Once upon a time, I earned a Master's Degree in Literature and was a Professor of Literature and Composition. I had a wonderful time writing my Master's Thesis about Children's and Young Adult Literature, and I considered earning a Ph.D. so that I could continue to pursue the written word, including British, American, Latin American and other Global Literatures, Children's and Young Adult Literature, all types of genres and occasionally even poetry. But life takes you in unexpected directions, and so now I am working for a non-profit agency (you can read about that on my other blog, A Little Bit of Wonder). Although my job keeps me too busy to post as many book reviews as I would like, Recommended Reading is a place where I can continue to share my literary discoveries and knowledge as time allows.

Please note that I post reviews for books that I recommend reading, just like the blog title says. This means that I typically won't post a review for a book that I completely dislike. This isn't because I shy away from making negative comments, but rather because I don't want to waste your time or mine (I won't even bother to finish a book if it's not any good). For more on this, see the explanation of my Rating System.)


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Women's History Month (In My Mailbox and Reading Challenge)

March is Women’s History Month, and so I thought I’d make an extra effort to read some historical fiction with female characters, in addition to reading the six Aussie Y.A. novels for my Six Books in Six Weeks Challenge. So I ordered even more (not that I really needed any more) young adult novels with girls and/or women at the center of the plot.

Even though we’ve all got our own tottering TBR stacks, I’d like to invite everyone to participate in a little mini-reading challenge: read and review at least one historical fiction novel this month that’s centered around a young woman. Grab the badge I’ve made, then link your review back to this post. I’d love to hear about more novels that celebrate Women’s History!!

Meanwhile, here’s what was in my mailbox this week. I’m really excited about these books, although I’m not sure how many of them I’ll actually get to in the month of March…

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George: After reading and reviewing The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, I’m on a roll with Newbery-winning female-survival stories. This novel is about Miyax, an unhappy Eskimo orphan who has already been married off at the age of thirteen. She runs away from her husband’s parents’ home in Alaska, hoping to reach her pen pal in San Francisco, but becomes lost on the tundra and must rely on a pack of wolves to survive. Another coming-of-age-in-the-wilderness novel may or may not hit me as positively as O’Dell’s novel, but I’m interested to give it a try.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly: Even though this novel is a Newbery Honor book, I have to admit I wasn’t drawn to it from the description/summary that I read when it first came out: “As the only girl in an uppercrust Texas family of seven children, Calpurnia, 11, is expected to enter young womanhood with all its trappings of tight corsets, cookery, and handiwork… This sounds a lot like every historical novel about a young girl that I’ve ever read, in which the author tries to insert a modern feminist mentality. This is a pet peeve of mine because it can often feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – while many girls chafed at their traditional roles even back then, they didn’t think in the same ways that we “enlightened feminists” do now at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century. But I’ve recently read a few other descriptions of Calpurnia Tate that made it sound a lot more 1) interesting and 2) relevant to me at this moment in my life, including MJ’s excellent review over at The Woodland Library. It turns out that Calpurnia’s escape from the world of corsets is into the pages of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, which awakens in her a desire to be a scientist. The Darwin comes to her courtesy of her grandfather, with whom she develops a special relationship – which is where the personal relevance pops up. I recently lost my grandpa, with whom I was very close, and so I’m looking forward to reading about another loving relationship between grandfather and granddaughter even more than the storyline about scientific exploration.

Prisoner in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela McColl: This novel came to my attention thanks to Khy over at Frenetic Reader, who reviewed McColl’s book in January. I must admit that while I love period fiction that was actually written during the particular period in which it was set (Austen and Dickens, for example), I’m not usually keen on Victorian historical fiction. But Khy’s opening caught my attention because it’s SO true. She wrote, “I adore historical fiction but often don't read it because of how absolutely dry it can be. Good historical fiction is really good, but bad historical fiction is so, so bad.” She goes on to say that, “Prisoners in the Palace falls into the former category [of well-written historical fiction]” and so since she insists that it’s not dry and that “even those who are not typically fans of the genre will enjoy this one,” I became more and more interested in this novel about a young girl who becomes both a servant and a spy for Queen Victoria. When I found a copy for cheap, the deal was sealed, and McColl’s novel joined my TBR stack.

The Girl in Blue by Ann Rinaldi: When Alex over at The Children’s War reviewed Rinaldi’s Civil War feminist novel, a couple of things immediately caught my eye about the character and the plot. Sixteen-year-old Sarah Wheelock is from Michigan, which is where I grew up, and once she joins the Union Army disguised as a boy, she ends up in Washington D.C., a city that I called home for five years just after my husband and I got married. So not only am I interested in the story of Sarah’s Civil War undercover intrigues, which are apparently based on the true story of Sara Emma Edmonds, I’m also looking forward to reading about familiar locations.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: Okay, I admit that I already own a copy of this novel because it is one of my childhood favorites. In fact, I own all eight books in the series (Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island...). But I have wanted to pick up a nicer edition for quite some time, and I’ll use this occasion to re-read Montgomery’s classic novel about the plucky Canadian orphan who turns the lives of Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert – and indeed, the whole town of Avonlea – upside down. I laugh out loud every time I read Montgomery’s series, which is actually pretty rare for me. And oh, that Gilbert Blythe. Be still my beating heart.

If you have any other good suggestions for Women's History Month Reading, post them in the comments section!

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In My Mailbox was started by The Story Siren and has spread to over two hundred participating blogs. Bloggers show off books that they have purchased/received (not necessarily in the mail literally), before they actually read and review them in order to share their enthusiasm and catch the interest of their followers. If you’re looking for something new to read, surf through some of mailboxes of this week’s participants, which will be linked to the Story Siren’s March 6 post.

5 comments:

  1. +JMJ+

    I love the variety of historicals you have here!

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  2. I heard about Prisoner in the Palace a little while ago in someone else's IMM. What a gorgeous cover! Hope you love all these books. :) Have a great week.

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  3. Great books. I have heard so much great things about the second and third book. I hope you will enjoy them. Have a wonderful reading week.

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  4. Great books! Enjoy your reading. Here is My Mailbox

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  5. Fab books this week. Hope you enjoy them! You can see what I got in my mailbox here.

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