Tag: Five Books Everyone Should Read

Announcing the 2016 Five Books Everyone Should Read Challenge

Posted January 4, 2016 by Rowena in Features | 2 Comments

Five Books Everyone Should Read was a feature we ran in 2015. We asked some of our favorite authors, readers and bloggers to share five books that touched them or have stayed with them throughout the years.  We hope you guys enjoyed this feature as much as we did.  There were so many books listed that we haven’t read, we’re challenging ourselves to read as many books from the list that we can, and we’re inviting you to join us.

You can read as many of the books featured last year as you’d like, but the challenge is to read at least five over the course of 2016. Rowena and I are committing to read at least six of the books from the master list. Each month, we will be reading and discussing one book from the master list.  You’re welcome to join us in reading the book each month, or you can choose your own to read.

Reading Challenge Details:

  1. The challenge runs from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. Any books read before January 1, 2016 do not count toward your challenge.

  2. The challenge is to read books from the feature we ran here on Book Binge in 2015, Five Books Everyone Should Read. Popular readers, bloggers and authors shared the five books that they thought everyone should read, so the goal here is to read at least five of those books in 2016. You can find the master list here.

  3. To join the challenge, all you have to do is sign up below and track your progress throughout the year. You do not have to have a blog to participate. You can participate using your Goodreads, BookLikes or LibraryThing profile as long as you have a dedicated bookshelf for books you’re reading toward this challenge. It would also help if your profile wasn’t private so that we can see what you’re reading. Grab the reading challenge button to post on your blog and invite others to join us!

Grab the Button

Sign Up Here

Good luck and happy reading!


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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author Shiloh Walker

Posted December 27, 2015 by Holly in Features | 0 Comments

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.

5 Books Project

Today we have romance author Shiloh Walker here to share her list of Five Books. Shiloh is as well rounded as her list of books. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out her backlist. She offers a little something for everyone.


Naked in Death
1. Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

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.

It’s the best of a bunch of worlds. Romance, suspense, a bit of futuristic tech. With edgy Eve Dallas and sexy Roarke (no last name), the first book is the series opens the doors to a whole new world.

Endurance by S.L. Viehl
2. Endurance by S.L. Viehl

This third entry in the “StarDoc” series finds Dr. Cherijo Torin the target for capture by the Allied League of Worlds. When captured after his failed attempt to get Cherijo, Colonel Shropana is sold to the brutal Hsktskt slave traders. But just as Cherijo made her escape, the man she once loved stabs her in the back, and hands her over to the same slavers.

This isn’t the first in the series (Stardoc) and these aren’t standalone, so naturally, you need to read the others. (See how I did that?). But Endurance is one of the best books I’ve eer read and my favorite book, period. I loves it.

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews
3. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to deal with-especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.

And now there’s a new player in town-a foe that may be too much for even Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family.

The Kate Daniels series is one of my favorites. Awesome action and characters that make you laugh. This isn’t the first in the series, but it’s my favorite one.

" 4. Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her world of angelic rulers, vampiric servants, and the woman thrust into their darkly seductive world…

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find herself changed—an angel with wings the colors of midnight and dawn—but her fragile body needs time to heal before she can take flight. Her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel, Raphael, is used to being in control—especially when it comes to the woman he considers his own. But Elena has never done well with authority.

They’ve barely begun to understand each other when Raphael receives an invitation to a ball from the archangel, Lijuan. To refuse would be a sign of fatal weakness, so Raphael must ready Elena for the flight to Beijing—and to the nightmare that awaits them there. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan holds a power that lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena.

The Gray Man
5. The Gray Man by Mark Greaney

Court Gentry is known as The Gray Man?a legend in the covert realm, moving silently from job to job, accomplishing the impossible, and then fading away. And he always hits his target. But there are forces more lethal than Gentry in the world. And in their eyes, Gentry has just outlived his usefulness.

Now, he is going to prove that for him, there?s no gray area between killing for a living?and killing to stay alive.]

First in the Gray Man series and the best action/thriller book I’ve ever read. Very heavily character driven and the hero in it is the kind of guy you just can’t help but root for.

About Shiloh:

Shiloh Walker is an award-winning writer…yes, really! She’s also a mom, a wife, a reader and she pretends to be an amateur photographer. She published her first book in 2003. Look for her newest book, Headed for Trouble, due out in January 2016 from St. Martins.

