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Fiction Book Reviews

***** Historical Fiction *****

History is more than just a bunch of dates. Novels based soundly in the past can help us to better understand where we came from, where we are, and where we’re heading. Oh, and they make for some pretty fun reading too!


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Masaryk Station

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Downing, David(2013)Recently Added Review
Masaryk Station

The Cold War steadily replaces World War II as the sixth and final installment of the masterfully-forged John Russell series finds our reluctant hero in 1948 Berlin. He is still spying for both Soviet and Western occupiers, trapped in an ever more deadly ideological struggle between the erstwhile allies. Rapidly-expanding tension raises fears of yet another, even more devastating global conflict. Russell, understandably grown more cynical by it all, is ready to retire, but because his debt to the Russians seems never to be satisfied, quitting carries a potentially fatal risk. Continuing, however, obviously carries equal or greater peril – from all sides. A Russian defector with evidence incriminating a Soviet security chief may offer a way out, provided Russell is willing to take the ultimate and, perhaps, final risk.

Reviewed by Jim B.

Patron Review This book review was submitted on-line by a Reader's Club patron.

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Lehrter Station

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Downing, David(2012)Recently Added Review
Lehrter Station

Downing’s fifth John Russell novel describes the British-American journalist’s attempt to fulfill his obligation to the Soviets who rescued his family during the war. NKVD agents approach Russell and order him to return to occupation-divided Berlin and assess Germany’s political, especially socialist, tendencies. In addition, and more perilously important, he must convince American Intelligence that he, though a Russian agent assigned to spy on them, is willing to turn double-agent . . . while still, in fact, continuing to spy for the NKVD. This triple-cross, along with the hero’s more humanistic endeavors on behalf of refugees and missing persons, not to mention the author’s fascinating evocation of wartime German train stations, will delight fans, seasoned or new, of this excellent series.

Reviewed by Jim B.

Patron Review This book review was submitted on-line by a Reader's Club patron.

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The Miniaturist

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Burton, Jessie(2014)Recently Added Review
The Miniaturist

In Holland in 1686, .01% of the population holds 42% of the wealth. Eighteen-year-old Nella is the brand-new wife of a member of that .01%. As a wedding gift, her husband, Johannes, gives her a miniature version of their house, and blank checks to spend on furnishing it. Nella will navigate her new life with Johannes, his sister Marin, and their two servants as she learns about Johannes` work at the Dutch East India Trading Company. Working with a merchant known only as the miniaturist to furnish her miniature house, Nella will discover that with each new miniature furnished another secret of the houses` residents is revealed. Who is the miniaturist? Will Nella`s life be better or worse for knowing the full truth?

Reviewed by Marie H., ImaginOn

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The Invention of Fire

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Holsinger, Bruce(2015)Recently Added Review
The Invention of Fire

Return with John Gower (A Burnable Book) to the streets and sewers of Medieval London. Someone has killed 13 Welsh prisoners and dumped their bodies in a London sewer. Not only have that but the prisoners appeared to have been killed by “handgonnes” a new weapon of war. Gower is asked to investigate the killings but finds that officials are obstructing him at every turn including those who put him to the task. Meanwhile the civic government of London is in conflict with the crown; the nobles are at odds with King Richard II and the French are massing a fleet across the channel. Do any or all of these have a bearing on Gower’s investigation? Also will he survive?

Reviewed by John C., Main Library

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Dreamers of the Day

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Russell, Mary Doria(2008)Recently Added Review
Dreamers of the Day

Ohio schoolteacher, Agnes Shanklin, an old maid, loses her entire family in the flu epidemic of 1919. Newly wealthy from her unexpected inheritance, suddenly free, decidedly less mousy and much more adventurous, off she goes to Egypt to visit her late sister’s friend, Lawrence of Arabia, who – along with Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell – is attending the Cairo Peace Conference. This historic forum, allegedly formed to deal with matters unaddressed by the Treaty of Versailles, will result in the creation of Iraq and secure British access to Middle Eastern oil. By then, Agnes, having endeared herself to the modern reader, literally issues him a direct, fateful warning about what he will inherit here.

