Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Reading on a Theme: The Revolutionary War

We've got book recommendations today for all of you who have already watched Hamilton 1000 times since it dropped on Disney+ in July, but still need more. 

Wartime Romance:
It doesn't get more obvious that this recommendation. The meeting and marriage of Alexander and Eliza takes place over the course of one song in the musical, but Melissa De La Cruz's book gives the first months of their romance the full treatment. The book begins at the ball where Eliza and Alexander first meet. I really like how this book gives Eliza center stage. She's the type of character you can't help but adore. The book isn't just about romance there's also nursing and spies and dangerous rides through the countryside. I enjoyed Alex & Eliza a lot, and I think it would be a great recommendation for teenage fans of the musical.

Smallpox and the Ethiopian Regiment:
In The Pox Party and The Kingdom on the Waves, M.T. Anderson tells the story of Octavian. In the first volume, Octavian is an enslaved child growing up in a house of science in the years just prior to the American Revolution. He eventually learns that his own physical and mental development is part of the experiments. Volume II begin with Octavian and his tutor Dr. Trefusis fleeing to British-held Boston. From there they make their way to Virginia where Octavian joins up with Lord Dunmore's Ethiopian Regiment, organized when Dunmore promises freedom to any slave who fights for the British. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is such an original and fascinating story.

The Lady Spy:
We know that Agent 355 of George Washington's Culper Spy Ring was "a lady," but we don't know who that lady was. Veronica Rossi's Rebel Spy is a novel that imagines this spy was a girl by the name of Frannie Tasker. Frannie lives a double life. She escaped from her lecherous stepfather in the Bahamas by becoming Emmeline Coates and that transformation allowed her to be accepted into New York Society. But Frannie hasn't forgotten where she came from or her revolutionary ideals. I enjoyed this book. It's got a big big dose of romance, but the set up was really interesting, and Frannie is a fascinating character. Rebel Spy was published June 23, 2020. Review copy from NetGalley. 

The First Sparks:
My Name is Resolute spans most of the 18th century. It begins in 1729 when Resolute Talbot and her siblings watch their parents' Jamaica plantation burn as they are carried off to sea by pirates. The first half of this novel sees Resolute encountering a cross-section of the peoples who inhabited North America in the 18th century. She's enslaved by radical Puritans, captured by Native Americans, and imprisoned in an abbey by Catholics in Montreal. Finally, Resolute settles in Lexington, Massachusetts, and we begin to see the sparks of Revolutionary fervor fly. Resolute is a fantastic character. Nancy Turner tells an expansive and gripping story.

Peggy's Story:
L.M. Elliott's Hamilton and Peggy! is about Peggy, the Schuyler sister who gets the least amount of air time in the musical. Turns out Peggy was a pretty fascinating person. She was the only one of the three now-famous Schuyler sisters who was living at home during the Revolutionary War, where perhaps she might have been privy to some of the work her father did as Washington's spy master. L.M. Elliott's historical fiction is always so well-researched, and she does an excellent job rooting her readers in the historical moment. Peggy is feisty and so bright. It was really fun to get to delve a little deeper into her story.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Reading on a Theme: Inspired by Classic Literature

I love retellings of every variety. Here we have books inspired by classic literature. I've been thinking of this bunch in particular as the "Inspired by the Classics: Fantasy/ Sci-fi Edition." Watch for the "Inspired by the Classics: Contemporary Edition." More "Inspired by the Classics" here.

The Raven: 
In Cat Winter's story, Muses take physical form. Seventeen-year-old Edgar Allen Poe meets his dark Muse, Lenore, who appears as a young woman with raven-like characteristics. Torn between his desire to write and his duty to his foster family, Edgar hesitates to fully embrace his Muse, trying to keep Lenore a secret as he straddles two worlds. I loved the historical setting in this book. It begins in Richmond and follows Edgar to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I would have loved the book to follow even more of Edgar Allen Poe's life. The Raven's Tale is so atmospheric while remaining to true to Poe's actual life. Published April 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Arthurian Legend:  
Princess Guinevere is not who she seems to be. She's been sent by Merlin to protect Arthur, but magic is no longer accepted in Camelot, so she must keep her powers and her objectives a secret. I have really loved Kiersten White's recent retellings And I Darken series and The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, and I was really looking forward to this book. It didn't quite meet all my expectations, but I think the series has a lot of potential. One thing that we see White doing in her recent work is centering female characters and figures who have traditionally been secondary. I really enjoy that aspect of this book. Guinevere is a character who is too often a pawn or vilified in the Arthurian legends. Published November 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.

