Tag Archives | Book Reviews

Book Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Conner McNees

Author Kelly O'Conner McNees

In this interesting and enigmatic fictional account, the reader embarks on a journey through the life of one of the world’s most loved authors, Louisa May Alcott. After landing in a spot of financial difficulty, the Alcott family has just moved into a deserted cabin owned by a friend in Walpole, New Hampshire. The family, which consists of four girls and their parents, are no strangers to domestic disturbance and poverty, due to Mr. Alcott’s refusal to engage himself in gainful employment. Though his family disagrees, Mr. Alcott feels it is his duty to shun all material pleasures, focusing instead on his philosophical interests, a behavior which Louisa in particular finds abhorrent.


Hardcover Edition

As the family becomes immersed in their new surroundings, Louisa meets the local merchant’s son, Joesph Singer, who immediately takes a curious interest in her. Louisa’s only dream is to escape her family and move to Boston, where she hopes to have success as an author; so this new attention by Joseph Singer is not only unwelcome but strongly rejected by her, a fact that doesn’t deter the young Mr. Singer in the least. Louisa grows more adamant and resistant to the charms of the young man but finds herself curiously drawn to his bright mind and eager advances. When Joesph finally begins to get past Louisa’s prickly exterior, the two find themselves enamored of each other and ready to take their relationship to the next level. But then an unforeseen hinge drops a door on the couple’s new-found happiness: Joesph may not be free to promise himself to the woman he loves. Louisa, for her part, struggles mightily between her desires for Joseph and her dream of a new life as a successful writer in Boston. The young lovers find themselves in the midst of a confusing and troubling set of events that threatens to overtake their dreams of the future. In this touching and reverent tale, the life of Louisa May Alcott is re-spun and re-imagined into a tale of deep love and disappointing heartbreak.

Paperback Edition

I got unexpectedly caught up in this book and think that the author did a wonderful job of making her characters well rounded and sympathetic individuals. The story had a lot of immediacy, which is funny to think about, considering it occurred such a long time ago. The author admits that the love story portrayed here is a work of fiction, as are other aspects of the tale, but questionable gaps in the record of Alcott’s life may lead the reader to believe that this story may not be all that far-fetched. I definitely think that those readers who have enjoyed Alcott’s body of work would do well to pick up this book, and for those who have not read anything by the author, do not fear! There’s enough grist in this story for it to stand alone beautifully.


About Heather Figearo

Heather Figearo is an avid reader, book collector, and freelance reviewer who reviews fiction for She Reads and on her own site, Raging Bibliomania.

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Review – The Song Remains the Same

I enjoyed The Song Remains The Same by Allison Winn Scotch  because of the story and the writing and the compelling beginning– a woman wakes up with no memory of who she is, or her mom, or her husband. And very quickly it becomes apparent that all is not well with this happy little reunion. The one bright spot for her is the movie star who was the only other survivor of the plane crash– someone who suddenly becomes more important than the people she calls family because he went through what she went through. And even better, he remembers what she cannot.While I enjoyed the book for those reasons, I also enjoyed it for something else– the idea that we can change who we are. Or should I say, the  hope  that we can change who we are, even as set-in-our-ways adults. As Nell adjusts to the fact that she’s lost who she was, she discovers that, in losing who she was, she’s gained the chance to change her personality– and maybe  even her destiny.

As the book goes on, she learns some things about her past that she doesn’t like. Things about her father, her husband, her mom and sister. As she comes to terms with who these people were to her, she must also decide who she wants them to be in the future. I found this story to be a great way to delve into such weighty topics, yet keep us rooting for Nell all the way through.

The only thing negative that I would say about the book  is that there were too many times of  taking God’s name in vain. I can put up with most any swear word. But take His name in vain and the fur on the back of my neck stands up. So I would caution you if that is something that bothers you. I won’t lie, it bothered me. But I did finish the book because I wanted to find out the truth about Nell– and whether it’s possible to really change who you are.

