Books You Really Should Be Reading…

Recently, author Diana Peterfreund had a post over at her blog, discussing books that seem to have gone for whatever reason unnoticed by blogland, or have slipped under the radar of readers. There were some fabulous reading suggestions that came up in the comments (inspiring me to finally buy The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner), and then Angie of Angieville came along with her own list…so, hey, I decided to join in.

Here’s my list:

1. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

This is and will always be one of my most cherished books (last year, I Dared Ana to read it and she loved it too!). I read it for the first time in sixth grade, and upon finishing it turned right back to the beginning to read it again. It’s a beautifully written historical fiction, following a slave girl named Mara who plays a spy for both sides of a torn Egypt. Technically it is Young Adult, but has undeniable crossover appeal. Mara has everything – a sweeping historical landscape, powerful characters, intrigue, and of course, romance. Every copy I have lent out of this book never makes it back to me…which is sayin’ something. I can’t for the life of me understand why more people haven’t read this book and are singing its praises.

2. Chronicles of Chaos series by John C. Wright

I’ve posted about this trilogy before, but I think these books warrant another mention. Four orphans live in a special boarding school in England…but they aren’t really orphans. Or children at all, really. When they start to discover their own singular talents, they realize their world isn’t exactly what they’ve been taught it is. Mythology, physics, geometry, and magic are rolled into one sexy (yes, sexy – math is sexy!) package in this book. Awesome series. (And again, I Dared Ana to read book 1, and again, she loved it)

3. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

I just read this book recently, and had picked it up entirely on impulse in the bookstore since I hadn’t heard a thing about it online or from any other readers. And…WOW. It’s brilliant: Austen, Bronte, and magic collide in a fantasy novel that is irresistibly good. Easily one of my favorite reads of the year, and I cannot fathom why I hadn’t heard a thing about this novel. It’s downright criminal, is what it is!

4. The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier

Ok, cat’s kinda outta the bag with Marillier, but I’m putting her on the list because after reading many SF-dedicated blog reactions to the 2009 David Gemmel Award nominees, a remarkable number of people said they had never heard of or read Juliet Marillier (her most recent Sevenwaters novel, Heir to Sevenwaters was one of the five nominated titles). And Marillier seems to be one of those authors that people have heard of, but have never tried – so in that light, on the list she goes! Everything that I have read from this remarkable author I have loved – start with the Sevenwaters books, with Daughter of the Forest and work your way from there. Celtic lore, strong fantasy, romance, lush writing…you can’t go wrong. (Once again, I dared Ana to read Daughter of the Forest, and…yeah, you know. She loved it.)

5. Fables by Bill Willingham

The ongoing Fables comics are, in a word, fabulous. Exiled from The Homelands by a nefarious tyrant known as The Adversary, popular characters from fairy tales and fables live amongst the Mundys (human “mundanes”) in a small corner of New York City called Fabletown. The series is incredibly smart – political, charming, romantic, hilarious, tear-jerking, and highly addictive. For those who haven’t read the series, you can catch up with the graphic novel collections (start with Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile) and then join the ranks reading the monthlies. Also, spinoff series, Jack of Fables ain’t too shabby either. Highly recommended.

6. The Moon Crush books by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I think I’ve fawned on and on about these books here (Life As We Knew It was my favorite book of 2008, with the companion novel the dead and the gone not far behind), but it’s still sadly unread across the blogosphere. Ms. Pfeffer’s take on the apocalypse is brutal. When an asteroid hits the moon, it is pushed closer to earth, causing a string of environmental catastrophes. Expertly narrated, this is a book both about survival and about characters. It’s heart wrenching and haunting, and really needs to be read by all ages. Absolutely breathtaking. I cannot wait for book 3, coming next year.

7. The Weather Warden books by Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden books are among my top three urban fantasy series’ of all time. These are fast-paced, twisty-turny plots that will literally leave you breathless at the end of each book – and again, it seems to be a criminally under-read series. It drives me batty – this is such a well done series, it blows the bland hordes of repetitive, brain-numbing UF books out of the water. These books are set in a version of our world where there are no fey or shapeshifters or vamps in sight – instead, there are people who are born with certain powers to control natural elements (fire, weather, earth), to prevent Earth’s natural order (chaos) from destroying all life on the planet. Throw in the Djinn, locked in a war with humanity, and you’ve got a party.

