Some of these have… less than 500 ratings. Which is a crime, because all of these were four stars and up and they should get more love and hype. I’m not including ARCs that haven’t been published yet in the actual list, for obvious reasons, but here are some ARCs I liked that are probably going to be under-the-radar:
- The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown, a quiet f/f contemporary mystery perfect for fans of We Are Okay;
- The Perfect Assassin by K.A. Doore, an imaginative and atmospheric desert fantasy following a family of assassins as they try to solve a mystery; it has a mostly-queer cast;
- Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter, a contemporary story with a horror twist following a codependent relationship between two queer foster siblings and very creepy faeries. Great character development, read it if you like stories about getting out of abusive relationships. (Edit: trigger warnings in the review linked, I recommend reading them before going into the book. I liked this but I wish I had known what I was going into.)
But now, let’s get to the actual list.
Twisted Romance, edited by Alex de Campi
- this is: an anthology of short comics and short stories.
- I rated it 4 stars, but some parts of it stayed with me in ways I didn’t expect.
Every time is the best time to pick up this anthology about unusual romance stories written by a diverse group of authors. Most stories are queer, there is polyamory, there are m/m vampires, there’s kink representation, there are magical lesbians and epic space romances… please read it. It’s so underrated.
This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
- this is: a heartfelt contemporary story about three girls, music, and recovery
- I rated it 4 stars and you really should pick it up if you liked Far From the Tree.
I don’t understand how this book got so little hype and so few people are reading it. I hear many bloggers say that they want ownvoices books that aren’t issue books, and this is a story about music and mending a friendship following three girls, two of which are black (ownvoices rep) and there is an f/f romance! Also, it’s one of the books that portrays what it’s like to be in recovery – from trauma, from a toxic relationship, from alcoholism: all these girls are struggling in different ways – more realistically. And the two romances (f/f and m/f) were so cute.
Darkling by Brooklyn Ray
- this is: a new adult m/m paranormal romance with a trans main character
- I rated it 4.5 stars.
A romance novella I can recommend! If you like witchy books, angry characters, messy and complex friend group dynamic and blood magic, you should read this book. The atmosphere is wonderful, there’s necromancy, and the romance is great too. Also, it’s short, which your goodreads reading challenge (if you have one) will appreciate.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- this is: a dark urban fantasy story about vampires set in Mexico City
- I rated it 4 stars.
Do you want to read a story about vampires that is based on Aztec mythology? In Certain Dark Things, one of the two main characters, Atl, is a Tlāhuihpochtli – a descendant of Aztec vampires. She’s also bisexual and one of the best female characters I’ve ever read about. This book completely subverts the usual inexperienced girl/broody vampire dynamic by having a soft boy and a dangerous, mysterious girl as the main characters. I don’t know why I don’t hear more people talk about this book since it’s one of the most interesting urban fantasy novels I’ve ever read – its portrayal of vampires was something I had never seen before.
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
- this is: a lushly written space fantasy retelling of the Mahabharata.
- I rated it 4.5 stars.
I hate the lost princess trope and this book made me like it, but that’s the magic of good writing, interesting plot, and great atmosphere. Here you’ll find gods, palaces floating among nebulas, deadly but talkative spaceships, and intrigue – yes, this book’s political intrigue is as good as it gets in YA. Also, I found many (spoiler-y) aspects of it really subversive and I really think this series doesn’t get even half of the recognition it deserves.
A Song for Quiet by Cassandra Khaw
- this is: a Lovecraftian Southern Gothic novella following a black bluesman and the cursed music that won’t let him go
- I rated it 5 stars.
I’ve been talking about how good and underrated Cassandra Khaw is since before I started this blog, but I always feel like I’m screaming to the void. Which makes sense: if you’re ever in the mood for things about screaming and voids, you should really read Cassandra Khaw’s fiction. Or, do you want to read something about fighting your monsters in which the writing in stunning? Pick up A Song for Quiet.
The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé
- this is: a YA horror with an f/f romance following what may or may not be a haunting
- I rated it 5 stars.
This is a delightfully creepy and very gay YA book with a great wintry atmosphere and mental illness representation I loved. No one talks about it, and in a way I get that this would be a very polarizing and not hyped read even if more people read it, because the main reasons this worked for me so much are very personal, but… this has less than 500 ratings on goodreads and it deserves better.
For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig
- this is: a YA fantasy book about a girl who is able to make shadow puppets through necromancy
- I rated it 4 stars.
I really don’t get why this isn’t more popular. It’s one of the best fantasy books I read in 2018, and yes, at times it is formulaic, but… so are all 90% of YA fantasy books that get popular? This approaches a lot of topics – like colonization and living with bipolar disorder* – with nuance, and has a really interesting cast of characters I loved. It also has solid worldbuilding (it’s set in a country inspired by Southeast Asia during French colonization), it’s told in a mixed media format (maps! sheet music! plays!) and features the most original portrayal of necromancy I’ve ever seen. This really is a hidden gem.
*I thought that went without saying, but: don’t listen to reviews that say things like “I’m not [x] but I thought that this book, that had ownvoices representation of [x], represented [x] badly”. In this case, [x]= bipolar disorder, but it could be any other marginalization.
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee
- this is: a collection of sci-fantasy short stories
- I rated it 5 stars
Yoon Ha Lee’s other books are reasonably well-known, but his collection of short stories? I’ve never seen anyone talk about it, which is a shame, because this has some of the most gorgeous short fiction I’ve ever read in it (Ghostweight!!), featuring necromancy, books that grow teeth, characters that come to life, fallen space cities, war-kites, deadly origami, and weapons that can erase a person’s ancestry. It deals with themes like colonization, the importance of language and the cost of war, all the stories are beautifully written and worth your time.
What are some great books you never hear anyone talk about?