Gina’s Top Five Book Picks
Nadya by Pat Murphy
This book was written in 1996 and is broken up into three parts. It centres around a girl named Nadya, and it takes place in the early 1800s. Nadya has to deal with being a werewolf and not fitting into “civilized society” because of who she is. The first part of the book covers her, her parents, her childhood, and her formative teen years in a Missouri town. In the second part of the book, having been forced to leave her home, she finds two new companions and travels west. Her companions are “proper 19th century girls.” All three of them find themselves thrust into a harsh and unforgiving wilderness, and sometimes deadly terrain. The last part deals with her settling into an area that would come to be known as Seattle, but at the time this book is written, is just a small community of people who, like her, don’t really fit in with others, and it’s here that she makes her home.
Note: This book is problematic in some places. Some of the language it uses isn’t appropriate these days, but it’s still an overall good read. It can be used as a metaphor for LGBTQ2S+ struggles, and even goes so far as to dip its toes into a trans narrative (though not in the most friendly way). While I like the read, I don’t take it to heart. I use it as a form of escapism when I need to, and I realize it’s limited by the time in which it was written.
The Stand by Stephen King
It’s 1991. A plague is unleashed on America, leaving only a few thousand alive. This book is a showdown between good and evil, choosing to side with God or the “Dark Man.” While there are overly strong religious tones to this book, I chose it for my list because of the journey and growth the characters ultimately go through. It tests each character’s resolve, pushes some characters to the edge (and in some cases beyond), and even shows just how depraved some people can be when put in the right situation.
Overall, this book is about the nature of humans at their very core. It shows how some people are inclined to be either good or evil, and it shows that building a society and fighting for what one believes in is, at the very core, human nature.
Note: There was a movie made in 1994 called The Stand. It’s about three hours long and skips over some things. More recently, Amazon Prime released a mini-series based on this book. It spans several 45-minute episodes, but I was highly impressed with just how close they followed what the book laid out.
The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
New York City is ravaged by a virus with unknown origins after a plane lands at JFK Airport. Despite all attempts to communicate, the plane remains radio-silent. Only after the plane is opened up does the CDC realize what they’ve done, but at that point, it’s too late. The virus turns people into bloodthirsty monsters with only one thing on their minds. Thus begins the fight to save humanity as this virus sweeps over the world.
Note: Given the current state of the world around us, and the fact that we are currently in the middle of a global pandemic, if stories about contagious viruses are a trigger for you, this might be one to avoid. If, on the other hand, you are a fan of things that hit really close to home, this might be something you enjoy as much as I have.
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden series) by Jule Kagawa
The first book of the Blood Of Eden trilogy was written in 2012 and has fast become one of my favourite books. It follows the protagonist Allison Sekemoto who lives in a world where human society has mostly fallen. Vampires rule the world after the Red Lung Virus sweeps through and kills mind-blowing off a huge segment of the human population. Allison lives on the fringes, protected from the horrors of the world by nothing more than a wall. She is forced to scavenge for food and supplies in order to stay alive. As food and supplies dwindle, Allison is forced to think outside the wall, as it were, and she ventures forth a couple of times to get supplies. She convinces the gang she lives with to come with her. Unfortunately, Allison and her gang are found out by the rabids that live outside the wall, and her gang is slaughtered. Allison manages to survive this encounter, but there’s a catch, and Allison is forever changed because of what happened. The trilogy follows Allison and her journey to figure out where she fits in with the world, her struggles, and her moral dilemmas.
Note: This trilogy is one I pull out when I just need to get away. Somehow, Allison’s journey has a way of pulling me in and forgetting about the world around me for a few short hours at a time, and I keep going back to visit Allison time and time again. I never seem to get tired of this trilogy. I’ve been through it at least five times by now.
Bait and Switch by Austen Crowder
Released in 2010, Bait and Switch draws lines between the cartoon world and what it means to be trans. The story follows a person named Fenton in a world that was inspired by the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The following description was posted with the permission of the author. “In Fenton’s world, some kids are toons. Some think the change is biological. Others think the change is social. But some kids turn into toons, and Fenton’s father just wants it to stop. He’s even built a Realist movement to ban toons from the real world, hoping that it will keep his own children from following in their estranged mother’s cartoon footsteps. Tensions rise as the Realists lobby tries to get their ban set into law, and toons fight for their right to be themselves. Fenton’s father knows he can count on his two boys to stand behind him and his dream of building a safe, a toon-free reality. It’s just too bad that Fenton’s becoming a toon…”
Diljot’s Top Five Book Picks
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This award-winning novel follows the story of Liesel and her family during Nazi Germany. Liesel is an 11-year-old girl who finds comfort in books, and figures out how to navigate her new reality. Her family provides refuge to a Jewish man, who Liesel befriends. The thing that gives life to this book is the narrator: Death. Zusak does an amazing job weaving a compelling story and has intriguing ideas surrounding humanity and resilience. This novel is excellent for history buffs or anyone looking for a story that stays with you long after you read it.
Note: Trigger warning: Holocaust, suicide, depression.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass
Celena Sardothien is an infamous assassin living under the tyrannical rule of Adarlan’s king. She was imprisoned in the salt mines of Endovier, but it seems as though all hope is not lost. Sardothien is offered a deal by the prince: become the king’s assassin in exchange for her freedom from her lifelong prison sentence. But, she has to participate in a competition with the land’s most notorious criminals first and win. This book is great because the plot is complex and it sets the mood for the whole series. This is the first novel of six, and a riveting mind-blowing story unfolds. It’s an excellent novel for fantasy lovers out there or anyone looking for an immersive read!
The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This retelling of the Iliad shows a romantic relationship between Patroclus and the famed Achilles. Achilles, the son of a goddess and mortal king, is the best warrior of the Greeks and is fated for great things. Patroclus is a prince exiled from his land. The story shows their childhood and builds up to The Trojan War. This novel is great because it humanizes Achilles and his infamous rage. This is a simplistic and elegant retelling of the classic, and it is easy to read and understand. It is an excellent novel bound to make one tear up.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
This romance novel follows the story of Lily, Atlas, and Ryle. Lily works hard to open her own business and make a good life for herself. The story shows Lily’s life and how she falls in love with Ryle, a neurosurgeon. Then Lily meets Atlas, who is a blast from the past. Atlas showing up makes Lily question her relationship and make hard decisions. The novel is great at describing how Lily reflects on her life and the decisions she makes. Although the novel focuses a lot on romance and relationships, there are more important messages in the book. The book portrays abusive relationships and how hard but necessary it is to break cycles.
Note: Trigger warning: domestic abuse.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature that books burn at. This dystopian novel follows the story of Guy Montag. It is set in a world where books are banned, and firefighters create fires to destroy books. Guy Montag goes through the journey of discovering how important books can be and tries to protect them by joining an organization. The novel has intriguing ideas around censorship and freedom. The novel is a compelling read, and it is great for dystopian lovers.