Les Misérables:
The Court of Miracles isn't so much a retelling of Victor Hugo's classic, as it is a reimagining. In Kester Grant's story, the French Revolution of 1789 failed, and Paris's unwanted banded together in an underground court system of their own. The central character is Éponine, who goes by Nina. She is a member of the Guild of Thieves and an excellent cat burglar, but her true goal is to save Ettie (Cosette) and her sister Alezma from the Lord of the Guild of Flesh. The setting is really rich and diverse, but it took me a bit of effort to get all the characters straight. I loved seeing how the threads of the original tale were woven into something that felt utterly new. Published June 2020. Review copy from NetGalley.

I'm definitely here for Jane Austen in space. Alexa Donne's retelling stars Leo, the heir to a derelict space ship, who is reluctantly participating in her society's match-making season. Marriage for money could save her family, but Leo would rather save her family through ingenuity. It doesn't help that she's still pining for her first love, Elliot. Elliot has returned to the ship, and the former-servant is now wealthy and an heir himself. Enduring the season was bad enough. Now Leo has to watch as other girls flirt with her former flame. I really enjoyed The Stars We Steal. The world building is really well done. Leo has an interesting circle of friends, and I whipped through this book. Published February 2020. Review copy from NetGalley. 

The Bird and the Blade is a retelling not of a classic novel but a classic opera, Puccini's Turandot. Megan Bannen centers the story on Jinghua, a fairly minor character in the opera, who is enslaved to the Kipchak Khanate. The story takes place during the Mongolian empire, which was vast but also fractured, and the Kipchak Khanate is at odds with some of the other Khanates. To save his people and restore their fortunes, Prince Khalaf sets out to marry the daughter of the Great Khan, Princess Turandokht. I was so delighted by this book. It is a little mushy, but that seems appropriate for a book based on an opera best known for its highly emotional music. Published June 2018.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Young Adult Books for Pride Month

Last year for Pride Month, I put together a post of some of my favorite YA books that feature LGBTQIA+ characters. This year I decided I wanted to feature books that came out this spring. The majority of these are debuts, as well. Have you read any of these books? What new 2020 releases with LGBTQIA+ themes do you have on your reading list?

I'll Be the One by Lyla Lee
This one is for all the K-Pop fans out there. Skye Shin wants to be the first plus-sized, bisexual K-Pop star. After wowing everyone with her audition for a popular television singing competition, she is thrown into the world of reality TV drama.

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Although Liz Lightly has never had much interest in doing the prom queen thing, she really needs the scholarship that goes along with the crown. So she starts campaigning and then starts falling for her competition, Mack, the new girl in school.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
In this novel in verse, Micheal, a mixed-raced gay teen, struggles to find his place. Then, at university, he discovers Drag Society and takes on the persona of The Black Flamingo. Finally he feels at home.

The Summer of Impossibilities by Rachael Allen
The perfect summer read. Skyler, Ellie, Scarlett, and Amelia Grace don't really know each other, but their moms drag them along to their reunion. This book features a budding romance between two of the girls, a hate to love romance, and friendships that will last.

All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
Activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, youth, and college years in this book of personal essays written with young people in mind.

The Fascinators by Andrew Eliopulos
Sam, James, and Delia are members of their school's magic club. Well, actually, they are the only members. It's magic that brought these three together, but their little group is starting to grow strained under unrequited love, frustrated ambitions, and threats from a dark magical society.

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen
Codi isn't really a part of the cool crowd at her high school, but when she and her friends decide to crash a party Codi meets Ricky. He takes her on epic adventures filled with late nights, new experiences, and a cute girl named Lydia. 