She writes romantic suspense and contemporary romance, and urban fantasy under the name J.C. Daniels.

Find her on the web:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Check out her upcoming release:

Headed for Trouble

SHE’S A SMALL-TOWN GIRL WITH BIG DREAMS.
Nine years ago, Neve McKay fled her small Southern town and disapproving family to seek a career in the big city. Now she’s finally coming home-and hoping for a fresh start. But the relationship that shattered her world still haunts her. And even among her nearest and dearest, she doesn’t feel safe. . .

CAN THIS BAD BOY BE THE ANSWER TO HER PRAYERS?
Ian Campbell is a pure Scottish muscle-as hard and handsome as they come. But when Neve walks into his bar, his heart melts. . .and he vows to have this gorgeous and somewhat vulnerable woman in his life-for better or for worse. What is Neve’s tragic secret? And how can Neve expect Ian to protect her, when doing so could put his own life at risk? The only thing Ian knows for sure is that he will do whatever it takes to keep her out of harm’s way-and in his loving arms. . .

Preorder it now:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound


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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Author Sarah MacLean

Posted December 20, 2015 by Holly in Features | 2 Comments

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.

5 Books Project

Today we have historical romance author and all around awesome person, Sarah MacLean, here to share her list of Five Books.Sarah MacLean


When Holly asked me to do this, I thought for sure the list would be all romance. But when I thought about it, I realized that would be preaching to the choir over here on Book Binge! So, here are five books (only one romance!) that I adore — and the reasons why. Maybe there’s something here you haven’t tried?

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber
1. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber

At the heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape to a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters.

This is a beast of a book, 900 pages and completely riveting. In short, it’s the story of Sugar, a Victorian prostitute and her rise to power from the streets of London, but that barely scratches the surface of it — it’s Dickensian in scope, revealing all the remarkable nooks and crannies (even the disgusting ones) of Victorian London. Sugar is a glorious, complex character, and when she rises to the position of mistress to a wealthy businessman whose wife is her opposite (though equally complex) — a moneyed woman being treated for hysteria. Apparently, Faber researched it for 20 years, which is probably why there’s nothing about this book that I don’t love.

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
2. When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

“I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won’t look at them until after I’m gone.” This is what Terry Tempest Williams’s mother, the matriarch of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah, told her a week before she died. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as it was to discover that the three shelves of journals were all blank. In fifty-four short chapters, Williams recounts memories of her mother, ponders her own faith, and contemplates the notion of absence and presence art and in our world. When Women Were Birds is a carefully crafted kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question: What does it mean to have a voice?

I read this book this year after hearing about it again and again from friends. On its surface, it’s a memoir about a woman who has lost her mother. The author is bequeathed her mother’s 50 journals, only to discover that every journal was empty. Just pages of blankness. Of course, this discovery leaves Tempest Williams thinking about issues of identity and womanhood and voice and purpose. It’s a magnificent, lyric book of 54 short essays about relationships mothers and daughters and women and faith and grief and identity. And it changed my life.

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
3. Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

When shy and secluded author Sara Fielding ventures from her country cottage to research a novel, she inadvertently witnesses a crime in progress—and manages to save the life of the most dangerous man in London.

Derek Craven is a powerful and near-legendary gambling club owner who was born a bastard and raised in the streets. His reputation is unsavory, his scruples nonexistent. But Sara senses that beneath Derek’s cynical exterior, he is capable of a love more passionate than her deepest fantasies.

Aware that he is the last man that an innocent young woman should ever want, Derek is determined to protect Sara from himself, no matter what it takes. But in a world where secrets lurk behind every shadow, he is the only man who can keep her safe. And as Derek and Sara surrender to an attraction too powerful to deny, a peril surfaces from his dark past to threaten their happiness . . . and perhaps even their lives.

Together they will discover if love is enough to make dreams come true.

I mean, I’m still Sarah MacLean, you guys, so there’s no way this list is complete without a romance novel. I know that there’s some disagreement about which Lisa Kleypas novel is the most hero-iffic, but to all the Devil in Winter fans, I say, St. Vincent is fine, but Derek Craven would eat him for breakfast. I think of Dreaming of You as a near-perfect romance, in part because it busted down Ducal doors when it came out — Derek isn’t just untitled, he’s a cockney, up-from-the-gutter, son of a prostitute, rough-and-tumble hero who is the ultimate self-made man. And man, has he self-made. He’s the owner of a tremendous gaming hell, and a king of the dark corners of London.

