Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems

It's been an age since I did a Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish, and this week's prompt is near and dear to my heart, since I never seem to be reading the same much-loved books as everyone else, but I still think I read a lot of great books. 

Here are ten of what I think are the most underrated books I've read in the past few years.  I hope you'll give some of these gems a chance!

1. The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory by Stacy Wakefield - This book was my first experience with indie publisher Akashic, and I love it.  I haven't been a crusader/evangelist for any particular book in a while but for this one.  It's about a girl coming to NYC to be apart of the thriving squatting scene.  It's not action packed or anything, but I loved Sid, the un-stereotypical punk rock girl who's a little on the chubby side and looking for a place where she fits.  The book is a totally organic, vivid snippet of her life, and I was so taken with it!    (My Review)

2. Paperboy by Tony Macaulay - It is decidedly rare to find a book that I find both laugh out loud funny and marginally educational.  Macaulay's memoir of growing up in Belfast, Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s wouldn't at first strike you as a belly laughing sort of book, but somehow Macaulay blends his life as a typical kid with the darker moments of the Troubles in a way that is (at times darkly) hilarious.  (My Review)

3. 104 Horses by Mandy Retzlaff - I'm always going on about this memoir of the Retzlaff family's terrifying time in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.  Their idyllic African life is shattered when the movement to restore land and property to Zimbabwe's black population from the white descendants of the former colonizers turns violent.  As Mandy, her husband, and children flee the country, they find they can't do so without their beloved horses and, as it happens, many others' horses that were in danger from the violence.  A heartwarming, heartbreaking memoir that reads like a letter from a friend.  (My Review)

4. The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue - I have so many regrets of not reviewing The Mapmaker's War when it was fresh in my mind, such that I feel like I need to re-read it.  What I do know is this is high fantasy written entirely in the second person and it made me long for all the high fantasy that I'd been missing in my life. 

5. In a World Just Right by Jen Brooks - I'm so sad that this book didn't get more attention.  It's got all the good YA stuff that makes for good YA.  Jonathan Aubrey was the only survivor in his family of a horrific plane crash that left him alone with his uncle with only the magical worlds he can conjure to protect him from cruel realities, that is, until his fantasy world where's he's got the girl of his dreams collides with the real world in a kiss.  Then, strange occurrences and questions start piling up in Jonathan's life until the truth comes out - packing an impressive emotional wallop.  (My Review)

6. Molly Fox's Birthday by Deirdre Madden - This may be the slowest paced book I have ever loved with a passion. An unnamed female playwright narrates her lazy, introspective day at her friend Molly's house in Dublin.  It's the Summer Solstice (also Molly's birthday, of course), and the narrator has a long, beautiful summer's day to herself and spends it reflecting on her past, on art, and on friends and lovers who might have been.  I thought it was profound and also a glowing portrait of a perfect, languorous summer day to boot.  (My Review)

7. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones - Here's a book that definitely should have gotten more attention.  First of all, it's a perfect amalgamation of horror story with a more literary coming of age bent.  Second of all, the narrator who's coming of age might be a werewolf....or not.  Finally, his aunt and uncle who are raising him are werewolves, but not the werewolves of fantasy, more the werewolves of gritty reality who are normal folks trying to eke out a living that end up perpetually on the run to avoid the suspicion of their true natures.  Jones' imagining of real, modern life with werewolves is perfectly explained and achingly realistic. (My Review)

8. The Marauders by Tom Cooper - This is a book that got disturbingly little attention in the book blogosphere, and honestly it was a book I didn't expect to like much less love.  I did love it, though.  The Marauders is populated with would-be unlikeable down on their luck misfits and miscreants that call the Louisiana bayou town of Jeannette home in the wake of hurricanes and oil spills and various misfortunes.  Usually a crop of deeply unlikeable characters can sour a book, but somehow Cooper manages to tell a rollicking good story with wild twists and humorous wrong place wrong time encounters that also reaches beneath the surface to illuminate a whole way of life and engender our sympathies and appreciation for a community that keeps pulling itself up by its bootstraps, whatever life throws their way.  (My Review)

9. Dreamland by Kevin Baker - Kevin Baker doesn't get much blogger attention either, but I fell in love with this epic tale of the immigrants, gangsters, factory workers, crooked politicians, and well-meaning socialites who populated early twentieth century New York.  New York, even when riddled with crime and poverty always seems to have a unique glow of possibility.  I love this era of history, and Brown captures it wonderfully, capturing the contrasts of a city when both overcrowded tenements and Coney Island amusement parks were in their heyday.  (My Review)

10. Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert - I never got around to reviewing this one, but I was enthralled and touched by Rotert's debut which features a 1960s jazz club singer who escaped her small town seeking both the acceptance and the adoration she could never hope for at home.  Her childhood and journey are set alongside her ten-year-old daughter's perspective on life and her larger than life mother.   The pair's relationship is fraught with all the many things each needs and the other can't provide.  The family they create for themselves is full of unique and lovable characters, and when the flashback backstory meets up with the present, this story attains a startling clarity that leaves you caring for these characters more than ever. 

What are some of your favorite underrated books?


  1. I'm embarrassed to say I bought Paperboy in Northern Ireland before it was published in the US and still haven't read it.

  2. I haven't heard of or read a single one of these! That's what I like about today's prompt. Introductions to great books.

  3. Nice list of books. Many new to me titles to check out online. Happy reading!!

    Here's a link to my TTT post for this week: http://captivatedreader.blogspot.com/2017/01/top-ten-tuesday-ten-underratedhidden.html

  4. Not surprisingly, I haven't heard of any of these. Some of them sound intriguing, though. Thanks for highlighting them!

  5. Thanks for much for including THE MAPMAKER'S WAR on your list! It became part of a trilogy, and Book 3 (THE PLAGUE DIARIES) will be out September 2017. All good wishes!

    1. My pleasure! I still have to read the second book, but I'm excited to hear the third is on its way this year. I'll be on the lookout for a copy in September!! =)

  6. I don't think I've even heard of most of these...have added a few to the TBR! One of my fave underrated reads of 2016 was Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor, which hasn't seemed to get much attention, but I loved it - Dickens, writing about writing, marriages - all very absorbing.

  7. I don't think I've even heard of most of these...have added a few to the TBR! One of my fave underrated reads of 2016 was Serial Monogamy by Kate Taylor, which hasn't seemed to get much attention, but I loved it - Dickens, writing about writing, marriages - all very absorbing.