Review: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, Hallie Rubenhold

Hardcover, 333 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Library
The Five_

From Goodreads…

Five devastating human stories and a dark and moving portrait of Victorian London – the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. The person responsible was never identified, but the character created by the press to fill that gap has become far more famous than any of these five women.

For more than a century, newspapers have been keen to tell us that ‘the Ripper’ preyed on prostitutes. Not only is this untrue, as historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered, it has prevented the real stories of these fascinating women from being told. Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, revealing a world not just of Dickens and Queen Victoria, but of poverty, homelessness and rampant misogyny. They died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time – but their greatest misfortune was to be born a woman.

Can we just take a minute and first be glad we were not born poor in Victorian England? Even more so born a poor girl in Victorian England. Now to the book- The Five was fascinating and also just really sad. No gore, no murder theories, just the details that could be dug up about these women and about the reality of life at the time.  And life at that time – it was not easy. I would never have imagined it was easy truly, but this book broke down the day to day for women and girls in a way that really made me think. The final indignity for each of these women is of course that they were all assumed to be prostitutes because they were out on the street at night and I love how Rubenhold takes a new look at each of these lives so the women can be remembered differently. While there are no gory imagined scenes of The Ripper in The Five I still found myself cringing at the dirt and disease, at the child labor and at the brutality of life.

I was also raging at the mistreatment of women from all sides – the police, the press, the societies allegedly for the benefit of the poor if they were deemed worthy. Raging. I was impressed at the amount of research that Rubenhold must have had to do for any records of these women – especially Elizabeth who came from Sweden and  Mary-Jane who left behind the most mystery. Census records, apartment rentals, workhouse registers – the details she went to are pretty incredible. Rubenhold brings The Five to life while you’re reading and restores them as women – mothers, sisters, friends and not prostitutes (save Mary Jane) and not just victims. They all have stories and they should be known.

As I read many of the names of London streets I flashed back to reading Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series or Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister. But these five women would have been blessed to be so lucky as to be a maid to the Pink Carnation or one of Milan’s Dukes. Such an entirely different London to read about. I feel like this book is going to alter my perspective during my fictional reading in the future and I’m thankful for that.  

Now to decide if I want to follow the rabbit hole into reading about the Ripper? Or if I’m just going to be content with reading Deanna Raybourn’s next Veronica Speedwell- A Murderous Relation – which comes out this week!  Maybe that will give me all I care to think about the murders. And if you haven’t read that series yet – Get on it because I’m obsessed. But aside from that – any books about Jack the Ripper that I should read?

Review: In Five Years

In Five Years, Rebecca Serle

Hardcover, 272 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by Atria Books
Source: ARC Received from Publisher
In 5 yrs
From Goodreads…
Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Here I come after not having reviewed a book in – well a really long while – and this is of course the hardest kind of review to write. I really enjoyed this book but am afraid to say too much because what happened over the five years in the story was nothing I expected and I cannot bear the thought of giving something away! I loved Dannie, even when I was frustrated by her, and I loved that friendship was at the core of this book. I’ve been reading a lot of romance, which is delightful, but there is something so wonderful about reading about great girlfriends.

I flew through the second half of this book because I wanted so badly to know what was going to happen when Dannie woke up in 2025. I was shocked that nothing I predicted was was happened in the end!  I will have to go back and read this again one day so I can relax a bit while reading.

I was similarly moved by Serle’s last book, The Dinner List.  I still think about the tears that book pulled out of me!

When you’re ready for a book that will make you feel all of the emotions and make you ignore life to read Rebecca Serle definitely my recommendation. So don’t look anymore into what might happen to Dannie and her fiance or her mystery man and just get reading!

Thank you so much Atria Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

 

Review: Naturally Tan

Only nearly June and my first review of 2019! I have read SO much with good intentions and then there’s life and two kids and all the germs.  All the germs.  I so enjoyed this book that I had to finally stay up past my bedtime to post about it.

Naturally Tan, Tan France

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: June 4th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Source: ARC won from Shelf Awareness, St.Martin’s Press
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In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s smash-hit QUEER EYE, tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in Doncaster, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and how he finally came out to his family at the age of 34, revealing that he was happily married to the love of his life–a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

Are you watching Queer Eye on Netflix and crying regularly like me?  If you’re like me you’ll have a guess at how excited I was to get my grabby hands on an ARC of Tan France’s memoir.  Thankfully Tan comes off just as delightful in print as he does on screen.  I love how truly appreciative he sounds of the life he’s having – a gay, South Asian, Muslim man who had his share of hardships now holding himself out there to a whole world of queer, brown children.  As I reader I was appreciative of his honesty with what he wanted to talk about vs. topics like his faith not being for public consumption.

