[Review] Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Classic. 2013. Originally written in two parts, 1868 and 1869.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. American literature. Young adult.
Pages: 534 printed pages.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: American literature readers. Readers of Louisa May Alcott who are drawn to young women’s stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

I can’t believe my copy is $59.95 on Amazon. I paid a fraction of that amount at the discount store, Marshalls.

The text of this book is from the original in 1868,1869.

Goodreads page for Louisa May Alcott.

Further links of interest:

Women’s History.

Brittanica (with pop up ads.)


Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888.)


Little Women is the story of the four March sisters. Their names are Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

When the story begins, their father is away as a soldier in the Civil War. The family home is in Massachusetts. Their mother is Marmee.

Little Women is a sentimental and charming story of four different in temperament and personality sisters.

The story shares their lives over a period of several years beginning at Christmas time 1863.

My Thoughts:

This review has possible spoilers if you’ve not read or seen Little Women.

I did not fall crazy in love with the story; however, I did enjoy reading Little Women. This is a first time to read it.

What I love about Little Women:

  1. The genre for this story is not just one but several. Some examples are American literature, classic literature, coming of age story, and young adult.
  2. I love the variety of personalities shown in the four sisters. Jo is independent, an individual, outspoken, a writer. Jo makes a choice to do something different than most young women of her era do. She relocates to another city to learn the craft of writing. Meg is the most maternal figure with the exception of Marmee. Meg wants to get married and have children. She is the domestic sister of the bunch. It is through her story that I see represented a young married couple with young children. Beth is the peacemaker. She is meek and mild. She has inner strength and fortitude. She is a pianist. Amy is prim. She is an artist; oil painting is her media. Her role as the youngest of the sisters is presented as the spoiled one, the baby of the sisters who is a bit meddling and annoying.
  3. The story shows stereotypes in the characters. For example, Marmee is patient, nurturing, wise, and loving. Jo is a strong exception. She chooses a different path. I love her gutsy personality. I love her outspokenness. I love Jo’s individualism. And, I love seeing the imperfections in the sisters. However, I do not believe Alcott shows imperfections in Marmee. Marmee seems like an angel-above it all-hovering over the family like a Madonna.
  4. I love Laurie. He is an asset to the story in more than one way. He is an important part of how I see the family. Through his eyes and feelings and behavior, I see the sisters too.
  5. I love the descriptions of nature. Alcott writes of crickets and squirrel, and other creatures of nature. One of my favorite sentences in the book is referring to the sun and horizon. “The sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hill-tops; and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks, that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.” Page 141.
  6. There are references to the book The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyon in this story. I love The Pilgrim’s Progress and I’m thinking of rereading it soon.
  7. I love knowing what happens to the family after they are settled in life. This gives the book a solid closure.

Final Thoughts:

I wonder why Marmee is depicted as perfect.

I wonder what her thoughts and voice would reveal.

I wonder if Laurie loves Jo because of “his” image of her (independence and outspoken nature.) But I don’t know if they would be happy together as a romantic couple.

Mr. March has a small role in the story. It is almost completely about the women with the exception of Laurie.

I’d read in the introduction that Alcott did not want to write a sentimental type of moral story. However, this kind of story paid the bills. Later, she made revisions to the original text. It must have pained her (to a degree) to change words in a text that she did not enjoy writing in the first place.


[Review] Half Notes from Berlin by B V Glants

Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Pages: 256.
Format: E-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

About the Author:

B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.

B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.


Berlin, Germany. 1933.

Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.

Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.

Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.

To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.

But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.

Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.

Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.

But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.

“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice

“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews

This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.

My Thoughts:

I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:

  1. This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
  2. This is a favorite genre.

I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.

When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.

I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.

Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.

I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.

One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.

Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.

Hitler’s influence and ideology has seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.

The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.

I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.

I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.

(Review) The Remnants of Summer by Dawn Newton

Publisher and Publication Date: Apprentice House Press. May 1, 2021.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 294.
Format: NetGalley e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from NetGalley and Mind Buck Media. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of coming of age and family stories.
Rating: Okay.

For more information about the book: Apprentice House Press-Remnants of Summer.

Amazon link

Author Goodreads Page without a bio, but it does list her books.


Southeast Michigan.
Iris Merchant is a young teenage girl (14) in the summer of 1973. She has an older sister named Liz. She has a younger brother named Scott. Scott is 11. Iris and Scott are at Michigan beach enjoying a sunny day. When Iris wakes up from a brief nap while sunbathing she realizes Scott is not nearby. She assumes he went swimming and everything will be okay. She leaves the lake and walks home alone. Everything is not okay. Later, the family will find out Scott drowned in the lake. Iris blames herself; and, Liz blames Iris. The rest of the summer passes in a blur. The school year moves along at a slow pace. Another summer approaches with the realization a year has gone by without Scott.

The Remnants of Summer is part coming of age story and part family grief.

My Thoughts:

In 1973 I was 9. I actually have grown to love stories that have a time period of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Remnants of Summer is not a story that I am transported back in time because of the clothes or music references. There is mention of Watergate and President Nixon’s resignation.

The story is told from the narrator who is Iris. Iris is a young person who is not rebellious. She doesn’t act out after the death of her brother which is rare. Often there is an acting out after a traumatic crisis. On the other hand, she appears to me to be numb. This transcribes to paper. A numb feeling throughout the story.

Grief is the number one theme in The Remnants of Summer but grief is not processed. There is no mention of counseling. There is not a church family or neighbors who reach out to the family. There is no outside help for any of them. I don’t think counseling would have been considered for this era-not like today. Books and literature about grieving was about non-existent. However, there were counselors at school. And, there were pastors who counseled with families. Pastors and priests can at least pray and listen to the grieving family. None of these options are presented in the story. For me, this is sadly lacking. There is no resolve in the story. This theme hangs there and only grows larger.

