Pines by Blake Crouch

Pines

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke comes to by the side of a river.  He is badly injured and has no i.d., no cellphone, no wallet.  He remembers coming to the town of Wayward Pines on a mission, and being involved in a car accident, but nothing more.  When he makes it to the hospital, things continue not to add up.  Why can’t he reach his family by telephone?  Why is there an electric fence around the town?  Why does everything feel so “off?”  The answers are stranger than anything he could imagine.  This one will keep you guessing and reading long into the night.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals

If you have seen Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, you may be hungering for more information about the president that many historians consider America’s greatest leader.  The fight for ratification of the 13th Amendment, perhaps Lincoln’s most important accomplishment, is but one of the topics of the book.  Lincoln’s uncanny ability to understand and work with a wide array of  officials, both in Congress and in his own Cabinet, is documented in dazzling detail and reader-friendly history.  The book, published in 2005, documents Lincoln’s successful presidential campaign, his efforts to achieve victory for the Union in the Civil War, and his struggle to give the war a lasting legacy through the permanent emancipation of slaves.  Additionally, in Lincoln’s efforts we see the beginning of the modern presidency and politics. This is a “must” read for anyone who can’t get enough about politics and Civil War history and the role of each in shaping our nation.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless

Alexia Tarabotti is a 25-year-old spinster in Victorian London.  She also has no soul; her father is Italian and dead; and she was attacked by a vampire in the library during a social event.  As if that were not bad enough, she finds herself working with the disturbingly handsome werewolf, Lord Conall Maccon, to determine who is creating vampires outside of vampire hive rules.

This is a witty blend of the supernatural, steampunk, alternative history and romance.  Alexia’s spirit is engaging, and the clever plot will keep readers enthralled.  Happily, Soulless is the first in a series of Alexia Tarabotti mysteries, which appear under the name of The Parasol Protectorate.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

Verity was a passenger in British spy plane that was shot down over Nazi-occupied France.  When she looked the wrong way before crossing the street, and almost got hit by a van, she was picked up by the Gestapo.  In order to get Verity to reveal her mission and any other pertinent information about the British war effort, the Gestapo subjected her to a wide variety of tortures.  Verity’s confession gives an account of both what she endured and what she told the Gestapo, but it never explains whether it is completely truthful or if it contains any lies.  Compounding this confusion, of course, is the inclusion of this quote in the beginning of the book:

‘Passive resisters must understand that they are as important as saboteurs.’
SOE Secret Operations Manual
‘Methods of Passive Resistance’

Only by reading the second half of the book, told from the perspective of Verity’s pilot friend Maddie, can readers ascertain the truth.  This would be a good story for you if you want to learn more about some of the lesser-known facets of WWII, enjoy suspenseful stories, and appreciate heart-wrenching tales of friendship and devotion.

Ashes by Ilsa Bick

Ashes is the story of Alex, a girl with an incurable brain tumor, who runs away into the woods to come to terms with her illness and say goodbye to her deceased parents.  As if that weren’t depressing enough, an unexplained electromagnetic pulse suddenly strikes, killing most of the population, turning teens into zombies, and giving some of the survivors the power of heightened senses.

With angry, eight-year-old Ellie and handsome Afghanistan War soldier Tom, Alex seeks answers to what has happened and fights for survival in a world where nothing is the same anymore.

Alex is a good, strong main character.  Even with her new powers, it is easy to root for her and care about what befalls her.  This new world is a perilous one and the adventures of these characters are frightening and addictive, dark and creepy.  Note:  A sequel is planned.