Book Recommendations: January 2013

By Appa the Gypsy

How are you supposed to choose what to read next?

How are you supposed to choose what to read next?

Just in time for the New Year, I’ve decided to kick off a new series of recommendation posts, because now that it is a new year, and we all survived another end of the world, it looks like it might be time to try some new things.

I figured it might be fun to start things off with a Book Recommendations post. I’ve read some fantastic books over the years, and I know it can be hard to make yourself pick up a new book without someone recommending it to you (I know I rarely do). There are so many books out there, but it’s so hard to know what we might like!

A lot of us geeks like to read books, and we often stumble upon some fantastic titles that just don’t get the attention they deserve. I mainly read a lot of fantasy books, so I’ll probably be recommending fantasy titles mostly, but if you guys can take the time to clue me in to any books or series you’ve loved in the comments, maybe we’ll all succeed in finding something new to broaden our reading horizons, and we’ll be one step closer to world peace… or something…

Middle Grade Fantasy/Adventure: Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda

What better author to kick things off with, than Emily Rodda?

The books in the Rowan of Rin series

The books in the Rowan of Rin series

For me, she is definitely that one author that I can thank for making me love reading as a kid, and I’m sure she’s been doing the same to plenty of people over the years. I loved the Rowan of Rin series when I read them as a kid, and decided to reread them, after I introduced my younger sister to them earlier this year. I still enjoyed them so much, which is a real credit to the series. What I really appreciate about the Rowan of Rin series is that the main character is so uniquely timid and shy. He doesn’t feel brave or strong, and no one else sees him as brave or strong, but again and again he proves his courage and he proves that intelligence has just as much worth as physical strength. This series is a wonderful tale of a boy learning that courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to do what needs to be done, despite being afraid.

These books are a fantasy/adventure series telling the story of a boy named Rowan as he is forced into adventures through prophesy, chance and need. Rowan never seeks adventure, but he does not shy away from helping when he can, and he shows great devotion to the care of not just people, but also animals. Rowan is an endearing character who makes unlikely friends and allies, and he begins to show a powerful will and determination, just as those around him have begun to falter.

A Map of the village of Rin

A Map of the village of Rin

Each book is a complete story in a quest format, with a focus on the nature of courage and the value of intelligence. The first book in the series is also titled Rowan of Rin, and despite being a middle grade series for kids ages 8 to 14, these books really are entertaining and complex enough for older readers to enjoy, and I really would recommend giving them a shot, if you like yourself a good fantasy series.

Books in the Series:

  1. 1.       Rowan of Rin
  2. 2.       Rowan and the Travellers
  3. 3.       Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal
  4. 4.       Rowan and the Zebak
  5. 5.       Rowan of the Bukshah

Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian: The Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody

Wait. Dystopian novels existed before The Hunger Games? Get out! I don’t believe it.

I am totally kidding.

Although the final book is yet to be released, I can’t help but recommend this series to you guys. The author has taken a while completing this series, with the first book having been released in 1987, and the seventh and last book expected to come out in 2013.

The doors of Obernewtyn, and important story point.

The doors of Obernewtyn, an important story point.

I read the first five books in high school, and I’m rereading them now in preparation for the release of the final book this year, but I am enjoying them just as much this time around. I’ve found Isobelle Carmody to be a unique writer, and I can thank her for expanding my vocabulary rather wonderfully throughout high school. Rereading them now, I have really come to appreciate the way Carmody has made an effort to respect her readers’ intelligence. If the main character doesn’t understand or realise something, then it’s not stated outright. And since the main character is pretty inept when it comes to understanding not only her own emotions, but also those of the people around her, so much is left for the reader to figure out for themselves, which I think is fantastic and refreshing. She has an interesting writing style, and the multiple overarching storylines are weaving themselves together so fantastically that I can’t wait for the next book to come out. If you’re looking for a YA Fantasy title that’s actually been written with some intelligence, and won’t be an insult to yours, then check this series out.

