Little Women—Book and Movie Review

Before I get started, I must say that this blog post will contain some spoilers as talking about them is somewhat crucial for my opinion of both the book and the movie. 

I frequent the AMC on 84th street and on 68th Street quite regularly. I have a membership with the theater that allows me to see movies at a discounted rate for the month, or at least see on during the month for the same price. Because of that, I see a lot of trailers, and a lot of the same trailers while there. One that always caught my attention was Little Women with its star-studded cast and, of course, seeing myself in Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan, as the heroine known for her writing and a quite progressive stance on women.

In the trailer, over beautiful scenes from the film, you hear the angst and pain in Ronan’s voice when she says, “Women, they have minds, and they have souls as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for, I’m just sick of it.” I watched the trailer end for the first time and immediately knew I wanted to see it the second it came out.

But then in the back of my mind, I knew it is based on the 1868 novel written by Louisa May Alcott. It was a book most everyone has seen in some capacity. There are trendy Urban Outfitters versions,  illustrated, coffee table worthy versions, paperback, hardcover, leather-bound, fabric coated, vintage, and new-age versions. Its a classic in all sense of the word, but as I scroll through Goodread and converse with other women my age, most of my cohort have marked the book “to-be-read.” Before January, I saw the book, always said I would like to read more classics, but it wasn’t until I saw the trailer did I actively go out to seek a copy of the book. In fact, the first book store I stopped in looking but it was sold out of every print they had. 

After not seeing the movie on Christmas Day, I put off seeing it until I had a copy of the book in my hands and had read it. Something I do very commonly is read the books after I have watched the movie. I’ve done that with too many good stories, although it’s rare for me to not like both of them had I seen the adaptation first, I know everyone says, “the books are always better.”

So, a friend and I vowed to read it together and go and watch the movie once we were both done. And before I get into my overall thoughts, I want to talk about my expectations that I had from the trailer and how that really did impact the way I read my copy of Little Women.

I was SO ready for this novel all about female empowerment and independence and chasing dreams and not boys, but then again, I got that, but not to the extent that I wanted.

The novel follows the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Throughout the story, they are anywhere from pre-teen to their early twenties and are doing what they can to support their family while the father is away during the war. Everyone has something that they enjoy, but I took to Jo quite quickly as she was the writer, and in many ways, I saw Alcott projecting herself within Jo’s character as I do in my own writing. Jo is proud of what she writes, she learns to write for herself and allow the money to become a bonus. She holds a complicated but platonic relationship with the neighbor, Laurie, who becomes an important character throughout. He can be a great friend at times and pushed the envelope at others, but in the back of your mind, you cheer for him and Jo’s relationship because of how it seems as though he genuinely cares.

But for the majority of the book, you experience Jo’s loss. You see how she struggles with death, and when her sisters marry, she leaves home thinking it would save her friendship, and she grapples with this concept of love and knowing women can do more than just love, and part of me wanted Jo to remain independent. Its the eye roll at the end of the trailer that has me believing Jo will be that heroine, but then she marries an advisor of her’s, “the professor,” Mr. Bhaer.

Outside of this sudden shift of my expectation, Allcott write beautiful characters to life that has you beliving these are your friends and not fictions. They exhibit a series of struggles, sacrifices, flaws, and kindness. They are characteristics all of us strive to understand and exhibit, and at the same time, their characters can be believable. There is more to the story that I can critique, but I think its also necessary to touch on how the movie impacted my opinion.

At first, I was disappointed in the book because I didn’t necessarily want Jo to end up with anyone, and part of me was knowing that that was selfish. I wanted a female character that embodied “making it on your own” and wondered if Jo settled when she married the only other man we have to know her to be intimately acquainted with—outside of the publisher.

But then you watch the movie, you see how Jo embodies that. The book’s story is posed in almost two different realities within the movie—where flashbacks and foreshadowing of the story as opposed to the chronological telling from the book. Outside of that, the ages of the men, and the fact that the professor was French and not German, there was nothing glaringly upsetting about how the story was retold in the film. In fact, I felt the movie almost made me appreciate the book a bit more.

