Book Reviews

Marmee the Woke? Review: Marmee: A Novel of Little Women by Sarah Miller

51zpSbIC7yL._SY346_

My Interest

Little Women is my fourth most read novel after GWTW, The Joyous Season, and Auntie Mame (the last two both by Patrick Dennis), so of course I had to read/listen to this one. I also enjoyed, March: A Novel by Geralidine Brooks–“Father’s” story from Little Women. If asked for a preference on movie versions I would say the 1990’s Winona Ryder/Claire Danes/Susan Sarandon’s version, even though that cuts out Katherine Hepburn. But Kate was TOO OLD to be Jo! There. I’ve said it.

Also, I liked the author’s book, Caroline: Little House Revisited.

The Story

“Little intimidates a man more than a learned woman.”

 

Margaret March, the mother in Little Women known as “Marmee” was an interesting woman. Author Louisa May Alcott’s family was part of the society in Concord that included Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau. Written as very long, prose-y diary entries, the story starts where Little Women starts and ends where it ends.

We see Marmee as a crusader for the poor and the immigrants, helping in the Relief Rooms in Concord and on her own time in back alleys. We learn of her struggles to bite her tongue and control her anger. We hear her thoughts on her husband, who even when present in the home was largely “absent” in the world of his own thoughts and dreams. She loves him and enjoys him, but is not blind to his faults. She struggles to accept his sincere and childlike belief that God will provide for his family even if he himself does not always do so.

Marmee enjoys her children, enjoys friends, and enjoys taking time with her own thoughts. She is as spirited and active as you imagine her to be in Little Women. She takes time to help her children develop their character without putting preachy lessons on the subject before them

It is her love and acceptance of Beth as being too gentle to face the real world (though at times she does). The joy of Beth’s gentle spirit and lovely music bring to the family together. She also adopts Laurie as a son his grandfather as a new father for herself.

My Thoughts

At first, the “woke-ness” grated. Then I laughed at myself. What transcendentalist-Unitarian WOULDN’T be “woke?” They invented it! LOL. Then I relaxed. There are very real parallels between the Civil War and Reconstruction and today. We ARE on the verge of a 2nd Civil War–at least in terms of culture. The Civil Rights hammered out in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments during the story ARE in real danger of being lost today. The same anti-poor, and anti-immigrant phobias rear their heads in each generation. 

Two small spoilers.  Two teeny-tiny parts of the story made me snort with laughter. I knew the current day debate on gender would get in there somehow and it did–Marmee sees Laurie as drawn to the male part of Jo. Snort! She also seems to hint that Jo might not be made for marriage in a way that isn’t about her independence. Hint only. And, then there was the “give the money” away plan that a couple in the story espouse.  Not in an Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates way of having too much to ever spend, but as “vocation.” Ok then….

I loved that while Marmee was practical, she acknowledged that her husband was right–God had provided for them every time. That was amazing in a book today. I thought it sad that with so many unchurched and the media of today so anti-everything Christian or Church, the author had to explain how Unitarians differ from other sects. Sad, too, that many who read it may have to Google to see what the Trinity is.

All in all, I thought the author did a commendable job of bringing Marmee to life. I felt she owed a bit to Susan Sarandon’s wonderful portrayal of Marmee in my favorite of the Little Women movies, but….

The Author’s Note at the end is very interesting–don’t skip it.

Now I want to watch Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon again!

My Verdict

3.75

 

 

A few other “what if” books on the real life Alcott family or on the fictional March family that I have read and reviewed:

March by Geraldine Brooks (My review was lost on my old blog)

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Like a few other well known writers or famous people, Louisa May Alcott has been turned into a fictionalized sleuth though I have not read these books. Louisa and the Missing Heiress by Anna MacLean is book #1. I’ll add her to my next update of my post on real people made into fictional slueths.

Nonfiction

Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever (my review was lost on my old blog)

American Bloomsbury also by Cheever covers Louisa, Margaret Fuller, Thoreau and Hawthorne (I skimmed it).

