It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

July 7, 2014 Books, Meme 11


Oh, great. It’s Monday. Again. I’d don’t know about you, but I’m about ready for a vacation from Mondays. Thank goodness, I get one in ONE WEEK.

I. Cannot. Wait. A week at the beach is just the ticket.

But, we’re here to discuss THIS week, not NEXT week, right? This weekend, I finished The Green Mile (OMG LOVE) and started Dorothy Must Die (eh, so far). I’m listening to Thirteenth Child (love it!) as fast as I can, so I can get started on East of Eden (insert Jaws theme). The kids and I got a little off track with Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (busy time of year) but we’ll be getting back to it soon (5 hour road trip!). And Alias Hook, alas, we lost our way a bit when I lost it, but I’m getting back to it as well, or it’s going to the beach with me.

The rest of this week will be spent determining what to take to the beach. Hard decisions have to be made. Yay!

What are you reading this week? How was your weekend?


Hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.




Monthly Wrap Up – June 2014

July 3, 2014 Books, Monthly Wrap Up 11


Ignore that Type your text here. Heather is blind and also lazy.

 June! You awesome, awesome month. I’m sorry to see you go. We read some good books together, didn’t we?

53. The Raven Boys: The Raven Cycle Book 1 by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton
54. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
55. The Lady Astronaut of Mars by Mary Robinette Kowal
56. A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan, read by Kate Reading
57. Ruby by Cynthia Bond
58. The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd
59. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg
60. The Map Thief by Michael Blanding, read by Sean Runnette
61. Glaciers by Alexis Smith, read by Rebecca Lowman

Nine books! Can we say thank goodness for audiobooks? I listened to 4 last month! Granted, Glaciers was only about 3 hours long, and I was wishing for more, but still. I’m extremely happy with my reading. All the books were good. Ruby killed me. Delancey wowed me and made me want pizza. The Map Thief was a delight, as was The Girls at the Kingfisher Club. All in all, great month.

As for July, I have a few plans. Firstly, I have to start East of Eden for The Estella Project. Let’s hope I get through it this time! I’ve started my summer King, The Green Mile, and I’m loving it. I can’t read that book and not think of Michael Clarke Duncan, one of my favorite actors. I miss him! I lost Alias Hook for a couple of days, in a completely ridiculous way, and need to get back to that one. I’ll be going to be beach for a week mid-month, and I’m really REALLY hopeful to get a lot of reading then. July, I’m ready for you! Let’s DO THIS THING.




Top Ten Tuesday – Classics

July 1, 2014 Meme 11

 So, today is Top Ten Classics I Want To Read or Have Read. I’m going to go with the ones I want to read, for they far outweigh the ones I have read, mores the pity. So, here we go!

antonia beloved eden galaxy  middlemarch lord music safety micemen homeagain
I NEED MORE TIME!!!! Which classics are you dying to read? Have you read any of these? Which do I need to jump on right away?




Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.



Take a Hike!

June 27, 2014 Books 8


I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this, but I have a daughter obsessed with nature. As soon as she could walk, she spent all her time collecting rocks, leaves, sticks, and and detritius of the Great Outdoors. We have always encouraged this obsession of hers, allowing her to spend time in the woods, taking her on local hikes, getting her books on nature and gems, and, yes, letting her keep her rocks in the house. Now that her little brother is old enough to go a little further, we’ve started taking them on bigger, longer hikes. Just last month we took them to a local trail system and she was enthralled with it all. This weekend, we’re planning another trip, this time to an actual mountain! This has turned my mind to, no surprise to those who know me, books. I’ve read a couple books on hiking and hikers, but I want more. I have scoured my memory, my shelves, and Goodreads, for some potention reads and rereads.

Have Read



A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – It has been ages since I read this book and I think it’s past time for a reread.

The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and covers some of the most breathtaking terrain in America: majestic mountains, silent forests, sparking lakes. If you’re going to take a hike, it’s probably the place to go. And Bill Bryson is surely the most entertaining guide you’ll find. He introduces us to the history and ecology of the trail and to some of the other hardy (or just foolhardy) folks he meets along the way; and a couple of bears. Already a classic, A Walk in the Woods will make you long for the great outdoors (or at least a comfortable chair to sit and read in).

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Read this last year and boy, did it pack a punch. Such a great book.

A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.
Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson (my review)

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.

