Posted in book review

3 Fast and Fun Summer Reads

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus is a smart, suspenseful mystery featuring the stereotypical high school cast: The Brain, The Beauty, The Dealer, The Athlete and The Outcast. But, as we all know, stereotypes rarely hold true. And boy are they busted here. Each chapter reveals another secret from another point of view, moving seamlessly between characters as the plot unfolds. Is it murder or an accident? You won’t know until the final pages… Clever writing and a good cast of characters combined with a suspicious death and lots of secrets make this the perfect summer read.

 

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl is a cozy historical mystery for Jane Austen fans, featuring Jane Austen as the main character. Based in part on real people in Ms. Austen’s life, the characters are well-drawn and, of course, the conversation is witty. It’s a fun read that includes a brooding yet handsome man, a little bit of love, and a murder to solve. Best of all, it’s set in the middle of winter–the perfect choice for a hot summer day.

 

I could not put down The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. What a fascinating story told from the point of view of a teenager with short-term amnesia. Yes, I know what you’re thinking — it’s gotta be a pretty short story. It’s surprisingly not. Instead it’s a complicated mystery/coming-of-age novel with a wonderful cast of characters. No dead bodies but plenty of surprising twists as Flora tries to unravel secrets from her past while simultaneously dealing with love, friendship, family and, of course, no memories. Plus, a road trip! Highly recommended!

 

 

 

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Posted in book review

The Forbidden Orchid by Sharon Biggs Waller

Elodie. a young British girl living in a small town the late 1800s, always follows the rules. She has to because that’s what young Victorian women do. Respectable females stay at home and Elodie definitely is respectable. Besides she must take care of her many sisters and her mother while her father travels the world hunting rare plants. Their life isn’t luxurious or exciting but they get by.

 

Elodie, with a natural talent for botany, longs to join her father on his adventures to exotic countries. Unfortunately, she knows that is just not going to happen. Females don’t do that type of thing; besides, her family would fall apart without her. But when her father disappears and their fortunes reverse, Elodie gets her wish in ways she could not have expected. She sees no way forward for her family unless she can find her father and get him to return to China to recover a rare orchid.

The Forbidden Orchid explores the lifestyle of the naturalists of the Victorian era, complete with a sea journey to the exotic world of China. Elodie’s adventures lead her through many unexpected twists and turns. No spoilers but, rest assured, there is suspense, evil villains and, of course, romance. The author also pulls in some serious themes covering addiction, feminism, honor and loyalty. Elodie is a strong, likable, impulsive heroine whose personality combines maturity with naivety and her fellow characters have many dimensions. The end result makes for a compelling action-packed historical fiction adventure and a thoroughly enjoyable read with plenty of historical detail.

 

Interested? Learn more in this interview with Sharon Biggs Waller here: http://toriavey.com/toris-corner/2016/05/the-forbidden-orchid-author-interview/.

 

Rating:     
Genre: Historical Fiction
Submitted by: Ms. Bing

Posted in book review

Two WWII Historical Novels You Will Absolutely Love

Set in Nazi-occupied France and and Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, these two novels, while quite different, both highlight courage–not the bravery that soldiers show on the battlefield but the slow-burning quiet courage that only appears when you see humanity at its worst.

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

booksIt’s 1943 in Amsterdam. Hanneke and her parents are trying to live quietly and unnoticed during the Nazi occupation, although Hanneke secretly has started finding black market goods to help put food on the table. When a neighbor asks her to help find a Jewish girl who has seemingly vanished into thin air, Hanneke reluctantly accepts the job. But, as the search progresses, Hanneke starts to realize that hiding–from the Nazis and from her own secrets–is not an option. She soon finds herself pulled into a network of student resistance activities as she attempts to solve the mystery and save the missing girl. Along the way, Hanneke learns lessons about love, courage and friendship.