The Concord Quartet covers Louisa’s father and the other Concord luminaries, Emerson, Hawthorn and Thoreau (I skimmed it).

Eden’s Outcasts is about Louisa and her father. (I skimmed it).

Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

A DNF–Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup, translated by Caroline Waight

First, thank you to AnnaBookBel for taking the time to create the wonderful Nordic Finds reading challenge–now in it’s second year. I love to try books from other countries, translated from other languages, and challenges like this provide ready access to often easily available books that are favorably reviewed.

Let me be clear about Chestnut Man this is not a book I dnf-ed because it is “bad.” The writing is very good. I was invested in a few characters. Nordic Noir is a genre that interested me, but I know my limits. I quit Anne Perry’s William Monk series–which I loved and nearly, yes nearly, threw back the newest Chief Inspector Gamache book for the same reason I DNF-ed Chestnut Man: an underground room in which unspeakable things were done to the most vulnerable. When I reached those few lines in the audio book I had to pull off the road. It was too much for me. I couldn’t take it. I feel things too much. Had that part not been in there I’m sure I’d have finished.

I am not condemning, nor am I asking for labels or censorship. My heart and soul, my mind, just cannot deal with that topic. I will try again with a different book.

The Chestnut Man: A Novel by Soren Sveistrup, translated by Caroline Waight

Book Reviews · Reading the World

Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper (Aaron Falk #3)

My Interest

First, thanks to #NetGalley for a free audio version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Harper has become a “must-listen” author. I like her books on audio to hear them in an Australian accent appropriate to the story. I have enjoyed each of her books. I have dear friends in Australia, so I love getting my hands on books set anywhere even close to where they live. Silly, when you think how big the country is, but I mean well.

Note: I don’t usually review series books–too hard to avoid spoilers. This one, though, came to me via NetGalley, so I am happy to give my review.

The Story

“You see what you expect to see.”

Federal Police agent Aaron Falk is involved with another suspicious death. A new mother leaves her new baby in the stroller in a stroller corral at a festival ride. Her shoe is found later. Her teenage daughter from her first relationship isn’t satisfied with the police outcome. And, what about the boy whose father died in a mysterious way in the same area?

A small town with a typical high school rite of passage–a big boozy party out in the boondocks–just like those held in my hometown or here in my kids adopted hometown. (They went, I couldn’t be bothered). A group of friends, booze, a girl has too much. Fast forward to today and it’s the teenage daughter of the missing mom who is going to party.

The small town also has an annual festival–a big money-maker for small towns the world over I guess. This town, being near vineyards and wineries, gets tourists from all over the country. Did anyone see that mom park her stroller? Or leave the festival? Or be helped to leave…. “You see what you expect to see” Falk reasons with another cop.

What’s the truth? You know my rule–no spoilers here!

But the ending had an element of surprise in addition to the “who-done-it-reveal.” That intrigues me. I want to know what Harper has in mind for this in the future.

My Thoughts

I liked having Aaron back. This was a good mystery for folks like me who don’t read a lot of them or a lot of police procedurals. I’m never good at guessing the outcome of this type book and did not guess this one’s ending.

My Verdict

3.5

Exiles: A Novel by Jane Harper releases on January 31, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Note: I do not make any money off this blog. The links to Amazon are just for your convenience.

My Reviews of Previous Jane Harper Books:

Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Read in the Last Ten Januaries

ttt-new

This week’s topic is supposed to be:  Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2023, but I’ve already covered that in this post:

TTT: Books on my Winter 2022/23 To Read List

Since I’ve tracked my reading for a long time now, it’s pretty easy to do this kind of post.

