Esmeralda Santiago “Conquistadora”

August 11th, 2011

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Esmeralda Santiago has written three volumes of memoir, including the acclaimed “When I Was Puerto Rican” — but she had never delved into the true story of the land of her birth.

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Now she does, in a lush novel set on a Puerto Rican sugar plantation in the mid 19th century, called “Conquistadora.” The story begins in Spain, where young Ana finds herself drawn to the small Caribbean island nation as she falls in love with Ramon, the young man who will take her there as his bride.

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Puerto Rico is not always a very hospitable place in the 1800s, and then there’s the ugly inconvenient truth about slavery, but somehow Ana finds her destiny.

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Diana Gabaldon “An Echo in the Bone”

October 2nd, 2009

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The outcome of the American Revolution is in question, as Diana Gabaldon‘s book “An Echo in the Bone” begins. In question, that is, to all those present except Claire Randall. She, of course, knows exactly what will happen, because she is a visitor from the 20th century.

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But while she knows the broad strokes, what concerns her is the fate of her husband, 18th century Scotsman Jamie Fraser, in this seventh book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

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Sarah Dunant “Sacred Hearts”

July 31st, 2009

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When 16-year-old Serafina’s father relegates her to Italy’s Santa Caterina convent in 1570, to break up a forbidden romance, Serafina feels as though her life is over. But in Sarah Dunant‘s novel “Sacred Hearts” the nuns absorb their newest novice into a culture that is richer, more diverse, more political than you may have expected.

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Harry Turtledove “The Man With the Iron Heart”

August 24th, 2008

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Every good novel is, at its heart, a story of “what if” – but alternate history is an entire “what if” unto itself. In the case of Harry Turtledove‘s book “The Man With the Iron Heart,” it’s this: what if V-E Day didn’t actually end the Second World War in Europe?

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What if some Nazis decided to keep on fighting a guerrilla war, leading to a grinding, protracted conflict played out .. well, played out much like what we’re in now, in Iraq? It’s a new and different kind of challenge for the man known as the Master of Alternative History.

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Andre Dubus III “The Garden of Last Days”

June 16th, 2008

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It’s the eve of the September 11th attacks, and in a seedy strip club in Florida a Muslim immigrant named Bassam is at once fascinated and repulsed by the earthly pleasures he’s indulging in.

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But in Andre Dubus III‘s novel “The Garden of Last Days,” another drama is unfolding, too, as another customer makes an impulsive decision that could unravel his life and others.

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