The next three days were an impossibly grueling ordeal for both men. Yates, certain that Simpson was dead, returned to base camp consumed with grief and guilt over abandoning him. Miraculously, Simpson had survived the fall, but crippled, starving, and severely frostbitten was trapped in a deep crevasse. Summoning vast reserves of physical and spiritual strength, Simpson crawled over the cliffs and canyons of the Andes, reaching base camp hours before Yates had planned to leave.

How both men overcame the torments of those harrowing days is an epic tale of fear, suffering, and survival, and a poignant testament to unshakable courage and friendship.

On the Shelf – I actually have these at home!



Into the Wild by John Krakauer – Saw the movie, wanted to read the book. Really must get on that.

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins – Found this when I was helping clean out my grandmother’s house after she passed. I can only assume it was my father’s book since she wasn’t much for the outdoors. It’s high on my list to get read this year.

Twenty-five years ago, a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey — a classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country.
“I started out searching for myself and my country,” Peter Jenkins writes, “and found both.” In this timeless classic, Jenkins describes how disillusionment with society in the 1970s drove him out onto the road on a walk across America. His experiences remain as sharp and telling today as they were twenty-five years ago — from the timeless secrets of life, learned from a mountain-dwelling hermit, to the stir he caused by staying with a black family in North Carolina, to his hours of intense labor in Southern mills. Many, many miles later, he learned lessons about his country and himself that resonate to this day — and will inspire a new generation to get out, hit the road and explore.

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis – Just found this one and had to grab it.

After graduating from college, Jennifer isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. She is drawn to the Appalachian Trail, a 2175-mile footpath that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Though her friends and family think she’s crazy, she sets out alone to hike the trail, hoping it will give her time to think about what she wants to do next. The next four months are the most physically and emotionally challenging of her life. She quickly discovers that thru-hiking is harder than she had imagined: coping with blisters and aching shoulders from the 30-pound pack she carries; sleeping on the hard wooden floors of trail shelters; hiking through endless torrents of rain and even a blizzard. With every step she takes, Jennifer transitions from an over-confident college graduate to a student of the trail, braving situations she never imagined before her thru-hike. The trail is full of unexpected kindness, generosity, and humor. And when tragedy strikes, she learns that she can depend on other people to help her in times of need.

 Want. Badly.



Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail by Paul V. Stutzman – Sounds a little heartbreaking, but also redeptive.

After losing his wife to breast cancer, Paul Stutzman decided to make some big changes. He quit his job of seventeen years and embarked upon a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, a 2,176-mile stretch of varying terrain spanning fourteen states. During his nearly five-month-long hike, he battled brutal trail conditions and overwhelming loneliness, but also enjoyed spectacular scenery and trail camaraderie.With breathtaking descriptions and humorous anecdotes from his travels, Stutzman reveals how immersing himself in nature and befriending fellow hikers helped him recover from a devastating loss. Somewhere between Georgia and Maine, he realized that God had been with him every step of the way, and on a famous path through the wilderness, he found his own path to peace and freedom.

A Long Trek Home: 4,000 Miles by Boot, Raft and Ski by Erin Mckittrick - Just sounds fascinating.

The adventures of a young, idealistic couple who choose to reduce their world down to just two small packs and the next 100 yards in front of them.

In June 2007, Erin McKittrick and her husband, Hig, embarked on a 4,000-mile expedition from Seattle to the Aleutian Islands, traveling solely by human power. This is the story of their unprecedented trek along the northwestern edge of the Pacific Ocean–a year-long journey through some of the most rugged terrain in the world– and their encounters with rain, wind, blizzards, bears, and their own emotional and spiritual demons.

Erin and Hig set out from Seattle with a desire to raise awareness of natural resource and conservation issues along their route: clear-cut logging of rainforests; declining wild salmon populations; extraction of mineral resources; and effects of global climate change. By taking each mile step by step, they were able to intimately explore the coastal regions of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska, see the wilderness in its larger context, and provide a unique on-the-ground perspective. An entertaining and, at times, thrilling adventure, theirs is a journey of discovery and of insights about the tiny communities that dot this wild coast, as well as the individuals there whom they meet and inspire.

Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts

Day One, and already she was lying in her journal. It was 1993, Suzanne Roberts had just finished college, and when her friend suggested they hike California’s John Muir Trail, the adventure sounded like the perfect distraction from a difficult home life and thoughts about the future. But she never imagined that the twenty-eight-day hike would change her life. Part memoir, part nature writing, part travelogue, Almost Somewhere is Roberts’s account of that hike.

