Hello one and all, my name is Shane Porteous, I am an author but this post isn’t about me plugging any of my works, rather I would like to talk about books that I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. Instead of talking about the works of Tolkien, King, Rowling, Martin, Clancy, Barker and Lewis, all of whom are now household names, I thought I would talk about relatively unknown books that I feel are definitely worth a read. The reason for this is rather simple, like almost all writers I love reading but rarely have a chance to talk about books I have discovered and enjoyed.
So I have decided to indulge the reader in me, I feel that all readers are on a quest to discover unknown gems of literature. I think this has to do with just how rare such a feeling is. The feeling that the story you are holding in your hands is something precious, something special, something rare. While stories like Lord of The Rings, The Stand, A Song of Ice and Fire are magnificent stories, their brilliance is common knowledge. When you discover their brilliance for yourself, you’re discovering something that millions of people have found before you. Those gems though beautiful have been read by everyone, I personally think that if you could somehow visit every book shelf in the world you would be hard pressed not to find at least one book by the aforementioned authors on it.
So my hope is that I can help you discover new books for your bookshelves (or e-reader). Keeping in mind that quality is all a matter of an opinion. The old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind. With that said I hope you feel the same way I did when reading these books and enjoy discovering these unknown gems for yourself. So without further to do, in no particular order I present my 7 relatively unknown worthwhile reads.
Number 7. Woken by Kaine Andrews
Woken is the story of Ophelia a young woman who barely survived a savage attack at the hands of Andrew, her sister’s boyfriend. Several years have passed since that horrible night and Ophelia is still haunted by what occurred. Relying on medication just to get through the days and haunted by terrible nightmares. Her only sanctuary is that Andrew has been in a coma since that night. Finding comfort in the arms of the charming Roger, things finally start looking up, if only slightly. But all of that is about to change because Andrew has woken from his coma and is ready to finish what he started.
The first praise I need to give this novel is the fact that Kaine Andrews made each of his characters matter. Ophelia is not a generic victim whose torment is exploited for the sake of performing horrific acts upon her. She is a fully realized character and grounded in reality. She isn’t some supermodel looking woman with the intelligence of a scientist. She feels like a real person, someone you could honestly meet in real life. When bad things happen to her, you actually give a damn about it, you feel her pain, you feel her fear.
Feeding into this perfectly is Andrew, the villain of the piece. Andrew isn’t a campy character, he isn’t a Halloween special. Andrew is a sick, twisted monster of an individual and at no time did the author pander or try to lighten his mood.
This is a true horror story, not something you would read to your children on Halloween night because they want a spooky story. This is dark, bloody and horrific; Kaine Andrews manages to show the brutality of violence without every exploiting or relying on it to tell his story.
Beyond these points is just how talented of a word smith Kaine Andrews is. Every word in this book feels like an ant of the same literary colony, working together to tell this story. There are no red herrings, no pandering and no fillers. Woken doesn’t rely on anything other than its own strengths, a true rarity for books these days. If you like horror that is as horrific as it is well told, you would struggle to find a better book than this one.
Number 6. Masquerade (book one of the Heven and Hell series) by Cambria Hebert.
Masquerade, revolves around Heven, a high school student, who once was leader of the cheer leading squad. Several years before the story begins she was attacked and left disfigured by an unknown creature. Still reeling from the scars both physical and emotional of that attack her life suddenly takes a positive turn when she meets Sam, the handsome new stranger of her small town. But while new love is in the air so is terror for the creature that once attacked her is back and ready to finish what it has started.
I am bending my own rules a little bit mentioning this story. I just checked Cambria Hebert’s goodreads profile to discover she now has hundreds of reviews and thousands of ratings. This doesn’t surprise me in the least for several very good reasons that I will get to in a minute. I just need to stress the fact that when I first read this book there were only a handful of reviews for it. Also another point I need to make is that ultimately this list is my opinion on things and I am not saying that people should or shouldn’t like or read certain types of genres.
For me normally, there are three things that will stop me from reading a book, Romance, an Urban Setting and Young Adult. Masquerade has all three and yet I read it from first page to last without a problem. This is because this book is the most well paced story that I have ever read. It is amazing just how well Cambria Hebert was able to pace this story without ever once making it feel disjointed or underwritten.