The heroine? A lady novelist who is interested in those dark corners for research. Of course, she has no idea how to navigate them, and she awakens his gentlemanly side, if it can be called that. It’s a beautiful beautiful book.

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci — clues visible for all to see — yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion — an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory’s ancient secret — and an explosive historical truth — will be lost forever.

And now…for something completely different. I love this book. I love it as a reader because it is ridiculously good fun, and it makes me turn pages without a care in the world for how ridiculous it is…and all the cares for what good fun it is. Robert Langdon is outrageous and the plot is bananas and I care not a bit. It’s exactly what commercial fiction should be. And that brings me to why I love it as a writer. Let me repeat. It’s exactly what commercial fiction should be.
Dan Brown knows how to write a book that people will devour. The bones

of this book are so carefully structured…everything about it builds so carefully on itself…and everything is designed so that the reader solves the puzzles about thirty seconds before Langdon himself does.
It makes readers feel clever and smart and keeps them gleefully turning pages. The first time I read it, I was on a boat in the middle of a stunning California lake, and I couldn’t even look up at the beautiful day because I was so thoroughly enjoying my book. Ever since, I’ve strived to write a book like that.

The Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay
5. The Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

The 1956 Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay finds new life in this beautiful new P.S. edition from Harper Perennial Modern Classics. Alongside Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, and E. E. Cummings, Millay remains among the most celebrated poets of the early twentieth century for her uniquely lyrical explorations of love, individuality, and artistic expression. This invaluable compendium of her work is not only an essential addition to any collection of the world’s most moving and memorable poetry but an unprecedented look into the life of Millay. An extensive P.S. section includes personal letters, never-before-seen photographs, information about Millay’s homestead at Steepletop, and an original essay by leading Millay scholar Holly Peppe.

Full disclosure, I’m not a poetry person. I don’t entirely understand it and I always feel like I’m missing the point. That is, for every poet but Edna St. Vincent Millay, who writes the most beautiful, heartbreaking love poems I’ve ever read. Strike that. She writes the most beautiful, heartbreaking love I’ve ever read. I read her almost exclusively when I’m at the end of a book, writing the black moments.

“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain.”

That exclamation point slays me every time.

About Sarah:

New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Sarah MacLean wrote her first romance novel on a dare and never looked back. She is the author of historical romances and a monthly romance review column at The Washington Post, and the recipient of back-to-back RITA Awards for Best Historical Romance. Sarah regularly speaks about the romance genre, its history and its intersection with feminism in both academic and consumer settings. A lifelong romance reader, she is the creator and moderator of the 1500 member strong Old School Romance Bookclub on Facebook. Sarah lives in New York City.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Check out her upcoming releases:

The Rogue Not Taken

Lady Sophie’s Society Splash

When Sophie, the least interesting of the Talbot sisters, lands her philandering brother-in-law backside-first in a goldfish pond in front of all society, she becomes the target of very public aristocratic scorn. Her only choice is to flee London, vowing to start a new life far from the aristocracy. Unfortunately, the carriage in which she stows away isn’t saving her from ruin . . . it’s filled with it.

Rogue’s Reign of Ravishment!

Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley, has never met a woman he couldn’t charm, resulting in a reputation far worse than the truth, a general sense that he’s more pretty face than proper gentleman, and an irate summons home to the Scottish border. When King discovers stowaway Sophie, however, the journey becomes anything but boring.

War? Or More?

He thinks she’s trying to trick him into marriage. She wouldn’t have him if he were the last man on earth. But carriages bring close quarters, dark secrets, and unbearable temptation, making opposites altogether too attractive . . .

Available December 29, 2015. Preorder it now:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Books-a-Million | Indie Bound


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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Reader Willaful

Posted December 13, 2015 by Holly in Features | 7 Comments

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.

5 Books Project

Today we have the insightful Willaful here to discuss her Five Books.Willaful


Georgette Heyer was the romance I read when I didn’t read romance. After a stint of Barbara Cartland and Harlequin Presents addiction as an adolescent, I got very snooty about the whole genre. Then, as a teen, a friend turned me on to Heyer. Though I dabbled with a few other romances for the next 30 years or so, everything I tried seemed like a pale imitation of the Master.

