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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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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 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)Recently Added Review
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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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The Magician's Lie

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Macallister, Greer(2015)
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)
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)
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)
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

Author InterviewRead the Author Interview with Alan Furst

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