Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Hidden Gem Books I've Read In the Past Year-ish

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I love talking about my 'hidden gem' books because so many of the books (and love!) I read aren't the popular ones that everybody is talking about.

The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding
All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew.

They've been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They've stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they've gone and started a civil war. This time, they're really in trouble.

As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He's got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they're going to have to pick a side. It's a choice they'll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed.

When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?

Notes: Love this series but PLEASE, if you're interested, start with Retribution Falls.

The Dreamer's Curse by Honor Raconteur
With an un-cursed prince and king back on the throne, Sevana goes back to her usual routine without worry. But her peaceful days don’t last for long. A hunter from a small northern village comes to her, pleading for help. The people in his village are disappearing during the night, transported great distances in their sleep, and they don’t know why. 

Transportation magic such as this hasn’t been seen since the days of great magic, hundreds of years past. On top of that, the power levels that Sevana sees are insanely high—far higher than any modern magic can reach. Sevana drops everything, racing toward the small village of Chastain, praying that she can find the source for all of this and stop it. 

Otherwise, the magical backlash might destroy Windamere.

Notes: I cannot recommend The Artifactor series by Honor Raconteur highly enough. I love all three of the books currently out and I really hope she writes more. While you don't have to - as each book is a stand-alone with the same characters - I would suggest starting with The Child Prince.

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes
Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace? But if stealing the precious volume will keep the Republic and the Empire from tearing out each other's throats, rogue soldier Isafesira de Lochenville - "Loch" to friends and foes alike - is willing to do the dishonest honors. With her motley crew of magic-makers, law-breakers, and a talking warhammer, she'll match wits and weapons with dutiful dwarves, mercenary knights, golems, daemons, an arrogant elf, and a sorceress princess.

But getting their hands on the prize - while keeping their heads attached to their necks - means Loch and company must battle their way from a booby-trapped museum to a monster-infested library, and from a temple full of furious monks to a speeding train besieged by assassins. And for what? Are a few pages of bawdy verse worth waging war over? Or does something far more sinister lurk between the lines?

Notes: Read this series! No, seriously, I cannot even say how awesome this series is an how much I love it. Do start with The Palace Job though - otherwise you will be terribly lost.

Heart of Ice by K.M. Shea
Rakel, a princess by birth, has spent most of her life exiled on a barren mountain, despised because of her powerful snow magic. Though she longs to be accepted, she hides in her ice-castle and lives with the fear that her brother—the King—will one day order her execution.

Her empty life changes forever when an army of magic users—led by the enigmatic Colonel Farrin Graydim—invade her home country and plan to enslave its citizens. Swallowing her fear, Rakel joins forces with her jailers and uses her magic to save the people who scorned her.

If Rakel cannot defend her homeland, the country will be lost.

THE SNOW QUEEN: HEART OF ICE is a story of magic, distrust, and unexpected friendships.

Notes: Can I just say all K.M. Shea's books and have done with it? Because I have read four of them, loved them all, and it seems like no one else is reading them. Which is a shame because they are awesome. But this one is the first book in a duology and half of my current favorite story of hers.

The Sun's Rival by Danielle E. Shipley
Next to the uncommon beauty of her sisters, Princess Laraspur feels invisible, until she learns the two most powerful kings in the world have their eyes fixed upon her. But the ensuing double-courtship goes horribly awry, requiring Laraspur to brave the secret perils of earth, sea, and sky, on a quest that will try the very essence of her being.

Notes: If you want books that feel like fairytales but aren't, I cannot recommend The Wilderhark Tales highly enough. They can be read in any order as each book follows a different story, if you read them in order, you will see a whole family through the generations.

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. 

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

Notes: This book is very hard for me to describe or explain - so I will just say, I loved it but can also totally see how it wouldn't be for everyone. It's about strong women, romance is in the story - though it's not a storybook 'happily ever after' even though all those concerned are happy so I call it a happy ending.

Red Hood's Revenge by Jim C. Hines
Wars may end. But vengeance is forever. 

Roudette's story was a simple one. A red cape. A wolf. A hunter. Her mother told her she would be safe, so long as she kept to the path. But sometimes the path leads to dark places. Roudette is the hunter now, an assassin known throughout the world as the Lady of the Red Hood. Her mission will take her to the country of Arathea and an ancient fairy threat. At the heart of the conflict between humans and fairies stands the woman Roudette has been hired to kill, the only human ever to have fought the Lady of the Red Hood and survived-the princess known as Sleeping Beauty.

Notes: This series is awesome! Basically, it's what you'd get if you take three of the most passive fairytale heroines, give them a crash course on the old TV show 'Charlie's Angels', add a hefty dose of feminism and then send them to work for a badass in-her-own-right Queen. While you can start anywhere, the characters do build and grow so I'd recommend starting with The Stepsister Scheme.

The Bright Court by Anthea Sharp
Inside the game...

Jennet Carter escaped the dark faeries of Feyland once. Now, fey magic is seeping out of the prototype game, beguiling the unwary and threatening everyone she cares about.


Tam Linn may be a hero in-game, but his real life is severely complicated. Still, he'll do whatever it takes to stop the creatures of Feyland, even if it means pushing Jennet toward the new guy in school--the one with an inside connection to sim-gaming... and the uncanny ability to charm everyone he meets.

Always win...

Despite the danger, Jennet and Tam must return to Feyland to face the magic of the Bright Court--and a powerful new enemy who won't stop until the human world is at the mercy of the Realm of Faerie.

Notes: An awesome retelling of Tam Lin and a wonderful world that the author created. Once again, though, this is not the beginning of the story so you should start with The Dark Realm.

The Scarecrow King by Jill Myles
Princess Rinda of Balinore knows of only one way to get her cold father’s attention – to be an obnoxious, spoiled princess. When she finds out that the king plan to marrying her off to a far-flung nobleman, she puts on her best bratty show in front of the entire court. But Rinda’s plan backfires, and she soon finds herself married to the most ineligible man ever. Her new husband is monastery raised, poor as dirt, and a traveling minstrel.

A very, very bad traveling minstrel.

But Alek isn’t what he seems like on the surface, and neither is Rinda. She won’t take this marriage lying down, and schemes to find herself a new husband – a king. But as she and Alek travel together, they learn that not only are appearances deceiving, but goals can change in the blink of an eye, and love can get in the way of the strongest plans…

The Scarecrow King is a romantic retelling of the King Thrushbeard fairy tale.

Notes: This book is so much fun and I keep meaning to get more of Jill Myles books read because this one was a lot of fun, but I just haven't gotten there.

A Tyranny of Petticoats by Assorted Authors
From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

Notes: If you don't want it just because of the subtitle - '15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls' - then I don't think I can help you. While I didn't love each story in here, there were enough good ones, and I like the concept enough, to recommend this anthology whole-heartedly.

And there we have 10 books, each with less than 5,000 Goodreads ratings - and many that has somewhere under 2,000 ratings. What hidden gem/underrated books do you love?