Sarah Johnson

About me

I first joined the HNS in 1998 after seeing Richard Lee’s post about the Society on a Usenet group. Shortly thereafter I signed on as a US-based reviews editor and got the word out about the magazine to American readers and publishers. Now, nearly 18 years later, I serve as the overall book review editor for the Historical Novels Review. I’ve been reading and collecting historical novels for many years and also review for Booklist and Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. My published books include Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre (2005) and Historical Fiction II (2009). I’ve also written for Bookmarks Magazine and Canada’s Globe & Mail. For my full-time job, I’m a reference librarian and professor at Eastern Illinois University, where I answer research questions, teach workshops, and administer electronic journals and e-books. My husband and I share our home in rural Illinois with too many cats and about 10,000 books.

From my website

Lilly Sommers' The Dark Dream, an epic of the gold rush in 19th-century Australia

My house is full of older books I’d purchased at least a decade ago, but due to ongoing commitments, I rarely have time to read them. I was starting to feel guilty about this, though, so picked this one up after finishing my latest Booklist assignment.Published by Arrow/Random House Australia…

Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris, a historical epic about the crypto-Jews of New Mexico

Where do we come from?  Focusing on the crypto-Jews of the American Southwest and their European ancestors, Morris’ (The Jazz Palace, 2015) enthralling saga ponders this question in both a genealogical and astronomical sense.Seeking extra spending money, 14-year-old Miguel Torres, an amateur stargazer from a tiny New Mexican town in…

Review of Charles Frazier's Varina, about the Confederacy's unlikely first lady

What legacy befalls those who find themselves on history’s wrong side? Frazier’s (Nightwoods, 2011) fourth Southern historical novel centers on Varina Howell Davis, the unlikely first lady of the doomed Confederacy.Its nonlinear structure roams across her tragic life’s vast landscape, from her girlhood as an impoverished Mississippi planter’s well-educated daughter…

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