Saxon Ladies: What to Read While Waiting for “The Empty Throne”

Viking Sword

Bernard Cornwell has done it again: the eighth book in his Saxon Tales series, The Empty Throne, features not only Uhtred, the wily warrior protagonist of the seven previous books, but Aethelfleadh, the widow of the late king of Mercia in tenth-century England. The couple are united in their dream of a united Britain, shoving out […]

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Some Modern Chinese History in Novels

CP China

China is in the midst of an economic miracle. Being China, it was a long time coming and has lasted a while. The reinvention of the world's second-largest economy and at the same time that of the Communist Party has had a massive effect on its population. These books bear witness to that. Frog by Mo Yan takes […]

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That’s Love (and Marriage) Baby!

Man's and woman's feet clad in dancing shoes

Famous couples often only need one name each—Anthony and Cleopatra, Scott and Zelda, Bogart and Bacall—but what do we really know about their story? What's it like to have a famous spouse, or to live your life in the spotlight or be at the center of history? Here are some power couples as they appear in fiction. Above […]

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Boston Girl Readalikes

hadassah 1

For those of you waiting for The Boston Girl, I have a few suggestions while you wait. First, let me tell you are in for a treat in Anita Diamant's latest, about a young woman who works her way from tenement child to a social worker. Addie Baum is as old as the century when her granddaughter […]

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Perseverance is Triumph: Lalita Tademy

Cane River cabin

Lalita Tademy used to have a high-powered job at Sun Microsystems before delving into her genealogy, leading to three books (so far) imagining her family's history. The  results are historical novels that tell of little-known parts of the American narrative, which we forget to our peril. All three family sagas are moving, atmospheric, and accurate down to the smallest […]

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Epic Yarns in Teen Fiction

yarn, knitting needles

Back in the day knitting used to be grandmas making ugly, itchy sweaters that never fit right and that you never EVER wanted to wear in public. Now, thanks to the DIY revolution, I'm getting some of my favorite patterns from teens and there are at least two video games featuring yarn (Kirby's Epic Yarn […]

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“It’s About This Nurse…” Favorite Stories Retold

R&J 3

It sometimes happens when I go to the theater, or the movies, or read a book, that I find the minor characters more interesting than the people the story is supposed to be about. This often means that I am paying more attention to the servants or the villain than the young lovers or other main characters, […]

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The Problem With Virtue

farthing

Often when I read historical fiction, it seems that the 21st-Century world view is imported with the characters.  No more is this true than with the themes of sex and religion.  Fortunately, Marci Jefferson manages to avoid this pitfall in Girl on the Golden Coin. Young Frances Stuart, the protagonist, wishes only to make a good […]

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The Midwife of Venice and the Harem

Roberta Rich has written only two books so far, but I enjoyed both of them immensely. In The Midwife of Venice, Hannah Levi, a midwife of legendary skill and confined to the Jewish Ghetto, makes a decision to help a countess in natal distress. She takes along her "birthing spoons", a form of forceps, with her despite the […]

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Afghan Women Breaking the Mold

Afghan Women 3

Though the past decade and a half has brought enormous change to Kabul and other cities in Afghanistan, very little has changed in the villages, especially for women. Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl That Broke Its Shell tells the parallel stories of Shekiba, a woman at the turn of the last century, and her great-great-granddaughter Rahima just after […]

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