And now for something completely different!
At the beginning of this year, we started a new feature called Old School Wednesdays. We came up with the idea towards the end of last year, when both of us were feeling not only exhausted from the never-ending inundation of new and shiny but also disappointed with the quality of these often over-hyped books. More and more we began to find relief and comfort by reaching to our TBR Mountain and reading older books. That was when we decided to turn this into a regular feature.
The thing is though, we completely underestimated both how much we’d love doing these post but also how popular they’d become. Every post has sparked conversation – the type that can only happen when people are sharing love for their favourites. As much as we like New and Shiny books, sometimes we feel that conversation in these posts don’t flow as easily – possibly because most people have yet to read New and Shiny.
Today we wanted to share with you some of the books we have lined up in our Old School Wednesdays (OSW) shelves, but also open the floor to your recommendations!
Ana’s OSW TBR:
Those are only physical copies. I also have quite a few on my virtual OSW TBR including:
Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr
Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
City of Bones by Martha Wells
Fires of Nuala by Katherine Kimbriel
Thea’s OSW TBR:
(Apologies, there are some newer titles mixed in with the old!)
Like Ana, this is just the print, physical component of my OSW TBR – there are plenty more where these came from on my ebookshelf, including:
ALL the Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold
Point of Honor by Madeline E. Robbins
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey
The Price of the Stars by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
Birth of the Firebringer by Meredith Ann Pierce
Green Witch, Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
Aurelie by Heather Tomlinson
Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
And many, many more. (Yes, we have impulse control problems. DON’T JUDGE US!)
We now open the floor to you! See anything on our shelves that you think we should read next? Got any other burning recommendations? Please do share with us books that you’ve read, loved, and want to see reviewed here.
Your recommendations can be from ANY genre for adults, young adults or middle grade audiences. The only mandatory criteria: the book must be at least 5 years old.
And now…we open up the floor to you!
AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 at 12:04 am
The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak.
I’m not sure if you’ve read it already, but I really enjoyed it!
NadineMarch 6, 2013 at 12:43 am
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce.
I read that trilogy last year and I still can’t believe how underloved and unknown it is. Plus, judging from what you guys like, I believe you will love the series. Book 2 was my favorite of the trilogy but they each possess an abundance of charms and magic and originality.
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's HoardMarch 6, 2013 at 12:46 am
I love the idea of Old School Wednesday! Here are just a few favorites that come to mind:
Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet (YA fantasy)
Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and/or Spindle’s End (YA/adult fantasy)
John Christopher’s Tripod trilogy (MG/YA SF)
Joan Aiken’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds on Nantucket (There are more in the series, but these three are my favorites. Well, I’m rather fond of The Cuckoo Tree, too.) (MG alternate-history with a touch of fantasy)
Stardance, by Spider and Jeanne Robinson (adult SF)
TeresaNMarch 6, 2013 at 1:13 am
The Vorkosigan series is fantastic, and the Cordelia’s Honor omnibus and first two books about Miles (Young Miles omnibus) have held up really well.
I also love the Perilous Gard, so well-written and a great, very sensible female protagonist.
For new suggestions,
Fantasy: Sharon Shinn’s standalone romantic fantasy “Summers at Castle Auburn”
Science Fiction: Sharon Shinn wrote a retelling of Jane Eyre set in the future called “Jenna Starborn”, really interesting take on class dynamics as personhood dynamics
Also, if you haven’t read any of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s (husband and wife team) Liaden Universe books you really should. Start with “Cordelia’s Honor” or the “Agent’s Gambit” omnibus, fantastic settings, interesting language and cultural system, nice romantic aspects without overwhelming the actual action and plot
PaigeMarch 6, 2013 at 1:49 am
I’m vociferously seconding the recommendations for Ysabeau Wilce’s Flora Segunda trilogy and Joan Aiken’s Wolves series.
I’d also recommend Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines quartet, which is about a ravaged earth where most cities are mobile and predatory — the largest cities (like London) roam the earth, preying on the smaller ones.
For something a bit different, I’d recommend Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War, a middle-grade novel about a feud between pushcart peddlers and massive trucks in NYC. It’s sharp, funny, and smart, too.
And in a similar vein, Joan Aiken’s Arabel and Mortimer series, about a young girl in London, her pet raven, his bottomless appetite, and the havoc the two of them manage to wreak on her family. Bonus: some of Quentin Blake’s best illustrations ever.
de PizanMarch 6, 2013 at 2:42 am
I’d be interested in your reviews on the Sarah Tolerance series, Perilous Gard, and the Theodosia series. And Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton has been on my to read list forever, so also that.
And a few others: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, Emergence by David Palmer (this is out of print though), Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, Tillerman cycle and Kingdom series by Cynthia Voigt.
JenniferMarch 6, 2013 at 3:10 am
You may have already read it but I would like to recommend first The Count of Monte Cristo, it’s a thrilling revenge book. Or any Chrestomanci or House book from Diana Wynne Jones, or at least the Time of Ghost for a one stand-alone book of hers.
Or Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, the story of an male teenager looking for her mother or maybe he just wanted to leave his father. We also follow a old man that talks to cats.
AndreaMarch 6, 2013 at 3:14 am
C J Cherryh’s “Angel with the Sword”. [It’s SF which reads like fantasy.]
Lenore AppelhansMarch 6, 2013 at 4:56 am
You haven’t read FINGERSMITH yet? Get on that!
EmmMarch 6, 2013 at 6:26 am
I think I see The Fox Woman on the edge on Anas shelf? If so, I would very much recommend it 🙂 I read it a few years ago after reading “The Other Ana’s” review on Things Mean A Lot, and just fell in love with the writing. Kij Johnson also has some of her short stories free to read on her website which give you some idea of her style, although her range is quite wide so some would be more indicative than others…
AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 at 6:53 am
I’ll second the Tamora Pierce books. And how about (1) I was a Rat by Philip Pullman, (2) Dave at Night by Gail Levine, or (3) Half Magic by Edward Eager. Can you tell I work in an elementary school library? 🙂
ElaineMarch 6, 2013 at 8:24 am
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
And I second Lark’s Robin McKinley suggestions (to which I would sneakily add Sunshine .
BookgazingMarch 6, 2013 at 8:25 am
I am so good because I am restraining myself from phoning you in the middle of the work day and screaming ‘Temeraire!’ at you Ana 😛 The first book is the best, but if you don’t fancy reading on it totally works as a standalone. I also thought The Fox Woman was really satisfying in terms of ideas and the fantasy story line. Theas list is just adding new books to mine, so I’m no help there, but I hear great things about Tooth and Claw which is on my own bookshelves.
As for my recs for old school books I will go away and consider, but if you’re thinking about Fingersmith you really should consider The Night Watch (weeps, so wonderful) and The Little Stranger (ghosts and unreliable narrators who are creepy and different ways fo reading the ending). Again – must restrain myself from throwing piles of world war books at you based on your love for Codename Verity.
Anne M LeoneMarch 6, 2013 at 8:35 am
I second Lenore; you will LOVE Fingersmith! Such an amazing book: Victorian London, thievery, disguises, lesbians–it’s got everything, and a page-turning plot to boot!
And SINCE YOU ASKED!, one of my all time favorites, from when I was growing up, is Margaret Weis’ The Lost King, first in the Star of the Guardians trilogy. It’s adult space opera with a strong female character, diversity, romance, aliens, and lots of passion and humor. Weis is better known for her pairing with Tracy Hickman to write the Dragonlance books, but I can’t believe more people haven’t read The Lost King.
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 8:37 am
Thanks everybody for the AWESOME recommendations so far!I will try to reply to everybody.
Anon – Thea has read The Book Thief. I have yet to read it but admit to be daunted by that book for some reason
Nadine – I am trying to make Thea read Flora Segunda ASAP! I think she will love it!
Lark – Thank you. I have added those to The List. I know Thea LOVES The Blue Sword (which is one of the first books we ever reviewed back in 2008! http://thebooksmugglers.com/2008/01/book-review-blue-sword.html) and I am actually planning on reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase next week!
TeresaN – “Sharon Shinn wrote a retelling of Jane Eyre set in the future called “Jenna Starborn”, really interesting take on class dynamics as personhood dynamics” WHAT. now I want : )
MeganMarch 6, 2013 at 8:38 am
Out of all the reading I did as a teenager, three books really stuck with me:
The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman (her book The Divided is good as well)
The Wood Wife by Terri Windling
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
It’s been more than a decade since I’ve read any of those, so I can’t really say WHY I loved them so much, but they were all good enough for me to remember the name (and keep copies of the books, which is very rare for me).
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 8:39 am
First off, the Terrier/Bloodhound/Mastiff (Bekah Cooper) series by Tamora Pierce. Even being able to see the problems (and there were many, including useless prologues and diary-style format) I absolutely LOVED those books. It squeaks under the 5 year rule. YA high fantasy, with a realistic heroine.
My favorite book of all time — Watership Down by Richard Adams. Much older, and with a storyline that takes a criminally long time to really suck me in (it wasn’t till they met Strawberry that I started to understand just how incredible the book was). Not sure where to genre this one. It’s fiction with a leaning towards readers who like fantasy with animals. Main characters are rabbits, but they’re RABBITS, not people in rabbit shape. Gritty, hard-hitting, and incredible.
The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. Book 1 is Furies of Calderon. This is “YA” (in quotes because it’s not today’s YA kissing book style) epic fantasy, with wars and magic and politics and multiple PoV swapping. The coming of age of a boy named Tavi in a world where everyone is bonded to elementals in order to do magic … everyone but him. My understanding is that this was the series Jim Butcher WANTED to write, but he got sucked into doing Urban Fantasy in order to sell. Not that he doesn’t love his UF series as well, but this one definitely has a lot of love behind it. And a loooot of words. Not small books, but the series does cap at 6 and is complete.
For something VERY different, a light and fluffy whipped cream topping of a series. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede. First book is Dealing With Dragons and it’s very old and finished a long time ago. First three books are the best, but I love Wrede’s writing style enough that I finished the series AND snatched up a few others I found by her. Funny, cute, and lays fairy tale tropes on their ears. The incredibly pragmatic princess Cimerone decides to take her future into her own hands and volunteers to becomes a princess for the dragon Kazul. And it only gets better when you meet Morwen the witch and her very clean house with the sign “None of this nonsense, please.”
