Five Books Everyone Should Read is a feature we’re running in 2015. We’ve asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.
Today we have Carina Press Executive Editor Angela James here to share her list of five books everyone should read. Or, in Angie’s case, five books everyone should read from every genre (the big cheater!). I’m not too angry, though, since she listed pretty much all my favorites.
I’m a rule breaker. Well…a rule bender. I like to say I think outside the box and do things differently because that’s what working in digital publishing for the last 12 years has forced me to do. Find a way to get sh*t done, make things happen, convince people to my way of thinking. Plus, I read hundreds of books every year just for fun. Last year it was over 400. So when Holly says I can only pick five books everyone should read, my mind goes to…five books in each of my favorite genres, right? So that’s what you get, five books you should read in each of my two most favorite genres (sorry, Holly!)
Hey, at least I’m combining these instead of making them their own. That’s something, right?
Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved–but did not know…?
The first book in Eddings’ Belgariad 5-book Belgariad series, this is my absolute favorite fantasy series of all time. I can re-read this every year, and still discover something new to love. It’s very fantasy-focused, a young hero on an unwanted quest, with an amazing cast of characters, but as the 5 books go along, and our hero ages from a young boy to a young man, a small romance thread is woven in. Once you’ve read these five, Eddings did readers the wonderful favor of writing another 5-book series that takes place a few years after this one, and we get to re-join the beloved characters in the Mallorean. If you haven’t read this, you’re missing out.
In the distant future, humans and several other races have been granted membership in the Confederation – at a price. They must act as soldier/protectors of the far more civilized races who have long since turned away from war… — Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr was a battle-hardened professional. So when she and those in her platoon who’d survived the last deadly encounter with the Others were yanked from a well-deserved leave for what was supposed to be “easy” duty as the honor guard for a diplomatic mission to the non-Confederation world of the Silsviss, she was ready for anything.
At first it seemed that all she’d have to contend with was bored troops getting into mischief, and breaking in the new Second Lieutenant who had been given command of her men.
Sure, there’d been rumors of the Others – the sworn enemies of the Confederation – being spotted in this sector of space. But there were always rumors. The key thing was to recruit the Silsviss into the Confederation before the Others either attacked or claimed this lizardlike race of warriors for their own side. And everything seemed to be going perfectly. Maybe too perfectly…
A strong, seriously kickass female Marine in space in a future world. I feel like that’s all I should have to say, but Huff writes a compelling heroine who journeys and grows over the course of the series—and also falls in love. If you’ve ever read the Liaden Universe or Elizabeth Moon, and loved those, this series will captivate you. Just ask author Nalini Singh, I got her hooked on it!
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
When this book was released in 2011, it shot to the top of my favorite reads of the year. This book was written for anyone who loves early gaming or the 80s, as it contains a fantastic amount of references to that period of time and development. These details, woven into a futuristic science fiction world, set in a time when people do most everything via virtual reality, rather than in the physical world, will really get your imagination working.
After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power – and fear – of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession.
But when Mina uncovers the victim’s identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke.
I’m probably cheating again because this could easily go in the romance section, but since it’s steampunk, I’m putting it here. This book is my go-to recommendation for anyone who tells me they don’t read romance but they do like fantasy. The first time I read it, I said this, “This book rocked my world. Meljean has written a well-developed world with incredible steampunk technology and details, as well as characters and relationships that go beyond the surface.”
Now Briggs begins an extraordinary new series set in Mercy Thompson’s world—but with rules of its own.
INTRODUCING THE ALPHA AND OMEGA NOVELS…
Anna never knew werewolves existed until the night she survived a violent attack…and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. But Anna is that rarest kind of werewolf: an Omega. And one of the most powerful werewolves in the country will recognize her value as a pack member—and as his mate.
