Have you ever finished a book that just knocked your socks off? So far off you felt like shouting its praises from the top of someplace very high. And have you then gone trolling around looking for reviews and discussions on said book and been absolutely flummoxed to find...nothing? Or, if not nothing, small pockets of devoted readers here and there but nowhere near the following you feel it deserves. Last week Diana Peterfreund wrote a thoughtful post about Under-the-Radar Books in which she listed a few of the books she wishes everyone were reading and threw the question out to her readers. A lot of it, for better or worse, has to do with money and marketing but in this day and age it seems like authors and readers and bloggers can do a lot to spread the word on a few hidden gems and why they deserve the love. I can think of a host of excellent books--books that have ended up on my Beloved Bookshelf--that I would never have picked up on my own. But because of some other reader's heartfelt recommendation I looked them up, ran down a copy, read them, and loved them. Seems only fair to pass them on.
Here are a few at the top of my list:
Honestly? Anything by the woman. They are all unbelievably excellent. You think you know smart writing and then you pick up an EEW book and you realize all that other stuff was witty and whatnot but this, THIS is smart writing. About tough, strong girls who don't know the meaning of the words "back down." Don't believe me? Others are addicted as well.
Liz of A Chair, a Fireplace & a Tea Cozy reviews the President's Daughter series, the Vietnam books, and the Friends books.
And as Trisha points out in her review, it's to do with the awesome.
Just talking about them makes me want to go re-read one right now. The President's Daughter series (The President's Daughter, White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and Long May She Reign) was recently re-released by Feiwel & Friends and I'm really hoping the new issues will garner the attention they've long deserved. I also highly recommend The Road Home and Life Without Friends. Just a cut above the rest.
Speaking of a higher caliber, if you're looking for sophisticated fantasy with an utterly irrepressible, irresistible (and every other irre-) hero, subtle humor, political espionage, and achingly intense emotions then The Queen's Thief series is for you. Reading order: The Thief,The Queen of Attolia, and The King of Attolia. Diana mentioned them in her post as well (for the love of all that is holy, Diana, get it back from Sailor Boy now!) Megan Whalen Turner can do no wrong in my book. Everything you've heard is true. This series does have an incredibly devoted fanbase. They can generally be found hanging out here. How's about we swell the ranks? You have a year until the fourth one comes out to get caught up. Go!
So you say you like vampires. You blew through some of the more ubiquitous titles and you like what you've read so far. You like it enough that you want something more but you're just not sure what that is. Well, I'll tell you. You want Sunshine. Because when Robin McKinley does vampires the result is haunting and beautiful. I re-read this one every year, usually when the autumn wind starts to blow the fallen leaves around. Then the smell of cinnamon rolls inexplicably fills my nostrils and I have to go pull my copy off the shelf and read those wonderful first few lines again.
It was a dumb thing to do but it wasn't that dumb. There hadn't been any trouble out at the lake in years. And it was so exquisitely far from the rest of my life.
And then I just continue right on through to the end. Even if she never writes a sequel, it's perfect. In fact, SFX Magazine recently ran an article about the book that came before Twilight, arguing that Sunshine deserves to be bigger than Twilight. I wholeheartedly agree.
4. Sword-Dancer Saga by Jennifer Roberson
I've been reading Jennifer Roberson's books for a long time now. I still remember wandering into a Crown Books in San Pedro, California (I think I was 14) and not being able to leave without purchasing Lady of the Forest for its lovely cover alone. My love of Robin Hood retellings aside. And the thing is whenever I read an article or review about her books, it never fails to say something along the lines of, "probably best known for her Sword-Dancer Saga...". If that's true why do I
almost never so rarely run across anyone else who's read them? I adore this sword and sorcery series. The six novels of Tiger and Del follow Northern sword-singer Delilah and the Southron sword-dancer known as the Sandtiger on their many adventures. Told from the incredibly arrogant yet lovable Tiger's perspective, this series has got fighting galore, a killer friendship, subtle romance, kick-a** heroine, and is all kinds of win. Recommended for fans of Sharon Shinn, Moira J. Moore, and Lisa Shearin.
I'm gonna stop there for now. And those are all books that are still in print and readily available! Don't get me started on the ones that are out of print. That's another post...