Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

We recently took a vacation to Las Vegas. I always bring several books when we travel, and I had downloaded “The Girl Who Chased the Moon” onto my Kindle before we left, since I loved “The Peach Keeper” (reviewed here a short time ago). I ended up reading the entire novel on our flight from Boston to Nevada!

In “The Girl Who Chased the Moon”, teenager Emily Benedict arrives in her mother’s hometown in North Carolina to live with her aging (and giant) grandfather after her mother is killed in an accident. Emily only knows one side of her mother, Dulcie, and sees her as a driven, conscientious, hard-working woman, who values integrity and helping others above all else. The young Dulcie that Emily starts discovering is very different. Many of the townspeople still hold a grudge against Dulcie, and most remember her as self-centered, self-serving, and downright mean. Neighbor Julia Winterson, herself only back in town for a given time, reaches out to Emily and helps her navigate finding her mother and her own true self (Julia bakes cakes all the time, and has her own issues, too). Emily’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ attraction to a teenage boy, whose uncle once loved Dulcie, and her determination to figure out the mystery of floating lights in her yard at night, threatens to tear her family apart, and secrets are revealed all within the framework of a little bit of magic.

I just loved this book! I loved the characters and Ms. Allen’s portrayal of a small North Carolina town in the summer. Her ability to use magical elements in her books I thought, at first, would pull me out of the story, but instead it enhanced the story for me. There were several subplots to follow in this story, but it all  gelled and came together seamlessly. It was a quick read for me, too.

If you enjoyed Ms. Allen’s other novels, I think you’ll like this one, too!

REVIEW: The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of reading British author Gabrielle Donnelly’s “The Little Women Letters”. I had received the book as an advanced reader copy while attending the BBC part of BEA in New York in May. (See also my recent post of a video clip of Ms. Donnelly discussing her book). I really enjoyed reading this modern day novel of three sisters who parallel and are the descendents of the fictional March sisters of “Little Women”.

The Atwater sisters live in London and are the great great granddaughters of Jo March. Emma is the always sensible eldest, similar to Meg March. Sophie is the beautiful and somewhat self-centered youngest sister, similar to Amy March. And Lulu is the middle child, seeking to find her way, parallel to Jo March. Their mother is actually somewhat similar to the real “Mrs. March” Abba May Alcott: a feminist and social worker. They even have a crotchety old aunt from Boston – Aunt Amy in this case – similar to Aunt March. Notably, Beth March is missing (a wise choice, in my estimation). The girls seek to solve the various issues in their everyday lives, while Lulu finds a stash of letters written by Jo March to her sisters long ago. The similarities are striking and she takes solace in these letters as she struggles to find a job, a profession, and a relationship with a man.

I think I’ve written before of how I am an incredibly harsh critic of fictionalized stories of Louisa May Alcott since I am quite knowledgeable about the family and spend time at their house museum in Concord. I was a tad sceptical when I began this book as I feared I would once again be disappointed by the actions or discordant voices I might find. However, this book is not about the Alcotts, it is about the March family – and a family in modern times. I was struck by what an excellent job Ms. Donnelly did in capturing not only the voices of the March sisters of “Little Women”, but the essence of the Alcotts as well. There were too many similarities and subtleties between the real family and this novel to think that it was coincidence. Ms. Donnelly not only did her homework, but did an excellent job in capturing that embodiment of character that is Alcott. My hat’s off to her!

This is a book that I would read, put down, and then pick up again. The story moved much like “Little Women” does: a slice of life in a family of sisters. I am guessing LW fans will adore it.

“The Little Women Letters” by Gabrielle Donelly

I just finished this novel last night — having received it at the BBCon as an ARC. I will be posting my review shortly – but wanted to share the following You Tube video of Ms. Donelly discussing her book and discussing Orchard House — home of the Alcott family in Concord, MA, where I spend time. I was actually there today for their summer conversational series kick-off. And “Little Women” was on television today, too (the Winona Ryder version). It was a Little Women kind of day, I guess!


YA REVIEW: “Stones for My Father” by Trilby Kent

As some of you know, I know Trilby Kent and have posted short interviews with her here (for instance, see: I was excited this week to read Trilby’s new YA book, “Stones for My Father”, which I downloaded for my Kindle.

