20 April 2012

Rambling Recommendations

I could not name a tenth of the books I've read.  Nine times out of ten times I will remember that I've read it - if I read the blurb of the book.  Only a small portion of books leave any kind of lasting impression on me.

The following recommendations aren't necessarily my favourite books - it's more books I recall enjoying, but which are currently not tremendously well-known.  You can take recommendations for the more well-known stuff (like McKinley's Beauty) as assumed.


The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

The Daughter of Time I'll start with the only book which, when I'd finished reading it, had made the world a different place.  The ground had shifted.
The Daughter of Time has one of the most unutterably boring premises I've ever encountered.  Tey's British police detective is laid up in hospital, restless, and his friends and acquaintances bring him history books to distract him.  He reads a bunch of books about Richard III.  The end.

This is a book not simply about Richard III, but about the construction of history.  About all the things we think are real, known and accepted fact, without really understanding how facts are constructed.  I would never have believed I could be so fascinated by this book - enough that I've re-read it a number of times.


Black Hearts in Battersea - Joan Aiken

Black Hearts in Battersea Black Hearts is the second book in Aiken's "Wolves" series, but the first, the somewhat saccharine Wolves of Willoughby Chase, can be safely skipped over.  Black Hearts introduces one of the stand-out absolute best YA/MG girl characters in all of literature - Dido Twite.

Dido's world, an alternate history with a distinctly Dickensian feel, is dark and unpleasant, and Dido is at the absolute bottom of the heap.  Defiant, mouthy, indomitable Dido Twite, who looks like a molting sparrow and is the bravest person you'll ever meet.

Myth Happens

'Myth Happens' is my own term for a sub-genre of MG-YA books set in this world, where creatures of magic and myth take over the lives of a group of children - often taking them off to other worlds.  If you've read the The Dark is Rising series you'll have met this concept before.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, The Owl Service - Alan Garner

The Owl Service The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen The magic in Alan Garner's books is dark and strange, sometimes creepy, often overwhelming, at times quietly invasive.  Haunting.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath are the first two parts of a trilogy written in the 1960s.  Garner has finally completed book three - FIFTY YEARS LATER!  And George R R Martin fans thought they had it hard.

The Owl Service is not part of the same series, but is definitely a book which will stay in your head a long time after.


Speak Daggers to Her - Rosemary Edghill

Speak Daggers to Her (Bast Mystery, #1)Back when urban fantasy and paranormal romance weren't formalised genres, Rosemary Edghill (a pen name of eluki bes shahar) was writing the Bast series.  Bast is a practicing white witch: a pragmatic woman dealing with the tensions of the neo-pagan community.

This is not a series with vampires and werewolves around every corner, nor is there hot sex at every opportunity.  Bast finds herself in the role of detective, and her investigations are the focus of the story.

A fascinating look at neo-pagans, thoroughly enjoyable 'teckery, and some rather dark developments at the end of the series.  One of the few urban fantasies I found at all interesting.

Secondary World Fantasy

Angel with the Sword - C J Cherryh

Angel with the Sword (Merovingen Nights/Alliance-Union Universe)A secondary world version of Venice, with one of the romance tropes I'm a complete sucker for - determined, defensive, independent lower class woman saves upper class pretty boy.

While not one of Cherryh's better-known books, this is my favourite of her work.  It's a stand-alone, set in the shared world of Merovingen, and just, hell, if you like romance, and really solid world building, and saving pretty noblemen from drowning, you'll be all over this book.

Point of Hopes - Melissa Scott & Lisa A Barnett

Point of Hopes (Point, #1)And now a secondary world version of Reformation/Renaissance times!

Point of Hopes is one of the few books I've encountered which, like Champion of the Rose, is set in a bi-normative world.  Nicolas Rathe, a 'pointsman' (guard/policeman) is trying to work out why so many children are disappearing, and teams up with Philip Eslingen to investigate (leading to a nice little romance).

The worldbuilding in this book and its sequel is outstanding, astonishingly intricate, never overwhelming.  Tremendous.

Song of Sorcery - Elizabeth Scarborough

Song Of SorceryFluffy fantasy! 

Light-hearted, fairy-tale-ish, dramatic, romantic.  Great for younger teens or those who want something sweet and light.

First in a series of related books which are straight-out fluffy fun.

Science Fictional

The Universe Against Her - James H Schmitz

Universe against HerFirst in a series of books about Telzey Amberdon, one of the first kick-ass teen heroines.  Telzey is a xenotelepath, and the government doesn't like her much.  But there are giant psychic cats!  What more could you want?

By today's YA standards, this is fairly mild - Telzey is a young lady with little apparent interest in romance.  But lots of espionage and sneaking about and giant psychic cats!

As an added bonus, I believe the entire series is available for free at Baen's Free Library.

Hellflower - eluki bes shahar

The Price of the Stars - Debra Doyle and James D MacDonald

Hellflower The Price of the Stars (Mageworlds, #1) Smugglers!  Pirates!  (Oh, sorry, 'freebooters'.)  Two classic space opera series.

If you were going to pick just one, go for Hellflower (Butterfly St Cyr and Tiggy Stardust!  Seriously!), but both are great reads.


  1. I want to read allll of these. Well, I'm a bit iffy on the The Daughter of Time one after reading some of my friends' reviews on Goodreads. I KNEW you'd be good for some more obscure fantasy and sci fi recs and you totally came through. They probably aren't obscure to you, but still...

    Thank you! (I've already put 4 on hold at my library)

  2. Some of them are probably less obscure in Britain/the Commonwealth, but others aren't nearly as well known as they should be. [Melissa Scott also does pretty awesome SF.]

  3. Thanks for the recommendations, Andrea. I now have 4 books on on my April 'buy' list. 3 are from your list.

  4. I figured by sampling many genres the list would have something for everyone.

  5. Ah...Telzey Amberden.. I think I have all those books. I must check to be sure...I must pull them out and reread them :)

  6. Spooky how close most of these are to my Never Forget This One list. The only three I'd add that are definitely in the Only Have to Read Once - cdn't cope a second time - category are Suzy McKee Charnas' *Walk to the End of the World*, Mary Genle's *Ancient Light*, and Alan Garner's *Red Shift.* All three fabulous, all unforgettable. All totally scarifying. Read at your own risk.

    In a kinder mode, Carole Nelson Douglas's first Irene Adler mystery, *Goodnight, Mr. Holmes* - wonderful re-take on "A Scandal in Bohemia" - and Elizabeth Marie Pope's second and unfortunately last YA, *The Sherwood Ring.* Good ghost-type story using history from the US War of Independence in up-state New York, and starring my now favorite Scarlet Pimpernel figure.

  7. _The Daughter of Time_ and _Hellflower_ are only available in spines. I am a converted eReader. I read only eBooks. Downloaded the sample for _The Price of the Stars_. If it passes my sample test, I shall buy it.

  8. It's a constant source of frustration to me how many books are not available as ebooks yet. Often this is not even the choice of the author, who would make the books available if they could.

  9. I can't wait to read some of your recommendations. Just in case anyone is interested, some of the "Telzey Amberdon" books by James H Schmitz are available for ereaders on the Baen publishing website. Some of them are free as well. You can read on the computer or email them to your reading device. Many of the sci-fi authors I read I came to know through the Baen website.

  10. Tor is running a promotion for _The Price of the Stars_. $2.99 in eBook for a limited time.


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