John Muir had written of the Sierra Nevada as a “vast range of light,” and this was exactly what Roberts was looking for. But traveling with two girlfriends, one experienced and unflappable and the other inexperienced and bulimic, she quickly discovered that she needed a new frame of reference. Her story of a month in the backcountry—confronting bears, snowy passes, broken equipment, injuries, and strange men—is as much about finding a woman’s way into outdoor experience as it is about the natural world she so eloquently describes. Candid and funny and, finally, wise, Almost Somewhere is not just the whimsical coming-of-age story of a young woman ill-prepared for a month in the mountains but also the reflection of a distinctly feminine view of nature.   

Have you read any great hiking and/or outdoor adventure books?  What do you recommend?



The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

June 26, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 8 ★★★★½

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel LawhonThe Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress
by ariel lawhon
Published by Doubleday
on January 14, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy the Book
A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

“I hate being predictable.”

“I believe they call that classy.”

These are not listened in order of importance, obviously. Or are they…. I often find myself pondering titles. I mean, they are your hook, right? That and the cover. So, when you have a title like this, what do you think? Who is important? Who isn’t important? Are they ALL important? Who is the story about? WHO IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

First, we have a wife. In this instance, it’s Stella Crater, wife of Justice Joseph Crater, who disappeared in 1930 (that’s right, this is based on real stuffs, yo!), and, obviously, suspect numero uno. Because isn’t it ALWAYS the spouse?? Stella is, by all appearances, exactly what you would picture of a judge’s wife; wearing the correct dress, the proper perfume, attending the best parties, and serving the best champagne. She’s also the silent standby, watching her husband’s shenanigans with a weather eye.

Next we have a maid. Maria Simon is the maid for the Judge and Stella. The judge helped Maria’s husband get a promotion to detective with the NYPD. I imagine any maid for such a couple might know a few deep, dark, secrets, don’t you? Is she in the Judge’s pocket thanks to that promotion? Or, is she the good Catholic girl she appears to be?

Lastly, we have the Mistress. Ritzi has come to New York like a lot of poor Midwest girls did in the 1930s. She’s seeking fame and fortune. She’s on the chorus line, but she wants more. She’s also mixed up with some bad people, worst being Owney “The Killer” Madden. If you think that sounds like a mobster name, you would be right. Ritzi is a sweet, naïve kid and she’s about to be in big, big trouble. Because Ritzi is the last person to see the Judge alive.

So, the Judge has disappeared. This is not a spoiler, it is a fact. Remember? Based on a true story! No one has ever seen him again. Which of these three women know what happened to him? After 39 years of deception, Stella Crater is ready to tell all to the detective who worked the case, the very same detective married to Maria. Stella’s tale is full of lust, greed, and lies. It is full of smoky jazz clubs, ambition, sordid deals, and the smell of illegal whiskey.

Ariel Lawhon did a fantastic job of evoking an era. From the sizzling hot dance floors of Prohibition era New York to the dance halls of Broadway, I felt like I could smell the smoke and taste the whiskey. The mystery of just what happened to the Judge was taut and stayed that way to the end. Her writing is sharp and wickedly fun. All three women were well drawn, different, and mysterious in her own right. And the end. Oh, the end. What fun. That’s all I’ll say. The whole book is fun. I love that the 1920s are a popular setting this year. I’m really enjoying all the books I’ve read set there. I hope I don’t burn out on them for a long while.



The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days by Pooja Mottl

June 25, 2014 Book Reviews, Books 4 ★★★½

The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days by Pooja MottlThe 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days
by Pooja Mottl
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Published by Seal Press
Genres: Cookbook
Source: Publisher
Eating healthy can be a struggle. It’s hard to pick broccoli and brown rice over hot, cheesy pizza, and 21- or 28-day diets often ask you to cut out different foods all at once, leaving you feeling deprived.

In 3-Day Resets, Pooja Mottl outlines 10 different ways to change your cravings and start eating whole, healthy foods—foods that are also delicious—three days at a time. Each reset takes 72 hours to complete and consists of three simple steps, which means you’ll be able to stay focused on healthy eating.

“Awareness” resets target your consumption of certain ingredients like sugar, wheat, and salt.

“Discovery” resets teach you new ways to drink beverages (including tea) and eat chocolate, yogurt, and chicken.

“Change” resets shift how you view eating breakfast, salads, and take-out.

