Book Review: Little Women

Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
read by Barbara Caruso

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Classic children’s/YA coming of age

This is another classic that I had never read before, but have seen a movie or other adaptation of more than once in the past. In this case, I’ve only seen the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder as Jo, though I have seen it more than once over the years. I also did read the Great Illustrated Classic adaptation with my daughter just over a year ago, but this was my first time reading the full, unabridged version, technically listening to the audiobook. Be aware, there will be spoilers in this review, so read on at your own risk.

One of the things that struck me the most about the full story is how much these sisters thrive in their environment. This is a time period where women are oppressed and kept in their place, and while at some times this makes tomboy Jo unhappy, she doesn’t have to completely rebel in order to make some inroads and even do what she wants to do. In fact, most of what gets in her way as a writer is her own ideas, plans, hopes, dreams, failings, and attempts to be a better person. In modern times, we if we want to write historical fiction where women aren’t just stuck in a box, they are often wild and outrageous (but at least they manage to meet that one man who’s okay with the woman who refuses to wear a dress or attend any formal functions). I think that’s one of the biggest things I love about Jo.

I also really like the fact that most of the way through the story, the March sisters are striving to better themselves. They are quite poor, but vow to be happy with what they have and avoid grumbling, even as they allow themselves hopes for the future in which they find wealth in one way or the other (different for each girl). And though I speak generally, Beth is usually perfectly content with what she has. Speaking of Beth, how well did I relate to that quiet, shy girl. Even too scared to go to the neighbor’s house who’d extended an open invitation so she could exercise her talent on his piano…that would definitely be me.

I loved the references made to Pilgrim’s Progress in the first half of the book, which plays a lot into what I mentioned above, about the sisters trying to be happy with what they have and be good “pilgrims.” I’ve never read Pilgrim’s Progress, though I’ve always thought I should (tried once, but I’m really not good at sticking with books that are hard to read), and now I wish I had. The reference back to the pilgrims and the game the sisters played when they were younger, shortly before Beth’s death, made the tragedy of her death all the more emotional to me.

On probably the most disputed point of this book, though I never lamented over the fact that Jo rebuffed Laurie, it did always seem strange to me that he ended up marrying little Amy. However, after reading this book, I think Louisa May Alcott did a fine job setting up the ways the various romances went. I could certainly see that Jo had no romantic feelings for Laurie and had good reason to think that they wouldn’t have a very pleasant marriage. And when Amy was still young, a connection grew between her and Laurie that paved the way for their love later. Jo’s feelings for Professor Bhaer came very naturally, and it was easy to see why she fell in love with this mature man of integrity and morals.

Before I wrap up, I want to say a few words about Barbara Caruso, the narrator of the audiobook I listened to. I haven’t listened to many audiobooks and can really only listen to certain types of books that way, since my mind tends to miss details if I’m not careful. Also, like many others I’m sure, the narrator can really make or break my enjoyment, and I’ve discovered that I’m really picky about it. Which is why I’m really glad that this is the narrator I listened to for this book, because she did a fantastic job! I really liked how she brought the characters to life and even managed to have slight differences between the sisters. Her reading of foreign words or sentences (French and German) and accents for characters like the German Bhaer are incredible. I will definitely look for her when I listen to other books that she has narrated.

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Book Review: Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics
Mr. Lemoncello’s Library book #2
by Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s adventure, mystery

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

After their big win in Mr. Lemoncello’s escape game, Team Keeley is challenged by basically every kid in the country. They all want their chance at stardom (starring in commercials for Mr. Lemoncello games) and are unhappy that the contest was so localized. So Mr. Lemoncello grants them their wish, because hey, that means he gets to create more games! The top teams in each region of the country are chosen and invited to Ohio to compete for full college scholarships–against Kyle’s team. The only problem is that Kyle isn’t so sure he’s up to the challenge this time.