And my last recommendation while I’m not sitting at my bookshelf and able to pull out individual reads … Hunter’s Oath and Hunter’s Death by Michelle West. I … don’t even know how to describe this one. High AND Epic fantasy, in just two novels. Multiple PoVs. War. Love. A little bit of (very well done) time travel in a very tragic character. Street rats and wealth and danger and the great hunt and … I plowed through to the end, and turned the last page only to find that I’d been sitting in the same position for way too long and that I’d been crying and breathing as heavily as if I’d just run a marathon. I did NOT immediately pick it back up because I needed some space to remember the shape of the inside of my head. A complex read with big catharsis at the end.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 8:40 am
Oh, and not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve heard some very … moving arguments against the way the Vorkosigan Saga plays out. I’ll definitely be looking for your reviews on that one. =]
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 8:44 am
Paige – I’ve had Mortal Engines on my radar but I haven’t heard about the other ones you recommended. Will look them up, thank you!
de Pizan – I think we will read Tooth and Claw next week! Thanks for the recs!
Jennifer – I have actually read Kafka on the Shore…it wasn’t a favourite though. Oops. BUT I do love the Chrestomanci series (http://thebooksmugglers.com/tag/chrestomanci-series) and am slowly making my way through them (I am on book 5).
Andrea- THAT SOUNDS AWESOME
Lenore – I KNOW. *hangs head in shame*
Emm – I bought the Fox Woman because of The Other Ana’s review too. It will be my first KJ book.
Anon – I will be reviewing three MG books next Monday, I love MG stories. I actually read – and loved – I was a Rat very recently (http://thebooksmugglers.com/2013/01/anas-smugglivus-2012-feats-of-strength.html) and I went on to buy all of Phillip Pullman’s MG novels!
Elaine – I read all of those! : )
(http://thebooksmugglers.com/2011/11/smugglers-ponderings-thoughts-on-the-last-unicorn-by-peter-s-beagle.html) And Sunshine is one of my all time favourites! Still waiting for a sequel.
whimsyfulMarch 6, 2013 at 8:52 am
I really recommend Cordelia’s Honor and the rest of the Vorkosigan Saga. Point of Honour was well written and had a good concept, but it left me a bit cold.
Some other books I’d love for you guys to review:
* Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher — a high fantasy/intrigue series set in a world that’s a mix of Avatar the Last Airbender and Rome. First book is a bit slow, but it picks up very quickly from there.
* The Old Kingdom/Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix — fantasy zombies, a very creative and well thought out magic system and awesome ladies.
*Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword
*Tamora Pierce’s Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen
Patrice SarathMarch 6, 2013 at 8:52 am
I’ve been thinking with great fondness lately of Patricia McKillip’s The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. I plan to retread that one myself.
AnimeJuneMarch 6, 2013 at 8:54 am
FOR BOTH OF YOU, I’d love it if you read Amanda Hemingway’s THE GREENSTONE GRAIL, first in the Sangreal Trilogy. It is a FANTASTIC YA trilogy that uses Arthurian iconography in a really original way. It’s also a YA series that makes the hero’s parent an actual, living, breathing character with flaws and motivations, instead of just a constant hindrance or supportive figure.
For Ana’s TBR, I cannot recommend TEMERAIRE enough. The worldbuilding is absolutely astonishing.
For Thea’s TBR – I read SPIN and quite enjoyed it.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 8:55 am
@Patrice Ooooh, I haven’t read The Forgotten Beasts of Eld in AGES. If you liked it, you might also like The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown. Another with a cast of animal characters and that same old-feeling writing style.
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 9:03 am
Bookgazing – Jodie, this is probably where I lose all of my street cred by saying that I couldnt finish the Night Watch. But I have both The Little Stranger and Fingersmith and I want to still read both.
Anne M Leone – I have the Lost King! SOMEWHERE!!! Will add to the official OSW TBR.
Megan – I know Thea loves the Crown Duel (she even have me a copy, I should move it to this TBR!) . I don’t know the other two and will look them up, thank you.
Tami – These sound awesome and I kind of want to read the Michelle West ones NOW.
whimsyful – I really need to read more Tamora Pierce! I am not sure if I’d like the Jim Butcher series but I am willing to give it a go. Thea LOVES the Blue Sword – http://thebooksmugglers.com/2008/01/book-review-blue-sword.html, maybe I should give it a go too.
Patrice – I want to read that one soon!
AnimeJune – that book is already wishlisted since we talked about it on Twitter !!! : )
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 9:10 am
This is going to be fun! Most of the time, I get books recs from y’all. My google reader “starred” section is almost completely dedicated to books you’ve reviewed that sound like I’d like them.
Being able to respond to reviews because I’ve ALSO read the book will be interesting!
JillMarch 6, 2013 at 9:14 am
I was going to request Feed by M.T. Anderson, and then I saw Ana already had a copy on her shelf! Definitely give that a try. It’s one of my favorite dystopian/scifi books in YA because it’s just so unbelievably smart.
I’ve also had Fingersmith on my own TBR shelf for a while, so I’d be interested in your thoughts on that.
Finally I know you two tend to read speculative fiction, but for the best of contemporary YA (with super strong, hilarious heroines), maybe look into E. Lockhart’s books if you haven’t yet? Her Ruby Oliver series is hilarious, but personally I think The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, in which a girl at an old-boys club-esque boarding school begins a feminist uprising, is excellent.
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 9:18 am
Tami – This is exactly what we are hoping will happen! More booksish conversations FTW!
Jill – Thea LOVES Feed and this is why she gave me her copy. And I absolutely adore E Lockhart. I enjoyed The Boyfriend List and Fly on the Wall but The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is one of my fave books ever: http://thebooksmugglers.com/2010/09/book-review-the-disreputable-history-of-frankie-landau-banks-by-e-lockhart.html
TheaMarch 6, 2013 at 9:33 am
Oh my goodness THANK YOU for all the recs, everyone!!! Ana’s covered a bunch but I totally want to shout out to:
Nadine & Paige – SOLD on Flora Segunda! I’m pretty sure I have book 2 in the series somewhere, too, so when I read it and fall in love with it (seems inevitable!), I have an immediate sequel at hand. THANK YOU
Lark – You know, I’ve read and loved so many of Tamora Pierce’s books but have yet to dive into the Protector of the Small quartet. It is on the calendar! Also, I have been searching EVERYWHERE for a copy of The Death of Grass by John Christopher, but to no avail since it’s out of print here in the US and no ebooks exist… BUT I just did another search and it looks like the used book gods are smiling? I see copies of the Tripods books AND DoG available! HUZZAH!
Also, love love love the McKinley recs (The Blue Sword is an old fave) – haven’t read Spindle’s End yet but probably should fix that.
TeresaN – LOVE the Vorkosigan books I’ve read so far (everything in order up through Cetaganda – I really need to catch up!) and Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn, although I had no idea she also wrote a futuristic Jane Eyre retelling. AWESOME!
Paige – Ooh! I have Mortal Engines on my e-reader (as well as Fever Crumb, but guessing I should start with Mortal Engines? Any advice?
de Pizan – Emergence by David Palmer looks right up my alley. Anyone know of any good used book sites where a girl might be able to buy a copy?
Jennifer – You know of all of the classics I read in high school, The Count of Monte Cristo remains one of my favorites 🙂 Thank you for the rec!!!
Andrea – CJ Cherryh! I’ve only read Cyteen (which was…odd but wonderful) – Angel with the Sword sounds pretty wonderful!
Elaine – Ooh, yes, we’ve read those (and reviewed most of them too)! I think I’m one of the few people that was not crazy about Sunshine *ducks*
Anne M Leone – The Lost King looks awesome (and I also kind of love this retro lightsaber-y cover: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-King-The-Margaret-Weis/dp/0553763423)! *adds to cart*
Megan – Crown Duel! Oh I loved that book (duology?) so much. I think a re-read is in order.
Tami – You just made me even more excited about the Bekah Cooper books. I’m IN! Also, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles are among my favorite books EVER. Cimorene was one of my first favorite heroines!
And now I’m off to hunt down a copy of Hunter’s Oath and Hunter’s Death by Michelle West. Thank you!
Linda WMarch 6, 2013 at 9:43 am
I was going to suggest old school writers like Octavia Butler, Philip K. Dick, or Ray Bradbury. But you’ve probably reviewed some of their books.
Kate K.F.March 6, 2013 at 9:43 am
Looking at your TBR piles reminds me of some books that I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet.
I’m going to just echo a lot of people on Vorkosigan as I read the latest one a little while ago and am doing some rereading. Those books are a happy place for me.
Garth Nix is wonderful and I adore the Abhorsen Chronicles but some of his standalones are great as well. I think you would get a lot from Ragwitch and Shade’s Children, the first one is a take on a portal adventure with a touch of the Snow Queen story and the second is one of the few dystopians I enjoyed. They’re not really my cup of tea but he made it work.
Seconding anything Diana Wynne Jones’, I’d recommend Hexwood, The Homeward Bounders and any of her short story collections. I love Chrestomanci but I know the books can be an acquired taste. She’s one of those authors that does a lot of different things which can make her tricky as the variety means she has something for everyone, but its hard sometimes to get the right one.
Have you read anything by Cinda Williams Chima, she’s one of my favorite YA authors who creates fascinating worlds. The Heir Chronicles which are contemporary and The Seven Realms’ which is high fantasy. She just gets teens.
I’m reminded that I keep meaning to read more Jo Walton as I loved Among Others, but haven’t known where to start on her other fiction.
Oh and Kij Johnson is fantastic. I’ve read The Fox Woman and Fudoki and they’re two books that I’m constantly recommending out to people.
Mary AnneMarch 6, 2013 at 9:47 am
Sylvia Kelso has written two series that are pretty awesome. The first is the Rihannar series and starts with “Everran’s Bane.” They are kind of hard books to get hold of; I think she is an Australian writer and not well known.
I second so many of the recommendations above. Katie Waitman’s “The Merro Tree” is another obscure one that stays with you for a long time. Michelle West also writes as Michelle Sagara (I think – sometimes I pull these pieces of trivia out of the back of my head and I think they were planted there in my sleep.) The two Hunter’s books were great, and they spun off a fairly good series (except it seemed to go on forever – the Sun Sword series.) I really like her Elantra series (writing as Michelle Sagara).