When Tan was open about his past he was definitely open though.  Romance, bad jobs, teenage exploits – as well as bullying, real sadness and hard feelings.  Best of all were the  warm fuzzies I got from reading about going out with his husband for the first time.

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The stories of meeting the Fab Five were everything a fan could want! Tan puts himself out in this book without giving too much of himself away.  He’s someone you just feel happy for over the success he’s finding.

Pick this up for good stories and fashion tips!  What other celebrity memoirs should I be looking for? Busy Phillips is pretty high on my list right now…

Thank you Shelf Awareness and St. Martin’s Press for this advance copy!

Holly and Amanda’s Best Reads of 2018

Happy New Year!  It’s not too late to tell you our best reads of last year is it?  If it is, its Amanda’s fault.

Holly

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter: I don’t know why I waited so long to read this.  Actually, I do.  The description as “set in a remote Italian coastal town in 1962” made me think it would be a snoozefest.  That’s because it reminded me of the time I tried to listen to “Under the Tuscan Sun” on audio on a long drive.  Anyway, this book was no snoozer – it was smart and funny and lovely.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: You guys 99% of the world’s population dies in a pandemic, and the wold that’s left is haunting.   I don’t think I have enough chill to live there.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, J. Ryan Stradal: All I want to do is go to an exclusive dinner party that ends with Pat Prager’s Peanut Butter Bars.  Or maybe I should host one.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas: Read.this.book.  And  then examine your life.  I highly recommend the audio.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo: I threw away most of my socks because they were not bringing me joy.  Recently this became a problem because it got cold out, so I have been searching the internet for all the most joy-inducing socks.  I’m pretty sure those come from Smartwool (Amanda votes they come from Stance). 

Amanda  – Yes I cheated and made a few categories.  It was a good reading year!  I tried to read as few white dudes as possible and loved that.  I will definitely continue that goal for 2019.

Half a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  She’s brilliant.  Read everything this woman writes.  

Night and Silence, Seanan McGuire.  Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with Seanan’s books?  I love October Daye (and all her other series) but these books just get better and better.   This urban fantasy series makes me laugh and cry and I could reread them all at any time. I just joined her Patreon and I can’t wait to read all the short stories too!

A Dangerous Crossing, Ausma Zehana Khan – heart wrenching but a great mystery.  Maddening when you think about the tragedies in Syria and immigration in general.   I loved the growth of the characters over this series.  Honorable mention: The Dry, Jane Harper -I’m enjoying this series and eager for #3.

Whiskey and Ribbons, Leesa Cross-Smith.  This story of a woman who is widowed while pregnant is one I can’t stop thinking about.  This gave me a lot to consider about grief and motherhood, but was also just a great story.

The Dinner List, Rebecca Serle.  Another book about love and loss that stayed with me all year (link to my review.

YA: Sadie, Courtney Summers – A brutal mystery about the things that can happen to young women (link to my review).   Everywhere You Want to Be, Christina June – Read this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood so you can feel summer in January! Get some red sunglasses and let Tilly dance off with your heart. (I need to give a copy of this way soon)Far From the Tree, Robin Benway – This book about siblings and adoption was fantastic.  Made me cry and I loved just about every word.

Romance: A Princess in Theory, Alyssa Cole- Long lost princesses are my jam and I don’t even feel a bit of shame.  Alyssa Cole was one of my best finds of the year.  Read all her kissing books! The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory – This romance kicks off with a stopped elevator  and a fake date – apparently fake dates are also my jam (See The Kiss Quotient as well) The Proposal was also delightful and I can’t wait for her next book.

Nonfiction: So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo – Things have to get better.  Just read this. From the Corner of the Oval, Beck Dorey-Stein – – This was a such a happy read even if it made me miss Obama terribly.  I would never have thought being a White House stenographer brought along so much personal drama.

Now to kick off 2019 by finishing my 2018 library books including: Daughters of the Winter Queen, Of Blood and Bone, My Sister the Serial Killer and For  Muse of Fire before I get all the fines.  I can ignore my children to read right?  Then I am going to dive into my first ARC of the year, The Ruin of Kings– a long last prince and dragons sounds like just the thing for January.

Nonfiction November Week Two: Nonfiction and Fiction Pairings

The Nonfiction extravaganza continues this week!  Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves is taking the lead with matching nonfiction and fiction titles.  Don’t forget to check the other hosts: Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

My first suggestion is a match to two nonfiction reads: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot (thanks Eva at the Paperback Princess for this suggestion).  So these two are extremely far apart as nonfiction books go but both were heartbreakingly sad in their own way.  Both also had me thinking about the ways in which the Native American people have been hurt ever since being “discovered.”  So for a fiction that is kick ass on behalf Native people and women in particular you MUST read Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhoarse.  I finished the book and immediately put it on hold at the library for my husband to read – and he doesn’t read fantasy.  I cannot wait for the next book to come out!!

