Category: Best Books Ever

Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley

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Another fantastic book about the British secret agency, The Checquy. Author O’Malley delights with his insight into government bureaucracy, his unexpected monsters, and the wonderful female friendship that is at the heart of the book. The Checquy is attempting to merge with its arch-enemies, and when one of its female soldiers is assigned to bodyguard one of the visiting Grafters, their mutual hostility is at war with their innate politeness to amusing results. You don’t have to have read book 1 to follow Stiletto, but it helps. I love this series with a fiery passion. For 18 and up, due to violence and disturbing supernatural manifestations.

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Hamilton: the Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter

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This wonderful coffee-table book is for both fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton, and for those who don’t get it or haven’t spent time with the lyrics. The “Hamiltome” tells two stories, one of the play’s journey from conception to development to joyous opening night and beyond. The other tells the story of the play through its lyrics, annotated by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, lyricist, and creator of the show.

It is in the annotations where the real nuggets lie for those who are as swept away by Miranda’s genius as I am. For those annotations cover which scene is tough for him to act, where many of his theatre and hip-hop references stem from, which internal rhyme scheme he loves the most, along with many other tidbits that deepen the theatrical love affair that so many of us have with the man and the show. A treasure.

 

A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

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This stunning second novel is even more powerful than the first, with reveals about the first book that make me want to read it again. Our heroine, Feyre, is deeply changed after the events of the first book, and her post-traumatic stress sends the first ripples of stress through her relationship with the High Fae lord she loves. Simply a scorcher of a story, but for 18 and up, due to very explicit sex scenes (much more so than the first book.) Heck, I’ve read adult romance novels that weren’t this graphic. NOT a YA book.

 

Queen of Shadows, by Sarah J. Maas

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This fantastic fourth novel in the series feels like a conclusion because it wraps up so many threads dating to the first book. And it give me real hope for the final book in the series, because Maas is so thoughtful about the many wonderful details and closures she gives us here, as she positions her characters for their next steps.

The whole book ratchets up the tension, as Aelin returns to Rifthold to discover what happened in her absence, and to, perhaps, give the rebels a key focal point for the first time. Spectacular, for 16 and up.

 

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

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This is one of my favorite books ever, one I reread multiple times. Most recently, I’ve reread it along with Mark Reads on YouTube, and that has added joy to my own reactions on the book.

For the uninitiated, Sunshine focuses on Rae, also called Sunshine, who is a 20something coffee-house baker, and on what happens during and after her encounter with vampires. Sunshine’s narrative is first-person, and McKinley’s world-building, at least the glimpses that we see through Sunshine’s narrative, is exceptional.

I love living in Sunshine’s world. If you hate sparkly vampires, this book is for you. And if you are looking for a good stand-alone novel, this is also your book. Gorgeously written (as all of McKinley’s work is), Sunshine is an immersive page-turner. Highly recommended, for 18 and up.

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik

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Sensational fantasy novel that invariably zags when you expect it to zig. It’s not a princess in a tower book, or an evil magician book, or a fish out of water book, or a heroic battle book, though it flirts with all of those. The very title itself changes meaning as the book progresses.

Instead, this is an adventure, a strong heroine book about a girl who has to change quickly as her life circumstances shift, but who manages throughout to find creative ways to be who she is and to problem-solve. I loved this book, loved that it pulled me along even when I had no clue where it was going. I loved our heroine, who has a Polish name pronounced “ag-NYESH-ka,” and her top skill at the start of the book is getting spectacularly dirty no matter what she’s wearing . This skews older teen, 17 and up, due to vicious violence, sexual content, and deeply disturbing fantasy imagery.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

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I read this book due to my obsession with Broadway’s Hamilton, and it has more than rewarded the three weeks it took me to finish it. Through this sensational, eye-opening view of our founding fathers, the brilliant, verbose, and fatally flawed Alexander Hamilton stands out for his prescience, his passion for his adopted nation, and his work ethic. At the end of the book, I actually wept over his loss to our country. A triumph for Chernow, this book showed me history in a light in which I’d never considered it, filled with flawed men, gutter politics, and a genuine amazement that we had the gifts of these people at this time in our national life. Highly recommended.

Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

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An extraordinary culmination to one of the best and most immersive high fantasy series I’ve ever read. After the extraordinary events of book 2, our hero Fitz leaves behind all he knows and sets out on his own quest. His amazing journey closes every loose end and leaves this reader with an abiding sense of satisfaction and joy. Hobb brings to her series incredible world-building, detailed characters that we care passionately about, and adventure beyond imagining.

Recommended for older teens and up due to violence and war, but recommended primarily for adults who can look back, like our narrator, on the follies of youth. An exceptional read.

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

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First time I’ve returned to this book in a while, and it continues to bring joy with every reread. Hard to read it this time, though, without seeing Emma Thompson’s exceptional film adaptation of it in my mind. The story, for the uninitiated, revolves around sisters Elinor and Marianne, who along with the mother and younger sister, are forced out of their home to a small cottage in rural England. Both of them have, or soon find, young men that interest them, but it is ins and outs of these relationships, and the mutual support and affection the sisters have for each other that make this book a classic. The 200-year-old language is more formal than our own, but careful reading is rewarded with humor and the 19th-century equivalent of eye-rolls at some of the more amusing characters. A delight.