Packed with delicious recipes and nutritional information to support why you should eat whole foods like quinoa instead of processed, frozen, or packaged foods, 3-Day Resets will set you on the path to healthy eating… and help you stay there for good.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Let’s just start this out with some honesty. I don’t feel like I’m very good at reviewing cookbooks, diet books, or self-help books. I so rarely read those type books; that I barely know where to start. I accepted this book for review because for one thing, I need to start eating healthier and two, something called a 3 Day Reset sounded manageable.

Let me tell you, when you tell me I can’t eat something, it only makes me want it more. I’ve been almost 10 months without bread (except for a couple slip ups and one deliberate mistake) and I still want it as badly as I did the first day. However, since I don’t want the migraines and the pain, I can usually bring myself around to NOT EAT THAT THING, whatever that thing may be. So, to pick something and eliminate it from my diet for 3 days, while not sounding that difficult, proved to be a huge mountain of difficult for me.

Which, incidentally, was great in helping me find my problem; I have no self-control. Please bear in mind; I did not do this necessarily to lose weight. I am not overweight; I’m only near the line of what is considered obese for my height. This is more about learning to eat healthier and teach my children to eat healthier. And should a few pounds come off, mores the better, right?

I love Mottl’s goal: “enjoy eating the way Mother Nature intended.” This is the way I want to eat! Mottl’s technique is pretty simple. A reset is basically changing some part of your diet for 3 days. Resets included in the book are sugar, salt, wheat, chocolate, yogurt, chicken, breakfast, beverages, salads, and take-out. Mottle calls these foods WAMP or Whole And Minimally Processed foods. Which foods are WAMP?

“WAMP foods are usually perishable. They won’t last too long on that top shelf in your pantry.

WAMP foods usually don’t come with ingredient labels. If they do, they’ll likely have fewer than five ingredients.

WAMP foods rarely have ad budgets. You’ll never see a commercial or advertisement for them.

WAMP foods don’t have “natural flavor” in their ingredient lists.

For the purposes of my review, I do not pick wheat since I did that ages ago, but picked salt. I rarely use salt anyway, so I thought it would be easiest. And boy was I wrong. Salt is in EVERYTHING. It’s in even more things than wheat. And it’s so obvious! Once you remove it from your diet, it doesn’t take long for you to detect it in food. For three days, my family and I had free, natural foods, spiced by hand (except salt! Natch!) and I, personally, did not miss the salt at all. In fact, I didn’t really like it after the reset was over.

In the case of salt, this technique worked great for me. It helped me recognize that salt is in so many foods and that I do not need it in my diet to be a happy eater. I can’t say that this technique would work for ME in other areas (I’m looking at you chocolate) but I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ll be using Mottl’s techniques to slowly (and hopefully) train myself to eat the way I want to eat. She makes it sound so easy, but I know all the work has to come from me. Wish me luck.

If you find this interesting, check out The 3-Day Reset — as well as the rest of the TLC Book Tour. And if you’d like to connect with Pooja, you can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.





About Pooja Mottl


Pooja Mottl is a professionally trained Natural Foods Chef, Healthy Eating Coach, and Healthy Living Expert whose work has captivated audiences from Good Morning America to the Huffington Post.

She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute, a world-renowned institution for pairing culinary training with health promoting food. Pooja also holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University and is an NSCA-CPT certified personal trainer.

Pooja advises private clients on healthy eating and has taught cooking classes at Whole Foods Market. She regularly blogs for the Huffington Post and Pooja has appeared on Good Morning America, WGN TV, Martha Stewart Radio,, the Green Festival, HuffPost Live, and a variety of additional media outlets.

Pooja lives and works in Greenwich, Connecticut. Mottl is a wife and proud mom to a baby girl named Valentina and a five-year-old, over-confident Brussels Griffon.



Top Ten Tuesday – Ten Book Cover Trends I Like

June 24, 2014 Meme 14

I love today’s topic! Because I am a total cover whore! I love me some good cover. And I have quite a few to share today!

It’s easy to say what I don’t like. I don’t like women with cut off heads, obscured heads, turned away heads. Publishers, GIVE US OUR HEADS! I don’t like busyiness. Give me simplicity any day. And I don’t like a cover that doesn’t evoke anything about the book. It has to fit with the story; it’s the first impression people!

So, here is what I do like!

 flamealphabet leavingthesea ruby




dropcap drowned swangondola

Pretty fonts!


And hot Kvothe, because, well, because I can. This one’s for you Katie!