“Stones for My Father” follows young Corlie Roux as her family fights to survive during the Boer War in South Africa. Corlie’s father has passed away and her mother, a cold, stern woman, works to keep the family – Corlie and her two younger brothers – alive. The encroaching British soldiers cause the family to flee their farm and they live in a circle of wagons with other settlers. Soon, though, they are discovered by British soldiers and taken to an internment camp for refugees. Corlie must face hunger, sickness, and loneliness in an effort to survive.

I LOVED Trilby’s novel and the character of Corlie. This novel has several layers to it – the story of the Boer War (which I knew only a little about), the story of Corlie’s family, Corlie’s relationship with her young African friend (their servant’s son), Corlie’s relationship with her brother Gert, Corlie’s mother (a complicated and not terribly likable character who is abusive to Corlie), and the role of a young Canadian soldier who befriends Corlie and her brother. This is a quick read – less than 200 pages – but compelling and at times intense. Some of the passages are heart-wrenching – even disturbing – and this novel can be read on more than one level. While YA readers will most certainly focus on Corlie’s trials and tribulations in her efforts to survive, older readers will also want to analyze Corlie’s family structure, the role of Boer women at that time (1899), and the bigger issues of war and land control in Africa by other countries. I would have loved to have read this novel as a  middle schooler — and I think adult fans of good historical fiction will like it as well.

Hats off to Trilby for a great read!

Quick Review: The Revenge of Kali-Ra by K.K. Beck

During the 1990’s, I read several cozy mysteries by the female writer K. K. Beck. I particularly liked her novels set in the 20’s with alliterative titles (e.g. “Death in a Deckchair”; “Peril under the Palms”). I hadn’t seen anything by her at the library in a long while and was pleased to come across this novel in a library in a nearby town (yes, I frequent several different libraries!).

“The Revenge of Kali-Ra” is a bit of a parody of pulp fiction. A beautiful but somewhat witless Hollywood actress, Nadia Wentworth, has discovered the Kali-Ra novels by Valerian Ricardo from the 1920’s. She wants to turn them into a movie with herself as the star. A copyright battle ensues, Ricardo’s wacky widow gets into the middle of things, his estranged great nephew becomes involved, and a strange and ethereal young woman links herself to this unlikely group. Antics ensue at Nadia’s Hollywood manor, where a few more memorable characters are included (including a binge-drinking British writer and a wanna-be mafioso).
All ends happily in this light and enjoyable read

While I enjoyed this quick read, I do enjoy some of K. K. Beck’s other cozy mysteries (set in the 1920’s) more.

This one was published in 1999. I’ll continue to look for more by her!

Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

I had seen that Rebecca Rasmussen was speaking at the nearby Concord Bookshop in June, but got busy and totally forgot to go. I hadn’t read her book, but had heard through other bloggers that it was good. A few weeks ago I got it from the library and I have been kicking myself ever since that I missed Rebecca’s talk in Concord. I LOVED this book!!

“The Bird Sisters” tells the story of Milly and Twiss – two teen-age sisters growing up in the 40’s in Wisconsin. Milly is beautiful and kind and very good. She’s one of those people who, no matter how hard they try, can’t be mean or cruel as it’s just not in them. Twiss is spunky and a tomboy. She is intelligent and strong and devoted to her sister. Their parents are struggling with a dysfunctional marriage – their father is a self-centered, narcissistic, has-been golf pro, and their mother is a once wealthy, lonely woman, who clings to the fact that she once visited France in order to make herself feel special (or at least more special than the folks in their town). The story centers on one summer when their teen-age cousin, Bett, comes to visit. Things are irrevocably changed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

I just loved this book. It is a story of relationships and love and centers on the strength of women and the love bonds that bind family. It was the kind of book I would put down because I didn’t want it to end. This is Ms. Rasmussen’s first book and I sincerely look forward to her next one! She has a wonderful style with unique and unforgettable character voices. Her story is based, in part, on her own family.

See the book trailer from You Tube:

Here’s Rebecca herself discusses her creation of the book: (HOW could I have missed her speaking in Concord??)