Monthly Recommendations: Best First Books in a Series

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the Monthly Recommendations group on Goodreads, which asks bloggers and vloggers to give book recommendations based on a monthly theme. What immediately appealed to me about this group is the flexibility. You can pick as few or as many books as you want, and you are free to make the post whenever you want during the month (although it is recommended to post within the first week of the month).

The first topic for this year caught my attention right away because of how many new series I started over the past two years. Based on how often many of these series were mentioned on multiple vlogs and blogs, I decided to give them a chance and see if they live up to the hype. For me, the first book in a series is critical to whether I’m interested in continuing since reading series can be such a time commitment. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Bad Beginning, and The Hunger Games were instrumental to getting me into some of my favourite series of all time. Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered so many other great series. I interpreted “best first book in a series” as series with a very strong first book, but not necessarily where the first book is the best in the series. To be fair, many of these are books that I’ve mentioned before, but they definitely fit the theme.

Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group created by Kayla Rayne and Trina from Between Chapters. Monthly topics cane be found on the Goodreads page here

1) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

25526296I just finished this book a couple of days ago, and I just had to mention it first. This novella is about a boarding school for students who have returned from alternate worlds such as Narnia or Wonderland. Students at Eleanor West’s school are seeking to return to the fantasy lands they left, although their parents think they are learning to function normally in the real world again. This book follows a new student named Nancy whose arrival at the school seems to bring forth a tragedy, and it is up to her and her classmates to find out what really happened. I thought this book was very well-written and the characters were fascinating. I loved the way the book tried to classify fantasy worlds on a few different dimensions, and especially how the compelling the characters were. The book reminded me a bit of a mix of Harry Potter and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and I can’t wait to read more!

2) Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

13455782This was another one that came to mind quickly because I just finished Ignite Me last night, after devouring 300 pages of it in one day. This book is about a teenage girl named Juliette whose skin causes immense pain or even death to anyone who touches it. At the start of the series, she has been locked up for murder, and the world is in shambles, with a movement called The Reestablishment who take control and destroy everything and start over. Looking back on many of the Goodreads reviews, I see that most people were not such a fan of this book but I fell in love with it immediately. A lot of complaints were about the use of very metaphoric language, and the frequent use of strikethroughs to cross out Juliette’s thoughts. I guess I’m in the minority, but I loved the writing style and I found the strikethroughs very effective in understanding Juliette’s thought process.  I enjoyed the whole series, and I thought this book was a great start.

3) Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinderI actively avoided this series for a long time because it seemed so overhyped and I wasn’t sure it was something that I would enjoy, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance! This book is a futuristic retelling of Cinderella set in New Beijing, where the main character is a cyborg and a talented mechanic. This series is set in a world where people are stricken with a plague, and are at risk of war with the Lunars, a powerful race of people living on the Moon. I found the first book in this series a bit predictable but thoroughly entertaining, and it left me very excited to read the rest of the series. Even though I could easily predict the ending, I still enjoyed reading the story and finding out exactly how it would play out, and the characters in this series are amazing! I would highly recommend the entire series.

4) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

16096824This was another series that I avoided for a long time because for some reason, I thought it would be similar to Twilight. I’ve only read the first book so far, but it was enough to get me hooked. I’ve seen this book advertised as a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I’m not sure if that really does it justice. It is about a girl named Feyre who is taken away to live in a magical kingdom as punishment for accidentally killing a faerie, and is forced to live under the protection of a cursed Lord named Tamlin. I found this book a little slow in the beginning and I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to continue the series, but it really picked up in the second half and became so fascinating! I absolutely loved the introduction of Rhysand and the way the plot took off, leading up to a very compelling ending. I’m very excited to continue the series.

5) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462This book drew me in from the very first page. It follows a teenage girl named Blue Sargant, who takes part in an annual tradition where she and her clairvoyant family take down the names of people who will soon die as their spirits appear in the churchyard. One year, Blue sees a boy her age and soon learns that he is a student at the nearby Aglionby private school, and on a quest with his friends to find the sleeping King Glendower. I find it so difficult to explain the plot of this book, especially because I found it so confusing myself, but it caught my attention right away. When I read it, I was drawn into the story in a way I haven’t been since Harry Potter, and that is definitely high praise. It was easily one of the best books I read last year.

6) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel like I don’t give this book the attention in deserves. It was another of my favourites of the year, and so beautifully written. This book is about a girl named Karou who was raised by chimaera in Prague, who have the ability to grant wishes in exchange for teeth. While on an “errand” to help collect teeth, Karou encounters an angel named Akiva, who seems to recognize her even though this  is the first time they’ve met. It’s another series that is pretty difficult to explain concisely and without giving anything away, but it such an amazing start to a series. Laini Taylor’s writing is stunning and really brings the unusual characters to life. It was so easy to get absorbed into the world and it is such a complex and detailed story. It’s another series that I can’t wait to continue.

7) Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

23395680This was another book that was on the fence about reading for a long time before I finally decided to give it a chance. I’m generally not a huge fan of science fiction, but I’d heard so many rave reviews for this one that I decided I had to give it a fair chance. This book is set several centuries in the future, where two megacorporations are fighting over a planet, forcing its people to evacuate onto a ship that is being pursued by the enemy. The main characters are a teenage couple who have very recently split up, and the story is told through a combination of emails, text messages, hacked documents, and more of that nature. I had some trouble getting into the story at first since we are thrown right into the middle of the action with little explanation, but it soon starts to come together. I thought the characters were very interesting, and especially loved the AI that becomes a major player later on in the book. I also loved the unusual format and thought it was a great and unique way to tell the story.

8) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

23299512This was another easy favourite from last year, set in a world where monsters are created from humans’ sins. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of Kate Harker, the daughter of a ruthless man who forces people to pay for protection from the monsters, and August Flynn, a monster who just wants to be human. The characters were both so well-developed and compelling, and I loved the world that Victoria Schwab created. I loved how the book seemed to explore what makes someone a monster, whether its their actions or in their nature. I thought the book was such a strong and compelling read, and it was the first book in a long time that made me want to immediately go out and buy it and its sequel as soon as I finished it. It’s very rare for me to buy books anymore, but this one was well worth it.

9) Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

22328546I honestly don’t understand why this book has received so much hate. I was so worried going into this one because I saw many complaints about it being generic and a mashup of other dystopians, but that is not the impression I had at all. The book definitely did share some common elements with other dystopian stories, but I don’t think it was any more than what is needed to classify it as part of the genre if that makes sense.  This book is about a girl named Mare who lives in a world divided into the elite Silvers, who are the rulers and have  unusual abilities, and the common Reds who are forced to serve them. Mare soon discovers that although she is a read, she has a strange power of her own and to hide this, the Silvers decide to betroth her to one of their princes. I loved the writing style, and I was surprised to find that the ending genuinely caught me off-guard. I wish more people would give this book a fair chance.

10) The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

the-madmans-daughterI was debating including this one since I’ve recommended it several times before, but it bothered me to have a list end with 9 items! This book is part of a YA series where each book is a loose retelling of a famous horror story, beginning with The Island of Doctor Moreau. I read this book as part of my reading challenge in 2016, and I almost bypassed it because it was one of those books I kept putting off until close to the end of the year. I’m so glad I didn’t skip over it though, because it caught my interest from the very first pages. This first book in the series follows Juliet Moreau, daughter of the infamous Doctor, who is trying to build a life for herself in London and escape the scandal of her father’s experiments. I loved the Gothic atmosphere of this book, and how Juliet seemed like a much stronger lead character than many other YA protagonists. Fair warning — like most YA series, there is still a love triangle, but I thought it was actually handled pretty well. This series does not seem to be as well-known as many of the others listed here, which is a shame because it’s really good!


4 thoughts on “Monthly Recommendations: Best First Books in a Series

  1. i’ve read the first of all these books except #10 and #8! I can’t even believe it!! Great recommendations… now I’ve just got to get to book #2!! Especially Scarlet… I’m going to read that this year. Great list! Oh and this group sounds like so much fun! I’m going to check it out, thanks!! ❤


  2. Pingback: Monthly Recommendations: Books the Internet Made Me Read | Abyssal Librarian
  3. Pingback: Top 5 Wednesdays: First Books in a Series | Abyssal Librarian

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