 

Bonus: In case you missed it, here is my first book review of January 2023

411aUMNxVNL._SY346_

The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

 

January 2022

 

51gra2pWLgS

The Cat Who Saved Books: A Novel by Sosuke Matsukawa

 

January 2021

51wspyoWv6L._SY346_

When We Were Young and Brave: A Novel by Hazel Gaynor

 

January 2020

51VlHTCDDkL._SY346_

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

January 2019

51Y8EZc6juL._SY346_

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson

January 2018

 

51Mr3vJuAIL._SY346_

Turtles All the Way Down by John Greene

 

January 2017

51MLSpHkyCL._SY346_

Beartown: A Novel by Fredrik Backman

January 2016

51IjV25f9fL

Mrs. Engles: A Novel by Gavin McRae

January 2015

41ABRZAHQXL._SY346_

Sima’s Undergarments for Women: A Novel by Ilana Stanger-Ross

   

January 2014

+51FxECah+RL._SY346_

Storm in the Village by Miss Read

January 2012

51CGaHqC2mL._SY346_

How to be an American Housewife: A Novel by Margaret Dilloway

toptentuesday2

Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Japanese Lit Challenge Review: Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translate by Geoffrey Trousselot

416BPLimKyL

My Interest

In prior Japanese Literature Challenges, I unexpectedly discovered this little series of books that feature time travel from cafes. Time travel is not normally my thing, but these books, and their audio reader, are so delightful I was excited to see there was a third book!

Confession: This was actually the last book I finished in December. I’m still counting it. It just came in a little early at the library, but was ordered for this challenge.

The Story

Instead of Tokoyo’s Funiculi Funicula, this story is set in near the Japanese port city of Hakodate at the Donna Donna cafe. Similar set-up–you can not go back and change what will happen.  You can only visit with someone who has visited the cafe.

This time we have mostly a family story. Parents killed in a car crash, the daughter survives and grows up bitter. She goes back to face her parents. There is much more to the story, of course, but that’s the gist. There’s also the guy who wanted to be a comedian and his wife encouraged him, but she died. He goes back to show her he won and award for his comedy. And, finally there’s a story of missed opportunity in love. These are not spoilers–they are in the blurb and known them won’t ruin anything.

My Thoughts

I loved these stories–especially the girl who lost her parents. As a child I used to imagine this  happening to me–and having to go live with my aunt and uncle and my only-child cousin. I could see myself at about  age 11 wanting to travel to the future (Stark Trek was on then) and tell my folks how awful it all had been. LOL. Thank heaven it never happened to me! The story is very poignant–well, the stories (plural) are all very poignant and that’s why I’ve loved these books. I’ve listened to the audio versions.

Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translate by Geoffrey Trousselot

My Reviews of the First Two Books

Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Book 1)

Tales From the Cafe (Book 2)

There’s still time to join in with the 2023 Japanese Literature Challenge 16 hosted by Dolce Bellezza

91b74080b4324dfa8472f4940742b98f

Book Reviews

Review: The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

411aUMNxVNL._SY346_

My Interest

I love two of Alexander McCall Smith’s series, and have read a few other books by him as well. When I saw this and read it was set on a tea plantation in then Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka) just before World War II, it got my attention. The between the wars period is such an interesting time in history.

The Story

Bella is the only child of a tea planter. She lives with her mother, her somewhat distant but nice father, their servants, her dolls (“the Chinese Poets”) and a governess, Miss Lavender White. She has one friend, a boy of her own age named Richard, whose parents are also part of the Colonial community. Their mothers play tennis and have lunch or tea at the Club. Their fathers work and, over time, will start drinking earlier and earlier in the day.

Bella, with some help from Richard, gets a notion about her governess. She tells things to her parents. But is she telling the truth?

The story is divided into two parts–away and “at home.” Bella as a child, and Bella later. Quirkier than it sounds here.

 

My Thoughts

This was a wonderfully quirky little story with a wonderfully quirky little girl. I’ve experienced life in a “colonial” outpost without t.v., movie theater, internet, reliable phone (cell phones were in the future). I know the sheer tedium and boredom of re-reading the same copies of Newsweek (instead of Virginia’s Illustrated London News), the boredom of knitting countless sweaters to give away just to make time pass. I remember, too, the “thrill” of going to the capital where we could go to “The News” and see that week’s ABC news broadcast distilled down to about an hour. Or, the thrill of going to the British Council Library, 2 tickets in hand!

