The first Seniors I’m honoring are actually a small group of young ladies who would constantly share books with each other. They preferred contemporary Christian fiction, and one girl especially LOVES anything Karen Kingsbury.
The Baxter Family series by Karen Kingsbury
This series, which now is somewhere around 25 books long is grouped into books of 3-4 as it focuses on different members of the Baxter family and their lives.
- Contemporary Christian Fiction Fans: The Baxter family is realistically flawed and faces a variety of different challenges over the years. Perfect for readers who like to read about realistic people with realistic problems.
The Maya Davis series by Erynn Mangum
This three book series follows a normal twenty something young woman who works at a coffee shop and her everyday joys and sorrows as friends start to get engaged and eventually love finds her as well.
- Clean Romance Fans/Contemporary Christian Fiction Fans: This series is perfect for readers who like realistic heroines who face mild problems and have a cute love story.
Nothing could convince the next Senior to squeeze in some reading time like a good forensic story or a darkly humorous mystery. Is it any wonder she wants to go into the forensics field herself?
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Larson chronicles the Worlds Fair of 1893 from the moment of conception through till its close and aftermath, the life and crimes of Dr. H.H. Holmes and how Geyer eventually uncovered his evil deeds, and the assassination of the Chicago mayor in October 1893. For much of the book Larson alternates chapters between plans for the fair and the key people involved (foremost Burnham & Olmstead) with all that H.H. Holmes was up to unbeknownst to anyone. Every once in a while a chapter on Prendergrast (assassin of the mayor) would appear.
Note: Click on title for notes on content.
- History Lovers/True Crime Fans/Nonfiction Fans: Larson is able to weave history in a way that just leaps off the page. You would think hearing about architect, engineer, and landscape plans for the fair would be dry as dirt, but Larson makes it all quite interesting. Of course, the parts on Holmes are horrifyingly captivating. I found it interesting to connect older parts of Chicago as described in 1893 with present day. In all, a very fascinating read.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
The seven pupils at St. Etheldreda's School for Young Ladies have quite the conundrum on their hands when both their headmistress and her brother keel over at supper on Sunday night. (You'll forgive them for not being emotionally overwrought about the deaths. Mrs. Plackett and her brother were not exactly known for their kind or generous natures.) Still, all seven young ladies come from home situations which are less than ideal, and when faced with returning to their homes or covering up the mysterious deaths, they opt for the latter. So Mrs. Plackett and her brother get buried in the backyard, the rumor is spread that Mr. Godding had to suddenly leave for India and that Mrs. Plackett is indisposed, and the girls decide to proceed with life as normal as possible and teach each other. Smooth Kitty is in charge of figuring out the financial aspects of their situation, and Pocked Louise is given firm reign of the murder investigation. For murder it was. Louise is able to determine that both adults were killed by cyanide poisoning, and after eliminating each other as suspects, the girls must look out into the community of Ely to figure out who wanted Mrs. Plackett and Mr. Godding out of the way. It will take all of their collected talents to avoid discovery, survive the strawberry social, and solve the murder before someone else joins the headmistress under the cherry tree out back.
Note: Some violence/disturbing scenes.
- Victorian Lit Fans/Dark Humor Fans/Mystery Lovers: This one has a decidedly British dark humor flavor, that can be an acquired taste. Somehow, I've got the necessary taste buds....maybe it's my penchant for Victorian lit? Whatever it is, I loved it. The first chapter reminded me quite a bit of Arsenic and Old Lace in a small Victorian English village, and after I found myself thinking that, the very next chapter even had an appearance of elderberry cordial. That made me positive Berry was channeling Kesselring at least a bit. When I went looking, I even found an interview with Horn Book where Berry admits that she was trying to do a comedy in the style of British dark comedies, like Arsenic and Old Lace and The Importance of Being Ernst. The murder mystery was deliciously executed, and overall I found this book satisfying a craving for a Victorian British society with a dose of murder I didn't even realize I needed. I was able to figure out the murderer about halfway through the book, but I could not figure out the motive. And I had no idea who pulled off the less deadly crime that happens (and no, I'm not telling you what it is). It was a good mix of giving readers enough to figure out some of the mystery on their own while still keeping them guessing. If you're worried about the morality of it all, the girls do not get away with it for long at all and there's a good dose of repentance and reform for them at the end. Quite satisfactory.
The next Senior I’m honoring has the most eclectic reading habits of the bunch, but she especially loves dystopia and thriller.
The Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman
(Review for book one, Unwind.) In a future USA that has survived a second Civil War between pro-life and pro-choice armies, the resulting truce included "The Bill of Life" which says that "human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen." But between thirteen and eighteen parents can "unwind" children, that is have them dismantled into parts and live on in others. This book primarily follows three teens who are Unwinds: Connor, the teen’s parents are having him unwound because he's trouble, Risa, the ward of the State who is being unwound because of budget cuts, and Lev, who is being unwound as a tithe. The three cross paths when Connor is trying to escape juvey-cops, causes mayhem on a highway giving Risa a chance to escape her bus to the harvest camp, and Connor uses Lev as a hostage to escape himself and rescue Lev. Then it is a race to stay out of the hands of the juvey-cops and alive until they can get to a relatively safe place, called the Graveyard, and hopefully last there until they reach eighteen. But even the Graveyard has its dangers. (Seriously, throwing hundreds of mostly troubled teens together, what do you expect?) Connor, Risa, and Lev don't set out to make society realize the ethical issues of Unwinding, they're just hoping to survive in one piece. But they might come to realize that survival isn't the highest goal.
Note: Click on title for notes on content.
- Dystopia Fans/Ethical Dilemma Ponderers/High-octane Fiction Fans: The pace is fast, you're kept guessing, and Shusterman includes a lot of ethical food for thought but it never feels like he is preachy at all. And the different characters all feel like they have different voices. This was published over a decade ago, but it still feels fresh. It also feels a little eerie since the filler things Shusterman includes between chapters are actual events from the real world, making this seem more realistic than normal for the genre. It isn't always an easy read, but it is a good one to satisfy adrenaline rush needs and might actually give the brain some food for thought about current ethical issues.
The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
Kelsey Thomas has not exactly had a normal life up till this Junior year of high school. Her mother was abducted as a teenager, disappeared for about a year, and when she reappeared she was 4 months pregnant and had no memory of what happened to her while she was missing. She was a media sensation for several months until she changed her name, built a fortress and disappeared inside with her baby daughter. She has not stepped outside since then. Kelsey has been outside, largely on the urging of her mother's therapist, Jan. But Kelsey only started going to public school a few years ago, and she must follow a rigid set of rules so that her mother feels safe. Also, living with a very anxious woman has also made Kelsey a touch anxious herself. Kelsey's world gets turned literally upside down when a car runs her off a mountain road and she wakes up being rescued by her classmate Ryan from her upside down car dangling over the cliff's edge. The car accident brings Kelsey and her mother into the news and suddenly, it seems the past is repeating itself when Kelsey returns home one evening to find her mother gone. Her mother who has not willingly left the house in 17 years, not even when her daughter had a car accident. Soon, Kelsey finds herself and some friends in very real danger as they hunt for clues as to who has her mother and why.
Note: Click on title for full content notes.
- Thriller Fans/Can’t-Put-Down Book Fans/Those Who Want to Better Understand Anxiety & PTSD: I know, this has been in several Brainstorms recently. But this really is one of this Senior's favorite recent reads. She read it and proceeded to recruit about five other readers for it. It is a tricky read in the best possible way for a thriller/mystery. (Things aren't 100% as they seem at first.) But it definitely keeps you sucked into the book. I felt like the portrayal of anxiety helps the reader get a better picture of how people who live with serious anxiety really think. And it also provides a good picture of the challenges for families with a PTSD sufferer. If you like psychological thrillers snatch this one up.
The last super reader of 2018 is one of those guys who grew up through middle school absolutely devouring all the Percy Jackson books, and even through high school would quickly snatch up Riordan’s latest. His love of fantasy also drove him to become an avid Brandon Sanderson fan, and despite the crazy busy Senior schedule, he managed to find time to devour the latest Stormlight Archive book, Oathbringer in one week (no mean feat at over 1000 pages).
The Camp Half-Blood Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and his fellow demigods have now spread their adventures across three series (well, four if you count cameo appearances in Magnus Chase books). Percy fans have followed him from a 12 year old in book one to now being in college in the Apollo books. Many have grown up right along with this kid who has taught numerous readers more about Greek and Roman mythology than any history teacher could hope to accomplish in one year.
- Fantasy Fans/Adventure Fans/Those Who Want to Learn about Greek and Roman Mythology without Studying: Haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like adventuring with Percy Jackson and his fellow demigods as they save the world repeatedly from vengeful gods and goddesses. The series starts off solidly middle grade, but recent books feature more teenagers and one could argue that the latter books are actually young adult fiction. Classification doesn’t seem to make one difference to readers. The teens who grew up with Percy still are eager to read about his latest exploits regardless of where it is shelved, and those just meeting Percy speed through books at light speed.
The Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson
This is an epic fantasy series currently at 3 books long (promised to be somewhere around 10 books long eventually). It is set in a broken land and follows multiple characters in the midst of a war and land full of mysteries. And…I’m sorry, but summarizing over 3000 pages in three sentences does this absolutely no justice. Suffice it to say, it is epic, epic fantasy.
- Epic Fantasy Fans: The truly devoted fantasy fan will love living in Sanderson’s world and then join the masses in for the long, long, LONG wait for the next book. (Sanderson’s averaging about 3 years between books while he writes sequels for about five other series he has going.) But don’t totally despair, readers of this will probably devour all those others too.