As I’ve started reading blogs about reading and watching booktube, I’ve found a lot of repetition. And while I love ACOTAR, House in the Cerulean Sea, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I wanted to discuss something else. So here are some books (and series) that I love that don’t get the love they should. All of these books have under 100,000 ratings on Goodreads as of today and received at least 4 stars from me.
The Firebird Trilogy by Claudia Gray (53K ratings on Goodreads)
The Firebird Trilogy consists of A Thousand Pieces of You, Ten Thousand Skies Above You and A Million Worlds with You. This is a YA sci-fi series following Marguerite Caine. Marguerite is home-schooled by her parents who are world class (if a little unusual) physics researchers/professors. Marguerite has no interest in physics and spends her time painting portraits. The Professors Caine have created a firebird which allows people to travel between dimensions of the multiverse. Marguerite steals a firebird with her parents’ research assistance and goes across the multiverse to find her father’s killer.
The first thing I love about this book is the firebird/multiverse because it is so well done. It has very clear rules and functions which makes it easy to understand and it’s not overdone so you really get to know each “verse”. The coolest part is that when you travel with a firebird, you travel into the body of yourself in that world and need to adapt and learn the world to fit in. It adds this great world-building dimension and interesting case of circumstances every time.
I also love seeing the worlds. Just look at the covers, the places Marguerite visits are varied and wonderful. The idea is that every choice creates a split in the multiverse and two verses are created. So some verse are very similar to ours while others are totally different (way behind or advanced in technology, different countries/rulers, different places your family is living, etc.).
The last big plus of this one is the characters. They feel so real to begin with and then seeing how they change based on the circumstances of the different verses really explores nature versus nurture.
I love this trilogy! They were in my top 3 reads of 2020 and I’ve already reread all of them in 2021. All of them get 5 stars from me. The reviews on Goodreads are mixed but I really can’t understand why, it’s phenomenal.
Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab (84K ratings on Goodreads)
While Victoria Schwab is quite popular, this older YA fantasy duology is frequently overlooked. The Monsters of Verity duology consists of This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet. The series follows Kate and August who are on opposite sides of the conflict in a city that has gone so dark that it breeds monsters.
These books are so creative and interesting. A well developed conflict with just the right amount of history to give you the information without getting boring. Kate and August are also great main characters. Kate is human but the daughter of the ruler who lets the monsters roam free paying for his own protection. August is a monster but the son of activists fighting against the monsters and Kate’s family. When the two of them are forced together to flee for their lives, things get really interesting.
Here’s the thing about this one and the reason I think it doesn’t get a lot of love, the second book is WAY better than the first. I have the first book 3 stars and then the second book 5 stars. The groundwork laid in the first book makes it a little slow but you are totally rewarded in the second book and it is definitely worth the reward.
Sisters of Shadow and Light Duology by Sara B. Larson (910 ratings on Goodreads)
I don’t even remember how I learned about this duology but I’m so glad I did, these books are really fun to read. This is a YA duology following sisters Zuhra and Inara who have lived most of their lives imprisoned in the Citadel of the Paladins, trapped be a magical hedge that won’t let anyone enter or exit the grounds. Their father was a paladin who has been gone for 15 years, since they were imprisoned. Inara inherited his glowing eyes and can make plants grow but is often lost to the roar of her magic and incoherent. One day a stranger inexplicably enters through the hedge and unlocks the citadel and paladins.
I really enjoyed the first book giving it 4 stars and then loved the second book and gave it 5 stars. There are some definite Strange the Dreamer vibes in the beginning but they don’t last long. It’s a very creative and intriguing story that’s worth the read.
Numina Trilogy by Charlie Holmberg (11K ratings on Goodreads)
Charlie Holmberg’s Numina series is definitely my favorite of hers. These three fairly short books are an YA/adult crossover fantasy series published in 2019. The first book (Smoke and Summons) was an Amazon first reads book so I didn’t expect much but I anxiously awaited the release of the next two books.
These books follow Sandis who has been enslaved to serve as a vessel for an ancient beast. She escapes when other vessels start dying and she’s worried she’ll be next. She runs into Rone who has a device that makes him temporarily immortal for 1 minute of every 24 hours. The two of them embark on an adventure to stop Sandis’ captor from destroying their city and the world.