After the pure fun I had with the first book, I knew this wouldn’t be able to be quite the same. For one thing, it’s not so much with the escape room aspect anymore. There are puzzles involved in the games, but it’s not nearly the same as it was in the first book. However, it’s still a fun read, and even has a bit of mystery. So while I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I did the first book in the series, it was still good.

For all the similarities to Willy Wonka in the first book, this had even more. Including a particular bit that I guessed at from early on, comparing a character to a role in Roald Dahl’s book. Even still, though, the book did keep me guessing a bit as I waited to see if I was right. And unlike the “justice” in Wonka’s world, it’s nice to see some of the “bad” kids have a change of heart by the end of this book.

In my review of the first book, I mentioned that it was unrealistic how much knowledge some of these kids have–Kyle is about the only one who doesn’t come across like he lives and breathes books and studying. That was much more noticeable this time. Still overall, it’s a good book, fun for kids, and I continue to recommend it for kids around 8-12 and for parents, especially those who like games.

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Book Review: When Twilight Breaks

When Twilight Breaks
by Sarah Sundin

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian historical romance

Americans living in Germany in the late 1930s had front-row seats as the country sped toward war. Evelyn Brand is a foreign war correspondent living in Munich, her hands tied as a woman in a man’s world. Or maybe there’s more than just her gender causing her boss to edit her stories to death. Peter Lang is a graduate student working on his dissertation and teaching American students how to speak the German language more fluently. He sees the benefits of the current German regime, as he values the order it brings to a country once chaotic and destitute. But he soon learns the price that this order demands.

I really wanted to give this book 5 stars while I was reading it. For the story alone, it’s worth 5–the characters are engaging, the romance well-done, and the suspense is pulse-pounding. I sped through the book compared to my normal speed, wanting to see what the outcome would be. And the ending did not disappoint, wrapping up all storylines satisfactorily. But I had a few issues while reading it, and I felt they were worth a point detraction and that others should know about some of them.

The book made me a little uncomfortable or caused me to blush a few times in the second half with descriptions of physical or visual contact between the main characters. Nothing graphic by normal standards, really just skirting the line of what I am okay with in a Christian book, but I think there are some who would prefer to be aware of this in advance. The romance was overall well done and while certainly a big part of the story, not so in-your-face like most with the tag of romance. I liked it, but it was just a little descriptive here and there.

There were a few issues with perspective–in a book like this that has established the alternating perspectives between two characters, only changing when there is a scene or chapter break, a couple of times the perspective changed from one to the other mid-scene, which was jarring. Also, characters were speaking German, while we were reading it in English, yet the author continually sprinkled German phrases into the dialog. They were never more than I could understand from my years of German in high school and a little in college (except a few times that were also basically translated for us), but they were unnecessary given the context. Maybe they were just supposed to remind us that the characters were speaking German without having to constantly state it in the narration, but I personally would have preferred the simple reminder now and then.

Back to the positives, because I so loved the characters and story, I found Peter’s starting viewpoint about the Nazi regime enlightening, as it shows how it’s possible for intelligent, moral people to be pulled in by a bad ideology. His history, both personal and as it relates to Germany, as well as his position in the country at this time, allow him to see the positives…at least for a while. I also loved some of the side characters, the way the Americans’ lives overlapped with the Germans’, and the fact that the bad guys weren’t only the Germans.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even with the few issues that I noted, I kept coming back to it in the last half, unable to put it down more than necessary. I’d previously read the Sunrise at Normandy trilogy by Sarah Sundin and loved it, so I’d say Sundin is effectively on my instant-read list. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction from this time period in the Christian romance genre.

Thank you to Netgalley and Revell for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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Book Review: There I Go Again

There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others
by William Daniels

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Autobiography

I don’t normally put GIFs in my reviews, but it had to be done.

The long sub-title sums up what this book is about quite nicely. The way Mr. Daniels describes it, he sort of “fell” into show business, starting with the insistence of his mother, and just never could find his way out of it, not that he tried very hard. Eventually he came to realize that it was what he wanted to be doing. In this book, he tells the story of his most iconic roles, and everything in between–how he came to have them, and even what it was like to play them.