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Felix, who identifies as Black, queer, and transgender, wonders if he'll ever have a happily-ever-after. Yet somehow he ends up in  a love triangle after setting out to get revenge on an anonymous transphobic classmate.

The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwall
This queer retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red" stars twins Rosie and Ivory who have grown up in the circus. When disaster strikes it's up to Ivory to save their home and their circus family.

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
Saoirse isn't so sure about love. There's too much going on in her family to believe that she could be happy right now. Then she meets Ruby who proposes a summer fling of fun dates and romantic cliches that will end in the fall no questions asked. You can guess what happens next.

Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
Pony is looking for a fresh start at his new high school. Coming out as transgender at his old high school was a lot, and he thinks he'd rather just fly under the radar at his new school. But then there's Georgia. Georgia is a cheerleader who is looking forward to moving on from high school. She's not interested in romance. But then there's Pony.

The Boy in the Red Dress by Kristin Lamberti
Set in New Orleans in the 1920s, this book is a historical murder mystery. Millie takes over at the Cloak & Dagger, her aunt's speakeasy, while her aunt is out of town. The most popular act is Marion, the boy in the red dress. When Marion's accused of murder, Millie is on the case. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Young Adult and Middle Grade Books about Racism

I've found that the best way for me to learn about racism is to listen, and a good way to listen is to start reading. Here are own voices books that tackle racial injustice, police brutality, and systemic racism.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
When Justyce McAllister and his best friend are victims of police brutality, Justyce begins writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help make sense of his world.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This nonfiction book is a reimagining of  Kendi's book Stamped from the Beginning. It discusses the history of racism in America and how individuals can move toward antiracism.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This nonfiction book about Bryan Stevenson's fight against the systemic racism in the justice system has been adapted for young readers. 

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone
Quan writes letters to Justyce while awaiting trial for the shooting death of a police officer. Nic Stone's new novel tackles the racism in the criminal justice system. This book is out in September of 2020. Add it to your TBR.

This is My America by Kim Johnson
Tracy Beaumont's father is on death row. He's innocent, and Tracy has spent years writing letters to an organization that she hopes can help him. Then her brother is accused of a crime, and Tracy is determined not to see history repeat itself. This book is out July 28th, 2020. Put it on your TBR

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
After an incident involving racial stereotyping at her school, aspiring rapper, Bri, channels all her anger into a track that ends up going viral. The lyrics are hardhitting, and Bri soon discovers that they aren't being taken the way she intended. This book asks questions about the power of the media, stereotypes and perceptions, and what it means to "make it."

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr witnesses her unarmed childhood friend get shot and killed by the police. Starr is the only one who knows what happened, and she has to decide if she's going to stay quiet and safe or speak the truth.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Marvin and his twin brother Tyler are at a party that turns into a shooting and then a police raid. Now Tyler is missing, and soon it's discovered that he was shot and killed that night by a police officer.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
This is the story of Rashad and Quinn--a black boy who was beaten when he was accused of stealing and the white boy who witnessed it. Told in dual perspectives, this book confronts the very real aspects of prejudice, bias, and racism.

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This middle-grade books is about bi-racial brothers Donte and Trey, one presents black and the other presents white. Donte, the black-presenting brother, faces prejudice and discrimination at school, culminating in the principal calling the police in to arrest him.

I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Two teen girls, one black and one white, must rely on one another and confront their prejudices if they are going to survive the race riots that have broken out in their town. 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for a real one. He was only twelve. Now a ghost, he observes the aftermath of his death and its impact on his family and community. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Reading on a Theme: Losing a Friend

The end of a friendship can be so painful. A book might help. Here we have five YA books about losing or nearly losing a friend.

