Saturday, October 1, 2011

100 Posts! Recommendations for Everyone!


This is my 100th blog post!!!! Party!!! Confetti!! Cookies for everyone!

I haven’t posted for a week, because I just couldn’t think of anything cool enough to put in my 100th post. How does one manage to choose such things?

I wanted to do a give-away, but, dang it, I’m poor, and can’t finance anything big enough. Maybe for my upcoming blog-i-versary.

So I decided to give you all a list of my 100 favorite books from the last three years. The ones I’d love to recommend to you—and frequently do recommend to those who ask. I’ve been logging my reading since April of 2008, so I had over 500 books to choose from. I went through and weeded out the ones I didn’t feel good about recommending. Those I couldn’t remember, or wasn’t all that impressed by. I also weeded out many that I really do love, but knew would get easily cut from the top 100. I was left with over 200. *Sigh*

Of the over 200 finalists, most were part of a series. If I were to list each series as a single entry instead of multiple entries, I’d be under 100. Bother.

So we’re left with the following categorized list of books I would like to recommend to you, depending on your tastes. There are many more amazing books out there that I’ve read in my life, including classics and more modern novels. These are just my favorites from the last three years—since I decided to become a novelist myself. Some I’ve broken down into series, and some I’ve listed by author. This is a long post, so feel free to skip forward to your favorite genre—or the genre you’d like to try out—and see what I’m recommending there. To help you decide where to start, I’ve listed my top choice first in each category. UPDATED to add pictures, so you know the cover to look for. :)

General disclaimer: not all of these books are PG-rated. If you prefer PG-rated books, proceed with caution, and feel free to contact me for specifics on each book. Everyone’s tastes and sensibilities are different: I promise not to judge you if you promise not to judge me. :)

Also, I was going to link to each author, but that’s too much work, so I’m linking to my top author in each category and trusting that you can get Google to help you find the rest.

YA Low / Urban Fantasy
These books take our world and add magic. This is my favorite category, so I’ve read a lot of books in it. Harry Potter isn’t listed only because I haven’t read him recently.

Top Recommendation: Everneath by Brodi Ashton –it comes out in January 2012, but I read an ARC a few weeks ago. You’re going to want it. Pre-Order it now. You’ll thank me later. My full-ish review will be up here on October 26th.








Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (yes, I still love the books)
  2. Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, beginning with City of Bones—and don’t forget the spin-off prequel series: The Infernal Devices
  3. Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
  4. Wings series by Aprilynne Pike
  5. My Fair Godmother series by Janette Rallison (with another UF series to come under the pen-name CJ Hill)
  6. The Dark Divine series by Bree Despain
  7. Artemis Fowl (thanks, Shelly) series by Eoin Colfer (I’ve only read the first, but it was very fun)
  8. Need series by Carrie Jones
  9. Faeriewalker series by Jenna Black, beginning with Glimmerglass
  10. Darkest Powers series by Kelley Armstrong, beginning with The Summoning
  11. Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White
  12. Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
  13. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


YA / MG High Fantasy
These books are about a different world than ours, with magic and mystery.

Top recommendation: The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale, beginning with The Goose Girl. While you’re at it, read her other fine, award-winning YA books (and her adult books). I love Shannon’s lyrical writing, and the way her characters lean on their friends to succeed. Also the romance. J







Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Anything by Jessica Day George, especially Princess of the Midnight Ball (which is really about a boy)
  2. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  3. The Glasswrights' Apprentice series by Mindy Klasky (though I haven’t finished it yet)
  4. Far World Series by J. Scott Savage, beginning with Water Keep
  5. The Shifter series by Janice Hardy
  6. The Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan, beginning with The Magician’s Guild


YA Dystopian      
Everybody’s utopia is someone else’s dystopia. I like to diss this category, but there are still lots of books I like in it.

Top Recommendation: Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough read it again (or see the movie), but it’s a brutal, dazzling, and haunting ride. Definitely a must-read.








Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. The Maze Runner series by James Dashner (final book due out in 10 days!)
  2. Matched Ally Condie (book #2 is due out November 1)
  3. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld (excluding Extras—I just couldn’t finish it)


YA Contemporary Romance
Our world, with romance and no magic. What’s not to love?

Top Recommendation: Any number of books by Janette Rallison. Especially try My Double Life and Just One Wish. Normal teenagers with mostly normal problems. Janette is quirky, profound, hilarious, and an all-around treat to read. (And she’s starting a new YA UF series under the pen name of CJ Hill!)







Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (sooo looking forward to reading Lola, too!)
  2. Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith
  3. The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
  4. Sweethearts by Sara Zarr


Adult Low / Urban Fantasy
Our world, magic, few teenagers. “Adult” doesn’t mean X-rated, but some of them are a bit graphic—in blood and / or in sex. Know your sensibilities and choose wisely.

Top Recommendation: I have to go with Patricia Briggs. I’m so in love with her Mercy Thompson series (starting with Moon Called), I went back and read everything she’s ever written. You should, too. (Some of it is high fantasy.) Mercy Thompson also has a great spin-off series called Alpha and Omega. Read that, too.

Can’t-help-it Runner-up: Ilona Andrews, especially her Kate Daniels series, beginning with Magic Bites. There’s a bit of post-apocalyptic in this one, but it’s an amazing world and a wonderful what-if. Ilona (who is really a wife-husband writing team) also has a great UF series called The Edge—starting with On the Edge.







Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category (and, really, I keep re-arranging the first 4):
  1. The Hallows series by Kim Harrison, beginning with Dead Witch Walking
  2. Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong, beginning with Bitten.
  3. Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, beginning with Skinwalker
  4. The Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost, beginning with Halfway to the Grave
  5. Sookie Stackhouse series (the inspiration for TruBlood on HBO) by Charlaine Harris, beginning with Dead Until Dark
  6. Harper Connelley series by Charlaine Harris, beginning with Grave Sight
  7. Allie Beckstrom Series by Devon Monk, beginning with Magic to the Bone
  8. Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson, starting with Undead and Unwed (vampire chick-lit)
  9. The Walker Papers series by C.E. Murphy, beginning with Urban Shaman
  10. The Negotiator series by C.E. Murphy, beginning with Heart of Stone
  11. Broken Heart series by Michele Bardsley, beginning with I'm the Vampire, That's Why
  12. Girl's Guide to Witchcraft series by Mindy Klasky
  13. Stormwalker series by Allyson James


Adult High Fantasy
Think Lord of the Rings—which isn’t on the list only because I haven’t read it in the last three years

Top Recommendation: Anything by Brandon Sanderson. The Mistborn series, Elantris, Warbreaker, The Way of Kings—all excellent, mind-blowing, and depressingly discouraging to a wanna-be like me. (One of my wanna-be friends threw Elantris across the room when he finished it because it was so good. How can we hope to measure up to that?) I’m even tempted to wade through the whole Wheel of Time series because Brandon is writing the end of it! (Also, Brandon is coming to Authors’ Advisory on October 5 to talk about Magic Systems!!)




Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, beginning with The Name of the Wind (though, honestly, I’m waiting until the series is complete before I read past #1—three year lag times are a bit much for me)      
  2. Rogue Mage series by Faith Hunter, beginning with Bloodring
  3. The Tide Lords series by Jennifer Fallon, beginning with The Immortal Prince (sadly, I haven’t yet read the last book)
  4. Mad Kestral by Misty Massey


Steampunk (YA and Adult)
Take historical times and pretend they were as smart about science as they thought they were. Steam-powered gadgetry a must.

Top Recommendation: the Alexia Tarabotti series by Gail Carriger, beginning with Soulless. This is actually Victorian Fantasy Steampunk with a healthy dose of romance. Ever wonder how tiny little England took over the world? They had werewolves in their military, of course. And those strange Victorian fashions? Vampires. Absolutely hilarious books, with a YA spinoff in the works.

Close Runner-Up: Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. A commoner girl pretending to be a boy falls in love with a royal boy who doesn’t know she’s a girl, while they ride around on a flying whale fighting elaborate machines in a rewritten version of World War I. The third book, Goliath, just came out, and I’m so excited to read it!!











Horror
Stephen King is the master at this. Take one relatable, mostly ordinary hero, pit him against something terrifying, and raise your reader’s pulse.

Top Recommendation: I Am Not a Serial Killer series by Dan Wells. #2 is Mr. Monster. #3 is I Don’t Want to Kill You. If the titles don’t convince you, they’re about John Wayne Cleaver, a 15-year-old diagnosed sociopath who is obsessed with serial killers… but doesn’t want to become one. He has rules to keep him from going down that path (i.e. No Stalking People)—and they’re working just fine until a serial killer comes to town. John decides he can stop him… he’ll just have to break some of his rules.




Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz
  2. The Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz, beginning with Prodigal Son         
  3. By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz
  4. The Meridians (Ebook) by Michaelbrent Collings (who writes a lot like Dean Koontz) :)

           
Sci-Fi (Adult and YA) 
Playing with possibilities in scientific advancement, space travel, and alien life forms.