When I joined a Heyer listserv, I discovered something odd. Some of the books most beloved by others were ones I didn’t much care for; conversely, my favorites weren’t always enjoyed that much by others. Although this no doubt has something to do with my age when I read them, I also think those people who were primarily romance readers saw the books through a different lens than I did: I certainly enjoyed the romance in Heyer, but I had no strong expectations about what it should look like. (For example, there some on the listserv who found the name “Waldo” so unromantic it turned them right off his book.) I read for the vibrant characters, the feel-like-you’re-there settings, and perhaps most of all, the humor.

[book title]
1. The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

STARTLING NEWS

When they learned that Sir Waldo Hawkridge was coming, the village gentry were thrown into a flurry. The famed sportsman himself! Heir to an uncounted fortune, and a leader of London society! The local youths idolized “the Nonesuch”; the fathers disapproved; and the mothers and daughters saw him as the most eligible–and elusive–man in the kingdom.

But one person remained calm. When she became a governess, Ancilla Trent had put away romance, and at first she could only be amused at the fuss over Sir Waldo. But when he ignored the well-born beauties of the district, a shocking question began to form: could the celebrated gentleman be courting her?

The Nonesuch. This is the dreadful “Waldo” book, and I very much enjoy the mature, gentlemanly, but slyly witty Sir Waldo. I also found his heroine rather delightfully shocking: a very well-bred governess, she deals with her insufferable charge through careful manipulation, realizing that there’s no sense appealing to a better nature the impressively narcissistic Tiffany doesn’t possess.

The Unknown Ajax
2. The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer

Making the best of a bad situation, Anthea Darricot was civil to her newly-met cousin Hugh, but only barely. For Anthea, reduced to accepting the charity of irascible Lord Darricot, had been ordered to marry Hugh–the new heir to the Darricot fortune. Grandfather Darricot’s plan seemed perfect, to Grandfather: Hugh, the offspring of Darricot’s son and a common weaver’s daughter, might bring an unsuitable and low-bred wife into the family. To prevent this disaster, Hugh must marry Anthea. Knowing this, Anthea detested Hugh on sight, and Hugh seemed indifferent to her. But no one had consulted Hugh, and he was forming plans of his own….

This is another book that is sometimes considered to fail in the romance department, since the heroine spends most of the book being amused by the hero, who’s pretending to be a total goofball. But he doesn’t just have a wicked sense of humor — he’s great in a crisis, utterly dependable, and best of all, HUGE. I’ve been madly in love with him since I was 15 and was lucky enough to (essentially) marry him.

No Wind of Blame
3. No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer

Tragedy befalls the Carter family following an eventful visit from a Russian prince and a scandalous blackmail letter. The murder of Wally Carter is a bewildering mystery — how does one shoot a man crossing a narrow bridge without being near the murder weapon when it is fired? The analytical Inspector Hemingway reveals his unnerving talent for solving a fiendish problem.

Almost every character in this mystery is adorably ridonkulous. My favorite is Vicky, a dramatic young woman whose entire life is composed of putting on different acts, and who speaks in a affected style that is somehow thoroughly beguiling. Even after finding a dead body, she’s in top form: “you can’t start a necking-party now, because it would be too utterly anachronous!” ‘Oh, he looked totally dead!’ (A little before her time, slang-wise?) Considering how well she orchestrates situations to suit herself, it’s a good thing there’s also a warm heart hiding beneath the style.

Friday's Child
4. Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer

When the incomparable Miss Milbourne spurns the impetuous Lord Sherington’s marriage proposal (she laughs at him-laughs!) he vows to marry the next female he encounters, who happens to be the young, penniless Miss Hero Wantage, who has adored him all her life. Whisking her off to London, Sherry discovers there is no end to the scrapes his young, green bride can get into, and she discovers the excitement and glamorous social scene of the ton. Not until a deep misunderstanding erupts and Sherry almost loses his bride, does he plumb the depths of his own heart, and surprises himself with the love he finds there.

If P.G. Wodehouse ever wrote Regency romances, they might be something like this. The romance itself can be problematic, but the supporting cast of affable but generally clueless young men about town, just educated enough to be confused, really makes the book.

