Welcome back to Betwined Reads! In an effort to become a little active in the community, I decided to participate in the occasional Top Ten Tuesday. It’s a weekly meme that was created by The Broke and the Bookish but now is run by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week participants share their top ten picks that relate to the set theme.
This week’s theme is Hidden Gems. In other words, books that you think deserve more recognition. One of my favorite things to do on this blog is share books I think deserve more recognition, so some of you may recognize some of the books I share today. But I’ve also tried to select range of books I think are slightly underrated!
Book covers are linked to the corresponding Goodreads page for each book.
1 ⟡ Vassa in the Night
⟡ Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter
⟡ YA / Horror / Fairytale Retelling
⟡ If you are in the mood to read a book that is odd and at times seemingly absurd
⟡ If you like fantasy stories in urban settings
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.
In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
2 ⟡ The Westing Game
⟡ The Westing Game by Ellen Ruskin
⟡ Middle Grade / Mystery / Classic
⟡ If you want a quick read
⟡ If you like Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries
A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger – and a possible murderer – to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead… but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!
3 ⟡ The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
⟡ The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
⟡ YA / Magical Realism / Contemporary
⟡ If you like family dramas that span generations
⟡ If you want to laugh and cry
Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.
4 ⟡ Howl’s Moving Castle
⟡ Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
⟡ Middle Grade / Fantasy / Classic
⟡ If you like to escape to vivid magical worlds
⟡ If you like mistaken identities and romance
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.
5 ⟡ The Winner’s Curse
⟡ The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
⟡ YA / Romance / AU
⟡ If you like enemies-lovers romance tropes
⟡ If you want a well-crafted romance without magic
Winning what you want may cost you everything you love…
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.
One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.
But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.
Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
6 ⟡ Speak
⟡ Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
⟡ YA / Contemporary
⟡ If you liked 13 Reasons Why
⟡ If you want to read from the POV protagonist who is struggling to express herself
“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
7 ⟡ Truly, Devious
⟡ Truly Devious by Morgan Rhodes
⟡ YA / Contemporary / Mystery
⟡ If you like strong female protagonists
⟡ If you like slowly unraveling mysteries
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”
Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.
8 ⟡ The LAnguage of Thorns
⟡ The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
⟡ YA / Fantasy / Anthology
⟡ If you a fan of the Grishaverse and dark fairytales
⟡ If you want a anthology of short stories gloriously illustrated
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.
Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.
Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.
Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.
This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.
9 ⟡ Go Set a Watchman
⟡ Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
⟡ Literary / Historical Fiction
⟡ If you loved To Kill a Mockingbird and want to see Scout all grown up
⟡ If you are willing to see beloved classic characters become exposed as flawed human beings
⟡ If you don’t mind typos
Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.
10 ⟡ At the Water’s Edge
⟡ At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
⟡ Literary / Historical Fiction
⟡ If you liked Water for Elephants
⟡ If you like female-led domestic dramas
After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind.
To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war.
Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.
The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.
☙ ❧ END NOTE ❧ ☙
I hope you liked this post! I tried to pick a variety of different kinds of books that I’ve loved reading in the past that many people may not remember or have given a chance. I don’t think I’ll be doing TTT each week, as I don’t find many of the upcoming themes very enticing. But there will likely be at least one per month! I had a bit too much fun making holiday-themed versions of the featured image . . .
Thank you for reading!
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