I have been slowly making my way through Anne LaBastille's excellent Woodswoman series, having read the first book in January 2018 and the second book in January 2019. The first two books in the series, Woodswoman and Woodswoman II: Beyond Black Bear Lake are available on Amazon, and I'd highly recommend them. Unfortunately, the third and fourth books in the series, Woodswoman III and Woodswoman IIII, are currently out of print and therefore hard to come by. Thankfully I was able to acquire both, though for a rather hefty price, but when it comes to books, I'm definitely willing to make the spurge (usually).
This series gets better with each book, in my opinion, because you learn more and go deeper and deeper into Anne's life and career. With each book, it seems that Anne gets more confident in being more open and vulnerable. Woodswoman III covers Anne's third decade living in the Adirondacks. Among the subjects discussed in this book are her beloved dogs, peddling her books, her farm, changing life at her cabin n the lake, and growing environmental concerns.
As with the first two books, my favorite chapters are the ones where Anne talks about her dogs, though sadly, because each book covers roughly a decade, they all contain a sad chapter covering the death of a dog. This one features the decline and death of Condor. The way Anne writes about the decline and death of her beloved dogs is absolutely heart-wrenchingly beautiful. She brings me to tears every single time. Though I cried my eyes out through these chapters, my heart is always quickly soothed by the following chapters that detail the arrival of a new puppy, in this book's case it is Xandor who joins LaBastille's pack. I admire LaBastille all the more for these chapters, her love and devotion for her dogs is palpable, admirable, and moving.
I also enjoyed the chapters in which LaBastille writes about finding, buying, and settling into her farm, Kestrel Crest Farm. At the current stage of life Anne was in while the writing of this book, she found the hard Adirondack winters increasingly difficult to live out in her cabin on the lake, especially while trying to conduct business. A million things could go wrong or keep her from meeting deadlines and fulfilling her business engagements. Therefore, she made a compromise: She'd live part time at the farm, and part time at the cabin. This allowed her a bit more freedom, and made life a bit easier, all the while providing more storage space, an important commodity for the business woman. The farm was still in the Adirondacks, but easier to get to, and provided different opportunities to observe the workings of nature and wildlife.
I thoroughly enjoy LaBastille's writing. Her willingness to share her vulnerability, particularly her fears concerning the arson of her barns on her Kestrel Crest Farm property and the break-in at her cabin. She built a life on an image of a strong, independent, brave woodswoman, yet she shows no qualms in sharing her fears, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. She shares how her fear from the arson incident left her cold and scared, and ultimately led her to resign as a commissioner in the Adirondack Park Agency. Her continued willingness to be real and honest is admirable.
Overall, this series is a superb bit of writing. It's among the best collection of memoirs that I have had the pleasure of reading. I'd highly recommend it.
I give it a 9/10.
The show M*A*S*H is among my top five favorite TV shows, so naturally I started searching for books written by the cast. I wanted to get to know the actors better. This is how I stumbled upon Gary Burghoff’s (who played Radar O’Reilly) delightful memoir, To M*A*S*H and Back: My Life in Poems and Songs (That Nobody Wanted To Publish). I read through this book in about two or three sittings. It’s a quick and very enjoyable read. I found myself truly impressed with not only Burghoff’s impressive and well-rounded life, but also the intelligent, humble, and witty way in which he writes about it.
I learned a great deal about the man behind the beloved, bespectacled M*A*S*H character. Gary Burghoff was a trained stage actor and jazz musician. His claim to fame was actually the originating role of Charlie Brown on stage in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. On top of that, Burghoff is a poet, a songwriter, an inventor, a wildlife artist, an environmentalist, and as of the writing of this book, a writer. Pretty impressive, eh?
To M*A*S*H and Back is well paced, delightfully honest, and generally cuts to the point of things without too much fluff. Each chapter opens with a poem or a song that Burghoff wrote, which sets the theme/mood for that chapter. I was impressed with Burghoff’s honesty and willingness to show his vulnerability and own his mistakes. Not many men (or people in general) are willing to do so in such a public way. I was also impressed with how Gary spoke about the people in his life, even those that did him wrong, he handled the retelling with dignity and grace.
One fact that interested me as I read through this wonderful memoir was the fact that Burghoff is a Christian. I appreciated his candor and openness in discussing his spiritual/faith journey, his struggles with coming to know and understand God, and all that it entailed. The man is a true inspiration, with a resilient yet kind spirit, Burghoff is even more lovable than his onscreen character, Radar. Honest, witty, humorous, and well worded, I highly recommend this memoir.
I give it an 8/10.
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux - A Review
Anne Boyd Rioux's Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy is a thorough, thoughtful, and engaging examination of the lasting appeal and legacy of Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women. This is one of those rare books that teachers, scholars, and avid fans can all read and use, and more importantly enjoy. Released in August 2018, in time for Little Women's 150th Anniversary, this book had a great deal of buzz around it and six months later, it's still a book with a lot of buzz attached to it.
Rioux organizes the book into three parts: The Making of a Classic, The Life of a Classic, and A Classic for Today. Part I: The Making of a Classic details the history of Little Women. Rioux gives a thorough biography of Louisa May Alcott and how Little Women (and its sequels) came to be. I found the information on Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, as well as Louisa's complicated relationship with him very interesting and enlightening. It explains why Mr. March is almost completely absent from the books. An avid Alcott fan, I found that I still learned a great deal from Part I of the book and found it an excellent way to open a fascinating study.
