Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!
This week’s topic: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year
Perhaps a more accurate name for my list is “Books that I think deserve a lot more attention” since most of these have been highly praised, though perhaps under-read. Many are also from medium-to-smaller publishers and imprints, or perhaps are examples of an author’s lesser known work. Most, I was shocked to see, also have less than 500 ratings on Goodreads at the time of this writing.
Anyway, I had a great time putting together this list, and I saw it as a great way to spotlight excellent books that I haven’t featured yet on any of my best-of lists from the past few weeks (Favorite Debuts of 2016, Favorite New-To-Me Authors of 2016, Best of 2016) but are nonetheless fantastic reads that I want to recommend.
Steeplejack is an entertaining and fast-paced action-oriented story with a compelling mystery, which made it very quick read overall. A public national and historical treasure of Bar-Selehm called the Beacon is stolen, and our protagonist, seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, finds one of her fellow steeplejacks murdered hours before she finds herself becoming the guardian of her sister’s newborn infant—all in the same night. The world-building impressed me, and Ang is an admirable though flawed protagonist who will win over the hearts of readers no matter where they fall on the Young Adult to Adult spectrum. This isn’t your typical YA, and that why I had such a great time with it. (Read full review…)
I’m not someone who’s ever needed much motivation to pick up a vampire story, and after learning that one of the main characters is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, I was even more intrigued by this book. That it takes place in Mexico City was a compelling factor too. By drawing from inspiration taken from all over the world, the author has formed a basis for her story that at once feels fresh but still has roots firmly planted in our reality. The plot was also kept rather simple, but it’s also fast-paced as hell. Everything about this book is slick and elegant, furnished with all the best features without being weighed down. Silvia Moreno-Garcia offers a whole new world to discover in this novel that offers rock solid world-building and compelling characters that are guaranteed to charm you and open your eyes. So if you’re getting a hankering for a vampire story, why not give this one a try? You won’t regret it. (Read full review…)
Color me pleasantly surprised – a book that ostensibly bore many hallmarks of your average possibly-YA-but-maybe-not fantasy novel in fact turned out to be a very refreshing and unique read. I honestly didn’t expect to like this book so much, especially since my feelings for the story fluctuated so wildly for most of the first half. However, all traces of uncertainty were washed away by the time the plot ramped up to its brutal climax and staggering conclusion. The really amazing parts were all in the second half of this book, when I saw a good story make the shift to being a great one. I don’t want to give too much more away, but suffice to say the plot escalated into a high-stake crisis and very dangerous, dramatic circumstances. I really liked how everything came together, and the ending was simply stunning—in a “I can’t believe all that really just happened” kind of way. (Read full review…)
While the story takes place in the same world as Zer0es, Wendig’s previous techno thriller about hackers and cybercrime, Invasive can be read entirely on its own without any prior knowledge. We have a new scenario, a new protagonist, and any references or links I found to Zer0es were minor and nonessential to the main plot—which I actually thought was one of this book’s biggest plusses. It’s true that I had some really mixed feelings about Zer0es, not to mention I disliked pretty much all the main characters in it. So I couldn’t have been happier with this fresh start. The story is also tight, fast-paced, suspenseful. It’s very reminiscent of Michael Crichton, but Invasive also carries all the elements that make it a Chuck Wendig novel, with its dark humor, snappy dialogue, and hard action. I had a great time with this book, so much so that this might have just become my favorite work of his after his Miriam Black series. (Read full review…)
I’ve reached the point in my reading where I already have several go-to authors or series I seek out whenever I want my routine Urban Fantasy fix, so for me to jump into a new UF, something has to be unique or special about it to catch my interest. I’m happy to say that It Happened One Doomsday was just that—fresh, original, and extremely entertaining. It’s not every day you come across a magic system based on crystals, minerals and gems, or a version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who herald in the end of the world driving fast classic cars. I knew right then I was going to have fun with this book. Laurence MacNaughton’s writing is also very engaging and readable, and he has a great touch with dialogue, especially when it comes to snappy back-and-forth interplay between characters. (Read full review…)
One reason why I enjoy reading books inspired by Lovecraft is to see the cool ideas authors can come up with. I Am Providence stands out from the rest by doing something a little different because it doesn’t really explore Lovecraftian mythos in a conventional sense, instead taking an almost meta-fiction approach to the genre. The entire story takes place over the course of a weekend at the Summer Tentacular, the Providence-based annual convention for readers, writers, collectors, and scholars of H.P. Lovecraft, and I think the setting says it all. I had a great time with this novel, and I think those who are very knowledgeable and savvy with their Lovecraft lore will appreciate the subtle nuances even more. (Read full review…)
Sawbones is a straight-up historical fiction novel without even the ittiest bittiest hint of a speculative element, but it caught my eye the moment I saw it, because HELLO! Western setting? An independent, determined woman doctor as its protagonist? Despite this book not belonging to my usual genres though, I’m so glad I decided to read it. The first thing you should know is that it is a merciless, no holds barred portrayal of life on the frontier. It does not gloss over any of the gut-twisting details. The second thing you should know is that the characters are amazing. There’s also a fantastic love story, featuring a forbidden romance that is at once passionate and convincing. It was this mix of loveliness with the book’s vicious, ruthless side that made Sawbones so compelling. I must emphasize again that this one is not for the faint of heart, but if you have a strong stomach, you might find plenty to like in this splendid hidden gem of a historical novel (Read full review…)
With its themes of palace intrigue, passionate romance, secret conspiracies and dark magic, the book sounded right up my alley and I am pleased to say that Stephanie Burgis’ first adult historical fantasy did not disappoint. Masks and Shadows was a very fast read, thanks to its great plot and smooth pacing, and despite being a historical fiction novel, never once did I feel that the narrative was bogged down by extraneous historical detail. The story’s main focus was on the characters and their relationships, though romance was just one of the many threads in this coming-of-age tale. On the whole, I was really pleased by the balance. It feels like there’s something for everyone in this enchanting novel, whether you’re a fantasy reader, an enthusiast of European history, or even a music lover. (Read full review…)
Urban Fantasy is such an exciting genre right now because of books like Brotherhood of the Wheel. While mythological creatures and vigilantes have long been a mainstay, R.S. Belcher has shaken up these conventions and breathed new life into UF by looking at a slice of American culture that arguably hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: Truckers. Motorcycle clubs. The U.S. Interstate Highway System. This is the third book I’ve read by the author, and his storytelling just gets better and better. This is probably my favorite book by him so far, and by combining modern technology, contemporary urban myths, and age-old folkloric legends, Belcher has made me see “road magic” in a whole new light. I really enjoyed the combination of UF and horror, and I think this book would be perfect for readers who love the gritty stylings of Chuck Wendig, or the creepy and otherworldly stories of Joe Hill. (Read full review…)
If you enjoy gritty and dark, violent futuristic sci-fi mystery thrillers, then The Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill will be just the book for you. Dark humor, uncanny science, futuristic tech noir and full-throttle tensions are all deftly married together in this wild and thrilling ride, and there’s even a psychotic murdering android. O’Neill also proves inventive in his prose style, and there is a curious artfulness and elegance to his characters even when they are written to be fodder for a killer robot. I found his writing at once interesting and effective at creating a palpable sense of foreboding, and this book might even be the perfect choice for readers looking for that classic hard-boiled detective story feel. (Read full review…)