Sunday, December 18, 2011

Buried Treasures

Just in time for the last-minute holiday shopper (or anyone looking for a good airplane read), I thought I'd do a post recommending some of my favorite buried treasures. This isn't a Best Reads of 2011 list--I'm saving that for January, since I typically get a lot of reading in over the last two weeks of December between long plane rides and being away from work. These are just books I think deserve more buzz and a wider audience.

I didn't give myself any hard and fast rules for what constitutes a buried treasure. Most of them are little-known books by little-known authors, but I threw in a few lesser-known works by popular or classic authors, especially when my favorite isn't the book or series that gets all the buzz.

However, since this is meant to be a shopping guide of sorts, I limited myself to books readily available new in either print or electronic form, priced no higher than $12 or so. Which meant saying no to Clyde Edgerton's Raney, though I love his Southern voice and reading it is like stepping back into my 70's and 80's Alabama childhood. It also ruled out Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat, though I swear everything else LM Montgomery wrote is readily available.

In no particular order:

Assiniboin Girl, by Kathi Wallace
Buy for Kindle

This book was originally published by the now-defunct Drollerie Press, but it looks like Wallace has re-released it as a self-published Kindle book. It's a YA coming-of-age story about a Native American girl who's grown up in New York knowing little about her heritage, but, after being orphaned and sent to live with an aunt and then her extended family on the reservation, develops a deeper connection to her past. With a certain amount of what I guess could be described as magic realism. It's a difficult book to describe or categorize, and it's not the most polished work I've ever read, but I couldn't put it down.

No Quarter, by Broos Campbell
Buy for Kindle
Buy for Nook
Buy the paperback from Powell's (though the price is above my target range)

Age of Sail (1799, to be specific), but in the American navy. First in a series following Matty Graves, a young midshipman just setting out on his career. Campbell has a wonderful American historical voice and a way for bringing little-known corners of history to light. I'd love to see the three books that are out so far become big hits so he can keep writing and follow Graves all the way through the War of 1812. If you like Patrick O'Brian or Bernard Cornwell (very different voices, I know, but Campbell's voice is different from both), do give this series a try.

And, doesn't the second book in the series, The War of Knives, have a gorgeous cover, in a badass war story way?

In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden. (not available in ebook)
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes & Noble
Buy from Powell's

If you looked at the rest of my bookshelf (or even just the rest of this list), you'd never guess that one of my favorite books of all time is this quiet, rambling story of Benedictine nuns in mid-20th century England. But it is. Almost all my favorite books share a strong sense of place and communities of characters who seem so real to me I feel like I could step into the story and know how to fit into its world. Brede Abbey and Dame Philippa, Sister Cecily, Sister Hilary, Dame Catherine, and the rest are one of those communities to me, just like Narnia, Barrayar, Terre d'Ange, Peter Wimsey's London, or Marcus Didius Falco's Rome.

Captive Bride, by Bonnie Dee
Buy for Kindle
Buy for Nook
Buy from Carina Press

(Speaking of covers, isn't this one a beauty?)

I will always at least try a historical romance with an unusual setting, and this interracial romance set in 1870 San Francisco worked for me. Dee made me completely believe her hero and heroine found true love and deep knowledge of each other despite lacking a common language at first, and also that they would find a way to make their cross-cultural relationship work despite all the challenges they would face in their place and time. Also, I would love to see more historical romances set on the West Coast, as opposed to the conventional Westerns with deserts and cowboys. Give me more of the early days of places like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, please!

Eight Cousins/Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
Both free for Kindle.
Or $0.99 for both for Nook
Or you can pay a little more for the paperbacks

Not that obscure a pair of books, obviously, but I think fewer people have read them than Little Women or An Old-Fashioned Girl. They're actually my favorite Alcott books, I think because they're the only ones in which the heroine marries the same man I would've chosen myself.

The Golden Key, by Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliott (not available for Kindle)
Buy from Amazon
Buy for the Nook
Buy from Tattered Cover

This book blew my mind when I first read it over a decade ago. You mean fantasy isn't just swords and sorcery? Fantasy cultures are allowed to evolve and change technologically and politically just like real ones? You mean magic could take a form other than potions or wands and spells? (In this case, paints.) Now that I've also discovered Guy Gavriel Kay, Jacqueline Carey, George RR Martin, and Lois McMaster Bujold, to name just a few, it no longer seems so unique and revolutionary, but it's still an excellent book.

The Winter King, by Bernard Cornwell (print only)
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes & Noble
Buy from the Tattered Cover

Don't get me wrong, I love Sharpe and wish Cornwell would get back to the Starbuck series. But I think his Arthurian trilogy, which begins with this book, is the best thing he's ever written.

Lady Elizabeth's Comet, by Sheila Simonson
Buy for Kindle
Buy for Nook

One of the many traditional Regency romances that's gained a new lease on life as an e-book, and the most delightful and freshly written one I've found.

The Old Buzzard Had it Coming, by Donis Casey
Buy for Kindle
Buy for Nook
Buy the paperback from Powell's

First in one of my all-time favorite historical mystery series. The heroine, Alafair Tucker, a farmer's wife in early 20th century Oklahoma, is a surprisingly effective amateur sleuth, and the books have what I always love in my historical fiction, a vivid sense of place and time. The first book is only $0.99 for Kindle and Nook, so if you enjoy mystery at all, give this one a try.


  1. I'll echo your love for Eight Cousins & Rose in Bloom, and also the Sheila Simonson... Hey, does that mean my taste aligns with yours, and I should read the other books here? Hmmm....


  2. Maybe, Cara! Definitely try Captive Bride and The Old Buzzard Had it Coming. Based on our overlap points, I'd be surprised if you didn't like them. :-)

  3. I remember the Diana Rigg version of Brede on TV years ago.
    The Pat books are that hard to get? They were available in paperback separately just a decade ago.

  4. I know--I've still got the Pat books in paperback that I bought sometime in the mid-90's. It's weird that they're OOP (AFAICT) when everything else LMM wrote is easy to find.