The Need to Know: The Moth Presents All These Wonders is a gorgeous treasure of a book.
There was something about The Moth Presents All These Wonders that I was drawn to. It could have been the stunning cover. Or the fact that the Foreword is authored by Neil Gaiman. Or the very nature of the Moth project itself, which offers its participants the opportunity to tell a story about their lives to an audience.
It's D: all of the above.
All These Wonders is a collection of forty-five stories by well-known author/speakers like Louis C.K. and Ishmael Beah and people who I didn’t recognize by name. According to Artistic Director Catherine Burns, these stories were taken from spoken-word stories and “transcribed and lightly edited for the page.” The fact that these stories have been transcribed does make for a slightly different reading experience. I was reading and listening to someone’s unique speaking voice; that experience reminded me that these speakers were bold enough to not only put their words down on paper but to speak them into the world.
Each story is fairly short and centers on an important event in the author/speaker’s life. We hear from people who are getting their big break, people who are losing their big break; people who are bringing people into the world; people who are saying goodbye to people who are leaving the world; people who have known the violence of others; and people who have known great love. The diversity of these stories, and how they cover the gamut of the devastating to the joyous, is incredible. Regardless of the nature of the event that each author/speaker writes about, each person finds something powerful to hold onto and share with the reader.
I don't want to go into detail about the individual stories because they are lovely to watch unfold. But as a collection and individually, these stories are mesmerizing, wonderful reminders of what it means to be human. They are brimming with the things and feelings that happen to ourselves and to others that we don’t typically share—or if we do, we share them only with our dearest and closest. As Gaiman says about these stories in the Foreword: “Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.”
This book is a moving exploration of the human experience. Besides that, the hardback book is absolutely beautiful—a book that I’ll be so happy to add to my shelves. I highly recommend it for you and also as a gift for others. It’s one of those books that I think that will make many people feel connected and loved.
I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books, but all opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Granny said that long after Marion left for Hollywood her room smelled of outrage and Chanel No. 5.
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The Need to Know: Sherry Thomas is such a great writer and you and I need to read all of her books now.
I’m a big fan of most literary retellings. I love it when beloved literary institutions are melted down and re-shaped into something new—without completely losing the spirit of what made the initial text so beloved in the first place. In today’s market, it seems that Sherlock Holmes’ retellings are particularly prolific, but Sherry Thomas still makes hers unique, fresh, and captivating in A Study in Scarlet Women.
It’s England, 1886. Charlotte Holmes has always struggled with how to relate to others. She’s been gifted with “discernment,” a gift which is not always welcome when she shares what she has discerned with others. She also doesn't want to marry. Let’s see, how does she put it? Oh yeah: “I do not like the idea of bartering the use of my reproductive system for a man’s support—not in the absence of other choices.”
When her father breaks his promise to allow her to continue her education, Charlotte determines that the only way out of her stifling home is to be ruined by a married man. She succeeds in her mission, but news of her ruin is unexpectedly spread thanks to the man’s mother, Lady Shrewsbury. Charlotte’s parents determine that they will exile her, but Charlotte sneaks out of her home before they can and seeks her fortune alone in London.
But there are a couple of big problems. One, everyone seems to know what happened, thanks to the man’s mother, Lady Shrewsbury. Second, Lady Shrewsbury died the day after Charlotte was ruined, and members of society look upon Charlotte's sister, Livia, suspiciously. But Charlotte has noticed that two other members of the upper-class have fallen prey to similar deaths as Lady Shrewsbury, so she writes to a newspaper as Sherlock Holmes, an alias that she infrequently adopted earlier to help with other mysteries.
Charlotte/Sherlock’s official detective career is born, and the stakes are huge. If she fails, her sister will forever be suspected of a crime, Sherlock will be disgraced, and she, Charlotte, will be left with a stultifying job that doesn’t fulfill her.
Along the way, Charlotte joins forces with Mrs. Watson, a maternal, wise, and inventive woman who takes in Charlotte when she needs help most.
That's what I adored most about A Study of Scarlet Women--how ingenious and strong the women are. Charlotte doesn’t take her independence in the manner which I would have most liked (I couldn’t help thinking about and sympathizing with the man’s wife), but she is determined, brilliant, and caring, and I rooted for her later success. Without getting into the specifics, the friendship that she finds with Mrs. Watson--another outsider--is an inspiring reminder of how women help each other.
And the writing in this novel is fantastic. I found myself highlighting various lines, like this gem of Mrs. Watson’s: “Do not undervalue what you are ultimately worth because you are at a momentary disadvantage.” Oh, okay, that's only a fabulous piece of advice that I should have a print of so that I can remind myself every day....
This was such a fun, bold (and, at times, even sensual) read, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm very much looking forward to the sequel.
I think that Eloisa James’ Seven Minutes in Heaven is even wittier, sexier, and sweeter than her previous novels. That’s really saying something, because I could apply those adjectives to every book of hers that I’ve read.
Eugenia Snowe owns and operates Snowe’s Registry, an agency which pairs highly qualified governesses with some of the wealthiest and most discriminating families in England. Believing Eugenia to be a former governess rather than the daughter of a Marquess, Ward Reeve approaches Eugenia and insists that she serve as governess to his two younger half-siblings who have been recently orphaned. The stakes are high: if the children don't learn how to behave in polite society, there will be one more black mark against Ward in the custody battle that he is waging with his grandmother.
Eugenia says no, and no, and no, although she's mightily tempted by Ward's appeal. But after Ward and her assistant work together to “kidnap” her, Eugenia readily accepts a fortnight’s stay at Ward’s home where she will instruct the children while they wait for a new governess to arrive.
Eugenia also decides that she will take Ward as the first lover she’s had since her husband died seven years earlier. This is a great development for the reader because the chemistry between Eugenia and Ward is phenomenal.
James’ uses the governess and highborn/lowborn tropes inventively here, and I loved that Eugenia is never ashamed of the fact that she took on a profession. She’s smart, sexy, independent, and tender, and the relationships she develops with Ward and his younger siblings are sweet to watch unfold. And I could say the same for Ward, who is truly invested in the happiness of his younger siblings and whose interactions with Eugenia suggest that he could be invested in hers, as well.
But Eugenia and Ward are both still coming to terms with the unconventional ways in which they were parented. Throughout the novel, they struggle to decide whether they should pursue what they would like to do or court society’s praise by doing what society would like for them to do. And this—their conflicted desires, their tremendous chemistry—is complicated by Ward’s misunderstanding about Eugenia’s birth.
So just to recap, Seven Minutes in Heaven offers hot chemistry, plus tenderness, plus protagonists who are equal parts fierce and nurturing. Sounds like a winner to me.
Seven Minutes in Heaven is highly recommended if you’re in any kind of reading mood. Period.
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.