Monday, March 18, 2013

New historical novels from small and independent presses, part 1

This is the first of two posts showcasing ten recent historical novels from small and independent publishers, chosen primarily out of personal interest (I have copies of most of them).  Please explore the publishers' websites, linked below, for more details and additional books.



Biographical fiction about Frances Latham, daughter of Charles I's royal falconer in the 17th century, who defies her family's and society's expectations.  The novel moves from the English countryside to London to Ireland and concludes at last in colonial America. Fireship Press, which specializes in nautical and historical fiction and nonfiction (Sep '12, $19.95, trade pb, 395pp).



The story of the lost Khmer empire and the construction of the mountain-temple of Angkor Wat in what today is Cambodia, as seen through the eyes of a remarkable heroine, a woman named Sray.  River Books, a Bangkok-based press focusing on Thai arts and culture (Jan '13, $14.95, trade pb, 500pp).



This adventurous sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, set in 1641 Japan, follows a young Japanese woman forced to flee to England aboard a ship owned by the Dutch East India Company in order to save her life. Choc Lit, a UK press for women's romantic fiction (Feb '13, £7.99, trade pb, 400pp).



In the late 18th century, a woman finds adventure, danger, and romance as she journeys through the wilderness to rescue her kidnapped cousin.  Bell Bridge Books, which centers on but isn't limited to Southern fiction (Sept '12, $18.95, trade pb, 329pp).



In this fictional autobiography, 18th-century painter and printmaker William Hogarth tells of his life and the age in which he lived.  Overlook Press, an independent general interest publisher (Jan. '13, $26.95, hb, 272pp).



Literary fiction about a Japanese teenager who finds herself in the wrong place at the very wrong time - the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 - and how she and others, including some Americans, come to terms with the aftermath.  Norton, an independent US press (Mar '13, $26.95, hb, 384pp).



In this imaginative retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and one of its first authors, set in France and Venice in the 16th and 17th centuries, three women's stories intertwine.  Previously published by Random House Australia (see my interview with the author from last May).  Allison & Busby, a "small publisher of big books" (Feb '13, £12.99, hb, 496pp).



A historical mystery set in a distant era, 18th Dynasty Egypt, in which Akhnaten's ascent to the throne stirs up palace intrigue.  Poisoned Pen Press, which focuses on mysteries (Feb '13, $14.95 pb, $24.95 hb, 250pp).



A jester-for-hire gets caught up in the fierce rivalry between warring families in early 13th-century Florence when he's ordered to carry out a prank.  Fireship Press (Oct '12, $19.95, trade pb, 311pp).



Literary fiction on the changing fortunes of a tiny border town in 1930s Mexico after a local doctor claims to have found a cure for impotence - and promotes it far and wide via an enormous radio tower.  Steerforth, a publisher of quality fiction and nonfiction (Jan '13, $14.99, trade pb, 432pp).  Previously published by House of Anansi in Canada.

25 comments:

  1. These all look fantastic!

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    1. Glad you liked the list! It was fun coming up with titles to include. I'll be posting the second half probably Wednesday.

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  2. Wonderful and I have my eye on Bitter Greens.

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    1. It's well worth reading - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not sure which cover (Australian or UK) I like best. Either way it's very nice that it's more widely available.

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  3. I just love the mix of history from different places. Amazing books.

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    1. Me too! For my personal reading, I prefer to switch back and forth among different settings.

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  4. Thanks for posting this list - I'm always interested in historical fiction set in the Carolinas, especially the colonial era, so Keowee Valley looks fantastic!

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    1. Keowee Valley is one I bought, based on the subject and quality of the writing (I read the first part of it online). It comes with a number of blurbs from well-known authors (Adriana Trigiani, Ron Rash, Pat Conroy, and more). I don't normally pay special attention to blurbs, but the quantity was notable - as well as who said them. I hope the book is as good as they say!

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    2. This does look good, doesn't it? Actually, they all do--thanks Sarah, for posting the list ;-)

      For anyone looking for Revolutionary War-era mysteries set in the Carolinas, I highly recommend all the books by Suzanne Adair. Although her characters move through the various books, each story can be read as a stand-alone.

      After I search out Keowee Valley, I think I want to try Peregrine and Bitter Greens.

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    3. Hi Linda, thanks for recommending Suzanne Adair's novels. I have one of them (Camp Follower) on my Kindle (good to know it can stand alone!), and now that I'm checking out Amazon, I see she has a new Revolutionary War mystery out.

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  5. I, Hogarth looks wonderful!!

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    1. It was reviewed very positively in the NYT a couple of weeks ago (and they can be pretty grumpy), which is what got me interested. Plus I've seen it in a few places on Facebook. Sometimes social networking does help that way :)

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  6. Oddly disappointed by I, Hogarth. The book is very well written, perfectly researched. Tone matches time. But, ultimately, there's no story there, and this is a novel, after all. It's more like autobiography than a novel. As I'm already very familiar with this life and the time within which it is lived, there were no surprises. Is this my problem with the book then? If that's it, then it's just me and nothing about the book itself! :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it. I'm not as familiar with Hogarth's life, so perhaps I may be more surprised by the paths it takes? Your remark on "tone matches time" reflects a few other reviews I've read, and intrigues me. I do like a good story, though, so I'll bear your comments in mind.

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  7. Once again you are dangerous to my To Read list. There are several on here that I am really looking forward to. Especially, Peregrine, A Woman of Angkor, The Gilded Fan, and Out of Black.

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    1. I have copies of Peregrine and Woman of Angkor (so far) and was hoping to get reviews done this month - I'm not sure if I'll have enough time for that, but I will read them eventually!

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  8. Thanks, Sarah, for compiling this. I love your book previews, except for having to wait months for some of them to come out.

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    1. Thanks, Shauna! That's one reason I decided to do things a little differently this time... all of these books are out and available, for a change. And in looking at the pub dates, it appears I messed up in a few instances and put 2012 when I meant 2013. I'll go fix that. You'd think by March I would know what year it was.

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  9. I loved Bitter Greens and just finished reading Kate Forsyth's next book, The Wild Girl! So good!

    Of the others, I am looking forward to reading the Jennifer Cody Epstein book!

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    1. I'll have to get myself a copy of The Wild Girl. It looks like it will be out in the UK in July, and likely less expensive than the Australian version - but I may decide based on the cover art!

      I hope to get to reading The Gods of Heavenly Punishment soon. The author will be guest posting here sometime in the next month.

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  10. Thanks, I'm adding it to my reading list, although the category of "biographical fiction" always makes me nervous.

    There's no way that book can do justice to Frost.

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    1. Frost's poetry I'm familiar with, but I don't know as much about his life. It could be interesting.

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  11. Very exciting to see so many small press offerings. Perhaps these more agile companies will survive while some of the larger ones fade away? Big may not always be best!

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    1. I hope they'll be around for some time. A few of these publishers were founded within the past few years, although others like Norton have been around long enough to earn the term "distinguished" :)

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  12. I'm a bit late here, just been catching up on you posts. I have I, Hogarth but haven't read it yet. Right now I'm reading Bitter Greens, only 100 pages in but I love it!!

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