James and Kat:
At the beginning of their senior year, James and Kat are best friends. By graduation they aren't speaking. Amy Spalding tells the story of the disintegration of their friendship. We Used to Be Friends is told in alternating timelines. Kat's timeline moves forward in time and James's moves backward. The plot becomes a puzzle that the reader tries to put together, but what becomes clear as the timelines converge is that neither James nor Kat is completely at fault or completely blameless. Both characters are unlikable at points in the story, are both are also dealing with external circumstances that impact their well-being and friendship. Published January 2020. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Cleo and Layla:
Y.O.E. You over everyone. Layla has been Cleo's best friend since she was twelve-years-old. They start sophomore year as close as ever but slowly their friendship implodes. By Christmas it's over. Ashley Woodfolk's sophomore novel is so excellent. She tells the story through Cleo's eyes and alternates between the past and the present. Although, told from Cleo's perspective, it's clear that Cleo made some huge mistakes too. The dual timeline grants us access to the breakdown of the friendship but also to Cleo's recovery. A friendship breakup can be so devastating, and I love that I ended When You Were Everything feeling like, although they went through a lot, both of these characters are going to be okay. Published March 2020. Review copy from NetGalley. 

Ellory and Ret:
Bex, Jenni, and Ellory were three stars rotating around their sun: Ret. But then everything fell apart. See All the Stars takes place in two timelines. In the earlier timeline Ellory has three close friends and her first real boyfriend. In the later timeline she has no one. So what happened? Kit Frick's debut is a story of (borderline?) toxic friendship and a massive falling out. It's a great concept. Friendships end and not all friendships are healthy. And a friendship breakup comes with its own mourning process. Kit Frick's writing is really lovely. It's the kind of writing that gives you that melancholy feeling in your chest. I was struck by it right away. Published August 2018. Review copy from NetGalley.

Denver and Abigail:
Only an invitation from her crush could get Denver to attend a party hosted by her ex-best friend Abigail. She very quickly regrets that decision when a tsunami hits the coast of California. Now Denver is adrift in the Pacific ocean on a boat with four people who hate her, including Abigail. Kathy Parks sees your friend drama and takes it up several notches by mixing it with a survival story. The history between Denver and Abigail is inserted periodically throughout, and the reader gets to see how they became best friends and how it all fell apart. The fight for survival is no less harrowing, but maybe a life or death situation is the only thing that can bring these two back together? A+ for The Lifeboat Clique. I really enjoyed it. Published March 2016. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Willa and Flor:
Best friends Flor and Willa are keeping secrets from one another. Willa kissed the boy next door, who is also Flor's ex-boyfriend, and she doesn't know how to tell her. Flor isn't telling Willa about all the trouble she's having at home with her dad's new girlfriend. These types of secrets are enough to break a friendship. Unlike in the other books on this list, there's no outright fighting between friends in The Me I Meant to Be, but sometimes the things that aren't said can be just as destructive as the things that are. Sophie Jordan's book also has not one but two swoony romances.  Paperback out March, 31 2020. Review copy from NetGalley.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Reading on a Theme: World War II Resistance Fighters

Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, so we are casting aside our usually schedule for World War II content and celebrating World War II Wednesday on a Friday. In honor of VE Day, I bring you five books about the people working behind the scenes to make this victory a reality: the resistance fighters. I have a nice mix here with two adult titles (Resistance Women and All the Light We Cannot See), two YA titles (Girl in the Blue Coat and White Rose), and one middle grade title (Resistance), so there is something for everyone.

Resistance Women was one of my favorite reads of 2019. It tells the stories of Mildred Fish Harnack, Greta Kuckoff, and Martha Dodd, real women who were involved in resistance efforts in Germany during the Nazi regime. A fourth narrator, Sara Weitz, is a fictional character, a Jewish university student who is working with the resistance circle. Greta and Mildred and her husband had opportunities to leave Germany, but they chose to stay year after year and tirelessly work from within to bring down Hitler's regime. Most World War II books begin after well after Hitler's rise to power. I really like that Jennifer Chiaverini brought us to Germany and took us through the whole messy buildup. 

The Netherlands:
In 1943 Amsterdam, Hanneke is a courier for her boss who dabbles in the black market. An unexpected request from a customer--to find the Jewish girl who vanished from her hidden room--leads Hanneke to the Dutch resistance and a greater knowledge of the terrors the Germans have wrought on her countrymen. Monica Hesse does an excellent job evoking the setting of the World War II Amsterdam, and I really enjoyed learning more about the war years in The Netherlands. Hanneke is a strong character with a lot of passion and a lot of hurt who must decide if she will choose to fight back in the face of great danger. The Girl in the Blue Coat also gained a spot on my yearly favorites list back in 2016.

