Women’s Fiction Reviews

The Heroine’s Bookshelf

[openbook booknumber=”9780061958762″][rating:5/5]

Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today’s women, they placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern women.

Full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them, The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage women today.

Each legendary character is paired with her central quality—Anne Shirley is associated with irrepressible “Happiness,” while Scarlett O’Hara personifies “Fight”—along with insights into her author’s extraordinary life. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte BrontË, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors and characters whose spirited stories are more inspiring today than ever.

Whenever life hits a bump in the road or I find myself stressed out the first thing I turn to is a book. Books ground me and give me a form of escape from my present circumstances. They let me take a step back and look at my problems from another point of view and provide a much needed mental health break. While I have done this all my life I have often felt very alone in my solace in fiction, until I discovered the internet anyway. But a print book, in IRL, now that’s a different sort of validation and this is why The Heroine’s Bookshelf is ranked among my top reads this year.

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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

[openbook booknumber=”9780670021390″][rating:4/5]

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille – the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town – a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Mix Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who skinny dips in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapon, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut hums with wacky humor and down-home heart. It explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others. Above all, it is a book full of feminine wisdom – one to cherish, remember, and share.

Reading about CeeCee’s adventures had me by turns laughing out loud and nearly in tears as her life unfolded over the course of this wacky southern summer.

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The Second Summer of the Sisterhood

[openbook booknumber=”0385729340″][rating:4.5/5]

I loved reading The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I picked it up expecting chick lit but got so much more. I tore through the entire book during a fishing trip, finishing it all in one sitting. I have no idea why I put off reading about The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. I guess it goes back to that old weakness of insisting on reading the first book in the series immediately before I read the sequel so that it’s fresh in my mind. For whatever reason I’m glad I got back to this series, because I loved it!

The four girls decided to put off wearing the pants all school year long in favor of bringing them out only in the summer time. At the start of their second summer Tibby left to go and do a film program at a college in Virginia, and Bee took off to find her roots, and herself, in Alabama. Lena and Carmen are staying home, but things are never simple when it comes to this sisterhood! Lena faces the ashes of her relationship with Kostos while Carmen deals with her mother’s new flame David. Altogether though I thought this book was much darker then it’s first book, and not nearly so uplifting. All of the girls seemed to be in a great deal of more trouble then last summer and to be facing tougher problems, also it seemed to me that some of the girls hadn’t learned much from the last summer and had lessons that needed repeating.

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Mirror, Mirror

[openbook booknumber=”0670889075″]

[rating:4/5]

The genre of fairy tales has been tamed over the years to the point where they are just considered innocent stories for children and nothing more. Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple bring back those fairy tales and look at the originals and variants from all over the world that show that these stories are many things, but they are not for small children. In Mirror, Mirror mother and daughter take a look at the fairy tales that shaped the past of motherhood and the relationships between mothers and daughters and discuss them in light of modern day motherhood and mother/daughter relationships. They discuss everything from abuse to abandonment, coming of age to marriage, rage and love, sex and death. A great book for mothers and daughters to read together to look at their relationships through the “mirror” of the past and to get women talking about each other, their relationship and themselves.

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Wilderness Tips

[openbook booknumber=”0553560468″]

[rating:4/5]

In Wilderness Tips, Margaret Atwood writes ten short stories that are at once poignant and deeply disturbing. Each story illustrates one moment in a person’s life that changes them forever. They grow from young and idealistic to old and bitter in the space of a few pages and all of the stories ended up being dark in one way or another. They all carried themes of loss, missed opportunities, mistakes, dead ends and sad realizations.

They all took place in Canada, with some containing native Canadians and some transplanted from England or Europe. They almost all featured promiscuity and sexual affairs, often as the norm, and they all had one hard earned life lesson to impart. The tales spanned the decades from “the war years” of World War II up until the late eighties and early nineties and all of the changes that took place in that time. The women’s movement took special prominence in these stories as they described the changes they in particular experience over that span of sixty years of human history.

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