Posts Tagged ‘Historical Fiction’


2017 Book Madness: Time to vote for the Sweet Sixteen

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on March 13th, 2017

The Book Madness brackets have been updated to show titles advancing to the Second Round.

2017 BOOK MADNESS – CHILDREN’S BRACKET

Banned Books

  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Read the rest of this entry »

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

by Kara Logsden on January 30th, 2017
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton Cover Image

Wednesday Sisters author, Meg Waite Clayton’s, newest novel, The Race for Paris, captures the fictionalized story of two women who served as journalists during World War II. Clayton layers the story between the brutality of war, determination of the women, and the personal toll a war takes on the human spirit. Her research about women journalists in WWII brings their spirit to life and tells a lesser-known story about WWII heroes.

Liv is an Associated Press photographer who is determined to be the first photo journalist in a liberated Paris. She joins forces with Jane, a reporter who is unsure about this challenge but reluctant to abandon her friend. Together they disobey orders, barter for gasoline and supplies, and stay on the outskirts of the press camps as they make their way across France.

I listened to this story and Jennifer Ikeda’s narration is excellent. I was sad when the novel came to an end. It’s always a pleasure to find a book with excellent storytelling, a compelling plot, and solid characters who the reader cares about.

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

by Kara Logsden on December 15th, 2016
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis Cover Image

Alternating between 1952 and 2016 in the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, the lives of four women are illuminated by ghosts of the past and future uncertainty.

Darby is a Midwesterner who moves to the city to attend secretarial school. Her first day in town she meets Stella who is a model. Darby also befriends Esme, who aspires to a singing career while fighting discrimination because of her Puerto Rican roots. Rose is intrigued by the women of Barbizon’s past and a tragedy that changes all of their lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

by Kara Logsden on October 28th, 2016
The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown Cover Image

Weird Sisters author, Eleanor Brown’s Light of Paris is a tale of two women who are bound by the expectations of family, society, and their own personal fears.

Madeleine is in her thirties, stuck in a loveless marriage, and volunteering as a docent at an art museum in Chicago. Youthful dreams of living as an artist are too painful to remember.

Margie is in her twenties and is dispatched to Paris in 1924 to chaperone her cousin. Upon her arrival she is abandoned by her cousin and left to fend for herself. With dreams of becoming a writer and living independently, she gets a job in a library in Paris and falls in love.

The story evolves as the reader switches between characters, decades and cities. Will the women find self actualization or will they conform to the conventions of expectations?

I listened to the book and Cassandra Campbell’s narration is excellent.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

by Kara Logsden on September 7th, 2016
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave Cover Image

Once again it has happened … I came to the end of a wonderful book and I want more!

Chris Cleave artfully crafts a World War II fiction novel based on love letters between his grandparents. With the backdrop of war, bombing, starvation, bravery, society, and personal sacrifice, Cleave weaves together unforgettable characters in a story that requires pondering long after the book is finished.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is set in London and Malta. Mary is a socialite who feels compelled to contribute to the war effort. Alistair signs up for service reluctantly because he has an obligation to duty. Tom would rather forget the war, but with Alistair’s enlistment it’s a topic that can’t be forgotten. Three people, three friends, and three wars. Innocence is lost, London is bombed, Malta is devastated, friendship is tested, and morals are questioned.

I listened to the story and Luke Thompson’s narration brings the story to life. When the story was over, I backed it up and listened to the ending again. Highly recommended.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

by Kara Logsden on December 18th, 2015
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain Cover Image

OK-It happened again. I could not go to sleep until I finished reading the book Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. I started out listening to the book on disc – an excellent narration by Katharine McEwan BTW – but I got impatient and was obsessed with finishing the book.

I am not sure why I was so drawn to this book. Maybe it was the excellent writing by Paris Wife author, Paula McLain. Maybe it was because it was set in Kenya. Maybe it was because it reminded me so much of Isak Dinesen and the book/movie Out of Africa. Or maybe it was the unforgettable main character, Beryl Markham.

