Book Review: Marmee by Sarah Miller

I cannot explain how happy this book makes me! Little Women is, far and away, my favorite novel and has been for the majority of my life. I have consumed this story in a myriad of different forms and have had so many surprising parallels between my own life and that of Jo March’s fictional one. But this book…oh, this book!

Here is our beloved Marmee’s soul laid out in her own journal entries. It was so brilliant to read the familiar plot points of Little Women but from Marmee’s particular perspective with all the hidden details that often fill a mother’s heart and mind. We are familiar with the Marmee who admitted to her spitting-image daughter Jo about her own struggles with her temper and indignation at the unfairness and injustices of the world. Furthermore, in this book, Miller expands upon those personal struggles and her journey through them and the life her beliefs and actions have built for her girls, her “little women”. Miller presents Margaret March as thoroughly human — loving, longing, struggling, working, and yearning. In the midst of “hoping and keeping busy”, we see the true needs of a woman, mother, wife, and friend presented in honest relief. Now a Marmee myself, I cried at portions, feeling indelibly seen and known in that particular capacity by this best of stories.

Before, I have always identified with Jo, but here in Miller’s well-researched and heartfully-rendered portrait, I blessedly saw my own heart reflected back at me in Marmee’s vulnerable humanity and the loving work of her life. I found myself yearning to be as lucky as John Brooke or Laurie or Birte Hummel, to be drawn into the warm circle of Marmee’s life.

It is also not only Marmee’s portrait that has been filled out by Miller’s pen. Grandfather Lawrence becomes a deeply-loving father figure that is sorely-needed, John Brooke a man thoroughly deserving of Meg and the Marches’ love (no matter Jo’s young protestations), and the Hummel family comes to rich life as full characters instead of a mere vehicle for lessons in kindness and sacrifice.

While Miller does indeed make some changes to this well-worn story, I found none of them to be detractors or detrimental to the effect of this gorgeous story. It is more than just a retelling, it is a new side of the much-beloved story of the March Family. Miller has drawn the stitches between the fictional Marches and the humanly real Alcotts tighter and embroidered them with stunning flourishes of growth, love, faith, hard work, and hope. I could not have asked for or even dreamed of a better novel with which to begin 2023. It has done my heart and soul unspeakable good and has become one that I will undoubtedly recommend over and over again. Thank you, Sarah Miller, for all your hope and hard work in producing a book of such feeling and skill. Thank you for giving me a story that shall find its way into my own Marmee’s hands as well as next to my childhood and anniversary editions of Little Women, in pride of place among my most cherished volumes. A place among my treasures, for that is what it is: a treasure.


My Storied January, Part 2

A bee. A key. A sword. Several months ago, those images began filling my Twitter and Instagram feeds. I knew what they heralded and was practically beside myself with each new post and peek. I had been waiting for eight years for a new world from Erin Morgenstern to step sideways into, ever since I was so exquisitely enthralled, ensorcelled, and enraptured by The Night Circus. I have never recommended or passed on a book as often as I have that one. And The Starless Sea was no disappointment. A story molded and folded, fitted and tide-locked with other the stories within it. Stories that mix and mingle and connect and rend. When I first received this beautiful book, it took me several weeks to read even 70 pages. That was agony for me. When all I wanted to do was to dive in and devour it, I was being forced to savor it. I found it creeping into my days, my dreams, my daily drive (thank you, monthly Audible credit!), and even my work. I used it as an example entry for my 8th-grade students’ silent reading journals. 

Photo by The Ridgefield Press

Needless to say, I tumbled into a world of keys and swords and books, of Doors and bees and stories. I will not claim to understand everything…yet. It will no doubt take several readings and listenings to unravel all the paths and side-quests and cues within the gorgeous labyrinth held between these gold-embossed black covers. There are lines that still linger in my mind, lines that I have quoted and enigmatically posted. Lines that wrap themselves around my wrists and elbows like golden ribbons, words dangling from my fingertips like keys and glowing in my chest like embers. Morgenstern has not disappointed in any sense; once again her world-weaving has carried me off over golden waves.

