Let me just start by paying homage to my everlasting favourite, the Harry Potter serie,s and the genius of J.K. Rowling. I am definitely a Potterhead, I absolutely love this story. Hermione Granger is my girl! I actually had a Harry Potter themed bedroom when I was a teenager, and I have no regrets. So before I dove into my other favourites, I just wanted to make that acknowledgement, because it will always be in my top 5!
But in this post, I’d like to focus on some other wonderful books and series that I have come across and loved since those glorious Harry Potter bedroom days. I seem to have narrowed it down to two main genres: Historical Fiction, and Fantasy (sort of along the lines of HP).
I’d like to start with my interest in Historical Fiction (HF), because I started reading it before/when I was starting university, and it played a big role in inspiring my interest in history and exploring it further through university courses. I found reading HF to be a really fun way to learn about history, it made it so much more interesting to experience it in story-form. It was a great experience to fill in some of the gaps and learn more in depth about these events through my university classes. My three favourite HF authors currently are Phillipa Gregory, Anne Easter Smith, and Kate Quinn.
Gregory and Easter Smith both write about the British Crown, specifically the Plantagenet and Tudor eras, and the War of the Roses. Other than my obsession with Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, this is by far my favourite/the most interesting time period. Both authors detail thoughtfully the events, and paint a vivid picture of what life would have been like. Another aspect of their books that I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy is that they are told primarily from the perspective of the women involved.
This was important to me because I feel like the female perspective is underrepresented in the historical record, and these books were a refreshing take on that history. Of course I understand these books are historical FICTION, and don’t form part of the historical record, but it’s a start. It is books like these that inspire girls to engage with research and change this on-sided aspect of the historical record.
On that note, Phillipa Gregory actually holds a PhD in history, and has worked to uncover the histories of some of these notable women through her books. Another aspect of her having a PhD and authoring these books is that you can trust that they are thoroughly researched. In fact, at the end of each book, she has an Author’s Note section where she explains a bit about the research for that book and what info is historically accurate, and where she has to make some educated guesses.
my top three Phillipa Gregory books:
1. The White Queen
This book is about Elizabeth Woodville, the woman who became queen to Edward IV in the thick of the War of the Roses. (this book has been produced into two TV shows, one in the UK and one on STARZ network.)
2. The White Princess
This book is about the life of Elizabeth of York, daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV, and who became mother to Henry VIII.
3. The Taming of the Queen
This book details the life of Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII.
Anne Easter Smith’s books focus solely on the Plantagenet era and the War of the Roses, and are as equally detailed and well written as Gregory’s. Much like Gregory, Easter Smith shines a light on the often overlooked female experience in history.
my top three Anne Easter Smith books:
1. A Rose for the Crown
This book tells the story of Margaret of York, sister to Edward IV, who becomes Duchess of Burgundy.
2. Queen by Right
This book spotlights Cecily Neville, Edward IV’s mother, and her life.
3. Royal Mistress
This book is about one of the mistresses had by Edward IV.
Continuing with the theme of female representation in history, I also really enjoy books by Kate Quinn. She has written a few HF books set in ancient Rome, and is an excellent writer. More recently she wrote The Alice Network – which really took off – where she brings to light the contributions of women in the First and Second World Wars, which often go overlooked. The Alice Network is one of my all-time favourites for its balance between fact and fiction, and its captivating account of the lives of these brave women. I highly recommend this book! I am looking forward to getting my hands on her next book: The Huntress.
You can find these two Kate Quinn Books here:
The other genre that I’d like to talk about is more along the lines of fantastical stories about magic, time travel, and of course LOVE! I currently have three favourite series, the first of which is called The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. It’s got witches, vampires, daemons, time-travel, magic, and love all wrapped into three captivating books. This was such a great series and I was thrilled to see that a fourth book was released, which I am currently reading, called Time’s Convert. The first book in the series is titled A Discovery of Witches, and has since been produced as a TV show in the UK. It’s a great read, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different, or even if you’re already interested in the genre!
The other two series are both by the same author, Sarah J. Maas, and are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me as they are kind of a “young adult (YA)” series. But I would say that the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” really rings true in this instance; I think a fair comparison would be to The Hunger Games, which as we all know was a YA series that became wildly popular.
The first series by Maas was called the Throne of Glass series, the first book of course titled Throne of Glass, and has seven books, and one novella. And yep, you guessed it: strong female lead. It is about a young woman who became an assassin out of survival, and how she basically has to fight for her life every single day. This series is really fun, and is right up there with good ol’ Harry Potter for me. It has humour, magic, magical creatures, a heroine, and a love story. It is captivating, easy to read, and yet it is complex and has depth. If this series were to ever become movies, I would need the casting people from HP to be in charge, because they absolutely nailed the casting, and sometimes the casting can really make or break.
Find the first book here: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/throne-of-glass/9781619630345-item.html?ikwid=throne+of+glass&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0
Find the box set here (on sale!): https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/throne-of-glass-box-set/9781547602186-item.html?ikwid=throne+of+glass&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=1
Maas writes a similar series called A Court of Thorns and Roses, and right again: strong female lead. This series so far has four books in it, I expect that more will follow, but I’m not sure yet. The first book is titled A Court of Thorns and Roses, and is sort of a more complex and grown up version of Beauty and the Beast, with all the same elements of humour, magic, epic battles, etc… as Throne of Glass.
Next on my Reading list:
1. The Huntress
2. Becoming Michelle Obama
I would love to hear if you have read any of these books, and your thoughts on them. I am also always accepting book suggestions! Leave me a comment below!