The Best Books You've Never Heard of

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Voice by Lisa Kelly (Celtic Woman).

Since one of my missions as WriterGirl is to find amazing unknown stories, how could I not join in on this? However, since it is one of my missions, I had a hard time deciding which ones should go into this list, since every one of my reviews has a stamp of approval as a good read. So I decided to make this a yearly (or bi-year) event! Thank you Kelly at YAnnabe.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will certainly whet your palette (and a couple of these are some of my absolute favorite reads).

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

The book in a sentence: Thirteen-year-old Fujiwara no Mitsuko, daughter of a noble family in the imperial court of twelfth-century Japan, enlists the help of a shape-shifter and other figures from Japanese mythology in her efforts to save her older sister's life.

Why you should read it: Simply because this book continues to take my breath away. It was so incredible and fantastic and so believably real. It introduced me to an entire world I never knew existed and a piece of me has always stayed there, wanting to linger a little while longer. Unique, beautiful and captivating. I love this book.

Hidden Talents by David Lubar

The book in a sentence: Edgview is the end of the line for troublemaker Martin who can't seem to stop taunting his teachers, but when he befriends the rejects of the ultimate reject school, he begins to think that maybe for some of them, it wasn't entirely their fault they were here, and that they had hidden talents they were completely unaware of.

Why you should read this: Kids with special powers isn't anything new, but when turned on its head and put into this setting, it becomes something very cool. Kids with powers are almost always treated as something special, but what if it only got them into trouble? A cast of fully-realized characters in a unique setting makes this a worthwhile read many times over.

Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.

The book in a sentence: While obtaining a Western education in a prestigious Japanese boarding school in 1890, sixteen-year-old Toyo also receives traditional samurai training, which has profound effect on his baseball game and his relationship with his father.

Why you should read this
: Combining baseball and samurai swordsmanship? Cannot. Stop. Geeking. Out about this. This was one of my absolute favorite reads of last year (yes, right up there with Catching Fire). It delves into so many deeper issues, with the coolest culture cross-over at a time when Japan in flux, transforming from the old to the new. Love it. No reservations in recommending this one at all.

The Perilous Gard by Marie Pope Osborne

The book in a sentence: In 1558 while imprisoned in a remote castle, fiery and unabashed Kate Sutton becomes entangled in a mess involving the history of the castle whose traditions go back before the Druids, and she must go fetch a man she does not like from the Fairy Folk, much like in the ballad of Tam Lin, but with very different results.

Why you should read this: This was one of the first Historical Fantasies I ever came across and I loved the blend of the genres. I also loved the developing relationship between Kate and Christopher, the man who gave up his life to save his niece and who she brings back (even though she doesn't really like him to begin with). And afterward when I discovered it was retelling of Tam Lin, I loved it even more. It won the Newberry Honor years ago, so I don't know how "unknown" it is, but I don't hear people talk of it much.

Someone Was Watching by David Patneaude

The book in a sentence: When his baby sister disappears from the river near their summer home, eighth-grader Chris fights the assumption she has drowned and sets off on an incredible journey to discover the truth of who took her.

Why you should read it: Part mystery, part adventure story, this was a book I came back to several times. The characters are real, the situation believable, and when they take off on their own to find her when no one will believe their theories, they way they go about it is not out of the realm of possibility. This one had me engaged all the way through.

The Changeling Prince by Vivian Vande Velde

The book in a (few) sentences: Welland was less than a slave. Slaves are human, and he was wolf, allowed to assume human form only when it suited the sorceress Daria.

Daria kept an army of changelings -- mostly wolf but some lynx or weasel, a bear or two, and at least one rat. She used them to hunt and kill. And sometimes to pretend to be human, so she could pretend to be a lady.

Weiland hated the lie almost as much as he hated the truth. Then he met a burglar, a thief named Shile, who offered to help him steal what he had never owned -- his own soul.

Why you should read this: First, forget the ugly ugly cover. I apologize to whoever designed it, but I have never liked it. Second, can I say an awesome twist on the werewolf mythology? A wolf forced to change shape by a sorceress who is the only one of his kind who prefers his human form? Add to that a cool thief and a mystery and you have one enjoyable read.

The Diary of Pelly D by L. J. Adlington

The book in a sentence: When Tony V, a young worker of a cleanup crew on a futuristic colony, discovers the diary of a teenage girl whose life has been turned upside-down by holocaust-like events, he begins to question his own beliefs.

Why you should read this: A deeper dystopian read than most, it was a a real ride to be alongside Pelly D, a rich brat who never fluctuates from character but who you love anyway as she describes her high life as it begins to crumble around her. The jargon is somewhat difficult to get into, but is completely believable and makes the experience so much more real. It soon fades into the background. A very cool dystopian few know about.

Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book: A Primer for Adults Only by Shel Silverstein.