My fictional world is, as it seems, full of books and Doors and stories right now. I am chasing after books come alive in A.J. Hackwith’s The Library of the Unwritten and running headlong through ten-thousand Doors in the most gorgeous epic by Alix E. Harrow (The Ten Thousand Doors of January). To my delight, I am led and shepherded everywhere I look in these tales by characters of color. I am also seeing bits and pieces of myself spread out among them. A hero with eyesight as bad as my own. A Librarian with locs and a fierceness to match the angelic host themselves. A girl with mocha skin and a bronze-furred dog. Her friend with a body the color of coffee who would be perfect standing side by side with the Librarian in battle. Zachariah, Claire, January, Bad, Jane. I marvel at finding myself surrounded by these characters, taken by the hands and led–sometimes thrown–through their adventures, failures, discoveries, and downfalls. It is intense. It is emotional. It is fascinating. It is painful. And every second is worth it.

This is my storied January indeed, and I am loving it!

Evenings’ Readings

I’m getting back into the practice of reading before bed. So here are my bedtime books for the past two nights:

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I haven’t really been a big fan of Felicia’s before but I really enjoy her writing style. It’s bright and conversational and fun. Feels like chatting over dessert.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter and Lin-Manuel Miranda. This tome is big and beautiful and an utter delight. I am a process person so reading about Lin and Hamilton’s process of becoming is amazing. And his libretto annotations? Sheer joy!

Keep Reading, My Darlings

I am sitting here, still riding the high of having read three books this month (it’s been literally years since that happened) and surrounded by books that I want to read next. It feels like there are so very many of them, though, far more than the five that are currently at the top of my to-read pile. I am almost starting to despair of getting any of them read in a month. I know that I shouldn’t despair, I have no reason to. I have already made good progress on one beautiful novel (Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart) and May has just begun. I have time, as long as I take my fringe moments and make use of them and feed my soul with literary beauty.

There are so many gorgeous stories, so many heartfelt biographies, and books on living, feeling, connecting, writing, and being heartful. I want to devour them all, pull them deep down into my belly, and let them sink into my blood. Books will forever be the balloons that carry my imagination aloft, feed my creativity, and buoy my soul.

Keep reading, my dears. Keep devouring those stories. Keep pulling them deep down into your belly. Keep letting them sink into your blood, their words swirling in your veins, and worlds stored up in your heart. For Heaven’s sake, keep reading!



This is NOT my work. I don’t know who to credit but, if you see this, thank you for your beautiful artistry! 


Once a Lost Girl…

Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” has been moving quite fluidly across the airwaves of late,  sung in her dreamy, soulful voice, though I first heard it when a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of the song to my Facebook page, saying that it reminded them of me. I take that as quite a compliment, personally. The first half of the song goes like this:

There was a time when I was alone
Nowhere to go and no place to call home
My only friend was the man in the moon
And even sometimes he would go away, too

Then one night, as I closed my eyes
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for a while
He said, “Peter Pan, that’s what they call me
I promise that you’ll never be lonely, ” and ever since that day

I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook
“Run, run, lost boy, ” they say to me
Away from all of reality

When I was a child, the first storybook character I fell in love with (yes, I believe that I loved him with all my little-girl heart) was Peter Pan. I had a beautifully illustrated storybook, a book on tape, loved the Disney movie (was so jealous that Tiger Lily got to “kiss” Peter), watched the “Peter Pan and the Pirates” television series on Fox in the mornings before school, had my blue “Wendy” nightdress, and had the Mary Martin production of Peter Pan memorized (still sing “Once Upon a Time” and “I Won’t Grow Up”). It’s safe to say that I was a bit obsessed with Peter Pan and all the characters therein.

When I was a child, I didn’t have many friends. I was small, skinny, awkward, studious, always with my nose in a book. Not many people wanted to associate with that, particularly in the first half of middle school. So I turned to my books and movies (which were mostly based on books), to the characters held within them who had ever been steadfast friends. I was a Lost Girl in truth. I could sink myself into those stories, let the characters pull me along to join them on their adventures, and live a thousand lives that I would never have in the real world. I was happy as a Lost Girl, in Never Land. I was happy with the dream of Peter (who, interestingly, has continued to grow as I have grown) coming to my window, taking my hand with that handsome, sweet grin, and flying me off to somewhere where I could be more than what I was. Where I could be a Lost Girl, not just little Melissa. Where I could talk with mermaids, fly with fairies, fight pirates, and dance with Tiger Lily.

Where I could be someone else. More than what I was.

Even now, I am still a Lost Girl. I still run off with these characters and dive into their stories, their ranks having swelled over the thirty-some years of my life. Dear friends and new, they make me happy to be a Lost Girl. In fact, there are two new books on my table, two new shedloads of characters just waiting to take me on their adventures and share with me their realities.

As a matter of fact…I think that’s a tap on my window. Excuse me.



