Updated: Dec 20, 2021
I have reviewed quite a number of different books in the last few weeks and have been reviewing books as I read them. However, I have been recently getting asked what books I might recommend to people. The difficulty with this question is there are just so many books out there. And on top of that, there are so many that are just so good!
So I thought I would recommend a few to you each week. But to make it easier to decide which ones to chose, I have divided them by genre.
Most people will have a favorite genre of books (or even a favorite sub-genre). While they may read books all across the board, they might enjoy books from that genre more or own more books from that genre. Knowing what genre/s (and/or sub-genre/s) some of your favorite books are can help you to find more excellent books to read that have a similar feel to the ones you enjoyed.
Most of my favorite books fit within the wide genre of fantasy. Fantasy is such a wide genre that when I think of fiction (books that are fake), I think of fantasy. Fiction applies to any story that is false (even, I think, those that are based on true stories). I generally think of fantasy books as books that are clearly fake. They involve some kind of magic, creatures, or unrealistic elements that would not occur in this world. That might be dragons. It might be wizards. It might be superpowers. It could be anything but if it doesn't occur naturally in this world, I generally consider it to be fantasy.
There are two general sub-genres of fantasy that should be mentioned, though, before we delve into the fantasy that I tend to enjoy.
Low Fantasy: This is the fantasy that is set in our world. Two of the books below fit in this category ("Good Omens" and "The Talon Saga"). These are books that include elements of fantasy but which are still set on earth. "Harry Potter" would probably be considered low fantasy because it is set in England (despite how much detail she put into building the wizard's part of the world). Quite a lot of excellent fantasy books are low fantasy and it generally doesn't take as much worldbuilding to write these books as you do not have to plan out an entire world.
High Fantasy: These are the books that are fantasy set in an entirely new world that the author has created. "The Red Queen Series", listed below, is one of these. I generally find that there are two levels of High Fantasy. There is the simple "set in another world" high fantasy books like "Red Queen," "Land of Stories," and many other books. I prefer these out of all fantasy books. I like the other worlds but I do not enjoy it when the detail of the other world overtakes the book itself. When an author includes too many creatures, plants, kingdoms, languages, cultures and more (especially when these are all described to great detail by the author and/or made up entirely by the author as opposed to being well-known creatures like unicorns, goblins and elves). Super high fantasy with really thoroughly built worlds that are described at length, while masterpieces of fiction and artwork, often bore me. They are not my personal cup of tea. I prefer something more fast-paced set in a world that speaks for itself at least some of the time.
That being said, here are a few of the books that are my favorite both in High Fantasy and Low Fantasy:
The Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard
There are very few books I pay full price for. The Red Queen Series is one of those books. I believe I did borrow the first book the first time that I read it, having heard of Red Queen (and heard good things about it), however, once I had read through all the books and realized that the next one was coming out soon, I preordered it well before it came out. I also have acquired the rest of the books including buying Red Queen full price simply because I wanted to read back through the series and did not own the book. My sister also owns this series (she read the first book and then bought a boxed set of the rest).
All this to say that these books are amazing. As mentioned above, they are high fantasy (set in a world other than our own). They are also somewhat dystopian though people who don't enjoy dystopian novels could enjoy this book series as they aren't very similar to most dystopian novel series (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.). They also have commentary on the interaction of different races.
The basis for the plot is that there are two different blood types and one has powers. The powered blood type controls the other (and somewhat enslaves and mistreats them) and feels entitled to continue doing so. But what happens when one of the mistreated, unpowered blood type gets powers?
The Red Queen Series is full of action, adventure, suspense, romance, excitement, powers and so much more. The war scenes are well laid out and super exciting to read. The powers are fun to think about and exciting to read. The descriptions of the places, people, and actions are excellently done (this book would make such a beautiful movie or tv show). And, bonus, there are twists I promise you will not see coming. Read this book if you like fantasy, war books, or anything with superpowers. Don't read it if you don't like getting your heart broken time and time again.
The Talon Saga by Julie Kagawa
It's been a while since I have read The Talon Saga (it's on my to-read list) so bear with me while I try to remember all the amazing things I love about this series. This is another one of the book series that I have bought full price. I do not remember when I got Talon (the first in the series) but it must have been before 2016 because I preordered the last three books of the series (Soldier came out in 2016).
The idea behind these books is that dragons can take on the form of a human (and have done so for centuries to stay alive). Talon is the organization of dragons that works to keep dragons alive. The main character and her brother are implanted in a human town and eventually, Ember (the main character) begins to fall for someone she shouldn't.
This series is great for so many reasons.
I love the love. I can look back now and see that I tend to have a love for books that have that "falling for someone I shouldn't" element (after all, that happens in Talon, Red Queen, and my own book!). The love story in these books is fun, heartbreaking, and beautiful. More than that, the love goes beyond just dating love (think mating in Sarah J. Mass books) and includes the love between family members and that complexity. So good!
I also love that she does "low fantasy" or fantasy set in our world and yet, it is high paced, action-packed, and exciting. The fact that it is set in our world in no way dulls the "fantasy" element of the book. There is still plenty of magic, fantasy, and fighting.
I love all the pieces of the book. It is complex without being set in a fantasy world. There are organizations set into our own world and different pieces of the puzzle that have to be put together and people that have to choose to work together despite differences. And yet, when it comes down to it, the characters are just teens or young adults who want to live their lives. It flips the usual "teen is the only one who can fight the bad guy" on its head. Instead, in Talon, the teens are pressured to fight and do not want to. They have to figure out who is the real bad guy? who can I trust? how do I fight to stop fighting?
It is realistic fiction joined with fantasy to create something so good! It has dystopian elements (though it isn't dystopian at all) and the fight scenes remind me of something you would see in a Marvel or Fast and Furious movie and yet it is mixed with a coming of age element and the teenage girl's desire for love that reminds me of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls Series. Read it if you are into action, romance, or coming of age. Don't read it if you don't like a touch of realism and romance in your fantasy.
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
I had heard of Good Omens before I picked it up one time at the library book sale. It is a reasonably well-known book. It may even become a classic 50 years from now. It did sit on my shelf for a while. As a Christian (and one studying Biblical Ministries at that), I was nervous about reading a book about a demon and an angel joining forces to stop doomsday. I wasn't sure what the book would be like and while I had wanted to pick it up, knowing it was a well-known, well-liked book, I was unsure if I wanted to read it.
Finally, whether because I got brave enough or because I ran out of other things to read, I did read it. And I did not regret it.
This book is hilarious, beautifully written, fast-paced, and enjoyable. I didn't find it to be mocking or demonic in any way. Instead, it was quite a good read, and at no point did I feel bad or uncomfortable reading it (though I would not suggest it for children or those who might get confused between this book and what the Bible says about the end of the world). The book even spurred me on to discover more about what the Bible does say on the subject as this fictional novel does clearly take inspiration from the Bible and Christian viewpoints to create an enjoyable story.
Every little detail from the hellhound named Dog to the angel being a bookstore owner is just hilarious and fun. This book is a great read if you want to fill the time (if you don't have the next book in the series, are waiting on a library hold, or ordered a book online but don't have it in your hands yet). Reading it goes super fast and it is hilarious. There is only one book (not a series) and despite the seemingly deep story it tells, the book is actually a chill, light read.
runners up: Harry Potter, Michael Vey, Renegades, Percy Jackson, Series of Unfortunate Events