Monday, 3 June 2013

Monday Musings: Which Books Do You Recommend The Most, And Why?

I had about six dozen things to do over the weekend, some blog-related, some not, but somehow ended up downloading my Twitter archives instead of actually doing all six dozen. A stroll through a few years on Twitter has been fascinating. (No, I haven't read all 7,000 plus of them, I wasn't THAT bored.)

It did get me thinking, though, which books do I tweet about the most? The simple answer to that is, of course "really good ones," but given that I tend to read a couple of hundred books in a year, and a fair number of them are really good, it's clear that I don't have time to send out dozens of tweets praising all of the great ones I read. (And apart from anything else, I think if my timeline was full of gems like "Buy this book!" repeated several dozen times, people would start ignoring me anyway.)

So which books do I go out of my way to rave about? I tried searching my archives for titles of books and series - it's a bit hit and miss, as it misses out times I've tweeted saying something like "Fans of engaging comedy really need to be following @ThatAndyBloke and reading his books," but gives a very rough idea of which I’ve spent the most time talking about.

The results aren’t particularly surprising to me – and, indeed, anyone who follows me on Twitter could probably guess at least my top 2. On looking through, though, there’s definitely some trends I can see.

For example, I try to nudge a little bit more attention towards debut authors, and it’s no real surprise to see so many debut authors on my top 10 list. Also, I’m a huge supporter of UKYA, so I’m quite pleased that the majority of the books I’ve been raving about are from British authors. In addition, I try to support smaller presses and self-published authors if I read something from them I’m really impressed by – after all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people tweeting praise for the likes of John Green and Veronica Roth, so I do aim to spread the word about authors who get overlooked sometimes. That said, I was still surprised to see a self-published author in my top 3, although his book definitely deserves to be in this company!

Another reason for me to tweet a lot about a book is if I can’t stop thinking about it, sometimes for months after I read it. This generally happens when it deals with difficult topics, or when it touches on subjects which most YA doesn’t go near. For example, Jennie Wood and Jeff McComsey's Flutter has cracked my top 20 after just 2 weeks, because I keep raving to people about the wonderful way in which the author and artist (it’s a graphic novel) have tackled a unique story about a girl who shapeshifts into a boy to get the girl she wants – stunning!

Whenever I’m asked about the most important element of a book, I express the opinion that characters beat out everything else. Originally, I was about to write a paragraph about the books below having very strong characters – but of course they do. As I said above, I tweet about some fantastic books a lot more than others, but for me to count a book as ‘fantastic’ it HAS to have strong characters anyway. One thing which can tip the balance for me and make me absolutely love a book rather than just enjoy it, though, is a brilliant narrator. I definitely tend to fall in love with first-person books more easily than third-person ones. (Dual narratives have a special place in my heart, on a similar note!)

Another real plus for me is very strong world building. That’s sometimes thought of as being mainly the province of fantasy or sci-fi novels, but it also encompasses authors who can bring time periods from before I was born to life vividly, or those who can make me feel as if I’m in a situation I’ve never experienced – whether that’s backstage at the ballet, on the catwalk at a fashion show, or sunning myself on a tropical island.

Finally, and perhaps slightly strangely, since I’ve already said I tend to tweet less about the super-popular books, I do find that I’ve tweeted a lot about books other people I’m following on Twitter loved. In many cases, though, this is more a case of getting into conversations about particular books than anything else. When virtually my entire timeline is talking about a book, how can I resist joining in?

So (finally!) here are the books/series I’ve tweeted about the most, and a few words on which of the above reasons fit each one.

10. Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (20 tweets sent) - UKYA, debut author, incredible narrator, people I follow love it, stayed with me because it's incredible to read a book narrated by someone who's done something so terrible.

9. When I Was Joe series by Keren David (23) - UKYA, debut author (at the time of WIWJ, although Keren's also released the wonderful Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery in between books in this trilogy), two great narrators, people I follow love it.

8. Geek Girl by Holly Smale (24) – UKYA, debut author, excellent world-building (former model Holly Smale brings all her knowledge of the business to show us what it’s like), people I follow love it, wonderful narrator.