The Girl in the Blue Coat combines suspense with historical fiction. Hanneke’s story is compelling, the pacing is fast while still allowing room for introspection, and the outcome is not quite what you’ll expect. It’s a good YA read that adults also will enjoy.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

books-1Sisters Viann and Isabelle have a complicated relationship, loving yet marred by the rejection of their father and the loss of their mother when they were children. Viann is the older steadfast one, living a quiet life in the French countryside with her young daughter while her husband is fighting. Isabelle is the outspoken, impulsive one, quick to fight back against the Nazis. When their father, rejecting Isabelle yet again, sends her to live with Viann during the occupation, their complicated relationship comes to a breaking point and Isabelle goes away to become a resistance fighter. As the story unfolds, we learn that courage comes in many forms, whether it’s a quiet resistance born of necessity or an active resistance born of nature.

This amazing historical novel has it all–hardship and heartbreak, suspense, families, love, loyalty, betrayal. You will not be able to put it down.

Kristin Hannah on The Nightingale

 

Submitted by Ms. Bing

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Posted in book review

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

scytheIn the future, humans are more or less immortal. Society is controlled by the Thunderhead, an AI cloud that has conquered all our problems: hunger, war, pollution, disease, death. So…. I know what you’re thinking–Thunderhead runs amok and goes all dystopian on the world. Wrong. People love Thunderhead. It has every thing worked out and life is pretty good. The only problem is over-population, which is an unavoidable byproduct of immortality. But not to worry because the world has the Scythes–an honorable, fair system of using assassins to randomly kill people. (Ha, that’s one sentence I never thought I’d be writing…) The Scythe system is the only part of humanity not governed by the Thunderhead but it follows strict rules to make sure deaths are not discriminatory or targeted. So far, it’s been working pretty well. But humans will be human so that can only last so long…

In this surprisingly non-dystopian world, we also have Citra and Rowan, two teens who are chosen as apprentice Scythes. Only one of them will be picked to continue on as a full Scythe, causing some tension between them. But their situation also causes them to bond as they move from relatively normal lives into one in which death is an every day occurrence. And then, they start to find out that the system is not as honorable as they thought. Politics, combined with a group of sociopaths, have corrupted the Scythe system and chance has put Citra and Rowan right in the middle. Before they know it, they are embroiled in life or death situations that most of the world doesn’t even realize are happening. Only the outcome is sure — one of them will die.

Fast-paced, suspenseful and interesting, this is a book that is hard to put down. Citra and Rowan are strong, thoughtful characters, as are Scythe Faraday and Scythe Curie. The plot throws some twists at you while periodic journal entries tell the back story and shed insight into the motivations of the adult characters. Highly recommended!

 

 

Find SCYTHE in the BEHS Library

Submitted by Ms. Bing

Genre: Science Fiction

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Posted in book review

What the Book Club is Reading Now: Historical Fiction

November is Historical Fiction month this year. Here are some of the titles students have picked to read:

lightAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

If you haven’t read Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the lives of a blind French girl and a young German soldier in World War II, stop what you’re doing and go read it now. A beautifully written story that captures both the realities and emotions of the time, this is one historical novel you don’t want to miss.

gravesThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

New York in the 1890s — what a perfect setting for a historical mystery: the gilded age for the rich side-by-side with appalling living conditions for the poor, the beginning of new freedoms for women and the middle class smack up against the restrictions of a structured society. In the middle of all this lives the rich and privileged 17-year old Jo Montfort whose life is upended when her father kills himself. Jo always has conformed to societal norms while secretly wishing for a career as a journalist just like the famous Nelly Bly. Slowly rebelling, she starts to question the story of her father’s death. As she sets out to uncover the truth, she learns some shocking truths about the real world, meets some interesting characters–including the dashing but very ineligible reporter Eddie Gallagher–and becomes involved in some very scary situations. In the end, Jo has to decide if she’s willing to risk her reputation and even her life in order to vindicate her father’s reputation.

baldwingrayA School for Unusual Girls : A Stranje House Novel by Kathleen Baldwin

A fun mashup of historical fiction, magic and steampunk reviewed previously here.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Set in Siberia, the award-winning story of 15-year old Lina’s harsh life in prison camp is reviewed here.