I get a little conflicted when I decide what to recommend most by Briggs, but the truth is that I like the Alpha & Omega series just a little bit more than I do Mercy Thompson, but I honestly think you can’t go wrong with either of them. This falls into urban fantasy/romance and takes the reader into the world of werewolf shifters. It’s got incredible in-depth development of the werewolf mythology, world and politics, while also drawing in lore from other supernatural elements, including the fae. There is just so much to love and enjoy, this is a book I turn back to every time I just need something I know I can sink into.
This category physically pains me because I’ve been reading romance for 30 years, so choosing just five was not easy. Let’s all be glad I didn’t start breaking down by 5 in each of my favorite romance subgenres.
Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud and loyal. Her dear Scottish friend from childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands: to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean. Nothing prepared her, however, for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land…Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.
In a spirited clash of wills and customs, Judith reveled in the melting bliss of Iain’s searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan…not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves!
I will always think of Garwood as a historical author, though she’s since moved to romantic suspense for years. But she is an author I get jealous when I find out people are just discovering her, because her historical backlist is uniformly amazing. If I re-read just one, I find myself bingeing on re-reading about 10. Her historical romances always have alpha heroes, spunky, caring heroines, and a good dose of humor thrown in. Take note: historical accuracy isn’t really key to these books, so if that’s important to you, they might not work. But for those who read for story and characters, you will find these delightful. Start with The Secret—Scottish Highlanders swoons.
In a world of danger and deception, she walks the line–between seductive passion and scandalous murder…
Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she’s seen it all–and knows her survival depends on her instincts. And she’s going against every warning telling her not to get involved with Roarke, an Irish billionaire–and a suspect in Eve’s murder investigation. But passion and seduction have rules of their own, and it’s up to Eve to take a chance in the arms of a man she knows nothing about–except the addictive hunger of needing his touch.
Eve and Roarke. Roarke is my most favoritest (yes, I’m an editor but I’m still using most favoritist) hero. He’s rich, he’s smart, he’s protective, he’s hot, and he’s totally, totally into his woman. I think Roarke is the originator of the whole “mine” hero archetype, where the hero meets his woman and it’s like being struck by lightning, and he wants to be everything to her. But this series is also about Eve, who’s also smart, badass, a little cranky (I LOVE this about her) and a little damaged. She doesn’t make life easy for Roarke, but the sparks between them are enormous. Set in a futuristic NYC, with all the elements of murder, mystery and action you could want, even if you aren’t looking to commit to the whole series, think of the first three as a trilogy and just read those.
THE FIRST PSY/CHANGELING NOVEL from the New York Times bestselling author of Shards of Hope, Shield of Winter, and Heart of Obsidian…
The book that Christine Feehan called “a must-read for all of my fans.”
In a world that denies emotions, where the ruling Psy punish any sign of desire, Sascha Duncan must conceal the feelings that brand her as flawed. To reveal them would be to sentence herself to the horror of “rehabilitation”—the complete psychic erasure of everything she ever was…Both human and animal, Lucas Hunter is a Changeling hungry for the very sensations the Psy disdain. After centuries of uneasy coexistence, these two races are now on the verge of war over the brutal murders of several Changeling women. Lucas is determined to find the Psy killer who butchered his packmate, and Sascha is his ticket into their closely guarded society. But he soon discovers that this ice-cold Psy is very capable of passion—and that the animal in him is fascinated by her. Caught between their conflicting worlds, Lucas and Sascha must remain bound to their identities—or sacrifice everything for a taste of darkest temptation…
My list wouldn’t be complete without a Nalini Singh book on here. Like Briggs, I get conflicted about which series to recommend first, but since her Guild Hunter series feels slightly more urban fantasy, I went with Slave to Sensation and the Psy/Changeling series. I remember when Slave to Sensation was first published in 2006 and I felt like I hadn’t been reading a lot of books that would ever end up on my “must read” list. I really was thinking that my must-read list would always consist of books that had been published years before, like some of these other on today’s list. And then came Slave to Sensation with it’s alpha hero who slowly seduces the heroine, who loves her completely and truly, and brings her into his changeling (he’s a leopard shifter) world. Slave to Sensation gave me the same wonderful feels that Julie Garwood’s historicals do, and it quickly became one of my top five reads. And a book that I have gifted to other readers dozens of times, because it’s such a universally wonderful read.
