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Archive for the ‘History/Historical Fiction’ Category

verity_book_cover  This exciting historical fiction novel follows two women (best friends), one of whom is a pilot and the other a spy during World War II. When “Verity,” the spy, is captured in France and tortured by the Gestapo, she writes an account of how she got to be there, how she and her best friend Maddie, the pilot, came to be “a British invasion of two,” and how everything went terribly wrong. Without giving too much away, I will say that this book has some major plot twists – right as you are starting to get comfortable with how the story is playing out, you get pulled violently in a different direction! This is not a quick read, but it is so worth it! I loved the story as well as all the historical details about women pilots and spies in World War II. Though this books does not wallow in graphic descriptions, there are details of torture and war – it is probably best for mature readers.

 

 

 

Reviewed by Ms. Granbery

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ambrose“Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge.”  Does this quote seem familiar to any of you?  It is a line from Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War era short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” which I read during my GPS days.  Ambrose Bierce was a soldier and author whose disappearance in 1913 has never been solved.  Apparently Bierce’s disappearance was not the only mystery surrounding him.  In Oakley Hall’s novel, Ambrose Bierce and the One-Eyed Jacks, Bierce and his sidekick Tom Redmond solve a couple of mysteries themselves.

Hall’s novel takes place in San Francisco in the spring of 1891.  In this picturesque city, there are sinister goings on- child labor, child slavery, missing women, blackmail, and of course, murder.  Bierce and Redmond are reporters working at William Hearst’s newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, and Hearst ask them to investigate some missing photography plates.  The search for the missing plates leads Bierce and Redmond into the world of Chinese gangs, prostitution, and corrupt British sailors.  One-Eyed Jacks explores the underbelly of San Francisco, which contains all of the seedy elements that make a good mystery.

Fans of both mystery and historical fiction will like this read, and for those who do like One-Eyed Jacks, I would recommend a couple of other sleuthing authors found in Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson and Dan Simmons’ Crook Factory, along with Hall’s other Bierce novels.

Ms. Harvey ’97
Current Practicum Student~University of Tennessee’s School of Information Science working in the Holland Library

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betweenEveryone knows about the horrors of the Holocaust and what Hitler and Germany did to the Jews. But very few of us know what Stalin did to the Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians when Russia swallowed up their countries. He deported millions to Siberia, enslaved them, starved and froze them to death. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a well-written story of this holocaust, of the misery, suffering and death; however, it is also a story of hope, perseverance, and faith. Sepetys has written a well-researched, poignant story that is unforgettable.

 

 

Reviewed by Mrs. Vaughn

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On the eve of World War II the United States Navy introduces its newest, most up-to-date, sophisticated submarine. The crew has been assembled. The majority of  tests have been done and the Squalus has passed with flying colors. Minor problems have been fixed and all is ready for its first ever deep sea dive in the Northern Atlantic. However, when the sub begins its descent to 200 feet, the main intake valve sticks open and the submarine floods and sinks to the ocean floor with all hands on board. One man, one submariner, has prepared all  his Navy career for this exact moment. He is Charles “Swede” Momsen, a man who previously stood by watching as two subs sank and rescue was impossible, watching as their entire crews perished. Now Momsen is ready. The Terrible Hours is the story of his ingenuity, drive and determination to rescue the Squalus’ crew at all cost. Maas describes the harrowing hours of the crew in the sunken sub, their families waiting with prayer and hope, and the rescue team fighting rough seas, broken cables and time. This nail-biter isn’t to be missed.

 

Reviewed by Mrs. Vaughn

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Did you know that Coco Channel was a Nazi spy? In this book, the author reveals the truth of Chanel’s long-whispered collaboration with Hitler’s high-ranking officials in occupied Paris from 1940 to 1944. He writes of her decades-long affair with Baron von Dincklage, described in most Chanel biographies as being an innocuous, English-speaking tennis player, playboy, and harmless dupe—a loyal German soldier and diplomat serving his mother country and not a member of the Nazi party. However, in Vaughan’s absorbing, meticulously researched book, Dincklage is revealed to have been a Nazi master spy and German military intelligence agent who ran a spy ring in the Mediterranean and in Paris and reported directly to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, right hand to Hitler. The book pieces together how Coco Chanel became a German intelligence operative, and how, despite the French court’s opening a case concerning her espionage activities during the war, she was able to return to Paris at age seventy and triumphantly resurrect and reinvent herself—and rebuild what has become the iconic House of Chanel.

Reviewed by Mrs. Vaughn

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This historical fiction is very insightful to the life of a woman living in Afghanistan.  It is about two women and their way of life. The story starts out with Mariam who on her fifteenth birthday is forced to marry Rasheed, an old man, and leave her home for a new life in Kabul. She tries to give him children but never succeeds in carrying a child. In the neighborhood where Mariam lives there is a young girl named Lila. Mariam watches Lila grow up, playing with her friends and her young love Tariq. But as the Taliban grow stronger and her parents are killed, Lila takes refuge in Rasheeds home and soon marries him. This twisted tail about how the Taliban rule over Afghanistan is both depressing and sad, but tells the tale of what happens to many women in the Middle East.

Reviewed By Rebecca R. ’13

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This is a deep, spellbinding novel that moves between contemporary times and one of the most fascinating, controversial, and disturbing periods of American history–the Salem witch trials. Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer researching and preparing for her doctoral dissertation in order to please her faculty mentor, Mr. Chillingworth.  But when her eccentric mother, Grace, asks Connie to help handle the sale of her grandmother’s old house near Salem, Connie can’t refuse.  As she investigates into the mysteries of the abandoned home, she discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible.  The key contains a yellowed fragment of parchment with a name scrawled upon it: Deliverance Dane.  This discovery launches Connie on a quest—to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.    As the pieces of Deliverance’s story fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to understand that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.    Written with conviction and grace, “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” travels seamlessly between the witch trials in the 1690s and a modern woman’s story of mystery, intrigue and revelation.

Reviewed by Johanna ’12

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