Lorna Freeman’s Borderlands books are a whole lot of fun, even if it is very frustrating that it is an unfinished series.
Karin Lowachee wrote three scifi books about children at war. The first, “Warchild”, is by far my favorite, but the whole series is well worth the read.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 9:50 am
Thea – <3 Cimerone! I pretended my cat-of-many-years was one of Morwen's kittens when I first got him.
I did share the Cooper books with a friend who just didn't get into them, but my husband agrees with me and we've got the whole set on our bookshelf (and that is HIGH praise, as I have severely curtailed my need-to-own when it comes to books. Moving four times in as many years will do that to a body.)
I loved that Cooper's books showed her having romantic relationships with NOT a soul mate AND that her capstone romance was so very well done. No insta-romance here! Bull through those first two prologues … the spelling gets readable as soon as Bekah's voice takes over the book. =]
*twirls at Hunter's book love* Make sure you have both available! The first one ends on a ridiculous cliffhanger. Also, the second one intros another cast of characters and it's a little off-putting at first, but she ends up being one of my favorite voices.
… and now I want to pick them up and read them again, too! *grin*
Wendy GarfinkleMarch 6, 2013 at 9:59 am
Wow! Where do I start!! Okay, you ladies have some great books on your shelves! The ones I’ve read and HIGHLY recommend are: Pope’s The Perilous Gard (Ana’s OSW TBR), Marriott’s Shadows on the Moon, Pullman’s Tiger in the Well (Book 3 of Sally Lockhart series), and Wrede’s Snow White and Rose Red (Thea’s OSW TBR).
Additionally, I recommend the following:
Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series (MG/YA), Howard Pyle’s Otto of the Silver Hand (MG), Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series and/or Tir Alainn series (Adult), J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series (Adult).
I could go on and on, but you ladies are going to be pretty busy for a while with all those TBR books & reader recommendations. 🙂
Mary AnneMarch 6, 2013 at 10:01 am
Oh my God – how could I skip Emma Bull?! She is one of my alltime favorites. I gobble anything and everything she writes, which is not nearly enough. And each thing she has written is so different from the last. For urban fantasy – War for the Oaks. Dystopia (but so much more) – Bone Dance. Sci fi – Falcon. Western fantasy – Territory. A historical collaboration with Steven Brust called “War and Neccesity”. “Finder” is a borderlands/modern elves gem. And she started this genuis web project with some other really good scifi fantasy writers (Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette to name a few) called Shadow Unit. Criminal Minds with a twist. Check out Emma Bull, if you haven’t read her.
Meredith GMarch 6, 2013 at 10:05 am
Circle of Magic
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
ShwetaMarch 6, 2013 at 10:06 am
I see that you have Ursula Le Guinn’s Earthsea series lined up. I would say please read ASAP! They are fabulous high fantasy books by an author who knows how to keep the reader hooked. You might feel that in comparison to recent fantasy titles the plot is a little less sparkling (sometimes even predictable)but once you get into the rhythm of her story telling you’ll just want to read them all!
AH@badassbookreviewsMarch 6, 2013 at 10:16 am
L.A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack is a fantastic story. The audio version is really well narrated with the reader acting all the parts quite well. There’s a lot of description in this series and a lot of swashbuckling action and a very plucky heroine.
Naomi Novak’s Temeraire is really good too. You will fall in love with Temeraire.
FrankiMarch 6, 2013 at 10:18 am
Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, an Australian author.
The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones (Especially the last book!)
MistiMarch 6, 2013 at 10:37 am
I would second the Star of the Guardians series by Margaret Weis. The spin off series Mag Force 7 is also very good. In fact, I might like it better than Star of the Guardians. Raoul and the Little One are some of my favorite characters.
I would also recommend Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren although I’m not sure if it would be classified as middle grade or not.
Gerd D.March 6, 2013 at 10:39 am
I would love to hear about this book:
“Fires of Nuala” by Katherine Kimbriel
because, as for suggestions I would like to put down:
“Night calls” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, which I simply adored back when it came out.
“Lives of the Monster Dogs”, by Kirsten Bakis.
and for something older, I’d say “The other people” by Pat A. Brisco, is worth a read, it’s a very early Urban Fantasy style novel with a werewolf PI.
Not exactly great literature, but so much fun. 🙂
PaigeMarch 6, 2013 at 10:41 am
Ana and Thea– Yes, start with Mortal Engines — that’s the first book, followed by Predator’s Gold, then Infernal Devices, and Darkling Plain.
I think I saw Fever Crumb on one of your shelf photos? It’s set in the same universe, but when I picked it up, it was off-putting — it definitely felt written for a younger audience than the original four.
Ana, I don’t wonder that you haven’t heard of the other titles I mentioned — they’re *really* old school, as in, old enough that I read them back in the 80s; and loved them enough to seek out copies (and extra copies) later on. Actually, now that I look, The Pushcart War appears to be out of print — but pretty available via Addall.com, etc.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 10:41 am
I can do more, right? *wink*
Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff. HILARIOUS. Talking cat (naturally), adorable non-alpha male love interest, and schizophrenic hole to hell in the basement. I did not like the rest of the series as much, but this first read was a FUN fun ride.
Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield. Neither fantasy nor sci fi, but rather an epic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. The book was good, but the audio book was even better. GLORIOUS way to spend a long road trip, listening to all those lovely Greek words from such a talented voice actor. This book punched me right in the gut and then TWISTED. So so good, and I normally don’t read outside the fantasy genre. (Geek side note, that voice actor from the audiobook version? That was the guy who played the first/old The Master from Dr. Who. Dang straight I picked that out of his voice when I watched the episode! *fist bump*)
Mercedes Lackey is a guilty pleasure of mine, starting with the Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy) and including the first book in the Bardic Voices series (The Lark and the Wren) and the Black Swan (retelling of the Swan Princess). What Lackey misses in plotting, she makes up for in characters and magical worlds.
Right! And then the book that started me on this “how could I have forgotten” journey … Spider Robinson’s The Callahan Touch. Yes, it’s part of a series. No, it is not the beginning of the series. It’s one of my favorite books of all time though, and I believe it stands well on its own while still encouraging you to want to go out and read the stuff that came before it (which was mostly collections of short stories). Sci-fi with fantasy twists about a very special kind of bar — the one you only find if you really need it. Plenty of laughs (especially if you like puns) with a goodly portion of hard-hitting serious threads as well. This is the book I use to intro folks to the series itself, though my husband will argue that book one is more than sufficient to do that. It’s got time travelers (who are required to pay with cash) and aliens and cluricaunes and bad jokes and great coffee and irish whiskey and GOOD PEOPLE. Much much love.
KimMarch 6, 2013 at 11:05 am
The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
KimMarch 6, 2013 at 11:08 am
The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee & Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
JaimeMarch 6, 2013 at 11:09 am
I’m so excited about this!
One of my favorite books of all time “The Changeover” by Margaret Mahy.
The prequel to “The Blue Sword”, “The Hero and the Crown” by Robin Mckinely.
The Unicorn Trilogy by Tanith Lee “Black Unicorn”, “Red Unicorn” and “Gold Unicorn”.
Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde
Seconding Diana Wynne Jones’ “Hexwood”
“Flora Secunda” and “So You Want to be a Wizard” are also great.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 11:11 am
Jaime – Oddly, I read the So You Want to be a Wizard series and enjoyed it, but loveloveloved Deep Wizardry far and above the others in the series.
AprilMarch 6, 2013 at 11:15 am
Good grief. I’ve just written down a huge list of books I now must look into. Many of the books above are ones I’d have suggested and I’m quite sure you guys have enough to go on by now but this is fun so i’m going to add this one book that I think is worth mention:
Teresa Edgerton’s Goblin Moon is something I personally call ‘urban high fantasy comedy of manners’. If you understood that you should definitely read it.
AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 at 11:31 am
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
LaurenMarch 6, 2013 at 11:45 am
First of all, READ PRETTY MONSTERS BY KELLY LINK!!! You will love it. I promise. It is mind-blowing and unlike anything I’ve read before.
I think you would really enjoy Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden. It’s about a bunch of kids who go on a camping trip out in the Australian bush…and return to discover that Australia has been invaded and everyone else in their town has been captured. The major plot elements have a YA-dystopia feel, although something about it feels very different than American YA books about dystopia/war. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what – but I’m sure you will! 🙂 And overall, it’s smart, thrilling, and addictive. (There are 6 sequels!!!)
For MG, I think you’d really love From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs.Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L.Konigbsurg, if you haven’t already read it. Two kids run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No, seriously. It is awesome.
Another MG (on the cusp of YA): the Enola Holmes books by Nancy Springer! (I am pretty sure that The Case of the Missing Marquess is the first one). It’s about Sherlock Holmes’s little sister, Enola (not in the original text) and they are full of codes and puzzles and cleverness. First paragraph: “I would very much like to know why my mother named me Enola, which, backwards, spells ‘alone.’ Mum was, or perhaps still is, fond of ciphers, and she must have had something in mind, whether foreboding or a sort of left-handed blessing or, already, plans.”
AprilMarch 6, 2013 at 11:47 am
So I was adding the ginormous list of books to my even more ginormous TBR list (why yes, it is more than 2,000 books, why do you ask?) I kept thinking of others that would be fun to look back on. Most of the ones I thought of are definitely not YA though. Here are a couple of oldies but goodies:
The Soprano Sorcerous (Spellsong cycle by Modesitt)
Spellsinger, Alan Dean Foster
Stranger at the Wedding, Barbara Hambly
LexieMarch 6, 2013 at 11:47 am
As for what’s on your guys’ shelves:
Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli – its a cautious recommendation because some elements may be troublesome based on your guys’ past reviews
Farthing by Jo Walton – I just found out about this book but it sounds FABULOUS. (as do the sequels), Walton admits to some gaffs in judgement however for how her alt.history world played out.
As for my own recs –
The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl – its a little hard to put a finger on the genre of this book, but its a fascinating book about the power of perception and being shy.
The Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee (4 books) – These books didn’t pan out the way I thought they would, but minor frustrations aside they were enthralling.