This is the life Bella’s family led, but with World War II about to erupt, the Indians, not so far away, ready to erupt and throw over the British. There was the heat. The snakes. The same people. The same boring people. The same food. The rainy season. The dry season. The servant problems. The tedium and boredom of a life so isolated that today Amnesty International would likely call it a violation of human rights.

I loved that this story was largely seen from Bella’s eyes–not that she told it, but we were given her “sense” of it. I loved her life being her two odd dolls–so wonderful. I felt for her mother, Virginia, so bored in spite of her “reading circle” which even her husband had bragged about. I’m sure she mentally dined out on that the rest of her life. I felt too, for Miss White. I did wonder why a graduate of St. Andrew’s was working as a governess on a tea plantation and not teaching at one of the ever-growing posh girls schools, but maybe travel meant a lot to her? Finally, I felt for Henry–he was trying to make a go of the plantation with its processing factory, but his wife wasn’t happy–what to do? After all, men who went home were “weak.” No man would want to be seen as “weak.”

As always, Alexander McCall Smith delivers wonderful characters and a sense of “being there” with the characters. It’s why I enjoy his books. Now, if someone could explain how he writes so many books? (Staff, I imagine).

My Rating

3.5 Stars

The Pavilion in the Clouds by Alexander McCall Smith

 

Book Reviews · Other

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2022 Not in My Favorite Books of 2022 Posts

ttt-new

You can read my Favorite Historical Fiction Books post here.

You can read my Favorite other Fiction and Nonfiction Books post here.

You can read about my Favorite Book of 2022 here--it has other good geeky book stuff in the post, too.

Since I’d already published the three posts linked above, I’m tweaking today’s topic of Favorite Books of 2022, to be favorites that didn’t make it big in any of those posts. Still excellent books–all with 4 stars (I rarely give a 5 star rating).

Other Favorite Christmas Book

517h6ZaSbHL._SY346_

25 Days till Christmas by Poppy Alexander

The Read-Along Book I Loved

9780954088101

Sugar & Slate by Charlotte Williams. Thank you to The Book Jotter for suggesting it. (Won’t you be kind and go visit her blog and leave a comment? Come on! It’s New Year’s Eve! Leave a comment. Comments make a blogger’s day).

Favorite Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middle Brow Book

51EWbiHKNVL._SY346_

Spring Magic by D.E. Stevenson

 

Favorite Series Book

51apis5tFoL

It was such a relief to have the great Lisette Lecat back voicing this series. No one else can do it. A Song of Comfortable Chairs by Alexander McCall Smith.

Book Reviews

Some of my Favorite Fiction and Non-fiction Books Read in 2022

2022

Yesterday I posted my favorite Historical Fiction reads of the year. (Click the link to go to that post).

Today, I’m looking at the rest of my reading–or to be honest, my LISTENING. Audio books are my go-to. Since the COVID lock-down I’ve really struggled with reading print/Kindle books. Audio is my thing these days.

Note: Historical fiction is not included here. See this post for my favorites in historical fiction this year.

Biggest Surprise

A book about an aging closeted gay mailman? Ok….right up my alley. But wait! It was pretty much wonderful. Ok, there were preachy parts, but I didn’t really care. Read this–it’s good! The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle. Somewhere this year–Enchanted April [haven’t finished this one yet] or maybe Illyrian Spring– I encountered another Entwistle. Funny how books do that too you!

Best Mystery or Thriller

41iatrocA-L._SY346_

I loved finding the Youtube videos the author obviously used for some of his research! The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting.

Favorite Rom-Com-ish Book

51tm4HrXSwL._SY346_

The Bodyguard was just plain fun!

Most Out Of My Comfort Zone Book That I Loved

41HAKzspV2L._SY346_

So sweet and fun–and a new genre for me, too. I never imagined I’d like this style of book known as manga. A Man & His Cat.

