Book Review

Little Women Book and Movie Review

Whenever someone asks me which author I would love to have a conversation with, my mind always drifts to the authors that are no longer with us but who were well beyond their times. One of these authors is Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. In a time when marriage and domestic life was perceived as a woman’s main role, Louisa May Alcott created a female character with big dreams to write and to make her own way in the world.

I remember two things from when I read Little Women twenty years ago:
1) I am Jo March.
2) How fun it would be to become a writer.

Here are my thoughts after rereading Little Women twenty years later:
1) I am Jo March.
2) I must keep writing even when it’s hard.

You do not have to be a writer or even a woman to appreciate this story. It is a timeless classic that is sure to appeal to people from all walks of life. I’m so happy that this was the first book I read at the very start of the new year and decade.

The March Sisters:

Little Women revolves around the four March sisters as they navigate through the years of their youth and the struggles of being poor and having their father away at war. Each sister is very different in their own way with dreams they wish to accomplish and hardships they learn to overcome.

20200112_141015.jpgJo March:
“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.”

Beth March:
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping..”

Meg March:
“Meg is like a turtledove, which represents love”

Amy March:
“Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest again”

Meg dreams of what life could be were she rich and did not have to work. Jo longs to be a writer and struggles to control her temper. Beth is the grateful little dove that does not take any moment for granted and enjoys playing the piano. Amy is the little artist who learns to look beyond the superficial. The bond between the sisters is truly heart warming. Despite all their quarrels and moving on to different stages in their lives, they always find a way back home to each other.

Jo March Book vs. Movie:

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” ― Louisa May Alcott,

I love that feeling when you are reading a book and one of the characters becomes more and more relatable to you. Then as you close the book and put it aside you realize “I am that character”. This is what I felt when I was reading about Jo March. While I must admit that Jo is much more adventurous and brave, I feel like we have aligned over the years with our love for writing. The scenes with Jo dealing with the crippling self-doubt as well as being protective of her writing were really raw. You can tell that the author was writing from personal experience that only a writer would know.

BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I know there are many people who wish Jo and Laurie ended up together. I remember wishing for the same thing as a teenager. Maybe there was a small part of me that still wished it would happen as I reread the book. I never really understood why Jo ended up with the professor in the end. It just seemed unlike her, despite the deep connection she felt for the person who was supportive of her literary career. He felt more like a mentor than a love interest. I felt that there could have been a better ending for Jo, but I never knew what it was until I watched the most recent movie of Little Women.

The Ending of the Movie:

If you have not watched the Little Women movie yet STOP READING!
.
.
.
I had finished my reread of Little Women and went to see the movie the very next day. I loved everything about it and felt the characters were well cast. But it was the ending that stole my heart. Before I discuss the ending, let us take a step back and explore the vision Louisa May Alcott had for her beloved Jo.

In the many articles I read, it was revealed that Louisa may have felt pressured into giving Jo a more traditional “happily ever after” at the request of her readers and publisher. Her original vision for Jo was one that reflected her own life. Louisa decided to please her readers by giving Jo a happily ever after involving marriage and children.

“Women Have Minds And Souls As Well As Just Hearts, And They’ve Got Ambition And Talent As Well As Just Beauty. And I’m Sick Of People Saying That Love Is All A Woman Is Fit For” – Jo March from the movie version of Little Women.

The movie did something absolutely remarkable that left me smiling and thinking, “yes, this feels like something Jo March would have done”. In the movie we see Jo negotiating the terms of her book “Little Women” that is the story of the March Sisters. She reveals to the publisher that she turned down both men in her life, as chronicled in her book. The publisher encourages her to change the ending for her character by accepting the professor’s hand in marriage. The movie ends with Jo, single, watching her book getting printed and bound.

“I’d Rather Be A Free Spinster And Paddle My Own Canoe.” – Jo March from the movie Little Women.

I absolutely loved this little twist in the end because in many ways it honoured Louisa May Alcott’s vision for Jo March decades after the release of the book. Critics have called this version of Little Women perfect for this generation, and I cannot agree more. At the end of the day, Jo lives her dream of becoming an author and remains independent like she always wanted. It also leaves it open to the interpretation that this young girl realized her dream and there could always be a possibility of love in her future, either with someone coming into her life or from the words she writes on the pages. Either way, it is her choice to make.

I also love how Meg reminds Jo that women can have different dreams that are equally important. Jo dreams of being independent and Meg dreams of getting married and staring a family of her own. I loved this exchange between them because it shows the way things should be: marriage as a choice and dream rather than a social obligation.

“Just Because My Dreams Are Different Than Yours, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Unimportant.” – Meg March from the movie Little Women.

This classic will always have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. The movie is my favorite version for all the heart and soul that went into creating the world of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and staying true to her vision.

Happy Reading Bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review

Daisy Jones and The Six Review

No matter how many times Google tells me that Daisy Jones and The Six are not a real band, I will go down with this ship believing they are real. Try to convince me otherwise. It boggles my mind that these incredibly flawed and talented characters are fictional. It just can’t be possible. Author Taylor Jenkins Reid does some kind of magic with her words because this is the second book I have read of hers that makes me turn to the internet to find proof of these characters existence in our world.