While I was reading, I told you that for selfish reasons I wanted Jo to follow her dreams and not marry; I wanted the rouge telling of a single woman making waves in her occupation, but then you listen to the pain in Ronan’s voice and come to remember there is nothing wrong with wanting human interaction. That being lonely isn’t some flaw to the female character, and her desire for companionship doesn’t discredit her career pursuits—it in ways showcases how forming that connection can improve our mental health and benefit our work.

I also appreciate the added interaction with Jo and Mr. Dashwood, the publisher. I loved seeing how the director, writer, and producer shined a light on the publishing community. Being someone who would love to work in the contracts department, I understand how much can benefit the company versus the writer, and love how she negotiated for better pay and the copyright. I felt it was an accurate description of how the publishers know what will sell, and how the end of the book could have changed because if Louisa May did base Jo off of herself, she did not marry.

I really do appreciate that I read the book first and went to see the film, and I look forward to doing that more with other novels!

 

September Book Review

As you know from my previous post at the beginning of the month, First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types,’ I have spent the month reading Tom Hanks’ debut novel of short stories. I want to start off by saying I am glad I did. Hanks did a great job cumulating a collection of short stories, where the characters repeated throughout the novel. At times, it was a comfort to see how the relationships between friends grew throughout various scenarios, but I found the stand-alone stories, the ones that didn’t follow any sort of preconceived relationship to be the most intriguing.

Among my favorites are, “Welcome to Mars,” “These Are the Meditations of My Heart” and “A Month on Greene Street.” Together they discuss heartbreak, relationships, and self-betterment. They are the stories that have me convinced I need a type-writer and need to rewatch a Hanks Rom-Com. The characters are beautifully constructed and left me questions about what happens next in their lives.

Although it isn’t my favorite book ever, it definitely is a read worth listening to and following along. What is better than hearing Tom Hanks get into character and talk about his passions, typewriters that is?

With September on its way out and October coming tomorrow, you may wonder what is next on my agenda?

The official book of October is The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. After sitting in the audience during her panel at Book Con, I knew I’d want to pick up the book whose cover is a work of art. Summarized by “a teenager must rescue her kidnapped mother in a dark YA debut that mixes horror and fairy story,” Hazel Wood is just enough magic and spook for the haunted days of October.

I will be releasing more thriller, horror, and spooky books for this month, but in the meantime get your hand on a copy of The Hazel Wood and read it along with me in October!

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of October where I unravel the ends of October’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce November’s read!

International Literacy Day

“International Literacy Day, celebrated annually on 8 September, is an opportunity for Governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.”– UN.org

Literacy and Multilingualism is the theme of 2019 where the UN urges the peoples of the world to express solidarity with the linguistic diversity that is present in education and the development of literacy to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The reason why today is so essential is that literacy is for everyone, everywhere. My ability to read and write allows me to have this platform to express myself. I can pick up a book and get lost in another world that is unlike my own. I can pursue a career that I enjoy as well as further my future with the enrichment of my ancestors and diverse cultures.

I couldn’t imagine a world where I lack a way to communicate with the various cohorts I keep. I love my growing library and world of knowledge I have learned through the skills of literacy, but I understand how crucial maintaining diversity in our education systems is.

I keep a copy of Other-Wordly: words both strange and lovely from around the world on my coffee table to remind me how diverse languages can be and how some languages have words for feelings that the English language cannot sum up in a single phrase. I open it on occasions to familiarize myself not only with words but with emotions that I will then include in my writing.

Knowing there is a word like ‘querencia‘ which is a noun rooted in the Spanish language that means a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self, means I not only am educating myself on new vocabulary from a language that was for a lot of my friends, their first language, but it’s reminding me about the places that I feel my most authentic self. 

I feel most at home with a blanket wrapped around my shoulder. I feel at home in the arms of my partner or with my toes dug into the warm sand. I feel most at home in Florida, London, Boulder, and New York City. I feel most at home with the crisp autumn air, crunching leaves, and an abundance of pumpkins.

