Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Brilliant Books That No One Talks About

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday. This week’s topic is under-hyped books. Here are 10 books that I enjoyed but don’t see bloggers raving about very often. They all have fewer than 1000 ratings on Goodreads. Go give these books some love!

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Brilliant Books That No One Talks About

1. Cold City by Cathy McSporran

Adult Science Fiction

Two weeks after his death, Susan McPherson sees her father on the street in Glasgow. Not long after, she takes an overdose and is committed to a psychiatric institution. There, she is given a cocktail of drugs and soon finds herself moving between the reality of hospital and an alternate city, permanently covered in snow and ice. In her new world her gay brother, Jamie, is now married to Claire. The country is dominated by militant pagan groups and Christian fundamentalism is on the rise, led by the charismatic preacher, McLean. Susan is befriended by Raj, a mysterious man who creates paintings of wolves and Norse legends. As Susan is drawn into the struggles and relationships of this new parallel world, her grip on the "first world" loosens further. Can she resolve the crises in the ice-bound city in order to return to reality?

Why I recommend it: You need a very high tolerance for weird with this book because there’s a bunch of stuff that isn’t explained, which is a tad disappointing. But, if you can deal with the weird, it’s an atmospheric and beautifully written story about mental illness and complicated family relationships.

2. No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard

Young Adult Contemporary / Mystery

Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors--but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known--before it's too late.
Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors—but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known—before it's too late.

Why I recommend it: This book is a wild ride. The characters are realistic and easy to love. Once the plot got going, I couldn’t put it down. It’s a novel that will keep you up past bedtime.

3. This Side Of Providence by Rachel M. Harper

Adult Literary Fiction

Arcelia Perez fled Puerto Rico to escape a failed marriage and a history of abuse, but instead of finding her piece of the American dream, she ends up on the wrong side of Providence. With three young children, Arcelia follows a rocky path that ultimately leads to prison and an agonizing drug withdrawal. But her real challenge comes when she’s released and must figure out how to stay clean and reunite the family that has unraveled in her absence.

Through rotating narrators, we hear from the characters whose lives and futures are inextricably linked with Arcelia’s own uncertain fate: her charming, street-savvy son, Cristo, and brilliant daughter Luz; their idealistic teacher, Miss Valentín, who battles her own demons; and the enigmatic Snowman, her landlord and confidante.

Why I recommend it: You know those books that you read years ago and still find yourself thinking about? I think I’ll always remember the kids, Cristo and Luz. They’ll make you hopeful and break your heart at the same time.

4. Brides of Eden: A True Story Imagined by Linda Crew

Young Adult Historical Fiction

In our defense, I can say only that nothing seemed so terribly strange in the beginning.

When, in 1903, the fiery preacher Joshua arrives in sleepy Corvallis, Oregon, Eva Mae—and the whole town—is never the same again.

Joshua is wonderful. He's charismatic. Insisting on simplicity, he commands his converts to burn their possessions. Demanding devotion to Christ, he tells them to abandon their personal ties.

But there's a surge of violence rising, and before it's over, families will be ripped apart and lives will be destroyed. Eva Mae's gripping true story is a stranger-than-fiction tale of a turn-of-the-century apocalyptic cult.

Why I recommend it: It’s based on a true story! And it’s one of those true stories that need to be told. You’ll learn that rural Oregon in 1903 was a terrible time to be a woman with a non-mainstream religion. The book is short and fast-paced. You can probably plow through it in an afternoon.

5. Road To Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway

Middlegrade Historical Fiction

Annie can always count on spending summers at her grandparents’. This summer should be even better because Mama is going to have a baby soon. Before Daddy leaves for his Air Force assignment, he gives Annie a journal for summer memories. But now Annie is grieving over the death of her newborn sister. How can she tell Daddy that ever since the baby died, Mama is slipping away? If Annie wrote those words, Mama might stay that way forever. The only comfort Annie finds is in holding a stone she calls her “rock baby.” Then Annie secretly befriends a mysterious woman who helps Annie accept her loss, while Annie hopes to draw her new friend back into the community. But all that is interrupted when a crisis reveals their unlikely alliance and leads to a surprising turn of events.

