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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Submitted by: Ms. Bing
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.
Submitted by Ms. Bing
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 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!
Submitted by Ms. Bing
Genre: Science Fiction
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
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…
Sometimes you just gotta do something different. That’s not exactly what Zoe was thinking when she first met Digby or when she next met Digby, or even when she tried to hide from Digby but, apparently, that’s what life was thinking. Or maybe life was just in the mood for a big practical joke–with Zoe right in the middle of it. Or maybe it wasn’t life at all–maybe it was all Digby.
Zoe’s life has been in a bit of upheaval. Her parents recently divorced, she and her mom moved, and she’s in a new school for junior year. So, when she uncharacteristically cuts school one day, you can’t really blame her. Unfortunately, that landed her in detention where she met Philip Digby, the somewhat quirky, a little bit odd, somewhat cute, a little bit of a big pain classmate, who seems destined to drag her into trouble. Before she knows it, Zoe is investigating a missing persons cold case along with a slew of other unusual happenings around town. There are explosives involved, more cutting class, some lying that she’s really sorry about, and what appears to be a very strange goings on at the neighbor’s house. There’s a lot of mystery, a lot of funny situations (if by funny, you mean embarrassing), and more suspense than you would think.
Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly is a nice mash-up of Ferris Bueller meets the Scooby-Doo gang (without the dog and the ghosts). A good, fun mystery with characters you will love.
Submitted by: Ms. Bing
Find Trouble is a Friend of Mine in the BEHS Library
The 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.
Rating: 4 stars
Check Out The Fire Sermon in the BEHS Catalog!