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…

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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

 

Posted in book review

Spring Reads – Action & Suspense to Give Your Brain a Break

Here are some fun books that you definitely should add to your spring reading list. Unless you don’t like great stories, likeable characters, fun plot twists, and lots of action. In that case, you probably should skip these.

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The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Elizabeth Grey might be female, rather delicate looking, and just a tad insecure but she’s also one of the best witch hunters out there. If you’re smart, you might not want to turn your back on her. On the other hand, if you have her loyalty you can be sure that she has your back. The question, in this plot-twisting magical thriller, is who should Elizabeth give her loyalty to? The good guys–who might be the bad guys? Or the bad guys–who might be the good guys?

I don’t want to give too much away here but I can say The Witch Hunter delivers. With a fast-moving story line, believable characters, chase scenes, lots of magic, a little bit of romance and some credible suspense, how can you go wrong? Plus, even though it’s a series (The King Slayer is coming in June), the ending is satisfying with the promise of more to come–no dreadful cliffhanger leaving you swinging in the wind. And, can I just say thank you for a normal name for the main character?

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Solara Brooks (you see what I’m saying?) is heading just about as far away as one can get–to the outer galaxy, in fact. Unfortunately, she has a little problem–no money. And another little problem–a criminal record. But she does have a job waiting if she can just get transport in exchange for work. Well, as you can imagine, she does get transport. The only problem is her new boss, Doran Spaulding, has never liked her and is planning on making her life miserable. The trip takes an interesting turn, however, when Doran threatens to drop her off in the middle of the journey with no resources. Suddenly, a miserable but necessary space flight turns into a dangerous road trip through the galaxies and Solara finds herself part of a starship crew that may or may not also be on the run. Lots of plot twists combined with space pirates and other dangers make this a fun SciFi read and, hopefully, the start of a new series.

Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

Lady Truthful Newington (fortunately known to her friends as “Newt”) is about to celebrate her 18th birthday and be introduced to London society. Naturally, she’s excited, especially because she finally will see the amazing and magical Newington Emerald, a family treasure that she will inherit when she turns 25. Her birthday dinner goes a bit awry, however, when the Emerald gets stolen and her father becomes ill. Not one to sit around and wait, Newt decides that she needs to take matters into her own hands to get the Emerald back. Needless to say, events do not go quite as she plans and she gets herself into a series of magical mishaps that just seem to get worse by the day. Fortunately, there are several cute guys involved, not to mention subterfuge and sorcery. This is a magical romp of a story that is perfect for spring reading. Enjoy it with tea and crumpets on the side.

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Georgiana likes science and she’s curious, two personality quirks that just are not acceptable in London society in Regency England. After she accidentally burns down the stables, Georgiana is banished to Stranje House where girls go to be disciplined into acceptable behavior. After only an hour in the house, Georgiana realizes she needs to escape. But her curiosity soon gets the best of her. Is Stranje House what it’s supposed to be? If so, then why are there secret passages and, apparently, secret meetings going on? And what about her fellow inmates/students who seem to have even more unusual “personality quirks” than Georgiana has? You’ll  have to read it to find out, but you’ll definitely enjoy this fast-paced genre-bending historical fiction/suspense/paranormal/gothic novel.



All of these books feature strong female leads supported by a well-developed cast of characters, both male and female. Combine that with fast-moving plots and quirky characters and you have some fun reading–perfect for students who want to take a break from tests and research papers in the spring.

Submitted by Ms. Bing

Find all of these books and more in the BEHS Library!

Posted in book review

Fantasy Picks … What the Book Club Read Last Month

So many excellent books in the fantasy genre lately! Here are some of the top fantasy picks the BEHS Library Book Club read last month. Curiously, several have characters who are thieves. Perhaps not so curiously, none involve football players so football fans who were lured in by the Fantasy Picks title, sorry about that … but stick around to learn about some fun books to read!

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A few of the fantasy novels the Book Club read in December. See short reviews of four of the titles below.