Reviewed by Jim B.

Patron Review This book review was submitted on-line by a Reader's Club patron.

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Potsdam Station

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Downing, David(2011)Recently Added Review
Potsdam Station

The stately, baroque Berlin John Russell remembers is no more. Returning from a three-year absence starting in 1941, necessitated by a desire to stay alive, he comes back to skeletal ruins battered and besieged by Russian troops; he is desperate to find his loved ones. In his absence, his son Paul has grown into a battle-weary Wehrmact veteran of 18, fighting his way home from the Eastern Front. His lover, the movie-star Effie, risks her life daily helping Berlin’s few remaining Jews escape the dying, but still-deadly Nazi beast. Russell knows only that, while one or both may survive Hitler, they are both helpless against Stalin’s thirst for revenge. This is book four in the John Russell series.

Reviewed by Jim B.

Patron Review This book review was submitted on-line by a Reader's Club patron.

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Some Luck

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Smiley, Jane(2014)Recently Added Review
Some Luck

The story is an amazing year-by-year telling of 33 years of Iowa farm life: the raising of children, crops, and nation starting in the 1920s. It has thoroughly charmed your reviewer and, coincidentally, reminded him that the deepest experiences of life are often subtle to the point of boredom. After being emotionally stunned by the first chapter, your reviewer entered seemingly more hum-drum fare as the book settled into the rural routines of over three decades. He is happy to report, however, that he ultimately found it a powerful, emotionally compelling read about an iconic American family history. And the best news of all is that it is but the first entry in a supremely promising planned trilogy.

Reviewed by Jim B.

Patron Review This book review was submitted on-line by a Reader's Club patron.

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The Sweetheart

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Mirabella, Angelina(2015)Recently Added Review
The Sweetheart

Set up as a flashback story, this book is about Leonie Putzkammer, a female professional wrestler from the 1950s. Throughout the book, she reflects back on her time as The Sweetheart, one of female professional wrestling’s stars. Leonie sees wrestling as a dazzling alternative to her blue-collar waitressing job in the same Philadelphia neighborhood she`s spent her entire life. This book will appeal to historical fiction and professional wrestling fans alike. The main characters are very well-developed, and wrestling is explained in just enough detail to be interesting without getting bogged down in too much detail. The book is also a coming-of-age story. As she trains for her new career, and learns to fly solo while traveling, she`s also learning life lessons and growing into a confident young lady. Such a unique book!

Reviewed by Marie H., ImaginOn

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A Light in the Wilderness

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Kirkpatrick, Jane(2014)
A Light in the Wilderness

Letitia is a freed former slave, but she knows living in the South her freedom is still tenuous. When she marries an Irishman named David Carson, they head West hoping that away from the South her freedom and their marriage will be recognized. After the grueling journey West, they set up a homestead in Oregon. Things seem to be going well for the Carsons, then suddenly Letitia’s life is turned upside down. This time instead of allowing what’s rightfully hers to be taken away, she decides to fight back. Based on real events, Letitia’s life is an example of strength and bravery as she goes from slave to one of the first female land owners in Oregon during her lifetime.

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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The Winter Family

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Jackson, Clifford(2015)
The Winter Family

Augustus Winter’s name may well soon assume a very high place upon most-memorable fictional evildoer lists. He is more dangerous than an enraged rattlesnake, as coldly insensitive as an iceberg. He is often seen literally soaked in his victims’ blood – much to the horror of even his own vicious family. This immensely readable book traces that family’s atrocity-strewn trail from their Union Army stint as Sherman’s advance unit laying waste from Atlanta to the sea, through rip-roaring election-war-torn Chicago, to a grisly face-off in the rapidly disappearing Wild West.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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