8. The Evernight books by Claudia Gray

I’ve only just finished reading both books in the series by Ms. Gray (Evernight and Stargazer), but picked them up completely of my own volition. I haven’t seen a single review for either book online, which is a shame for they are so much better than many of the teen vampire books I’ve read out on the market right now. I’d put Ms. Gray’s books on par with Richelle Mead’s spectacular Vampire Academy books, light years ahead of Twilight or the Marked books.

9. The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody

These are classic post-apocalypse, dystopian books. After a global nuclear holocaust, survivors deal with the fallout, killing and burning those with physical mutations. The heroine, young Elspeth, and others are born with different types of mutations – those of the mind – and are sentenced to Obernewtyn keep in the mountains, to preserve the safety of “normal” people below. Any fan of well written literature should read the Obernewtyn Chronicles. I know that in the US previously they might have been hard to come by, but as they have just been reprinted by Random House there really is no more excuse!

10. Neal Shusterman

I only recently discovered Neal Shusterman’s work entirely by chance, picking up Unwind on a whim via Amazon. And subsequently, Unwind completely won me over. The ideas in his writing are provocative, and his style is ridiculously good. Since Unwind, I’ve read his Everlost which is also superb. Highly recommended.

Phew. Ok, so those are my suggestions. What other titles are criminally overlooked? Let us know what you think!

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  • Ana
    July 3, 2009 at 1:21 am

    I am so easy. πŸ˜†

    Seriously now, I second you on most of the list!! I love Fables , I need to read more, I stopped on volume 4!

  • heidenkind
    July 3, 2009 at 1:30 am

    I picked The Magicians and Mrs. Quent up at the library a few months ago, but I didn’t get to read it before it was due. It sounded really great, though. Now I’m going to have to get it again. πŸ™‚

    My mom loves the Weather Warden series. And yay for Megan Whalen Turner!

  • Kris
    July 3, 2009 at 1:42 am

    😯 So many new books. *Curse you, Booksmugglers, and your little blog too!*

    I just read “Life As We Knew It”. An awesome book (if I remember I think you even found me a local bookstore to buy it), although it did make me want to go out and stock up on canned goods and water. Still, it was fabulous and as you say very haunting and heartwrenching.

    Terrific list, Thea.

  • Liz
    July 3, 2009 at 1:55 am

    I would say Charles de Lint – his books first introduced me to mythical writing, the blending of the mundane with the magic.

    Sharon Shinn and her Samaria series of books – tremendous world building and characterisation.

    Faith Hunter – am a big fan of her Rogue Mage series.

    And too many others to mention!

  • Ana
    July 3, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Liz, I will b ereading my first Charles de Lint very shortly. and I heard really good thins about Sharon Shinn too.

  • Gerd Duerner
    July 3, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Do OOP books count?

    Because then I would have to say Katharine Eliska Kimbriels “Night Calls”, a dark, young adult fantasy book bordering into horror.
    I thought it to be brilliantly written, scary at times and filled with lot’s of old world folklore.
    It is certainly one of those books I always wonder about that so few seem to have read it and I keep wondering if it had better fared if it hadn’t been published before HP came out and the whole hype started.

  • Carolyn Crane (CJ)
    July 3, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Thanks for this list. I love lists like this, and I have put ‘The Magicians and Mrs. Quent’ on my TBB. How can I resist a mashup like that?

  • Lexie C.
    July 3, 2009 at 6:56 am

    I agree with all things except for 7,8 and 10 (since I haven’t read those yet, but 8 are on my TBR pile). Especially #1–I found this book around the same grade as you and I’ve re-read it about two dozen times since then. Had to buy a new copy recently ’cause my copy finally fell apart at the seams.

    I’d tack on the Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson, Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks and The Kingdom books by Cynthia Voigt honestly. Hm. I might have to do this meme type thing this weekend.

