Check It Out Category: Fiction

Historical Fiction about Real Women

Celebrate Women’s History Month by reading a novel about an innovator who made her mark! Whether your interest is in world leaders, trailblazers, or those who persevered, you’ll find a tale in which biographical fact is presented with an emphasis on story. Visit our new display on the second floor or choose from this sampling:

Leading the Way

Hild book coverHild
Nicola Griffith
Black Rose book coverThe Black Rose
Tananarive Due
Jami Attenberg


Art of Inspiration

Georgia book coverGeorgia
Dawn Tripp
Velveteen Daughter book coverThe Velveteen Daughter
Laurel Davis Huber
Jennifer Cody Epstein


Women Who Rule

Nefertiti book coverNefertiti
Michelle Moran
Warrior Woman book coverWarrior Woman
Dark Rain and James Alexander Thom
Elizabeth Chadwick


Nancy’s Pick: The View from Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

Nancy Staff Pick photoIn The View from Penthouse B, recently widowed Gwen-Laura moves in with her sister, recently divorced Margot. They take in a newly unemployed young gay man to help with the rent, and it’s fun to see the roommates support each another as they navigate New York City following their personal setbacks. Elinor Lipman’s novel is a charming, light read brimming with optimism, even as it explores themes of grief, forgiveness, and financial challenges.

Fiction: If You Like Red Sparrow

Red Sparrow book coverWith thrilling spycraft, shocking double- and triple-crosses, and a chameleon-like femme fatale, Red Sparrow is poised to be one of the season’s more memorable movie adaptations. The first of a series by ex-CIA operative Jason Matthews, the novel tells the story of intelligence agent Dominika Egorova, a former ballerina trained in the arts of seduction and intrigue, who is determined to expose a Russian mole. Her fixation, her unique skills, and her gift for sensing when someone is lying all lead to a sultry cat-and-mouse with an American agent.

Want more like this? Try one of these smart, sexy spy thrillers:


Tightope book coverTightrope
by Simon Mawer
Marian Sutro has survived Ravensbruck and is now back in dreary 1950s London trying to pick up the pieces of her pre-war life. De-briefed by the same shadowy branch of the secret service that sent her to Paris to extract a French atomic scientist, Marian is now plunged into the Cold War.
Cutout book coverThe Cutout
by Francine Mathews
When videotape of the Vice President’s abduction reveals that CIA analyst Caroline Carmichael’s husband–presumed dead for two years–may be still alive, Caroline investigates, hoping to discover his motives and loyalties.
Castros Daughter book coverCastro’s Daughter
by David Hagberg
Forced by Cuban Intelligence Service colonel Maria Leon–who is also the illegitimate daughter of the dying Fidel Castro–to help her find the fabled seven cities of gold, former CIA director Kirk McGarvey tackles the deadliest and most bizarre mission of his career.


Fall of Moscow StationThe Fall of Moscow Station
by Mark Henshaw
When the Moscow Station is left in ruins after a major intelligence breach, CIA analyst Jonathan Burke and agent Kyra Stryker are fast on the trail of Alden Maines, an upper-level CIA officer whose defection coincides with the murder of the director of Russia’s Foundation for Advanced Nuclear Research.
Walking Back the Cat book coverWalking Back the Cat
by Robert Littell
When Parsifal, a Soviet-era KGB agent who has been living quietly in the United States, is given orders to assassinate someone working in an Apache-run casino, Finn, a disillusioned Gulf War vet, is drawn into the plot.
Our Game book coverOur Game
by John le Carré
A romantic triangle on a retired British intelligence officer, his girl, and the spy who stole her. It is told against the backdrop of the rebellion in Chechnya and the international intrigues surrounding it. A tale of the moral wastes of post-Cold War Europe in both East and West, written by a master of the genre.

Black History Month Spotlight: Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor is not only a Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author, she is also a local talent who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Floosmoor, Illinois. She earned her PhD in English at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy writer is the focus of our fourth Black History Month spotlight (see our first, second, and third authors also featured this month.)

