The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012)

dogstarsAfter a pandemic flu has wiped out all but a few people, a pilot named Hig finds himself teamed up, for better or for worse, with Bangley, who is armed to the teeth and would rather shoot first and ask questions later. They have staked out a valley with a small suburban airport, with Hig warning people from the air that they should stay away. While Bangley is ruthless, Hig has a gentle nature, so they keep to themselves with Hig’s dog Jasper being his only real friend. It is a lonely and violent existence. When Hig hears a radio transmission from his plane, he must decide whether or not to risk everything to see if there is still some civilization out there.

Fans of dystopian literature will enjoy Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars. It is not nearly as bleak as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but still has plenty of desperate, exciting moments and ultimately conveys a message of hope. Check out other tales of dystopia here.

Double Indemnity by James Cain (1936)

doubleindemnityI love the film noir Double Indemnity, one of the American Film Institute’s Greatest American Films. This taut and sparely written novella differs in a few ways but retains the power of the classic film. Greed and lust in 1930s Los Angeles, depicted by insurance agent Walter Neff and femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, result in a memorable denouement.

Check out James Cain’s novella Double Indemnity today.

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon (2014)

killjoysGerard Way and Shaun Simon’s piece is not your run-of-the-mill graphic novel; its story chronologically takes place after My Chemical Romance’s album: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. That’s one of the best parts about it! Since its precursor was a music album, as you are reading through it, there are references to MCR’s lyrics and you can actually hear what some characters are intended to sound like. As you’re reading Dr. Death-Defying’s lines, his voice appears in your head like magic. It’s a surreal experience to have when you’re reading a graphic novel that doesn’t have a TV or movie adaptation!

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a great read for anyone who is (and even isn’t) a My Chemical Romance fan. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to Danger Days but stands on its own as well with no pre-knowledge of the music. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl who was previously under the protection of the Killjoys. After their deaths in Danger Days, she struggles to find her place in the unforgiving world she was left in. Why were they protecting her? What was it about her that made them so willing to risk their lives? In The Fabulous Killjoys, the reader finds the answers that they are seeking and so much more.

The High Divide by Lin Enger (2014)

highdivideUlysses Pope embarks on a journey that will lead him far away from home for an indefinite period of time. He may not even come back. But the only explanation for his departure that he gives his family is vague and left to be discovered in a note inside a locked trunk. Set in the late 1800s, The High Divide follows the members of the Pope family as they travel across the Great Plains—the father’s departure prompting first his young sons, and then his wife to go on their own quests.

The story unfolds as three different narrators (Ulysses, his wife Gretta, and his older son Eli) give accounts of their adventures—each searching inwardly and outwardly for answers, and encountering many colorful, and sometimes dangerous, individuals along the way. The High Divide is sure to be an entertaining read for lovers of fiction set in this era, as Lin Enger has created authentic voices for his characters and woven some intriguing historical personages and events into his tale.

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer (2014)

artofstillnessAmidst the hustle and excitement of his world travels, Pico Iyer discovered that “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” You can read this slim book in an afternoon—provided you can sit down and stay put. Find a copy of The Art of Stillness today.

Signal by Patrick Lee (2015)

signalWith a device that can’t be explained by logic or reality, power hungry villains, and a secret government project, Signal is another fast-paced futuristic thrilling adventure. Once I got over my disappointment that we wouldn’t be seeing more of Rachel, I became engrossed in Sam’s next escapade. Brought in by his old colleague Claire, Sam must race against the clock to battle a sightless enemy with a constant advantage.

Just like the first in the series (Runner), you’ll need to suspend your disbelief. A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen, but you’ll be frantically flipping the pages to discover what comes next in Patrick Lee’s latest conspiracy novel.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly (2014)

burningroomHarry Bosch is near retirement and is assigned to cold cases with a young but very bright partner who has received favorable publicity from her last assignment. He and his young partner find themselves investigating two unusual cases simultaneously. The first involves the recent death of a victim shot 10 years before and the second case, the death of children in a fire from which his partner, as a child, survived. The cases would appear unrelated except for an anonymous phone call (placed by Harry?) on the department tip line.

The young partner and the reader have the benefit of Harry’s experience on a fast-paced tour involving a grisly autopsy, an arrest of a loner survivalist, political and departmental pressure, along with lots of sound but risky police investigation. At the end, could there be penance and redemption for a wrongdoer, and does Harry keep his job for yet another case?

Check out Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch novel The Burning Room (for another take, check out The New York Times review). And if you enjoy the adventures of Harry Bosch, check out our list of other popular mystery and suspense series.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)

giveyouthesunAt thirteen, twins Jude and Noah are opposites: light and dark, wild and reserved, sporty and arty, but they’ve always on the same team. At sixteen, the two are hardly speaking to one another, and it becomes increasingly obvious that they are hiding more from each other than they are sharing. At thirteen, Jude is queen of the surfers and beginning to attract all of the attention of the boys, but perhaps moves a little more quickly than she can handle. Noah also meets a boy, but he’s far too afraid of being outed to the bullies at school to do much about it. His only hope is that his painting skills are good enough to get him into the special arts school in town, where he can finally be free of his tormentors and among people like himself. The twins’ mother tries to help both of her children apply for the school, but Jude becomes increasingly jealous as she feels her mother favoring Noah.

Three years later, their mother is dead—and haunting Jude. Jude interacts with the silent, angry ghost of her mother (who ruins all of her artwork) and the helpful, talkative ghost of her grandmother, bringing some magical realism to this contemporary young adult novel. As both stories unfold through alternating points of view and timelines, family mysteries are revealed, loves are won and lost, and this family is torn apart and brought back together again.

Find a copy of Jandy Nelson’s moving novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, today.

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (2014)

littlemerciesEllen is an overworked social worker with three children of her own. After a tragic accident occurs in her own family, she finds herself on the other side of the system she works for.

Ten-year-old Jenny, alone in Iowa, must rely on her street smarts to help herself.

When their lives intersect, the pair finds some unique ways to help each other. Little Mercies is a really good page turner, with characters you come to care about. Check out the latest from Heather Gudenkauf.