”Master of His Fate” is the first book in a new series by the well renowned author of historical fiction, Barbara Taylor Bradford. It centers around James Falconer, and Alexis Malvern. Their two story threads run parallel before seamlessly merging together. This was a character driven novel, set in Victorian London. It explored themes of sex, class, and coming of age. The characters were lovable, if a bit too perfect. This is the perfect “escape from reality” book—as every single main and secondary character were noble, just, and charmingly captivating. There were a few unpleasant incidents, but mainly everything turned out perfect for every character with little to vex them.
The historical details were fascinating, adding a rich layer to the book, and were obviously well thought out. The mention of some famous people of the time also helped bring the book to life.
The initial promise of delving into some vital feminist issues, which are just as valid today, fizzled out. It would have been an important book, rather than just an entertaining one, had these issues and story threads been more fully developed.
“Master of His Fate” was an engaging, richly executed work of historical fiction. I look forward to the next book in the series.
**Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Get Red PR for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Many of you have been following and contributing to my Instagram hashtag #enchantedsimplicity so I thought I would share a bit more about what this term means to me as well as tips for keeping the magic alive as 2018 dissipates and 2019 begins to unfurl.
Acknowledgment of the magic present in all things. A slow-living lifestyle in which the everyday transforms into joyful enchantment.
Here are some ways in which I embrace enchanted simplicity:
1. Spontaneous morning tea parties with my six-year-old. I make a pot of loose leaf tea, fill a fancy cream jug, get out the good bone china and let him pour his own tea. That little bit of magic first thing in the morning seems to set the tone for our entire day.
2. Go on a sacred walk in nature. This is an activity I suggested for participants in one of my workshops. The idea is that by walking in the same place on a regular basis you will begin to form a meaningful relationship with place. The first step involves walking and observing from a multi-sensory level. What can you see, smell, taste, touch, hear? Record your experiences in a journal.
3. Collecting nature treasures. Another walk, this time one in which you gather little nature treasures as you walk. Is there a particular acorn calling out to you? A smooth river rock with an enticing glow around it? A sweet smelling pine cone?
4. Playing dressing up. This is something I encourage my son to do on a regular basis, but it’s also important for me to engage in this activity every now and again. I get dressed in a nice outfit, do my makeup, add glitter, spray on some perfume. Even if I don’t have anywhere to go, it makes my day special when I dress as if something amazing is just around the corner. Try it! You’ll be amazed at how you feel. This is useful for everyone, but especially stay-at-home, or work-from-home mamas.
5. Planting seeds, or potted plants. We’ve had the same potted geraniums for at least four years now. Once the first frost arrives we bring them inside. Last winter, in February, I noticed one of the geraniums was about to bloom. It was such a magical sight—red flowers blooming in the middle of winter. As I write this I can see two of my potted geraniums are blooming—one pink and one red.
6. Take a long bath, or shower. Use fragrant soaps, oils, bath salts. If you don’t have a tub (like me), try a foot soak in a large basin instead.
7. When you first awaken, notice how you feel. What are you thinking? Is your mind already rushing ahead to all of the things you must accomplish this day? If so, take a few deep breaths and speak words like the following: I recognize the enchantment in the everyday. I am open to receive and recognize magic.
8. Make lunch or dinner special. Take a few extra moments to set the table in a beautiful way, arrange your food in an aesthetically pleasing manner, light a candle. These little touches really don’t take long and they make a world of difference. We always say a mealtime blessing. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate the food before you and to acknowledge how it nourishes your body.
9. Evening ritual. Perhaps you are busy all day long, but have some time to unwind in the evening. Make this time special. Dress in your most comfortable clothes, light candles (or a fire in the fireplace if you are lucky), journal, read books, create a collage, sip tea, take time to reflect on your hopes and dreams, let go of stress and negative thoughts, concentrate on deep breathing, do yoga. These are just suggestions. Take what works and discard the rest.
Of course I have lots of other ideas, but I hope these suggestions will help you continue to embrace the enchanted simplicity as winter continues and the earth slumbers. Winter is a time of hushed quiet, inner contemplation and reflection.
Share some ways you embrace enchanted simplicity, and thank you for continuing to tag your photos which highlight the magical in the everyday with #enchantedsimplicity.
How is it possible that this year is almost over? Did it seem to fly by for you too? This was the first year I managed to keep track of my reading (for the most part) through www.goodreads.com/challenges/7501-2018-reading-challenge --and I am glad I did, as it makes it easier to look back on my reading year.
I read some truly amazing books this year, so it was difficult to narrow down my top favorites. I decided to limit most of my reading picks to books which were published this year. I rated all of these with 4 or 5 stars (out of 5). So without further ado, here are my five favorite books of 2018!
1. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism. Publication date: December 4, 2018. Atria Books.
This exquisite book wasn't published until December 4, 2018, but I was lucky to receive a free galley from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It may very well become one of my favorite books of all time. My review can be found here: book-review-once-upon-a-river-the-most-enchanting-exquisitely-rendered-fable.html
2. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang. Genre: Magical Realism. Publication date: November 14, 2017. St. Martin's Press.
Magical Realism is by far my favorite genre to read and write, but that being said I find it is rather hit or miss. I was pleasantly surprised by this fantastic book. The characters stayed with me long after I read the last page. My review can be found on Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2480950585?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
3. The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay. Publication date: October 30, 2018. St. Martin's Press. Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction. This book was gifted to me by the publishers via NetGalley. The writing was eloquent and hauntingly beautiful. I honestly can't wait to read another book by this author. My review can be found here: the-rain-watcher.html
4. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Publication date: February 8, 2018. Raven Books. Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller.
This was a brilliant book! It was a fresh and unique mystery. It's almost like a more sinister version of the film Groundhog Day. This was another book I was grateful to receive from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. My review can be found here: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2521218878?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
5. Circe by Madeline Miller. Publication date: April 10, 2018. Little, Brown and Company. Genre: Fantasy, Retelling, Historical Fiction, Mythology. I know I am not alone in listing this as one of the top books of 2018. This book is phenomenal! Review here: book-review-circe-by-madeline-miller.html
Tell me, what were your top five books of the year?
The Bookshop Girl is a charming book about a young girl who was abandoned in a bookshop when she was five-years-old. The proprietor's son (Michael Jones) discovers her and puts her in the lost property cupboard, but she is soon taken out again by his mother, Netty. She is promptly adopted by Netty, and named Property Jones.
The three members of the Jones family seem to have a cozy life, and enjoy living in a bookshop despite not having any money. Every evening they share a ritual in which each of them read the same book. It never occurs to Netty or Michael that a five-year-old child might not know how to read. At first Property is content to just mimic Netty and Michael, and then she comes to love this ritual too, but feels ashamed that she never shared her secret with them. She is clever and soon figures out how to excel at helping out in the bookshop, so that no one guesses that she is illiterate.
Six years later, their cozy life is interrupted when they decide to take their chances and enter their names in a contest to win a famous bookshop in London. To their absolute amazement, they are chosen as the winners. Property feels a sense of loss at having to leave the little bookshop behind, but shares in her mother's obvious joy. The new bookshop is wondrous and magical. They fall in love with it immediately. Property is curious as to why the owner of the bookshop, a charming man named Mr. Montgomery, would choose to give up such an extraordinary and famous shop. It isn't long before the answer becomes apparent. The Jones family have to find their courage and do something a bit unorthodox if they are to keep possession of their precious shop.
There was so much to love about this book. For one, it had just the right blend of whimsy, darkness, and humor. For another, the characters were quaint and charming. This middle grade book is perfect for any bibliophile, young or old.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free galley to review. This was a 5 star read for me.
The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay was a vivid and beautiful story about a family reunited in Paris for what should be a joyful celebration, but instead is a tragedy. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Linden Malegarde—a successful photographer who grew up with dual citizenship in France before moving to the USA. He has found the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with, but as far as he knows his dad doesn’t know he’s gay. He and his father have never been good at communicating with one another, but their love and affection for each other is apparent. One of the story threads centers on this lack of communication between father and son and how it is resolved. This was one of the most beautiful and moving parts of the book.
In the beginning, Linden joins his parents and sister at a hotel in Paris for a celebration of his father’s birthday and his parents’ wedding anniversary. The moment he arrives there is talk of the incessant rain causing the Seine River to flood. What follows is a serious uprooting of plans, but sometimes lives need to be shattered in order to be healed. Hard truths are faced, painful memories brought back to the surface, and secrets revealed.
The Rain Watcher was slow in the beginning, but I was soon hooked. Even the most minor characters were brought to life, seeming to leap out of the page. I honestly fell in love with the entire Malegarde family.
This was an eloquent and hauntingly beautiful story. I wanted to savor every evocative sentence, and felt a sense of loss after reading the last page. This was the first time I read anything by Tatiana de Rosnay. I can safely say I have discovered a new favorite author.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Net Galley for the free galley to review. This was a 5 ⭐️ read!
Looking for a natural deodorant that actually works? I’ve reviewed my top three favorite eco-friendly and natural deodorants.Read Now
I’ve been wearing all natural deodorants for close to twenty years now. Some have been okay, some have been absolutely terrible. I thought my search was over when I discovered Nature’s Gate European Witch Hazel formula deodorant. This was the best! It lasted all day, didn’t cause me to break out, and didn’t stain. Eventually they changed their formula, and it was still the best deodorant I could find, but it has been discontinued.
