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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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Book cover Ehle, John(1964)Recently Added Review
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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The Magician's Lie

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Macallister, Greer(2015)Recently Added Review
The Magician's Lie

The Amazing Arden is a famous female illusionist in the late 1900s and is best known for her magical trick of sawing a man in half. It seems the gig is up when Arden’s husband is found dead later, seemingly murdered during a magic trick in front of a full house and Officer Virgil Holt. After Arden is caught, she shares with Officer Holt how she came to be the Amazing Arden and that she is innocent of murder. Is she spinning another illusion or telling the truth? This is up to Officer Holt and the reader to decide. This book is very much Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus, as it has been described by others. It has everything an adventurous novel needs: murder, mystery, romance, and magic.

Reviewed by Maeve C., University City Regional

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Very Valentine

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Trigiani, Adriana(2009)Recently Added Review
Very Valentine

Valentine Roncalli is working as an apprentice to her grandmother making exquisite wedding shoes in Greenwich Village. The company was founded by her grandfather and is struggling to compete in a modern world. Valentine balances learning the family business with trying to modernize it, while fending off the interference and crazy dynamics of her close-knit Italian family. A local chef enters the picture to add a little romance, Valentine`s former fiance is contributing business advice, and Gram takes Valentine to Italy on her first European trip. Very Valentine is the first in a series and a good book to lose yourself in. Hang out with a loving, boisterous, opinionated family and take a trip to Italy.

Reviewed by Patrice V., South County Regional

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The Aviator's Wife

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Benjamin, Melanie(2013)Recently Added Review
The Aviator's Wife

She’s the lucky one he asks to marry. The man she knows as quiet and disciplined is perhaps the most famous man in the world. He`s Colonel Charles Lindbergh and she is the quiet U.S. ambassador`s daughter, Anne Morrow. Marrying one who comes to share his love of flight, the world seems open to adventures as they become fellow aviators. The celebrated couple enjoy unprecedented notoriety--but also deep tragedy. Their baby, Charles, Jr. is kidnapped and, in time, confirmed dead. Seeking privacy, they move—including abroad-- and start a new family. Years go by and quiet tensions and life ambitions come to stain the couple`s relationship and Anne worries about the difficulties she sees that don`t change. Here`s a pensive and entertaining historical novel.

Reviewed by Lawrence T., South County Regional

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Midnight in Europe

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Furst, Alan(2014)Recently Added Review
Midnight in Europe

Cristián Ferrar, a Spanish émigré in Paris at the close of 1937, and senior associate for an influential law firm inundated in the affairs of his displaced fellow countrymen, is asked to obtain munitions from underworld arms dealers for the Republican Army. A previous attempt has failed tragically, and with England and America in denial about the coming Fascist victory and offering no help, the task is nearly impossible. And, of course, even if Ferrar's mission is successful; it will most likely have no effect upon the outcome of the looming struggle. Yet again, Furst excels in a tale of hope in a dark era.

Reviewed by Jim B., Main Library

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Juliet's Nurse

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Leveen, Lois(2014)
Juliet's Nurse

Angelica, and beekeeper husband, Pietro, have lost their five sons to the plague. The story opens with Angelica’s surprise pregnancy, ending in the loss of her newborn daughter after a difficult birth. Pietro arranges with Lord Cappalletti to send Angelica as a wet nurse for Cappalletti’s own newborn , Juliet, delivered on the same day. Angelica cares for Juliet as she would have her own daughter, managing to continue as her caregiver as she grows into a beautiful young woman. We also meet Tybalt, Juliet’s adoring cousin, who shadows Pietro and mirrors his understanding of bees. Prequel to Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet, Laveen gives us a lusty medieval tale, full of love, joy, secrets, manipulation, dispute, comedy and inevitable tragedy.

Reviewed by Annette N., Independence Regional

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The Winter Palace

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Stachniak, Eva(2012)
The Winter Palace

In this dazzling historical fiction novel about the rise of Catherine the Great, a young Polish orphan named Barbara finds her fate deeply entwined with that of the future Russian monarch. As Barbara balances uneasily among court intrigues and shifting alliances, she watches Catherine transition from a naïve German princess to a calculating royal, a shift that mirrors Barbara’s own transformation from a servant girl to a powerful spy. Based on extensive historical research and written in elegant, poetic language, The Winter Palace is the first of a trilogy to be written about Catherine the Great. It is a wonderful start to a new and exciting book series and should appeal to fans of history and historical fiction.

Reviewed by Bobbie M., Independence Regional

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

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Flanagan, Richard(September 23, 2013)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Set in a WWII Japanese slave labor camp, Flanagan’s dark, intense novel mainly follows Dorrigo Evans, an Australian surgeon struggling to save his fellow POWs from sickness and injury, only to send them out to work again in a hostile, tortuous environment. The story weaves between the present of Dorrigo’s dissatisfied life as a war hero and his past experiencing the horrors of war and the memories of the woman he left behind. The novel balances between the perspectives of the Australian prisoners and their Japanese captors, allowing the reader to understand both the pain of captivity and the motives behind the actions of their tormentors. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is more than historical fiction – it is a narrative on morals, loss, and the connectivity of all mankind.

Reviewed by Kaitlyn M., Morrison Regional

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Worthy Brown's Daughter

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Margolin, Phillip(2014)
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Worthy Brown's Daughter

Thriller author Margolin “genre hops” to historical fiction in this novel about freedman Worthy Brown’s plight to free his daughter from servitude to sinister lawyer Caleb Barbour, who is beginning to show a disturbing interest in the girl’s burgeoning womanhood. It`s 1860’s Portland, Oregon and selfless young lawyer Matthew Penny agrees to help Worthy – especially after he supplies Matthew with some critical information about juror bribery. Penny’s efforts endure a number of hazards, including corruption, thuggery, and a disreputable beauty who preys upon lonely, wealthy men. When Barbour sexually assaults Roxanne Brown, a chain of events follows that presents Matthew with a moral dilemma. A commendable addition to historical fiction!

Reviewed by Susanne W., Steele Creek Branch

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The Outlander

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Adamson, Gil(2008)
The Outlander

Mary Boulton has become a widow by her own hand, choosing to gun down the cruel man who has brought her to the frontier and brutalized and cheated on her. Only nineteen, the death of her son, just a week old, unhinges her from reality. Pursued relentlessly by her husband’s angry twin brothers, she crosses into the wilderness of western Canada circa 1903. Surviving by sheer grit, she travels from plain to mountain, helped by among others; a kind widow, who asks no questions; a free spirited man, the Range Rover, who captures her heart; and a mining camp Reverend. Spellbinding detail holds your attention as she must run from capture and tragedy, and her own demons, culminating with her surprising self discovery.

Reviewed by Annette N., Independence Regional

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