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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 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 Readers' Advisor on May 27, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and Television

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

LISTS: Swordsmen (and Women)!

Three Musketeers book coverIn The Three Musketeers, arguably one of the greatest swordplay books of all time, d’Artagnan’s father tells him, “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures. I have taught you how to handle a sword; you have thews of iron, a wrist of steel; fight on all occasions; fight the more for duels being forbidden.”

To view the fights of d’Artagnan and other swordsmen in fiction, click here.

By Readers' Advisor on March 8, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Lists

Living Like Downton Abbey

Manor House DVD

If your obsession with Downton Abbey has led to you fantasize about being one of the Crawleys or among their staff, then the PBS series Manor House is a must-see! In this project, nineteen volunteers from the modern world agree to live in an Edwardian country house for three months. Not only are they without 21st-century conveniences, but they must abide by the class system and standards of behavior of the early 1900s. As the tagline claims, “There’s a place for everyone…and everyone better know their place.” The tensions between family, upper staff, and lower staff are played out in both expected and surprising ways, and you will gain a new appreciation for all. Looking for even more insight? Try the program website, the companion book, or Secrets of the Manor House.

By Readers' Advisor on February 18, 2013 Categories: Historical Fiction, Movies and Television, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.


Title: Mudbound
Author: Hillary Jordan
Page Count: 328
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Compelling, Haunting, Thought-provoking

1.    Whose point of view (P.O.V.) was most interesting to read?

2.    Was there a main character in this book?

3.    What was the main story?

4.    Whose story did you want more of?

5.    Would this book be different if you got to hear Pappy’s story from his P.O.V.?

6.    What did you think of the love affair between Jamie and Laura?

7.    What do you think that act meant to Jamie? Do you think it meant something different to Laura?

8.    Did you want their relationship to last?

9.    Was the sex scene written well?

10.    Laura realizes that she doesn’t truly love Jamie. Why?

11.    What did you think of the relationship between Laura and Henry?

12.    What about between Florence and Hap?

13.    Who had more equal footing in their relationship, Laura or Florence? Why?

14.    Given the times, did Laura have a choice if she was going to move to the country or not?

15.    Would you have moved?

16.    What did it say about Henry that he didn’t even tell Laura he bought a farm?

17.    Do you think Henry noticed Pappy’s bickering, unhappiness and how Laura felt around him?

18.    Who had the better relationship with their father, Henry or Jamie? Why?

19.    Do you think Pappy loves his sons? How can you tell?

20.    When the children get sick at the farm, Henry gets Florence to nurse them. What is his reaction when she gets in the front of the truck with him?

21.    Does being a racist make you a bad person?

22.    Is there such thing as being “only a little racist”?

23.    Do you think Laura would have considered herself a racist?

24.    Would Florence have considered Laura a racist?

25.    Why do you think Laura was more attractive and interesting to her family once she “had a man”?

26.    What was your reaction to when Ronsel came home with enough money to buy his parents a new mule?

27.    What was Henry and Laura’s reaction?

28.    There is strong foreshadowing in Mudbound, did you mind? Ex:  Jamie talks about Ronsel’s fate being sealed on page 212. Do you mind knowing that something awful is about to happen?

29.    Why did the men “only” cut out Ronsel’s tongue?

30.    Is there symbolism in Ronsel’s tongue being cut out? What does it mean?

31.    Why did Jamie kill his father?

32.    Do you think Jamie would’ve been a different person is he was able to talk about the traumas he experienced during the war?

33.    Is there any other way that you would have killed Pappy?

34.    What do you think happens to Ronsel?

35.    What about Jamie?

36.    Do you think Henry and Laura go on to live happy lives?

37.    How can authors writing outside of their own culture sometimes be problematic? (Re: cultural appropriation)

38.    Mudbound won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, which awards $25,000 to a work of socially responsible literature that gives support to social change. How do you think Jordan’s book did this?

39.    Is the setting a character in this book?

40.    Do you think that this story could have been told in a different, non-southern setting?


Other Resources:

Hillary Jordan’s website
Bellwether Prize website
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
NPR interview with Hillary Jordan
Goodreads reviews (watch out for spoilers)
Hillary Jordan author talk


If you liked Mudbound, try…

Bloodroot by Amy Greene
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Sula by Toni Morrison

Bloodroot book cover      Kitchen House book cover     Sula book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 6, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Joyce’s Pick: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Joyce staff picks photoClara and Mr. Tiffany
sheds light on the true artists behind Louis Comfort Tiffany’s famous leaded glass lamps. Meet Clara Driscoll and the other artists in the Women’s Division who have been shaded in obscurity, until Susan Vreeland’s masterful historical fiction brought them to light.

By Readers' Advisor on February 5, 2013 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Picks by Joyce, Staff Picks