  • Kelly Meding
    July 3, 2009 at 7:41 am

    My TBR pile is going to hate me, but I now have several new authors to check out. *g* Thanks for the awesome recs!

  • Cybercliper
    July 3, 2009 at 7:52 am

    A great list – I discovered Juliet Marillier through this site and love her. I’ll have to give the Weather Wardens a try also.

  • Anna
    July 3, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Orphans of Chaos is a book a got just a little bit ago. Looks really good.

    I’m behind on reading the Weather Warden series. I still got to read Gale Storm.

  • katiebabs
    July 3, 2009 at 8:13 am

    *raises fist* Stop with the pimpage!! I only have one brain.

    Nice ;P

  • Roxy
    July 3, 2009 at 8:45 am

    I read the Thief in middle school and it is one of my favorite books. I hope you enjoy it!

    As for the other books, my TBR pile is now totally out of control!!!

  • AnimeJune
    July 3, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Great post – I’ve heard very good things about Orphans of Chaos from Locus magazine, I should check those out.

    For criminally underlooked books – I know it’s a little late to return a Dare for my own Book Dare for Games of Command, but if I could, I’d Dare everyone to read Catherynne Valente’s “The Orphan’s Tales” (Book 1 is “In the Night Garden” and Book 2 is “In the Cities of Coin and Spice.”) Set in the backdrop of a sort of 1001 Nights kind of deal, a girl is cursed with dark circles around her eyes that are really hundreds of stories tattooed on her eyelids. She has to tell them all to end her curse – so she tells the stories, and those characters in her stories tell stories, and THOSE characters in those stories tell stories, in a delightful gorgeous AMAZING puzzle that somehow all comes together at the end.

    These books honestly blew me away and I was alternately laughing and crying throughout, I couldn’t put them down. I’d recommend those books to EVERYONE.

  • Ana
    July 3, 2009 at 8:58 am

    😯 😯 😯 😯 😯 😯 😯

    AnimeJune: β€œThe Orphan’s Tales” sounds incredible.

    *buys it*

  • Kristen
    July 3, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Just added a whole bunch more to the wish list.

    I could go on a tangent about under-rated books, since I think four of my favorite authors are not very widely read: Carol Berg (Transformation), Elizabeth Bear (Blood & Iron), Sarah Monette (Melusine), and Storm Constantine (Wraeththu).

    I’m about halfway through The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden now and it is excellent. It’s difficult to read if you don’t actually have some time to set aside for reading since it is so interconnected, but once I had the time to actually read more than a few pages in one sitting, I was hooked.

  • Thea
    July 3, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Ana darling, Fables only gets better :mrgreen:

    Heidenkind – Oh do, do check out The Magicians and Mrs. Quent again! It’s lovely and I can’t believe how little publicity it has received online! Easily one of my favorite reads of the year. I hope you enjoy it!

    Kris – *grin* Yep that was me, being bossy! So glad you loved it too, actually writing this list has made me nostalgic and I’m currently re-reading LAWKI 😳 lol. Seriously. And I definitely feel you on wanting to stock up on canned goods! Gaah. Have you read the companion novel yet? ‘Cuz if you haven’t…you should 😈

    Liz – I love de Lint and what I’ve read of Sharon Shinn (not as crazy about her Twelve Houses books, but Summers at Castle Auburn is a favorite, and have Archangel to read as well), but I haven’t tried Faith Hunter yet! I’ll have to give those books a try, thanks!

    Gerd – OOP books of course count πŸ˜‰ Wow, Night Calls sounds like it’s right up my alley. Hmm. I’m checking amazon for used copies. Thank you for the rec!

    CJ – Definitely give it a read! I think you’ll enjoy it…

    Lexie C. – A kindred spirit!!!! *highfive* Mara is all kinds of wonderful, one of those comfort books I never get tired of.

    I actually *just* picked up Mistborn from the bookstore last weekend! Cue twilight zone music…I still have to check out Weeks and Voigt though. Please do a list of books, I’m eager to see what other gems I’m missing out on!

    And I *highly* recommend picking up Ill Wind (Weather Warden book 1, #7 above). Give it a shot, you just might like it πŸ˜‰

    Kelley – Our poor TBRs. How they loathe us! But on the bright side, very happy to help you with suggestions.