The first time I truly felt like my authentic self, I couldn’t describe it. Still to this day when I recount my time in London, I say I “fell into what I wanted to be” “I changed into the person I felt like I have always was” because after feeling different for so long, it was great to feel the strength I always had at my core finally radiating a golden hue.

My native language isn’t going anywhere, but even if English is something many people know, that doesn’t mean we erase the languages that are so important to the histories of others. I’ve always appreciated that there is no national language of the United States because I never understood why others would say “you’re in America, speak English” to someone speaking a foreign language to their own. Irradicating someone’s culture isn’t necessary, but encouraging language diversity, education, and literacy are essential.

I urge my readers and followers to pick up a book today. I want you to read a page, a chapter, or the entire thing. I want to know what book you choose, what you learned from your moments reading, and how it made you feel.

I urge my readers to write something today for yourself. Write down your grocery list on paper, an encouraging quote on a Post-it note to place on your computer screen, or a letter to a loved one.

I want my readers and followers to take from the gift of literacy and do something positive with it today. Happy International Literacy Day!

 

First Impressions of ‘Uncommon Types’

While an autumnal spice blend and rich pumpkin scents are thrown throughout my small New York City apartment, I enjoy the pitter-patter of rain on my bedroom window, over-cast skies, and Tom Hank’s narration of his first collection of short stories, Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

Because my morning started off with Tom Hank’s recognizable cadence and meticulous character interactions, it must mean that September’s book-of-the-month read has begun. To commemorate my monthly book club, my best friend selected Uncommon Types: Some Stories as the book well will discuss at the end of the month. However, before I release my final thoughts, I felt that should I preface my first ever book review post with a first-glance into my initial impressions.

I’ve grown up with Hank’s and his witty sense of humor, eclectic characters, and oscar-worthy acting. I am always up for a Hank movie marathon and can be found quoting the movies of his I have seen an uncountable amount of time. Many of you may know that You’ve Got Mail is one of my mother’s and grandmother’s favorite movies. I grew up dreaming of autumns in New York and love that

Weirdly enough, I found myself living the plot of the film. To this day, I still remember the moment I FaceTimed my mother and flipped the camera to show a non-contextual aerial shot of a Starbucks from above. “Do you know what this is?” I asked. She replied, “You’ve Got Mail.”

“No,” I said, “that’s the Starbucks next door.” I grew up religiously watching the movie besides her, and she smiles whenever my life relates to the rom-com now. I found my current heartthrob online, I live in the UWS with him where I occasionally zip my credit card through the credit card machines at Zabar’s, but at the apex of it all I spent one summer working with the corporate team of the IRL Fox Books.

Up until the summer of 2018, the nostalgia watching the film focused around my childhood and my relationship with my mother more so than the growing pains surrounding what life used to be.

Ever since You’ve Got Mail, Toy Story, and The Polar Express entered my list of top watched movies, I wondered how he would turn out to be a writer. I still am curious to see how his love for story-telling and affinity for typewriters would mix when he channeled an inner author.

With the book being released in October of 2017, it is currently ranking at an average of 3.45 stars from 24,724 ratings  and 4,532 reviews on Good Reads; with some of the top reviews mentioning “these stories are aggressively competent and aggressively bland.” In total, Uncommon Types: Some Stories is “a collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.”

Because at the root of it, the reason I bought this book because I knew the author because he is an actor. After just completing The Road by Cormac McCarthy, national bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, I knew this story may pale in comparison. That’s okay because there is always something to appreciate from another’s writing style.

Hank’s may never win an award for his literary feats, but from the two short stories I have read, I have enjoyed them both for a lazy day spent in bed enjoying Tom Hank’s narration as I read along.

‘’Three Exhausting Weeks”: Two best friends decide to enter in a romantic relationship, but even after the first night together, readers can feel their incompatibility. Read to discover how an authoritative, busy-body creates a regime for a laid-back, home-body.

