Top 5 Wednesday is a goodreads group created by Lainey (gingerreadslainey) and now hosted by Sam (thoughtsontomes). This is T5W Rewind Month, which means I get to choose a topic between all the past ones. I chose Underrated Books + Hidden Gems in Your Favorite Genre.
What underrated means for me: I don’t hear enough people talk about it and/or it had less than 1600 ratings on goodreads when I wrote this post.
I also chose to cheat because there’s no way I could only choose five, and what you get is three underrated books from five genres I love.
Weird Contemporary Fiction
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz: This contemporary novel with magical realism aspects follows bisexual Puerto Rican painter Mercedes Moreno. It’s about growing up and the hidden magic of everyday life. It’s the best coming-of-age novel I’ve ever read and was also my favorite YA release of 2017, but unfortunately it received very little hype and it’s the definition of a hidden gem.
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo: Half quiet slice-of-life and half mystery, this books follows a love triangle between three lesbians, with a Chinese-American main character. It’s a story about the lines between friendship, unrequited love and obsession. I couldn’t put it down because of the flawed, morally gray characters.
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson: Considering how well-loved the other books by this author are, I’m surprised by how little hype The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza got. It’s a contemporary book about choices with a speculative twist, and it follows a bisexual Cuban magical girl. It’s very weird and more people should read it.
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages: this is a quiet novella set in San Francisco in 1940. It follows a group of queer women, some of which are magical, and it has a very cute f/f romance. It’s a quick read with a wonderful atmosphere.
Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng: This book follows two Victorian missionaries in fairyland, and of course everything goes wrong. I can’t say much without spoilers, but I definitely recommend it if you like seriously messed up faeries, mind games and dark stories.
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee: another book set in San Francisco, but in 1906 – and this time there’s no magic, but there’s an earthquake. This book follows Chinese-American Mercy Wong and how the earthquake changed her life. A very underrated YA novel about friendship and the only realistic historical book I’ve ever loved.
Want by Cindy Pon: If you like the idea of dystopian books but are tired of “America, but slightly uglier” settings, Want is a dystopian book set in Taiwan with really interesting aesthetics (near-future sci-fi technology side-by-side with ancient buildings), themes (this is a story about class privilege) and a great ensemble cast. Also, heist plot!
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard: My favorite novella of the year so far. The Tea Master and the Detective isn’t from Tor.com, so I feel like many people don’t even know it exists – which is a shame, since it’s Vietnamese-inspired space opera and a Sherlock Holmes retelling in space in which Holmes is a woman and Watson is a sentient spaceship.
The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden: A bizarre sci-fantary novel set in South Africa that feels as if it’s on drugs. There’s implied crab/porpoise drug-induced sex during the first chapter and an invasion of dik-diks. Sometimes it was just too much, but I loved the characters, and it’s also very queer. Try this; you won’t forget it.
Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett: An underrated fantasy novel set in a kingdom inspired by the Himalayas in which the goal isn’t saving the world, defeating an enemy or winning a game: it’s climbing the highest mountain. If you like slow, atmospheric fantasy stories with many magical creatures, mythology and evil plot twists, try this book.
The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera: It shouldn’t surprise me that f/f stories get ignored often, but this book is about warrior lesbian princesses who fight demons and are fated lovers, and I don’t understand why no one is reading this. One of the best epic fantasy books I’ve read in the last years.
[While this is inspired by Japanese and Mongolian cultures, I wouldn’t recommend it for that, I’ve heard that aspect isn’t done well at all]
Tensorate series by JY Yang: My favorite novella series at the moment. It’s a sci-fantasy story set in an East and Southeast Asian-inspired world. It deals with themes such as grief, family and the balance between magic and science. I love the worldbuilding because it’s beautiful (the best descriptions and magic system) and trans-inclusive.
Darkling by Brooklyn Ray: another underhyped novella, the beginning of the Port Lewis Witches series; it’s a witch-y m/m romance with a trans main character and an interesting atmosphere. I loved all the characters, and it’s a very quick, light read if you do not mind blood magic.
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger: an urban fantasy book that received very little hype, it’s a story about demon-fighting bartenders (with magical drinks!) in Chicago featuring a Chinese-American heroine, and it’s as fun and light as it sounds. Couldn’t put it down.
Paris Adrift by EJ Swift: Time travel in Paris! It has the best atmosphere, of course, and it also gets really political; I had never seen speculative fiction address the rise of neo-fascism before. I didn’t love the beginning, but the problems I had with it weren’t in the second half (which was wonderful) and I loved the depiction of the main character’s panic disorder.
Which of your favorite books deserve more hype? Recommend me some hidden gems.