Andra by Louise Lawrence – I LOVE Lawrence. I’ve loved her books since I was in primary school. Andra is a scifi novel about teens, but not really a YA book.
Kieli by Yukako Kabei (7+ books) – this is being released by Yen Press and they’re doing a bang-up job of it. Its creepy at moments, futuristic, steampunkish and love story about a girl and her Undying companion.
Authors in General:
Sydney J. Van Scyoc – a lot of her stuff is OOP, but easily found at used bookstores or fairly cheap online. Scifi – her Daughters of the Sun Stone trilogy is the best.
Joyce Ballou Gregorian – another OOP author, she only has the Tredana trilogy out. Sadly she passed away before writing anything else. Portal fantasy.
DebMarch 6, 2013 at 12:19 pm
I’m late to the game with John Bellairs and Elizabeth Peters mysteries, but I am so glad to be on this ride now. And bonus — with Old School series, there is less of a change these books will have long holds lists at my library.
MatthewMarch 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm
I love that I recognize a lot on your TBR shelves! I read “the Fox Woman” and the Earthsea books a long time ago and really enjoyed them. I’ve reread a bunch of the Vorkosigan books recently and they are still excellent, and “the Truth Teller’s Tale” was another recent great read. I keep meaning to read “Lud-in-the-Mist” because a friend of mine recommended it.
McKinley’s “Chalice” was amazing. “Sirena” was interesting, but in some ways a bit disturbing, and “Fever Crumb” was a lot of fun. I enjoyed Wrede’s series that “Across the Great Barrier” is a part of, though I had this one big question throughout it all…
Have you read “Runemarks” by Joanne Harris? It’s been republished, but the original was 2007. Or how about Kit Whitfield’s book “Benighted” or one of Agatha Christie’s Mary Westmacott books? “Night Watch” by Sean Stewart or “the Flight of Michael McBride” by Midori Snyder are other older favorites of mine, though I haven’t read them in a while… I wonder how much I’ve grown since then and if it would change my views? 😉
elizaMarch 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm
i would love to see you guys review an enola holmes book. the series is by nancy springer, and it starts with ‘the case of the missing marquess’, which i don’t think is the strongest, but it’d do in a pinch (the second is ‘the case of the left-handed lady’, which is where i accidentally started the series, and it caught me up quite well).
but i see some books on your shelves that i have both read and loved (bloody jack, chalice), and that i am very curious to hear your opinion of because i’ve been meaning to read them (feed, terrier).
Rebecca I.March 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm
Sabriel by Garth Nix – Glad to see other’s have recommended this one, as it was the first to come to mind for me. Sabriel! Touchstone! Demonic cat Mogget! So good.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – This book is brilliant and has great twists so you should avoid spoilers at all costs. Glad to see this is already on your TBR, Ana!
The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw – if you liked Chime.
The Moon by Night by Madeleine L’Engle – I love all the Austin family books but have a soft spot for this one for whatever reason. I probably just read it at the perfect time in my life.
The Devil’s Mixtape by Mary Borsellino – Yay for small press books! this one’s really hard to sum up, so I’m stealing the GoodReads summary:
“In 1999, Ella was one of three students who arrived at her Denver school with a cache of weapons and a plan to use them. Years later, she sifts through accounts of other violent young women, writing letters to a little sister who had to grow up in the aftermath of that day.
In 1952, Sally was a runaway, hitch-hiking around Australia with a strange, secretive girl named Amy. Each outcasts in their own way, the pair navigate a landscape scarred by old memories and tragedies, searching for a place that will feel like safety and home.
And in 2011, Charlotte was a music journalist on tour with a band, listening to their stories of loss and hope. Though they are in very different times and places, the three are linked by a web of legacies and second chances.
Demons, fallen soldiers, hunters, rock & roll stars, and high-school heartbreaks are all thrown together. The result could never be anything but the Devil’s mixtape.”
The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks – A story about brothers and siblings and magic and violence. Really good. GoodReads says:
On a storm-ravaged night, a 19-year-old girl is kidnapped, raped, and killed. Three days later, her two younger brothers set out in search of her murderer. Cole, 17, is a dark-eyed devil who doesn’t care if he lives or dies, while Ruben, 14, is a strange child who sometimes, inexplicably, experiences sensations above and beyond his own. This is the story of the boys’ journey from their half-gypsy home on a London junk lot to the ghostly moors of Devon, where they hope and fear to find the truth about their sister’s death. It’s a long road, cold and hard and violent. It’s THE ROAD OF THE DEAD.
AnonymousMarch 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm
I cannot wait to see reviews of “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” and “Temeraire” I loved these stories!
-James Thurber –“The 13 Clocks” (only in Print, I think)
-Stephen R. Donaldson –‘Mordant’s Need’ Duology (‘Mirror of her Dreams” and ‘A Man Rides Through’)
-Stephen R. Donaldson — ‘Daughter of Regals and other stories’ anthology.
MarieCMarch 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm
I cannot wait to see reviews of “The Forgotten Beasts of Eld” and “Temeraire” I loved these stories!
-James Thurber –“The 13 Clocks” (only in Print, I think)
-Stephen R. Donaldson –‘Mordant’s Need’ Duology (‘Mirror of her Dreams” and ‘A Man Rides Through’)
-Stephen R. Donaldson — ‘Daughter of Regals and other stories’ anthology.
SamanthaMarch 6, 2013 at 1:23 pm
Ooh, I’m going to enjoy fantasy buying all these wonderful books!
A Pack of Lies by Geraldine McCaughrean
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons
Anne M LeoneMarch 6, 2013 at 1:32 pm
Ohhh… so excited I’ve enticed you both with The Lost King! Now I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping you love it as much as I do! And wandering off to start rereading my own copy.
Gerd D.March 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm
@Samantha: Yes, yes, totally second “Annie on my mind”, such a squee worthy romantic novel.
EstaraMarch 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm
Heee, I knew that when I found the time there’d be loads of suggestions. I’ll throw my two cents in anyway.
Of the Ana TBRs I can unhesitatingly recommend the Patricia McKillip and Ellen Kushner as well as the Judith Tarr (that one’s a World Fantasy Award Nominee, by the way):mrgreen: … actually any of the ebook TBR will be fun!
Of Thea’s TBR The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (although if you read any McKillip I think you would ADORE the full Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy which is on the one hand totally slashy before its time in the relationship of central hero and central mentor and on the other hand full of AWESOME women who take over the story when they want and the hero vanishes; and loads of ultracool worldbuilding), the other pic is too small for me to make out… so I throw in the suggestion of reading more P.C. Hodgell. Oh and I still think you’d like And All the Stars, Thea!
de PizanMarch 6, 2013 at 2:04 pm
Thea, it looks like Abebooks might be your best bet for Emergence. The cheapest editions on there run $10-15. Everywhere else is far far more expensive.
hapaxMarch 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Oh, so many squee-worthy books in those pictures! Of the ones I recognized (and own!), I’d definitely endorse the Bujold books and the Tamora Pierce as being worthy of starting with.
I’ll second Lexie on WOMAN IN THE WALL (although I personally preferred OWL IN LOVE, WitW is definitely more *interesting*); Rebecca on SABRIEL (although I think the sequels are even better); and MarieC on THE THIRTEEN CLOCKS (a book which I end up quoting probably more than any I’ve ever read.)
I’ll toss in Megan Whalen Turner’s THIEF books (start at the beginning), Diana Wynne Jones’s DALEMARK QUARTET (I think the SPELLCOATS is a very different sort of YA fantasy, but you can start anywhere, really; the CROWN OF DALEMARK is my favorite, but mostly for the way it ties together three books that don’t seem to have anything in common); and, for *really* Old
Skool, Ellen Raskin’s unsurpassed THE WESTING GAME.
EstaraMarch 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm
Oh for a way to edit…
I am dittoing the following books
The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman (a Thea book, I think)
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
C J Cherryh’s “Angel with the Sword” (If you start the Foreigner series you won’t stop)
Liaden Universe Space Opera
Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet (YA fantasy)
Stranger at the Wedding by Barbara Hambly
Any Emma Bull
I’m not sure whether to second Michelle West’s Hunter’s Duology, although it would be a fairly short entry into her marvellous world building and characters, or tell you guys to go for the Sun Sword books right away, as well as the House War series which actually mirrors the Hunter duology from a different viewpoint and then significantly expands on that. West – in any of her books – always has amazing women at the centre, who build or protect or avenge their own version of family ties amidst the epic plot. I love her books. She usually writes really long books and I wish her books were even longer.
Oh right, and Diane Duane’s Tales of the five/Tales of the Middle Kingdom which she has rereleased in ebook – that’s a Thea series again.
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm
oh em GEE. I go away for a few hours and then the thread explodes with the awesome of you all. Thank you, writing down ALL THE THINGS.
Hapax – I am the BIGGEST Queen’s Thief series fan. *grin* Greatest moment of our blogging life for me was to find thath she linked to my review of the series: http://meganwhalenturner.org/Novels.html
hapaxMarch 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm
@Ana — I thought you were a MWT fan, but I just wanted to make sure. (Have you read the short stories in INSTEAD OF THREE WISHES? If not, they’ll fit in the OSW time-frame; and all the incipient awesomeness of the THIEF series is nascent there. I remember when it first came out, and I immediately put her name on my “Authors to Watch” list.)
Also, I missed the rec of the Liaden series by Lee & Miller upthread; enthusiastically second this one as well. Do start with AGENT OF CHANGE — I suspect that Ana, especially, will find in herself a desperate desire to run away from home and live with the Turtles.
AnaMarch 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm
Hapax – YES, I have read that one as well. This just means that I have nothing else to read by MWT until she finishes book 5. WOE.
I am intrigued by the possibility of living with Turtles.
JaimeMarch 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm
Tami – Actually, I agree with you, Deep Wizardry and High Wizardry are my favorites. The first book in the series is a solid novel though, with one of my favorite moments being a certain discovery in a library.
TamiMarch 6, 2013 at 3:50 pm
Jaime – I may (or may not) have walked down library shelves trailing an idle finger along the spine.
You know. Just in case.
Megan no hMarch 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm
Holy moly, I wish I had got to this post earlier in the day, because now there are SO MANY COMMENTS TO READ. Which reminds me, before I say anything else, OMG ANA, READ THE BOOK THIEF, READ ITTTTTTTTT!