Top Recommendation: The Host by Stephenie Meyer. It’s simply amazing. The body-snatcher “Souls” are wonderfully kind and utterly perplexed about why these few “wild” humans are still resisting. The Souls unquestionably improve the societal structure on every planet they conquer. They eliminate poverty, sickness… and human consciousness—at least, until the Soul Wanderer takes over Melanie’s body. This heart-wrenching love story is told from Wanderer’s perspective, but is intimately woven with the perspective of the woman still hanging onto her mind—and her memories of a lost love.



Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Across the Universe by Beth Revis (book two coming soon)
  2. Sirantha Jax series by Ann Aguirre, beginning with Grimspace


Adult Contemporary Romance
If you need an endorphin fix, a Happily-Ever-After, or just a reason to believe that things really can work out in the end, this is the genre for you. Unless you’re under 18 or squeamish about sex in novels. Then ask your parents first.

Top Recommendation: Anything by Robyn Carr. And not just because she’s my mentor. Her recent Grace Valley and Virgin River series about tiny towns nestled in gigantic mountains are the ultimate in comfort food. Beautiful women, manly men (mostly ex-marines), and (fictional) tight-knit communities so real you’ll be calling your realtor.






Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, especially What I Did For Love
  2. Anything by Jennifer Crusie, especially Bet Me, where the overweight girl still gets the hotty guy—and you’ll actually believe it!
  3. Almost anything by Loretta Chase, especially Lord of Scoundrels
  4. Traitor series by Sandra "my first-cousin Noreen" Grey (Though I haven’t read past the first book yet. Bad cousin. No cookie.)

           
Adult Contemporary
Present day. Not romance, not fantasy, not horror.

Top Recommendation: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson. They can be disturbingly graphic, but if you’re not turned off by that sort of thing, the books are heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, and leave you rooting for the girl with weird hair, piercings, and tats. Who just happens to be a genius. And a hacker. And not half as incompetent as she’s been declared. And the toughest waif you’ll ever meet. It’s no wonder us Americans wanted our own set of films.





Other amazing books I’ve read recently in this category:
  1. Nadia Stafford series by Kelley Armstrong, beginning with Exit Strategy—female ex-cop hit-man… er woman
  2. Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, though I’ve only read the first one: The Eyre Affair

           
Writing Craft Books
Yeah, I really should read more of these. Most of my writing education lately has been from blogs, though, and blogs (as everybody knows) have excellent information on them. Still, these books are great, too. Even though I can’t pick a favorite.

On Writing (A Memoir of the Craft) by Stephen King—this is sort of a must-read for a genre writer. See King’s journey from dirt-poor scribbler to world-renowned author. Also, lots of solid (and some take-it-or-leave-it) advice on how to follow in his footsteps.













The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey—a wonderful description of the Hero’s Journey, the various characters, the steps along the way, and why readers love this structure again and again and again.


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Whew! You’re still here? You skipped, didn’t you? That’s okay. Come back whenever you’re wondering what to read next. :) I've specifically mentioned 77 books and/or series, so you should have enough to keep you busy for a while. 

So do our tastes match? Is your favorite missing? (If so, keep in mind that I might have read it over 3 years ago.) See any you want to try next? 

Finally, thanks so much to all my followers / readers / friends / family. Blogging wouldn't be half as much fun without you!

29 comments:

  1. Congrats on your 100th blog post. Your reading tastes match mine quite closely when it comes to urban fantasy for both adult and YA. It's been fun getting to know you online and on Dave Farland's calls.

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  2. Big congrats on your 100th blog post! Here's to 1000 more. Yes, I meant that extra "0". 1,000! Get to work.

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  3. Brodi--Thanks! And you first! No, wait. Write E3. No, blog more. No, write. No.... Can you do both? You don't actually have to sleep, do you?

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  4. Fun post! We, of course, have lots of favorites in common, but there are still so many I need to read. So many books, so little time ...

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  5. That's an awesome list, Robin. I've read tons of those, too, and concur on the ones I've read. Except for Sookie. I got through two books and quit.

    Brandon amazes me not just with his storytelling but his different magic systems. I'm hard pressed to come up with one, and look at all the different (incredible) ones he's created.

    I liked The Host better than the Twilight books. I so wish she'd write again. She mentioned once that she's got ideas for two more Host books.

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  6. Wow! How can you read so much and still have a life... and write too! I need to read more. Time is just a premium. Now at least I have a list of recomendations to start with!

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  7. Wow! How can you read so much and still have a life... and write too! I need to read more. Time is just a premium. Now at least I have a list of recomendations to start with!

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  8. Wow. I'm impressed!! I will never be at a loss to find a book I want to read next. I will just go to your list and play Eenie meenie miney moe!

