Wednesday, 11 December 2013

sharing ten of my favourite books (which happen to be by women)

Blatantly stealing an idea from my friend Steve, over at Shores of Night (who stole the idea from Juliet McKenna), this post is talking about some of my favourite books, but not just any books, some of my favourites, which happen to be written by women.  Why books by women?  Why not?  I think that the really big hits are more often written by men, so why not share the word about women authors?

Having decided to do something about having lost my sparkle a bit lately, I've been busy setting up a book group today, and it's all coming together nicely.  I'm excited, and I'm thinking about books, and about how I'm adding a whole lot more books to my list of things to read by starting a new book group.  I'll have to start going to bed earlier!

My Dad has a LOT of books, but I've always tried to be ruthless, and minimal.  So I've only got a couple of bookshelves, a Kindle, and a library habit.  Oops.

So here are ten of my favourites (in no particular order, although maybe in the order I discovered them).  There are so many awesome authors not on this list.  Apologies ladies:

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Pic from Amazon here
Jane Eyre!  What an awesome story.  The mousy governess done good... although, the mad woman in the attic would rather put me off a man, and the whole blind thing.  Please!  I have a sneaking suspicion she should have said yes to St John, but anyway, it's a great story, following the life of Jane who's easy to empathise with, especially if you're young when you read this.

I have always taken the words of the scary teacher Mr Brocklehurst to heart - "we are not to conform to nature".  I know he was trying to make the girls more drab, but I'm turning it on it's head.  You're right Mr Brocklehurst, pass the hair dye please.

2. The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Pic from Amazon here
A book for teens.  

You know when you're just getting to that age where you want something a bit sexy, but not too sexy.  This is your book.

Laura Chant, our heroine, must save her brother from the evil of the villain, Carmody Braque, but to do so she needs the help of the sexy, and ever-so-odd Sorenson Carlisle.

Yes please!

3. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

Pic from Amazon here
Have you read it?  I'm a little embarrassed to include it, but it's sooooo good!

Dubbed the original bodice ripper, there's romance a-plenty, plus plenty of steamy scenes and a fair dose of Moll Flanders.

Sexy, silly, and super.  I loved the love story in this book, and when something terrible happens I had my first experience of crying so hard I couldn't read the book!

4. Wraeththu by Storm Constantine

Pic from Amazon here
Thank goodness they've put the trilogy into one book, so I didn't have to choose one!

I love the Wraeththu books, and indeed the whole Wraeththu concept.  It's a beautifully wrought apocalypse, annihilating nearly all women, and yet requiring balance.  Lots of stuff about gender, sexuality, and the Goth scene in the late 80s are all combined with a beautifully wrought story, and characters so damaged, conflicted, beautiful, and strange that you fall in love with them, wishing them the best, and hoping for their downfall at the same time.

I'm not a huge fan of Pellaz, but Calanthe, oh Calanthe, how I have loved you.  And Cobweb too.  I wanted to be Cobweb, and have Cobweb's incredibly strength, although no-one ever was good enough for Cobweb.

5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Pic from Amazon here
I've read lots of books by Margaret Atwood, but none have impressed me quite as much as this beauty, which I came across while studying Women's Studies at University.

This is a fantastic tale of a possible future, which as far as I can see is still a possible future, where fertility is a valuable commodity, and there are a whole heap of inequalities to deal with.

If you don't fancy the book the film is also very good, but both are unsettling.  The trailer is here.

6. Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Pic from Amazon here
Another book I read during my Women's Studies degree. And a classic of both Feminist fiction and speculative science fiction.  This book is a great story which explores alternative possiblities for living, which is what I really love about science fiction and fantasy.  Even if you don't agree with her vision of the potential future, it does raise lots of questions.

7. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman

Pic from Amazon here
Is it bad form to have two books in the list with mad women in the attic?

The rest cure was and is a horrible way to treat women, and no way to get anyone well.  The fact that it's still used, especially for young women with eating disorders, deserves further investigation.  This book is a marvellous study of the rest cure driving a woman stark staring mad.  It's a quick read, and you can get it FREE on your Kindle!

I love CPG's writing, and was close to putting Herland on the list, but there's enough feminist speculative fiction I think.

8. The Gate to Women's Country by Sherri S Tepper

Pic from Amazon here
Erm, OK, so I just said there was enough feminist speculative fiction... can I get away with calling this feminist science fiction?

Tepper is a prolific author, and I haven't read a book of hers I didn't like, but this was my first, and probably her best known.

Again, it explores different ways of living, and gender roles.  Has anyone made a film of it yet?

9. A Cavern of Black Ice by JV Jones 

Pic from Amazon here
This is the first book in the Sword of Shadows series.  It is a lot more sword and sorcery than I would normally enjoy, and I do find it distinctly patchy (I really don't like magic stuff for the most part), however, the characters are fabulously wrought, and I need to know what is happening in the clanholds, so I will keep with it.

Raina, of Clan Blackhail is an awesome woman, and if I were dropped into the clans I would beg her to join her clan.

"We are Clan Blackhail, the first of all clans. We do not hide and we do not cower. And we will have our revenge."

10. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Pic from Amazon here
I've only discovered Philippa Gregory recently, but I love the way she brings history to life with her stories of historical women.  With The White Queen, about Elizabeth Woodville (in case you managed not to watch the awesome TV series), she has an incredible subject to write about (as with The Lady of the Rivers too).  This book helps us understand how the cousins war actually worked.  It's incredibly well researched, and so you're getting educated while you read, and it totally enouraged me to find out more about the era too.

Thanks Philippa. 

In fact many many thanks to all the women who have put together a great story which transported me to a different place, and made me believe in fabulous characters who have leapt off the page and become inspirations.  Thank you for feeding my thoughts.  These are all great stories by great authors as far as I'm concerned, but who are some of your favourite women authors?  Who should I read next?

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