The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore - I loved the idea of this book and the layout (each chapter focuses on a specific character's strengths i.e. Simplicity = Laura Ingalls, Fight = Scarlett O'Hara, Ambition = Jo March) was clever. And I liked the reading suggestions at the end of each chapter. Both the authors and the charaters they created are subject to adoration. While I liked it okay, it didn't live up to my expectations - it was a little too over the top with girl power for my taste. And I don't necessarily agree each example necessarily fits the heroine model, particularly the real life ones. It didn't help that I spilled milk on it and as a result it stinks. ;)
What Alice Knew by Alice Marantz Cohen - This is one of those cool insert a real life author into a novel books, but this time it's Henry James and his siblings working with Scotland Yard to solve the Jack the Ripper crimes. It is gruesome in parts (hello, Jack the Ripper) but it is a fabulous imagining of what may have been. Combining true parts of both the investigation and the lives of the James' family - bedridden sharp as a tack sister Alice, cerebral brother William, and snobbish Henry - I believed it and was completey engrossed. If you are a fan of literary mysteries, this will hit the spot.
The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women by Deborah J. Swiss - When non-fiction reads like fiction, I'm hooked. This story follows young Agnes and Janet through their Dickens-esque existence on the streets of Glasgow during the early 1800s. Convicted of petty theft, they, along with thousands of other "criminals" are deported to the new colony Van Diemen's Land (Australia). It is a riveting look at history and how women subjected to the harshest conditions survived with dignity intact.
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan - Newly reissued from the 1995 original by Penguin Books, this combines all the cultural, spiritual and familial elements her readers have come to expect. While I am not typically drawn to stories with an emphasis on eastern mysticism/reincarnation, it was craftily woven into the story and provided an interesting twist. I presumed Tan's writing would be more intricate, but this one reminded me of lighter fiction I recently read involving ghosts and a whiny female character. That said, I still liked it and flew through it in almost one sittting.
Emily Hudson by Melissa Jones - another novelization of author Henry James. Emily Hudson is sent to live with her cousins, ruled harshly by her uncle, she bonds most with her cousin William(modeled after James). Partially told in letters, the first half of the book was promising. Emily had spirit and spunk, but after a broken engagement begins to depend heavily on William. The second half didn't quite match the first, Emily is lost with none of her former vigor and it became rather maudlin. I just didn't completely buy it. But if you are still interested, I'd be happy to send it along.
Getting In by Karen Stabiner - You know how I love to read about the world of college admissions. This was a fast read, a highly amusing story with LOTS of characters. It follows a group of high school seniors, their parents, and their college counselor through the school year. I knew I was going to like it in the first chapter when a parent waiting in Starbucks for her daughter to finish taking the SATs passes judgment on the barista, then finds out he went to Yale and freaks out. It raises some interesting points subtlety through use of humor, one of my favorite elements in literature. I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite getting lost in character overload.
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson - I hadn't read a memoir in a while and this one was nice and gentle. Not quite what I expected - I thought there would be more anecdotes about Dickinson's extended family, but it was more about her journey as a single parent. She has an easy conversational style and it was an engaging read. Another one, I'd be happy to send to an interested reader.
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen - An absolutely thorough study, painstakingly researched by Alcott expert Reisen. If you are expecting romantic notions of this writer's life, you may be disappointed, but the realities of her daily life and intense struggles are told in fascinating detail. Because of the depth of information, it took me a few weeks of occasional reading to finish but I learned a lot about one of my favorite authors. And I'm considering adding Eight Cousins to the Classics ReadaLong.
It was never my intention to bundle these reviews, but when you fall as far behind as I am (and write slowly), plans must be revised for sanity. And I figured it was better to honor my commitments quickly rather than extend them any further into the new year. Apologies to my friendly neighborhood publicists for the lack of prime blogging real estate. If you have any questions about these titles, or have read them and would like to share your thoughts I'd love to talk more.