    Cyberclipper – Juliet Marillier is amazing. I cannot wait for Heart’s Blood later this year! And I hope you enjoy the Weather Warden books. One of the best UF series’ out there, in my opinion.

    Anna – Ooh, enjoy Orphans of Chaos! You may want to have book 2 handy πŸ˜‰ And I’m stoked for the new weather warden book next month! EEE! Finally!

    KB – *blushes* I feel your pain. Every day there’s another book I must have or die. lol.

    Roxy – I’m even more excited now to read The Thief (didn’t think it was possible! Heh).

    Anime June – Definitely give the Chronicles of Chaos series a try, I think these books would be a great fit for you πŸ™‚ And what Ana said. I’m buying The Orphan’s Tales as I type! Thank you!

    Kristen – Awesome! I cannot wait to read it :mrgreen: I’ll make sure to give it a solid, devoted block of time when I start πŸ™‚ I still have the Wraeththu books on my TBR – my local B&N had them, if you can believe that (I had thought they were out of print!).

    Thanks for the recs everyone. My wallet is angry, but my mind is happy πŸ˜›

  • music_lover3
    July 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I absolutely love the Weather Warden series!! I think that’s one of my favorite series. And I am so excited to learn that the Obernewten series is coming back out. I read the first one a few years ago, but could never find any other books in the series. I can’t wait to get back into it!

    The Orphan books look good, too. I’ll have to check those out.

  • Marg
    July 3, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I am reading only two of those – waiting for The Dead and the Gone to be released here, which doesn’t seem to be happening until next year, and my library just got Gale Force by Rachel Caine in a long time after it was actually released.

    I read In the Night Garden last year I think and I really loved the structure of the story. No sign of the second book here though which really sucks!

  • Rhiannon Hart
    July 3, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Oh don’t worry there are HEAPS of Stargazer and Evernight reviews out there on the YA blogs. Personally I don’t think them to be that spectacular, but whole-heartedly agree about the Obernewtyn books. I’m just about to start rereading them. They could be up there in my top five! I’m mixed about Unwind, and even though it was an interesting book I’m very reluctant to recommend it to anyone because of that disturbing graphic scene near the end. Almost made me lose my lunch. Thanks for the Life As We Knew It heads up–I’ve never heard of it and am doing a YA dystopian reading challenge right now. And my library has it, yay!

  • daniellle
    July 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    fight club…the book, not the movie. movies fantastic, really it is, but the book is ORIGINAL. most people dont even know its a book. Basically anything by chuck palniak.

    i thought you were gonna review eyes like stars?

  • janicu
    July 3, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    1) Mara, Daughter of the Nile – Someone who noticed I was a reader in school (the kid always reading on the bus = me), lent me this book. Loved it.
    2) Chronicles of Chaos – Never heard of this before, I guess I have to look into it.
    3) The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett – oo, I keep picking it up at the bookstore too, then putting it back! I guess I shouldn’t put it back eh.
    4) The Sevenwaters Series by Juliet Marillier – Actually have this whole series in my TBR but haven’t picked it up yet. I keep seeing good things about it.
    5) Fables by Bill Willingham – Another one sort of on my radar but haven’t picked up.
    6) The Moon Crush books by Susan Beth Pfeffer – Seen reviews, sounds really good, but also sad and I’m a weeny over sad things right now.
    7) The Weather Warden books by Rachel Caine – I like this series and one which I need to catch up on.
    8) The Evernight books by Claudia Gray _ I’ve seen a review for these online. It sounded good, but I haven’t seen these books in the bookstore (maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?) so I always forget about them
    9) + 10) The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody & Neal Shusterman = Also never heard of and have to look into.

    My top, sort of out of print, but you can find them used books I want everyone to read are – Greensleeves by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (she wrote Daughter of the Nile, so right there you know this is good), Nameless Magery and Of Swords and Spells by Delia Marshall Turner, and The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman. I know this because I wrote a post about out of print books I love when my blog was young – http://janicu.livejournal.com/19476.html

    Otherwise, I’m still in love with Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliosotti right now, that hasn’t worn off. Wish I saw more people reading that one. Last year I loved Keeping it Real by Justina Robson, The Outback Stars by Sandra MacDonald, and Pride, Prejudice, and Jasmine Fields by Melissa Nathan. Not sure how popular those are. And I also loved Ilona Andrews’ Magic Burns, but who doesn’t?

