Category Archives: historical fiction

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

book coverSet during the events before and after the Trojan War, TSOA is about the love story of Patroclus and Achilles, and their tragic ending. It is incredibly written in a way that makes you feel for the characters, and it will definitely make you want to keep reading. This book is perfect for Greek mythology and Ancient Greece fans, as well as those who want to read books with LGBT romances and don’t mind endings that will make you cry.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Esther Markov
Rating:  Must Read

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

book coverIf you’re a fan of old Hollywood glamour, you would probably enjoy this fun, beach read. On the surface I took it to be just that, a beach read, but as you move through the story, you’ll find that the main theme runs a bit deeper. Evelyn Hugo is an Elizabeth Taylor-esque Hollywood icon, and now finds herself to be a bit of a recluse in her old age. One day she seeks out a relatively unknown writer and offers to give her a tell-all book about her amazing and scandalous life. To accomplish what she did, Evelyn was willing to do anything, including marrying seven different men over the course of her life. But at the heart of the book is discovering what really matters to each of us at the end of the day. There were definitely a few surprises I wasn’t expecting, regarding Evelyn’s loves and why she chose Monique for the assignment. After reading “Malibu Rising” earlier this summer, also by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I would have to say that while I enjoyed it more, this one has many of the same elements/themes I enjoyed in that book.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski ’14
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: A book with a number in the title

City of Thieves , David Benioff

book coverThis amazing novel is set in Russia during WW II. Given the choice between being executed or completing an impossible task, Lev and Kolya understandably try to achieve the impossible. Thrown together facing harrowing challenges, the two young men go from strangers to close friends during the course of just a few days. This developing friendship is a big part of the story but so is seeing the atrocities that war creates, depicting how normal people are driven to do extraordinarily horrible or heroic things.

I really enjoyed this novel. It laid bare how ignorant I am of what the war looked like from the Russian front, which was interesting to read about. Mostly however I loved the characters Kolya and Lev, they are such an odd couple and yet suit each other so well. I laughed, cried and tensely listened as the smooth voice of Ron Perlman read this wonderful book. I can highly recommend it as well as the audiobook.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Emily Nelson Ringholm ’07
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Audiobook

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín

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Young Irish Eilis can’t find suitable work in her small town, so her vivacious sister and a priest friend arrange her travel to Brooklyn, work there in a department store, and lodging in a boarding house. As she slowly finds her way, Eilis must make many difficult and life changing decisions. I watched the movie, then ironically found the book two days later in a mini free library while biking on Kent Island. The movie is nice, but the book was a delightful beach read.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Maggie D. Brace ’82
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book to film

Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry

book coverIf this wasn’t likely the final book I will review before the Summer Reading program ends, I wouldn’t post yet another set of comments on the same series as before. But, I might not finish my next book in time, so I will just repeat my comments that this set of books shows how murder can be presented and solved in a “clean” and decent way, with wits and observations instead of with high-tech devices. Vexing at times because of the reliance on characters reading so much into the most subtle expression, the book does bog down part-way through. But the ending makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy (she said, with her eyebrow raised ever so slightly)!

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

One Fatal Flaw by Anne Perry

book coverAnother good read in the new (to me, anyhow) Anne Perry series that features Daniel Pitt as the main character. A fascinating glimpse into the early 20th century when women were just starting their (on-going) struggle for equality and rights. Painfully slow in its progression to the end is what kept me from recommending it more highly; I think I’d have screamed if another meaningful glance was described or yet one more reading of an unspoken message was being told by eyebrows. I guess when forensics was in its infancy, body language spoke louder than it does in today’s murder mysteries.

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

 

Twenty-one Days by Anne Perry

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This is the first in the new series that features Daniel Pitt and it was delightful! Crispy, interesting, and just so well written, like all of Anne Perry’s books. I look forward to reading more in this series.

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

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

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Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a must read book. I enjoyed every aspect of it. Shakespeare’s wife is depicted in a magical way rather than the usual harpy, and the tragic death of their only son due to the plague is delved into in great detail. Their early romance is fleshed out, as is their unique responses to Hamnet‘s death. There is a dream like quality that pervades this tale that captured me and I was craving more when the story ended.

