Before sharing recommendations, before anyone tells me all the good books I’ve left out, I am doing YA Sci-fi and Fantasy another day. There’s just too much good stuff happening there to not give it its own category.
I’ve had a strong disposition to sci-fi and fantasy (much more the latter than the former, but they’re shelved together so there’s crossover in my reading habits) since I was a little girl. I loved fairy tales and then grew into books like Narnia. At the time, YA wasn’t really a genre as much as it was a place to shelve Christopher Pike (horror–and did I ever read those at an innapropriately young age) and Lurlene McDaniels (a Jodi Picoult for the tween set…someone has a horrible disease, let the melodrama ensue). So somewhere between 10 and 12 I moved into adult fantasy and pretty much didn’t leave that section until I discovered that some romance novels (bodice rippers with pirates on the front) had graphic enough sex to be titallating to a youngish teen at 15 or so when I started stealing my mom’s books to read under the covers…but that’s a story I won’t be going into.
Links are to the American amazon site, and order has no real relationship to how much I love the book.
Man from Mundania by Piers Anthony. Truth be told, I should be linking A Spell for Chameleon, which is the first book set in the fictional world of Xanth (which has a strange physical resemblance to Florida) but my introduction to the world of Xanth was Man from Mundania. It was a great intro to the world of adult fantasy for an 11 year old (I deduced from the publication date, and I recall it was a new book) because it doesn’t have sex in it. All sex is handled off screen and blocked from the readers view by “The Adult Conspiracy.” What it does have is puns…in abundance. The main character walks past a seashell, and the shell’s eyes widen because it SEES her. That I got the puns made me feel all clever and grown up. I did go back and read the whole series prior to this novel (MFM is #11) and I read further into the series for a few years, but eventually outgrew it. However, the first 11 novels (maybe 13) are fairly strong books and worth a read for a light laugh. Unfortunately Anthony is still churning these babies out every year (we’re on #27, with Anthony saying 28 is on the way) and either I’m too old or the quality has dropped because I’m just dissapointed when I try the newer ones. So what I’m saying is, read the first 11-13 of the books and then stop when you’re done. But the puns are great, the female characters are strong, the plotting is solid in the first books…well worth a read. I like a decent chunk of Anthony’s other work, but most people I know also love his Incarnations of Immortality series, although I never quite got into it…but plan to try it again soon.
The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood/ Heir to the Shadows/ Queen of Darkness by Anne Bishop. It would be fair to argue I should have mentioned this trilogy (I liked them bound as a single version…yes I know it’s cheating but I can’t pick just one) because it is, hands down, my current favorite piece of fantasy literature. It’s hard to say if it’s the characters, the plot, the writing, or some combination of all three, but I have read them all multiple times. I have them both as physical books and on my kindle (and also on my kindle app on my phone). All I know is that Bishops story of the coming of Witch and those who are drawn to her is irresistable. Bonus points for the sexiness of the male characters and the way sex is used throughout the novels (note–this isn’t erotica, but there’s plenty of erotic moments, if you see the difference).
Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. This was a life altering book for me…because it was my first “real” encounter with a gay person. The story and the writing is painful, gut wrenchingly so, and it was my first step on the road towards being the advocate for LGBT issues that I am today. MP is also the first book of a trilogy set in the world of Velgarth, which Lackey has written 28 plus a bunch of short story collections (I have to give her props for letting others come and write fan fic in her world AND publishing it on their behalf–and there are usually a number of first time authors in there). I MOSTLY love the Velgarth books…but dissecting which ones and why would be a whole entry in and of itself. If you’ve never read her books and like MP, leave a comment and I’ll email you my assvice on which books you should read and which ones you should never let darken your door. Like Anthony and the Xanth books, she should have ended the series a while back, but is riding this cash cow into the ground. However, the majority of the books are not only good, but GREAT. I don’t have them all in physical plus kindle plus kindle app form–but I do have them physically and in kindle form. Ravi is also a fan and we’ve had long geeky as hell debates over various points in these books.
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey. I’ve never recommended an author twice, but I feel so strongly about the Velgarth books that I didn’t want to talk about her other fantasy there as well. This is my favorite non-Velgarth book by her. It is a retelling of Beauty and Beast. Set in San Francisco, just before the great Earthquake of 1905. Rosalind Hawkins, broke and orphaned (and with a PhD in medieval studies) leaves Chicago for San Francisco to take what she thinks is a governess job. Instead she’s asked to read books through a speaking tube to a mysterious male employer. Lackey also has created an interesting system of magic (or magick) based on the elements. This is definitely worth a read. As for the rest of Lackey’s works…like the Velgarth novel, she’s a mixed bag…from book to book you’ll either love or hate her work. I have recommendations but just leave a comment for them.
Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks. Far more famous for his Shannara series, which I never got into, I’m a fan of this book instead. The male protagonist, lost after the death of his wife decides impulsively to buy the Magical Kingdom of Landover from a Neiman Marcus-esque Christmas Catalog. He’s pretty sure it’s going to be a hoax, but it turns out not to be. And the Kingdom isn’t the beautiful prosperous place it had been made out to be. Does he stay and try to save it, or does he take off the medal and go back to his real life (you all know the answer). It’s the first of a multibook series (the link is to a binding of the first three books in the series) but I’ve always thought the first was the strongest, and although I owned them all at one point, it’s the only one I still have kicking around on my shelves.
Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I hesitated to put this one in…if you like the genre, chances are you’ve already read it or you’ve decided not to and that’s that. BUT. I have been a fan of Arthurian tales since I saw “The Sword in the Stone” as a kid. One of my favorite filk (not a misspell) cd’s is “The trial of Lancelot” by Heather Dale (link is to cdbaby, also on iTunes-at least the American iTunes Store). So the idea of a book telling the tale of Arthur from the women’s point of view was fascinating. Not sure how old I was when I first read it, but I was heavily into Wicca at the time so I was thrilled that she also gives a serious nod to neopaganism. I could also talk about how I purposefully wrote my final paper in my “King Arthur Legend” class in college specifically to piss off my professor (good thing I was taking it pass/fail, huh?), but I will get to the point. This is an awesome book…it does have a slow start, and several slow points…and is like 1,000 pages, but the payoff is well worth it. I loved the recasting of Morgaine (Morgan Le Fay) and the homoerotic undertones. Because the story is so often painted as the King who united Britain, it’s far more interesting to see the women and see it instead as the story of the King who betrayed the old ways, taking up Christianity.
Night of Power by Spider Robinson. Sadly out of print (but Amazon links to some good used sellers at reasonable prices), Night of Power is an early Robinson work but even with a Black President it still seems possible. Written in 1985, the book takes place in 1996, when “a racially torn New York City is the scene of a final confrontation between well-trained militant Black soldiers armed with technology’s most advanced weapons, and white society.” Caught in the crossfire is a bi-racial couple and the daughter of the white partner by their first marriage. I have a mild (okay a strong) weakness for dystopian fiction, and if you do too, this is a book you’ll love.
Sympathy for the Devil by Holly Lisle. Also out of print (I have a feeling I’m going to say that a lot) but available used, it’s the story of Dayne, a really really bitter nurse who one day falls to her knees and prays for God to give everyone in Hell a second chance. When the prayer is granted…(I know) all hell breaks loose. (Yes, I really really had to go there). It’s actually a hysterically funny book…details like the hell minions computers all suck because the computers are from hell, the way Satan snacks on imps, and Satans plan to have one of his minions seduce and get Dayne onto his team all play out so well. It’s a fun, fluffy, short read.
Q-in-Law by Peter David. So it’s not currently in print, but it’s cheap used and available on your Kindle! So this one is only if you like Star Trek Next Gen, and the characters of Q and Lwaxana Troi. Because seriously, if Lwaxana and Q ever met, it would be epic…and David gets their voices pitch perfect. There’s a less well done (but still good) Wesley Crusher subplot…which if you know me, you know my first real epic crush was on Wil Wheaton (I still think he’s the bees knees and he’s a talented writer as well) so this was only another selling point for me. While it’s abridged, the audio book (on iTunes in the US) is EPIC because Majel Barrett (Lwaxana) and John DeLancie (Q) READ IT…fangirl glee shrieking!
The “Bester” Trilogy by J Gregory Keyes. The link is to the first book, but if you scroll down, they let you buy all three for a discount. This one is only for Babylon 5 fans. If you didn’t see the series, then this isn’t the place to be introduced to it. Personally I always found Bester compelling (possibly because he’s so well played by Walter Koenig, who was on Star Trek TOS is a very different role). He’s so deliciously evil with these flashes of humanity…and in a twisted way, he’s a freedom fighter too…in his own way. The trilogy fills in tons of gaps that the series never got around to, and along with Bester tells the story of the Psi Corps. Such a great read…the books are authorized by JMS (series creator) and based off some of his (JMS’) notes.
There’s a lot of books I’ve read in the Romance section that I could include, but I won’t today.
Have a great weekend and happy reading. Oh, and for my American friends…. “These books are great, but you don’t have to take my word for it!”