The recent theatrical release of the movie The Girl With All the Gifts, featuring Glenn Close, brings to life the 2014 post-apocalyptic novel, GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. R. Carey (DB 80678). Nominated for multiple science fiction and horror awards, this story, set twenty years after the event known as The Breakdown, follows a group of survivors as they travel to military headquarters.
Intricately plotted, with an atmospheric and creepy tone, this horror novel is written in a compelling manner that inextricably draws the reader into the dystopian landscape of post-apocalyptic England. The point of view shifts between characters, offering the reader a glimpse at the motivations behind their actions and a view into their inner turmoil.
NLS Annotation for GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M. R. Carey (DB 80678): A pandemic has turned countless people into zombies known as “hungries.” The administrators of a military camp studying these hungries must flee when a group of anarchists breach their security. They bring Melanie, a 10-year-old second-generation hungry with incredible strength and intellect, debating the status of her humanity all the while. Some violence and some strong language. Bestseller. Commercial audiobook. 2014.
If you’ve already read this book and enjoy post-apocalyptic novels featuring zombies and young protagonists, you may try PASSAGE by Justin Cronin (DB 71422) or if you’d prefer a zombie horror novel that feels more like a political thriller with science fiction elements, try FEED by Mira Grant (DB 77374).
If you enjoy war stories with authentic characters that are written with a haunting and moving tone, try REDEPLOYMENT by former Marine captain and Iraq veteran, Phil Klay. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014 for this collection of short stories about the complex feelings experienced by soldiers in a war zone as well as the difficulties soldiers face when returning home.
Written in a compelling and candid manner, these stories pack an emotional punch. Whether it’s a story relating the problems a soldier encounters on returning to civilian life or another story describing the aftermath of an IED attack, Mr. Klay has a strong familiarity with the military language and mindset.
NLS Annotation: Twelve stories about soldiers at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the personal wars they fight reintegrating into society at home. In the title story, a soldier who had to shoot dogs on the battlefield must readjust to life in suburban America. Violence. 2014.
If you enjoy this book, but would prefer the stories told from the point of view of the women left at home, try YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE by Siobhan Fallon, DT 07103. Of if you’d prefer a non-fiction collection of war stories from former soldiers try THINGS THEY CANNOT SAY: STORIES SOLDIERS WON’T TELL YOU ABOUT WHAT THEY’VE SEEN, DONE, OR FAILED TO DO IN WAR edited by Kevin Sites, DB 76432.
If you like contemporary mysteries with a western flavor such as the Walt Longmire Series by Craig Johnson or the Joe Pickett Series by C. J. Box, you might try the Texana Jones Mystery Series by Allana Martin, starting with DEATH OF A HEALING WOMAN (DB 47921). Winner of the 1996 Spur Award, this story, set in rural El Polvo, Texas, follows local resident Texana Jones as she investigates the murder of the local curandera, Rhea Fair.
Plot driven with a strong sense of place, this suspenseful mystery also hosts a cast of vividly memorable characters. The author, Allana Martin, lives in Marfa, Texas and her knowledge of the area reveals itself in her detailed descriptions of the people, culture and landscape of the border region.
Texana Jones operates a trading post on the Mexican-American border. She is still mourning the death of two friends when she finds the body of a third, healer Rhea Fair. The authorities blame drug couriers. As Texana investigates, an outbreak of rabies spreads through the countryside. Spur Award Winner. Some violence. 1996.
If you’ve already read this book and enjoy a good mystery series with a female protagonist that takes place in rural setting, you may try the Anna Pigeon Series by Nevada Barr, starting with TRACK OF THE CAT (DB 65648) If you’d prefer a male lead, try the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Series by Bill Crider.
If you enjoy psychologically suspenseful novels such as GONE GIRL or GIRL ON THE TRAIN, you may enjoy Ruth Ware’s début novel IN A DARK, DARK WOOD (Digital: DB 82625, Large print: LB 08245, Braille: BR 21161). Set in the contemporary English countryside, this book tells the story of Leonora Shaw, who attends the bachelorette party of a high school friend.
Fast-paced with a menacing tone, Ms. Ware’s compelling writing kept me on the edge of my seat as I navigated the intricate plot twists. As the story progresses, Leonora proves to be an unreliable narrator, and secrets from her past influence events during the course of the weekend.
NLS Annotation: Twenty-six-year-old British crime-fiction writer Leonora Shaw is shocked to be invited to her long-estranged friend’s hen party. Soon after their arrival at the remote glass house in the woods, it becomes obvious that someone besides the invitees is on the property. Then Leonora awakens in the hospital. Strong language and some violence. 2015.
For another psychological suspenseful mystery featuring an unreliable female protagonist, try WIDOW by Fiona Barton DB 83700. Or try one of the classics in this genre, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie DB 11077. This book was specifically mentioned during the course of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD and Ms. Ware counts it as one of the influences of her work.
Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award, FIFTH SEASON tells the story of how the world ends – for the last time. Told from three different viewpoints, N. K. Jemisin weaves a story of survival against the backdrop of the Stillness, a world constantly threatened by catastrophic geologic upheaval.
Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominated author, N. K. Jemisin, describes the plight of the orogenes, a feared section of the population, who have the ability to control the geologic energy held within the Earth. Written in a compelling manner with a gritty tone, she deftly describes the events leading up to the beginning of the Fifth Season, a time of catastrophic climate change.
NLS Annotation for FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin (DB 82240): Essun is a woman living in a world ruled by the violent tectonic activity it experiences. She comes home to find her husband has killed her son and kidnapped her daughter, all for the secret ability Essun and her children have to control the Earth. Strong language, some explicit descriptions of sex, and some violence. 2015.