Envious Casa
5. Envious Casa by Georgette Heyer

It is no ordinary Christmas at Lexham Manor. Six holiday guests find themselves the suspects of a murder enquiry when the old Scrooge, Nathaniel Herriad, who owns the substantial estate, is found stabbed in the back. For Inspector Hemingway of Scotland Yard, ‘tis the season to find whodunit but it’s a real conundrum how any of the suspects could have entered the locked room to commit this foul deed in the first place.

If there’s a theme to these picks, it’s over-the-top characters and masquerades. This mystery combines both in a fascinating way. I’ve always been intrigued by the placid, rather despised Maud, who refuses to pay attention to what anyone thinks or expects of her, especially when it comes to reading.

“Mathilda sat beside her, and laughed when she saw the title of the book Maud had been reading. ‘Last time I was here it was the Memoirs of a Lady-in-Waiting,’ she said, teasing Maud.
Mockery slid off the armour of Maud’s self-sufficiency. ‘I like that kind of book,’ she replied simply.”

You go, Maud.

About Willaful:

I have long since gotten over being snooty about romance. Though I’ve never been able to go back to Barbara Cartland, these days I love nothing more than a good Harlequin Presents. I blog at “Heroes and Heartbreakers” and “A Willful Woman.”

Check her out online:

Twitter | Heroes and Heartbreakers | A Willful Woman


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Five Books Everyone Should Read: Blogger SonomaLass

Posted December 6, 2015 by Holly in Features | 2 Comments

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.

5 Books Project

Today we have reader and blogger Sonomalass here to share her list of Five Books. I have mad respect for her take on the genre and the community. Plus, she’s in my trust network for recommendations. There are several titles on her list I’l be picking up ASAP.
Sonomalass


This was a difficult choice, and I’m glad for all the people who’ve done this blog feature before me. They posted a lot of good books, which allowed me to narrow my choices down a little. There are still many amazing authors who aren’t on this; I tried to pick books that had a big impact on me as a reader, and that I highly recommend if you haven’t already read them. I re-read most of them every few years or so.

In no particular order:

tiganaTigana, by Guy Gavrel Kay

From Goodreads:  (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/104089.Tigana)

Eight of the nine provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm, on a world with two moons, have fallen to the warrior sorcerers Brandin of Ygrath and Alberico of Barbadior. 


Brandin’s younger son is slain in a battle with the principality of Tigana, which the grief-stricken sorcerer then destroys. After sweeping down and destroying the remnants of their army, burning their books and destroying their architecture and statuary, he makes it so that no one not born in that province can even hear its name. 

Years later, a small band of survivors, led by Alessan, last prince of Tigana’s royal house, wages psychological warfare, planting seeds for the overthrow of the two tyrants. At the center of these activities are Devin, a gifted young singer; Catriana, a young woman pursued by suspicions of her family’s guilt; and Duke Sandre d’Astibar, a wily resistance leader thought dead. 

Meanwhile, at Brandin’s court, Dianora, his favorite concubine and–unknown to anyone, another survivor of Tigana–struggles between her growing love for the often gentle tyrant and her desire for vengeance. Gradually the scene is set for both conquerors to destroy each other and free a land.

This is a fantasy novel about love, loss, sacrifice, and fighting for what you believe it. It is heart-breaking, uplifiting, and totally engrossing. It has a romance plot, but there’s a lot of bitter in with the sweet. It is beautifully written, as are all of Kay’s novels. It is also a perfectly self-contained fantasy novel: no sequels, prequels, or shared world building. It is a book unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

 

riddle of stars

 

Riddle of Stars, by Patricia McKillip (1979)

This is technically a trilogy: The Riddlemaster of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, and Harpist in the Wind. I got them in a single volume from the Science Fiction Book Club in 1979 and read them together, so I can never get my head around the idea that this is really three books. Especially with the huge cliffhangers!  It’s a coming-of-age story based in Celtic myth, with a core romance that is one of my favorites of all time.