Stepping Out of Middle Earth

Yesterday evening, I went with my husband to witness something very, very close to my heart: the closing of Middle Earth. Thirteen years ago this month, I was taken to the movies by dear friends, to watch “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”, and, honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into, storywise. Not really. I had begun reading The Fellowship of the Ring a little before those but had gotten busy with my sophomore year of college and set it aside for the time being. Now, after having dress-rehearsed all morning for my first performance on the SCF/Kappa Chi team for the Musical Madness competition, I gathered with those friends to see this film. Needless to say, I was seized, captured, and enthralled.

For the next two years, it became tradition for me to treat my friends to the midnight showing of each subsequent chapter of the Lord of the Rings as a Christmas gift, before we all parted ways for the holidays. I cannot tell you the fun of those nights, going out to dinner with my friends and then getting to the theatre early to garner good seats together. Then, each time, I would lose myself in Middle Earth, travelling on this harrowing adventure with Hobbit, Elf, Wizard, and Man.

In the thirteen years since seeing FOTR, I have devoured the books as well as The SilmarillionThe Books of Lost Tales, and written a collection of my own Tolkien tales. I learned a great deal from an excellent professor who is also a great lover of Tolkien. I learned to speak Sindarin Elvish (memorization and transliteration until it rolled off my tongue, sang in Rohirric, and had two papers published. When I saw that Peter Jackson as extending his movie magic to The Hobbit, I rejoiced. An Unexpected Journey was the first movie I watched with my newborn daughter and, now, my husband and I seized the opportunity (and the kindness of his parents) to close out the Red Book together. At the end, as Billy Boyd sang “The Last Goodbye” and Alan Lee’s beautiful drawings scrolled over the screen, I sat and sobbed. My husband was, admittedly, a little incredulous, but I begged him to let me have my moment for tears.

I grieved for the characters lost, for the pain endured, but I also wept for the ending of an era, for the closing not only of the Red Book but for that chapter of my life. There is now a banking of that fiery passion that burned so hotly for those years, a calm moving on (like Bilbo’s returning to Bag End and carrying on his life). The memories attached to Middle Earth, though, its world, people, and stories, will never fade but, I believe, will only shine brighter as the days and years go by. I cannot thank enough those who fostered this love in me, encouraged it, and rejoiced in the fruit it produced. Thank you, all of you, for all that you have done and given to me – from the writer himself, to the family that carries on his legacy, to the director determined to bring these stories to life, the writers who tenderly took Tolkien’s work in hand, and the actors who gave the characters breath and soul. To these last, I will never look at any of you ever again but that I will also see the characters who have become so beloved to me, see the emotion shimmering in your eyes and trembling on your lips, and feel the strength of your hearts. Thank you!

It was the closing of the Red Book, the ending of an era, and the tearful goodbye of a grateful heart that feels like a Hobbit, writes like an Elf, is fallible like Man, hopeful as a Wizard, and staunch as a Dwarf. You have my love and my eternal thanks. Hannon le. Amin mela le.

Book Review: Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

83067256-20-14 – Finally and at long last! Ever since reading Pierce’s Melting Stones several years ago, I have hungered for more of Evumeimei Dingzai’s story. I really should have read Stone Magic, as it currently sits on my shelf, the beginning of her story in that she was discovered by Briar, but I shall simply chalk it up to working backwards through Evvy’s trilogy. Now, at last, I have Battle Magic, the story of the war between Yanjing and Gyongxe that is so often referenced in Melting Stones.

Battle Magic was my birthday gift from my husband and I have fallen in love with Pierce’s writing all over again, devouring more than half the book in only two days of reading. I know, I know, it’s pittance to my old reading habits but, believe me, that’s saying a LOT in these days of an active eighteen-month-old girl. 🙂

The newest character to me from these books is undoubtedly Briar Mos, the one who discovered Evumeimei and her ability first of all in Stone Magic and the mage who discovers the power is the mage who must train the power. Briar, at the tender age of sixteen, is a fully-certified mage under the Winding Circle Temple. I greatly enjoy the relationship between Briar and his mentor Rosethorn, about whom I know as little, having not read The Circle Opens quartet, nor far enough into The Will of the Empress to know her very well. She is very interesting to me, though, and I have a feeling that I will be expanding my Pierce collection even more after I finish Battle Magic and Stone Magic.

And Luvo! I can’t really say more than that but….squee!!! Luvo! That moment alone made me hug my Kindle as I read on the plane.

I shall return with updates soon!

