Category Archives: books you probably haven’t read but should

If You Liked The Hunger Games and Divergent

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…then the next dystopian YA series on your list should be Marie Lu’s Legend. I’ve only read the first book in the trilogy, but as soon as I finished, I requested the other two from the library.

After a series of floods and other natural disasters took out large segments of the West Coast, Los Angeles and the surrounding areas have been taken over by the totalitarian Republic. While the Republic’s soldiers battle the outlying Colonies, citizens stuck in between struggle to survive.

Day, a 15-year-old Robin Hood, is a continual thorn in the Republic’s side as he steals from banks, hospitals, and other government buildings and gives their money, food, and medicine to those who need it. When one of his break-ins ends with a soldier being killed, Day is more hunted than ever. Military prodigy June takes the lead in hunting down Day, believing that he killed the soldier, her brother.

Chapters alternate points of view between Day and June—their chapters are even printed in different fonts and colors—giving the reader both leads’ perspectives and making both sympathetic and likeable. A rich cast of background characters, including soldiers, rebels, and those not taking sides, gives a great deal of depth and reality to the world in which this is set.

This series was a moderate hit, but may have gotten swallowed up in the Hunger Games/Divergent juggernauts. But if you enjoy this genre, Legend is definitely a book you should check out. (And if I know you in person, you can borrow my copy.)

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Books You Probably Haven’t Read But Should: City of Ember

… or perhaps I should say, “…Your Kids Haven’t Read But Should.” Because I love dystopian stories (and the novel I’m writing fits into that category) City of Ember was recommended to me by Holly McDowell, the author of the book series I wrote about in my first “Books You Probably Haven’t Read” post. It’s what the publishing field calls a middle-grade novel, meaning that it’s meant for readers between children’s books and Young Adult books–around fifth through eighth grade or so. So if you don’t generally like reading kids’ books, as I sometimes do, you might want to give this one to your kids.

Ember is a city in darkness. The only available light is artificial, from light bulbs, and those are starting to run out. The power grid is showing its age too, with power outages occurring more and more frequently. Meanwhile, the supplies of food and medicine, which the citizens of Ember were told would last forever, are running low.

Lina and Doon are both 12 years old, and have just begun their new jobs as all 12-year-olds must. But like most 12-year-olds, they also dream of achieving great things, of doing more with their lives than the adults around them have. When Lina stumbles across a mysterious note, they think this may be their chance at heroism. However, there are others in Ember who have reason to want things to stay the way they are.

I felt like the book was a little slow to get going, but once it picked up speed, it never stopped–and the end is terrific. The author, Jeanne DuPrau, could have easily left it at that and the ending would have been satisfying, but I just discovered that it’s a four-book series. Curse, you, Holly! *shakes fist* I need to catch up on some other reading before my library request for the other Ember books comes through.

My 9-year-old also likes fantasy, but most dystopians are a little rough for her age. I think I’m going to pass this one along to her though. Come on, dystopian fans–what are your favorites?

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Books You Probably Haven’t Read—But Should: King Solomon’s Wives

The more I learn about writing and publishing, the more I’m discovering off-the-beaten-path books that I might not have otherwise found. Many of them deserve a wider audience, so this is the first in what will be an ongoing, irregular series of posts: Books You Probably Haven’t Read—But Should.

Chapter 1: Hunted

The book that inspired me to start this series is King Solomon’s Wives by Holly McDowell. Full disclosure: I know Holly in real life (we’re in the same critique group), but I wouldn’t recommend this publicly if I hadn’t loved reading it.

King Solomon’s Wives is a serial fantasy novel that McDowell is releasing in e-book format, one chapter at a time, although each “chapter” is really more like a novella—100 pages or so. (The first two chapters, Hunted and Addicted, are both available now in Amazon.)

The Wives are modern-day women who are descendants of King Solomon’s many wives. Their touch is literally addictive—people they come in contact with pursue them relentlessly to avoid withdrawal. Meanwhile, they are pursued by the descendants of an ancient clan of Hunters whose sole purpose is to kill off the Wives.

Chapter 2: Addicted

Because of this, the Wives live in isolation, with strict rules and hierarchies supposedly designed to keep them safe. The story follows some of the individual Wives: Sumarra, who rebels against the system yet seeks to protect the younger Wives; Sonya, who escaped from her clan when she fell in love with a handsome musician; clan leader Dilara, who struggles to maintain order and safety within her group; sweet, naïve Mina; and others. Flashbacks to the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba serve to explain how the Wives came to be.

The stories are skillfully interwoven, so seemingly minor characters in one Wife’s story become major characters in other plotlines. (I just love it when authors do that well.) At the end of each chapter, you have the option to give the author feedback about who and what you’d like to see in future chapters.

Also, be warned: Because it’s a serial, each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and the second is even more suspenseful than the first.

I read the first part of Addicted in our critique group, and I immediately ordered Hunted so I’d be ready when the completed version of Addicted was published. It was released in late February, and I whipped through it in just a few days. I know Holly is working on the next chapter and I can’t wait to read it.

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