While it is very much a young adult paranormal romance story, I was never bored reading it, every chapter brought a new revelation, something of value to the story. It left me guessing for its entire run, something that very few books have ever done for me.
It is often said, that a good book is one that can transcend its genre and this book definitely does that as far as I am concerned. The fact that I felt engaged and interested the entire time while reading about things I normally could care less about such as teenage angst, social politics and romance shows just how great of a story is actually is.
Number 5. The Superiors (The Superiors #1) by Lena Hillbrand
The Superiors represents a future where vampires have taken over the world and humans, better known as Saps are little more than livestock. The main character is Draven, a rather unassuming vampire that has a mediocre job and lives a rather ordinary life who one day meets a young sap called Cali, trying to run away from her predetermine fate.
There is a lot that can be said about an author that can take something as overused as vampires and actually make an engaging, interesting story out of it. Reading my brief summary of the plot you are probably thinking that such a story has been done before and you’re right it has. But putting that aside, I found The Superiors a story that honestly stands on its own merit. Lena Hillbrand has created a fascinating fleshed out world.
Draven the main character is a kind of “Joe Vampire,” he isn’t some dark shadow that stalks the night or some Romeo who for some reason is only interested in teenage girls. There aren’t ANY romantic overtones in this story and that is a true rarity in vampire literary.
Beyond using vampires, the story itself is just incredibly engaging, what I loved about it is that the author takes her time with the story, she doesn’t rush through it (something that quite frankly annoys me about a lot of books that are written today). Instead she masterfully crafts every inch of this world, she doesn’t so much tackle social issues as deals with them with the subtly of an assassin.
A perfect example of this for me was how the vampires, who consider themselves the master race have fallen into the same traps of the world that humans once did. The vast majority of the vampires seem no happier than their human counterparts whose jobs they took over. There is a hypocrisy there that most vampires are now realizing and only the older order, who haven’t had to take these mediocre jobs to keep the world running are not affected by this reality.
That’s what I love about this story, it doesn’t represent a romantic or mystic vision and this world is dark, gritty and carries an undeniable genuineness to it. The author hasn’t tried to emulate anybody; they have told their own story and told it well.
I read and enjoyed the Superiors during a time in my life when I would’ve rather gone to the dentist than suffer through another generic vampire story. I honestly can’t give it bigger praise than that.
Number 4. Veil of the Dragon (Prophecy of the Evarun) by Tom Barczak
A High Fantasy story revolving around a land that has seen better days and the resurrection of the fallen King Chaelus by a boy knight called Aaron all in the hopes of fulfilling a certain prophecy.
When writing a review for this I gave it the title, Like Reading A Dream, because that is the truest way I can describe this story. There is something otherworldly about reading this, a powerful feeling that fills you from the very first word to the last. I honestly felt like a ghost in this world, watching this world through eyes that weren’t natural.
I am a big believer that works of fiction need a personal stamp and from that point of view I have never read another book before that has been told with such a strong personal style that the author represents with this story.
It is often said that a good book is one that is brought to life in the reader’s mind and if that is the case this book is the very embodiment of that. I didn’t feel like I was so much reading about this world as experiencing it. Because that is what this story is, an experience, one that I doubt I will ever forget.
I wish that I could say more about this book, but frankly I couldn’t do it justice. As I stated before this book is an experience, one that has to be experienced personally in order to understand what I truly mean.
Number 3. Reader of Acheron (book one in the Slaves of Erafor series) by Walter Rhein
In a dystopian future, reading has been outlawed and slavery is rampant. The corrupted ruling class of this bleak existence is on the hunt for the so called Reader of Acheron, all hope is far from lost however as Kikkan, a slave that took his freedom is on a journey of his own, a journey that could change the entire world if successful.
Look I got to be upfront about something before I say anything else. A huge reason why I enjoy Walter Rhein’s books is that his writing style is very reminiscent of David Gemmell’s, who is an author that I loved reading while growing up. So I am sure there is a kind of nostalgia by proxy, if I can use such a term, when I read this story.
With that said, Reader of Acheron has a lot going for it that should be judged on its own merit. Obviously as a reader I could immediately identify how dangerous of an impact outlawing the act of reading would be. But what I liked about this story and the author deserves a hell of a lot of credit for this, is that I never felt like he was trying to force a morality tale down my throat, like he was using this book to get across his own personal opinions.