This pairing feels a little random but this is the pairing in my head when I was reading Damnation Island – so maybe I’m just a little random.  Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn and Libba Bray’s Diviners Series.  Book 2 of the Diviners, Lair of Dreams, is what linked for me with islands and mental hospitals – but I think this is a series worth diving into if you have time (they are loooooooong).  New York and the divisions of class and race are at the forefront of both of these reads so while it might seem like a stretch I think they go together quite well.  You might find them to be the cats pajamas!

I have one more bonus pairing! I started reading The Fruit of the Drunken Tree this morning  – I know it is fiction but library holds don’t wait! This book about two childhoods in Columbia under Pablo Escabar is quite good so far and it is making me think of Mark Bowden’s excellent Killing Pablo.   Highly recommended if you haven’t read that one!

Have you read any of these?  Any match ups you can suggest for me?

Nonfiction November Week One: Your Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is finally here! I swear I’ve been saving up a list of books to read this month  – but surprisingly have still read quite a few this year.  Nonfiction November — hosted this year by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) — is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

 

I’m tied.  I just finished Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.  I was holding off reading this because I was sure it was a case of hype over substance, and I am so happy I was wrong.  Yay book club pick!  I flew through this book!  Another winner is Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.  While Educated flew, this book took me weeks to get through.  This story was just so sad.  Reading as members of the Osage were picked off by predatory whites while also being held back by the legal system – not at uplifting book but the story was fascinating.  This feels so important still with the news about Native voting rights and events at Standing Rock. I just read this is going to be a movie and I hope it is as well done!  But then I also read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and I don’t even have the words to do it justice.  I cried, I raged, I thought about this book a lot.  Just read it.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Like the rest of my reading life this year, my nonfiction has been kind of a hot mess.  Politics (A Higher Loyalty), murder (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), mental health (Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York) and sex toys…  Looking through my goodreads shelf I definitely need some celebrity memoirs in the mix.  I have my eye on Busy Phillips’ and Ellie Kemper’s new books to scratch that itch.  I started From the Corner of the Oval last night and it is a delight!

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I think everyone needs to read So You Want to Talk About Race so I’ve tried to talk that up.  For “lighter” reading I’ve been pushing I’ll be Gone in the Dark (so creepy!) and Killers of the Flower Moon.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I love loading up my to read shelf during November.  There are so many great books I miss hearing about.  I love seeing other book nerds excited about book pushing!  I’m trying to avoid books by white dudes where I can so I have an eye out for suggestions particularly to keep reading more diversely.

So what am I missing that you love?  If you aren’t doing Nonfic November get over to Sophisticated Dorkiness to check out all the posts!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: The Dinner List

The Dinner List, Rebecca Searle

Hardcover, 288 pages

Expected publication: September 11th 2018 by Flatiron Books

Source: ARC from Shelf Awareness

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When Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college, her father, her ex-fiance, Tobias, and Audrey Hepburn.

At one point or another, we’ve all been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom we’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we do? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? These are the questions Sabrina contends with in Rebecca Serle’s utterly captivating novel, The Dinner List, a story imbued with the same delightful magical realism as Sliding Doors, and The Rosie Project.

As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there’s a reason these six people have been gathered together, and as Rebecca Serle masterfully traces Sabrina’s love affair with Tobias and her coming of age in New York City, The Dinner List grapples with the definition of romance, the expectations of love, and how we navigate our way through it to happiness. Oh, and of course, wisdom from Audrey Hepburn.

Who among us would pass up dinner with Audrey Hepburn?  I know I could not miss that chance, so I was ready for this book the minute I read the description.  I was expecting a fluffier more “chick lit” book than this really was.  I found The Dinner List to be a book about love and loss, about growing up and friendship, and about what we learn to love from our parents.  I loved this book so much.  I laughed, I cried – I actually ignored my kid while I was riding the train with her so I could read it – something that has never happened.

Even though the night was of course magical – hello Audrey – it didn’t have so much whimsy as magical realism can.  Not like reading Sarah Addison Allen for example.  If magical realism isn’t your jam I wouldn’t let that steer you away.  We move back and forth from the dinner party to Sabrina’s time with each guest.  We see her falling in love, realizing she’s an adult and learning to say goodbye.  I really did cry when the party ended and this will be a book I read again.

Listing the guests at my fantasy dinner party is a favorite game of mine.  My husband and I fight about who would be worth the invitation or not. As of right now my fantasy dinner party guests are: Lucrezia Borgia, Madeleine Albright, Neil Gaiman and my dad. Fascinating conversation all around I am sure! I’d bring my husband as an honorable mention. Tell me who you’d invite to your party?

Thank you Shelf Awareness and Flatiron Books for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest opinion!