Okay, to my recommendations! And I am trying to go very old school with these!
I want to second (third? N’th?) John Christopher’s Tripod Trilogy. LOVED it. I heard the prequel is trash though, so you can skip it. Just make sure you get to The City of Gold and Lead. SO GOOD. (MG/SF/60s)
Also, have either of you read Tuck Everlasting? Such a short, beautiful book and one of my favorites. Don’t let the crappy movie version with Rory Gilmore dissaude you! Natalie Babbitt was an amazing children’s writer. (MG/F/70s)
Black Unicorn (and its sequels) by Tanith Lee was one I really loved when I was younger. Just re-read the first two and I thought they held up well! (YA/F/90s)
Enchantress From the Stars by Slyvia Engdahl. SO good and I’ve yet to meet anyone whose read it/heard of it. SO under-appreciated! (YA/SF/70s)
I’m assuming one of both of you has read Jonathan Strange (if not, GET ON THAT). But Susanna Clarke’s collection of short stories (The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories) is SO GOOD too and few people seem to have read it.
And now to go WAY OLD SCHOOL. As far as (non-genre) classics go, I’d love to see someone review the Emily of New Moon books by L.M. Montgomery, since they don’t get nearly the amount of love the Anne books get. And they are amazing. Also, I’d LOVE to pimp out the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They don’t get nearly as much love as some of their contemporaries. The first four are childrens, but the rest are set in high school and college.
@de Pizan/Thea/EVERYONE – I CANNOT recommend Thriftbooks enough. Their backlist/out of print selection is AMAZING and everything is usually a straight 4 bucks (shipping included). I checked and they even have Emergence.
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's HoardMarch 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm
I’m having so much fun reading everyone else’s recommendations! I’m bookmarking this page so I can keep checking back. (And my TBR list is getting longer and longer…)
But how on earth did I miss that Ana has The Perilous Gard in her pile? Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes! One of my all-time favorite books. (I also love The Sherwood Ring, by the same author, but it is a very different book from The Perilous Gard.
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's HoardMarch 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm
I’m having so much fun reading everyone else’s recommendations! I’m bookmarking this page so I can keep checking back. (And my TBR list is getting longer and longer…)
But how on earth did I miss that Ana has The Perilous Gard in her pile? YES! One of my all-time favorite books. (I also love The Sherwood Ring, by the same author, but it is a very different book from The Perilous Gard.
KelseyMarch 6, 2013 at 5:03 pm
Not sure if guys have read and reviewed it or not, but Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is FANTASTIC!
ElizaMarch 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm
Already on Your Shelves/List & General Comments
Fever Crumb – Soooo good. A friend insisted that I read this and I’m glad that I listened to her. The good news is that the third book in the Fever Crumb trilogy recently came out, so you don’t have to wait to find out what happens. Thea, these are prequels to the Mortal Engines series (which I still have to read), so you can read these first. Paige is correct that the Fever Crumb series are written for middle grade. If you like Philip Reeve, check out his middle grade space opera books (see Middle grade list).
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos – Yes! So glad to see this on your pending list. I love Theodosia, a rather lonely soul, and the use of the Egyptian mythology. A very fun series that I hope Robin LaFevers returns to soon ‘cause I want to find out what happens next. I fear it has been neglected due to the popularity of her His Fair Assassin trilogy.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – I know a lot of folks are recommending but I have to say that I HATED it. I found the main character insufferable, arrogant, sexist and a complete busybody.
The Book Thief – Ana, read it! Your reluctance may be that it might not live up to its hype but it really does. LOVED it.
A Few of My Favorites Ever
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (2006). One of my all time favorites. It’s a delicious modern day Gothic for the book lover. A mysterious novelist, a biographer who lives above a rare bookstore owned by her father, twins, ghosts, orphans. What more could you want? Beautiful writing, it has that also. There are two heroines here: Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father’s shop. Vida has been confounding her biographers and fans for years by giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it’s the truth. Because of a biography that Margaret has written about brothers, Vida chooses Margaret to tell her story, all of it, for the first time. At their initial meeting, the conversation begins:
The audio version narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner is fantastic, as would be expected from two such skilled narrators. (There’s an abridged version, which I originally purchased by mistake after reading the book, with Ruthie Henshall and Lynn Redgrave narrating that is also excellent so be careful when making your selection if you decide to go the audio route.)
Sometimes the Soul by Gioia Timpanelli (1998). Two novellas. In “A Knot of Tears” a woman’s locked up life is transformed by a parrot who tells tales. “Rosina, Not Quite In Love” is a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Oh, the language here is so beautiful.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960). I think this is one of the all time great American novels and gave us one of the best literary men – Atticus Finch. Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer Atticus, has just started school; but her carefree days come to an end when a black man in town is accused of raping a white woman, and her father is the only man willing to defend him. It explores issues of race, class and the loss of innocence. Great sibling relationship between Scout and her older brother Jem. For those audio book fans, Sissy Spacek narrates and, as expected, does a fantastic job. She brings the characters alive.
All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West (1931). How often do you have a book where the main character is an 88-year old woman? Lady Slane, who near the end of her life is emancipated by her husband’s death. She has been the dutiful wife of a “great man” in public life, Viceroy of India and a member of the House of Lords. Her children plan to share her care between them much as they divide up the family property but, completely unexpectedly, Lady Slane makes her own choice, proposing to leave fashionable Kensington for a cottage in Hampstead that caught her eye decades earlier, where she will live alone except for her maidservant and please herself — for example allowing her descendants to visit only by appointment. Sharing much with Sackville-West, Lady Slane explicitly states that she is not a feminist and considers such issues to be questions of human rights, while acknowledging the more difficult position of women.
They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell (1937). Not really a WWI novel, but it of that era and deals with the Spanish Influenza. Like the swallows in the poem by William Butler Yeats (from which the title comes), the lives of the four Morisons revolve around the mother. The story is told through three different people. First Bunny(8). When Bunny comes down the Spanish flu, his older brother Robert (12) becomes the narrator. In the concluding scenes, we do our thinking through the mind of the father. William Maxwell was the fiction editor of The New Yorker for over 40 years, and edited some of the great English writing literary talents of the time. Though this book is considered fiction, I think it’s semi-autobiographical as it reflects Wm. Maxwell’s childhood. His mother died of the Spanish flu when he was very young (like Bunny).
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson (1989). From the back cover: “Intertwines the destinies of two people: the soldier Henri, for eight years the faithful cook who follows Napoleon from the glory of Empire to Russionan ruin, and Villanelle, the red-haired daughter of a Venetian boatman whose webbed feet are a quirk of fate and whose several identities are created whole-cloth out of Venice’s compound of carnival, chance, and darkness. In Venice, both meet their singular destiny.” Combines several things I love: Venice, an unreliable narrator (as Villanelle says: “I’m telling you tales. Trust me.”), and magic realism (sort of).
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (1952) – an American classic. This could go in the Middle Grade category but I have to put it in Favorites. This is the book that made me a reader. I can still remember being curled up on my big sister’s bed reading this book and sobbing my heart out. I was hooked on books ever since. The first sentence: “Where’s Papa going with the ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
Superheros (sort of)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2000). Okay, technically not a superhero book but it is about the early days of comic book (the Golden Age). Joe Kavalier and his Sammy Klayman. Joe escaped from Prague with the help of his teacher Kornblum by hiding in a coffin leaving the rest of his family behind. Under the name “Sam Clay”, Sammy starts writing adventure stories with Joe illustrating them, the pair create the Escapist, an anti-fascist superhero who combines traits of (among others) Captain America, Harry Houdini, Batman, the Phantom, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Chabon went on to write The Escapist comic books.
Modern Literary Novels
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (2007). I love stories with an unreliable narrator (as you can tell from my recommended books) and Towner is one of the best. The book starts out -“My name is Towner Whitney. No, that’s not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time….” Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations. Having left her hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, fifteen years ago under troubling circumstances, psychic Towner Whitney reluctantly returns after her eighty-five-year-old great-aunt Eva suddenly disappears.
The House of Forgetting by Benjamin Alire Saenz (1991). An earlier adult novel by the author of Aristotle and Dante. Seven year old Gloria Santos is taken by Thomas Blacker from the barrio of El Paso, Texas to Chicago. There, in the home of the respected writer and academic, Gloria is raised to be a refined, educated young woman. For more than 20 years, she is confined to Blacker’s house and only occasionally allowed in the garden. As she reaches adulthood Gloria grows more aware that her situation is unacceptable.
Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz (2004). Okay, this one won’t be light. It takes place in a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Gyorgy Koves, a 14-year old Hungarian Jew, is imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Gradual starvation and what he experiences as grinding boredom become a way of life for him, yet Gyorgy describes both Buchenwald and its guards as “beautiful”; as he asks “who can judge what is possible or believable in a concentration camp?” Gyorgy also comes to a sense of himself as a Jew. At first, he experiences a strong distaste for the Jewish-looking prisoners; he doesn’t know Hebrew (for talking to God) or Yiddish (for talking to other Jews). Fellow inmates even claim Gyorgy is “no Jew,” and make him feel he isn’t “entirely okay.”
End Part 1
de PizanMarch 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm
Thanks Megan no h! I knew there were other sites out there that might be better. I was at work and coming up with a total blank, and a google search for buying it didn’t turn up much of anything.
ElizaMarch 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm
World War I
A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot (1994). This book is much better than the movie, so if you saw the movie don’t dismiss this book. In January 1917, five wounded French soldiers, their hands bound behind them, are brought to the front by their own troops, forced into the no-man’s land between the French and German armies, and left to die in the cross fire. Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a relentless quest to find out whether her fiance, officially “killed in the line of duty,” might still be alive. Tipped off by a letter from a dying soldier, Mathilde scours the country for information about the men. As she carries her search to its end, an elaborate web of deception and coincidence emerges, and Mathilde comes to an understanding of the horrors, and the acts of kindness, brought about by war.