What kind of covers do you like? What do you not like?

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. More HERE.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading This Week?

June 23, 2014 Books, Meme 13


Goooood morning and Happy Monday!!! Yes, I’m feeling chipper today and I have no idea why. Sometimes that’s the best kind of chipper to be. Maybe it’s my reading?

I worked all weekend on finishing The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. It’s a typical first novel, YA to boot, that had it’s problems, yet I was so surprised where she took the ending that I can’t wait to pick up the next one. If you give me the unexpected in an ending; I will love you for life. This is why I adore Libba Bray so much (see Gemma Doyle). It’s the only book I finished last week, since I was so exhausted by Ruby by Cynthia Bond.

This week, I’m reading Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy with the kiddos. It’s our bedtime book and so far, they beg me to keep reading every night. That’s a good the best sign that they love it. I’m rather enjoying it too!

Still listening to The Map Thief by Michael Blanding, which is every bit as good as I was expecting. I find myself feeling a little melancholy while listening because I wish my grandmother were still around to read this book. She adored maps and history, even had a few maps herself, and this would have fascinated her. I inherited so many things from her!

Most excitingly, I am reading The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness! I was so excited to score an eARC from NetGalley and it was all I could do not to drop everything and start it. I was a good girl, however, and finished up a book before starting. Now you know why I read all weekend! I’m not very far it, but I’m already feeling snarky.

Lastly, I hope to start on Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, and a Marraige by Molly Wizenberg. If you remember, I was reading a book called Spymistress last week, but it was just a little too dry for me for this time of year. I hope to go back to it this fall, but in the meantime, Delancey will hopefully be my “take a break from The Book of Life” book.

How was your reading week? Have any big plans for this week?


Hosted weekly by super-awesome Sheila from BookJourney.




Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

June 20, 2014 Book Reviews, Books, eBooks 5 ★★★★½

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von ArnimElizabeth and Her German Garden
by Elizabeth von Arnim
Published by Random House
on 1898
Pages: 207
Format: eBook
Buy the Book
"Elizabeth and Her German Garden," a novel by Elizabeth von Arnim, was popular and frequently reprinted during the early years of the 20th century. "Elizabeth and Her German Garden" is a year's diary written by Elizabeth about her experiences learning gardening and interacting with her friends. It includes commentary on the beauty of nature and on society, but is primarily humorous due to Elizabeth's frequent mistakes and her idiosyncratic outlook on life. The story is full of sweet, endearing moments. Elizabeth was an avid reader and has interesting comments on where certain authors are best read; she tells charming stories of her children and has a sometimes sharp sense of humor in regards to the people who will come and disrupt her solitary lifestyle.

I love my garden. I am writing in it now in the late afternoon loveliness, much interrupted by the mosquitoes and the temptation to look at all the glories of the new green leaves washed half and hour again in a cold shower.

This is less a garden than a wilderness.

I’m going to make one of those odd statements that I’m often afraid I’m the only one who gets, but it makes sense to me, so here goes. This book was both exactly what I was expecting, and nothing like I was expecting.

See? Doesn’t really make sense. But it does in my head, so I’m going with it.

You see, first off, I can’t tell if it’s a novel or a diary. If you read the description above from Goodreads, it calls it “a year’s diary written by Elizabeth.” Everything else I’ve looked at (Wikipedia, other reviews, and other websites) call it a novel. The protagonist is named Elizabeth. It is written in diary form. So which Elizabeth is it? The writer or the fictious character? A autobiographical novel? Novelised nonfiction? I’m going with fiction for now, until I see something of a life story about Mrs. Von Arnim.

The “novel diary” is a chronicle of the year of the life of the CHARACTER Elizabeth as she spends said year, in the late 1890s, in Germany. Elizabeth is a highly inquisitive character, who saying;

I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.

I love this woman.

Elizabeth is content to putter in her garden, something unheard of for a woman of her station. She buys countless seeds for her garden, writing her pages and pages long diary entries, reading, and plays with her children when the mood strikes her. She calls her husband the Man of Wrath, but he seems to be quite the indulgant character.

The people round about are persuaded that I am, to put it as kindly as possible, exceedingly ecentric, for the news has travelled that I spend the day out of doors with a book, and that no moratl eye has ever yet seen me sew or cook. But why cook when you can get some one to cook for you?

What a happy woman I am living in a garden, with books, babies, birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them.

