Tag Archives: recommendation list

SPOOKY, BUT NOT SCARY BOOKS

Now that it’s spooky season officially, I thought I’d throw together a recommendation list for you! If you’ve been following me for awhile, you’ll know that I am a big wuss when it comes to being scared. I don’t like it — I’d rather avoid it at all costs. However, I still love Halloween. So every time this season rolls around, I go searching for books that fit the season without giving me nightmares. Hence this list! Everything on here feels like Halloween without being scary enough to need a teddy bear at night! Just maybe…don’t read the last two books while eating anything. 💀

*Mind the content warnings on all of these. Most of these are adult books, with adult themes.*

A DOWRY OF BLOOD BY ST GIBSON

the book cover for A Dowry of Blood by St Gibson

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death. 

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Vampires.
  • SCARE LEVEL? Minimal. There are no real traditional ‘scary’ scenes, other than vampires feeding. You can read my full review here.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Blood, Toxic relationship, Sexual content

THE QUICK BY LAUREN OWEN

An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.
 
In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Vampires.
  • SCARE LEVEL? TBH, It’s been years since I’ve picked this one up, so I don’t remember how scary it is. But I did enjoy it, so it must not have been that scary, or I definitely would have put it down.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Suicidal thoughts, Gore, Homophobia, Physical abuse

STRANGE PRACTICE BY VIVIAN SHAW

the book cover for Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Meet Greta Helsing, fast-talking doctor to the undead. Keeping the supernatural community not-alive and well in London has been her family’s specialty for generations.

Greta Helsing inherited the family’s highly specialized, and highly peculiar, medical practice. In her consulting rooms, Dr. Helsing treats the undead for a host of ills – vocal strain in banshees, arthritis in barrow-wights, and entropy in mummies. Although barely making ends meet, this is just the quiet, supernatural-adjacent life Greta’s been groomed for since childhood.

Until a sect of murderous monks emerges, killing human and undead Londoners alike. As terror takes hold of the city, Greta must use her unusual skills to stop the cult if she hopes to save her practice, and her life.

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Supernatural Creatures.
  • SCARE LEVEL? Almost none — this is all about helping the supernatural creatures rather than them scaring anyone.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Murder, Body horror, Medical content

JACKABY BY WILLIAM RITTER

the book cover for Jackaby by William Ritter

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre. 

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Supernatural creatures/beings and a ghost.
  • SCARE LEVEL? Zero, pretty much. There’s a chase scene towards the end, but it isn’t scary.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Violence, Murder

THE NEAR WITCH BY VE SCHWAB

the cover for The Near Witch by VE Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy. 

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab’s debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won’t soon forget. 

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Witches.
  • SCARE LEVEL? There are definitely a few scary scenes involving magic forests, bones, and crows.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Kidnapping, Self harm, Confinement, Death

NINTH HOUSE BY LEIGH BARDUGO

the book cover for Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Ghosts, magic, and murder.
  • SCARE LEVEL? There’s a few spooky scenes involving death magic.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Rape, Sexual assault, Drug abuse

THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN BY KIERSTEN WHITE

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness. 

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? It’s about Victor Frankenstein’s origins.
  • SCARE LEVEL? This is a dark book, and it can get pretty gross and gore-y, but I wouldn’t say this is scary.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Toxic relationship, Emotional abuse, Animal cruelty

WHAT MOVES THE DEAD BY T. KINGFISHER

the book cover for What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher

What Moves the Dead is Kingfisher’s retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.

  • WHY’S IT SPOOKY? Nightmare mushrooms.
  • SCARE LEVEL? This isn’t scary as in jump-out-with-a-knife scary, it’s the slow-creeping-dread scary. Check out my full review for more information. Definite body horror.
  • CONTENT WARNINGS: Body horror, Animal death, Death

What would you recommend to someone who loves Halloween, but hates being scared? Let me know in the comments!

A LIST OF SOME THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS I’VE EVER READ

Absolutely beautifully written books appear once in a blue moon, and when they do, they tend to give the worst book hangovers. Every single book (or series) on this list seemed to hang around me in a fog for several days after I finished it. Most of these are fantasy or sci-fi, so if you’re looking for an absolutely gorgeous book to dive into, I recommend any of these. Mind the content warnings, though, there are some serious ones that might cause you trouble!

