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Masters of the PEN

Behind the Beautiful Forevers book coverThe PEN American Center, the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, has announced the winners of the 2013 PEN Literary Awards. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo, one of the most decorated books of 2012, added yet another well-deserved accolade in the John Kenneth Gailbraith Award for Nonfiction.  Additional highlights include

Literary Science Writing Award: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

Award for Literary Sports Writing: Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion by Mark Kram, Jr.

Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing: Frank Deford

Award for Biography: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Open Book Award: Gun Dealers’ Daughter by Gina Apostol

Translation Prize: The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen, translated from the German by Donald O. White

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on August 28, 2013 Categories: Awards, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary, Nonfiction

Barb’s Pick: A Royal Affair

Barb's staff picks photoYou must check out the Danish costume drama A Royal Affair.  It is based on the true story of a fiery and forbidden romance between an insane Danish king, his royal physician, and the independent-minded Queen. This affair leads to a revolt that changes a nation.

By Readers' Advisor on August 20, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and TV, Picks by Barb B., Staff Picks

Barb F.’s Pick: Rules of Civility

Barb F. Staff picks photoIt’s New York City in 1938. Katy Kontent moves from the secretarial pool at a law firm to the upper echelon of society. In Rules of Civility, Amor Towles creates a wonderful depiction of life in New York City filled with witty dialogue, intense friendships, and a fabulous heroine.

By Readers' Advisor on July 30, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Barbara F., Staff Picks

Larry’s Pick: The Girl Who Played Go

Larry Staff picks photoThe Girl who Played Go is a touching, intimate novel set in the 1930s. A Japanese soldier and a teenage girl both struggle with their roles in Manchurian-Chinese society. The Chinese strategy game of Go, which draws the characters together, is a metaphor for their lives in search of self.

By Readers' Advisor on July 23, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Larry, Staff Picks

LISTS: Current Historical Fiction Authors

Raiders from the North book coverRoyal affairs! Battles! Women’s suffrage! Impeachment! Household servants! Human rights! There are so many different topics to historical fiction. It doesn’t matter if you want a novel set in the same era as Downton Abbey or a story focused on ancient Rome – the book you want is out there!

Click here to see stand-out authors currently writing historical fiction.

By Readers' Advisor on July 19, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists

An Imagined History of a Photograph

Mary Coin book coverAn attractive, albeit worn down, woman sits with her jaw propped on her hand as her little ones clutch her sides. Dorothea Lange captured the photo of the “Migrant Mother” in 1936 and it became the image that expressed the hard, gritty times of the Great Depression. Marisa Silver fictionalizes the subject of the photograph into Mary Coin, who stopped to rest on the road when a photographer, Vera Dare, snapped her family’s picture. Both Vera and Mary’s stories are woven into the current day narrative of Walker Dodge, a professor confronted with a family mystery tied to the photograph. Mary Coin is for any reader in love with literary fiction with equal parts heartache and historical depth.

By Readers' Advisor on July 18, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Four Rare Falcons to Save a Knight

Hawk Quest book coverIt’s 1072. Once, Vallon was a respected military commander, but now he’s a jaded sell-sword. While seeking shelter during a storm in the Alps, Vallon stumbles onto the deathbed of Cosmas of Byzantium. After Cosmas dies, Vallon grudgingly inherits Cosmas’ quest to gather four white falcons from the far corners of the earth as a ransom for a captured knight. Vallon won’t adventure alone. His new faction contains a medical student, a master falconer, the stepbrother of the captured knight, a crossbowman, and a hulking dog. So much for going at life alone. If you like historical fiction à la Ben Kane, Bernard Cornwell, and Joe Abercrombie, you’ll like the blood-red battlefields and anti-heroes of Robert Lyndon’s Hawk Quest.

By Readers' Advisor on June 13, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

Best Audiobooks of the Year

Age of Miracles audiobook coverCelebrate June is Audiobook Month by turning a ready ear to the brand new winners of the 2013 Audie Awards. Whether on a sunny walk, a cross-country road trip, or even a daily commute, you will find the journey to be all the better in the company of an expert story. Audiobook listeners can also earn chances for prizes in MPPL’s summer reading program, Have Book, Will Travel, so why not start with one of these?

Science Fiction: The Age of Miracles (Walker) – read by Emily Rankin
Literary Fiction: Bring Up the Bodies (Mantel) – read by Simon Vance
Mystery: The Beautiful Mystery (Penny) – read by Ralph Cosham
Romance: The Witness (Roberts) – read by Julia Whelan
Solo Narration – Female: Katherine Kellgren for The Boy in the Suitcase (Kaaberbøl and Friis)
Solo Narration – Male: Edoardo Ballerini for Beautiful Ruins (Walter)
Teens: The Fault in Our Stars (Green) – read by Kate Rudd
Children’s Title for Ages 8-12: Same Sun Here – written and read by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Children’s Titles for Ages Up to 8: The Great Cake Mystery: Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case (McCall Smith) – read by Adjoa Andoh

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on June 1, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Awards, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Literary, Romance

Code-Breaking WWII

Enigma DVD coverDid the recent PBS broadcast of The Bletchley Circle pique your interest in World War II code-breaking? Enigma (2001), based on a novel by Robert Harris, is a thrilling story of secret service, cryptography, romance, and espionage. Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott star as those piecing together the disappearance of an alluring coworker who may have stolen sensitive information. Meanwhile, British intelligence officers must find a way to decode scrambled messages of the German military. Based on the true story of unlikely heroes and a technological breakthrough which changed the course of history, Enigma is a glimpse into the tense war waged in locked rooms with numbers and letters so that those on the fields, in the air, and on the seas could have a fighting chance.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on May 27, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and TV

Do Readers Make the Best Spies?

Sweet Tooth book coverIn Cold War-era Britain, compulsive reader Serena Frome is unexpectedly recruited by MI5. Her big chance comes with the launch of Operation Sweet Tooth, one designed to fight Communist propaganda by secretly supporting writers with the right ideals. Serena’s beauty and interest in books puts her in an ideal position to befriend rising author Tom Haley. From the first paragraph of Ian McEwan’s latest, we already know that the mission doesn’t end well, but it’s easy to be distracted by the earnest narration of actress Juliet Stevenson. Through her voice, Serena feels her way through perception, deception, and manipulation. Exposure is imminent, but who, by whom, and how? Just wait for the final reveal, one that will especially gratify fans of Atonement.

By Cathleen, Readers' Advisor on March 18, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Historical Fiction, Literary