December 7, 2015

Time Travel To: Western Expansion

"​Ordnance Survey One-Inch Map​"​ by bull_de is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Time Travel To is back on the blog today! In case you aren't already aware, Time Travel To is a collaborative feature that my friends Hannah of So Obsessed With, Kelly of Belle of the Literati & I created in order to celebrate our love for historical fiction. This is the third post, and the last one for 2015, and I debated over which period I wanted to include before I decided to focus on the time of pioneers and the journey west. 

a little background about the time period
1 / 2 / 3 / 4
I actually can't tell you where my initial interest in the pioneers came from. The earliest memories I have are a little faulty, leading me to believe that my love for this period stemmed either from reading the Kirsten novels (I was obsessed with American Girls, particularly Samantha and Josefina), or from reading the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her clan. Suffice it to say, I was hooked on this lifestyle of traveling West to claim new land and opportunities, a dangerous, unpredictable journey undertaken by many people in the 1800s.

The pioneer movement was, effectively, a way for Americans to stake a claim on the continent. The movement spread towards the West, where land was unclaimed, gold was to be found and a man could make a real life for himself and improve his family's circumstances. It sounded like a dream, and that dream was something that kept people going in spite of the trials of the journey - sparse food, bouts of illness, encounters with bandits, the very force of nature and the terrain. Still, people were enterprising and stubborn. Little by little, towns began to grow, railroads were constructed and traveling West suddenly became a whole lot simpler. But this wouldn't have happened if no one had thought to brave the initial journey, and so these developments were really thanks to the efforts of the first pioneers.

books I've read set in this time period

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder | I've already mentioned it, but it bears repeating: I was obsessed with this series as a child. Laura fascinated me, a little girl who led a life so different from my own, and I lapped up all the details of her family's journey West and her life. I actually got a chance to reread the series this year for Looking Back at Little House, and it was still such a fun read (though not without its problems).

American Girls: Kirsten by Janet Beeler Shaw | And, as mentioned, this is the second series I was obsessed with when I was a kid! I loved the American Girls, dolls and stories, and while I never owned a Kirsten doll, I had all her books. Once again, these brief glimpses into her life fascinated me, and kept me reading, and I think they're great ways to get an overview of what life might be like for girls in those days.

The Clayborne Brides by Julie Garwood | I read this one years ago, and still like to revisit it now and again (mostly for Adam and Genevieve). Technically, this doesn't have a pioneer journey but it does sort of touch on life after moving out West so I wanted to count it anyway! This is a collection of three stories about three 'brothers' and the women they fall in love with. As a die-hard romantic, I certainly swooned over each and every tale.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee | Until this debut came out, I'd never, ever, ever read a book set in this time that featured an Asian main character. And now, after reading Stacey's novel, I'd like more of them please! It's fascinating to get a different cultural perspective on things. Plus, this book has one of the best friendships I've ever read and a story that kept me entertained from beginning till end. I'd highly recommend this debut for those craving more Western YA and/or Asian characters!

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman | I love reading stories where the main characters are trying to right a wrong or, in Kate's case, take an eye for an eye. It's always fascinating to learn more about the character apart from the revenge that motivates them, and Bowman manages to create a real, complex gal in Kate. Plus, she weaves in some actual historical superstition, and that's definitely a major point in this novel's favor.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson | I, for one, am quite pleased that this book is only the start of a series because I 100% need more of Leah Westfall and her story. Carson's novel really doesn't gloss over the difficulties of being a pioneer (particularly if you're a gal that's on her own), and I love that we get a gritty look at what it really must have been like on the trail. There's a slight hint of the supernatural in Leah's ability, and I'm looking forward to seeing that potential explored.

books I want to read set in this time period

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner | Am I allowed to just leave Hannah's review here? Because she basically convinced me I needed this novel in my TBR because of the strong character development, detail and what sounds like a promising romance.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas | I find that, when it comes to books set in this period, I have to be at least intrigued by the character before I even begin. Mattie Spenser sounds like someone interesting, and I'd be curious to see how her life with Luke plays out, trials and triumphs and all. (Hannah also reviewed this one.)

The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund | I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, but I can't help but be intrigued by this story. I've never read a tale about missionaries that went on a journey out to the west along the Oregon Trail, but I think that's what makes this even more interesting. (Hannah did a mini-review for it!)

Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder | I couldn't resist - I had to put Laura's annotated autobiography into this section. Apparently, my fascination with her life and her family's experience on the journey west still makes my heart pitter patter with joy. Who am I to resist the lure of more time with the Ingalls clan?

If you've got any more suggestions for book about pioneers and the journey west, please feel free to share in the comments! And if you simply want to tell me that you enjoy books set in this time period too, then go right ahead and do that too. Don't forget to check out So Obsessed With and Belle of the Literati for more historical fiction reading suggestions! (P.S. Hannah & I are both focusing on the Western Expansion, so if you want more reads like these, check out her post.)


  1. Fabulous feature as always, Alexa! I haven't read many histfic books but I definitely want to. The western expansion era sounds like an interesting time and I'd be happy to learn a little more about it through fiction novels. I have Vengeance Road on my queue and I'm looking forward to reading it even more now. :D


Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)