My interest in this book initially came from my love for Boy Meets World. I was 11 when that show first aired, which pretty much made me the same age as the main characters. My husband and I have quoted certain lines from the show to each other for so many years that our kids do it now too (and have both watched at least some of the show themselves, and my daughter loves Girl Meets World). Anyway, all that to say, Mr. Feeny is near and dear to my heart. Now I know that the man who plays Mr. Feeny (yes, present tense, because he’ll always be Mr. Feeny to me) is a real person and has faced some real struggles in his life, which has only deepened my appreciation of William Daniels.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about the rest of the roles he has played. I’ve never seen Knight Rider, 1776, or St. Elsewhere. And I did wonder if I would be lost or uninterested while reading most of this book. I wasn’t. Maybe a little, when he talked about other actors and actresses he worked with at different times, producers, directors, etc. But not enough to cause a lack of enjoyment in or understanding of the book.

My only difficulty in reading the book was due to the writing itself; a couple of times the stories left me confused because it seemed like it was missing just another line or two of explanation before moving on. The book wasn’t published by a big-name company (which surprises me, but kind of goes right along with how Daniels describes himself as never being a “big star,” while being recognizable as the characters he’s played), and I wonder if most of the people who edited or proofread it were close to Daniels, knew his stories or life well enough to not be confused by a slight lack of explanation. Or maybe it’s just me.

I am so glad that I read this book. And the chapter about Boy Meets World was pretty much what I would have wanted it to be and made me tear up just a little. I would suggest that if you know William Daniels from any of his roles, or are simply interested in memoirs of celebrities, you check out this autobiography.

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Notebook Collection, part 10

Ten posts about my notebook collection is quite enough, I’d say. I don’t think I can ask for better notebooks than those that I have, especially a few I’ve gotten just in the last month. As much as I love finding new treasures, I’m out of room on my shelf anyway. So while I anticipate still adding some that are gifts from loved ones, I don’t plan to go looking for notebooks any more after this. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Past posts about the collection I have so far: Post #1  |  Post #2  |  Post #3  |  Post #4  |  Post #5  |  Post #6  |  Post #7  |  Post #8  |  Post #9

This was a gift from my husband’s step-mom for Christmas. I really like the colorful cover, though the inside is a little girly for me (there are unicorns O_O). However, the covers are thick, hard cardboard, and the notebook is full-size. It will be a nice, sturdy notebook that will do well for revision and writing someday.


I hesitated to buy this notebook at first, telling my husband that it wasn’t necessary to get a notebook just because we happened to be at Barnes & Noble. However, he reminded me that I had some “fun money” from Christmas, and it is such a beautiful leather cover. Add to that the leather tie and the fact that it’s very thick–probably the most pages of any I have–and I gave in. Not that it really takes much.


This is a small notebook, only about 5″ x 7″, but I loved the strap with the clock hanging from it. It’s the type where the pages are in 4 different designs–1 set of pages are lined, 1 set grid, 1 set blank, and 1 set also blank but of kraft paper (thicker, brown paper). In the past that might have been a deal breaker, but I’m past believing that I’ll get to some of these notebooks soon enough for it to be a big deal. The pages are held together in a 3-ring binder contraption, so they can be replaced if necessary, though I’m not sure how easy it will be to find 3-holed paper of this size.


This is a leather notebook cover, which did come with a spiral-bound notebook inside to start. It is a soft, supple leather that I love even more than I expected to. It also came with a clip that can be attached to the cover anywhere and would hold a pen, though I don’t want to mar the leather with it. Maybe when I start using it someday, I’ll see how feasible it is to attach the clip to the notebook itself. Sadly, I’m afraid to snap it closed, because one of the snaps was so tight that I worry I’ll eventually rip it out of the leather in the due course of closing and opening the notebook.


