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

Mogsy’s Picks

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.

SteeplejackSteeplejack by A.J. Hartley

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)

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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…)

the-queen-of-bloodThe Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

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)

InvasiveInvasive by Chuck Wendig

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)


It Happened One DoomsdayIt Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

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)

I Am ProvidenceI Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

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)

SawbonesSawbones by Melissa Lenhardt

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)

Masks and ShadowsMasks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

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)

Brotherhood of the WheelBrotherhood of the Wheel by R.S. Belcher

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)

The Dark SideThe Dark Side by Anthony O’Neill

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…)

40 Comments on “Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year”

  1. Your review certainly made me want to read Steeplejack as it just sounds so different! I’m unsure about Certain Dark Things…I mean I LOVE vampires and fast paced action but the gangster side of it puts me off a bit as I don’t like that kind of book or film. Still undecided!


    • I can see where you hesitate. If it helps, the gangster aspect of Certain Dark Sides isn’t too strong, there is certainly a vampire gang coming after our protagonists but it’s more about how they try to outplay and evade them.


  2. I was sent Brotherhood of the Wheel right as I was slowing up. Kept it though because it looks good and Belcher is all right by me. This is the second place I have seen Sawbones today; it looks like exactly my thing.


  3. I’ve been curious about The Queen of Blood, but have avoided it so far because of that might-be-YA tag. I Am Providence is one I’ve been looking forward to reading.


  4. I remember you saying you were working on this list not too long ago. 🙂 Glad to see Steeplejack (which was one of my favorites of 2016) and Masks & Shadows on this list. And I definitely want to check out Queen of Blood at some point, thanks to your review.


  5. I recently grabbed a hardback of Brotherhood of the Wheel from Book Outlet for less than $4.00 so I still need to read it. However, I remembered you and Tammy loving it so that’s why it was on my list. Of course you know how I feel about Certain Dark Things and I can’t wait to give Queen of Blood and Steeplejack a chance as well. I really thought It Happened One Doomsday was great and I can’t wait for the sequel. The 4 horses of the apocalypse driving muscle cars sealed the deal for me!


    • Ah, good old Book Outlet, constantly enabling our book addictions 😀 That’s a great price for a great book though, hope you enjoy it! I loved the original twist on the usual UF and being able to immerse myself in a setting you don’t usually see in most other books.


  6. There are a few of these titles on my “next” list, with Certain Dark Things in pole position.
    And of course Ms. Burgis offers the unique gift of giving us both a story and some glimpses of real history, to be explored at leisure. Entertaining and instructive: who could ask for more? 🙂


  7. This list – bangs head on table! At least I’ve read a few off here already, we both had Burgis and MacNaughton. I need to read Sawbones – badly! I can’t believe I’ve waited this long.
    Lynn 😀


  8. Steeplejack and Certain Dark Things (this one especially from blogger recommendations) are on my probably list, and Queen of Blood too. The Dark Side is totally new to me but your whole description there sold me- I like ALL that stuff lol. Adding to my TBR…


  9. Gosh dang it, Mogsy! Stop adding to my TBR. Sigh….. Actually I think some of these are already on there from your initial reviews and of course you know how I feel about Sawbones. It Happened One Doomsday is one that I think I missed and that I will definitely add!


    • Yeah these days it’s hard for me to get into new urban fantasy…so much of it just feels the same. So when I find something interesting like It Happened One Doomsday (even the title is cool!) it’s a keeper 🙂


  10. Lots of good-looking stuff on here! Although, to your point…I haven’t actually read any of it 😅 I’ve been meaning to check out Chuck Wendig, though. Would you recommend Invasive over Zeroes to a Wendig-newb?


    • Oh definitely. I didn’t love Zer0es, it had some issues that prevented me from really getting into it. One of the reasons is that Wendig is so much better when he’s focused on writing one or two protagonists. When he writes an ensemble cast (like in Zer0es), his character development falls apart. Invasive focuses on one main lead and it worked a lot better for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Top 10 Underrated Books of 2016 | LAURENCE MACNAUGHTON

  12. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems | The BiblioSanctum

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