Other Titles include Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See; The People of the Book by Geraldine March; Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury and, hopefully, more to come…

hfbooks

 

 

Posted in about us, book review

Four Fun Fantasy Novels

books-6How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, set in Salem, Massachusetts, brings the old Salem Witch Trials to life. Fifteen-year-old Samantha Mather has moved to Salem, into her father’s childhood home with her stepmother because her father is in a coma. It’s been 300 years after the Salem witch trials, but Samantha soon realizes that time doesn’t matter to the descendants of the original Salem witches. From the first day of school, she finds herself the target of eerie happenings, not to mention all too real glares and snubs from the kids in school known as “The Descendants,” who really, really resent her for being a descendant of Cotton Mather–you know, the one who almost single-handedly burnt their ancestors at the stake. Apparently, the sins of the fathers are taken very seriously in Salem, as is witchcraft. The only ally Samantha can count on is her new next door neighbor and his mother, which is good, because life at home also is getting creepy and Samantha starts to realize that ghosts and witches, complete with evil intentions, may be all too real. Can she trust the cute next door neighbor or is he part of the conspiracy?

Written with both humor and creepiness, How to Hang a Witch capably combines suspense, magic and horror. Samantha’s character is a likable blend of brains, awkwardness, grit and smarts. It appears to be a stand alone, but I certainly would love to see a sequel.

Watch the Trailer!

books-1In The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, Irene is a professional spy for a shadowy organization that exists in multiple realities. That’s right, there is more than one world out there and when Irene gets sent on a mission, she never knows what reality she’ll end up in–or what type of enemy she’ll face. Some enemies are real monsters, others could be the person you trust most. Now, she and her new enigmatic but cute (not that she’s noticed…) assistant, Kai, have been sent to an alternate London reality. Their mission: retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: by the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that in this world supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something–secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option–because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself.

This book is so much fun. The characters are real, the world-building fantastic. Can’t wait for the sequel!

booksPaper and Fire by Rachel Caine, continues The Great Library dystopian/fantasy series (I love the trend of fantasy libraries!) with non-stop action and suspense. Jess Brightwell, demoted to a soldier in the Library’s army at the end of Ink and Bone, is determined to rescue his friend Thomas. He’s up against almost insurmountable odds though. He doesn’t know who to trust, the deadly automata seemed to be programmed to kill him, and the leaders of the Library definitely want him dead. Can he navigate his way through the maze of real danger and, if he succeeds, will he be saving his friend or bringing about the fall of civilization?

An excellent sequel to Ink and Bone, this is a great read for those who like action and suspense, perfect for fans of The Maze Runner series.

books-2Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley, finally released four years after the The Rook, is well worth the wait. (Well, not really–four years? Seriously? I had to pull out The Rook to remember the storyline. Anyway… ) Myfanwy Thomas, the hero in The Rook, plays a smaller role in this story as she tries to negotiate a tricky merger between the Grafters and the Brotherhood of the Checquy. The merger is tricky because the two groups hate each other, based on the fact that they tried to exterminate each other a hundred or so years ago. Not surprising that only a small section of each group realizes that the merger is the only way they will survive. As Myfanway tries to keep the merger moving, two new characters, Felicity Clements of the Brotherhood and Odette Leliefeld of the Grafters take over the main roles. Their jobs: 1) spy on each other and 2) save the world from really bad things.

Just as he did with The Rook, O’Malley combines suspense with humor and an assortment of odd and somewhat scary happenings in Stiletto. The book is a bit long but lots of fun; you definitely should read The Rook first so you’ll know what’s going on.

Watch the Trailer for The Rook Files!

There you have it, four fun fantasies for fall.

Submitted by Ms. Bing