This is a bit of a removal from the rest of the notebooks I’ve been sharing, but I thought it was still worth including. In March of last year, about 10 months after I began sharing book reviews on my blog, I realized how much it would help me to write down notes as I read a book, so I’d remember more when I was ready to write the review. I don’t force myself to write something with every book, but if I want to remember something as I go, knowing that my memory can be pretty bad these days, I’ll start a page for that book and keep any notes (even if it’s just that first one that prompted me to start the page for it). Any time I can come up with a legitimate reason to start using one of the many notebooks in my possession is a happy occasion, and this is the one I chose for it (not the one above, click the link in the previous words to see it); I’ve had it since 2015, so it’s really about time I started using it. Plus the pen is always there when I want to jot down some thoughts.

Last summer, I saw the above journal at Half Price Books. Inside, most of the pages are designed to be used for the exact purpose of what I’ve been doing–taking notes on books as you read. There are a few pages at the back designed for keeping a TBR list, writing down book passeges you want to remember, and keeping a list of books you’ve borrowed out. I doubt I’ll use any of those pages as intended, but it’s a small portion of the journal. I’m still going to fill up the one I started before I begin on this one, but it’s almost halfway full, so I know the day will come soon enough.


I’m all caught up on sharing newly acquired notebooks for my collection. I feel a stronger resolve than normal to not purchase any more for myself, so I think it’s safe to say it’ll be a while before I have enough to post about again.

Do you collect anything related to reading or writing? Feel free to share!

Book Review: Anne of Ingleside

Anne of Ingleside
Book #6
by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s/YA classic

See my review for book #1, Anne of Green Gables.

After watching Anne grow up and become a wife and mother, this book chronicles several years of motherhood, with an eventual six children. Like many of the other books in this series, there’s not exactly a single plot to the book, more a series of vignettes about the children’s antics and some of Anne’s own activities. Some of her children are a lot like her, fanciful and whimsical, and in some ways, it was like seeing Anne as a child again.

It was interesting, and I’m not entirely sure how realistic, that so many of her children’s scrapes led them to be outside on their own at night. I really felt for some of them, considering the ways they tended to let their imaginations run away with them. I can remember being a kid and not fully understanding what was going on, and that leading me to be scared, unhappy, sad, etc. when I probably didn’t need to be.

I did not care at all for Aunt Mary Maria, which I’m sure was intentional, but she when had the audacity to tell one of the kids, as they were about to leave home for 2 weeks, that if he was naughty, a man would grab him up in a big, black bag, I couldn’t believe it! And this after scoffing at one of the other kids for still believing in Santa, which is such hypocrisy. I don’t care what generation you’re from, you wouldn’t get away with scaring my kids like that.

I liked seeing some of the characters back from previous books, and overall, I didn’t mind that Anne had grown up so much. It wasn’t my favorite of the sequels (that honor goes to the previous, Anne’s House of Dreams), but I still liked it a lot. It’s the last book in the series proper, and I may someday read the final two books, but for now, I think I’ll stop here. When I re-read Anne of Green Gables in the future, I may skip past the next few and only re-read books 5 & 6. I’m just not a huge fan of the rest.

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Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

The snarl and hiss, however, had not come from the cat. It had come from…

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Book Review: Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders
A Woman of WWII Mystery #1
by Tessa Arlen

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical cozy mystery

Newly trained Air Raid Warden Poppy Redfern takes up her post in the small English village of Little Buffenden, where an American Air Force airfield is about to open. The airfield could make this otherwise quiet hamlet a target for an air raid, but the Germans aren’t the only danger to Little Buffenden; trouble is much closer to home when two women are murdered only days apart. When suspicion is cast upon the Americans at the airfield, distrust for the “friendly invaders” surges in Little Buffenden. Poppy begins to investigate while continuing her duties as warden and trying not to end up as the next victim.

This book was all sorts of great! The descriptions made the story come to life, and though there were quite a few characters from the village and neighboring airfield involved, the author did a great job of helping me keep them all straight as I got used to them. Poppy had a wonderful mixture of spunk, loyalty, compassion, and intelligence, with a little quirk thrown in (it’s not that strange to have the main character of the novel you’re writing pop into your head with observations or admonitions now and then…or so I’ve heard).