Daisy Jones and The Six was one hell of a ride. I did not know what to expect when I realized that this book was written entirely in an interview style narrative, but I was pleasantly surprised right off the bat. This book takes us into the glamorous and destructive world of a “fictional” 70’s rock and roll band (I swear I’m still in denial about this being a made up band). Read on for my spoiler free ramblings about this epic musical reading journey.

67191323_479901949478443_4524107327409750016_n(picture from @khanlibrary)

Synopsis:

Daisy is a neglected and lonely girl sneaking into clubs, doing drugs and dreaming of becoming a singer/song writer. She has the look and the voice, so it is only a matter of time before she gets noticed by the right people and enters the music industry. The Six is a band lead by the talented and tortured Billy Dunne. The band is starting to make a name for themselves when Billy gets lost in the world of drugs and booze right after he finds out his wife is pregnant. History is made when Daisy and The Six come together and make an album that rocks the world. But nobody knows what happened behind the scenes of their success, until now.

This book is a chronicle of their time together in a band as each member and people close to them sit down for an interview revealing all the devastating and wonderful moments they shared under the spotlight.

I Really Love that Rock n’ Roll:

“Dancing Barefoot in the snow,
Cold can’t touch her, high or low
She’s blues dressed up like rock ‘n’ roll
Untouchable, she’ll never fold – Taylor Jenkins Reid. 

The way the characters described that rock and roll lifestyle felt so believable and real. I really enjoyed how each character was portrayed as being deeply passionate about their craft and how they described what the music meant to them. Everyone from the guitarist to the lead singer was connected to the music in a way that seemed so vulnerable. The act of writing a song based on past mistakes or hopes for a better future were really well described. There was also a lot of drama between the band members, as expected, but it was really well written and explored. You get to see the experiences through multiple perspectives and that is what makes for a great big picture.

“And, baby, when you think of me
I hope it ruins rock ‘n’ roll
Regret me, regretfully” – Taylor Jenkins Reid 

It blew my mind that the author actually wrote original songs for this book and how each song was like reading the personal diary of the characters. I’m convinced the author had to be some kind of rockstar before becoming a best-selling author. How else can you write such deeply moving songs? How? I have too many questions. There was so much emotion in the songs that I began wondering what it would actually sound like with the drums, guitar and keyboard. I also found myself wondering what Daisy and Billy would sound like together.

Major Themes and Characters:

“It’s very vulnerable, being an artist, telling the truth like that, like we’re doing now. When you’re living your life, you’re so inside your head, you’re swirling around in your own pain, that it’s hard to see how obvious it is to the people around you. These songs I was writing felt coded and secret, but I suspect they weren’t coded and secret at all” – Taylor Jenkin Reid.

You really get a sense of how high and low fame can take a person. Billy and Daisy’s struggle with addiction was a major theme of this book. While Billy goes wild and then works his way towards sobriety, Daisy falls deeper into the world of addiction. The interactions between Billy and Daisy were full of tension and I live for that kind of character relationship. Through that tension, these two come together to write and perform brilliant songs. They are both deeply flawed characters that make many mistakes, but I still found myself rooting for them to come to terms with their feelings and fears.

I also loved the relationships between the women in this book. Often times you come across female characters that compete and try to sabotage one another. I actually expected this in a book about musicians and fame. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with female characters that support one another instead of tearing each other down. Besides Daisy, Karen and Camilla were two other female characters that shined in their own way. These three characters were strong, confident and unapologetic about the way they wanted to live their lives. The comradely between them was really refreshing.

My Thoughts:

I never imagined that a book written in interview style could make me feel all the emotions and keep me glued to the pages. I know readers like the whole “show instead of telling” type of narrative but in this case the telling really worked. I think its because I felt each character had a distinct voice in the transcript. When Daisy was interviewed, her answers were always heavy and filled with pain. When Billy was interviewed, there was something so apologetic in his answers. Like he just felt sorry for everything he was and did. I felt the same with the other band members. They all felt real to the point where I could almost picture them being interviewed. I cannot recommend this book enough and I really do hope that Daisy Jones and The Six reunite and put on a show (just let me continue believing they are real ok? Please let me have this).

I picked up this book while attending the Penguin Random House Ice Cream Social event at Bookcon earlier this summer and would like to send out a big thank you to them for bringing this book into my life. What an exciting ride!

Happy reading bookworms,

Shazia.

 

 

Writing

Pitchapalooza BookCon 2019

Dumbledore once explained to us that you have a choice when it comes to being placed into a Hogwarts house. I know many people would love to be placed in Gryffindor. I have said this before and I will say it again: Pottermore sorted me into Ravenclaw and I fully accepted that I was not brave enough to be in Gryffindor. Seriously, if the Basilisk was slithering towards me I would probably be shielding my crying eyes and calling on someone from Gryffindor to fight the snake for me. Not even kidding.

