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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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Stettin Station

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Downing, David(2009)Recently Added Review
Stettin Station

It is 1941, and John Russell is still in Germany. As Nazi brutality has now become a way of life, the demands upon his services are increasingly perilous. Indeed, the Gestapo is beginning to take an interest. If he’s going to get out at all, now is the time. Nevertheless, he cannot leave without his actress girlfriend. Effie is, however, too famous not to be closely watched -- Goebbels himself is a loyal fan and admirer. Downing’s Berlin is pre-war beautiful: a stunning picture-postcard setting for Hitler’s nightmare state.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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

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The Witch of Painted Sorrows

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Rose, M. J.(2015)Recently Added Review
The Witch of Painted Sorrows

Sandrine Salome has just arrived in Paris, after she escaped the clutches of her evil husband in New York City. She has come to live with her grandmother, a famous courtesan. When she finally arrives at the mansion, she finds it closed up and being renovated by the handsome architect, Julien Duplessi. Sandrine is soon enveloped in the mysteries of her grandmother’s mansion, the art scene of Paris, and the occult underground. Sandrine life spirals out of control when she is possessed by La Lune---a sixteenth-century painter, courtesan, and witch from her ancestry. This is a great historical fiction read that is full of suspense, mystery, magic, and romance set in Paris during the 1890s. If you like M.J. Rose’s other novels, you will enjoy this as well.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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The wife, the maid and the mistress

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Ariel Lawhon(2014)Recently Added Review
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The wife, the maid and the mistress

The lives of three women from seemingly different worlds intersect in 1930’s New York City: Stella, the wife of a politically ambitious judge whose disappearance rocks the local news scene; Maria, the maid who unwillingly sees and hears too much and whose husband is investigating the judge’s disappearance; and Ritzi, the jaded showgirl who desperately wants to hide the fact that she was the last person to see the judge alive. At the center of the controversy is a violent gangster who has a stake in the future of each woman. This atmospheric read is a page turner as the layers of each woman`s past and the deceptions each commits to survive the present are revealed.

Reviewed by Jori F., Steele Creek Branch

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Rebel Queen: A Novel

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Moran, Michelle(2015)Recently Added Review
Rebel Queen: A Novel

During the 1850s, the British Empire is trying to takeover India because it is not just one kingdom, but many, making it an easy conquest. In the Kingdom of Jhansi, Sita is a guard in Queen Lakshmi’s all-female army, and is a close confident of her as well. When the British arrive in Jhansi, tensions rise and Queen Lakshmi is forced to protect her kingdom in battle with the help of Sita and her armies. Neither Queen Lakshmi, nor the British, will stop until one of them has conquered the other. Queen Lakshmi refuses to surrender the kingdom she loves. If you are a fan of historical fiction and Michelle Moran’s other books, you will enjoy this read.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

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Lovett, Charlie(2013)Recently Added Review
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The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession

Peter, the bookman of the title, is a newly widowed antiquarian bookseller. In the wake of his grief, he leaves his home in North Carolina and relocates to England, where he stumbles upon an unusual painting hidden in an unusual book in a small village bookshop. The painting is clearly Victorian, but seems to picture his wife. The story is told in three viewpoints: Peter in 1995 (where the current action is, with the mysteries surrounding the watercolor and the book), Peter in 1985 (the love story of Peter & Amanda, his late wife; and the start of his career), and various booksellers throughout history who have owned the book. You do not have to be interested in antique books to appreciate this sweet story.

Reviewed by Marie H., ImaginOn

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The Heart Has Its Reasons

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Duenas, Maria(2014)Recently Added Review
The Heart Has Its Reasons

When her husband leaves her for another woman, Blanca Perea flees her predictable life in Madrid to move to California. A linguistics professor, she accepts a scholarship to catalog the legacy of a Spanish professor who also fled Spain—albeit during the Spanish Civil War. Initially, Blanca is only interested in putting space between herself and her former life but as time progresses, she finds herself immersed in his life and in his research which, despite a gap of thirty years, still has current resonance. Blanca unwittingly finds herself in a race to find clues among his research that could save a beloved part of the university’s campus. The novel features plenty of history and romance and will appeal to fans of both genres.

Reviewed by Lacey S., Mountain Island Branch

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Mudbound

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Jordan, Hillary(2008)Recently Added Review
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Mudbound

To say that Hillary Jordan’s debut novel is impressive would certainly be an understatement. Set after World War II in rural Mississippi, this novel follows Laura and Henry McAllen as they make their first foray into farming. Told from varying points of view including Laura, Henry’s war-hero brother Jamie, and the Jackson family who sharecrop on the McAllen’s land, Jordan spins a tragic tale that is difficult to put down. She manages to follow both the McAllen and Jackson families through their series of triumphs and sorrows as they struggle to survive on a farm that is constantly flooding and threatening to envelop them in mud. Any fan of family sagas, historical fiction, or just a good read will enjoy this novel.

Reviewed by Sarah F., Matthews Branch

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The Signature of All Things

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Gilbert, Elizabeth(2013)Recently Added Review
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The Signature of All Things

In 19th century Philadelphia, Alma Whittaker is plain of face, sturdily built, scholarly in mind, and is the daughter of a botanicals tycoon. Alma and adopted sister, Prudence, are raised in a stoic, intellectual home devoid of affection. Alma researches mosses but is distracted by a sexual awakening. Prudence estranges herself from the family when she marries and rejects wealth while embracing abolitionism. Then, Alma marries a younger botanical soulmate whom she later exiles to Tahiti when the marriage lacks the intimacy she craves. A trip to Tahiti brings closure to her failed marriage and husband’s death. This closure empowers Alma to move to Holland where family ties and professional recognition await her. An unforgettable novel!

Reviewed by Susanne W., Steele Creek Branch

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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

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Horan, Nancy(2013)
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Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Fleeing an unfaithful husband in California, and the loss of her young son, Fanny Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson meet in a literary commune in Paris. It is love at first sight for Robert, 10 years her junior. Strong in nature and independent, Fanny first discounts Stevenson’s feelings as youthful infatuation, but after she returns to California with her husband, she soon realizes Robert’s love for her is genuine and she returns to him. Their marriage is made difficult by Stevenson’s chronic lung illness which forces the couple to travel through Europe, across the United States and eventually into the South Pacific where they finally settle. Dealing with Stevenson’s creative spirit while suppressing her own, almost crushes Fanny. Fascinating and historically accurate.

Reviewed by Annette N., Independence Regional

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Book cover Ehle, John(1964)
The Land Breakers

Local readers are encouraged to experience this book at once. The bittersweet recognition of (and heart-felt affection for) its rough-hewn characters as well as the beauty of its Appalachian setting and language, cannot fail to charm the most discerning critic. Set, most likely, not far from Boone, N. C., it follows stragglers, hunters, restless seekers of land, and those simply seeking to survive as they trickle into a remote mountain settlement. It tells- just as compellingly as it did upon its original much-acclaimed publication fifty years ago- the story of their heroic determination to tame a savagely beautiful but deadly wilderness.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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

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