The series is set in a dystopian future in which we, the Beforetimers, did a wonderful job destroying our world with nuclear weapons and pollution. Following the cataclysmic world-wide nuclear disaster, the Great White, the survivours rebuilt their world, determined to prevent themselves from ever repeating the mistakes of the past. This led to the rise of oppressive government and religious powers, and a fanatical fear of all things different and connected to the destruction of the past. People with mind powers such as telepathy, true dreaming and empathy are seen as mutants affected by radiation. They are feared by the normal majority, even though it is eventually learned that the development of these powers was beginning in the Beforetime, and should be called evolution rather than a mutation. The series follows the story of Elspeth Gordie, a powerful mutant or Misfit, whose life is controlled by her destiny to find and disable the dangerous weapons that caused the Great White. She becomes a highly respected Misfit and manages to get herself embroiled in a rebellion against the oppression in her Land. The story is complex and powerful, and deals with issues such as prejudice and acceptance, responsibility, and even, most poignantly, animal rights.

The books in the Obernewtyn series

The books in the Obernewtyn series

The series is a wonderful story of Elspeth’s struggle to learn to trust, love and open up, even as she moves closer to finding all the information she needs to save the world from being destroyed a second and final time.

Books in the Series:

  1. 1.       Obernewtyn
  2. 2.       The Farseekers
  3. 3.       Ashling
  4. 4.       The Keeping Place
  5. 5.       The Stone Key
  6. 6.       The Sending
  7. 7.       The Red Queen

#Note: Some titles are different in certain countries

Adult High Fantasy: The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Right off the bat, I’m going to have to explain why I’m recommending this series first, since it’s actually the second Robin Hobb trilogy to be set in The Realm of the Elderlings. I am yet to read another series by Robin Hobb, but I have to say, I am most certainly going to. A friend of mine recommended the author to me, but suggested I read this series first, instead of the Farseer Trilogy, and I listened to her, because she knows all.

Basically, she told me that she thought I’d be more likely to finish this series and be encouraged to read on, and that I would pick up links between the Farseer Trilogy (the series set before this one) and The Liveship Traders if I read them out of order. I guess it’s like the Chronicles of Narnia. You don’t read the first book first, because that would be ridiculous. Anyway, as I said, I’m yet to make it to the Farseer Trilogy myself, so I’m going to give you guys the same advice, and recommend you read the Liveship Traders first.

The Mad Liveship, Paragon.

The Mad Liveship, Paragon.

This series is just fantastic. It is vivid and powerful, and I actually finished reading it, which is more than I can say for a lot of the adult fiction I’ve tried to read. Because it’s a high fantasy series, I’m going to admit right now that these books are way more complex and epic than I could possibly try to summarise, so I’m going to try to do my best to make them sound even remotely as good as they really are.

The trilogy follows several different characters and their lives, which are centred around the fate of the liveship, Vivacia, a coveted vessel with a figurehead that can move, speak and think, and can thus be sailed better than a normal ship. As the characters battle for possession of the ship in their own ways and for their places in the world, they begin to learn more about the nature and history of the liveships and the damage that their creation has caused.

Aaaaand that’s all I got. I’m not even kidding. If I say anything else, I think I’d have to write an essay. Let’s just go with pirates, dragons, amputations, battles at sea, and people and ships that go mad. Sounds amazing, am I right?

The world of the Liveship Traders is a fascinating one, and Hobb writes in wonderfully vivid detail about the mythology and structure of that world, but, as is the case with any good fantasy series, it’s actually not the world that really makes it great. It’s the characters. Ranging from a young girl to an old widower, the story is told from the perspectives of characters of all different ages, races and walks of life, and as readers, we are forced to understand those perspectives. I say forced, because most of these characters are really quite difficult to like… they’re just like real people!

In amongst all this, we experience some truly epic love stories, each overcoming their own obstacles; several different coming-of-age stories, each with their own twists and turns; and even some pretty tragic stories that could only end in death.

Books in the Liveship Traders trilogy.

Books in the Liveship Traders trilogy.

The trilogy did not end how I expected it to, and I was glad for that, because what I expected was cliché, and what I got was actually not. All the characters made the choices that they should have made in the end, even if they weren’t what you wanted them to choose, and that makes them so real.

Reading this trilogy, I’ve found Robin Hobb to be an imaginative writer with unique perspectives and a really keen understanding of the way greed, guilt and jealousy can shape a person. These books are captivating, if a little slow to get started, but they are so worth the effort, because they’re just plain epic.

Books in the Series:

  1. 1.       Ship of Magic
  2. 2.       The Mad Ship
  3. 3.       Ship of Destiny

Fun Fact: Only one of these female writers does not write under a pseudonym. Now you have to google them all to find out which one!