SONG OF ACHILLES BY MADELINE MILLER

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

SOME QUOTES FROM SONG OF ACHILLES

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”

  • CW: War, sexual content, slavery

THE STARLESS SEA BY ERIN MORGENSTERN

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

SOME QUOTES FROM THE STARLESS SEA

“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are. It’s nice to finally have someone read stories I know so intimately.”

“Everyone wants the stars. Everyone wishes to grasp that which exists out of reach. To hold the extraordinary in their hands and keep the remarkable in their pockets.”

“Far beneath the surface of the earth, hidden from the sun and the moon, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. Stories written in books and sealed in jars and painted on walls. Odes inscribed onto skin and pressed into rose petals. Tales laid in tiles upon the floors, bits of plot worn away by passing feet. Legends carved in crystal and hung from chandeliers. Stories catalogued and cared for and revered. Old stories preserved while new stories spring up around them.”

  • CW: Death, stalking

STATION ELEVEN BY EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Set in the days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

SOME QUOTES FROM STATION ELEVEN

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

“Survival is insufficient.”

She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

  • CW: Death, grief, suicide

THE RAVEN CYCLE BY MAGGIE STIEFVATER

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

SOME QUOTES FROM THE RAVEN CYCLE

“She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness.”

“Blue was a fanciful, but sensible thing. Like a platypus, or one of those sandwiches that had been cut into circles for a fancy tea party.”

“His feelings for Adam were an oil spill; he’d let them overflow and now there wasn’t a damn place in the ocean that wouldn’t catch fire if he dropped a match.”

  • CW: Child abuse, domestic abuse, murder

A MARVELLOUS LIGHT BY FREYA MARSKE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.

SOME QUOTES FROM A MARVELLOUS LIGHT

“You look like a Turner painting and I want to learn your textures with my fingertips. You are the most fascinating thing in this beautiful house. I’d like to introduce my fists to whoever taught you to stop talking about the things that interest you.”

“It didn’t take long to become so accustomed to something that you could describe the exact shape of its absence.”

“It wasn’t the physical act alone. It was the way he felt watching Edwin read; it was the feeling he had every time his eyes sought Edwin in a room and landed on an angle of the man’s face, any movement of those delicate fingers: There you are. I’ve been waiting for you.

CW: Sexual content, bullying, murder

THE CAPTIVE PRINCE SERIES BY CS PACAT

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Captive Prince by CS Pacat

From global phenomenon C. S. Pacat comes the first in her critically acclaimed trilogy—with a bonus story.

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

SOME QUOTES FROM THE CAPTIVE PRINCE SERIES

“To get what you want, you have to know exactly how much you are willing to give up.”

“When laced into his clothing, Laurent’s dangerous grace lent him an almost androgynous quality. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that it was rare to associate Laurent with a physical body at all: you were always dealing with a mind.”

“Laurent entered, an edge to his grace, like a leopard with a headache.”

CW: Slavery, rape, sexual assault, pedophilia

I hope this helped you find a gorgeous book to devour! If you have any recommendations that fit this list, please mention them in the comments below! I’m always looking for another book to add to my quotes list on Goodreads!

5 BOOKS FEATURING THE FAE

One of my favorite things about fantasy books is the inclusion of the Fae. Especially if they are the classic, try-to-trick-you Fae. The cruel Fae, the fae who you have to be increasingly careful around. I also am extremely into fantasy romance books that feature the Fae. I am nothing if not predictable. HOWEVER, when it comes to this list, I do want to say this: I did not love all of these books. I am including them on this list, because I was requested to do a recommendation list on Fae books. Just because I didn’t enjoy them does not mean that you won’t! Give them a try before you count them out, alright?

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J. MAAS

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

WHY DID I LOVE A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES?

Now I know, this series is extremely divisive. You either love it, or you can’t stand it. It’s been everywhere in the past couple years, and in my opinion, it’s entirely worth the hype. HOWEVER, I totally get it if it’s not for you. I adore this series, I adore the world, I adore the characters, and when I finished reading it the first time, I actually picked the first book right back up and read it through again. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

The first book in the series feels really YA, in the writing sense, but the series is definitely not YA and should never have been classified as such. There are several explicit sex scenes sprinkled throughout. Also — if you don’t like the first book, keep going — the second book feels entirely different in the best way. Feysand forever.

