Ten Books I Enjoyed Last Year Outside My Typical Reading Zone

Here’s a list of books I read last year that were not what I typically read, but which I enjoyed all the same… mostly contemporary stuff because I’m not big into the genre but dabbled in it more recently. (Fantasy of a vaguely medieval nature is pretty much my genre, so some things outside it I just consider “weird.)

(Please note that I almost included several Diana Wynne Jones books, because they pretty much defy genre… but Diana Wynne Jones is a distinct category/genre herself in my mind, so that doesn’t count as being outside my typical reading zone, because I’ll read anything with her name on it. So I’m excluding those. We’ve got to be fair to the other poor books…)

The first six are Contemporary, but I’m dividing them into straightforward contemporary fiction, and contemporary fantasy. I don’t know why, but there’s somehow a HUGE difference…


heist society

Heist Society / Uncommon Criminals / Perfect Scoundrels / Double Crossed (free short story on Kindle) – by Ally Carter

5starratingI know, I’m cheating slightly with a series… But I have to put them all here together in place of one. These were so much fun. YA heist/con-artist books, clean and fun, and well-written — the writing is sort of humorous and just… yes. I quite enjoyed them and wish there were more! Also notable for a certain character, namely Hale, who is awesome. (What is his first name?? We may never know…)


The Penderwicks in Spring – Jeanne Birdsall

5starratingI waited so long for this book and was delighted with it. In a sense, I almost SHOULDN’T have liked it because some of it was sad or bittersweet, but it was also so hilarious and awesome and PENDERWICK-y, even though it’s set several years after the other books. Also all of the myriad of characters were so distinct and their storylines were seamlessly juggled and just gaaah, can I sign up somewhere to write this well??



The Book of Sight (5 stars) / The Broken Circle (3 stars) / The Secret Source (4 stars) – by Deborah Dunlevy (On Goodreads)

Again with the contemporary… but I just really enjoyed these, especially the first one. For absolutely no reason. But just… it makes me happy. A group of friends and their interactions with various fantastical creatures/happenings. I’m dying to read the fourth one, still… whyyy have I not found time to read it yet?


White Cat / Red Glove / Black Heart (The Curseworkers Trilogy) – by Holly Black

4starratingOh my goodness, how do I even start? Um. These are super dark YA, I don’t even think they should be considered YA? But despite the darkness/content and stuff, I couldn’t help really having a blast with them. (They’re even in first-person-present-tense, which I generally hate? But I just forgot while I was reading.) The hero, Cassel, is just so snarky and hilarious and unfortunate, and the series is… I don’t know. It’s mafia crime family con-artists with magic. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE. The magic is fascinating — like, there’s four or five different “types” and people are born with different kinds, and everyone wears gloves because the magic comes from the touch of hands. These books I feel like could teach me a lot about pacing and stakes and stuff, for my writing, because just everything comes at our poor hero all at once! My goodness. I can’t fully recommend them due to content, but I really enjoyed them aside from that. But yes, definitely outside my genre/comfort zone; but I’m glad I read ’em all the same. I picked up the first one on the sole recommendation of Cait’s review on Goodreads… After I read it, I thought I didn’t need to bother reading the other two. …Then the next day I realized I was really MISSING this world! Ack. So I got the other two from the library as soon as I could, and devoured them both in a day. Sigh. Addiction is bad, isn’t it? *shakes head at self* I really hope the author will write sequels or spinoffs or something, but I doubt she will…


The Grimm Legacy – Polly Shulman

4starratingThere’s a sort of lending library of magical artifacts from fairytales, in modern-day New York… This one was fun, I enjoyed it, though I feel like it had potential to be more, if you know what I mean? But it was good. Also Aaron.


Scepter of the Ancients (Skulduggery Pleasant #1) – Derek Landy

4starratingThis was so bizarre but I adored it all the same, because of the fantastic witty banter/dialog/snark from Skulduggery Pleasant himself. It’s set in modern-day Dublin, which is so cool, and Skulduggery is awesome, even if IS a… erm… skeleton. He’s also a detective and has the best lines and this was just rather fun even though it was also kind of scary.