Rather this was first and foremost an engaging story with fascinating characters. It is as well worded as it is well paced. I read the whole story in a single setting and afterword I found myself thinking about the meaning of the tale, the points that were so finely raised within it.
It isn’t often that I can say this about any book, let alone one written by a somewhat non established writer. This book both entertained me and made me see things about society that frankly I had never really thought about before and to me that is the mark of an excellent story teller.
Number 2. Mathion (book one in the Mavonduri Trilogy) by Jeff Shanley
Mathion is the story of Mathion, the prince and future heir of the Wolven people. His kind has been stuck in a war lasting thousands of years with the Kanin (werewolves). The story revolves around this young prince accompanied by his white wolf companion Elekan as he risks certain death to save a friend from the clutches of The Betrayer, the terrifying king of the Kanin.
The first thing that impressed me about this book was its genuine depth. There is a back story, to a back story, to a back story, to a back story. Literally tens of thousands of years that have been thought out and known by the author and it really shows while reading this story. It is rather quite sad, how rare this trait is among a lot of high fantasy writers today, considering genuine depth is the strongest corner stone of the High Fantasy genre.
But that isn’t the main reason why Mathion makes this list; it is because how it made me feel while reading it. While Mathion isn’t a children story by any means (it is after all a story about thousands of years of warfare between werewolves and medieval like warriors.) it made me feel the same way I did when I was 12 and read the Hobbit for the first time. I felt full of wonder and excitement reading about this world, a world that I had never quite imagined before.
I honestly felt like getting under the covers and reading this story well past midnight, because I was so enamored by it. Mathion is a better representation of classic heroic traits than almost any other character I have read about. I felt sad, when he was sad, I felt compelled by his conflict between duty and personal friendship. His relationship with his white wolf Elekan felt so real to me, reminding me of what I felt as a child raising a pet of my own.
With the exception of Tolkien himself, I cannot think of any High Fantasy writer that can embody the traits of classic High Fantasy as well as Jeff Shanley has with this story and considering that High Fantasy is my favorite literary genre, I think that is saying something.
It is no exaggeration when I say that I found myself thinking about the Mavonduri world almost every day for basically a full year after I had finished reading it. Mathion is one of the very few books that not only have I a re-read a number of times, it is one of the few books that I make time in my busy schedule to re-read.
People will often ask what is a good High Fantasy story? Some say a book that resonates with the real world; others will say a story that represents a world that is nothing like the real world. My answer to this question is this book, Mathion.
Number 1. Of Good and Evil by Gerald G. Griffin
Ron Sheffield is a former green beret, who fought in the Middle East but was discharged for his erratic behavior. In truth it was because he possesses powers unlike any the military has seen before. In the civilian world once more Ron becomes a hit man for the mafia in order to deal with his powers. He soon meets Amber Ash, who has powers of her own. Together they realize that they cannot escape their pasts.
While I meant what I said in the beginning of this post that these 7 books haven’t been placed in any particular order, I am going to state for the record that this book is my personal favorite of the bunch. While all 7 of these books are worthwhile reading, Of Good and Evil is simply in a league of its own.
There is a great maturity to Gerald G. Griffin’s writing, one almost never seen in MOST author’s work regardless of whether they are well known or not.
The sheer scope of this book is impressive, dealing with the paranormal, terrorist cells, the mafia, government conspiracies, secret societies, doomsday plots and much more. But more impressive than the scope is just how deftly Gerald G. Griffin handles all of these themes. This book easily could’ve come off as muddled and incoherent and yet nothing could be further than the truth, it is just flawless how well told this story is.
With startling effortlessness Gerald G. Griffin accomplishes mystery without frustrating his reader, he deals with real world issues, but does so in a way that doesn’t require expert understanding of the world’s politics and yet clearly shows a great understanding of such politics himself.
I cannot stress just how much I recommend this book to any mature reader. It truly boggles my mind that this book isn’t on the New York Times best seller list. With that said I am proud to say that apparently this book is going to be turned into a movie! It makes me genuinely happy to know that this magnificent book is finally getting the treatment it so richly deserves.
So there you have it, those are my seven recommendations. I appreciate you taking the time out of your life to read this post and I honestly hope that I have helped you to discover some literary gems.