Review: Little Women

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott - eBook - BertrandOh, how I’m glad for contextual essays and supporting material!

When I finished reading “Little Women”, my first impression was that this might have been a relevant and somewhat disruptive book for its time, but it also conforms with a lot of presently outdated beliefs. By reading the contextual essays which the 150th Anniversary Annotated Edition includes, I was able to realise exactly how much change this tale brought about but also what and how cultural and social forces of the time influenced Alcott’s work.

The story of the March family is largely based on the author’s own family. Jo can be easily traced back to Louisa herself, while Meg, Beth, and Amy correspond to the author’s sisters Anna, Elizabeth, and May. The dreams and aspirations of the beloved characters can be spotted in the lives of these four women who also grew up in a family with fewer means, with a father who was often away from home, and a mother who the daughters idealized as having given her all to the family and the community.

Jo’s story, in particular, can be closely tied to that of Louisa Alcott. Standing out from her sisters due to her tomboyish and independent nature, the author too found a safe space in writing and developed literary ambitions early on in her life. This was an uncommon path for women at that time, which meant female authors had to work harder than their male counterparts in order to prove themselves and were often frowned upon even after achieving success. As one of Alcott’s neighbours, Nathaniel Hawthorne, “elegantly” puts it: “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance at success while the public taste is occupied with their trash – and should be ashamed with myself if I did succeed.”

Given the social landscape at the time of publication of “Little Women”, it is undeniable the impact that a character such as Jo had in young female readers in the 1800s. Jo unapologetically opens up a path for girls to be less feminine and delicate if they wish to and, to some extent, to follow their ambitions and pursue independence. Note I say “to some extent” here because indeed Jo ends up abandoning her seeking for literary greatness so as to dedicate herself to her marriage and children. This turn of events after Jo had stood her ground and repeatedly refused Laurie’s proposals disappointed me significantly. Enter contextual essays and supporting materials: Alcott would probably have chosen for Jo the same faith she chose for herself – that of a successful “literary spinster”. But due to pressure from the readers and her publisher to follow the conventions of the time, the author found a compromise in Mr Bhaer. The German character represents Jo’s possibility to remain herself, be her partner’s intellectual equal and contribute to the household evenly. Some theorise this was also Alcott’s way of rebelling against the public’s desire to see Jo and Laurie together, instead, marrying her off to a far less attractive character. This example shows perfectly how multi-layered and complex the tale of “Little Women” truly is once we take into account the author’s life story.

Throughout the entire book, we notice that Alcott takes her time, bringing the reader close to the characters. She crafts the story in a beautiful manner which results in a sense of familiarity and an emotional investment from the part of the reader. This reaches its zenith in Beth’s death scene, an intense episode which is notably based on a real-life experience with the author’s sister, Elizabeth. I can only imagine the impact of this chapter on younger readers, as Beth is an adorable character which we grow very fond of throughout the novel. Alcott manages this scene genially, guiding the readers through it in a sheltering manner, allowing them to peer into Beth’s last moments and to see their pain replicated in the rest of the family’s actions during and after the death. The feeling of proximity to the character and those who cared for her is what makes this scene so brilliant.

However, there is one point in the storyline where it seems that the author almost purposefully rushes a development and risk its realism. After growing up in love with his best friend, being so blinded that he repeatedly asks her for a chance, Laurie only needs a few months to fall out of love with Jo and in love with Amy. Upon Laurie and Amy’s return from Europe, the young man is described as acting towards Jo in a brotherly manner which only adds to the contrast of this transition. Having Alcott loyally accompanying the reader throughout the majority of the story, and then rushing through this change of heart, made it hard for me to take the change seriously.