Why I recommend it: It’s a story about how grief can turn your life upside down. It can bring unlikely allies together and pull families apart, but even in the worst moments of your life, it’s possible to find hope.

6. Dinosaurs On Other Planets: Stories by Danielle McLaughlin

Adult Literary Short Story Collection

A woman battles bluebottles as she plots an ill-judged encounter with a stranger; a young husband commutes a treacherous route to his job in the city, fearful for the wife and small daughter he has left behind; a mother struggles to understand her nine-year-old son’s obsession with dead birds and the apocalypse. In Danielle McLaughlin’s stories, the world is both beautiful and alien. Men and women negotiate their surroundings as a tourist might navigate a distant country: watchfully, with a mixture of wonder and apprehension. Here are characters living lives in translation, ever at the mercy of distortions and misunderstandings, striving to make sense both of the spaces they inhabit and of the people they share them with. 

Why I recommend it: I have to put a short story collection on my list because they never get enough love. The stories in this collection are very quiet. There isn’t much action, but the writing is stunning, and the author has a deep understanding of human behavior.

7. The Last Harvest by Kim Liggett

Young Adult Horror

“I plead the blood.”

Those were the last words seventeen-year-old golden boy quarterback Clay Tate heard rattling from his dad's throat when he discovered him dying on the barn floor of the Neely Cattle Ranch, clutching a crucifix to his chest.

Now, on the first anniversary of the Midland, Oklahoma slaughter, the whole town's looking at Clay like he might be next to go over the edge. Clay wants to forget the past, but the sons and daughters of the Preservation Society—a group of prominent farmers his dad accused of devil worship—won't leave him alone. Including Ali, his longtime crush, who suddenly wants to reignite their romance after a year of silence, and hated rival Tyler Neely, who’s behaving like they’re old friends.

Even as Clay tries to reassure himself, creepy glances turn to sinister stares and strange coincidences build to gruesome rituals—but when he can never prove that any of it happened, Clay worries he might be following his dad down the path to insanity . . . or that something far more terrifying lies in wait around the corner.

Why I recommend it: I usually avoid young adult horror because it’s too tame for me, but this book is not tame. It’s got all the gore, plot twists, and weirdness you’d expect from an excellent horror story. I would have adored this book as a teen. I preferred my literature to be bloody.

8. After Zero by Christina Collins

Middlegrade Contemporary

Elise carries a notebook full of tallies, each page marking a day spent at her new public school, each stroke of her pencil marking a word spoken. A word that can't be taken back. Five tally marks isn't so bad. Two is pretty good. But zero? Zero is perfect. Zero means no wrong answers called out in class, no secrets accidentally spilled, no conversations to agonize over at night when sleep is far away.

But now months have passed, and Elise isn't sure she could speak even if she wanted to―not to keep her only friend, Mel, from drifting further away―or to ask if anyone else has seen her English teacher's stuffed raven come to life. Then, the discovery of a shocking family secret helps Elise realize that her silence might just be the key to unlocking everything she's ever hoped for.

Why I recommend it: I know I blather about this book constantly, and I’ve forced all my friends to read it, but it still only has 694 ratings on Goodreads! It’s a well-researched look at a health problem that doesn’t get much attention in fiction. It’s also a compelling (and possibly magical) mystery.

9. Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

Young Adult Romance

Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Why I recommend it: I will admit that the romantic angst is over-the-top, and the main character is named after my least-favorite vegetable, but that didn’t stop me from racing through this book. The characters have an intriguing problem. How do you stop a person from accidentally time traveling? I desperately wanted Harper to save Kale. (The person, not the vegetable. I’d be thrilled if the vegetable time-traveled to a war and got shot to a million inedible pieces.)

10. Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-Up World, One Long Journey Home by Leigh Newman

Adult Nonfiction

Growing up in the wilds of Alaska, seven-year-old Leigh Newman spent her time landing silver salmon, hiking glaciers, and flying in a single-prop plane. But her life split in two when her parents unexpectedly divorced, requiring her to spend summers on the tundra with her “Great Alaskan” father and the school year in Baltimore with her more urbane mother.