Marybeth Whalen  is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July:  The Mailbox,    She Makes It Look Easy, and  The Guest Book.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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Book Review – These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

Renee, Abby and Cate have found themselves sharing an apartment in New York. While Cate and Renee both work for the ultra-hip magazine Gloss, Abby has only just arrived in New York after fleeing a troubled past. For Cate, a recent promotion to Features Editor at Gloss brings newfound power struggles with tetchy journalists and a boss who seems to want more from her than she’s willing to give. Renee is vying for a position as Fashion Editor and has only recently found out the lengths that she must go to in order to obtain this most coveted job, while Abby has left behind a little girl she has grown to love when her job as a nanny began to creep into dangerous territory. All three women have unrealized goals behind and enormous struggles ahead. Through their various trials and heartbreaks, they will come to discover that the one thing more important than their careers and self-image is the friendship that they have tenuously begun to build. As they navigate office treachery, self esteem issues, and secrets that have been long buried and forgotten, they realize that it’s impossible for them to go it alone. As their friendships grow and solidify, each woman comes to grasp the beauty of their individuality and the power and strength that lies deep within themselves. In this endearing and bracingly touching novel, Sarah Pekkanen explores the hidden depths of three women trying to make a new life for themselves and the beautiful bonds that hold them together.

I’ve long wanted to explore the writing of Sarah Pekkanen, and each time I read another rave review of one of her books, I mentally note that almost everyone I know finds her work to be smart, engaging and touching. Reading this book was an addictive experience. I couldn’t put it down and became grumbly and ill-tempered when I had to let it linger, even for a moment. Pekennan writes characters that are instantly relatable and puts her readers squarely in their camp, rooting for them even when the odds are stacked against them. These three women are the kind of characters that instantly clicked with me, and I was firmly entrenched in discovering as much about them as I possibly could.

Cate is your typical go-getter. Though she’s smart, capable and winsome, she must always present a strong and forward thinking presence because there are many obstacles in her way. As a competent woman, Cate struggles with having to push the limits because, at times, it seems that people don’t respect her. Cate, while being at the top of her game, is hiding a secret that may undo her, and she has a lot to prove to those naysayers who long to topple her. Though she’s strong and intelligent, she knows when to ask for help and when to remain steadfast. Ultimately, Kate struggles because she’s unable to trust, and when she finally begins to let Abby and Renee into her life, she begins to realize that her lack of intimacy with others may be preventing her from truly having it all.

Sarah Pekkanen

Renee, on the other hand, is a softer force and often deflects her self-esteem issues with humor. While Renee isn’t overweight, she struggles with weight issues and body shame that sets her on a dangerous path. Like Cate, Renee desperately wants to prove herself but feels that her weight is a significant factor in her unhappiness. I felt that I could somewhat relate to Renee and her thought processes, and when an unexpected family crisis looms on the horizon, her problems are compounded. As Renee works harder and harder to obtain her goals, they all seem to slip away one by one. It’s easy enough for her to laugh on the outside, but on the inside, Renee is slowly falling apart.

Abby is an instinctual caregiver who has lost direction and focus after finding herself morally and ethically compromised. When she arrives in New York to share an apartment with Cate and Renee, she is dispirited and brokenhearted. She’s not only eaten away by guilt and regret, but suffers from severe bouts of panic that she can’t understand. As Cate and Renee work together to help mentally bouey Abby, the three discover they share an affinity for each other and they all begin to lean on each other and provide each other with the compassion that they so desperately need. Abby is the catalyst for many of the emotional bonds that form between the women, and despite her need she is once again able to find the nurturing parts of herself to give to the other two women.

If you enjoy books that highlight the amazing resiliency of women’s friendships, this is definitely the book for you. It’s gentle without being sugar coated, and Pekkanen has a way of making her story extremely relevant for women of all ages. I also appreciated the fact that the writing was crisp and bracing and that the plot was extremely tight. I’ve already ordered my next novel by Pekkanen and am looking forward to digging in very soon. A great read. Highly recommended.

This review written, and reprinted, courtesy of Heather Figearo.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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