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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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The Butterfly and the Violin

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Cambron, Kristy(2014)Recently Added Review
The Butterfly and the Violin

This book is written during two different time periods, but flows effortlessly. In present time, Sera James, an art dealer, is trying to locate a mysterious Holocaust-era painting she saw as a child. During WWII, Adele Von Bron’s life turns upside down when she is sent to Auschwitz by her father. Adele is soon part of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra, as she is a talented and famous violinist. Will Sera ever find the mysteriously beautiful women in the painting? This story is very enthralling and sheds light on the art and music that was produced in the concentration camps during WWII. It shows the reader than even during a time of pain and starvation, beauty can still be found.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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The Penelopiad

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Atwood, Margaret(2005)Recently Added Review
The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad is fascinating, strange, beautiful, and just the tiniest bit heartbreaking in all the right ways. It is a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey from the point of view of Odysseus’ stoic and long-suffering wife Penelope. As Homer’s Penelope is essentially summed by the phrase “good wife,” Atwood has room to truly explore and create. Atwood crafts the story in a mixture of passages that have Penelope narrating from the grave, alternating between poetry and prose. Penelope focuses not only on her absent husband, but also on all the duties of a wife who must keep her husband’s estate from falling apart. The result is a brilliant, if fictionalized, look into the mind of one of history’s most forgotten women.

Reviewed by Sarah F., Matthews Branch

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Written in My Own Heart's Blood

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Gabaldon, Diana(2014)Recently Added Review
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Written in My Own Heart's Blood

It is 1778 and the Revolutionary war is in full swing. Jamie, after being returned from the dead and discovering his wife Claire married to his best friend, is pulled back into the thick of it. William (Jamie’s son) is trying desperately to deal with his identity crisis, Ian can’t wait to marry his Quaker love, and John Grey is trying to figure out how to get back to the British side of the war. Meanwhile in the 20th century Jamie and Claire’s daughter Briana and her husband Roger are desperately searching for their son Jem, who has been kidnapped. Roger even goes back thru the stones to try and find him. Written in My Own Heart`s Blood is the eighth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

Reviewed by Carey G., South County Regional

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The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

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Peacock, Nancy(2013)Recently Added Review
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The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

“I have been to hangings before, but never my own.” So begins The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock. Persimmon, or Persey as he is know, explains his life under slavery as Master moves from Louisiana into Texas just ahead of the Union Army. Master attempts to kill Persey on the river, since they both want the same woman. Persey lives and has tumultuous adventures while on the run, eventually joining with the Comanche as he’s trying to save the woman he loves. This realistic historic fiction novel is full of adventure and derring-do. A quick paced, thoughtful read that is sure to haunt.

Reviewed by Gina d., Main Library

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Calling Me Home

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Kibler, Julie(2013)
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Calling Me Home

Considerate Robert is the one love for Isabelle. A family acquaintance, he has plans for medical school. Only, he is from the `other side of the tracks` as Robert is black and Isabelle is white. And in 1939, in Kentucky that is not a union accepted by society or law. Fast-forward to the present and 89-year-old Isabelle--now a widow and Texas resident--is determined to travel to Ohio for a funeral. Low-key about specifics, she gets that help from her hairstylist Dorrie. An unlikely new family member, Dorrie is a thirtyish single mother and black. To travel she drives and miles in, Dorrie receives a series of troublesome calls. Rich in historical societal norms and human relationships, one-time novelist Julie Kibler strikes gold.

Reviewed by Lawrence T., South County Regional

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The Wedding Gift

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Bodden, Marlen Suyapa(2013)
The Wedding Gift

Bodden self-published and marketed her novel, and as a successful e-book, it appeared on the WSJ’s best seller list. Elite publishers soon took notice, and the novel has become a commendable addition to historical fiction depicting slavery in the antebellum South. An 1840s Alabama court case was seminal in Bodden’s tale narrated by a racially-mixed young woman, Sarah Campbell, who endures the abuse inflicted upon the enslaved who powered the plantation machine. Juxtaposed with Sarah’s story is that of the plantation mistress, who suffers in silence at the hands of a cruel husband. Sarah escapes – with some help from the underground network – to the Caribbean where she reveals to the reader a betrayal and a murder. An engrossing read!

Reviewed by Susanne W., Steele Creek Branch

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The Distance From Normandy

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Hull, Johnathan(2003)
The Distance From Normandy

What could a troubled teenager and his WWII veteran grandfather possibly have in common? Both are haunted-- Mead, by his memories of lost buddies during the war in Europe and a wife recently dead from cancer; Andrew, by a lost friend, fears, and failure. When Andrew tries to save himself from a bully by bringing a knife to school, he is expelled for the remainder of the year, and his grandfather offers to take him off his helpless mother`s hands for three weeks. Only Mead`s widowed neighbor, Evelyn, takes easily to the boy, much to Mead’s frustration. Desperate, Mead decides to travel to Europe, taking Andrew with him. Even though Mead must confront war time ghosts, he and Andrew both find the strength to help themselves and also each other.

Reviewed by Annette N., Independence Regional

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The Steady Running of the Hour

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Justin Go(2014)
The Steady Running of the Hour

Tristan Campbell receives a mysterious letter from a solicitor located in London about a mysterious inheritance from Ashley Walsingham, who died while trying to summit Mt. Everest in 1924. The fortune was originally supposed to go to Imogen Soames-Andersson, the woman Ashley loved, but she went missing. If Imogen could not be found, the fortune would go to the next of kin according to the will. Thus, begins Tristan’s adventures across Europe trying to desperately prove he is the true heir to Imogen’s inheritance. At the same time Tristan is traveling through Europe, the reader is introduced to Ashley and Imogen. This is an adventurous novel filled with regret, longing, bravery, and love. It’s a must read for anyone who loves adventure and history.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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That Summer

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Lauren Willig(2014)
That Summer

The year is 2009 and Julia Conley has just inherited a house in London from her great-aunt. Soon, bits of Julia’s blocked memories come back when she starts going through the house at Herne Hill. Through her investigation, she finds a hidden painting in the wall, which leads her on a historical investigation to find out the painting’s story. The author also refers back to 1849, when Imogen Grantham was living at Herne Hill. She is married to an unfriendly, older man and is not very happy in her dull life. One day, she meets the pre-Raphaelite painter, Gavin Thorne and falls in love. Lauren Willig combines two-time periods into one hard-to-put-down story that flows effortlessly.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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China Dolls

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Lisa See(2014)
China Dolls

It’s 1938 and Ruby, Helen, and Grace could not be more different. They meet while trying out to be dancers in an Oriental nightclub in San Francisco. Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. Helen is from a traditional Chinese family living in Chinatown. Grace fled an abusive father from the Midwest. Although they are different, their friendship has it’s ups and downs during World War II. Lisa See has written a novel that sheds new light on San Francisco and America during World War II. See opens your eyes to what happened to Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans during the war. This is an interesting and enthralling historical fiction read. If you like See’s other books, you will enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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