“Little Women” is dotted with moral and religious lessons, clearly attempting to teach young readers what is proper and what is not. Some critics praise Alcott for building a novel where these lessons are presented by a compassionate mother figure, speaking to young readers as someone on the same level as them rather than talking down to them as most works until then did. While I very much agree with this statement, I must also add that, as someone reading the book 150 years after it was published, I felt some of these lessons are significantly outdated and dare say they may have seemed so to Alcott already at the time. The book’s supporting material allowed me to learn Alcott did indeed fight her publisher on this topic. She won a discussion on whether the characters should go to Sunday school instead of performing plays at their house on a Sunday morning – this was a risky move as Sunday schools seem to have commanded a lot of sales at the time. It’s therefore evident the author’s struggle with the need for tradition and her desire for reform.

The mother figure in “Litte Women”, Marmee, is one of the strong points of the novel. She dances the line between some of the traditional beliefs and her progressive questioning of part of the status quo. Marmee shines in her one on one talks to her girls. I especially appreciated her honest advice to Jo on how to handle a quick temper, exposing her own flaws and challenges she faced. This scene allows us a glimpse at a more complex character than a first glance at Marmee might have shown.

Lastly, when we hear “Little Women” being talked about, there is a tendency for people to identify with one of the four sisters. “I’m a Meg!” “Oh, I’m most definitely an Amy with a little bit of Jo.” I find this oversimplification of the characters slightly problematic. It delineates the tastes, ambitions, and traits of each character and fixes them in place as if almost forever unchangeable. On the other hand, I can recognise that such treatment can be comforting for younger readers, who are often struggling with defining themselves. The use of a widely held idea of a character allows for the creation of a group of people who identify with it. This, in turn, allows each individual to experiment within the group, learn where the similarities and differences lay, and, eventually, learn about themselves.

“Little Women” remains representative of the period it was written in, directly presenting some ideas ahead of its time, and hiding a lot of Alcott’s progressive and rebellious messages between the lines.

Review: The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday

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Book Rate: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Detailed Rating:

  •  Plot ★★★★☆
  • Characters ★★★★☆
  • Writing ★★★★☆
  • Pacing ★★★★☆
  • Cover ★★★☆☆

Synopsis (adapted from goodreads):

Annika Brisby thinks she knows where her life is going until she steps through a broken portal that leaves her stranded in a realm of fairies, vampires, and other mythical beings.

Unable to return until it’s repaired, she’s rescued by wood nymphs who believe her sudden arrival is no accident. After being taken in by a prominent family of elves, Annika finds herself struggling to resist the seductive spell of their youngest son, Talvi. Equal parts arrogant and alluring, the notorious heartbreaker seems like the perfect distraction for her homesickness. But on the journey home she discovers that there’s a mountain of secrets that he’s not telling her, and Annika can’t help wondering who’s really in danger.

Review:

Publisher: Createspace
Date of Publication:  22nd November 2010
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 438
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Interested in reading more of my reviews? Check out my Reviews page!

ARC Review: Smart Girl by Rachel Hollis

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Book Rate:
 ★★★★★ (5/5)

Review:

I cried. I laughed and I cried with this book. Whenever a book makes me do both of those things it automatically becomes a 5 star book.

I had never read a book from Rachel Hollis before but I’m definitely going to check out more works of hers soon.

Starting off as a funny book with awesome and relatable characters, Smart Girl evolves to a strong story about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. This book is like a little thief that grabs your heart and attention without you even noticing it!

The Girls trilogy is a bit like Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss trilogy (which as you know didn’t really fulfill my expectations) so, even though I know some of you might shoot me, I’d just like to say that I found Rachel Hollis’ books to be better than Stephenie Perkins’. This is absolutely just my opinion and it’s super subjective and oh-god-please-don’t-kill-me-guyssssss!

I just thought Miko was so much like Cath in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl! One of the blurbs of this book should be “It’s as if Rainbow Rowell’s and Stephenie Perkins’ books had a baby.”!

Smart Girl portrays such an important and unique message that we rarely read about in other books. It’s about loving someone, connecting with them but identifying that they don’t love you the same way and they are stealing your energy everytime you try to make it work. They are not interest in you, they are interested in keeping you interested. It’s about knowing when to walk away and breaking your own heart. It’s about putting the pieces toguether and start better, fresher, bigger and more like yourself. Love yourself first.