7. Pantomime by Laura Lam (25) – UKYA, debut author, brilliant world-building, tackles LGBTQ topics that I’ve never seen handled like this in fantasy before, independent publisher (the wonderful Strange Chemistry, YA imprint of Angry Robot), people I follow love it, fabulous narration.

6. Department 19 series by Will Hill (27) – UKYA, debut author, outstanding world-building, far more depth than most action/paranormal books have, people I follow love it.

5. Kat Stephenson series by Stephanie Burgis (34) - UKYA (Stephanie is American but has dual citizenship), debut author, people I follow love it, fabulous narrator, absolutely incredible world-building (both Regency England and in the way magic's handled), independent publisher (the wonderful Templar Books).

4. Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling (38) – UKYA, debut author (somewhat dubious here, as Curtis was a successful author/illustrator of books for younger children before Wereworld, but Rise of the Wolf was his YA debut), brilliant world-building, lots of depth to this epic fantasy.

3. Night of the Purple Moon by Scott Cramer (40) – Great world-building in this awesome sci-fi novel, debut author, self-published, really underrated.

2. Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt (43) – Debut author, UKYA, people I follow love it, tackles lots of difficult subjects including disfigurement, prejudice, recovering from tragedy, and mental illness really well, brilliant dual narration.

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (54) - Fabulous world-building which makes you feel like you’re back in World War II, people I follow love it, unusual subject – female characters spying for the Allies, UKYA (UKYAish, at least – Elizabeth Wein is American but lives in Scotland. If that’s good enough for, it’s good enough for me!), 2 superb narrators. Oh, and it’s probably the best book of the last five years.

So, which books do you go out of your way to tell people about, and why? I’d love to hear titles and/or reasons in the comments!


  1. This is a really interesting post!

    I've listed 10 of mine below for you! I loved Geek Girl too!

    1. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters - so unique and beautifully written. It transports you to a time of uncertainty, war, sickness and grief. And the main character, Mary Shelley Black, wonderfully is charming and quirky.

    2. ACID by Emma Pass - from the beginning, the book hits you with extreme danger, a touch of romance, and exhilarating plot twists that build to a spectacular finish.

    3. Splintered by A.G Howard - packed with mad adventure and stunning imagination. The breath-taking imagery and eccentric characters appeal to the Tim Burton fan that I am.

    4. The Glimpse/The Fall by Claire Merle - the prophetic glimpses are a unique and interesting quality that sets the books apart from other titles in its genre. This really is a special and achingly good series.

    5. Slated/Fractured by Teri Terry - high suspense, unravelling mystery, full-on action, extreme danger and nail-biting tension!

    6. Blackwood by Gwenda Bond - a fantastic paranormal spin on a piece of history.

    7. Geek Girl by Holly Smale - a heart-warming story with a strong message: be yourself and be proud of who you are. It is simply fantabulous, perfectomundo and funalicious (as Wilbur might say!).

    8. FrostFire by Zoe Marriott - a beautiful YA fantasy with thrilling romance, fierce battles and a heart-breaking conclusion.

    9. Emma Heats LA by Keris Stainton - a feel-good book that's fun and humorous with lots of drama!

    10. Dualed by Elsie Chapman - a thrilling dystopian adventure that's gritty, dangerous and exciting.

    I always tweet about these books, and RT anything I see about them, too!

    Thanks for sharing your list!

    1. What a fab list - thanks for sharing, Kate! I love Keris Stainton's books and the 'Hearts' series nearly made it onto here - I think I've sent 17 tweets about them! I haven't read many of the others (except Geek Girl, of course!) but Slater and FrostFire, in particular, are books I really want to read.

  2. I like reading self published and indie authors too!!! I have to say though that I don't honk I've read anything by a British author (I probably have but don't know it) and Code Name Verity is AMAZING!!!!! Love love love that book and hearing you love it too makes me like your blog even more!!! Great list!!! And I'm definitely going to have to check out some of those books!!

    1. Thanks for stopping by - I hope you check out, and enjoy, some of the books above!