Fantasy series you’ve probably missed

dirk-gently.jpgBBC America recently made a t.v. series out of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.” Though most people my age have heard of Douglas Adams’s more popular “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it surprises me how few people know Dirk Gently. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a series, since there were only 2 books and the sequel was far better, but I got the impression that Adams intended it as a series. Either way, it had a few quirky, one-of-a-kind scenes that have always stayed with me. If ever a streetlight blinks out as I drive beneath it, I think of old Norse gods and their peculiarities.

I have a few other pet favorite fantasy series that never really went mainstream. It may take some work to find them in print, but seize them if you get the chance.

Moira J. Moore’s “Heroes” Series51ZzUO3P-6L._SX300_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Her publishers lost faith in the series before the end, so to read the final book you actually have to write to the author and have her e-mail you the PDF. It’s crazy, but worth it.

Dunleavy has trained her entire life for a specific kind of sorcery, knowing that her graduation entails being paired for life with a sorcerer from the opposite academy. Together they’ll be saving the world again and again, heroes to all.

Unfortunately, she gets paired with the infamous Lord Karish, a beautiful – and impossible to ignore – aristocrat. He’s as egotistical as she is naive. Oh, and did I mention that bonded pairs are forbidden from falling in love?

Book 1 of the series, “Resenting the Hero” was released in paperback and is still easy to get your hands on.


Nicole Peeler’s “Tempest” Series

Ah, Jane True, how I miss your strange fighting skills and your High-Top Sneakers. This love story between the daughter of a Selkie (half-seal, half woman), a vampire, and a Barghast (half-dog, half man) is spread over 5 books, each more involved than the last. The first one is a riot, interspersed with heavy sex scenes. After that, Peeler gets more interested in character development and action, action, action.

You have to start with Book 1, though. Look for “Tempest Rising” in paperback.


 For more book recommendations, see my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” series


The Art of Crash Landing

A new entry in my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” Series:

514j7krrsrl-_sx330_bo1204203200_The Art of Crash Landing, by Melissa DeCarlo.

The hero, Mattie Wallace, is mean, selfish, foul-mouthed, utterly lacking in morals … and impossible not to love. Broke and homeless, recently single and unexpectedly pregnant, she winds up in her mother’s hometown. It’s a sweet, cozy southern town full of people who immediately either love or hate our Mattie. Her mother never spoke about her childhood, or why she ran away and never returned. Mattie starts picking up the pieces of the story her mother buried …

I had no idea what to expect of this book and it kept me guessing all the way. Even the final chapter was still taking unexpected twists. It’s a rare book that keeps you laughing in the middle of this many ruined lives.

Best Line: Most people would probably have a hard time totally (screwing up) their life in under an hour. But then again, I’m not most people. I’m amazing. I’m like some kind of (screw-up) savant.

 For more book recommendations, see my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” series

The Cats Are Bored


A new entry in my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” Series:

Summertime, All the Cats Are Bored by Philippe Georget  (translated by Steven Rendall)

It’s rare to find a book translated to English that plays so lightly with the language. Seriously, I’m so crazy about the writing style here that I want to chase down the translator and read everything else he’s done.

I say that up front so you won’t be turned off when I say this is French Noir. The crime novel, set in Perpignan, France, has a beautiful, laid-back, romantic feel interspersed with hard crime. The characters, setting, dialogue, are all so realistic, particularly the lead investigator, Gilles Sebag, who is trying to solve three kidnapping-murder cases while worrying about his marriage and trying to spend enough time with his teenage kids.

Best line: Statistics – They’re like bikinis. You think they’re showing everything, but in fact they’re hiding the most important thing!

 For more book recommendations, see my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” series

Best Books 2015

Whenever I read a book that I fall in love with, it becomes my goal to pass it along. I look for just one person in my life who enjoys that type of book, and I insist that he/she read it. If that person loves it to, it becomes a shared experience that makes me feel so good.

This year, however, I have a blog. So instead of searching individually, I’m going to share with all of you the best books I’ve read this year, broken down by category. (One caveat – these are not all recently published. This just happens to be the year that I discovered these.)