Navigating the fraught terrain of her family’s unraveling, Newman did what any outdoorsman would do: She adapted. With her father she fished remote rivers, hunted caribou, and packed her own shotgun shells. With her mother she memorized the names of antique furniture, composed proper bread-and-butter notes, and studied Latin poetry at a private girl’s school. Charting her way through these two very different worlds, Newman learned to never get attached to people or places, and to leave others before they left her. As an adult, she explored the most distant reaches of the globe as a travel writer, yet had difficulty navigating the far more foreign landscape of love and marriage.

Why I recommend it: The synopsis makes it sound so serious! It’s actually a funny and honest memoir that’s full of keen observations and vivid descriptions. It reminds me of Jenny Lawson’s books, so if you enjoyed those, you might like this one.

Which books do you love but rarely hear people talk about?


  1. I have only read one of these books, but I am happy I recognized three of them. I did enjoy After Zero. I believe I read the book, because of your stellar review.

  2. Cold Summer is one I remember wanting to read but never found a copy of. I'll have to check that one out now!

  3. Not familiar with these titles, but they sound interesting. https://pmprescott.blogspot.com/2020/04/javan-tenebrae.html

  4. I haven't heard of any of these books, but I'm adding The Last Harvest to my list straightaway because I'm always on the lookout for gory YA horror.

    My TTT

  5. Great list! I haven't heard of quite a few of these, so I'll have to check them out.

  6. I haven't heard of most of these, but BRIDES OF EDEN and STILL POINTS NORTH both sound like books I would like. I'm adding them to my TBR list. Thanks for the recs!

    Happy TTT!

  7. Brides of Eden is FANTASTIC; I actually read it in high school and I almost forgot it existed. I didn't know anything about this history before I read it and you're right, it's important stuff. I wish it was a bigger name book.

  8. The Last Harvest sounds like my kind of book! I loved The Grace Year and I've been meaning to read another by her that I have. I definitely will be picking this one up! I love weirdness.

  9. Cold City definitely sounds atmospheric, and I like books like that sometimes. Sounds pretty interesting!

  10. I love learning about underrated books. I haven't read any of these, but I HAVE heard of some of them so yay!


  11. Yes, Cold Summer really deserves more attention. Thanks for sharing!

    Lauren @ Always Me

  12. All of these sound really good! I hadn't heard of many of them.

  13. I really want to read Cold Summer but then I forget so I am glad to see it here! After Zero really does sound great, I am putting that one on Lena's list ASAP. I also definitely need Bride of Eden, wow that sounds creepy, even more because it's based on a true story! I agree about Last Harvest, too! Great list!!

  14. Great list! These sound really good and I’ve had Cold Summer on my TBR for a while now.

  15. To be honest most of my reads are Indie and self published so they are lesser known than most books that I see reviewed! I also read genres like horror and apocalypse mostly rather than YA and contemporary which appear on a lot of blogs.

  16. I haven't heard of any of these but some of them sound really good and I will for sure be checking them out. I'm not a big horror fan at all (total chicken who just can't handle it lol) but that Kim Liggett book sounds so good! I read her latest release last year and loved it, so I'm tempted to check this one out too. Great list :D

  17. These are all new-to-me, and that's exactly the sort of book I like most.

  18. Apparently we really don't talk about these enough because the only one I've heard of is After Zero, which I read because of you!!! (Thanks for that recommendation, by the way!)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  19. I also read After Zero due to you. Brides of Eden is the book that has been on my Goodreads TBR the very longest (since 2009?!?) The others all sound fascinating too.

  20. I have not read any of these books, and have only heard of one - No True Believers, which I desperately want to read.
    However, you have included a great range of different books in this post and now I want to read them all! I just added about 5 of these on Goodreads, so thanks for that :’)

  21. Nooooooooooooooo I have enough books on my TBR!!!! And now I have to add most, if not all of these. Thanks????