Favorite Nonfiction Book or Memoir

41Y9M6tzANL

Winston and Clementine’s youngest child–born after the death (while they were away) of their daughter, Marigold, Mary Churchill went on to be wife of an MP & Ambassador, mother of an MP, and the author of an excellent biography of her parents. Her life at 18 was interesting. There were not yet any “teenagers” in the world! The word wasn’t yet in use. There were, however, debutantes and debs delights in her world, though. Mary Churchill’s War.

Worst Book I Finished

5163vpyM1SL._SY346_

I suspect the NY Times raved about it because it was horrible. Portrait of an Unknown Lady. Ugh.

The Book That Broke One of My Rules

41hXhURLGkL._SY346_

I listened to a James Patterson-franchise book, but only for Dolly! Dolly Parton gives kids books. That’s good enough for me! Run, Rose, Run, is about a dumb as it’s title, but I love Dolly and gave my Audible Credit for this!

Favorite Book in Translation

41mAX5bSFbL (1)

A tale all Americans should read, but won’t. Maybe if it’s made into a Netflix series? Ugh. I loved this. The Ardent Swarm. Why is it that the free World Book Day (I think that’s right) books from Amazon are good, but the Kindle First Read Book are a death sentence to a book?

Favorite Christmas Book

51PEP3C0TZL

The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan

Favorite NetGalley Book***

41awRcoMWRL._SY346_

Oh my!! I have to pick a favorite? ***Several of the books mentioned here (The Bodyguard, Mary Churchill’s War, Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, Sixteen Trees of the Somme, were from Netgalley. How about Thank you to NetGalley for many great reads and here is one I didn’t name as a favorite, but still really loved Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander.

The “Hidden Gem” Book

41XCBB15i+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Paying Tribute to Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich is a GEM! Read it, read Mrs Harris and go see the new Mrs Harris move–see the bottom of this post for the trailer.

Favorite Book by a Favorite Author (not historical fiction)

61R4u+VyABL._SY346_

French Braid by the great Anne Tyler

My Favorite Book of the Year

Tune in tomorrow!

What about you? Did you do a “Favorites” post for 2022? Leave me a link or just give me a comment with some of your favorite books read this year!

Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2022 Wrap up

Historical Fiction

Oh dear! I signed up for this, did a lot of reading, but forgot to go back and post my reviews or hash-tag them. I am truly sorry Intrepid Reader! It is wonderful of you to host this year-long challenge. I’ve made sure to hash-tag this post! #histficreadingchallenge

I did my Mid-Year post here. Click the link, then scroll down to the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge icon.

I’m never sure if books written as contemporaries are “historical fiction”–no matter! If in doubt, I’ve included them above. I had some historical fiction DNFs, too this year, most notably The Call of the Wrens. I should have DNF-ed my least favorite, too, but didn’t since it was from NetGalley.

My Historical Fiction Reading July–December of 2022

Favorite New Books

 

  1. Last Summer on State Street
  2. The Netanyahus
  3. Our Last Days in Barcelona

Last Summer on State Street takes place in the 1999. Some may say that isn’t “historical.” It is. I lived through them–as an adult with a mortgage, a 401(k) and more. What’s more, an entire way of life ended that year in Chicago. Historical.  My reviews are linked.

Favorite Older Books

In spite of controversy I knew nothing about, I loved every minute of How Green Was My Valley. It’s hard to top that one, but the great Lady Browning–Daphne DuMaurier may have done so! (Nice nod here to Bloomsbury Girls-read it to know why).

 

My Least Favorite (not including DNFs)

514exdoKdOS._SY346_

Little Souls by Sandra Dallas (my review is linked)

My Favorite Book of the Year

Check back on Saturday when I announce my favorite books of the year for historical fiction, fiction, and non-fiction!

Did you participate in this Challenge? Leave me a link to your post. Or, if you did not, but have a post on your favorite historical fiction books this year–leave me that link. Or, a comment!