Part II: The Life of a Classic walks the reader through the many forms Little Women took as its popularity and legacy grew. Rioux dissects many of the adaptations of the book including movies, plays, and radio programs. She explains each adaptation's impact, its highlights, and its shortcomings. As an Old Hollywood film buff, I found the chapters covering the film adaptations most interesting. Among the film adaptations (all under the title of Little Women) discussed are the 1933's Cukor directed/Katharine Hepburn version, 1949's June Allyson/Liz Taylor version, and 1994's Winona Ryder version.
Part II also covers the lasting impact that Alcott's Little Women had on readers and ultimately future writers. I was amazed, but not surprised, by the amount of writers, both male and female, who claim to have been inspired by/impacted by the book. As a budding writer who was herself inspired by Little Women, and more particularly by Jo March, I found this part truly delightful, like a meeting of kindred spirits.
Part III: A Classic for Today examines the impact and relevance of Little Woman today. This part was particularly fascinating and eye-opening. I was both surprised and appalled at the fact that Little Woman, once seen as an important book to be taught in schools, was lacking pretty much any presence within our schools currently. The fact that the driving force behind the book's absence in our school seems to be a concern that the boys won't like reading it and that we shouldn't subject them to having to read a "girl's" book is absolutely ridiculous. Meanwhile, as the book expertly points out, girls are subjected to reading boy-oriented books like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and The Lord of the Flies, and have to grin and bear it, but God forbid that boys read a couple of girl-oriented books such as Little Women or Anne of Green Gables. Double standard much?
Rioux's writing reflects thorough and dedicated research. It is both informative and enjoyable. I could not put the book down. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to all. Read, learn, remember the information within this book, and after you've done all of this, go read Alcott's Little Women for yourselves (or again). Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy is a superb and absolutely fabulous read, much like the book it discusses.
I give it a 9/10.
I first stumbled upon Anne LaBastille about a year ago (in 2017) when I found her first memoir, Woodswoman, in an amazon search. Having grown up in the foothills of and having camped in the Adirondack Mountains annually for years now, the fact that she both lived in and was a certified guide for the Adirondacks intrigued me. I quickly read her first book and absolutely loved it. I found LaBastille fascinating.
Fast forward to this past summer (2018), my father gave me LaBastille's second book in her Woodswoman series, Beyond Black Bear Lake. I had stacks of other books that I had to read through before this one, books from authors and publishers that had to take priority, so I didn't actually have a chance to read it until just recently. It was certainly worth the wait.
Continuing on where Woodswoman left off, in Beyond Black Bear Lake LaBastille takes the reader through more of her life. She details the life of a freelancer and how she manages such a demanding, busy schedule all the while living off the grid. She explains how she deals with calls, mail, and invasive fans. LaBastile also shares her quest and journey to retreat even more into the wilderness and live the way Thoreau did over a 100 years before her, detailing the construction of her second cabin, Thoreau II.
I found the chapters in which LaBastille discusses her research on acid rain and its effects on the environment, particularly the Adirondacks, and her fight to keep nuclear waste out of the Adirondacks both fascinating and eye-opening. Other chapters I found most interesting were where she wrote about her dogs, the loss of Pitzi, which moved me to tears, and the gain of Condor and Chekika, and the bonds that she shared with these beautiful shepherds.
I highly recommend this book. It is a superb memoir, that also serves to educate the public on environmental concerns and conservation. Excellently written, well researched, Beyond Black Bear Lake finds LaBastille writing from her head and her heart.
I give it a 9/10.
I'm officially hooked on LaBastille's writing and will continue on in her Woodswoman series. Next up: Woodswoman III. ;)
Another year has come and gone, and 2019 is officially here. I am thankful for last year, this blog grew a great deal and saw more accomplishments last year than any other year it has been running. 2018 saw more content, featured a few great interviews, AND saw me rebranding. 2018 was a banner year for Modern Jo March.
The blog started 2018 as The Book Corner (which it had been called since its inception), but ended the year as Modern Jo March. Around about August, I decided to take this thing more seriously and that I needed to be more unique, starting with the name of this blog. After a great deal of thinking and weighing the options, I landed on a name that I thought fit really well with my overall theme and goal for the blog. Modern Jo March was born. The name gives a nod to my favorite book heroine, the one who has inspired me the most, Jo March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. To read more about the rebranding, you can read my post on it here.
Looking back over the content, I'm proud of this little blog's accomplishments. They may not seem like a lot to others, but I know what it took to keep this thing afloat and producing content. I am proud to have continued honing my interview skills here on the blog, and am most proud of my interviews with authors Karen Witemeyer, James Donovan, and Regina Jennings. Most of the interviews featured on the blog are with authors I already knew in some way, the three I mentioned above were the exceptions. They found me reaching out past my circle of contacts, and I believe they came out really well. I plan to continue to broaden my horizons in this area for 2019.
One of the most important things I've learned in 2018 that pertains to the blog is that taking regular planned breaks is actually more productive than trying to do this 24/7. That is why I have implemented two planned hiatuses for the year. Modern Jo March is currently on its first hiatus for 2019, which will end next week. The second hiatus will happen towards the middle of the year, sometime in July. These breaks allow me to catch up on other things and gather more content for the blog without feeling like I'm under the gun all the time.
I hope you'll continue on with me for 2019 and that it will be both a productive and an enjoyable year. If you have suggestions for the blog, please feel free to contact me with them. I'd love to hear from you!
Happy New Year Everyone!
-Modern Jo March
Liz Austin. Bibliophile. Writer. Book hoarder. I would rather be reading....