I cannot be the only one who reads historical fiction and then immediately wants to wear a piece of period clothing, right? I mean, who hasn’t read a tale set in the 1920’s and wanted to put on a flapper dress and go have some giggle water at a Gatsby-esque party? Or read a Jane Austen novel and wanted to wear a white dress and go for a simple walk in the park only to get caught in the rain and whisked away on a chestnut horse by a dapper, wealthy gentleman who you may have previously quarreled with but you two will eventually fall in love and it will be absolutely beautiful? Which definitely isn’t a scene from Austenland that I totally have lifted for my daydreams. Look, sometimes you just have to pretend to be in another place and time, and I get you. So here is some historical fiction for the part of your soul that wants to dress up and wander green hills on horseback, or stare out of windows forlornly, or get caught up in a murder plot against the crown. Whatever floats your boat, man.
by Libba Bray
Remember when I mentioned flapper dresses and a ragers worthy of Gatsby? Ahem, may I introduce The Diviners. When Evie O’Neill is exiled from her boring hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City, she is absolutely thrilled! It’s 1926, and New York is full of fun. The only catch – she has to live with her Uncle Will and his strange obsession with the occult. Evie is worried he’ll discover her secret, a supernatural power that has brought her nothing but trouble. But when Will is called to the crime scene of a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol, Evie realizes her power could help stop a serial killer. As Evie steps into a dangerous dance with a killer, more stories unfold in the city – stories of ghosts and demons and diviners. And unknown to all, something dark and evil is waking…
Give me all of the flapper flair and the occult creepiness! This book is delightfully frightening and funny in turns, and while the book makes sure to let you know the 1920’s wasn’t the best time… it wasn’t the worst…? Look, do I want to live in the ’20’s? No. Do I want to party in the ‘20’s? You bet-ski!
This book is for those of you who want a bit more spycraft in your Shakespeare. When Lady Katherine’s father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. Katherine vows vengeance, disguising herself as a boy to fulfill her father’s mission and take things one step further – she’ll kill the queen herself. Her opportunity comes in the form of Shakespeare’s latest play to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But this is not just any play. It is ploy to root out insurrectionists designed by Toby Ellis, a young spy with secrets of his own.
Just like the best Shakespeare plays, star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal abound in this Elizabethan tale of treason, lies, and love in disguise. If this doesn’t make you want to put on a court gown or a tunic-trouser set, grab your knife, and take to the stage, then nothing will!
by Monica Hesse
While I am so incredibly glad I never lived through World War II, I like to think that if I had, I would have been part of the resistance. As a result, I love hearing stories of resistance figures who worked behind enemy lines and within occupied communities, whether they led attacks against Nazi soldiers or helped Jews hide or escape, or any action in between. Girl in the Blue Coat is one such story, about a girl’s task to find a Jewish girl who has vanished from her hiding place in 1943 Amsterdam. While Hanneke is a fictional girl, and her acts of rebellion against the Nazi regime are fictionalized, they are based upon the real-life stories of people who resisted and risked their lives in order to help those being persecuted. If you’re looking for a book about grief, bravery, and love in impossible times, this is the read for you.
Sometimes history is more than just a series of events that happened – history can act as a mirror to our current time. Told in two perspectives, Dreamland Burning brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to life while raising questions about the complex state of US race relations today. When seventeen-year-old Rowan finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal murder will lead to painful discoveries about the past. And the present. While nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. He will have to face painful choices and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right on the night Tulsa burns.
The moral of this tale? Don’t make deals with the Devil, kids. Teeth in the Mist follows seventeen-year-old Roan as she arrives at Meddwyn Mill House as one of three wards, each with something to hide. And as she discovers her connection to an ancient secret, just must escape the house until it is too late. Over a century later, sixteen-year-old Zoey is fascinated by the burnt-out ruins of the Mill House, and has been for as long as she can remember. When she and her best friend Poulton decide to explore it, they may discover they are not alone.
This book will make you want to wander your house with a gas-lamp or an open-flame candle while wearing a diaphanous white nightgown. Or maybe it will make you glad you don’t have to do that. Either way, it’s a spooky read set in the moody hills of Whales that’ll make you keep your candles lit late into the night.
This series is less dressing up and staring forlornly out a window and more jumping out of said window to land on a moving train and then take said train over from a league of villains in order to protect crown and country. If you’re unaware, Gail Carriger, Queen of Steam(punk), brings us the story of Sophronia, spy in training at Madame Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Set in an alternate 1850’s England, the attention to historical fact and imagined inventions are incredible. You may remember how I raved about the clothes in this series from my blog post, 6 Books with Wardrobes I’d Love to Own, certifying that the dresses in these books are all incredible and I want them on my body immediately. If you like vampires, werewolves, schools for evil geniuses, steam-powered gadgets, spies, and witticisms worthy of any Victorian lady or gent, then strap in!
by Ryan Graudin
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers won the war. The Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule, commemorating their Great Victory by hosting the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their combined continents with the prize being an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo. Yael, a death camp survivor, has one goal. Win the race and kill Hitler. Survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael can skinshift and must complete her mission impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. But when those close to Adele enter the race, Yael’s every move is watched.
This is the tale for those of us who watched Indiana Jones and then immediately started throwing around string like it was a whip and wearing our mother’s floppy sun-hats pretending they were made of leather. Now, let me fetch my riding goggles and my motorcycle. I’ve got to ride across the desert in the quest for revenge.