On average, I gave these books 4 stars. The first one is a great setup a world-building but does follow a pretty typical YA fantasy format (4 stars). The second book is more of the same and a little bit of a filler (3 stars). The third and final book I loved, it wraps everything up and provides an immensely satisfying and vivid conclusion.
The Paper Magician Trilogy by Charlie Holmberg (75K ratings on Goodreads)
Another trilogy by Charlie Holmberg but this one is totally different. The Paper Magician series is an adult fantasy series about Ceony Twill who is sent to be apprentice to Magician Emery Thane who is a paper magician. Paper magic involves folding paper and animating it. There’s an origami dog who is basically alive. There are paper weapons, walking paper skeletons, etc.
This entire series is about 600 pages. I gave them all 4 stars. They are whimsical and adorable.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (67K ratings on Goodreads)
OK, this one isn’t totally unknown but how are there only 67,164 ratings on Goodreads? The 4th book of the Truly Devious series was recently released and I have not read it yet. The first three books follow Stevie while she is at Ellingham Academy, a private boarding school known for it’s quirky founder who loved games and riddles and a mysterious abduction of his wife and daughter which is considered one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Stevie has studied the mystery for years and plans to use her time at Ellingham to crack the case.
This YA mystery was about the spookiest my very cowardly little head can take but oh man, I loved it. It can get a little weird and confusing in parts, especially in the first book, but I couldn’t put it down. 4 stars for the first 3 books and anxiously awaiting my library hold on the 4th book.
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg (6,537 ratings on Goodreads)
Jess Rothenberg’s YA sci-fi standalone about a Disney-esque amusement park where the princesses are cyborgs was my first read of 2021 and it’s totally delightful. The Kingdom has seven cyborgs (aka fantasists) who delight children as the princesses in the fairytale land. The story follows Ana, one of the fantasists, who meets a park worker and begins to have feelings for him which is beyond her programming. There’s also something wrong in the Kingdom and Ana goes on a mission to solve the case.
I love Disney and YA sci-fi, this was a perfect fit for me all around. I wish it was a series, the ending is a little unfinished. I gave it 4 stars for the loose ends but it was thoroughly enjoyable.
The Loop by Ben Oliver (2,980 ratings on Goodreads)
The Loop will be a trilogy, currently two books are out. I read The Loop in November and really enjoyed it. The second book, The Block, is sitting on my shelf to be read any day now.
This is a YA dystopian series following Luka Kane, an inmate on the loop on his sixteenth birthday. The loop is essentially death row except that inmates can delay their death sentence. However, the price of each delay is volunteering of medical and scientific experiments. Strange things start happening and inmates start going crazy. Soon Luca and his fellow sane inmates must fight their way out of the loop.
This book was short and incredibly fun. It’s fast paced and action-packed. That said, the world building doesn’t suffer, it’s well rounded and described. I gave the first book 4 stars and have high hopes for #2.
Invisible Differences by Julie Dachez (2,273 ratings on Goodreads)
I don’t read a lot of graphic novels but I’m in love with this one. Invisible Differences was originally written in French. This book follows Marguerite who is an adult and throughout the book gets diagnosed with Asperger’s and learns to cope.
This book will be different things for different people depending on what you already know about Asperger’s. To me, it was a celebration and hope of a better tomorrow. The book begins in black and white and slowly transforms to color as Marguerite comes to terms with her diagnosis. It’s beautiful and important and while it’s not unique in the representation, more is always better for the rep. It’s 5 stars all around for me.
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson (50K ratings on Goodreads)
This book doesn’t really fit in with the others except that I love it. In between fantasy and sci-fi books, I need the occasional contemporary romance as a palate cleanser and this is one of the best I’ve read. This story follows Marnie who gets married only to get divorced two weeks later. After a quick downwards spiral, she moves back in with her parents and then receives news that she inherited a brownstone (and its tenants) in Brooklyn from her ex-husband’s great aunt. The catch is, she must live in it first before she can sell.
This book is hilarious and wonderful and just makes me want to hug it. I have read it 3 times now and laugh out loud every time. Random scenes from it occasionally cross my mind even when I haven’t read it recently, it’s just stuck with me. I love it and wish I could live in this brownstone with all of its oddball residents. There is a second book with the same characters that is still good but a little more serious and not as good as the first but still enjoyable.