Description from The SF Site (https://www.sfsite.com/05a/rid56.htm)

 

“In the first book of the trilogy, The Riddle-Master of Hed, Morgon, the Prince of Hed, leaves his rural island home to claim the bride he inadvertently won as a result of a riddle game with a dead king’s ghost. Shipwrecked and attacked, he discovers that unknown powers will stop at nothing to destroy him. As he travels through the kingdoms of the world, he is befriended by many and taught to use his unexpected talents over the earth and the air. Still hunted, he flees to Erlenstar Mountain in hopes that the High One will answer the riddle of his destiny. What he finds there is not what he expects.

The second book, The Heir of Sea and Fire, follows Raederle, Morgon’s future bride and a Princess of An, as she searches for Morgon, now presumed dead. She struggles to deny her shape-shifting heritage, and is confronted with the necessity of embracing it to save the land and the people she loves.

Harpist in the Wind concludes the trilogy: war between the shape-shifters and the land rulers is inevitable, with Morgon as the focus. Using what he has learned and calling on those who befriended him in his journeys, Morgon and Raederle risk all in a wizardly battle for control over the ancient powers.”

Guards, Guards! by Terry PratchettGuards, Guards! by Terry Pratchett (1989)

This is the only book on the list that’s more of an author recommendation than a particular book, although all of these writers have multiple excellent novels. There are a number of places one can begin reading Pratchett’s Discworld books, but this is one of my favorites. Later books in the books in the series are more sophisticated, as the man honed his craft right to the end, but I think those are more enjoyable if you’d read earlier books to introduce you to the world and character. And the pleasure of his early books is not to be denied – excellent humor, social satire, up-ended literary and fantasy tropes, and a keen insight into the human condition.

From Goodreads:  (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/64216.Guards_Guards)

 

“Here there be dragons . . . and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a nobledragon, after all . . .).

Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume–The Summoning of Dragons–is missing from the Library’s shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes, Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it’s burned to a crisp). A rare tale, well done as only Terry Pratchett can.”

 

the left hand of darknessThe Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin (1969)

 

From Goodreads:

(http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18423.The_Left_Hand_of_Darkness)
“A groundbreaking work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness tells the story of a lone human emissary to Winter, an alien world whose inhabitants can choose -and change – their gender. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the completely dissimilar culture that he encounters. 

Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.  

I didn’t read this book until it was a few years old; I was in high school. It was not a comfortable read; there’s no satisfying romance plot, and the ending is really sad. LeGuin’s introduction to the edition I read calls the book a “thought experiment,” playing with the idea of a culture not divided by gender. This was the book that taught me how amazing science fiction could be, and also fueled my young feminism. I don’t reread it often, because it is not an easy book to read and its message is burned into my soul anyway.

gaudy nightGaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers (1935)

From Goodreads: (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/93575.Gaudy_Night)


When Harriet Vane attends her Oxford reunion, known as the Gaudy, the prim academic setting is haunted by a rash of bizarre pranks: scrawled obscenities, burnt effigies, and poison-pen letters, including one that says, “Ask your boyfriend with the title if he likes arsenic in his soup.” Some of the notes threaten murder; all are perfectly ghastly; yet in spite of their scurrilous nature, all are perfectly worded. And Harriet finds herself ensnared in a nightmare of romance and terror, with only the tiniest shreds of clues to challenge her powers of detection, and those of her paramour, Lord Peter Wimsey.”

 

Although I read much more speculative fiction than any other genre, I do branch out. I tend to seek out love stories in whatever genre I read, despite the fact that I went decades without reading much actual genre romance. So it is that while I adore Lord Peter Wimsey in all his books, it’s the book in which he woos and wins Harriet that is my favorite. Sayers captures human nature in quick brush strokes, and manages to tell stories of murder as stories of human frailty more than evil or depravity, and I reread this whole series on a regular basis, even though I know the solutions to the mysteries. Unlike a lot of detective or suspense fiction, these crimes don’t haunt my sleep, and the characters are some of my favorite fictional people.

 

About Sonomalass:

I’m a life-long reader, a college professor, a mother and a doting grandmother. I live in the beautiful Wine Country of Northern California with my amazing partner and some of my offspring. I reads a lot, and occasionally comment on what I’ve read on Twitter (@SonomaLass) or on my blog, Another Day in Paradise (www.sonomalass.wordpress.com). I keep saying I’ll go back to reviewing more, but between reading and writing, the reading always wins. I also crochet, and if I could work out a way to crochet and read at the same time, I would do much more of both.

Check her out on the web:

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