  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? There are currently four books published, but there are at least two more coming, I believe. The first three – A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin – are a complete story.
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • CW: Violence, death, sexual content, torture, blood

AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS BY MARGARET ROGERSON

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

WHY DID I LOVE AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS?

This book is the sweetest version of insta-love I have ever read in my entire life. The relationship between Isobel, and Rook is just the sweetest. It all starts when Isobel, a master painter, is commissioned by the Autumn Prince, Rook, to do a portrait for him. Everything builds from there. Love and peril, questions about faeries, everything. The world in this book is exquisitely done. It’s also really short, so if you’re looking for a primer on faerie fantasy-romance, try this one on for size!

  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? This is a standalone.
  • CW: Violence, body horror, death of parent, gore, sexual content, kidnapping

THE LORD OF STARIEL BY AJ LANCASTER

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The Lord of Stariel is dead. Long live the Lord of Stariel. Whoever that is.

Everyone knows who the magical estate will choose for its next ruler. Or do they? Will it be the lord’s eldest son, who he despised? His favourite nephew, with the strongest magical land-sense? His scandalous daughter, who ran away from home years ago to study illusion?

Hetta knows it won’t be her, and she’s glad of it. Returning home for her father’s funeral, all Hetta has to do is survive the family drama and avoid entanglements with irritatingly attractive local men until the Choosing. Then she can leave.

But whoever Stariel chooses will have bigger problems than eccentric relatives to deal with. Winged, beautifully deadly problems. For the first time in centuries, the fae are returning to the Mortal Realm, and only the Lord of Stariel can keep the estate safe.

In theory.

WHY DID I LOVE THE LORD OF STARIEL?

I enjoyed this book, but wanted so, so much more from it. It’s clearly the start of a series — there’s not a lot of room here in this short book — but the romance between Hattie and the fae prince was really cute. Not there’s a lot of it in this book (it grows in the others), but it’s still enjoyable. Hattie herself is the reason why I really liked this book — she is a phenomenal main character. I love a good lead character that doesn’t make you want to shake her. She makes reasonable decisions, nothing that makes you second guess her intelligence or anything — which is surprisingly rare these days!

  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Four
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Lord of Stariel
  • CW: Sexism, homophobia, violence, death of parent

OF BEAST AND BURDEN BY KELSEY KICKLIGHTER

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for Of Beast and Burden by Kelsey Kicklighter

A fae girl with a human heart. A Seelie Queen with a penchant for stealing mortals. And an Unseelie King who will have to give up his throne.

On the coast of Georgia rests a small southern town where faeries still take changelings. Faye lost her mother to the Folk, but has she spent her whole life longing for a glimpse—however brief—behind the veil.

When Faye finds her way in, she also finds the truth of why the dark and alluring world of the Folk has always called to her: She’s half-faerie, and heiress to the Dark Court’s throne.

When the rival court steals her best friend, she’ll have to claim her crown to get her back. But that means learning how to use her glamour so she can face three deadly trials—and not falling for the dark and brooding king she’s meant to be replacing, or the nymph-turned-knight teaching her to fight.

WHY DID I LOVE OF BEAST AND BURDEN?

Now this one, I’ve reviewed on the blog, so you can see my full thoughts there. HOWEVER, a short quick version of it is this: This book had so much potential that just fell flat for me. The world that was set up sounds fascinating, but it is not explored to the extent that it should have been. The characters are not one dimensional, they feel real, but they don’t really do much. This is the start of a series, so I hope that the next books improve!

  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? This is a standalone!
  • CW: Incest

THE CRUEL PRINCE BY HOLLY BLACK

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself. 

WHY DID I LOVE THE CRUEL PRINCE?

I’m going to be real with you — I did not enjoy this series. BUT a lot of people do, so I felt like I should include it on this list. Jude, the main character, was infuriating for me. She’s cool and calculating, and some of the time, almost cruel. Her love interest, Cardan, is fae. He spends the majority of the first book basically attempting to murder Jude as a ‘joke’, or straight up bullying her. I didn’t buy their romance, so the series didn’t work entirely for me.

  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? Three
  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Cruel Prince
  • CW: Bullying, Murder, Death of parent

I hope my list helped you find at least one book or series featuring the Fae that you love! If not, I sincerely apologize. ALSO — if you have a recommendation for a Fae book that did not make this list, PLEASE share it with me in the comments. Odds are, I haven’t heard of it and I want to read it!