If you have already read this book or enjoy fantasy fiction with apocalyptic overtones, try WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okoafor (DB 73989). Or if you’d like to try something similar with more of a science fiction feel, try the Pure Trilogy by Julianna Baggott starting with PURE (DB 78234).
Written in a lyrical and literary manner, GIRL IN THE DARK describes the life of the author, Anna Lyndsey, as she struggles with the onset of an illness that causes an intense sensitivity to light. Each section of the book deals with an aspect of her life; whether it is the months leading up to the beginning of her condition, an event that occurs during the course of her seclusion, her conversations with friends and acquaintances, or the ways she passes the time while isolated in her protective dark room. The author describes her life with honesty and humor.
NLS Annotation for GIRL IN THE DARK by Anna Lyndsey (DB 81009): A young woman writes of a light sensitivity that has forced her to live in darkness. She describes how the first symptom–her face burning from the computer screen–progressed to her entire body’s intolerance of fluorescent light and sunlight. Audiobooks, word games, occasional relative remissions, and the man she loves make it bearable. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2015.
If you have already read this book or enjoy memoirs written by people battling chronic illness, try BRAIN ON FIRE: MY MONTH OF MADNESS by Susannah Cahalan (DB 76074).
If you enjoy realistic literary historical fiction, you may enjoy Laird Hunt’s novel Neverhome (Digital: DB 79591, Large print: LB 07986). Set during the United States’ Civil War, Neverhome is told from the viewpoint of Ash Thompson, a young married woman who leaves her Illinois farm, disguises herself as a man, and sets off to fight in the war.
Neverhome is a short novel but it packs a punch. Hunt’s writing is spare yet compelling as he creates a realistic view of life as a soldier during the Civil War. As the story progresses, Ash proves to be an unreliable narrator, omitting crucial tidbits of knowledge from the reader, which lends this story a psychological element and renders Ash even more of a mystery.
Ash Thompson wears the uniform of a Union soldier, and through many exploits becomes a legend among the other soldiers. But Ash hides a secret. Ash is really a runaway farmer’s wife–Constance. After witnessing the horrors of war, Ash must decide about becoming Constance again. Violence and some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2014.
If you enjoy this book, try Revolutionary by Alex Meyers (DB 78228) to read about a female soldier during the American Revolutionary War. For a historically accurate non-fiction look at the women soldiers during the Civil War, try Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott (DB 80094).
A delightful blend of traditional fantasy with historical fiction, A Natural History of Dragons (DB 78261) relates the memoirs of Isabella Camherst, Lady Trent, a woman dedicated to the scientific study of dragons in a time and place where such pursuits are not considered acceptable for a well-bred young lady. Isabella ignores convention and with a group of dragon enthusiasts, she travels to study dragons in their natural element.
Fast paced and action-filled, Isabella Brennan deftly creates a world oddly reminiscent of Victorian England, yet full of mythical creatures such as wyverns and dragons. Isabella is a strong-willed, passionate guide to this world and through her memoirs the reader learns not only about the anatomy and behavior of dragons, but about the boundaries of class and gender that permeate her world.
NLS Annotation: The Natural History of Dragons (DB 78261): Fictional memoir of dragon naturalist Isabella, Lady Trent. She reflects on her early fascination with dragons and her efforts to study and learn more about the creatures. Describes her eventual trip into the field for first-hand observations. Some violence. 2013.
The Natural History of Dragons is the first book in Marie Brennan’s Memoirs by Lady Trent series. It is followed by Tropic of Serpents (DB 80128) with hopefully many more sequels to come.
For another dragon fantasy novel set in an alternative Victorian Era England, try His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, the first book in the Temeraire Adventures Series (DX 64445 and Available on BARD).
The recent adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (Digital: DB 70074, Large print: LB 07612) for the screen and stage has brought renewed interested in this 2009 Man Booker Prize winning novel. Wolf Hall relates the story of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and the religious and political repercussions that ensued. The author adds a unique twist by telling this tale through the viewpoint of Henry’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell. Richly detailed, slow-paced, and character driven, Wolf Hall truly immerses the reader in the world of the sixteenth century English court.
NLS Annotation: Thomas Cromwell, a closet Protestant and blacksmith’s son who becomes advisor to Henry VIII of England, realizes that he can accumulate power and wealth by assisting the king in obtaining an annulment and simultaneously help commoners and his country by destroying the corrupt Catholic clergy. Booker Prize. Bestseller. 2009.
Wolf Hall is the first book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. It is followed by Bring Up the Bodies (DB 74880) and will conclude with The Mirror and the Light, which is currently scheduled to be published later this year.
For an another fictional view of Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall, through the eyes of her sister Mary, try The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (DB 58873). To read Anne’s story from her own perspective, try Lady in the Tower, the fourth book in the Queens of England series by Jean Plaidy (Digital cartridge: DX 32305; BARD: DB 32305).
With the television adaptation premiering this month, the OUTLANDER book series by Diana Gabaldon is experiencing a resurgence of popularity. If you enjoy historical novels that vividly describe the time and place of their setting with a fiery love story and a slight fantastical twist, you will undoubtedly enjoy this series. Start with OUTLANDER (DB 36535).
NLS Annotation for OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon (DB 36535): It is 1945. Frank and Claire Randall are on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands, where Claire is studying rare plants and Frank is researching family origins. One day Claire steps into an ancient stone circle and is hurled back in time to 1743. She is nearly raped by one of Frank’s ancestors before being rescued and forced into marriage. Violence, strong language, and explicit descriptions of sex. Prequel to Dragonfly in Amber (DB 36536).
Have you read the entire OUTLANDER series? Try THE RIVER OF NO RETURN by Bee Ridgeway (DB 76677) for another exciting, time-traveling historical-romance.