World War II
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Ann Barrows (2008). Because you loved the Montmaray novels – they both occur during WWII and deal with Nazi occupation of islands off the coast of England (one real (Guernsey) and one fictional (Montmaray). Though I love an epistolary novel, I resisted this one for a while even though I’d regularly pick it up in the bookstore and then had the book in my hands after my sister gave it to me. I finally read it when I needed a small paperback to throw in my purse to read on the bus and train. It’s a quick but delightful read. As London is emerging from the shadow of World War II, writer Juliet Ashton discovers her next subject in a book club on Guernsey–a club born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi after its members are discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island.
The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys (2002). A story of the Land Girls. Set in early 1941 in Britain, a young woman gardener named Gwen Davis flees from burning London for the Devon countryside. She has volunteered for the Land Army, and is to be in charge of a group of young girls who will be trained to plant food crops on an old country estate where the gardens have fallen into ruin. Also on the estate, waiting to be posted, is a regiment of Canadian soldiers. For three months, the young women and men will form attachments, living in a temporary rural escape. No one will be more changed by the stay than Gwen. Ms. Humphreys is a poet and her use of language is reflected here.
Guido Brunetti mysteries by Donna Leon. Take place in Venice, usually include wonderful descriptions of Italian food (you’ll be hungry reading these) and each book tackles some form of social issue without being preachy or didactic. I love Guido and his wife’s relationship. If you’re a fan of Friday Night Lights, it has the same mutual respect and realism as that of Coach and Tammy Taylor, y’all. If you know how much I love FNL, you’ll know that ‘s the highest compliment I could give. First book: Death at La Fenice
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. This series of books follow Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s one and only lady private detective. It’s more about the characters than the mysteries. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency explore the conditions in Botswana. These books are light and lovely. Very simple language but the characters are fully developed and draw you in. One word description is respect. The characters are respected, women are respected, and they respect each other. This is not often found.
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz. This is the first book of a series of six books so far. The mysteries aren’t the main point of the book. It’s really about the crazy, eccentric Spellman family who are private detectives and their friends and acquaintances. Meet Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, private investigator. This twenty-eight-year-old may have a checkered past littered with romantic mistakes, excessive drinking, and creative vandalism; she may be addicted to Get Smart reruns and prefer entering homes through windows rather than doors — but the upshot is she’s good at her job as a licensed private investigator with her family’s firm, Spellman Investigations. Invading people’s privacy comes naturally to Izzy. In fact, it comes naturally to all the Spellmans. If only they could leave their work at the office. To be a Spellman is to snoop on a Spellman; tail a Spellman; dig up dirt on, blackmail, and wiretap a Spellman. These books are funny.
John Le Carre – If you like spy thrillers, do try some of his well-known works such as The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. George Smile is one of the best characters to arise out of the Cold War spy thrillers. He first appeared as a minor character in Le Carré’s earlier works(The Spy Who Came in From the Cold) and then went on to be the main character in the Karla trilogy, of which Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the first and probably most famous. You do not have to read earlier novels to follow the events in the Karla trilogy but they do add to your understanding. If you like classic spy novels, you’ll love these. I did but then I’m a sucker for a good spy novel. With the end of the Cold War there aren’t that many spy novels anymore.
The Constant Gardner by John Le Carre. This is a departure for Le Carre who normally writes spy thrillers. He’s a master of writing tense situations and creates wonderful characters. A consummate storyteller. The book opens with the gruesome murder of the young and beautiful Tessa Quayle near northern Kenya’s Lake Turkana – the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover and traveling companion, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has vanished from the scene of the crime. Tessa’s much older husband, Justin, a career diplomat at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers. Tragedy elevates Justin Quayle, amateur gardener and ineffectual bureaucrat, seemingly oblivious to his wife’s cause, when he wakes to his own resources and the extraordinary courage of the woman he barely had time to love.
Non-Fiction – The Dare Category.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel (2001). I love this book and give it out to everyone. It really captures small town America. Somehow Haven Kimmel can keep the story in the memory and voice of a third grade girl without an adult sensibility and later understanding inform it. It remains in a completely self-involved world of a small child. This is a girl who pretty much was allowed to run wild but was dearly loved by her family and neighbors. Kimmel evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel in a collection of vignettes comprising the things a small child would remember: sick birds, a new bike, reading comics at the drugstore, the mean old lady down the street. The truths of childhood are rendered in lush yet simple prose; here’s Zippy describing a friend who hates wearing girls’ clothes: “Julie in a dress was like the rest of us in quicksand”; or, regarding Jesus, “Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn’t be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn’t afraid of blind people.”
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel If you liked Zippy, its sequel (which Haven didn’t intend to write but did so after everyone asked her about her mother at book readings and “if she ever got off the couch”), is equally as good. The difference is that Zippy is older and is developing an awareness of others and what’s happening to them. We follow Zippy from one story to another, but this is really her mother’s book: the poignant tale of a woman who found a way to save herself and set a proud example for her daughter.
Cod by Mark Kurkinsky (1997). A book about cod? Believe it or not, this is a fascinating read. Mark Kurlansky has written a fabulous book–well worth your time–about a fish that probably has mattered more in human history than any other.
YA Science Fiction
Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness – Thea, I think you’ve probably read these books. Ana, if you haven’t read them since your review of A Monster Calls, you should read them. There is strong dialect in the book but, like Blood Red Road, once you’ve become used to it, it makes sense and pulls you into the story and you really don’t notice it after a while.
I already gave lots of middle school recommendations many of which could fit under the Old School banner as well. I won’t repeat them here but can second the Tamora Pierce love, plus the recommendation for the Tillerman cycle by Cynthia Voigt (see my raving about Homecoming). Another shout out for Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede (go, Cimerone!) Here are a few more that I left out:
Home of the Brave (2007) by Katherine Applegate – I was not a huge fan of this year’s Newberry Award book, The One and Only Ivan (dodges fruit), but this earlier book Ms. Applegate deserves to be better known and more widely read. It’s a lovely, gentle, honest story but don’t confuse gentle with bland. Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother, but finds comfort in the company of a cow and her owner. Oh how I love Kek and his cousin.
Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer (mentioned by earlier posters). For when you finish the Sally Lockhart mysteries and want another Victorian era series. This one is for a younger set. Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. She’s raised by her mother, a staunch feminist and free spirit. What I loved about this series (6 books) is that because of her mother and upbringing she has progressive views for her time but are firmly rooted in her time. The author avoided overlaying 21st century sensibilities on an earlier century. Also, she is able to give her female character agency without rejecting all females who do not share her beliefs or feminine roles in society.
First book: The Case of the Missing Marquess (2006) – On Enola’s fourteenth birthday, her mother disappears, and Sherlock and Mycroft, Enola’s brothers, conclude that her mother left on her own choice. Enola is devastated, but eventually discovers elaborate ciphers written by her mother, Enola finds that her mother left considerable resources for her to escape. When Mycroft insists on having Enola go to boarding school and learn to be a proper lady, she decides to run away to London instead.
Larklight, or, The revenge of the white spiders!, or, To Saturn’s rings and back! : a rousing tale of dauntless pluck in the farthest reaches of space by Phillip Reeve (2006). The first book in Philip Reeve’s middle grade space opera trilogy. In an alternate Victorian England, young Arthur and his sister Myrtle, residents of Larklight, a floating house in one of Her Majesty’s outer space territories, uncover a spidery plot to destroy the solar system.
— Book 2: Starcross, or, The coming of the moobs!, or, Our adventures in the fourth dimension! : a stirring adventure of spies, time travel and curious hats (2007). Young Arthur Mumby, his sister Myrtle, and their mother accept an invitation to take a holiday at an up-and-coming resort in the asteroid belt, where they become involved in a dastardly plot involving spies, time travel, and mind-altering clothing.
— Book 3: Mothstorm : the horror from beyond Georgium Sidus! (2008). Reports of a strange phenomenon at the fringe of the galaxy and its connection to one of Father’s old friends send the entire Mumby family, accompanied by Jack and other friends, to a far-off planet where they must find a way to prevent a new invasion of the solar system by giant moths. I haven’t read this one but have listed it to be a complete.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002). In a future where humans despise clones, Matt enjoys special status as the young clone of El Patrón, the 142-year-old leader of a corrupt drug empire nestled between Mexico and the United States.
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer (1996). While fleeing from Mozambique to Zimbabwe to escape an unwanted marriage, Nhamo, an eleven-year-old Shona girl, struggles to escape drowning and starvation and in so doing comes close to the luminous world of the African spirits.
Newsgirl by Liza Ketchum (2009 – just makes it). Amelia’s family has in San Francisco in 1851, hoping for a new life in this gold rush town. But they are nearly penniless. Amelia discovers that newsboys can make a fortune selling East Coast newspapers. So in spite of their warning – “No girls in our gang!” – she cuts her hair and dresses as a boy. Then an unexpected and harrowing balloon flight drops Amelia in the gold fields. Suddenly facing more adventure than she ever imagined, Amelia resolves to find her way back to her family and to make a living as a newsgirl.
TheaMarch 6, 2013 at 5:59 pm
Oh my goodness. WHAT ANA SAID. This is the most amazing recommendation thread EVER – THANK YOU EVERYONE!
Clearly, there’s only one solution to make sure everyone gets the recs in one place: a Goodreads list! Commence project!
Kerry D.March 6, 2013 at 6:18 pm
Oooh, I’m going to play too.
From Ana’s shelf I heartily second:
*The Owl Service
*The Perilous Gard
*The Bell at Sealy Head
Seconding those other posters have mentioned:
*Sydney J. Van Scyoc, especially the Daughters of the Sunstone trilogy
*Stephen R. Donaldson, Mordant’s Need duology (now in a single ebook)
* Patricia A. McKillip, The Riddlemaster Trilogy
* David R. Palmer, Emergence
* Elizabeth Marie Pope, The Sherwood Ring
* Philip Reeve, Larklight trilogy
* Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword/The Hero and the Crown
* Diana Wynne Jones, anything really
I’d also like to add:
*Doris Egan, Ivory trilogy (The Gate of Ivory, Two-Bit Heroes, Guilt Edged Ivory)
* Kate Elliott, Jaran series, especially the first one (Jaran, An Earthy Crown, His Conquering Sword, The Law of Becoming)
* Zenna Henderson, People stories
* Patricia A. McKillip, The Changeling Sea (my favourite by her ever, but they all tend to be good)
* M. S. Murdock, Vendetta and Dynteryx (first has just been released as an ebbok, so hoping the second will be soon too)
* Jennifer Roberson, Chronicles of the Cheysuli
* Midori Snyder, New Moon (it’s the first of a trilogy but I never got to the last two which are Sadar’s Keep and Beldan’s Fire)
* M. K. Wren, Phoenix Legacy (Sword of the Lamb, Shadow of the Swan, House of the Wolf)
Lexie C.March 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm
@Kerry – yes! Midori Snyder! I enjoy those books quite a bit. Her, Pamela Dean, Joyce Ballou Gregorian and TA Barron were all staples of my childhood. (and still are rather).