MY TOP 5 TIME-TRAVEL BOOKS

Time-travel is one of those tropes that you either love or absolutely despise. Me, well, I can’t resist a time-travel plot. Seriously, it’s like catnip to me. I love learning about history. I majored in Art History in college, because 1. I love art, and 2. learning about why art was specifically made the way it was, where it was, and by who it was just fascinated me endlessly. So much history can be learned just by looking at the art of the time period. ANYWAY, seeing history through a character’s eyes firsthand just scratches many, many itches for me. Especially when the characters travel really far back in time.

Now this trope can be done awfully, so don’t get me wrong — there are definitely time-travel books out there that I cannot stand. However, I thought I’d put together a little list to show you the ones that I can’t get enough of! These are books where at least one character travels BACK in time, or is pulled FORWARD in time.

TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by CONNIE WILLIS

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Doomsday Book
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 4, technically, but two of them can be read as standalones. (Blackout and All Clear, however, are a duology and you must read them together!)
CW: Fire, war, animal cruelty, misogyny, classism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? Many of Connie Willis’s books feel like they were written specifically for me. The world she sets up in the Oxford Time Travel series is huge, and every time she writes another entry into it, I hurry up and devour the book. I’ve never been disappointed by her time travel books. To Say Nothing of the Dog is the funniest entry into the bunch, and never takes itself seriously. If you like to laugh while you read, well, pick this one up as soon as you can!

JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER by JODI TAYLOR

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.”

Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet.

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.

Follow the catastrophe curve from 11th-century London to World War I, and from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria. For wherever Historians go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake…. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  Just One Damned Thing After Another
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 13, plus numerous novellas and short stories set in the same world
CW: Sexual assault, death, miscarriage, animal cruelty
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? Jodi Taylor’s massive St. Mary’s series is a phenomenal piece of work. The world-building is insane, and the research that goes into the time-travel side of things must be ridiculous. The characters in these books go back to SO many different time-periods, and see SO many famous times in history, and every single time it feels like you’re right there next to them. Not to mention the characters themselves are fantastic. I do want to note that the first two books in this series are kind of rough (they’re also not that long), but once you hit the third book, it all starts to be smooth sailing!

THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST by JAMES ISLINGTON

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their own powers.

As a young Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and his friends are despised beyond their school walls for the magical power they wield: a power that Davian, despite his best efforts, cannot seem to control. Worse, with his final test approaching and the consequences of failure severe, time to overcome his struggles is fast running out.

But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life – and shake the entire world. 

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  The Shadow of What Was Lost
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
CW: Death, blood, misogyny, sexism, suicidal thoughts
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? How do I sum up this series without giving anything away? It’s pretty much impossible, so let me just say this — if you like Wheel of Time, you’ll like this series. If you like series that go full-circle, you’ll like this series. If you like tightly-plotted, fantastic worlds, well, again, you’ll like this series. Basically, I need more people to read this one, okay?

11/22/63 by STEPHEN KING

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force. Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk. Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  11/22/63
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
CW: Murder, death, domestic abuse, sexual content, alcoholism, racism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? This is my first (and only) Stephen King novel that I’ve ever read, and damn is it a chonky boi. This story is an insane one — a man discovers a wormhole back to the 60s, and does his best to prevent JFK from getting shot. I won’t spoil anything else, because you need to experience this one for yourself. It really explores the ramifications of time travel, and what it means to change history at all.

SHADOW OF NIGHT by DEBORAH HARKNESS

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH?  A Discovery of Witches
HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3, and another novel set in the same universe
CW: Miscarriage, sexual content, blood, pregnancy, torture, antisemitism
WHY DO I LOVE THIS BOOK? This is one of my favorite series ever, so I had to include it in my list. It’s got a BUNCH of my favorite tropes: vampires, witches, mates, time-travel, etc. Eeeeeven if the time-travel really only happens in one book. Harkness is a historian in real life, and she uses her knowledge to write a fantastically detailed Elizabethan England. The romance is something else, too.

