Blog

The Rose Code

Secrets, romance and treachery abound in Bletchley Park, the center of Britain's code breaking program in WWII, which is the setting for this highly entertaining book by Kate Quinn. We follow the lives of three women who are pulled into this mysterious world from different walks of life and soon become the best of friends while navigating their new lives as secret code breakers. The story switches between two timelines - during the war and several years later when we find out that something happened at the end of the war to tear them apart and land one of the girls in an insane asylum. What happened and who was the traitor?

The characters in The Rose Code (2021) are based on the lives of real people, as are many of the events, including a royal romance. A fascinating insight into a highly secretive part of Britain's war effort.

Go to Overdrive to check out the eBook or eAudio.

If you want more Historical Fiction, take a look at our curated book lists for Novels Based on Real People and Novels of WWII.



The Prophets

Powerful and confronting, yet also beautiful, The Prophets (2021) is a story of two young male slaves who find forbidden love on an antebellum Southern cotton plantation. The solace they find in each other either fascinates or repels those around them until the envy, fear, and hatred of both their owners and fellow slaves forces a reaction.

Robert Jones, Jr. depicts the harsh reality of a shameful time in history with emotional and lyrical prose, creating an epic story which highlights the injustices and dehumanization faced by the multitudes of Africans torn from their home soil and thrown into slavery.

For readers who enjoy Toni Morrison and Brit Bennett.

Read the ebook or listen to the audiobook via Overdrive today.

The Lost Jewels

Bostonian Kate Kirby is asked to write a magazine article about the Cheapside Hoard, a large amount of jewelry from the 16th and 17th centuries which were found in 1912 by workmen excavating a cellar in London. As a jewelry historian, Kate is excited about being able to see some of the collection up close since most of it is off-view. As she views the jewelry, Kate notices that it's similar to some drawings her great-grandmother Essie had in her possession. Kate wonders if there is some connection between the jewels and her family.

In an alternate storyline, it's 1912 and Essie lives in poverty in London with her mother, brother, and three sisters. The family is barely able to make ends meet when her brother, Freddie, happens to be one of the workers on a job site where a large amount of jewels are discovered. The Lost Jewels (2020) by Kirsty Manning follows Kate on her journey of discovery. A great readalike for Jennifer Robson and Fiona Davis.



11/22/63

This is a long book, over 30 hours, but worth every minute. It's the story of Jake Epping. His friend Al has found a time portal to September 9th, 1958. Al has been using it to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. But now Al is dying. He shows the portal to Jake and convinces him to take over the project. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. The portal has rules. First, while everyone else is whatever age they were in 1958, Jake is still aging normally. Second, the past doesn't want to be changed. The bigger the change, the bigger the resistance to change. Third, every trip through the portal erases any changes made during previous trips. Jake has to start from scratch each time he enters the portal.

Stephen King did a great job researching Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake has to be sure he's got the right man.And then there's Sadie.

Check out 11/22/63 (2011) today. You can read or listen to the book via Overdrive.


Apeirogon

Two men, one Palestinian and one Israeli. Two young daughters lost to the violence which is sadly prevalent in their part of the world. These two men from opposite sides of the conflict manage to come together and forge a friendship in their common hope for peace.

Colum McCann writes in an interesting format, offering up what at first might seem random facts or short anecdotes. It did take me a few pages to get into it, but it was definitely worth it to see how everything comes together, how the facts and fiction intertwine to create a deeply moving narrative. Not only was this beautifully written, it was also very educational, giving me insights into an ongoing conflict and a way of life so very different to mine.

Apeirogon (2020) is longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Read the book on Overdrive



How Much of These Hills Is Gold

It's hard to sum up this book in a few words: it's historical fiction, a western adventure, immigrant voices, coming of age, and so much more. How Much of These Hills Is Gold (2020) centers around Lucy and Sam, two recently orphaned Chinese-American children on the run from a Californian mining town with a stolen horse. They journey through the harsh landscape in search of a place to call home, but the siblings find it difficult to agree on anything, let alone their destination.