Just became one of my favourites, no doubt! 100% recommend!

Detailed Rating:

  • Plot ★★★★★
  • Characters ★★★★☆
  • Writing ★★★★★
  • Pacing ★★★★☆
  • Cover ★★★☆☆

Synopsis (adapted from goodreads):

Brilliant designer Miko Jin is a hopeless romantic. She’s spent most of her life falling in love over and over again…with the men she finds in the pages of her favorite novels.

When Miko meets Liam Ashton, it’s love at first sight. At least, for her. Sure, the two of them are polar opposites, and yes, he seems to be dating someone new each week. But Miko knows what true love is and that you can’t rush it—after all, what she lacks in real-world experience, she makes up for in book smarts. With novels as her guide, and her best friends by her side, she knows she can get Liam to love her back. But just like any good romance novel, fate has a few plot twists in store.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date of Publication:  January 26th 2016
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Page Count: 283
Source: I was approved by the publisher on Netgalley to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Interested in reading more of my reviews? Check out my Reviews page!

Review: Rising Tide: Dark Innocence by Claudette Melanson

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Book Rate: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Review:

If I saw Rising Tide on a bookstore I probably wouldn’t even pick it up, I’ll be honest. But after reading it I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up its sequel.

As you probably already guessed this book surprised me in a very positive way. I was expecting something in the lines of Twilight but with the genders reversed (so kind of like Life and Death). Well, Claudette tjrew a “no” at my face with the turning of every page!

Not only were the characters very lovable but I also found myself really caring about what happened to them! Claudette writes in a very simple but gripping way and she managed to created a little nest of love around Maura. Even though they were all very different I loved Maura, Caelyn, Ron, Merinda, Susie and Shane.

While most vampire books focus on how the protagonist deals with the situtation of either being a vampire or being with a vampire, Rising Tide focus on how to deal with becoming a vampire. How you notice the changes but really you don’t think they add up, its puberty ad first and the maybe a disease. I would characterize Rising Tide as an accurate portrait of what it would be for a regular teenager from our “real world” to have her life overlapping with the supernatural world. The word “vampire” only appears in the last sentence of the book! A very refreshing prespective!

The only thing I would add to Claudette’s book really would be a bit more of emotion in some excerpts (I won’t specify more since this is a spoiler free review). But other than that, great job!

I would recommend if you’re looking for a different vampire series with very good characters with an interesting sense of humor.

Detailed Rating:

  • Plot ★★★☆☆
  • Characters ★★★★☆
  • Writing ★★★★☆
  • Pacing ★★★★☆
  • Cover ★☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (adapted from goodreads):

Maura seems to drive her classmates away but she doesn’t understand why. Maura considers herself to be a freak of nature, with her unusually pale skin and an aversion to the sun that renders her violently nauseous.

Even her own father deserted her before she was born, leaving Maura alone with her emotionally distant mother, Caelyn. Even though Maura is desperate for answers about her unknown parent, Caelyn remains heartbroken and her daughter can’t bring herself to reopen her mother’s wounds.

When a cruel prank nearly claims Maura’s life, one of her classmates, Ron, rushes to her rescue. Darkly handsome & mysteriously accepting, Ron doesn’t seem to want to stay away, but Maura is reluctant to get too close, since her mother has announced she’s moving the two of them to Vancouver…nearly 3,000 miles away from their hometown.

If life wasn’t already challenging enough, Maura begins to experience bizarre, physical changes her mother seems hell bent on ignoring, compelling Maura to fear for her own life. 

Publisher: CreateSpace
Date of Publication:  February 18th 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 274
Source: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Interested in reading more of my reviews? Check out my Reviews page!

ARC Review: Hello? by Liza M. Wiemer


Book Rate: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Review:

Hello? was good. Hello? is one of those books right there in the middle, the perfect definition of “a good book”, “a nice book”.