I spent equal amounts of time envying Elizabeth, being annoyed by Elizabeth, marvelling at her gorgeous prose, and wishing she would just hurry the hell up. She waxes on and on about her beautiful garden, her life in the house, the Man of Wrath, her Spring babies, that at times you just want to tell her to shut up and get on with it. Her commentary on the beauty of nature is what makes the book. Plus, Elizabeth is something of a precious character, she knows she’s precocious, and she milks it. She’s the type of bumbling female character that inspires you to think her adorable and hilarious when she makes mistakes, but it can also eventually wear on the nerves.

She wore on my nerves.

But then she writes something like this:

From us they get a mark and a half to two marks a day, and as many potatoes as they can eat. The women get less, not because they work less, but because they are women and must not be encouraged.

They are like little children or animals in their utter inability to grasp the idea of a future; and after all, if you work all day in God’s sunshine, when evening comes you are pleasantly tired and ready for rest and not much inclined to find fault with your lot. I have no yet persuaded myself, however, that the women are happy. They have to work as hard as the men and get less for it; they have to produce offspring, quite regardless of times and seasons and the general fitness of things; they have to do this as expediously as possible, so that they may not unduly interrupt the work in hand; nobody helps them, notices them, or cares about them, least of all the husband. It is quite a usual thing to see them working in the fields in the morning, and working again in the afternoon, having in the interval produced a baby. The baby is left to an old woman whose duty it is to look after babies collectively.

You can’t help but love her a bit for this, right? She notices. She writes about it. She talks about it. Listen to this. This is to her husband!

“Poor, poor woman!” I cried, as we rode on, feeling for some occult reason very angry with the Man of Wrath. “And her wretched husband doesn’t care a rap, and will probably beat her to-night if his supper isn’t right. What nonsense it is to talk about the equality of the sexes when the woman have the babies!”

You gotta admire her spunk!

And she feels the restrictions on herself too, and doesn’t hesitate to remark on it:

I wish with all my heart I were a man, for of course the first thing I should do would be to buy a spade and go and garden, and then I should have the delight of doing everything for my flowers with my own hands and need not waste time explaining what I want done to somebody else.

I can only imagine her reaction when her husband says things like:

“I like to hear you talk together about the position of women,” he went on, “and wonder when you will realise that they hold exactly the position they are fitted for. As soon as they are fit to occupy a better, no power on earth will be able to keep them out of it. Meanwhile, let me warn you that, as things are now, only strong-minded women wish to see you the equals of men, and the strong-minded are invariably plain. The pretty ones would rather see men their salves than their equals.”

He goes on, but you get the drift.

All in all, Elizabeth and her German Garden is mostly a delight. While the gardening parts, while lovely ( “Oh, I could dance and sign for joy that the spring is here! What a resurrection of beauty there is in my garden, and of the brightest hope in my heart!”), the comments on society and class are by far the most interesting parts of the book. It’s well worth your time for it has definitely earned its place as a classic.

About Elizabeth von Arnim


Elizabeth, Countess Russell, was a British novelist and, through marriage, a member of the German nobility, known as Mary Annette Gräfin von Arnim.
Born Mary Annette Beauchamp in New Zealand while her family resided in Sydney, Australia, she was raised in England and in 1891 married Count Henning August von Arnim, a Prussian aristocrat, and the great-great-great-grandson of King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. By this marriage she became known as Elizabeth Gräfin von Arnim.

She had met von Arnim during an Italian tour with her father. They married in London but lived in Berlin and eventually moved to the countryside where, in Nassenheide, Pomerania, the von Arnims had their family estate. The couple had five children, four daughters and a son. The children’s tutors at Nassenheide included E. M. Forster and Hugh Walpole.

In 1898 she started her literary career by publishing Elizabeth and Her German Garden, a semi-autobiographical novel about a rural idyll published anonymously and, as it turned out to be highly successful, reprinted 21 times within the first year. Von Arnim wrote another 20 books, which were all published “By the author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden”.

Count von Arnim died in 1910, and in 1916 Elizabeth married John Francis Stanley Russell, 2nd Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell’s elder brother. The marriage ended in disaster, with Elizabeth escaping to the United States and the couple finally agreeing, in 1919, to get a divorce. She also had an affair with H. G. Wells.

She was a cousin of Katherine Mansfield (whose real name was Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp).

Elizabeth von Arnim spent her old age in London, Switzerland, and on the French Riviera. When World War II broke out she permanently took up residence in the United States, where she died in 1941, aged 74