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  9. Oh my gosh, so many great suggestions! THANKS for this, and congratulations!! :)

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  10. Geezo peezo, this post must have taken a lot of brain power to write! Not only to read, but remember, appreciate and share. I am in awe.

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  11. Susan--I think you might actually out-read me this year. Seriously, though, you need to at least read my top recs. Not that I haven't already told you about most of them.

    Jenn--it's a matter of priorities. And not minding that my boys all think of mommy with her "nose in a book." There is always down-time that can be sacrificed to the literature gods. :)

    Vanessa--Eenie meenie away, sistah!

    Lisa--thanks! And you're SO welcome! Half the joy of a great book is making your friends read it, too. Be sure to report back on which ones you liked!

    Jessie--yeah, the post took about 5 hours to organize and write--and that's starting with a list! Remembering my favorite books, though? That's easy.

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  12. Donna--I just rescued your comment from spam, so this is out of order (got the email, but couldn't see the comment!).

    I'm still enjoying the Sookie series, though one of the recent books fell flat for me. Try the Harper Connelley series: very fun.

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  13. I didn't skip. I read them all (I read them all on your post, not ACTUALLY read all of the books)

    I love Hunger Games, Shannon Hale books, and I'm really looking forward to Everneath.

    I loved Extras. It did take a while to get into though because it was all new characters (that you don't care about.)

    The Eoin Colfer book, do you mean Artemis Fowl? Atticus Finch in from To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Awesome list Robin and congrats!

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  14. I didn't skip. I read them all (I read them all on your post, not ACTUALLY read all of the books)

    I love Hunger Games, Shannon Hale books, and I'm really looking forward to Everneath.

    I loved Extras. It did take a while to get into though because it was all new characters (that you don't care about.)

    The Eoin Colfer book, do you mean Artemis Fowl? Atticus Finch in from To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Awesome list Robin and congrats!

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  15. I didn't skip. I read them all (I read them all on your post, not ACTUALLY read all of the books)

    I love Hunger Games, Shannon Hale books, and I'm really looking forward to Everneath.

    I loved Extras. It did take a while to get into though because it was all new characters (that you don't care about.)

    The Eoin Colfer book, do you mean Artemis Fowl? Atticus Finch in from To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Awesome list Robin and congrats!

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  16. I didn't skip. I read them all (I read them all on your post, not ACTUALLY read all of the books)

    I love Hunger Games, Shannon Hale books, and I'm really looking forward to Everneath.

    I loved Extras. It did take a while to get into though because it was all new characters (that you don't care about.)

    The Eoin Colfer book, do you mean Artemis Fowl? Atticus Finch in from To Kill A Mockingbird.

    Awesome list Robin and congrats!

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  17. Shelly--Argh! Artemis! I meant Artemis!

    ... I mean... what do you mean? I didn't say Atticus!

    I didn't mind the new characters in Extras--it was interesting, but I wasn't in the mood for the moralizing.

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  18. I was needing book ideas for my daughter... Everneath sounds PERFECT!! She also read The Host a while ago, raves about it.

    Congrats on your 100th post!

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  19. Kimberly--Everneath is not just for teens. You should read it, too. :)

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  20. Congrats on your milestone!

    I don't read much in those genres though I did enjoy the Twilight series a few backs. But then again, that was before I started writing. I picked Twilight up a few months ago and couldn't read it. (Hmmm?) And The Host just didn't suck me in.

    As far as writing books go, you must read two books by James Scott Bell: "Plot and Structure" & "The Art of War for Writers". Both fabulous!

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  21. Nancy--if you're not a sci-fi fan, the first 100 pages of The Host can seem a bit dull, since they're mostly world-building. Rather sedate, really. After that, the action really picks up.

    Thanks for the writing book recs!

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  22. Wow, what a great and comprehensive list! Thanks for all the suggestions.

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  23. Happy 100th postday, Robin! And WOW, what a bash! Great recs; I especially want to get my hands on Everneath. That book cover is GORGEOUS.

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  24. Jenny--so totally welcome! It was very fun to compile. Like making a list of my best friends. :)

    Anita--I've loved the cover of Everneath for ages! (I was one of the first to see it, after Brodi. I literally jumped up and down.) Even better? The story inside needs no such embellishment. It's made of awesome.

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  25. Congratulations on your 100th post, Robin! Now I want to read Maze Runner and Uglies even more than before!

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  26. I've read most of your recommends here. Good picks.

    -- david j.

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  27. Thank you so much for this list. I've recently fallen off the reading train and am running frantically to jump back on.

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  28. FE--You'll love em!

    David--I just KNEW we were kindred spirits! :)

    Tasha--Oh no! Quick! Someone put a book in her hands! Read, Tasha! Read!

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