Okorafor’s novels span juvenile, young adult, and adult collections, and are flavored with her Nigerian and American heritage. Her works explore the ramifications of racial and gender inequality, violence, war and environmental abuse. She has now started writing Marvel’s much-heralded Black Panther comic series, taking over from author Ta-Nahesi Coates.

“Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an ‘accelerated woman’–only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7. Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape. But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.” (Penguin Random House)

Andrea’s Pick: City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Andrea's staff pick photoNahri knows better than anyone that there’s no such thing as magic. She uses sleight-of-hand and misdirection, not real magic, to con her customers.

What Nahri knows, however, is called into question when she accidentally summons an ancient djinn warrior. The djinn tells her of Daevabad, the legendary city of brass that holds the key to Nahri’s past. City of Brass will sweep you away with Nahri and her djinn companion, across scorching deserts and dangerous mountains, to the mystical city and the secrets within its walls.

Cathleen’s Pick: Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Cathleen staff picks photoIt’s a hard fall from corporate mogul to sanitorium resident, but Henry Dunbar brought this on himself. In a play for adoration, he gave up control of his company, and now those he rewarded have left him with nothing. Both clever re-imagining of King Lear and contemporary morality tale, Edward St. Aubyn’s Dunbar exposes the heart of a once-heartless man.

Staff Pick: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

Patty from Administration suggests Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova:

Inside the OBriens book coverAre you looking for an easy read that you won’t be able to put down? My recommendation for you is Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova.

It’s a beautifully written story about what it is like to be diagnosed with a fatal degenerative disease: how you react, how you move forward, how the medical costs are crippling, and how the disease impacts everyone around you. It’s an emotional read that takes you from despair to hope and humor as you consider your own immortality.

Joe O’Brien, our main character, is a Boston Police Officer: he’s funny and he’s “real”! His view of a cop’s world in the years since the Boston Marathon bombing is enlightening to the struggles of all of those who serve. You’ll also see the internal turmoil of Joe’s friends, his wife, and his four adult children, all of whom may face the same fate as their father.

Hollywood is going to be releasing the movie of this beautiful story later this year, but I strongly encourage you to read the book first! You will cry, but you’ll laugh too, and gain a true understanding of Huntington’s Disease and others illnesses like it.

For more heartfelt, thoughtful stories of characters confronting life-altering challenges…

Partial History of Lost Causes book coverA Partial History of Lost Causes
by Jennifer DuBois
When her father succumbs to Huntington’s disease, Irina discovers a letter he wrote to an internationally renowned chess champion and political dissident, whom she decides to visit in Russia.
Sweetest Hallelujah book coverThe Sweetest Hallelujah
by Elaine Hussey
In 1955 Betty Jewel is dying of cancer and struggling to find someone to care for her daughter. With no other solution available, she takes out a want ad seeking a loving mother to take her place when she’s gone.


Mimi Malloy at Last book coverMimi Malloy, At Last!
by Julia MacDonnell
When Mimi’s MRI reveals her brain is filled with black spots, the prospect of living out her days in an “Old Timer’s facility” starts to look like more than just an idea at the top of her eldest daughter’s to-do list.
Did You Ever Have a Family book coverDid You Ever Have a Family
by Bill Clegg
In a devastatingly beautiful debut, survivor June struggles to accept unthinkable loss, and the entire community reels from the threads that extend both before and after the tragedy.
My Sisters Keeper book coverMy Sister’s Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
Conceived to provide bone marrow for her leukemia-stricken sister, teenage Anna begins to question her moral obligations and decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body.



Black History Month Spotlight: Yaa Gyasi

February is here, and with it comes our celebration of Black History Month. This year we will be casting a spotlight on various African American authors you might not yet be familiar with, though their literary contributions are important to recognize.

Yaa Gyasi author photo

Our first author spotlight is on Yaa Gyasi, who won the 2017 PEN/Hemingway award for her book Homegoing. Born in Ghana and raised in the United States (where she lived for a time in Illinois before moving to Alabama), Ms. Gyasi holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Univeristy of Iowa’s Iowa Writer’s Workshop. According to her publisher, Penguin Random House, the five books that inspired Ms. Gyasi are Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Homegoing book coverGhana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing  follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. (Penguin Random House)