Those are my favorite books with one of my favorite tropes — time-travel! And as much as I hate to give her any more attention, I do have to shout out the OG reason why I love the trope so much, and that’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s always been my favorite HP book — the plot is a lot tighter than all the other books, and well, Voldemort isn’t in it! Do you have any recommendations for me for books that have time travel in them?

TOP 6 CONTEMPORARY ROMANCES FOR BEGINNERS

Now, unlike my Beginner Fantasy Recommendation list, I can’t claim to be someone who knows the ins and outs of contemporary romance. I’ve read a fair few, mind, but nowhere near the amount of fantasy books that I’ve read! But despite that, I thought I’d put together a little list of some contemporary romances that I recommend!

Please note — these are all cis/het romances. There is queer rep in most of them, but none of the main relationships fall under the LGBTQ+ banner. In the future, I do plan to do a queer romance recommendation list!

THE FLAT SHARE by BETH O’LEARY

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

WHY THIS BOOK? I picked this book up on a whim, and ended up absolutely loving it. My favorite bit was that Leon is not your typical male lead in a romance novel. He’s a bit awkward, and his POV is written quite differently than that of Tiffy’s! If you’re looking for the feeling a there’s-only-one-bed fanfic gives you, start no further than The Flat Share!

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Flat Share
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Emotional abuse, toxic relationship, gaslighting
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan 

WELL MET by JEN DELUCA

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. 

WHY THIS BOOK? I adore the town of Willow Creek that Jen DeLuca has come up with. Every character has their own personality, their own history, and well, it gives the books in this series a very homey feeling. I also just flat out love the setting of a Renaissance Faire! Simon is semi-based on Once Upon A Time’s Hook, too, so you can picture Colin O’Donaghue while you read…

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Well Met
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 5
  • CW: Sexual content, death, grief, mentions of cancer
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren, The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

JOSH AND HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING by CHRISTINA LAUREN

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right? 

WHY THIS BOOK? This is one of the first contemporary romances that I ever picked up ever, and well, it’s got a huge forever spot on my list. I just absolutely adore Hazel’s entire personality. It’s not for everyone though, (surprise baby) and I realize that.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Sexual content, pregnancy
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB by LYSSA KAY ADAMS

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

WHY THIS BOOK? A difference perspective on the whole ‘romance’ genre! A group of men desperate to either seduce their wives, or gain love turn to romance novels to understand the ‘female’ mind. These books are hilarious, but also a little heart-breaking.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Bromance Book Club
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 5
  • CW: Sexual content, pregnancy, miscarriage
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey, You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS by SALLY THORNE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Dazzle (n): Brightness that blinds someone temporarily.

Position Vacant: Two ancient old women residing at Providence Retirement Villa seek male assistant for casual exploitation and good-natured humiliation. Duties include boutique shopping, fast-food fetching, and sincerely rendered flattery. Good looks a bonus—but we aren’t picky.

An advertisement has been placed (again!) by the wealthy and eccentric Parloni Sisters. The salary is generous and the employers are 90 years old, so how hard could the job be? Well, none have lasted longer than a week. Most boys leave in tears.

Ruthie Midona will work in Providence’s front office, and be at the Parloni’s beck and call, forever. That’s sort of her life plan. If Ruthie can run the place in her almost-retired bosses’ absence, with no hijinks/hiccups, she has a shot at becoming the new manager. She might also be able to defend her safe little world from Prescott Development, the new buyer of the prime site. Maybe after all that, she can find a cute guy to date. All she needs to do is stay serious—and that’s what she does best.

Until, one day, someone dazzling blows into town.

Teddy Prescott devotes his life to sleeping, tattooing, and avoiding seriousness. When Teddy needs a place to crash, he makes a deal with his developer dad. Teddy can stay in one of Providence’s on-site maintenance cottages—right next door to an unimpressed Ruthie—but only if he works there and starts to grow up.

Ruthie knows how this sweetly selfish rich boy can earn his keep—and be out of her hair in under a week. After all, there is a position vacant… 

WHY THIS BOOK? Teddy Prescott is a precious cinnamon roll and I will hear no further arguments. And also the supporting cast in this novel are just all *chef’s kiss*. The Parloni Sisters in particular are just…ah they’re amazing.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Second First Impressions
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: Sexual content, death, panic attacks
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: THIS BOOK IS HARD TO COMP…but I’ve been reliably informed The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler is at least similar. If you squint.