…Ana/Thea can we make this a Challenge of some nature? Or not a Challenge but a Read-a-long sort of thing?
TheaMarch 6, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Eliza – Your comments need to become blog posts, they are so wonderfully convincing and detailed and thoughtful. THANK YOU a million times over!
Lexie C – that is a great idea! It would be a fun challenge or book club, wouldn’t it?! YES. Ana and I are discussing/plotting now!
Also on another note: my bank account has just been compromised. It’s for a good cause though…right?
Lexie C.March 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm
@Thea – ha! don’t worry there was one book buying binge that I spent enough (across multiple sites) in such a short amount of time that my bank called me to ask if someone had stolen my card XD Its all for a better cause of literacy!
And I’m totally down for a club/read/share thing! w00t the Power of Reading.
AmandaMarch 6, 2013 at 6:54 pm
I can’t explain how MUCH I love seeing my favorites suggested by so many other people!
*Same comment on Sirena. Didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I did love Zel by the same author.
*Huge fan of Robin McKinley. LOVE Beauty, also aforementioned Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. I also really adore Deerskin, which is incredibly dark, but gorgeously written. Definitely a fairytale for adults.
*Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo and On Fortune’s Wheel (I favor Jackaroo!)
*Anything by Cameron Dokey, but especially The Storyteller’s Daughter (retelling of The Arabian Nights)
*East by Edith Pattou… also Fire Arrow (my favorite hardened and human female heroine). I wish she had more books published, she’s one of my all-time favorites.
*A hearty second to the Tanith Lee Claidi Journals series. Same reaction, here: not what I expected, but was thoroughly entertained.
*Patricia McKillip: LOVE THEM ALL. But especially In the Forests of Serre, which I think is her very best. It’s a heady mix of Russian folktales with characters I adore. Also the most complex and possibly horrifying-yet-lovely version of Baba Yaga I’ve read, yet.
*Madeleine L’Engle: A Ring of Endless Light. I loved this as a teen and it holds up well to time.
I’m also bookmarking this page! Can’t wait to see what everyone continues to suggest, and to keep an eye out for what you’ll be reviewing!
MichelleMarch 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm
Ditto on The Sherwood Ring-I love that book.
I really enjoyed Pamela Service’s Winter of Magics Return. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the hero’s go on a quest to find the reborn Arthur.
For mysteries I can’t recommend Sarah Caudwell high enough-Thus was Adonis Murdered is one of my favorites. It is a must if you love snarky British humor.
Also Marian Babson is awesome. I recommend Murder at the Cat Show. She is an American author, but writes like a Brit.
AmandaMarch 6, 2013 at 6:57 pm
… also, yes Cimorene! My favorite anti-princess! Books 1 & 2 in particular.
KristenMarch 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm
Yes to both Beggars In Spain and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld! And I’d like to suggest Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I loved the ending and the main protagonist.
KerryMarch 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm
Michelle – Oh yes on the Patricia F. Service books. In recent years, the first two books (Winter of Magic’s Return and Tomorrow’s Magic) have been combined into a single book titled Tomorrow’s Magic. That is now followed by two others, Yesterday’s Magic and Earth’s Magic. The original two remain the best, but the other two are still a decent read.
AmandaMarch 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm
Oh, I’m ridiculous, but just one more…
The Songs of Pellinor series (4) by Alison Croggan. Heavy duty fantasy with Tolkien-inspired good vs. evil… so many creative characters, cultures, and creatures! And Maerad is a very REAL and HUMAN heroine with faults and missteps just like we’d imagine for ourselves. Marillier-like world building and storytelling, I think.
ElizaMarch 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm
Michelle – Sarah Caudwell mysteries are so funny. Love them. Thank you for reminding me.
Thea – you’re making me blush. Thank you for your kind words. As to budget issues, I’ve cut myself off cold turkey on buying books for two years and have been using the library (though occasionally I’ll sneak into a bookstore just to get a hit of the new book smell). It really helps that we have a fantastic library system and if they don’t have the book, we can request the book from a large number of the libraries throughout California.
Ana and Thea – Are you interested in short stories? I have several I can recommend but have found that they’re like cilantro – people either love or hate them without any middle ground. (btw -I like both)
LizMarch 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm
I loved looking at all of these recommendations! There are some really great ones on these lists. Here are a few more from a variety of genres:
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – This whole series is hard to classify sometimes, but basically it is an homage to reading and booklovers. What would happen if there were some people who could jump in and out of books? What if all the characters could cross over into each others’ books and hang out when they weren’t being read?
The Secret Country by Pamela Dean – This fantasy trilogy is about a group of siblings and cousins who have always played a game acting out the story of what happens in a made-up kingdom. They have the plot and the characters down since they have played it so many times, until one day when they stumble their way into a world that matches the game they’ve been playing their whole lives…
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer – A sweet contemporary YA about a big city girl who moves to a small town and finds herself unexpectedly loving it, the most awesome waitressing you’ve ever seen, and life and loss.
Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie – This is called a contemporary romance, but there is so much more to it than that. There are so many things going on: the people trying to kidnap a dog, the string of hitmen trying to kill Agnes, the mystery of a death that occurred twenty years ago, the missing five million dollars that may or may not be in the house, the upcoming wedding, the people trying to sabotage the wedding, the crazy grandmother of the bride, the mob, and of course our two protagonists, a cook and a hitman. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time.
Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl – It’s a lighthearted fairy tale with one of the most no-nonsense heroines you’ve ever read. I loved this book when I was in middle school, and I still have a real soft spot for it.
The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones – This is one of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones books, but it’s one a lot of people haven’t heard about. Poor Derk is stuck being this year’s Dark Lord as the whole country prepares for the influx of tourists from our world. This book is for anyone who has ever read an epic fantasy.
The Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara – I think the first book in this series is Cast in Shadow but I’m not sure off the top of my head. This is a fascinating fantasy that does an excellent job with the worldbuilding, particular in how the cultures of the various races interact.
A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly – The first in the Benjamin January series. Barbara Hambly is best known for her science fiction and fantasy, but I really love this historical mystery series set in 1830s New Orleans. Our main character is a black surgeon who just moved back to New Orleans after living in Paris for over ten years and is now working as a musician. His friends (or people he works for) keep getting peripherally involved in trouble that leads to him solving mysteries. The mystery plots are handled really well, the writing is excellent, the characters are fascinating (even the ones you don’t like) and the setting is incredibly well researched. The race issues inherent in a book set in this place and time were handled really thoughtfully by the author.
The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson – The first book is Murder on Astor Place and this is probably my favorite historical mystery series; it’s set in NYC in the late 1890s. The author always does a great job highlighting different aspects of the city and society during this time period, but where the series really shines is the characters. There are two main characters who work together (often reluctantly) to solve mysteries: Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy. Sarah is a widow who comes from a wealthy family but finds fulfillment working as a midwife rather than being a society woman. Her work takes her all over the city and introduces her to all kinds of people, which gives her an in when solving mysteries. Frank Malloy is a police detective who starts off rather corrupt, annoying, and mysogenistic but grows a lot over the course of the series thanks to his interactions with Sarah. Watching him change from someone you don’t really like to someone you root for is part of what makes this work so well.
And finally, I’m going to give a shout-out to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld since you enjoyed We Free Men. Most of the series was published a while back (although it is still continuing) so it is eligible for Old School Wednesdays! Dive in anywhere, but I would recommend going the Watch route by picking up Guards! Guards! and going from there.
Hannah HMarch 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm
Thea, read Terrier and Chalice! Ana, I’ll cast my vote for Cordelia’s Honor and Sandry’s Book.
As for my own recs, So You Want to be a Wizard is a middle-grade book that started my favorite childhood series. I am rubbish at making books that are good sound good, so here’s a quick quote from it.
“The city breathing, burning, living the life thy had preserved. Ten million lives and more. If something should happen to all that life- how terrible! Nita gulped for control as she remembered Fred’s word of just this morning, an eternity ago. And this was what being a wizard was about. Keeping terrible things from happening, even when it hurts. Not just power, or control of what ordinary people couldn’t control, or delight in being able to make strange things happen. Those were the side effects- not the reason, the purpose.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s many other books I’d love for you to read and review, such as the Bone Key (Lovecraftian short stories), Dead Harvest and anything anything anything by Hilari Bell (especially the Farsala trilogy). However, if I needed to pick only one book that I thought you two would love, it would be this one.
SarahMarch 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm
I’ll second the Liaden suggestion. My favorite off of Thea’s list is The Price of the Stars. First book in an amazing space opera trilogy. Strong female protags, great plot twists and wonderful characters. I’ve re-read it many times.
ScarlettMarch 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm
Temeriare by Naomi Novik is fantastic!! Historical fiction is ALWAYS better with dragons and Ms. Novik does an amazing job.
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce would be my next choice. Such a fun character and truly fantastic world. Such great writing.
Katie AMarch 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm
I’ll third/forth/eighty seventh The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer – wonderful MG mysteries
I’d also be very curious to hear what y’all think of the Last Herald Mage trilogy (Magic’s Pawn is the first) by Mercedes Lackey – it was the first fantasy I read growing up w/ a gay protag
Also The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums) – which I think are her only YA novels
And Once A Hero by Elizabeth Moon – SF/military that revolves around the aftermath of trauma. Love what it has to say about what we can and can’t overcome on our own.
EstaraMarch 7, 2013 at 12:30 am
Kerry, since you recommended Kate Elliott’s Jaran and also enjoyed M.K. Wren (you’re the only other person I know who has read that – I still have the books on my shelves), I was wondering if you knew that she had written a sf trilogy in the Jaran universe only hundreds of years before that time, under her original author name Alis R. Rasmussen (the one-off fantasy under that name is also really good): The Highroad Trilogy.