“Christmas Eve 1953”: An incredible recount of a cold Christmas Eve that harps on joy, belief in tomorrow, and the healing wounds of a past filled with physical and psychological trauma.

Both stories stay true to the movies Tom Hank’s stars in, and the humor he uses to keep readers following along. The nostalgia of typewriters remains a theme throughout both stories, which I am happy to see since I know Tom Hank’s is a fond collector.

There are still fifteen short-stories for me to dive into, and although at times the crisp short sentences and dimmed imagery can pull away from the reader’s attention, Hank’s makes up for it with a handful of beautifully crafted paragraphs to leave the readers wanting to know more about the characters he described.

Read along with me this month, and stay tuned for the 30th of September where I unravel the ends of September’s book-of-the-month, review other books I may have read over the coming weeks, and announce October’s read!


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Starting a Book Club

As a writer and aspiring author, I have found myself buying up more books than my Ikea bookshelves can handle all while calling myself a “reader.” Which I am, but I am the type of reader who rewards myself with new books, even when I have hundreds of novels left unread on my shelves, and I wasn’t reading to keep up. For a while, I obsessively bought every recommendation and new release and added them to my fast-growing collection of “want to read next” while I neglected to read.

In May, I said enough is enough, no. more. books.

Before I get ahead of myself, I was doing this to save money. I called it my ‘book hiatus,’ which is where I set the goal for myself to read 1/3 of my books before heading out and buying new ones. My bookshelf would always be accepting of Advance Reader Copies and gifts, but I am now actively trying to read what is already in my collection.

It was around the time of my hiatus that I realized I was reading a lot in the spring, but that number started to dwindle in the summer. At one point, I was reading a book a week, which sounds like a lot, but I was a fast reader and I often get sucked into a story and have a hard time putting them down. In order to maintain my habit of buying and not reading, I revamped the goal by talking to my fellow reading friends and asking if they wanted to start a book club.

My best friend is just like me, she obsessively stalks Barnes & Noble’s inventory, rewards her seven-foot-tall bookshelves with more books, and is trying to find time to catch-up with all the books she wants to read. It was back in 2016 when we first started this idea of a book-club. We were prepping for our road trip from Florida to Colorado, and I was showing her all around my home town of Naples; which included stopping in Barnes & Noble. We both, separately, found the book Virgin by Radhika Sanghani which followed a 21-year-old on a mission to deflower herself.

We both decided to pick up a copy, read it on our own time, and discuss the book when we were done. Together we sat in my living room on matching couches and turned the pages in silence. I ended up devouring the book before bed, which pushed my best friend to read it faster, and still to this day, I loved the book, and I loved discussing it with a friend.

Since then, I have picked up duplicate copies of books for us to read, in addition to us both recommending and FaceTiming one another to show our recent book haul.  Together, we decided enough is enough. No more “let save this for a book club” instead, “lets actually read this for a book club.”

Those words made me a reader again. We planned for September 1st to be the start of our monthly book club. We planned to read one book together, starting with Uncommon Types by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks). We habitually start multiple books at a time, so we left the final weeks in August to wrap up our books of the summer. Because I had a plan, I stuck with it. Throughout the past few weeks, I finally finished A Darker Shade of Magic and City of Ghost by V. E. Schwab, The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dryer.

I mention that I habitually read multiple books at one time because I would love to read more books with more people. I may have started a book club with close friends, but also entice to my readers to join along in the conversation! You may just be here for my mental-health blogs and tantalizing travel essays, but in actuality, I would love to interact with my followers, and I feel like reading is something you can do to improve your mental well-being and a book is portable enough to take on your journies.

So whether you are interested in reading Uncommon Types with us, or are wanting to discuss books with me, please comment below; if there are four full weeks in September, then you better believe that I am going to be up for at least starting four new books soon!

I think one will be Educated by Tara Westover. I am all for a memoir, and I have never had so many recommendations for a single book since I became a more mature reader. Have any of you read it? Let me know if you’ve been meaning to and want to read it with me!