SPOILER ALERT by OLIVIA DADE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.

On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

WHY THIS BOOK? Okay first off, if you’ve ever written/read fanfiction, than you will absolutely 100% without a doubt love this book. The fan representation in here is just…you can tell Olivia Dade has been a member of a fandom at some point! Secondly — holy crap does Marcus appreciate and love the hell out of April.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Spoiler Alert
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: Fatphobia, body shaming, sexual content, ableism
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

What’s your favorite contemporary romance out there? My favorite didn’t even make this list because it’s the second in a series! So honorary mention to Melt For You by JT Geissinger!

TOP 5 FANTASY BOOKS FOR BEGINNERS

Since fantasy is my absolute favorite genre out there, I thought I would write a recommendation post for people who want to dive into the genre, but have no idea where to start. Before we really get into the meat of the post, I do want to say this: fantasy is known for having series, and not really singular standalone books. This makes fantasy intimidating to a lot of people because you have to commit to reading a 3+ book long series in order to get a complete story. I’m here to tell you that no, you really don’t. If you read the first book in a series, and aren’t feeling it? Stop. Stop reading it. Move on. Life is too short to keep reading books you don’t like, especially when those books are in a series.

So, with that being said, this list is primarily books that I believe are relatively easy to get into, relatively easy to read, and complete series. Meaning — you don’t need to read anything but the book itself to understand it, the language used isn’t overly ridiculous, and all the books are out. Oh as a side note — most of these books are written for adults, but there might be one or two that wiggle on the YA/Adult border.

Now that I’ve rambled on for forever, let’s get into the recommendations.

THE MISTBORN TRILOGY by BRANDON SANDERSON

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the cover for a compilation of The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the “Sliver of Infinity,” reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler’s most hellish prison. Kelsier “snapped” and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld’s elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Then Kelsier reveals his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel’s plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she’s a half-Skaa orphan, but she’s lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets. She will have to learn trust if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

WHY THIS SERIES? The Mistborn Series (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages) is a complete story done in three books. The ending of the story is 100% satisfying, with almost all questions answered. Brandon Sanderson is a master at world-building, and at creating extensive, amazingly-unique magic systems. If you want an entry point into modern fantasy — here is the best place to start.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The Final Empire
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: abuse by a sibling, death, gore, murder, rape (mentioned), slavery, violence
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, or The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

THE OLD KINGDOM SERIES by GARTH NIX

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.

As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death—and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.

WHY THIS SERIES? I grew up with this series, so I’m a little biased when I include this one in this list. Despite that, I still think it’s a great example of what fantasy can be, and it’s incredibly easy to read. There are talking animals, beings of enormous power, and just enough world-building to keep you curious. Nothing is shoved down your throat, but nothing is hand-waved away, either. A note – there are actually six books in this series, but the first three (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen) are the ones that I’m talking about in this recommendation. I haven’t actually read the others, because I’m afraid they’ll ruin my enjoyment of the first three.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Sabriel
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: blood, death, death of a parent, gore, murder
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, or The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

THE RIYIRA REVELATIONS by MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

The book cover for Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles-until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires?

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

WHY THIS SERIES? If you’re looking for a classic fantasy feel with wizards, and swords, but with a modern feel to the language, then you want The Riyira Revelations. This series is straight-up like popcorn. It’s so good! You will fly through these books, and by the end, you’ll want more and more of Hadrian and Royce! Good news is Sullivan wrote some prequel books! These are not necessary to understand what happens in Revelations, though!

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Theft of Swords
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: death, blood, murder, ableism, sexism, sexual assault
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington, or Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ KLUNE

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

WHY THIS BOOK? Good news! This one is a standalone, and it’s relatively short. If you’re looking for a warm hug wrapped in magic, then you want The House in the Cerulean Sea. This sweet book is about finding family, and what you’d do to protect them once you have them. There’s unique children, some even what most people would consider ‘monsters’. This is a great place to start if you’re looking for a lighter entry into fantasy.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? The House in the Cerulean Sea
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 1
  • CW: child abuse, xenophobia, fatphobia, confinement, body shaming
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: The Princess Bride by William Goldman, or Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by DIANA WYNNE JONES

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

the book cover for Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. 

