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!
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.
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
It’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
Sisters 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.
November is Historical Fiction month this year. Here are some of the titles students have picked to read:
All 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.
These 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.
A School for Unusual Girls : A Stranje House Novel by Kathleen Baldwin
What if you discovered that your family had been living a lie for years and that lie could cost them their lives? What would you do? This is the problem that Estrella de Madrigal faces in Alice Hoffman’s Incantation.
Estrella lives during the Spanish Inquisition when Jews were being persecuted by the community. The flames of hatred are spreading and Estrella is torn between the bliss of ignorance and the weight of truth as her world turns upside down. Betrayal, love and shocking truths come to light in this intense historical novel.
Emerald Green is the epic conclusion to the Ruby Red time-traveling trilogy, which also includes Sapphire Blue. Featuring 16-year old Gwyn–the newest member of the Circle of Twelve–a ghost and a demon, the series is a blend of fantasy and historical fiction. It will let you think that you know what is going on, but then pulls you in an entirely different direction. The characters will make you laugh and also want to yell at them in frustration. (But only occasionally…)
Emerald Green is so worth the read and will leave you with a very happy feeling inside.
New York City in 1926–flappers, the mob, fast-talking scam artists, change in the air–what could be more exciting? Oh, how about demons, ghosts, premonitions and a fight against pure evil?
Eighteen-year old Evie O’Neill has always been able to “divine” things. All she has to do is hold an object to learn about its owner. Usually she hides her gift, but sometimes her mouth outruns her brain and this time it’s gotten her banished from her home town to go live with her uncle in New York. Evie’s not too upset about that. In fact, she’s so not upset that she’s going to make sure she keeps her mouth running until the train has left the station. No use taking chances.
But New York has a few surprises in store for Evie. Along with new friends, exciting things to do and places to see (most of which her uncle really doesn’t need to know about), there are a few unexpected events. There’s a con artist, more than one spirit, and a lot of unexplainable happenings. In fact, things are pos-i-tute-ly hopping. But, being a bit of a con artist herself, Evie jumps right in to take care of things, including rejuvenating her uncle’s dilapidated museum and finding a serial killer. Oh, did I mention the serial killer?
The Diviners is a genre bender–a fast-moving, fast-talking historical fiction novel that combines humor and horror with suspense and action. What a great combination!