Availability:  COSMOS USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Maggie D. Brace ’82.
Rating: Must Read

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Read

book coverGoing into this, I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. I had read one of the author’s other (very hyped) books, Daisy Jones and the Six, and enjoyed it well enough but didn’t love it. This book took me by surprise. It tells the story of the famous Riva clan in Malibu, California, siblings Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. It alternates between the past and the present from when their parents met and their marriage fell apart to where the four siblings are now as adults, living their own lives. The father of the Riva kids is Mick Riva, a legendary singer, so part of their notoriety comes from that, and part comes from their own accomplishments. Nina for example is a famous surfer and model. The ‘past’ portion of the book takes place over several years while the ‘present’ is one day. August 1983, the day of the oldest siblings, Nina’s, end of summer bash. And from the book synopsis, we already know that by the end of the night, the end of the party, Nina’s mansion will have gone up in flames.

What really impressed me is how the author really cranks up the anticipation moving throughout the book until it’s almost at a fever pitch, moving from one hour in the present to the next, interwoven with insight from the past. You know something bad is going to happen, but how does it get to that point? And why? What causes the party to go completely out of control and the mansion to go up in flames? (And is that even the worse thing to happen to this family?) You’ll just have to read to find out.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Kaylie Jasinski ’14
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2021

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters

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I blame you. If not for the pressure (real or imagined?) to write about a different author, I wouldn’t have had to suffer through this muddled book. Set in the year of 1138, this slow-moving, convoluted story of murder and allegiance will bore you to tears. Someone dies, the main character solves the mystery. And about a zillion too many words get you from the first of those events to the last.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jane Kostenko
Rating: Stay Far Away, er, Not Recommended

Where the Crawdads Sing By Delia Owens

cover artThere’s lot I’d like to comment on with this book, but I don’t want to risk spoiling anything, as it is a mystery. It was predictable to degree and formulaic. However it was a good beach read, nothing to heavy to deal with. It’s a great book for a nature lover as the descriptions of the wetlands are lovely. If you’re a fan of Fried Green Tomatoes you’d like this book.

I did like that it portrayed someone having the strength to leave their abuser and it did have a strong female lead, but I thought the author did a disservice to her wonderful character, as Kya had a lot of untapped potential. It would have been a stronger story if it had focused on platonic relationships instead of romantic.

I do not recommend reading this in anything but English. I read it in Swedish, translated by Där kräftorna sjunger. I got a copy from my mother-in-law, and it was just odd reading, what I assume should have been dialog in southern dialect, in Swedish. When I couldn’t sit and read I listened to the audiobook, also in Swedish, and that was even stranger. This is too much a piece of Americana to read in anything but English.

Availability: USMAI, COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Emily Nelson Ringholm ’07
Rating: Recommended with reservations
Challenge: a translated book; audiobook

Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James

book coverI am not sure how I feel about Black Leopard Red Wolf. The writing style is not like anything I have read before and was hard to follow at times, especially in the first part of the book. There was very little world-building of the type I am accustomed to. The reader is left to glean whatever info they can from the fantastical creatures/people/myths that are mentioned in the story. Some info is provided, but I felt it was assumed that I knew things about this world that I did not. During the narrative pieces of the story are left out, to be revealed later on. This made for good story telling in some cases, but other times left me frustrated because I was already struggling to follow the plot. The beginning of the book is especially hard to get through and questions I had from that part were never answered. If you can make it through Part 1 the book does get easier to read and follow.

That being said, I enjoyed all the characters and found them to be really interesting. I cared and was emotionally invested in them. Some of the dialogue had me laughing out loud because it was witty, sarcastic, brutally honest, and funny by turns. I would never have read this book if it hadn’t been recommended to me. Would I recommend it to someone else? I don’t know. Did I like it? I’m still not sure . . .

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Stephanie Marsich
Rating:  Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: Book with a color in title