C Pam Zhang adds Chinese myths and traditions to the story and expertly paints readers a picture of the Wild West in its dark and gritty glory. How Much of These Hills Is Gold gives us a fictionalized history of the Gold Rush era from an immigrant perspective and will have you pondering questions about home, belonging, and identity.

Read the ebook via Overdrive today.


Above the Bay of Angels

In 1896, after her family has fallen on hard times, Isabella goes into service as a maid. When an opportunity arises to interview for a cook position at Buckingham Palace, Isabella jumps at the chance, even though it's under false pretenses. After getting the job, Isabella finds that she has a gift for cooking and becomes a trusted member of Queen Victoria's household. However, the memory of her privileged upbringing and the fear of losing her job are never far from her mind. When love possibly comes her way, will Isabella choose a career over being a wife?

Above the Bay of Angels (2020) is another delightful read from author Rhys Bowen with lots of descriptions of what life was like in the royal household.



Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

Here is a ghost story unlike any you've read before... in 1941, Frankie and her siblings have been left by their widowed father to live in a Chicago orphanage. They are left trying to make a way for themselves amidst poverty and injustice in a world left crumbled by the Great Depression and now on fire with war.

We follow Frankie's coming-of-age story through the eyes of a girl who died in 1918, whose spirit is left lingering the streets of Chicago, unsure how to move on. Glimpses of her past are pieced together as she remembers what happened to her and realizes that coming to terms with the truth is the only way to be set free.

Laura Ruby has weaved together a haunting and heartwarming blend of historical fantasy and mystery, full of rich characters whose stories reveal profound truths about the vast possibilities of human nature. Check out Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (2019) today.

Read the ebook on Overdrive or listen to the audiobook on Hoopla.



The German Girl

I highly recommend The German Girl (2016). It is the fascinating story of two very different girls growing up in different times. In 1939, Hannah Rosenthal is wealthy and originally from Berlin. In 2014, Anna is from New York.

Hannah's story features her and her parents' escape from Germany before the war begins. She is not of "pure" German blood and they escape by securing passage on a luxury transatlantic ocean liner, called the St. Louis. Her family plans to make a new life for themselves in Havana, Cuba.

Anna receives a birthday gift from a mysterious unknown relative, her Great Aunt Hannah, in Cuba. So Anna and her mother travel to Cuba to meet this relative and find out the truth of her past.

Author Armando Lucas Correa weaves the two stories together so well that I could not put the book down. It is inspired by the true story of the passengers of the St. Louis and what became of them during the Holocaust. (Spoiler alert: read the article from the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum—but not if you want to be surprised by the book).

The German Girl is available to read or listen to via Overdrive. Check it out today. Visit our website for a list of World War II Novels.



Series Spotlight: Winternight

If you grew up on fairy tales and want to rediscover that magic as an adult, then the Winternight trilogy (start with The Bear and the Nightingale, 2017) is for you. Katherine Arden brings to life Russian folklore and spirits you away to the forests of medieval Russia in this lyrical tale.

Vasya is born into a time when the old beliefs are being threatened by the introduction of modern religion, but she is one of the few who can still see and talk to the household and forest spirits. Struggling to keep the old traditions alive to protect her family, Vasya is drawn into an age-old battle between the frost-king and his brother. The action continues from the frozen forests to the capital, Moscow, and through the fantastical Midnight Lands, home to the mythical witch Baba Yaga.

Beautifully written with a strong female lead and a captivating portrayal of 14th century Russia, the Winternight trilogy (book 2: The Girl in the Tower, 2018 and book 3: The Winter of the Witch, 2019) interweaves historical moments with old world fantasy to create a wonderful epic fairy tale. This trilogy would appeal to readers of Neil Gaiman and Kiersten White.


The Poppy Wife

A hauntingly beautiful book dealing with the aftermath of the Great War. Set in 1921 with flashbacks to the war years, The Poppy Wife follows the story of war widow, Edie and her brother-in-law Harry, the only surviving brother of three. Edie's husband, Francis, was an avid photographer during the war, faithfully documenting his wartime experience. But when Edie is sent a photo of him with no note attached, 3 years after he was reported missing in action, she latches on to the possibility that he may still be alive somewhere in France and recruits his brother Harry to help look for any sign of him.