However, I’m happy to report that I sometimes have my courageous moments and I displayed some serious Gryffindor vibes over this past weekend at a Bookcon Panel called “Pitchapalooza”. That being said, it was the most terrifying feeling ever. It must be exhausting being a Gryffindor. You guys are welcome to join me in the Ravenclaw library for some meditative reading sessions when you need a break from all that valiant stuff you do.

Pitchapalooza 2019:

I was not planning on attending day two of Bookcon, but I had so much fun on day one that I decided to go. That morning, I looked through the list of panels I could attend and came across one called “Pitchapalooza” and the description is what caught my eye.

62243998_313653089556739_7506446387693748224_n

Literary agent Arielle Eckstut and bestselling author David Henry Sterry, known as the Book Doctors, were set to host this panel. Joining them on the judging panel was author Cheryl Willis Hudson. The basic premise of this panel was to give a one-minute pitch of the book you were writing to the panel of publishing experts. They would then critique your pitch in a kind and gentle way and the winner would be introduced to a literary agent or publisher. Twenty participants would be selected at random to pitch their books from everyone who signed up before the panel began. It sounded equally wonderful and terrifying.

Let’s get real for a moment: I hate public speaking. I like to melt into a crowd rather than be placed in front of one. So when I was looking at the bowl containing names for the draw, I heard a voice in my head listing all the reasons why this was a bad idea:

  • My book was far from complete
  • I had not prepared for this in any way
  • What in the world was a book pitch?

I stood there with my name scribbled on the piece of paper that I was clutching for dear life and started listing the reasons why I should do it:

  • What were the odds my name would be picked from the draw?
  • I had my notebook in my bag, which contained a brief summary of my book. It was far from perfect, but it was something if I was chosen as tribute. 
  • I was visiting the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, and according to Alicia Keys and Jay Z, there is nothing I can’t do (let’s hear it for New York!)

I stuffed my name at the very bottom of the bowl and headed towards the panel. I did feel proud of myself for putting my name in the draw but I was also realizing that if I got chosen this would be the first time anyone other than myself would be hearing the story I was writing.

61837950_2294694940745275_774241462253518848_n

I sat down with my journal and flipped through the pages of character profiles and scenes until I found the brief one page summary of my book I had written a month ago. It was well written but I knew it did not have the structure of a book pitch. At best I would be given advice on how to improve my book pitch and my story. I sat there with my stomach in knots and kept telling myself I would not be called.

I was the third person to be called on stage to present my book pitch
*Cue the Hunger Games music*
*Cue the Game of Thrones Battle music*
*Call an ambulance and send me back to Canada* 

You know in the movies how some scenes become super dramatic in slow motion? Well that is the only way I could describe the few seconds after I was called on stage. Everything was a blur and my legs went numb. I suddenly wished my parents or my friends were there with me, but in that moment the kind lady sitting next to me gave me a nudge to get up and told me I would do great. I walked up to the stage on shaking legs and stood behind the podium. Looking out at the crowd I saw nothing but smiling faces. It did not occur to me in that moment that the room was filled with fellow aspiring writers. They understood how scary it was to stand behind the podium and maybe it was their energy that made me take a deep breath and started reading. 

61776968_310393546568062_3059540637868097536_n

It was over before I knew it and I was so relieved once I heard the applause from the crowd. I did it! It was a proud moment and I was curious as to what feedback the judges would give me. I was ecstatic that Arielle was intrigued by the premise of my story and took mental notes on all the advice they gave me on how to improve my book pitch. They were so kind and honest that I felt motivated to keep working on my story.

I knew I did not win but I still walked back to my seat feeling like I had just won the House Cup for Gryffindor. Getting up there on that podium and sharing my story was my personal win.

Writing can be a lonely activity, especially when you never share your words with anyone. I was always terrified of sharing my stories with people. A part of me thought that if I shared my stories I would be exposed as a fraud who had absolutely no talent. It took me a long time to realize that I have always been a writer, and no form of validation from others would change that. So I started sharing bits and pieces of my previous work with a few friends and my parents. Their praise and supportive words are locked away in my heart forever. This was the first time I shared my new story with anyone and the first time I shared my writing with complete strangers. I felt vulnerable and terrified but I survived and came out of it feeling lighter. That is what happens when you release the words you have hiding within yourself for far too long. 

61712952_371108077082383_650880956311273472_n

I was grateful not only to have been given the chance to present my book pitch but also to listen to those of the other nineteen writers. It was incredible hearing such creative stories and I found myself hoping these writers would be published soon. I really want to read their books. The Book Doctors gave so much helpful advice that you could hear the sound of notes being scribbled onto paper throughout the room. I left the panel feeling inspired and full of hope.

So I guess the moral of this story is that we all have some Gryffindor traits in us and all we have to do is take that first step towards something outside of our comfort zone. That is where all the wizardry magic happens.

Keep on writing!
Shazia.