9-26-14 – I LOVED this book! I finished it a few days ago and actually hugged the book when I was through with it. The first book I have actually finished in about a year or so and I regretted that it was over, though that means that I can now move on to Stone Magic, the beginning of Evvy’s story, which is awesome. Thank you, Tamora, for telling us this story. It was well worth the wait. ^_^

Nothing on the Shelf

So…today, I faced a unique problem. Well, unique to me. I couldn’t find anything to read. We were in Target and, of course, I decided to spin by the books. I picked up book after book and put each down again in disappointment. Every book was a “tragic love” and two in a row were about a woman being left with a pregnancy by the man who broke her heart. After about the fourth of fifth book, I shoved the last back onto the shelf with an audible, “Arggggh!” I wanted a book to grab me, to capture me with its story, not with the tragedy and helplessness of its protagonist.

I found one book to interest me, finally: Glitter and Glue: A Memoir by Kelly Corrigan. I’m not entirely certain that this is what I was looking for but this was the closest I had come in twenty minutes of searching. Unfortunately, I am on a tight budget right now and $27 for a hardcover was out of my price range today. I might pick it up on Kindle in a little while but, I have to admit. I was little disappointed today. It was like echoing the woes of a satellite subscriber: Hundreds of channels and nothing to watch.

I know, I know. First world problems.

Review: Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from a Little Golden Book

Yesterday, my husband showed up home from work and held this book out to me (along with a gorgeous new notepad and gel pen, the man really knows how to get to me). “For you,” he said, “I figured you’d chewed on enough of them in your childhood, so you’d appreciate it. And he’s right. When I was a child, I had dozens of Little Golden Books, both with the golden and the silver spines and I loved them for the mere fact that they were books. But I also liked them for another reason. I thought the spines were delicious. I would sit and chew on the spines of those books and just think. It’s like how some adults chew on pens or pencils in the midst of thought, that’s what I did as a kid. And it remains a joke within my family, especially now that I have a fourteen-month-old daughter who adores chewing on books herself.

However, this book really touched my heart. Full of advice and adages for a “golden” life, it pulls its wisdom from some of its most popular and beloved books, such as The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Baby Listens, Tootles, and The Pokey Little Puppy. As I sat on my couch and read through it, I smiled with every page, not only at the familiar illustrations but also at the simple but very encouraging advice. If you are looking for a keepsake book to just make you smile, this is a wonderful choice! 🙂

Travel by Map

I walk into a bookstore or library and instantly feel at home, welcomed, wanted. I pause, just standing inside the door for a moment, looking around to get my bearings, and begin to develop a map of this beautiful new world that I am about to encounter. I search for my safety zones first: Literature, Young Adult Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Children’s Books. I traverse through these territories on my map, looking for undiscovered countries and worlds to add to my travels.

Sometimes, I settle down for a while in order to take things in more deeply, more fully, to observe the locals and their customs, to hear their language. All of this helps in my decision whether to cut my visit short or stay for a prolonged time, whether or not I will return at a later date. There are castles and monarchs to visit, black-and-white circus tents to explore, games of Triumphs to be played, secret stories to hear, mysteries to solve with Victorian aristocracy. There’s so much to do and only so much time right now.

Children’s Books is a whimsical world of color, animals both real and fantastic, outrageous costumes, strange customs, and beautiful lands. It makes me smile just crossing into that territory and, once again, I pause to get my bearings. The younger lands are my favorites, where imagination and magic still run rampant without some of the rules that have been imposed by the older worlds. Wyveraries (wyverns/libraries) walk around in the open, reciting all they know about their particular letter ranges. Children flit and fly about with reckless abandon (oh, watch your head!), chasing after the bread-and-butterflies that tease them. Mighty battles are fought by the tiniest of creatures, showing bravery beyond the measure of size. Ducklings offer pigeons cookies, and princesses dance their shoes to pieces of a night. I love the rampant magic, imagination, and amazing fantasy of these worlds and I wish I could stay longer. But I have many miles to go and my time is beginning to run short, unfortunately. I must hurry.

Soon, I make ready to leave this beautiful map of imagination, my arms full of new treasures, as well as some rediscovered ones. These treasures carry the souls of these worlds and their inhabitants within them, souls that glow with a light beyond anything that can be captured in paint, charcoal, or on film. They capture the essence and beauty of their respective worlds and I carry that beautiful essence with me always, in my heart and mind, as well as in my hands.

As I move to step out the doors again, I risk one look back with a smile and the silent, ever-present promise.

I will come back. I will always come back.