Harry's job is as a photographer, taking photos of graves or places of import for bereaved families who are in need of closure. It takes him back to all the places he was stationed throughout the war, villages that have been wiped out or are struggling to rebuild, locals attempting to come to terms with all their loss, and widows searching for any information about their lost husbands. The Poppy Wife (2019) delivers vivid imagery and raw emotion as it follows both Edie and Harry's travels across France.

Caroline Scott is an historian specializing in WWI and The Poppy Wife is an expertly rendered portrayal of the postwar period. Her writing is beautifully atmospheric and the characters are well-drawn, evoking strong emotions.


The Dearly Beloved

In the 1950s, we meet four characters whose lives will be intertwined for the next 50 years. Charles is from a wealthy Boston family and the son of a Harvard professor. Lily's parents are killed when she is a teenager and their absence leaves a void inside her for the rest of her life. James grows up poor in Chicago, the son of an alcoholic. Nan is the daughter of a southern minister, and sees firsthand the inner workings of being part of a family where faith and helping others is an integral part of life.

When Charles and James decide to take jobs as the co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village, the men, along with their wives, Lily and Nan, must live their lives amid the turmoil of the 1960s. They find their beliefs challenged by their circumstances and the other individuals in the quartet. In The Dearly Beloved (2019) by Cara Wall, the reader is immersed in the four characters' lives as revealed through moving, emotional writing.

Summer of ‘69

The Nichols/Foley/Levin/Whalen families have always spent summers on Nantucket with Grandma Nichols, their controlling matriarch. The summer of 1969 is a year of change, not only for our nation, but for this family. Many of its members are caught up in the history-making events of the time. Kate Nicholas Foley Levin started drinking heavily when her son Tiger was drafted into the Vietnam War. Oldest daughter Blair's husband is a professor working with NASA on the Apollo launch, while Blair, pregnant with twins, is bedridden. College student Kirby gets a job on Martha's Vineyard at the hotel where Ted Kennedy has a room the night of the Chappaquiddick incident. Youngest granddaughter Jessie stays with Grandma and uncovers family secrets.

Historical fiction at its best, in Summer of '69 (2019), Elin Hilderbrand weaves a great family story filled with secrets, romance, and numerous historical references.


The Right Sort of Man

In London after World War II, Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge operate The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, which is a matchmaking service. When one of their clients, Tillie, is murdered, and Dickie, the man they set Tillie up with, is arrested for the crime, Iris and Gwen take it upon themselves to find the killer because they know Dickie is innocent. They also know the scandal of the crime could ruin their business. Luckily, Iris worked undercover during the war, and those skills come in handy, as can having a partner like Gwen, who also can think fast on her feet.

The Right Sort of Man (2019) is a breezy, cozy mystery with colorful characters. Allison Montclair's debut is excellent for people who enjoy Jacqueline Winspear, Susan Elia MacNeal, and Alexander McCall Smith.

How We Disappeared

Set in 1940s Singapore, How We Disappeared grapples with the tragic history of 'comfort women' in World War II. These young local girls were taken from their families at gunpoint and subjected to years of brutal rape by the occupying Japanese forces. If they managed to survive the war and return home, instead of being welcomed back with open arms, they were often shunned by their family and neighbors.

We follow the story of Wang Di, who was taken from her village by the Japanese army in 1942. Almost 60 years later, she is now an old woman, but has kept her painful past a secret for all this time. Her husband has just passed away and she is struggling with her new lonely life and her overwhelming memories. At the same time, Kevin, a 12 year old struggling at school and home, loses his grandmother. In her last delirious hours, she whispers a confession to him, a secret about her son that she has kept since the war. Kevin is determined to unravel this mystery in the hope that it will help with his father's depression.

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee (2019) interweaves several different narratives to create a suspenseful story that also focuses on the beauty of friendship and human relationships.