Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Lit Spot Light- Guest Blogger Edition: Winter Historical Fiction to Warm Up With

Katie, our librarian/guest blogger returns today with some good reads for the upcoming cold snap. Thank goodness for new titles and hot chocolate!

Certain things just go together in my brain--peanut butter and chocolate, french fries and bbq sauce, cold days and historical fiction. Let’s blame The Long Winter for this last one, shall we? I still have a deep abiding love for that book. And as a result, I just can’t resist hunkering down on a frigid January day, with a cup of hot chocolate and a one-way ticket to the past from the library. 

Here are a few of the books that I’ve picked up over the past few chilly weeks:

Prisoners in the Palace, by Michaela MacColl
London, 1856
The subtitle of this book is “A Novel of Intrigue and Romance,” but I think it’s safe to say that this book is heavier on the intrigue than the romance. We meet Liza just after she has lost her parents and is forced to seek out a position at Kensington Palace as a maid to Princess Victoria to pay off her father’s debts. Through her eyes, we soon learn that life at the palace is not easy--whether you are a maid or a princess. And if you’ve seen The Young Victoria, you know that Princess Victoria has to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to become queen. If she wants to succeed, she will need all of Liza’s wits and cunning on her side. Watching Liza grow along with the princess and come into her own while delving into everyday life in 19th century England is a thrilling journey--moreso because so much of it is true.

The Season, by Sarah MacLean
London, 1815
MacLean offers up much lighter and romantic fare in The Season, without compromising any of the intrigue. Lady Alexandra and her two best friends are having their first London Season as debutantes. The three girls all appear to have very little interest in meeting boys during their season, but Alex hasn’t counted on her growing feelings for her brother’s best friend, Gavin (but truly, what good are older brothers if not for their cute friends?), or the mystery that surrounds the death of Gavin’s father. Set against a backdrop of Regency England when Napolean’s spies were always lurking about, this book offers both fun, romance, and adventure.

Everlasting, by Angier Frazier
San Francisco and Australia, 1855.
Speaking of adventure, Everlasting has more than its fair share. Ship wrecks, treasure maps, excursions across Australia, and dark family secrets are just the tip of the iceberg here. Frazier expertly combines a classic adventure tale with a touch of fantasy, as Camille Rowen leaves her fiance and San Francisco behind for one final trip at sea with her father. What is supposed to be a last hurrah, turns into much more when an unearthly storm strikes, turning Camille’s world upside down and forcing her to make decisions more difficult than she could ever have dreamed.

And with several more weeks left in January and several boxes of hot chocolate still to get through, there are a few more historical fiction titles calling my name. If the previous one’s don’t strike your fancy, you may want to check these out:

Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Judging from the popularity of Fever 1793 at the library this past year, you are all aware of how brilliant Laurie’s books are. And this one sounds equally compelling: Separated from his friend Isabel after their daring escape from slavery, fifteen-year-old Curzon serves as a free man in the Continental Army at Valley Forge until he and Isabel are thrown together again, as slaves once more.

Countdown, by Deborah Wiles
I really haven’t read enough books that take place in the 1960s--far too good of a decade to neglect! Following 11-year-old Franny as she deals with the challenges of growing up against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 strikes me as the perfect opportunity to do something about this gap in my reading history.
Annexed, by Sharon Dogar
The Diary of Anne Frank is maybe the most battered book I own, because I’ve read it so many times. It’s that good. In Annexed, Dogar imagines this same world through the eyes of Peter van Pels, who is nearly 16 in 1942 when he and his parents join the Franks in hiding in their Amsterdam attic. It’s sure to be more than a little heartbreaking, but I have a hunch it will also be oh so good.

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