I really liked the feel of this small town in 1942 England, where they’ve been at war for much longer than their American allies, not to mention more directly affected. The things the Air Force men take for granted, like having sugar and beef readily available, were luxuries to the locals. The attempts made by Poppy and her grandparents to help their fellow villagers see the Americans in a different light showed the great wisdom of this family. And though there are some bumps along the way that were a little frustrating, the American pilot that works with Poppy, Griff, was one of my favorite characters. Also, I’m not a dog person and don’t normally care much about dogs in fiction, but Bess was pretty great.

I would classify this as a cozy mystery–it has all of the earmarks. I had guessed who the murderer was much earlier than I normally do, but I wasn’t quite certain, and the reveal was still done really well. However, the book does probably have a little more description of violence and disturbing images than you’d normally find in a classic cozy mystery. That’s not to say that it’s very much–it didn’t bother me at all, and I don’t have a very high tolerance for some of that kind of thing–but enough that I thought it was worth mentioning if I’m classifying it as “cozy.” All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience this book provided and would recommend you give it a try if either of the genres interest you. There’s a second book in the series so far, which I’m looking forward to reading.

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Weekly Writing Update: 1/17

I’ve started to focus more on revision again finally, after the slump that started around the holidays. I had a conversation with the younger sister of Leahna, one of the main characters of book #3. Somehow that ended up involving the sisters’ brother too, and in the end, I had so much more insight on both of these two side characters, especially the sister. And then I finished one of the brand new scenes that I’ve slated to add into the story, all of which focus on Leahna and her family, a group of characters that were sorely under-represented in the previous drafts.

Over the next week, I will probably continue to work on the new scenes, saving my new full revision until after all scenes I’ve already planned are done. Then I can start at the beginning and get an idea of how things are flowing so far.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).


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Book Review: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line
Veronica Mars #1
by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
read by Kristen Bell

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Mystery

Picking up soon after the Veronica Mars movie, which in turn is set about 10 years after the same-name television show, we have a brand new, stand-alone mystery. During Spring Break in Neptune, two young women go missing from the same house, on different nights. Veronica is hired to look for them, but she doesn’t expect to be confronted with a face from the past. With the help of some old friends, Veronica is determined to find the missing women. But will she be too late?

As one who has seen the show several times, this is just about everything I’d want from a book continuation. The only real downside is that a book can’t span as long of a time as an episodic show does, and so the mystery, characters involved, and side plots can’t be developed like they were in the show, which is what made each larger mystery (i.e. each season) have such a big punch at the end. However, the rest of what I love about the show is here–Veronica’s wit and sass, Keith’s very existence, a twisty plot with a dangerous conclusion, and a whole cast of friends and frenemies to help or hinder Veronica.

For Veronica Mars fans, I would say this is definitely worth a read. And I highly recommend the audiobook, as it is narrated by Kristen Bell herself, which notches the whole thing up to as close to a life-action show/movie as you can get, especially considering that the show is narrated by Veronica along the way too (though this is in 3rd-person, a minor detail). And Kristen Bell does a spectacular job with the voices of her once-co-workers. For one who has seen the show a lot, it’s so easy to hear Wallace, Keith, Mac, even Cliff coming out of the “pages.”

If you haven’t watched any Veronica Mars but are interested in this book, I would first ask why you’re not just starting with the show. But as for whether or not you’d enjoy this book or if you’d be lost, it’s hard to say from my perspective. Things that happened in the movie months before that affect the book are explained well enough, I think, but that also means the movie is spoiled in some parts. I do think that some of the larger characters are represented well enough for a newbie to get a feel for them, but smaller ones, like Weevil, definitely shine more if you already know them. That’s not a fault with the book, though, because he’s simply a smaller character in this story. So if you’re interested at all, I’d recommend the show first (the first 3 seasons), then the movie, then this book and its follow-up, which I haven’t read yet but will. And then maybe the 4th season…maybe.

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