Alison WMarch 7, 2013 at 1:12 am
My favourites growing up were:
Stranger with my Face – Lois Duncan
The Changeover – Margaret Mahy
I also loved Guy Gavriel Kay’s Summer Tree triology and Tigana. I thought he had a great way of blurring the lines between good and evil and making you question original character impressions.
KerryMarch 7, 2013 at 1:56 am
Estara – I have heard about the Highroad Trilogy, but never easily found copies. I’ll add them to my “grab if I see at a good price” list.
AndreaMarch 7, 2013 at 2:13 am
Wow – I had no idea Kate Elliot was the author of the Highroad Trilogy! I’ve been meaning to re-read that…
Kate & ZenaMarch 7, 2013 at 2:24 am
The Book Thief by Mark Zusak is one I loved. I struggled with the German, yes, but thankfully I have two parents and a brother who all took German (my mom spoke it fluently for a long while as we lived in Bamberg.) I highly recommend either looking up teacher notes (there are many online for the book) with the German translated out before you get into it.
Annie on My Mind.
Oh, and before I forget, @Ana, I still haven’t read Hush Hush (my library keeps running out; it appears to be rather popular. I will read that book because I know we had an ongoing discussion about it over the summer), but This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers is a hefty book (816 pages), but incredibly good. It plays with how novels are set up, story structure, and Cordelia writes so honestly (it’s also written in epistolary form which I believe you love.) It flies by quickly. I read it in three days and cried horribly (pack tissues) and that much heft usually takes me a week. It should be more easy for you to access as it is a UK book (you have to buy it online here in the States.)
AmyMarch 7, 2013 at 2:26 am
Definitely Tamora Pierce! I see that Ana has Sandry’s Book in her TBR list—that’s a great one and a good starting point for her Emelan series, which is absolutely kickass and full of PoC characters (as well as some LGBT ones) and superbly well-developed.
From Thea’s list, Tamar is a poignant and shocking book about a group of characters caught amidst the turbulence and treachery of WWII. If you liked Code Name Verity or The Book Thief, definitely give it a try!
N. K. JemisinMarch 7, 2013 at 7:34 am
I see no one’s mentioned this one yet. I rather like Teot’s War and Bloodstorm by Heather Gladney, even though it’s 2/3rds of a 20-year-unfinished trilogy and I keep hoping the author will decide to finish it. Set in a weird secondary fantasy world that feels like north Africa, with steampunk-before-it-was-cool, and a protagonist who’s probably schizophrenic, and one of the loveliest homoerotic-subtext buddy relationships I’ve seen in awhile. The story follows a warrior who is plagued by visions, who vows to aid the lord of Tan in a battle against a vastly technologically superior enemy. The writing is a little opaque, but lovely, and the characters really make it. Probably out of print and hard to find, but I’m happy to lend my copies. 🙂
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)March 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm
I have to stop by and recommend War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It’s an urban fantasy published in 1987. Though that’s the year I was born, I don’t remember it feeling dated when I read it a couple of years ago.
ElizaMarch 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm
Liz – I’ve read a couple of Joan Bauer’s books and enjoyed them. Hope Was Here is on my list to read and has now moved up based on your recommendation. My library has the Benjamin January series except for the first one, which is on order. Guess someone (was it you?) brought the gap to their attention. Once it’s in, I’m going to start the series. Lots of other great recommendations.
N.K. – my usually great library (and linked ones) failed me on the Heather Gladney books. Though disappointing, it’s okay since I like hunting through used bookstores and my self-imposed ban on buying books is almost up. If you recommend a book, I have to pay attention.
Temeriare books. I read the first 3 right in a row a couple of years ago and then kind of lost steam and haven’t picked up the remaining books in the series. Question for the fans: Should I continue? Does the series remain strong or does it fizzle out?
Tamora Pierce’s Books – I love seeing the different series that are each person’s favorite. Looks like each one has its fans, which just goes to show that her writing speaks to each person directly and indivdually. Alana will always be first my heart, so Song of the Lioness quartet is my favorite.
AnonymousMarch 7, 2013 at 12:33 pm
Tamsin, Peter Beagle
NJMarch 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm
I recommend every single book I have (except for textbooks lol) check them out: http://www.mixnode.com/profile.php?username=nariman
PaigeMarch 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm
Eliza, I loved the first three Temeraire books…and then, for me, they just got wooden and formulaic, with no development — or that’s how it felt to me. Lawrence is still stiff and proper. Temeraire wants good things for Lawrence and also loves gold. Humans and dragons have a problematic working relationship. But nothing actually happens anymore. Any fresh take on the working relationship, or on the war, is really only raised for the purpose of setting up a convenient THRILLING conflict, and is forgotten by the end of the novel, and certainly by the beginning of the next novel.
Maybe someone else will have something more positive to say about them?
Victoria JanssenMarch 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm
Wow, your TBRs have all kinds of awesome on them. for Ana, I’ll vote for THE PERILOUS GARD and THE TRICKSTERS and CITY OF BONES next. For Thea, POINT OF HONOR and FLORA SEGUNDA and the Vorkosigan books.
I second the rec for THE CHANGEOVER by Margaret Mahy. Also, maybe some Eva Ibbotson, if neither of you have read her? A Countess Below Stairs (1981), Journey to the River Sea (2001) are interesting ones.
Britta B.March 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm
One of my few all time favorite books is Gary Paulsen’s Winterdance, about the iditarod. Published in 1995. I understand he writes quite a lot of “contemporary literature for young readers”. This book is for all ages, simultaneously laugh-out-loud-choke-on-your-cookie funny, contemplative, and sad. A real treat. I would love to see a review of it by you two.
RubyMarch 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm
I’d really like to see you guys read some classic Sharon Shinn. I’m not talking about her angel books, but her Science Fiction. I loved Wrapt In Crystal and I think it would be a kick for you to read Heart of Gold because of the gender role-switching.
And anything by Mary Stewart. If you haven’t read Mary Stewart, you’ve been missing out!
LizMarch 8, 2013 at 9:26 am
@ Christina – I second War for the Oaks! It was written before urban fantasy became popular and it had a major influence on the genre. It has one of the best depictions of the fae out there. And the phouka! One of my favorite characters. Plus this book contains one of my all-time favorite quotes.
@ Eliza – Hope was Here is my favorite Joan Bauer, I hope you like it! My library has all of the Benjamin January books, so it wasn’t me. 🙂 They can be pretty hard to find though; I’ve never actually run across one of them in a bookstore.
I can’t believe I forgot this one, but you ought to try Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. It was written in 1938 and is simply delightful. The movie version that came out a few years ago was good, but the book is still better. Our two main characters are total opposites — one is shy, reserved, plain, and practical, while the other is friendly, outgoing, gorgeous, and lives a madcap life. The two women meet and end up being just what the other needs in a friend.
LozzaMarch 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm
I’d like to recommend (what we’d now call) contemporary YA by Norma Klein, written in the 1980s. I feel like I often heard you all’s complaints about current YA (the instalove, the lack of female friendships, the obsession with the love interest, the absence of parents or really crappy parents, etc.) and think “man, these guys should try some old school YA.”
Norma Klein’s books are just incredibly… real. They feature normal, flawed teens dealing with normal teen stuff (ranging from the lighter “where do I want to go to college?” to the heavier “I got my girlfriend pregnant and she’s getting an abortion, how should I support her?”). The friendships and family relationships are varied and nuanced and important, and while some of the romances end sadly and others end well, there’s none of the “we are soulmates bound to be together forever” that you see so often in YA now. My favorite is “Just Friends,” but I think you’d find any of them good food for thought- just read through some of the descriptions on goodreads!
darcholeMarch 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm
Something by Andre Norton (I haven’t read enough to give a specific recommendation) just for how she’s shaped the Sci-fi/Fantasy fields.
Tamora Pierce – either the Song of the Lioness quartet, which was published first, or the Beka Cooper Trilogy, which is more complex, but more recently published
Elizabeth Moon, either the Deed of Paksenarrion or the Heris Serrano series (in this I’d specifically recommend Once a Hero, which is set in the same universe, and FYI something that comes with the main protagonist is how child rape shaped her personality)
Simon Green, for putting every cliché he can think of in a book, and showing how badly they fail when the subject of one just won’t play along (quick fun reads) either the Forest Kingdom/Hawk and Fisher series or the Deathstalker series
Although it looks like someone has read Anne McCaffrey, I’m not sure both of you have? Dragonsdawn (chronological start of the Dragonriders series) or Moreta Dragonlady of Pern, or To Ride Pegasus (start of the Talents/Rowan series) or if you want to go really old school Restoree published in 1967 (which is not a great book, but notable for it’s content when it was published)
If you’re going to review any of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series, I’d recommend the Vows and Honor series, rather than the Arrows or the Last Herald Mage series (there are rapes in the last books of both series, which are not graphic or gratuitous, but probably not something that needs to be rehashed here)
MichelleMarch 8, 2013 at 7:04 pm
Love Mercedes Lackey. The Last Herald Mage series is awesome, but there is a lot of drama/angst.
RachelMarch 9, 2013 at 9:27 am
Anna: Please read Feed! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
RachelMarch 9, 2013 at 9:29 am
Oh, sorry, I meant ‘Ana!’ The other is my sister’s name…
ElizaMarch 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm
I have entered in all the recommendations on GoodReads under “Old School Wednesdays”
1. Series – listed only the first book unless a specific book was mentioned.
2. General author recommendations not included (all books by X)
3. Some books I was unable to find on GoodReads but their search feature is very frustrating and inconsistent in its results. For example, if a book has an apostrophe in its title, the search requires at least 3 entries.
4. Books where only a title was given with no author, especially when there was more than one.
5. Unfortunately, I was only able to read some of the titles from the photos of Ana and Thea’s shelves, so not all of them made the list.
There are 282 books listed so far. I still have to sort them by category. Hope this helps everyone.
The Book Smugglers | Old School Wednesdays: The Results EditionMarch 13, 2013 at 9:29 am
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Old School Wednesdays Joint Review: Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi | | ClickyJune 16, 2017 at 11:11 am
[…] March 2013, we asked YOU for your favorite old school suggestions – and the response was so overwhelmingly […]