In the year 2139, fearless Tedra De Arr sets out to rescue her beleaguered planet Kystran from the savage rule of the evil Crad Ce Moerr.
Experienced in combat but not in love, the beautiful, untouched Amazon flies with Martha, her wise-cracking, free-thinking computer, to a world where warriors reigns supreme – and into the arms of the one man she can never hope to vanquish: the bronzed barbarian Challen Ly-San-Ter.
A magnificent creature of raw yet disciplined desires, the muscle-bound primitive succeeds where no puny Kystran male had before – igniting a raging fire within Tedra that must be extinguished before she can even think of saving her enslaved world…
This is one that’s probably not going to show up on many must-read lists, but there’s something about this book that I adore. A futuristic romance, set in space, the heroine ends up on an undiscovered planet of warriors. Of course, she encounters the hero first thing, and he basically kidnaps her and keeps her as his. The hero probably qualifies as an alpha-hole before his time, and there is a spanking scene that I’m sure some will object to, but I do love the heroine, her sidekick—an intelligent computer—and some of the fun details of space living and alien animals that the author wrote. This one is pure campy, alpha sexy fun, so I can never resist recommending it.
Romantic suspense superstar Linda Howard’s seductive New York Times bestseller “meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension” (Publishers Weekly) into a sizzling, heart-pounding thriller!
Still reeling from her mother’s recent death, Karen Whitlaw is stunned when she receives a package containing a mysterious notebook from her estranged father, whom she has barely seen since his return from the Vietnam War decades ago. Then, a shocking phone call: Karen’s father has been murdered on the gritty streets of New Orleans.
For homicide detective Marc Chastain, something about the case of a murdered homeless man just doesn’t add up―especially after he meets the victim’s daughter. Far from the cold woman he expected, Karen Whitlaw is warm and passionate. She is also in serious danger. A string of “accidents” have shaken Karen to the core, and forced her into the protective embrace of the charming detective she vowed to resist. Together they unravel a disturbing story of politics, power, and murder―and face a killer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on her father’s secrets.
I decided I needed one contemporary-type romance on here, and though I really wanted to include Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey or Butterfly Tattoos by Deirdre Knight, I decided to avoid anything I edited (reluctantly) and go with an old favorite. I take a lot of delight in recommending this one because it drives Sarah from Smart Bitches nuts (for more on that, and my overall list of Linda Howard books to read, go here) but it’s quintessential Howard and has the bonus of being set in New Orleans. So you get a hot cop protecting his lady, and he does it with a Cajun accent. Score!
So there you go, my 10 choices for books everyone should read. Of course, if I could have added non-fiction, subgenres of romance, and mystery, there would be a lot more where that came from. I read so widely, I always have a recommendation on hand for someone, so if you’re still looking for your next awesome read, hit me up on Twitter, and I’ll give you one—more than one, probably!
About Angela James, Editorial Director:
Angela James, Editorial Director of Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-first fiction imprint, is both an avid reader of digital books and a veteran of and advocate for the digital publishing industry. She has enjoyed over a decade of experience in her field, including successfully launching, building and serving as editorial lead for two digital-first presses, Samhain Publishing and, since 2009, Harlequin’s Carina Press.
She has edited bestselling authors such as Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane, Ilona Andrews, Lilith Saintcrow, Shelly Laurenston and more. She was profiled in Fast Company magazine as a digital pioneer in the romance publishing industry and is the creator of the popular self-editing online workshop for authors, Before You Hit Send. In 2013, Angela was named New York Romance Writers of America’s Golden Apple Editor of the Year.
Angela is still acquiring and is currently on the hunt for a shifter-focused paranormal romance series she can grow, dark, edgy, sexy contemporary romance—the more limits pushed the better—, an erotic science fiction romance series (set in space. With aliens.) and romantic suspense that features anti-heroes and anti-heroines (who get their happily ever after, of course!)