Chaya Lindner is a Jew living in Nazi-occupied Poland. After becoming separated from her family, she joins the resistance and becomes a courier. Her job is to smuggle food and papers into the ghettos and smuggle people out of them. Eventually Resistance takes us in the Warsaw Ghetto's final hours. Although I've read a lot of WWII books that take place in Poland, I think Jennifer A. Nielsen's book may be the first fictional middle-grade story set in that country that I've encountered. It would be a good way to introduce a younger audience to the horrors of the Jewish ghettos and the devastating impact the war had on Poland. 

Is there anyone who has yet to read All the Light We Cannot See? If so, I guess this post is for you. Anthony Doerr's sweeping novel follows Werner, a German radio operator, and Marie-Laure, a blind French girl whose household is involved in the resistance. I love all the details in this book: the radio, the museum, the gem, the locksmith. The characters are fantastic. I also appreciate how Etienne, Maurie-Laure's great uncle serves as the connection between World War I and World War II and drives home their proximity. The setting in the book is also perfectly rendered and will make you want to visit Saint-Malo. Most of all the writing is gorgeous. There's a reason why everyone loves this book and why it landed on my Favorites of the Decade list.

White Rose is a verse novel based on the life of Sophie Scholl. As a young college student Sophie and her brother challenged the Nazi regime by secretly publishing and distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. Their small group of trusted student and professor dissenters called themselves the White Rose. Sophie and her brother, as well as many of the other members of the White Rose, were arrested and tried for treason by the Nazis. Sophie's story is one of great courage and dedication in the face of danger, and it is both inspiring and very tragic. Kip Wilson's retelling of Sophie's story moves between Sophie's past and present, and recounts Sophie's tale in stark poetical language.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Books Featuring Plagues and Pandemics

Maybe this is not the time to make this post, but, on the other hand, I can't stop thinking about all the many, many books I've read that feature plagues and pandemics. So maybe it's the perfect time to post this. For reasons that I don't entirely understand books featuring a rampant illness are totally my type of thing. A plague works so well in every type of genre from historical fiction to science fiction. Here are some of my favorites grouped by genre. Now if only we could get this pandemic to stay where it belongs: in a book.


Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright
Each chapter in this book discusses a different devastating plague from history from the bubonic plague to polio. This is the book that made me realize I had a thing for pandemics in literature. As I read it I realized I had read books about so many of these diseases along with dozens of books featuring plagues in speculative fiction. 

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
Johnson tells the story of the London cholera epidemic of 1854 and how two men, Reverent Henry Whitehead and Dr. John Snow, solved the mystery of how cholera spreads. What I loved most about this book is how it lays out for the readers the connections between what could be mistaken as unrelated facets of history.

Terrible Typhoid Mary by Susan Campbell Bartoletti 
Mary Mallon was an Irish immigrant who worked as a cook in New York City in the early 1900s. She was also a healthy typhoid carrier. Bartoletti takes the reader beyond the tabloid headlines and sheds light on the beginnings of a public health system in the United States. (featured here)

Historical Fiction 

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
This book is set in Philadelphia during the 1918 flu pandemic (a hot topic now if ever there was one).
The Bright family is new in town, and the father is training to take over his great-uncle's funeral home business. It's quite the set-up: Philadelphia, WWI, Spanish Influenza, in a funeral home.  (featured here)

A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier
This book follows 17-year-old Cleo Berry as her life is completely turned upside down when the Spanish Influenza hits Portland. Cleo has never really known what she wants to do with her life, but the influenza suddenly gives her a sense of purpose when she volunteers with the Red Cross. (featured here)

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Time-traveling historian, Kivrin, is the first historian to ever travel to the Middle Ages, and it's a rough journey. This book features two epidemics: the bubonic plague of the 1300s and an epidemic in Kivrin's present day. I love Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel Series and absolutely devoured this book. 