The Remnants of Summer is slow. A slow and sad year in the life of the family-with the focus on Iris. While the grief is fresh, she is going through adolescence, peer pressure, abuse, school, a changing body, drama with friends, an older sister who is at enmity, parents who are going through their own problems, and an additional element in the story that impacts the community. This last example is not used as a big part of the story but more as a backdrop.

Over-all the story feels lacking.

Lastly, I feel this story is better suited for young adults.

Themes in the story: death, grieving, courage, innocence, fear, and guilt.

(Review) The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks

Publisher and Publication Date: Tin House Books. 2019.
Genre: Fiction. Coming of age story.
Pages: 293.
Format: E-book.
Source: Kindle e-book purchase.
Audience: Readers of coming of age stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon

The story has 2 time periods, 1939 and 2015. The setting is England.

Virginia Wrathmell is 10. She is adopted by Clem and Lorna. They live in a rural area near a marsh. Their home is called Salt Winds. Clem studies birds. He writes wildlife books. Clem is a stable and kindhearted man. Lorna is irresponsible, high maintenance, and preoccupied. Their marriage and the tension in the home is palpable. A neighbor, Max Deering, is at Salt Winds too often. Meanwhile, a German fighter plane crashes near the marsh. The pilot is missing. Clem sets off at night to search for where the plane crashed.

Virginia has returned to Salt Winds as an older woman. She has not forgotten the events of 1939. They have impacted the rest of her life. This part of the story is about memories and making peace.

My Thoughts:
It’s difficult when my favorite character is written off in the beginning of the story. I dislike this. While reading I wondered if I could hang on to the last page or end it all together.
Clem is a character that’s depth is hidden by his quiet and calm nature. He is intelligent. He is a solid, all-around good guy. He is a person that can be friends with anyone. He is the anchor in the family.
Lorna is unlikable. I picture her in my mind as a person either staring off in a dreamy like state or staring at herself in the mirror. She is so uncomfortable as a mother that I am uncomfortable too.
Max Deering is a person no one should take their eyes away from. He is not trustworthy.
Virginia is 10 but going on 30. She takes on the roll as a parent. She’s resilient and strong-willed.
The Orphan of Salt Winds is a character driven story that takes on internal conflicts. The plot is shaped because of the choices and conflicts of the characters.

The mood of the story is one of things unsaid or unspoken. There is a haunting feeling. A feeling of doom.

Themes in the story are jealousy, ambition, love, loyalty, betrayal, and obsession.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story because it’s well-written and memorable. It’s a great fire-side-winterish story.

(Review) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Perennial Modern Classic. First published in 1943. My paperback copy-2005.
Genre: Classic literature. Coming of age story. Comfort read. Women and literature.
Pages: 493.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I’ve read it 3 or 4 times. I’ve read the story at different ages. It’s interesting how I learn something new each time.

Have you seen the film? It’s wonderful! The film stars: Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, Cliff Robertson, James Dunn, and Peggy Ann Garner (Francine).

Francine (Francie) Nolan and her family live in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The year is 1912. Francine is 11. She has a younger brother named Neeley. Their mother is a janitress in 3 tenement houses including the one they reside. Their father is a singing waiter.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story and a historical fiction story about life in Brooklyn, NY. And, it is a close-up view of a family in crisis because of poverty and alcoholism.
The story begins during the summer of 1912, but backs up to tell the story of her parents. In addition, other family history is given. For example, how the family came to America.

My Thoughts:
When I first began reading the story I thought it was being told in the 3rd person viewpoint narration. This means the narrator is the author. Pronouns are often used: she, he, and they. Betty Smith has the ability of describing a panoramic picture of scenes and people. But, I noticed a deeper level of the characters are shown. For example: “Francie didn’t notice that he said my last home instead of our last home.” Page 121. “The panic came on her again and she ran all the way home.” Page 15. Then, I realized the story is told in the omniscient narration. This means I’m told what the character is thinking and feeling. I’m brought closer to the characters because I develop a feeling for them.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a story with adult themes. It is a story with imperfect characters. It is a story with hard life circumstances. It is a story without simple answers and happy endings. It is a believable story because of these reasons.
Some examples of themes: alcoholism, poverty, starvation, abuse, courage, hope, compassion, death, loneliness, shame, prejudice, discrimination, marriage, and parenting.
The pacing is a leisure but steady pace. I relaxed in the story like falling into a fluffy feather bed.
Despite the hardship of Francie’s life, there are tender moments where I saw security, unity, and love in their family.
I saw a transformation in how Francie viewed people. By the age of 12, she began to see life through a different lens.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my top 5 favorite books. It’s a story I fell in love with and have stayed in love-no matter my age. It is a comfort story. It is memorable and endearing.

Memorable Quotes:

“It was a good thing that she got herself into this other school. It showed her that there were other worlds beside the world she had been born into and that these other worlds were not unattainable.” Page 174.

“Only it didn’t seem good to Francie. She began to understand that her life might seem revolting to some educated people. She wondered, when she got educated, whether she’d be ashamed of handsome papa who had been so lighthearted, kind and understanding; ashamed of brave and truthful Mama who was so proud of her own mother, even though Grandma couldn’t read or write; ashamed of Neeley who was such a good honest boy? No! No! If being educated would make her ashamed of what she was, then she wanted none of it.” Page 323.

“Christmas was a charmed life in Brooklyn…You have to be a child to know how wonderful is a store window filled with dolls and sleds and other toys. And this wonder came free to Francie. It was nearly as good as actually having the toys to be permitted to look at them through the glass window.” Page 198.

Betty Smith (1896-1972)