WHY THIS BOOK? This is another sweet story that’s very easy to read! There are technically three books in this series, but I have only read this one. It’s a complete story, too, so there is no reason to venture out into the other books unless you really, really want to. This is about Sophie, and her adventures with the great wizard Howl, and the three different worlds he can travel to. And yes, there is a movie, and yes, it’s just as adorable as the book, though there are some changes. I recommend the book! Obviously.

  • WHAT BOOK DO I START WITH? Howl’s Moving Castle
  • HOW MANY BOOKS IN THE SERIES? 3
  • CW: body horror, confinement, death, murder, death of parent
  • IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Stardust by Neil Gaiman, or Swordheart by T. Kingfisher

Those are my recommendations for an entry point into the fantasy genre. I’ve read every book listed here — I will never recommend a book I haven’t read! I know people won’t agree with every book that I’ve mentioned, but maybe they should write their own recommendation posts, then, huh?

But before we go, I do want to say one last thing — I did not include The Hobbit on this list, because a lot of people find the language hard to get through. Not to mention, there are great swaths of that book that are boring. I wanted to include books that won’t bore someone out of reading more fantasy novels! However, if you’re absolutely looking to start with a classic, I’d start there, with The Hobbit. You’ll notice I also didn’t include extremely long winded series (The Dresden Files, A Song of Ice and Fire, the Iron Druid Series, the Mercy Thompson Series, etc.), because those are intimidating just due to sheer length!

Do you have any other suggestions for a good starting place to try out the fantasy genre? Leave what you’d recommend in the comments below!

LGBTQ+ FANTASY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

As I’ve read quite a few recently, I thought I’d make a little recommendation post of LGBTQ+ fantasy novels! (This is adapted from a twitter thread that I posted here.) If a novel is in this post, it means the core characters fall under the LGBTQ+ spectrum. If you have suggestions that you’d like to add, go ahead and leave a comment! This is by no means an exhaustive list!

WE ALL FALL DOWN by Rose Szabo — There’s not a single straight person in this book. The whole book is about fate, and how the ‘wheel’ will continue to turn regardless of what people try to do to influence it. This comes out in June! Read my review of an ARC copy here.

A MARVELLOUS LIGHT by Freya Marske — This takes place at the tail end of the 1800’s, in an England where magic exists, but is unknown to most. A magical conspiracy is taking place, and its up to our heroes to find out what’s going on! Read my review here.

A TASTE OF GOLD AND IRON by Alexandra Rowland — Conspiracy, romance, and fealty all take center stage here. The prince of Arasht is a cinnamon roll desperate to prove his loyalty to his sister, the sultan. It’s a bodyguard romance, folks. This comes out in August! Read my review of an ARC copy here.

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon — Your typical chunky (800+ pages) fantasy book with all the old tropes, but with a gay queen and her lady-in-waiting that’s secretly a spy. There’s dragons, magic, and old prophecies that come to light.

FOUNDRYSIDE by Robert Jackson Bennett — This is a tightly plotted fantasy book that takes place in the city-state that is based off of Venice. There’s talking keys, and well, the coolest damn magic system I’ve seen in a long time. Read my review here.

THE MAGPIE LORD by KJ Charles — Set in Victorian England where magic is a thing — this is a mystery trilogy where a man inherits his title and all that comes with it. He hires someone to come help with a magical problem, & well…[waves hands] magic happens. This is a three book series!

WITCHMARK by CL Polk — Set in an alternate/unique version of Edwardian England where magic is both a curse and a boon. There’s gay romance, betrayal, and fantastic world-building. This is on the shorter side at 318 pages, but there are two sequels!

MALICE by Heather Walter — What if Maleficent had fallen in love with Sleeping Beauty? That’s all you need to know, friends. Read my review here. There’s a sequel coming out this year!

PALADIN’S HOPE by T. Kingfisher — This is the third book in Kingfisher’s Paladin series, so keep that in mind, but it’s gay, darlings! There’s a lich-doctor who works to find out who or what killed the dead, and a paladin who’s god is dead. Murder mystery! If you haven’t read the first books in this series, I cannot recommend them enough!

WOLFSONG by TJ Klune — Do you like werewolf pack dynamics? Do you like the idea of mates? then you’ll like Wolfsong. You get huge werewolf family who gather in a lost kid, and welcome him as one of their own. This is a 4 book series.

Have you read any of these? What LGBTQ+ books are your favorite?