1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I cracked this story open with an Instagram reading group during January. As we chose in alphabetical order, naturally my name is Alexander, I was the first to pick and this was it. My first run-in with A Darker Shade of Magic was on the shelf of my local Barnes and Noble. The cover intrigued me and I loved that it was set in alternative Londons. At the time I didn’t buy it, but it was always placed on my “to be read list”.
I love the way this novel plays out. It kinda reminds me of a movie with scenes. Chapters are broken up into small sections and they flow like chapters you’d find in a movie’s table of contents with a name defining a group of moments. The overall characters are believable, Kell and Lila being my favorites. I enjoyed the sass and pain in the bottom that Lila was and Kell’s drive to do the right thing even when he knew it was wrong. There’s magic, multiple Londons, and a greedy set of royals who want it all.
2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Who doesn’t love a great murder mystery by a warm fireplace? Murder on the Orient Express was the first one that I’ve ever read, can you believe it? Now I’m addicted. I will shamefully confess that I watched the film adaptation before reading the actual book and while it was a better book than the film, it helped clarify the story for me, which was very hard for me to follow. There are so many characters, perspectives, and subtle details that are important for the reader to catch for the story to make sense. If you don’t read closely, then the pay off at the end is not as worth it.
3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
If you want to take a literal journey back in time, then this is your book. I felt immensely deep in a world from the past. Written from the first-person view of Claire, Outlander explores the deep and dark history of Scotland while weaving an intense love story in the middle of it. I love this book because it presents real decisions that need to be made between living in the past and Claire’s life in the present. Another book with many subtle details, PAY ATTENTION, they really are worth finding.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Does this book need any explanation? It’s brilliant on so many levels. The underlying themes and messages of friendship and love make it one of my favorites in the entire series.
Harry discovers so much about the past and what’s to come in the future. It’s in many ways a coming of age story. The first two books, Harry is much more in a child’s world, but the third book really shows Harry entering manhood with the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. It’s everything you’d expect from a Harry Potter book with its clever characters, sprinkled cookie crumbs, and story driving dialogue. Cannot recommend this book enough. I’ve read it like seventeen times and probably will read it seventeen more.
5. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Polished blue stone and a farm boy. What could go wrong? A lot! This is Paolini’s first published book in the Inheritance Cycle and although it shows throughout the writing, I as I writer enjoyed that. I enjoyed seeing how the writing progress unraveled throughout the story. In a way, it was a self-discovery tale for myself. The overall plot is really engaging and drives at a decent pace. The author builds languages, a deep world, and lots of back story to interest the reader kind of reminds me of Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth.
6. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
I’ve read this book a couple different times and listened to the Brendan Fraser audiobook and I have to say, each time is better. A silver dragon named Firedrake, a brownie named Sorrel, and a boy named Ben set off in an adventure to find the hidden Rim of Heaven where they will be safe from evil humans and an even more so evil beasts. Gosh, this book really ignites your imagination. I hope one day I can read it to my children!
7. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
A fallen star, a lost boy, and two vastly different worlds separated by a stone wall. A fairytale story that will bring you back to when you read The Brothers Grimm as a child, Stardust is full of humor and true love. It’s definitely targeted as an adult fairytale and as a grown adult, I enjoy the less childish approach that a normal fairytale might have.
8. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
A story of beginnings, The Fellowship of the Ring has always been my favorite book of the series as well as favorite installment of the Peter Jackson films. I enjoy this number because it has the start of what is to be an epic journey. Not only do we meet all of our important characters and watch them traveled to Mordon to destroy the ring, but we see them face adversity and watch their plotlines weave away and travel in different directions. I recommend it to anyone! Tolkien’s work can never be praised enough.
9. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
To be frank, the first time I read this book was a few months ago. I’ve read the most popular entry in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and never bothered venturing into any of the other books. After I received quite a bit of praise from other readers and a couple quotable moments throughout the book from my church, I decided to give it a read. My overall thoughts about the book were great. The story really mirrors the creation story in the bible and having diving deeper in my faith, I’ve noticed all the subtle easter eggs that Lewis incorporated in the fundamentals of Narnia and their stories. There’s a real sense of discovery as you find all those moments that make you smile. This book by far is my favorite in the series. Polly and Diggory’s characters were relatable as children and the Witch really remained me of the snake in the book Genesis.
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A classic novel that really makes you think as you read. The Great Gatsby isn’t a particularly long story but I think that it packs a punch with the words it has. This book is a very old world. Times have changed, so it was nice to step back into New York during the early part of the 1900s. The lingo, the characters, and the story greatly reflect a time that has long since been forgotten about.