Circling the Sun transports the reader to colonial Kenya in the 1920’s. McLain’s fictionalized story is based on the real life of aviator Beryl Markham. Markham, abandoned by her mother when a child and by her father when she was a teenager, struggles to find her path. Circling the Sun not only captures what made Beryl Markham famous (horse training and racing expert when this field was dominated by men and the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic from east to west) but also chronicles her free-spirited childhood, adolescent struggles, happiness, insecurities, and heartbreaks. 

If you are looking for a great historical fiction novel to go with hot chocolate and a warm fire, I’d highly recommend Circling the Sun. Just be prepared to throw another log on the fire!

A Day with Frank Lloyd Wright

by Kara Logsden on July 23rd, 2015
A Day with Frank Lloyd Wright Cover Image
2015 07 FLW Column

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

Recently I celebrated a birthday that ended in a ZERO and my husband gave me a “day away.” I chose a day in Oak Park, Illinois touring the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio followed by a walking tour of his neighborhood.

I really enjoy historical fiction novels based on the lives of real people. A few years ago the book Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland inspired a Spring Break trip to New York City to see Tiffany Glass. After reading Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank and T.C. Boyle’s The Women, I’ve wanted to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park as well as Taliesin in Spring Green, WI.

The tour in Oak Park was wonderful. The volunteer guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about Wright’s architecture, style and philosophy. The tour was light on personal details but that was OK. Books can fill in the details there. It was amazing to see Wright’s experimentation through the many homes we walked by in the neighborhood and the evolution of his style.

2015 07 flw cut

If you are looking for a getaway, I’d recommend reading the two historical fiction novels about Frank Lloyd Wright and then heading to Oak Park for a day.

If you are looking for more adventures in Oak Park, the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum is just a couple blocks from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. We didn’t get a chance to tour the Hemingway Museum, but if you are interested, you might consider reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain before you go. Enjoy 🙂

 

 

The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep

by Heidi Lauritzen on May 15th, 2015
The Testament of Mary, read by Meryl Streep Cover Image

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin is a fictionalized account of Mary, mother of Jesus, in her old age.  This well-reviewed novella was published in 2012 and shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize.  I did not read it at the time, but recently checked out the audio version read by Meryl Streep.  It is a fantastic reading, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys listening to books on disc.

Toibin’s novella has Mary being coaxed by the disciples to share the story of her son’s rise in popularity and power, and then his crucifixion.  The disciples have a larger message they want to impart to the world and facts that do not fit that message are conveniently ignored; Mary’s memories are those of a mother who has no agenda other than to raise and love her son.  The clash between the two purposes creates impatience in the disciples and anger in Mary.

Meryl Streep brilliantly expresses the confusion, anger and grief Mary feels as she watches the sacrifice of her son’s life and the manipulation of the story in the years that followed.  Streep delivers Mary’s short and clipped sentences, and bits of sarcasm directed at the disciples, in a way that is fitting to a woman who has little time left to tell her side of the story to an unsympathetic audience.  Streep captures the weariness of the old Mary, still trying to make sense of what happened.

This story is not the Mary in popularly-known Christian theology.  But if you are open to a different interpretation of her, Meryl Streep brings to life an intelligent, strong, flawed and believable Mary whose grief at the loss of her son is inconsolable.

An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War

by Kara Logsden on April 8th, 2015
An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War Cover Image

Patrick Taylor’s newest installment in the An Irish Doctor in Peace and at War moves between Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly’s service on the HMS Warspite battleship during WWII and two decades later in the iconic Irish village of Ballybucklebo.

I enjoy the Patrick Taylor books on many levels. The very basic level involves storytelling. I listen to these audiobooks and the narrator, John Keating, is awesome. His Irish brogue adds an element to the story that makes it come alive. There are many layers to the stories and Patrick Taylor weaves plots, details, and resolutions through chapters and decades.

The stories also have a strong sense of place and great character development. In my mind I know what Ballybucklebo looks like and, if I could visit, I would expect to find the publican, the town counselor, and the other assorted characters just as they are described in the books. Although the village is a bit iconic, it adds to the enjoyment of the story.

And finally, I like these stories for the pure enjoyment of the experience. I listen, I laugh, and I think about traveling to Ireland someday. I affectionately tell my son he’s a “buck eejit” and he smiles because he’s listened to the stories and also enjoys them.