Two fairly new books that I have read recently stand out. Both are historical fiction.
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (May, 2011): This compelling story is based on fact. Caleb was the first native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665. His early life on Martha's Vineyard is told from the point of view of Bethia, the preacher's daughter. There is a deep connection between the two that has been going on since early adolescence. Of course, all this is imagined by the writer as there are few records of Caleb's life. The clash of cultures and ideas figures prominently in this story. The physical descriptions of the island of Martha's Vineyard bring it to life. Geraldine Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize winning author who is married to Nathaniel Philbrick who published Mayflower in 2006, which is a history of the Pilgrims arrival in 1620 and on through the wars between the Native Americans and the settlers. Both authors live on Martha's Vineyard. I would also highly recommend Mayflower.
The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy, (June 2011): The island of Guernsey is the setting for this moving novel which takes place in the period of WWII when the island was occupied by the Germans. The story revolves around the illicit relationship of an English woman whose husband is away at war and one of the German occupiers. The deprivations of war time are clearly depicted as well as the physical beauty of the island. By the end of the book, I was in tears.