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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the...

June 1, 2023

3 Historical Fiction Stories You May Have Missed

by Donna Huber


I've been trying to catch up on my to-be-reviewed pile. I recently read 3 novels of historical fiction that were published in the past year. They were all enjoyable in their own way. If you are looking for something to read in historical fiction and haven't picked them up yet, you should consider them for your to-be-read pile. Also, if you are participating in the Big Book Summer Challenge hosted by Book by Book, all three will qualify. But don't let the big page number scare you.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Circus Train by Amita Parikh

book cover of young adult historical fiction novel The Circus Train by Amita Parikh
December 2022; G.P. Putnam's Sons; 978-0593539989
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); YA historical fiction

The Circus Train
 is billed as Water for Elephants meets Night Circus WWII novel. I really liked Water for Elephants, but couldn't get into Night Circle (the magical realism wasn't working for me). So I wasn't sure what to expect from this novel.

First, I'm not sure I would consider this a WWII novel. The book spans quite a bit of history starting with the 1929 Stock Market crash and ending in the 1950s with some commentary on Indian independence. It does go through WWII but largely the circus is on the outskirts of the conflict. 

I didn't realize that the novel was young adult. It contained the YA tropes that I've outgrown, but I think actual young adults will enjoy the novel which is focused on Lena Papadopoulos a young girl whose father is a master illusionist. She had polio as a one-year-old and didn't learn to walk. Being confined to a wheelchair is never easy, but when you are among acrobats and contornists you are constantly reminded fo what you can't do. Though her father tries to give her the world, what she wants most are friends. When she meets the young waif Alexandre her life is forever changed.

At times, I found my attention wandering and by the end I just wanted the story to be over. I would have liked it to have been a little more concise. I also had trouble connecting with the characters. But I think all of this is because it was more young adult than I was expecting. It is a great coming-of-age story about a young woman who overcame great challenges during a very tumult time period.

Buy The Circus Train at Amazon

The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

book cover of The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
September 2022; Sourcebooks Landmark; 978-1728249797
audio, ebook, print (496 pages); historical fiction

Who better to be a spy than a master illusionist? 

In some ways The Ways We Hide is similar to The Circus Train. It starts with a young girl and her father in a mining town. In many ways, it is a coming-of-age story as the story follows Fenna Vos from childhood to adulthood. And even though it also spans a period of time that starts in 1929 and goes past the end of WWII, I felt like this novel is a WWII fiction. 

It was a little slow at the beginning when we are introduced to the characters. But I once I connected with the character, I was fully invested in the story. And it becomes difficult to put the book down. 

I like WWII stories that tell about a piece of history that I haven't read much about. Fenna is recruited by MI-9 to invent gadgets for soldiers and spies. She had been the mastermind behind an illusionist show. Her friend Ari was the star of the show but she is the one that figured out the tricks. 

When Ari is accused of being a traitor, Fenna must take her bag of tricks to the field in order to prove his innocence. From the moment she lands on French soil, she must rely on every sleight of hand and mode of misdirection she has ever conjured.

The story was intense at times. And while I didn't get the ending that I was hoping for it was still a satisfactory ending. I really liked the characters and it was hard to say goodbye to them when I closed the book.

Be sure to read the author's note at the end and McMorris provides more information about the true events she based her story on and where she took creative license with the history.

Buy The Ways We Hide at Amazon

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

book cover of WWII historical fiction novel The Golden Dove by Martha Hall Kellly
April 2023; Ballantine Books; 978-0593354889
audio, ebook, print (528 pages); historical fiction

Never have 500+ pages flown by as it did for The Golden Doves. I fell in love with Martha Hall Kelly's writing when I read The Lilac Girls and the sequels. Even when she writes about historical periods I don't usually like reading, I love the book. So I was disappointed that it took me this long to get to the book, but at the same time, I'm glad I had it to read during my vacation this week. I didn't have to put the book!

In The Golden Doves, Kelly returns to WWII and women who were imprisoned in Ravensbruk. The story is told from two points of view and in multiple timelines. Josie is the daughter of an American diplomat. During WWII, Josie, her mother, and her grandmother were left behind in France while her father was in Rome. In the book's present-day (the 1950s), she is working for U.S. Army intelligence helping to locate prominent German scientists to recruit to the USA so that Russia doesn't get them first. In reality, though she is hunting Germans that have escaped arrest. During the war, she worked for the Resistance as a radio operator.

Josie's partner was Arlette a Parisian woman who was raised by her German aunt. She becomes pregnant by her German sweetheart; as he has been sent to the front, her aunt sees a way to curry favor with the Third Reich. She takes Arlette to a Lebensborn home. Arlette escapes with her child and flees to France where her parents had lived before their deaths. With the help of the Resistance, she is able to locate the apartment they had left to her. In the book's present day, she works at a local coffee shop that only employs people who had been in the camps. She is also desperately looking for her son - she never believed he was dead after he disappeared from the camp near the end of the war.

The flashbacks to the war years and the changing points of view were easy to follow. Little snippets are dangled in front of us, and I was anxious to return to their war service to see what happened.

I really liked the characters. I wonder if there will be a series spun from this book. While complete on its own, there were moments at the end that would that could lead to a sequel.

Of the four novels I've read by this author, this is my favorite book - at least until a new book comes out.

Buy The Golden Dove at Amazon



Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.



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