Category Archives: historical fiction

Keeper of the Grail by Michael P Spradlin

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The Youngest Templar: Keeper of the Grail by Michael P Spradlin in COSMOS is a recommended read. Young orphan Tristan, raised by monks and later squire to Sir Thomas, becomes entrusted with the Holy Grail and must return it to the monks with the aid of friends he meets along the way, while avoiding enemies out to seize the Grail for their own selfish means.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: M Denise Brace nee Lerch (’82)
Rating: Recommended

Low Chicago ed. by George R. R. Martin

low chicago cover

Low Chicago edited by George R.R. Martin is a collection of short stories tied together in an overall plot – I don’t think they can really be enjoyed individually. This is not the first wild card book In the series, but it is the first that I have read; I’m not sure if someone more familiar with the series would have been less overwhelmed in the beginning. Low Chicago is a type of poker, and the book starts out with a poker game and turns into a time travel adventure (much more interesting than poker).

I did enjoy the book, and I plan to try the first book in the series. I liked “Meathooks on Ice” the best … and I now know how the great Chicago fire started (the cow was innocent). There was a surprising amount of politics in the stories.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2018

Death on Blackheath by Anne Perry

Death on Blackheath cover


Ah, the pure pleasure of reading an old favorite (author) who writes superbly! Victorian London murder mysteries featuring Charlotte and Thomas PItt are some of my favorites and I was so excited to have found that I’d missed this one in the series (copyright 2014). Relying almost exclusively on reading facial expressions and interpreting gestures, the Pitts manage to figure out “who done it” (I do get a bit impatient toward the end with the sloooow pace). Excellent read!

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Jane Kostenko
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Last Girls of Pompeii by Kathryn Lasky

The Last Girls of Pompeii by Kathryn Lasky chronicles the weeks preceding the fateful eruption in A.D. 79. Julia, a young noble and her slave, Sura, prepare for Julia’s older sister’s wedding blithely unaware of both the impending doom and the nefarious plans Julia’s parents have in store for both girls. Julia had been stricken since birth by a withered arm, an affront to the gods, so her parents plan to secret her away. As the girls seek to aid each other and thwart the plans, their world figuratively and literally collapses around them.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: M Denise Brace nee Lerch (’82)
Rating: Highly Recommended

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the BardoI had heard a lot about Lincoln in the Bardo recently. Mostly raving reviews, but the negative ones were really negative. The writing is beautiful. It sucked me into the book quickly. Especially the scenes with Lincoln while he is grieving from the loss of his son. Like many, I felt a little lost while starting this book. The style of writing is very different and was hard for me to get used to. When I did, I loved it. The style added so much in terms of the characters (ghosts) fragmented realities. Almost like they weren’t communicating like they would in life, but by being in one another’s minds. The various ghosts that are introduced seem random, but it is within those interactions that you learn more about the three main characters and their situation. The historical accounts that are included help the reader remember the setting and put the ghost’s personalities into context. I understand that the style could get in the way of some people’s enjoyment. However, I highly suggest pushing thorough and trying to see the value in it and why Saunders made that choice.

Availability:  SMCM, COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Erin Crawford
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Tournament of Books

Uniform Justice by Donna Leon

Keeping the promise I made to myself, I tried another new (to me) author: The main character is with the police in Venice and is very likable–honest, thorough, intelligent. Crisply written and with lots of local flavor (we’re headed to Rome in a few months, so I am practicing my Italian along the way), the murder mystery unfolded at a good pace and with a good ending. This isn’t the first book in the series, but I wasn’t left floundering for context. I will enjoy more books in this series.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Highly Recommended

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God is centered around Janie Crawford, a black woman living in the south during the 1930’s. Janie goes through three different marriages during the course of this book. Janie’s grandmother (Nanny) had been a slave who was abused by her white master. Nanny insisted that Janie married a man (Logan) that she didn’t know or love to keep her safe from abuse. Logan mistreats her, and Janie runs off with another man, Joe. Joe is kind at first, but his kindness was a facade that he put up to win her over. Joe provided the necessities that Janie needed, but she still felt alone.

Then Janie meets Tea Cake. Even though Tea Cake is twelve years younger than Janie, they quickly fall in love. Janie was happy to find out that love felt how she imagined it would feel.

In this book, Zora Neale Hurston addresses the relationship between blacks and whites, but also focuses on the problems within her own community. Even more specifically, this book is focused on the role of black women within society at the time.

I enjoyed this book, although it seemed a bit slow moving at the beginning. Sometimes the dialect used can be difficult to understand. I enjoyed the poetic language used within the book. This book is a classic, because the themes in this book are as relevant today as when it was written.

Availability: SMCM, USMAI, and COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Olivia Bailey
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film