Liza Wiemer created characters with very interesting backgrounds but very dull personalities. The way their pats intertwined and changed their futures was very well done, I can surely say the plot was really gripping from this point of view.

And the writing style? Oh, the writing style! I loved how each character had a specific writing style that represented their personality so incredibly. Excellent result!

My main problem with Hello? was the characters’ personalities… They all had this amazing stories and they all sounded very empty for someone who is overcoming their past and the fears that come with it… They all forgave in a heartbeat, like nothing had meaning, and they all moved on so all of a sudden! I didn’t feel comfortable reading about them, they didn’t strike me as strong characters when they should have, after all they’ve overcome just by themselves.

I have mixed feelings about this book and I’m not sure until what point would I recommend it… Maybe if you’re looking for a story that will thake your mind off something going on in your life, something creative but not life changing or mind blowing. Just an imaginative and different read.

Detailed Rating:

  • Plot ★★★☆☆
  • Characters ★★★☆☆
  • Writing ★★★★☆
  • Pacing ★★★☆☆
  • Cover ★★★★☆

Synopsis (adapted from goodreads):

One “Hello?” can change a life. One “Hello?” can save a life.

Tricia: A girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death.
Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical.
Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry.
Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past.
Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both.

Linked and transformed by one phone call, “Hello?” weaves together these five Wisconsin teens’ stories into a compelling narrative of friendship and family, loss and love, heartbreak and healing, serendipity, and ultimately hope.

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Date of Publication:  November 10th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Page Count: 400
Source: I was approved by the publisher on Netgalley to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Interested in reading more of my reviews? Check out my Reviews page!

Review: Hooked by Allen Wolf


Book Rate: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

Review:

This got me hooked! Such an interesting read!

Allen Wolf brings us a refreshing tale with two very peculiar characters. And we all know I’m all about characters… And these were just excellent! It was so amazing to see Shawn and Violet’s relationship develop as well as their interactions with the different worlds they lived in and eventually mashed together.

I had never read a book about an autist before and I found it to be immensely interesting. By reading Hooked I not only learned a bit more about what this people face daily but also about other situations I wasn’t as aware of as I might have thought: prostitution. I think Allen Wolf managed to address these subjects in a very clear and realistic way. I do, although, also believe both Shawn’s and Violet’s particular situtations could’ve been explored even further in order to turn Hooked into a not so light read.

The storyline itself was good, lacking only the character exploration I just referred and which would, therefore, darken the plot a bit too. But overall it was still gripping in the way that the reader really cares about the characters and wants to find out if they get their “happily ever after” (either together or not).

A little note, Hooked has a lot of Catholic Church’s references. I know most people don’t mind reading about a different religion from their own (or their non-existing religion, if they are atheists like in my case) but if for some reason this might bug you I just thought I should tell you guys since it’s not specified in the book’s description.

Now to wrap this review up I proudly announce that I recommend Allen Wolf’s Hooked for all of you looking for a fun and different story with very lovable characters and which addresses very relevant subjects.

Detailed Rating:

  • Plot ★★★★☆
  • Characters ★★★★☆
  • Writing ★★★★☆
  • Pacing ★★★★☆
  • Cover ★★★☆☆

Synopsis (adapted from goodreads):

Desperate to find a soulmate, Shawn experiences one awkward date after another until he encounters the alluring Violet. He asks her out, but his autism prevents him from understanding she’s actually a prostitute.

Drawn in by his kindness, Violet appreciates Shawn’s quirky nature but conceals what she does after dark. Shawn soon imagines Violet could be his perfect wife while Violet thinks Shawn could be her ticket to a new life.

This tale of two misfits takes a dramatic turn when they face an unexpected crisis and their only hope for a future is to discover the courage that comes from truly loving someone.

Publisher: Morning Star Publishing
Date of Publication:  February 10th 2015
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama, Contemporary, Adult
Page Count: 238
Source: I was approved on Netgalley to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.