When I saw it was getting harder to find, I stocked up on a few bottles. I recently ran out of it!
As much as I loved this deodorant, I didn’t love that it came in a plastic bottle. I’ve been gravitating to a zero waste/minimalist lifestyle in recent years, so of course I started the search for a natural AND eco-friendly/sustainable deodorant.
I’ve tried several different kinds, and I’m going to share with you my three favorites.
Little Seed Farm, grapefruit lemon deodorant cream. 4 ⭐️
This deodorant is a cream, rather than a paste or solid. It’s a creamy, silky smooth consistency. It also smells amazing, and is gentle on my super-sensitive skin. The sample is pictured here, but it comes packaged in a glass jar (🙌🏻) and is priced around $12-14. This month, they are donating $2 per purchase for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Most natural deodorants tend to include baking soda as an ingredient. This one does not! It’s the best one I have found on the market for people with sensitive skin. It’s GMO free, paraben free, free of artificial and synthetic ingredients, AND it is packaged in an eco-friendly container. There is even an option at checkout to have your entire order shipped zero-waste!
Schmidts- Rose and Vanilla Deodorant Jar. 3⭐️
(Yes, I know the soap is pictured here instead of the jar. I used up the jar, washed it, and reused it to hold my homemade skincare oil).
I love the scent of this, but it did cause my skin to breakout in a rash on hot, humid days. If I were to buy this again I would only be able to use it during the winter months. They do make a sensitive formula, but unfortunately it comes in plastic bottles instead of in the glass jars. Still, I know a lot of people claim this brand is their absolute favorite. Well worth a try. Retail price- around $9
Stinky Girl Beauty Co. Lavender Cream Deodorant. 3⭐️
I really wanted to love this deodorant, but it was just okay. I like that it comes in an eco-friendly glass jar. I love the lavender scent. I was thrilled that it is made somewhat locally (Upstate NY region). Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be that effective for me, and it irritates my skin. It’s probably the baking soda. If you don’t have problems with baking soda in deodorant, definitely give this one a go.
Do you have a favorite eco-friendly & all natural (safe) deodorant? Share in the comments, or send me a DM.
**note— these are not affiliate links. I just wanted to share my favorites and make it easy for you to shop them if you want.
Do you have a signature perfume? When I was a teenager, I read this delightful book called “Romancing the Ordinary” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Her vivid, sensual descriptions prompted me to seek my own signature scent. At the time, it was Enjoy by Jean Patou—a complex blend including notes of orange, jasmine, rose, and amber. My first bottle was a gift from my dad, from Saks Fifth Avenue. The second bottle was purchased from a tiny perfumerie in Paris on my 21st birthday.
I still have this second bottle, and it’s more than half full of scent. Why haven’t I finished this bottle? As much as I adore this scent (and the memories associated with it), from around the age of twenty-two I have been on a journey to live a clean, eco-friendly, non-toxic life. It’s horrifying the amount of dangerous chemicals that can be found in traditional perfumes. Petrochemicals that are hormone disruptors? No thanks!!!
Over the years I have tried blending my own essential oils and wearing eco-friendly fragrance oils, but it just isn’t the same. (I can recommend a few blends to those of you who can’t handle even green perfume brands, and want to go the all natural route ).
There is a quote from Mandy Aftel, something like, “Scent has always provided a direct path to the soul, and no one who becomes immersed in it can fail to be pleasurably changed by the experience.” Sometimes, okay rarely, I spritz on a bit of my beloved Enjoy. It does seem to be a direct path to my soul. And yet, the headaches and the knowledge that these harsh chemicals could be damaging my body prevent me from wearing it much. So what’s a gal to do?
Fortunately there are plenty of options for eco-friendly perfumes without harsh chemicals these days. A few brands I have come across are Phlur, Pacifica, Curie, Skylar, and Ellis Brooklyn. I’ve tried many different samples and these brands seem to offer the best selection, and they are committed to using either all natural, or mostly natural AND eco-friendly ingredients and packaging.
My favorite by far is Ellis Brooklyn. I like several of their fragrances, but right now the clear winner is FABLE. Isn’t that a perfect name too? Fable is inspired by the story of Androcles and the Lion (I’m a Leo for the record). It’s a blend of orange blossom, violet, pettigrain, honeysuckle, amber, and cedarwood. https://www.ellisbrooklyn.com/
It isn’t Enjoy, but it is heavenly! It instantly lifts my spirits (that’s an important factor in choosing perfume when one has a melancholic temperament).
“A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” —Coco Chanel