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab – Four separate but coexisting Londons, four different levels of magic. Two people left who can travel between the worlds and one street thief who accidentally gets caught up in the political intrigue between the worlds. When Kell, one of the few who can travel between the different versions of the city, is tricked into bringing a dangerous artifact across the border, a chain reaction of disasters embroils him and street thief Lila Bard in what could be the end of all four worlds. A fast-moving fun read that reveals secrets and character twists as the plot unfolds.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Set in the gritty underworld of Ketterdam, where both magic and thieves prosper, Six of Crows is the somewhat dark story of a dangerous, definitely illegal, and virtually impossible quest to kidnap a chemist from an unassailable fortress. This is not a noble quest, the prize is a huge pot of money. Kaz, a mysterious young con artist, assembles his ragtag band of brilliant loners into a Ocean’s Eleven-ish type band of anti-heroes who have what it takes to survive on their own and, hopefully, beat impossible odds. Fully realized characters who play against each other, plenty of action, and detailed world building make this a good read.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand – What’s not to like when you mashup steampunk, fantasy and dystopia with a twist on The Nutcracker? Clara Stole, the genteel daughter of the mayor, leads a prim and proper life while secretly being trained in self-defense. On one fateful Christmas Eve she finds out why she’s been training all these years after her home is brutally attacked, her father kidnapped, a statue comes alive and a doorway to another world is revealed. Follow Clara and Nicholas on their wild adventure to save her family and the kingdom.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – A fantasy/dystopian crossover with a lot of action and plot twists. In a world where people with silver blood and magical abilities rule, life is brutally hard for the ungifted red-blooded humans. While trying to survive in this dystopian world, 17-year old pickpocket Mare inadvertently finds herself embroiled in deception, rebellion, the queen’s court, and possible love interests with two different guys. So many twists and turns, trials and trust issues make Red Queen a fun read.

Posted in book review

Dystopian Fiction – What the BEHS Book Club Read Last Month

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Every month, the BEHS Library Book Club picks a different genre to read then we share the ones we like best. November was all about dystopian novels. Here are some of the favorites:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, a fantasy/dystopian novel that gets rave reviews here. After her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover at the empire’s military academy in exchange for help from rebel Scholars. There she meets a soldier named Elias, and they soon realize that their fates not only are intertwined but could affect the future of the Empire itself.

402057_mBoneshaker by Cherie Priest, a steampunk zombie-infested dystopian novel with airships. Do I really need to say more? I’m checking this one out today!

The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan mixes science fiction with dystopia. Stranded in Honolulu after a worldwide electronics failure, Leilani and her father must make their way home to Hilo amid escalating perils, including her severe epilepsy.

The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn, a gripping post-apocalyptic novel reviewed here earlier. After a nuclear bomb explodes, teens separated from their parents set off on a road trip to find help, books-2learning quite a bit along the way.

The Girl with All the Gifts by Mike Carey is an unusual zombie dystopian novel, well worth the read. Melanie–smart, caring, curious, “alive”–has spent her life in a cage, only allowed out while strapped to a wheel chair. As the story unfolds, we learn more about Melanie, the facility she’s in and life in a post-zombie America where the good guys aren’t necessarily good and the zombies just might have something to teach us all.

So many dystopians to choose from–post apocalyptic, science fiction, paranormal, mash-ups of all sorts, or straight up dictatorships… What’s your favorite dystopian novel?

Posted in book review

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

booksThe Fire Sermon is a great dystopian novel about what happens after all technology burns up in a nuclear apocalypse. It takes place years after the earth has been all but destroyed and the human gene pool has gone a bit wacky. For some reason, only twins are born — one twin is perfect (the Alpha) while the other twin is “deformed” in some way (the Omega). The connection between the twins (if one dies so does the other) is really cool and kind of freaky. You could just be walking around one day and drop dead because your twin got kicked in the head by a horse.

When Zach, an Alpha with a lot of ambition and power, turns on his twin Cass, an Omega whose “deformity” is a psychic ability, she finds herself on the run with an unexpected stranger. And she never expected to end up where she does. The twist that came at the end was unexpected and a little shocking. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!

Submitted by Cathy D.

Genre: Dystopian

Rating: 4 stars star_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellowstar_yellow

 


Check Out The Fire Sermon in the BEHS Catalog!