  • Ana
    July 3, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Rhiannon says:

    Oh don’t worry there are HEAPS of Stargazer and Evernight reviews out there on the YA blogs.

    We def. need to be reading more YA blogs! πŸ˜€

    Danielle: you were paying attention :mrgreen: I decided to move Eyes LIke Stars to Monday because of the long bank holiday!

  • Karen Mahoney
    July 4, 2009 at 7:22 am

    ARGH!! Stop doing this to me, reminding me of all the amazing books I still have to read. You know, it’s thanks to you guys that I have Orphans of Chaos on my TBR pile. Oh, and both of Susan Beth Pfeffer’s. I also need to read more FABLES, but I was reading that anyway – I’m only on Vol. 3. *sigh*

    I really, REALLY want to read The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, but I can’t afford any more hardbacks, or even trade paperbacks.

    Great list!

  • Kristen
    July 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Thea – The individual copies of the Wraeththu books are out of print but the omnibus edition is still in print (in the US – the UK has new revised editions of the individual books that are rather expensive).

    I looked for both Mara, Daughter of the Nile and Orphans of Chaos at Borders yesterday but couldn’t find either. They had both of the other books in the Chronicles of Chaos series but of course not the first one.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    July 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I haven’t heard of most of these, but there are a few on my TBR pile (Pfeffer, Mariller, Shusterman, Beckett). I do love the Gray books, though. I got the second last weekend and even met Claudia (I’m doing a giveaway of Evernight on my blog next week.) The Obernewtyn books and the Orphans of Chaos look especially up my alley.

  • orannia
    July 4, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    I loved Mara Daughter of the Nile. When I library sold their copy I bought it, so yes I have an old library-bound version. IIRC my mother read it!

    I still haven’t read The Magicians and Mrs Quent. My library doesn’t have it…maybe I should suggest it and share the love?

    I just finished reading the seventh Weather Warden book. I loved the first few but really struggled with Gale Force. I think it’s me rather than the book. It just feels like Jo is always being stalked/attacked/killed. I just want her to have a break. I do love the world though, and Lewis, so I’m going to give Cape Storm a go πŸ™‚

  • alana
    July 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    I just put a hold on The Magicians and Mrs Quent at my library and I’m like the seventh hold on it, so it looks like good news travels fast! πŸ˜€

    What about The Weavers of Saramyr by Chris Wooding? I don’t know if you guys have reviewed it, but I think it’s greatly underappreciated. I haven’t had a chance to read the entire trilogy, but I thought the story was unique and super interesting.

  • Kerry D.
    July 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    I too love Mara, Daughter of the Nile and it lives happily down in my library, safe in the knowledge it has a home forever.

    I am currently reading the Obernewtyn Chronicles and loving the series. I just finished The Keeping Place as an ebook and was a bit startled both by how long it took me and how much was packed into it. Then I saw it in a bookshop – 700 pages! No wonder it took a while. I have the next two (or one depending on where you are) to read and I’m trying to space them until until the end of the series comes out next year.

  • Angie
    July 5, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Thea, the question is: do you have a copy of THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA for when you finish THE THIEF? Things are only getting going at the end of THIEF so this is basically a prerequisite. πŸ˜‰

    Nice list! I have MARA now and will be getting to it soon. Very excited about that one. My library has THE MAGICIANS AND MRS. QUENT so I’ll be picking that up soon. And I just won a copy of EVERNIGHT so I’m interested to see what it’s like. Yay for Marillier!

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  • Moth
    July 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    My mom read Mara when she was in junior high and she bought herself a copy a few years ago on Amazon. She loaned it to me when I was in high school, and I loved it. She still hasn’t gotten her copy back from me. πŸ™‚

    Also, Fables is totally a must-read. Bigby and Snow? So wonderful!

    This was a great list.

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