The book in a sentence: See title. :)

Why you should read this: Trust me, believe the title when it says "for adults only." It's not graphic, you just don't want any kid getting a hold of this book. Meant as a satire on ABC books everywhere, here is just one of the entries:

A is for apple

See the nice green apple.
How many nice green apples can you eat?
Make a circle around the number of nice green little apples you ate today.
1 2 3 4 7 12 26 38 57 83 91 116

Wickedly funny, but you don't want anyone small getting a hold of it.

The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley.

The book in a sentence: Corinna, an who always knows what time it is and whose hair grows two inches every night, disguises herself as a boy to pose as a Folk Keeper, one who keeps the Evil Ones at bay, and discovers her heritage as a selkie when she lives with a wealthy family in a manor by the sea.

Why you should read it: It's prose simple but lovely, this was a story I had never heard before. Mermaids yes, but selkies? Now that was something new. I loved her character and where the story took me. I read it years ago but still remember it fondly.


Tere Kirkland said...

As always, Heather, you've introduced me to a slew of books I've never heard of before, but sound right up my alley.


NotNessie said...

You're right. I've never heard of these. But I'll be looking for them now.

Celtic Traveler said...

i actually OWN "someone was watching". Pretty good!

Lauren said...

Oh, how I love The Diary of Pelly D. Thanks for featuring it - I love when lesser known books get some attention. This one is awesome. And you've reminded me, I really need to check out the companion book.

Heather said...

Thanks for the list! I added some of them to my Goodreads. Pelly D sounds great; I love a dystopian books (obviously). I would love to do this feature too but I'm embarrassed to say I don't think I know enough "obscure" books (though the list on the main page wasn't terribly obscure, I'd heard of most of them, so maybe I could...)

Steph Su said...

I've only heard of some of these (most of these covers look soooo old! hah!) but I'm adding them to my TBR list now. I love these Unsung YA lists and I think I, like you, will also make this an annual (or semi-annual) thing.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Never heard of the ABZ one but it looks kind of amazing. I like that you focused on ones that I haven't seen on other blogs...I know that's the point, but I tend to know most of the ones other people post but not yours!!!


I don't know if you entered the Holey Donuts giveaway or not, but if you could check out this post and do so for my blog, it would mean a TON for my family and you can enter for the book afterwards too if you wish (White Cat by Holly Black ARC)!:

MissAttitude said...

OMG! I've read Hidden Talents. But I've forgotten much of it. Wow, thank you for bringing me back. I have a book with a different cover but I vaguely remember the story. I need to re read and review that now. Samurai Shortstop and Little Sister were already on my lists, you've totally convinced me!

The folk Keeper sounds interesting and I'm intrigued by the ABCs for adults.

I love this meme! Great idea, Kelly. And I'm glad to hear you're making this a yearly post, should be interesting

Heather Zundel said...

Tere - Then my work here is done *whooshes into the sunset*

NotNessie - Oh good. Though The Changeling Prince might be hard to find since it is out of print (and my library got rid of the only copy! The nerve).

Celtic Traveler - I agree! But I have yet to own it (shame on me). Must remedy that...

Lauren - Yay! I'm glad someone else has read The Diary of Pelly D. And no problem about featuring it. All in a day's work. Is Cherry Heaven a companion book to it?

Heather - Dystopian rocks, and that will definitely be up your alley. And you should give it a try. It was fun.

Steph Su - Hey you! Thanks for stopping by here. I loved your list by the way. And yes, some of the covers do look old. The Changeling Prince and Someone Was Watching, especially. The Perilous Gard looks old, but it's fairly new. You should have seen the ORIGINAL cover.

Shooting Stars Mag - Thanks! I try really hard to showcase books that get little-to-no love. I was very conscious of the other lists when I was making mine. And I will check out your contest, definitely.

MissAttitude - You have!? That's AWESOME. I went back and found the old cover. The new one was bugging me too much. Definitely reread it. I think there may even be POC in there... I'll have to go check.

I'm glad I'm making it a yearly post too. You should do one for your blog, all about the best POC books you've read (most I'm sure are unknown already).

Kelly said...

Great list! I LOVE The Folk Keeper. I've read the other novel by that same author, but it seems like she hasn't written anything for a while. :(

We're going to be organizing an "Unsung Week" once a year in case you're interested in syncing up with when others are posting their lists. We'll do some fun stuff like giveaways for the most picked books, the most obscure books, etc.

Also, I'm thinking about coming up with a better way to calculate relative obscurity that takes into account LibraryThing stats, Goodreads stas, Amazon sales rank, etc.

It should be fun!

Lauren said...

Re: Pelly D, I haven't read Cherry Heaven yet but it's set on the same planet some years later. It's one of those books I definitely need to get to sooner rather than later.

Heather Zundel said...

Kelly - I'm glad someone else has read The Folk Keeper! And I know, I was just looking at that too. Maybe she is working on something brilliant. I am so glad you stopped by my humble abode. I am completely there with you 100% for next year. I think this is something fantastic you put together.

Oh, and tell me what you come up with for the "obscurity factor." I'll try and think of something to help you, if I can.

Lauren - That's great. I hope they tie in together somehow. I think my library has a copy of it too...