumped on an email I got for pre-sale tickets so we have some time to wait.

As for our experiments in cooking this week, we made a fantastic spring minestrone soup!

 

Read Last Week:

 

 

Girl Most Likely was a review read from NetGalley that started off promising, but by the end, I was less than enthused. I won’t say I didn’t like it, but I definitely put it in the “It’s ok” category on Goodreads.

I also finally finished Little Dribbling! I loved it. I want to move to England now. Lol. Bill Bryson is hilarious. And Bill Bryson, if you are reading this blog by some bizarre chance and randomness, I would make a great research assistant! And we wouldn’t have to trade houses! (not being strange – he writes about weird fans in his book, and one asked him to trade houses lol)

Reading This Week:

 

 

This week we are working on some big stuff with Wyatt, and it is also his spring break, so I won’t have a lot of time to read or blog very much. (I don’t think – who knows!) Fingers crossed I find the time, I am super excited to read the newest book in the Caraval series, Finale! SO excited, that I am changing my plan for the week to read it. This post originally had a different book listed- but I was too excited when I saw I got this book on NetGalley (or NutGalley as it is today..lol)

I am also reading Cozy. At heart in my soul I am a cozy seeking person. Like all the time. This book is perfect for describing me. Lol. My only complaint so far is the overuse of the word “cozy”. I understand that is the whole premise of the book but it seems to be used in ways I would never use it. Maybe by the end of the book, it will all make sense!

Watching:

The Order – we binged this show all week. It was pretty much all we watched until there were no more left! 😦 We also watched a lot of Winnie the Pooh, Wyatt’s current favorite. He loves “Tiggaahh”

Posted Last Week:

I posted about our most recent but short hikes! Bird’s Eye View

 

How about you all? What is going on in your world?

This journey began with a bear..

A Pooh Bear, to be specific.

My first introduction to the hills and dales and woods of England had to be Winnie the Pooh and his gang of friends. I read books, listened to records, watched the show, as they cavorted around the 100 Acre Woods, getting into scrapes, helping each other out, teaching me about friendship. I soaked it up, every bit, like Pooh and his precious honey.

Later, my mom gave me a set of James Herriot books one Christmas. This was probably the time I fell in love with the natural world of England. I read this series cover to cover, and although I did not always understand everything that was happening as I was kind of young still, I knew that there was something special happening. My suburban eyes were opened to another time, another world. a completely different way of life, that of a large animal country vet. I always loved animals, and these books made me laugh, but they also made me cry. Herriot’s love for his Yorkshire Dales made me love them too. These became books that I reread still to this day. Incidentally, my grandfather was born almost exactly to the day, one year before James Herriot, in the very same town of Sunderland, England. I like to think about them possibly being strolled about on the same sidewalks and into the same shops.

Later, I found Watership Down, not quite a book about the English countryside or woods, but nevertheless, these rabbits braved their way across many a hill and forest until they reached Watership Down. And is still my very favorite book today.

Somewhere in all this, I gave my heart to British nature writing – something I didn’t even realize I was completely avid about until a year or so ago, when I stumbled upon Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel. His poetic observations captured my imaginings, and my love of nature. Like Herriot, his love of his homeland and surroundings is quite evident in his descriptions, the beautiful imagery and words. Stempel describes himself in The Wood as a country writer, writing what he says he knows best. In Meadowland, the Private Life of an English Field, Stempel shares his field study in diary form of the life and death happenings that occur there, the flora, the fauna- the wildflowers, the foxes who seem to recognize him from his rambles, the hedgehogs and birds, to the smallest little insects.

Since then I have read The Glorious Life of the Oak, which is about exactly what you would think, the Oak, its significance to England’s history, folklore and poetry. I learned more than I thought I could ever learn about the Oak tree, which is quite alright, as our family holds acorns and oaks symbolically, as symbols of hope and strength. This Christmas, my husband gifted me The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood, and I have been savoring it, reading it slowly, but still I am almost done with this foray into an English wood.

