Blood on the Tracks (Cecelia Holland)

In 1877, the United States was just recovering from the Civil War. The railroad industry was booming, which meant the men who owned the railroads were fantastically rich. And greedy. In a meeting the men decided they weren't as rich as they wanted to be, so they agreed to kick it up a notch by cutting the railroad workers' wages by 10% and increase their workloads. The result was overwhelmingly catastrophic.

The workers began a strike, which snowballed into an all-out war between the remaining local militia and a mob of railroad workers driven crazy by anger. The railroad business owners completely underestimated the mob, and in the span of one night (July 20, 1877), the entire town of Pittsburgh was thrown into complete chaos. Innocent people were shot and killed by stray bullets, buildings were set on fire, and firefighters were held at gunpoint to prevent them from putting the fires out. After the massacre, the number of people who died resulting from wounds inflicted during the chaos is still unknown to this day. That which was documented is completely harrowing. One 4 year old girl was shot in the knee and her leg had to be sawed off. Another Irish immigrant who had only been in the country for a few days was killed without ever even realizing what the fight was even about. Because of the damage inflicted to the cities and to the railroad businesses, the "bosses" learned a lesson that has impacted the way workers have been treated ever since. The workers learned the very same lesson. There is great power, and great responsibility, in mass revolt.

Maybe I just never paid attention in history class, but I must shamefully admit, I didn't even know there was a "Great Railroad Strike of 1877." Did you?

Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)

I love the Wizard of Oz. Seriously. Love. It. I am all about some "Somewhere oooover the rainbow..." "Follow the yellow brick road!" and "If I only had a brain." and "I'll get you, and your little dog, too!" and "I'm mellllttttiiiinnnggg!"

And those Munchkins? Don't you dare get me started.

But y'all. Judy Garland had it all wrong. All joking aside, the movie version should have had a disclaimer stating that it was loosely based on the book. There is so much left out, so much that is changed in the version written for the big screen.

Originally published in 1900, it all starts out about the same way. Dorothy has lost both her parents and is living with her aunt and uncle. A cyclone takes away Dorothy and her dog Toto to Munchkin Land, where her house accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North sends Dorothy (with the East Witch's silver shoes-NOT ruby slippers) on a journey to the Emerald City to get help there from the Wizard of Oz. Along her way, she meets the characters we know and love so well from the 1939 movie: Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. In the book, however, the story goes into great detail about the Tin Woodman and how he came to be rusted there on the side of the road. As the book tells it, the Tin Man used to be just a woodman who was in love with a girl. The Wicked Witch of the East put a hex on his axe, which turned against him and chopped his limbs off one by one. They were replaced with tin prosthetics until his entire body was made only of tin. His tin body was not given a heart, so he was unable to continue loving the girl he had lost his life over.

The Wicked Witch of the West blames Dorothy for her sister's death and sets out to doing whatever she can to keep her from getting to the Land of Oz. She sends hordes of crows, bees, and wolves to try and stop them. Two additional differences from the movie are that the Wicked Witch of the West has an army of Winkies in her service AND the witch has this Golden Hat. The Golden Hat grants permission to the owner to summon an army of winged monkeys to do her/his bidding. The witch uses her last summoning on Dorothy and her gang, and the monkeys tear apart the Tin Man and Scarecrow. Dorothy gets angry and throws a bucket of water on the witch, wherein she melts theatrically. No surprise there, at least.

So now Dorothy has the Golden Hat. She uses it to get the winged monkeys and the Winkies to help them all get put back together and taken to the Emerald City. They meet the wizard who really isn't a wizard at all, and he accidentally leaves Dorothy and Toto behind when his hot air balloon takes off unexpectedly. Dorothy and her friends make the long journey to see Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. After another series of adventures involving a giant spider and crazy trees, they make it to Glinda. Glinda tells Dorothy that the silver shoes have been her way home the entire time, and so they are. Dorothy and Toto are returned to her aunt's and uncle's house, and they all live happily ever after.

Check it out yourself in Google Books.

The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown)

The Andreas sisters (Cordelia-Cordy, Bianca-Bean, and Rosalind-Rose) are all grown up and living their lives quite separately until their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. They have come back home as though magnetized, with much devotion to help their mother even despite their own capricious self-centerdness. In short, these girls are a mess.

Bean has destroyed her career and is over her head in tremendous debt despite egregious embezzlement from her company.

Rose has finally met and fallen in love with a real life Prince Charming, only the choice to build a life with him means letting go of all she has ever known and counted as her life...even if she can't reconcile the fact that her life as it is isn't what she wants.

Cordy has floated aimlessly from one hippie compound to another, lacking for even basic necessities of life in favor of her freedom. Suddenly, Cordy has another life to consider, and this sends her into a tailspin of despair.

The women do their best to give one another the impression that they don't need the other, but it is when they come home again that they figure out that sisters can be the only people they do need.

*This was Eleanor Brown's debut novel.

Bossypants (Tina Fey)

Good for reflection as working moms and GREAT for a laugh, Bossypants is by far one of the most entertaining autobiographies I've ever read. With her classic wit and hilarious sarcasm, Tina Fey sends readers to the floor in all-out gut chuckles over her antics, experiences, and observations. She tells her side of the whole Palin impersonation gig, shares insight into work on the SNL set, and gives her inner monologue on the conflict (every working mom's conflict) between a desire to work and a desire to be with her children. It's a short, light read and you close it (or click out, in case of e-readers) with a greater respect and appreciation for Tina Fey's work than ever before. 

Just do not, don't even think of it, ask her about her scar. 
What scar? 
Yeah, that's what I said!