My Notorious Life



My Notorious Life

by Kate Manning

published by Scribner


I received this book as a digital ARC from the publisher through Net Galley in return for a fair and honest review.


A brilliant rendering of a scandalous historical figure, Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life is an ambitious, thrilling novel introducing Axie Muldoon, a fiery heroine for the ages. 

Axie’s story begins on the streets of 1860s New York. The impoverished child of Irish immigrants, she grows up to become one of the wealthiest and most controversial women of her day.

In vivid prose, Axie recounts how she is forcibly separated from her mother and siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, and how she and her husband parlay the sale of a few bottles of “Lunar Tablets for Female Complaint” into a thriving midwifery business. Flouting convention and defying the law in the name of women’s reproductive rights, Axie rises from grim tenement rooms to the splendor of a mansion on Fifth Avenue, amassing wealth while learning over and over never to trust a man who says “trust me.”

When her services attract outraged headlines, Axie finds herself on a collision course with a crusading official—Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice. It will take all of Axie’s cunning and power to outwit him in the fight to preserve her freedom and everything she holds dear.

Inspired by the true history of an infamous female physician who was once called “the Wickedest Woman in New York,” My Notorious Life is a mys­tery, a family saga, a love story, and an exquisitely detailed portrait of nineteenth-century America. Axie Muldoon’s inimitable voice brings the past alive, and her story haunts and enlightens the present (from Goodreads)

My Review

I love historical fiction, women’s fiction, and books based on true stories, so It was inevitable that I would be interested in My Notorious Life by Kate Manning.  While it took me a while to get used to the way it was written- journal form, with spelling and grammatical errors, I did enjoy reading this book.  It went pretty quickly for me too!  I immediately fell in love with Axie Muldoon, a 12 year old growing up poor on the mean streets of NYC in the 1860’s.  When her mother’s health places her and her family in danger of starving, Axie, her sister Dutchie, and their baby brother Joe are sent out West on the Orphan Trains run by the Children’s Aid Society (to read about another great book based on the orphan trains click here).  Axie loses her sister and brother to new families and chooses to return to New York, where she eventually becomes a servant in the house of Mrs. Evans, a reputable midwife.  Axie becomes Mrs. Evans’ assistant also, and following her death, begins her own midwife practice.  After years of helping both the wealthy and destitute alike, Axie believes she is helping women take a little control over their own bodies.  She feels she is helping all these women, wither welcoming babies into the world, or preventing unwanted pregnancies through  medicines, or, when necessary and still possible,  procedures.  When she is threatened with arrest and incarceration, she refuses to stop.

This book was based on the true story of Ann Trow Lohman, also known as Madame Restell-

My Notorious Life is a very well written book that gives the reader an amazing look into the lives of women in the later part of the 19th century.  I would highly recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction.


4 out of 5

For other review of this book, check out-

Book’d Out

Sam Still Reading

To learn more about the author, visit her website at-

Top Ten Tuesday #9



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.  It’s awesome. Every Tuesday, the lovely ladies over there give us book bloggers wonderful and fun topics to create our lists!  Check out what others have posted by going over there!

Today’s topic is:


(seems like a good time for it, since we are halfway through the year)

10.  The Orphan Train  by Christina Baker Kline


a She Reads book club selection

9.  Silver Linings Playbook    by Matthew Quick


needless to say, better than the movie

8.  The Bookseller  by Mark Pryor


7.  The Sandcastle Girls  by Chris Bohjalian


(can’t wait for his new one)

6.  The Lost Wife  by Alyson Richman


so sad

5.  The Orchardist  by Amanda Coplin


beautifully written

4.  The Storyteller  by Jodi Picoult


her best so far

3.  The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow  by Rita Leganski


another She Reads book club selection

2.  The Prisoner of Heaven  by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


love this series- need to read again

1.  Anna Karenina  by Leo Tolstoy


It’s Monday! What are you reading? #6


3Its Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly bookish meme held on Book Journey by Sheila. It’s a great place to discuss your week in reading and see what others are reading too.

Books I finished-


This week I finished The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett.

Reviews I posted-

I posted reviews for Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Currently Reading-


I am currently reading The Crypt Thief by Mark Pryor, which is the second Hugo Marston book.  I posted a review for the first-The Bookseller here-

Up Next-

I am hoping to get to The Book of Secrets, but my daughter took her Kindle back to read The Elite, darn it!  If I can’t lay my hands on it, I will read Beyond the Storm by Joseph Pittman.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #5


3Its Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly bookish meme held on Book Journey by Sheila. It’s a great place to discuss your week in reading and see what others are reading too.

Books I finished~


Orphan Train by Cristina Baker Kline

16158607The Way Back to Happiness by Elizabeth Bass

Reviews posted~

Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende –

The Way Back to Happiness by Elizabeth Bass-

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline –

Currently Reading~

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett


Up Next~

The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold


I would love to hear what you are reading!

Orphan Train-She Reads May Book Club Selection



Orphan Train

by Christina Baker Kline

published by HarperCollins



The author of Bird in Hand and The Way Life Should Be delivers her most ambitious and powerful novel to date: a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from “aging out” of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life – answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book.  I love historical fiction, but this seemed like a strange premise. As I started reading, however, I realized that this was a part of history that I had not heard of before-the Orphan Trains.  I knew nothing about thousands of orphaned or destitute children from New York were shipped to the Midwest to be taken in and hopefully adopted by families.  This book seamlessly weaves together the story of Vivian and Molly. Molly is a 17 year old foster child who has been bounced around the system for years.  She is almost aged out, and is looking at a very uncertain future.  When a small misstep almost lands her in juvie, she accepts a community service sentence to help clean out 91 year old Vivian’s attic.  While working together, she learns Vivian’s story.  As a young girl, Vivian immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in the late 1920’s.  When a fire claims the lives of her entire family, the Children’s Aid Society steps in and places Vivian along with other orphans onto trains bound for the Midwest.  There, they will hopefully find families that want to adopt them.  Unfortunately, more often than not, these families were looking for free labor.  The story alternated between Molly in the present day, and back flashes of Vivian’s experiences.

I really loved learning about the orphan trains and seeing history unfold through Niamh/Dorothy/Vivian’s eyes. I also learned quite a bit about the Penobscot Indians.  I thought this was a very well written, engaging story and would strongly recommend reading it.  I am so glad She Reads picked such a great selection for the May Book Club.  Please stop over there and see what others thought of this book.

Rating 5 out of 5

“I love you,” he writes again and again. “I can’t bear to live without you. I’m counting the minutes until I see you.” The words he uses are the idioms of popular songs and poems in the newspaper. And mine to him are no less cliched. I puzzle over the onionskin, trying to spill my heart onto the page. But I can only come up with the same words, in the same order, and hope the depth of feeling beneath them gives them weight and substance. I love you. I miss you. Be careful. Be safe.”
― Christina Baker KlineOrphan Train