As a nature lover, I was stunned to learn that the new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary decided to drop about forty words, all pertaining to nature. They deemed these words not essential, not used enough by children to warrant their place in the dictionary, and were replaced by tech words like blog, cut and paste, voicemail. The list of lost words included so many of my favorites things! Dandelion, acorn, bluebell, fern, magpie, otter, willow- all gone from the dictionary, but hopefully not from the minds of the people who use it. Author Robert MacFarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris have created their own book, a place for these words to live on, called The Lost Words. This book is amazingly beautiful, with gorgeous full page artwork illustrations, and poems designed to capture the readers mind and imagination, to keep the words and what they represent alive. It is one of my favorite books, and I love getting it out and looking through it with my son.

I imagine I will keep this up, reading more of Lewis-Stempel and MacFarlane and whoever else I run into on the way. They are amazing tributes to our natural world and inspirational, encouraging me in their way to get outside sometimes and enjoy the wonders of nature, away from my phone and my computer and television. To look and listen and watch and be a part of that world too. And maybe one day I’ll even get to England!

My Favorite Reads of 2018

Hey all! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, if you celebrate! We were so busy – a very fun busy, but busy! Wyatt had a blast this year, which means that we did too.

As the year draws to a close, I thought back to all the books I read this year. It was definitely a year of Jenny Colgan and Karen White – I found their backlists and just went crazy. Also this year I really found a love of reading nature books. I am really enjoying the different persepectives it has given me, and how they have started shaping my family’s life in a different way, one that has more of an emphasis on the outdoors and nature. We always loved nature and being outside, but I am learning how to incorporate that more – sometimes by letting some other things go. But before I get too philosophical here, that is all talk for another post, let’s take a peek at my favorite books that I read this year, in no particular order.

Christmas on the Island – I wanted to pick just one Colgan book, and this one was the winner. I simply loved it.

Virgil Wander – This might be my very favorite of them all.

The Impossible Girl – Lydia Kang never fails to disappoint me. She writes such unique stories that I can’t stop reading.

I read quite a few YA books too – I usually do. These three really stuck out for me.

All the Little Lights – Holy crap, this book blew me away! I wish I could read it all over again without knowing the end just so I can feel that same way.

Truly, Devious – I finished this and it ends on a cliffhanger!! Is the next one out yet?? I need to read it!

Nevernight – My husband wanted me to read this and I fell in love with this crazy world. For me it was like Harry Potter for assassins…

This Fallen Prey – I love this series so much. I love the whole premise of a place where people can go to disappear. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Flight Patterns – Again, hard to choose a favorite but this was the chosen one. Just so much love and tears in this book. I got my mom hooked on reading White too!

The Girl in the Tower – The very first book I read this year, and it was beautiful. I love the beauty and the fairy tale of it all.

And finally, The Nature Fix. This book was kind of life changing, actually. I had my husband read it too, and it shifted our perspective on what is important and how we really want to live our lives. A really cool book, full of so much information. Loved it.

And there you have it!! What books did you read that you loved this year?

Our Favorite Halloween Reads

 I love Halloween! One thing I love doing is hitting the library for Halloween books for the boy. Some of the ones we get are new, some of them you need a wayback machine for. These are the ones that I have made sure to grab, because they were my favorites growing up, and while they may not look as sleek and shiny and flashy, they are still great stories!

Samurai Scarecrow was a new addition to our holiday reading this year, as was Duck and Goose. I loved both, although they were very different. Samurai Scarecrow had great illustrations, while Duck and Goose was a Wyatt pick – he loves Duck and Goose. A lot. It was a long book so be warned. Lol.

Gus was a Friendly Ghost and Georgie’s Halloween are my two old favorites. I simply adore these sweet little ghosts. I also love the other Georgie books too. I know Gus has other books but I haven’t read them. I probably should!

Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat is super cool!! It is well loved here, both for the story and for the art, which is three dimensional and multi-media (I think this is the right way to describe it!) The author, Muncaster, is a miniaturist, who made tiny miniatures and then photographed them as the accompanying illustrations.

Room on the Broom and Click Clack Boo are just great reads. Simply put, Wyatt just loves sitting in my lap listening to them. Finally, A Dark, Dark Tale I picked up at a garage sale for its kind of creepy art. It doesn’t disappoint!

As for me, around Halloween I usually turn to books about witches and ghosts. These are a few of my top favorite witchy witch books and series. I am always looking for more, so please hit me with your recommendations!

 

How about you? Are you a seasonal reader? Any favorites? I’d love to hear them!