Many historical fiction novels that take place on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic try to re-create James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster hit of the same name. There’s usually a love story between two young adults that often ends in tragedy, and lots of clichéd romance. After a while, these tired old conventions become boring for fans of historical fiction.
However, David Dyer’s novel The Midnight Watch abandons those conventions, and weaves a heartbreaking story about how more of the doomed passengers could have been saved.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Wednesday, June 8th, 2016||1 Comment »|
The Swans of Fifth Avenueby Melanie Benjamin, the author of Alice I Have Been, tells the story of Truman Capote and his New York socialite friends, especially highlighting his relationship with Babe Paley. This whole novel is a gossipy delight, especially since I was mostly familiar with Truman Capote through In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and this story reveals a whole new side. I love manners novels, and this has wonderfully cutting accounts of which social activities are acceptable (sleeping with friends’ properly pedigreed husbands) and which are embarrassing faux pas (touching up one’s lipstick in public).
After years of gossiping, traveling, and dining in all the right places, Capote publishes a short story, “La Côte Basque 1965,” about the scandals of thinly-veiled Manhattan socialites. Predictably, Manhattan society is outraged by Capote’s publishing of deep secrets and dirty laundry, not to mention his terribly unflattering descriptions of very recognizable characters. Swans of Fifth Avenue shows Capote’s affection for Babe Paley, his closest friend among the “swans,” but even her secrets slip out and appear in his work. Or did they slip out accidentally? The novel also covers Capote’s decline from witty new writer to a drunk and drugged out hedonist, and by the end, it’s hard to know just how much of Capote’s public airing of friends’ secrets was thoughtless, calculated, or just self-destructive.
|Recommended by Meg Stivison||Wednesday, February 17th, 2016||No Comments »|
Sometimes I leave origami cranes in places for strangers to find—in desk drawers, the windowsills in trains, or tucked in an otherwise dirty corner. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg has convinced me that this simple act does carry just the littlest spark of magic.
The first installment of a trilogy, The Paper Magician seriously gives off the same stylish vibe as The Prestige but with the added bonus of a completely awesome female protagonist by the name of Ceony. She’s kind of like the magician equivalent of Elizabeth Bennet. Upon getting dumped in a crummy house in Nowhere, England to be taught a dud of a magical art, her reaction is understandably, “I’ve been shot to hell.”
|Recommended by J. Harbinger||Friday, June 26th, 2015||No Comments »|
Sara Novic’s captivating novel Girl at War is a heartbreaking tale of family, love, loss, and the journey into adulthood.
It is 1991 in Zagreb and 10-year-old tomboy Ana Juric is suddenly thrown into the civil war that engulfs Yugoslavia. After tragedy destroys her family, she has to escape a dark world by finding a way to head to America. Time passes and at the age of 16, Ana is a college student in the U.S who is desperate to hide her past from everyone—including herself. However, she makes the decision to go back to Croatia by herself in order to find some measure of healing after the horrible events that tore her parents apart and left her haunted by ghosts.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Friday, June 19th, 2015||No Comments »|
Amalia Carosella’s historical fiction novel Helen of Sparta recounts the tale of the famous Helen of Troy, but unlike other novels or movies based on her life, this one is different. Instead, Carosella’s Helen is a determined young woman who has been haunted by nightmares of a burning city ever since she was a little girl and learns that her dreams foretell an impending war that only she can prevent. In an attempt to keep thousands of people from dying, she flees from her home in the middle of the night and winds up meeting the ancient hero Theseus, who vows to protect her. Fleshed out in all its tragic glory, in this version of Helen’s story you get a chance to see the human underneath the mythological figure.
History and mythology meet in Helen of Sparta, although you don’t need to be a scholar on ancient Greece to enjoy the novel, as Carosella’s compelling heroine will keep you reading from the moment you open the book. Even with the cards stacked against her, Helen refuses to meekly obey her destiny and become a figurehead for a pointless war that she wants nothing to do with. Readers who enjoy well-rounded female characters will definitely be charmed by her willpower and determination to live life on her own terms!
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, May 26th, 2015||No Comments »|
Unlike the snarky witches in American Horror Story: Coven or Evelyn Poole and her devil-worshiping coven from Penny Dreadful, Paula Brackston’s magic-users are tied to ancient Celtic beliefs. Her novel The Silver Witch follows ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells, who moves into a secluded Welsh cottage in the wake of her husband’s sudden death in the hopes it will heal her grief. What Tilda doesn’t count on is the nearby lake awakening ancient powers and a mysterious connection to an ancient Celtic woman named Seren, who is believed to be a witch.
The intertwined stories make for an interesting plot, as Tilda must learn to use her newfound abilities while struggling to heal from her grief. Her heartbreak is real, despite a possible new love interest on the horizon. Plus, she’s not your typical strong female character who is extremely one-note and only relies on her physical strength. Instead, Tilda is emotionally strong while still being courageous enough to explore her bizarre paranormal connection to the witch Seren as she tries to understand her psychic abilities. By the time The Silver Witch ends, you’ll be glad that you stuck with Tilda on her journey to overcome her grief and make sense of the paranormal visions that were plaguing her. Devoid of tropes, this breezy read is paranormal fiction done the mature way.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Monday, May 18th, 2015||No Comments »|
History lovers, especially those enamored with the Tudors, have often contemplated what would happen if a famous figure avoided their tragic and heartbreaking fate. Now, in Laura Andersen’s The Boleyn Trilogy, she ponders what would have happened to Anne Boleyn, England, and even Elizabeth I had Henry VIII’s second queen born him the longed-for male heir.
Anne’s son Henry IX, also known as William, is the new King of England who only trusts three people: his older sister Elizabeth, his best friend Dominic, and the girl he’s in love with, a royal ward of his mother’s: Minuette. Unfortunately for the young ruler, the French are threatening to start a war while rebellion simmers in England itself. To make matters worse, both William and Dominic are both in love with Minuette, which could tear their friendship apart.
|Recommended by Amanda Ferris||Tuesday, May 12th, 2015||No Comments »|