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Anna lives in a little town in Northern England. In 1665 a bolt of cloth infested with plague-carrying fleas is delivered to the village from London. The town members commit to self-imposed quarantine so that the disease will not spread. In less than a year more than half of the village has succumbed to the plague. 

The Plague by Albert Camus
Technically this one should probably be categorized as contemporary fiction, as it was contemporary when it was written. In the 1940s the plague ravages a coastal town in Northern Africa. I read this book in college and absolutely loved it. That should have been my first clue that I'm all in for books about plagues and epidemics.


Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis
Nedra Brysstain has been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Yugen Academy where she plans to study medicinal alchemy. Nedra's studies are frantic; a deadly disease is sweeping across her island home, and her only hope is to find a cure. This fantasy is deliciously creepy, and things really take a turn toward the dark side about halfway through. (featured here)

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
This newest book in Pierce's Tortall universe follows the training of the young Arram Draper whom we first met in the Immortals series as Numair. Arram is the youngest student to ever enter the Imperial University of Carthak. Much of the book follows Arram's day-to-day life: going to school, hanging out with his two best friends, Ozorne and Varice, dealing with unexpected magical occurrences, navigating the demands of Carthak society, and working to quell a deadly plague. (featured here)

Briar's Book by Tamora Pierce

Tempest and Slaughter is the second book by Pierce to feature a deadly plague. In the fourth (and unsurprisingly my favorite) of the Circle of Magic series the crew is up against a deadly, new plague. Briar and Rosethorn discover this plague and are trapped in quarantine for a time. Everyone has to pitch to help find a cure. Basically the story goes from one harrowing situation to the next. 

Illusionarium by Heather Dixon
In an alternate nineteenth-century Britain, known as Arthurise, a deadly illness that only strikes down women is devastating the nation. The main character, Jonathan, is a medical student who serves as an apprentice to his father, the country's second-best surgeon. This book is a steampunk, parallel reality tale with a little bit of horror thrown into the mix. It's creepy, fascinating, and other-worldly but not without innocence and hope, as well. (featured here)

Science Fiction:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
This book is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the majority of the population has died off from a virulent flu. The narration moves between post-pandemic and pre-pandemic, and it takes awhile to understand how the two sides of the story fit together. What I really loved about this book is the way that art is so essential to human existence even when individuals are fighting just to survive. (featured here)

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This book is a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella set in a post World War IV world that is threatened by both a terrible pandemic and the Lunar Queen. Cinder is an orphan and a cyborg and a bit of an outcast, but she is also a famous mechanic which brings her to the attention of Prince Kai (he doesn't know about the cyborg part). Cinder finds herself unwillingly involved in interspatial politics. I love this whole series. (featured here)

Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
Fifteen-year-old Lilianna has lived through a traumatic event, and she is struggling with some paranoia as she attempts to rebuild her life. Then, while her parents are away on business, a deadly influenza sweeps up the east coast of the United States. Lil is alone and her worst fears have come true. Of all the books on this list, this one is probably the most realistic. (featured here)

Zombie Plagues:

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
The year is 2575 and Kady and Ezra's planet has just been invaded by a rival corporation. The harrowing escape to the evacuation ships is just the beginning. Soon one of the ships is suffering from a deadly plague, and the AI that runs the ship is damaged and possibly deranged. This is a harrowing and fantastic ride. I highly recommend the whole series. (featured here

Contagion by Erin Bowman
A small crew travels to a sparsely populated mining colony on a nearby planet after receiving a distress call. It appears everyone on the planet has died from a strange and distressing plague. This book is a sci-fi/ horror mash-up, and I always love a good genre-bender. (featured here)

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene lives in a world where a zombie plague ended the Civil War. Slavery is outlawed, but a new strict caste system places blacks and indigenous peoples on the front lines as zombie hunters while white folks get to pretend that everything is fine. This book is both incredibly thought-provoking and entertaining, which is, I think, exactly what you want from an alternate history scenario. (featured here)

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
Melanie is a bright and eager student. She is also living in a world where a dreadful disease has turned most of the population into zombies. While perhaps not all zombie books belong on this list, this one definitely does because there is a great deal of time spent on investigating the causes of the infection and working towards a cure.

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