How I Found It: I began watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix. I loved the first one, and decided to read the first book, which I devoured in two days.
Makes Me Want To: Read the rest of the Phryne Fisher series
My Thoughts: I love mysteries. They are my genre fiction of choice, though some are more engaging than others, some have better settings than others, and some have more entertaining detectives than others.
Phryne Fisher is three for three.
The plot involves the cocaine trade, a Turkish bathhouse, Russian dancers, and the takedown of a butcher abortionist. The books are set in Melbourne, Australia, in the 1920’s, and Phyrne is fabulous. In reading a bit more about her, I learned that Kerry Greenwood wanted to create a female hero as free as a male hero. Victory.
Makes Me Want To: Read Grimm’s Fairy Tales, preferably a really lovely illustrated edition
My Thoughts: I remember hearing about this when it was first published and I finally got around to reading it. Colfer opens with the C.S. Lewis quote “Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Alex and Connor are our twin protagonists. When Alex discovers she can send things through her grandmother’s book, she and her brother eventually travel through too and find themselves in a land where all the fairy tale characters they’ve read about are real. To get home, they must collect the eight items needed to perform the wishing spell—but they aren’t the only ones looking for the items.
I like reimaginings of fairy tales and Colfer does a good job with this one. Also, anything built around the theme of the power of stories is a winner in my book.
How I Found It: A Mighty Girl
My Thoughts: I don’t often read graphic novels. I didn’t read a lot of comic books as a kid and I sometimes have trouble following from frame to frame. I was willing to make an exception for an early 19th century adventurer in Turkey who is a woman.
Delilah Dirk is great fun. She’s a fighter and an explorer, impulsive and reckless, independent and capable. In short, she’s a heroine not often found in young adult novels and that it and of itself is worth adding this to your to-read list. Delilah Dirk is also a fun adventure story, and while this is only the second graphic novel I’ve read, I think the illustrations are also very good.
I recommend it for the mighty girl in your life who loves comics, graphic novels, and/or picture books.
How I Found It: a Christmas gift from my cousin
My Thoughts: I am a great fan of Star Wars and Shakespeare, and Doescher’s melding of the two is brilliant. Fans of both know the Star Wars movies are very Shakespearean in their plots and themes, so it somewhat surprising that no one thought to translate Star Wars into a Shakespearean play until now. Thank goodness for Ian Doescher, and that he is at work on The Empire Striketh Back, and The Jedi Doth Return.
R2-D2 beep beeps, but his inner monologue reveals he is the mastermind putting the entire story in motion. C-3PO is still a fussbudget, now in iambic pentameter (Now is the summer of our happiness / Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack! … We shall most surely be destroy’d by this. / I’ll warrant madness lies herein!).
The referees to famous Shakespearean lines get a little hokey in the later acts when friends, Romans, and countrymen become friends, rebels, and starfighters.
However, this dialogue of Han’s at the end of Act III, scene II is my only real complaint:
[To innkeeper]: Pray, goodly Sir, forgive me for the mess.
[Aside:] And whether I shot first, I’ll ne’er confess!
No. Han shot first.
How I Found It: I love suffrage history, especially the Alice Paul period, and purchased this the last time I was at the Sewall-Belmont House
My Thoughts: My first introduction to Alice Paul was the 2004 HBO film Iron Jawed Angels. It sparked my interest in her and suffrage history. I remember looking for a good biography of her shortly after and being disappointed that there wasn’t one. Thank goodness for Mary Walton.
When asked about American suffragists, most people would name Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. They died in 1906 and 1902, respectively, well before the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Alice Paul finished their work. While in England, she learned from the Pankhursts, and brought a version of their more militant suffrage work back to the United States. Alice Paul organized parades, cross-country tours, comprehensive congressional lobbying, grassroots field efforts, and pickets of the White House. After WWI began and the picketers were arrested, they endured what came to be known as the Night of Terror at Occoquan Workhouse when they were physically assaulted, denied food and water, and left in a filthy dungeon. When Lucy Burns attempted to call out to the other women to ensure they were okay, a guard yanked her arms through the bars of her jail cell, handcuffed her arms above her head, and left for several hours until the superintendent left and an aging guard uncuffed her arms.
I knew the stories of these suffrage battles. What I didn’t know was that after the 19th Amendment, Alice founded a World Woman’s Party and set up headquarters in a villa in Switzerland on the eve of WWII. When refugees began pouring into Geneva, she opened her home to a Jewish family, the Mullers, fleeing Austria. One of the daughters remembered Alice often on the phone with the American consul in Zurich, once ordering him to intercede to help the Mullers. Alice helped rescue 11 people, mostly Jews, before she had to leave Geneva herself.
Walton writes, “Alice’s contribution to the theory and practice of political protest can hardly be exaggerated. For six years, she devised one strategy after another to keep the cause of suffrage in the headlines, and in front of the president and Congress” (252). She and her team elevated lobbying to a science and practiced nonviolent civil disobedience before Gandhi and Dr. King made it famous.
Alice’s legacy is larger than we know.