February’s Most Compelling Character

February 23, 2018

February's Most Compelling Character

Meet two sisters, Evelyn and Maggie Bright

As Bright as Heaven
by Susan Meissner

As Bright as HeavenGenre: Historical Fiction


Three events coincide in this story: the Bright family moves to Philadelphia in 1918 for a fresh start, many men go off to fight in the Great War, and the Spanish Flu reaches America. As Pauline Bright and her husband pursue their dream of giving their three daughters a chance at a better life in the big city of Philadelphia, the Spanish Flu and the Great War greatly impact their lives and rearrange their priorities. Told from four perspectives (mother and the three daughters), it’s a story of survival, making difficult choices, facing challenges, and finding hope. Amazon Rating (early reviews): 4.7 Stars

February’s Most Compelling Characters: Evie and Maggie Bright

For me, historical fiction is my favorite genre because in the stories we find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under difficult circumstances.

Evelyn (Evie) and Maggie Bright are the two older sisters in this story and become memorable characters with unique personalities and different strengths and weaknesses. Fifteen and twelve when the story opens, Evie is the oldest sister, smart, inquisitive, and a reader, while Maggie is feisty, opinionated, good-hearted, fearless, and determined. As their father leaves to fulfill his war-time responsibilities and the Flu begins to ravage Philadelphia and affect their family, the girls are forced to take on adult sized responsibilities and concerns. As Evie and Maggie experience love and loss, they are also resilient, courageous in the face of challenges, and make many difficult decisions and choices. Despite dire circumstances, the sisters value family and never lose their ability to love and care for each other. While Evie embraces her role as the eldest and assumes responsibility and leadership, Maggie is a wild card who stubbornly insists on accompanying her mother on errands of mercy to the poorest and most needy population of Philadelphia to deliver food and medicine, bravely seeks to work in the family mortuary business, and one day impulsively makes a heart wrenching discovery that leads her to make a life changing decision that will impact all their lives. Her actions would promote some great book club discussions about taking risks to do the right thing and facing the consequences.

Readers will laugh and cry with these unforgettable characters as well as learn facts about the Spanish Flu and its impact on Philadelphia.

Recommended. As Bright As Heaven is whole heartedly recommended for readers who love reading about strong independent women, for those who love historical fiction and against-the-odds stories, and for those who are looking for a value centered, clean read. It’s a simply written and straight-forward story despite alternating between four perspectives. There is some beautiful language sprinkled throughout, but I would not categorize it as literary fiction.  Its memorable characters  and tragic circumstances make this a solid and unforgettable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars.


As Bright as Heaven

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Meet the Author, Susan Meissner

Susan MeissnerI cannot remember a time when I wasn’t driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I’m happy and humbled to say that I’ve had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers’ conferences from time to time and I’ve a background in community journalism.

I’m also a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When I’m not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at http://www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

Link Up: February’s Most Memorable Character

Please leave a comment or link up a recent post that includes a memorable character from your February reading. To join the Link Up, enter the URL to your blog post (not your blog), your name, and email (which will remain hidden). Please link back to this post with a text link. In addition, please visit at least one other link. (*please bear with me if there are problems with the link up… I am inexperienced with link ups!)

Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Out of the DustA runner-up for most memorable character in February is fourteen year old Billie Jo from Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. A 1998 Newbery Award winner, this story of dust, poverty, tragedy, and despair is one of the saddest I’ve ever read. I think its free verse format brings some beauty to the story. Set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and dust storm years, Billie Jo endures significant tragedy, loss, and despair. In the end, her fighting spirit, her hope in the future, and her ability to forgive are truly memorable.  This would be an excellent story to accompany a history lesson of the time period for mature middle school students and is a thoughtful and unforgettable adult read.


Looking Ahead:

I’m hoping to finish and review Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here

What are you reading this week?


A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 

Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read other historical selections about the Spanish Flu?
(I know it was briefly mentioned in Last Christmas in Paris.)

Please tell me about the most memorable character from your February reading!

What are you reading this week?


The Other Alcott

November 17, 2017

My favorite book to review: a woman author’s debut novel about strong, independent women! The author says that she is “drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.”

Was Little Women one of your favorite reads as a younger reader? I think Little Women was my first “book hangover,” and I felt so accomplished reading a “long” book!

The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper

The Other Alcott 2

Genre/categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters


If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful characters. While many readers loved spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March was not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry.  Through Hooper’s story telling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identify. Amazon Rating (November): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Like returning for the reunion of the Gilmore Girls or Full House or other beloved shows, I am drawn to the Alcott story because Little Women was one of my first positive literary experiences with a “long” book. As I indicated above, it was probably my first “book hangover.” I’m sure I’m in good company in being captivated by Jo’s  independent and feisty spirit; thus, peering into the Alcott family through reading The Other Alcott is enticing.

“At a certain point, you just have to move forward and hope for the best. You have talent. For more than just art. I envy your ability to rise along over the waves that threaten to tug the rest of us down. You’re unsinkable.”   ~Louisa to May

Although the relationship between Louisa Alcott and her sister May is highly imagined, the story is well researched and the historical details are evident in the various settings and fascinating event descriptions.

If you’re an art student or artist, you might enjoy reading about the years May spent in European art studios, competitions, and communities establishing friendships, skills, and her artistic reputation.

I appreciate important themes of determination, making difficult choices, complicated sibling relationships, feminism in the late 1800s, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In May’s words, “The bar has been set high in my family for what a woman can achieve.”

“…You have to work endlessly to make your visions a reality. Stake a claim to your ambitions. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations–and that’s dangerous territory for a woman.” 

In addition, I appreciate the author’s extra information in the Afterward. Sometimes readers forget about the extensive research that is required of authors writing historical fiction.

While I rate this a solid 4 stars, there are two areas of weakness for me. One, I would have enjoyed more action to propel the story forward. And two, I would like to have felt a deeper emotional connection with the characters. These are minor concerns as I enjoyed the overall reading experience. It almost felt like reading a sequel of my beloved Little Women.

The Other Alcott is recommended for readers who appreciate themes of how women achieved careers and independence in an earlier time, sibling relationships, and ambition.  Of course, The Other Alcott is also recommended for childhood fans of Little Women. Last, I recommend this for readers who are looking for a solid, easy reading historical fiction selection, and for readers who might be looking for a “clean” read (no cautions for language or violence).

My rating: 4 Stars


The Other Alcott

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper

Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom trying to make American history and literature interesting for high school students.

She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. THE OTHER ALCOTT is Elise’s first novel.

Please learn more: http://www.elisehooper.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elisehooperauthor/
Instagram: elisehooper
Twitter: @elisehooper


Little Women

Some readers love to reread Little Women during the Christmas Season because the story begins at Christmas time. This would also be a great time of year for a first read.

If you’ve never read Little Women or would like a reread, get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited (Amazon Prime) or at 99 cents for Kindle.

Purchase the Kindle Version of Little Women Here for 99 cents.




Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Looking Ahead!

The Deal of a LifetimeI’m eager to read Fredrik Backman’s newest novella release, The Deal of a Lifetime.

Backman is author of Beartown,  A Man Called Ove, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and  Longer (novella), and Britt-Marie Was Here. 

I’m anticipating this will be the perfect read for Thanksgiving week. Will you “buddy read” with me?

Purchase Information Here.

Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. We recently reached 2,000 views (and counting). Every share helps us grow.

Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear if you read the classic Little Women in your younger years. Or perhaps you read or reread it as an adult? Or maybe you haven’t yet read it and it’s on your TBR.

I’d also like to know if you are on the Backman bandwagon. If so, which of his works are your favorite?