For more book recommendations, see my “Books I Can’t Stop Talking About” series

If you try and enjoy of these books, please leave a comment.

Best Pure Sci-Fi Novel: I’m sure you’ve been seeing the ads for Matt Damon’s new space movie. Go see it, but I’m telling you, no matter how good the movie is, it will not be as funny and engrossing as the novel it’s based on, The Martian, by Andy Weir. There’s still time to rush out and buy the novel before the movie comes out. Trust me, you’ll hang on every page and stay up late to finish it.

Best Time-Travel Sci-Fi: If you love time-travel, you need to learn about Connie Willis. Though most of her novels are standalone, she’s created a unique set of time-travel rules and procedures that give her novels a gripping edge. And the research! Rarely does historical fiction give this strong a sense of taking you into the moment.

The 2-book series Blackout and All Clear are set in England during WWII, primarily centering on the Blitz. Make sure you have both books before you start, though, because Blackout stops so abruptly it feels like pages are missing. Apparently it was written as one very long book and then chopped in two by the publisher.

Best Superhero Novel: Ignore the fact that this is a young-adult novel – it’s hilarious. Well, it’s all in the title. I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, by Josh Lieb, will make you laugh out loud at least once per chapter, if not once per page. It’s a short read, so grab this one when you just need to spend an afternoon enjoying a little nonsense.

Best Sword-and-Sorcery Fantasy: I am a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie. This man is a master craftsman of action novels. I first discovered him with the one-off book “Best Served Cold,” but, like any pure fantasy guru, he tends toward trilogies. This month the third volume of his “Half A” Series was released, so run out and get your hands on it. (That’s an order!)

I refuse to give away any of the plot, as one of my favorite things about him is that you never have a clue where his stories are going, though he always takes logical steps to get there. He loves doing feints, where he’ll telegraph a plot twist, let you see it from a mile away, then at the last minute, he’ll change it up again and leave you shocked.

One warning, though – it does get violent and bloody. Almost all of Joe’s novels center on war, and he doesn’t shy away from fight sequences.

But you can’t help but love a guy who writes lines like: “We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.”

Look for Half a King, Half the World, and Half a War.

Best Fantasy Romance (with Time Travel): Because of Showtime, most people have now heard of the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. The first book in any series like this is always the best, of course, but after that, Book 4 in her series, Drums of Autumn is the one that stands out.

With all of her books running in the neighborhood of a thousand pages, it won’t surprise you to hear that Diana often takes quite a while setting up adventures, with scene after scene of people sitting around discussing the plot thus far. Books 1 and 4 are the ones that avoid that trap, and so much action is packed into these two that when you’re done with either you’ll feel like you’ve read an entire series.

Disclaimers galore, though: intense sex scenes, plenty of violence, cussing, war & politics … but the nastiest part is that the main character is a doctor so the author loves to shove in scenes of 1700s surgery. My recommendation is to skim any scene that begins with her going for her medical bag.

Non-Fiction is worth mentioning, too. It’s hard to recommend a non-fiction book, because whether people will try it is entirely based upon whether they care about the subject and whether they will ever spend time on non-fic. So my rule is that I only recommend NF books that read as though they are fiction. By that, I mean the story has to be compelling and easy to read. If it feels like a textbook, I won’t mention it.

My favorites from the past year are:

Best Non-Fiction Science: Why I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown, the Planetary Astronomer who discovered the temporary “tenth planet” which resulted in the downgrading of Pluto’s status. Amazingly, this book is funny, personal, and has quite a bit of tension toward the end.

(Or, just read this summary in one of my earlier blog posts.)

Best Non-Fiction History: If you’re interested in early American colonies, Giles Milton‘s research on the early colonies of Roanoke and Jamestown is fascinating. Big Chief Elizabeth centers on the efforts of Sir Walter Raleigh to colonize the new land, between politicking in England and the men (and later women) who suffered through the harsh conditions of the under-provisioned adventures.

(Or, click here for a recap of the highlights of the Roanoke colony.)


Please feel free to add your own recommendations to the comments section.