Illusionarium – Heather Dixon

5starratingI’m considering steampunk odd/outside my general reading because I’ve only read a handful. This was my first, and I loved it so so much. (For those who haven’t, you can read my incoherent fangirl babbles on this book on my other blog.) But briefly: steampunk and alternate worlds and science-y/magic-y illusion things and sarcastic footnotes by the narrator, our hero Jonathan who’s wonderful, and then of course my favorite thing about it, the character named Lockwood who is just the best ever.


Plenilune – Jennifer Freitag

5starratingUm… it’s a historical-fiction 1800s turned epic medieval fantasy on the moon story? That’s… not exactly a genre I read a lot of, since it kind of doesn’t exist. It was way too long and exhausting to read because it was so beautifully written, but a lot of it was brilliant all the same, and I really love one and a half of the characters. (Dammerung is the best ever, okay? And Rupert and I have a complicated relationship. BUT DAMMERUNG. <3)


The Skin Map – Stephen R. Lawhead

5starratingOh my goodness, so much genre mashing in this one too! It defies category… It starts out Contemporary England, and then becomes some odd mix of sci-fi/fantasy with time-travel and alternate time-lines and it’s a mess and I love it so much. I need to read the rest of this series… Also it’s brilliantly written and at times hilarious and so exciting and edge-of-your seat, and the CHARACTERS are just the best.


Frederica – Georgette Heyer

5starratingI don’t read regency romance that often, but this one was so much fun. The family dynamics in this were the best, it was sort of like E. Nesbit meets Jane Austen sort of thing… But the hero, Lord Alverstoke, was one of those kind of awful characters you love all the same (looking at YOU, Howl…) and he and the heroine and her siblings were just… awwwk, the best. *flails around* There is also a hot air balloon. What is not to love. Shenanigans and romance ensue. It’s fabulous and I need to read more of this author.

Do you have a comfort zone/genre of books that you tend to read? Do you step out of it sometimes and are the results good or bad?

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer



26 thoughts on “Ten Books I Enjoyed Last Year Outside My Typical Reading Zone

  1. Wow, you certainly read a variety of books! I generally read lots of fantasy and adventure (surprise, surprise), though I’ve been branching out a lot more recently. Now I’m starting to really like classics (such as The Scarlet Letter–that was actually reallllly good), and I’m trying to make myself read different genres that I don’t typically read. I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary, with the exception of contemporary fantasy. Historical fiction and I have an odd relationship; I usually only like to read about certain eras, but sometimes a writer will surprise me. Oh, and there’s also sci-fi! And mysteries! And I think I need to stop. XD

    By the way, I had to let you know: I finished Illusionarium!!!! It. Was. Amazing. I love it to bits (the footnotes were probably my favorite part), despite all the creepy/weird stuff. It was the first steampunk book that I’ve read, and now I’ve become quite interested in the genre. Also, LOCKWOOD ❤ And JONATHAN ❤ I WUVS THEM BOTH SO MUCH.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I don’t usually read anything besides fantasy/adventure myself. 😛 Classics can be fun though! Most contemporary that I read is fantasy, yes, but I don’t read much of it. 😛 YES, I agree, there are certain historical fiction eras that are the funnest to read! 🙂 I haven’t read much sci-fi but occaaaasionally one will surprise me and get read/be pretty good. I just got re-addicted to mysteries this month, actually! I read a book called Jackaby, and I’ve been reading some of the Holmes short stories, and… yes, I’m quite mystery addicted currently. XD

      OH MY GOODNESS YAYYY YOU READ ILLUSIONARIUM AND LIKED IT THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY! ^_^ Sooo glad you enjoyed it, despite the creepy/weird. 😛 Yes, footnotes and LOCKWOOD and Jonathan!! So much love for that book. ❤ It just makes me happy. ^_^ I think it was my first as well! I'm intrigued by the genre now too… Anyways, SO glad you loved it, and thanks so much for letting me know!! 🙂


  2. I always hear great things about the Curseworkers trilogy but never have picked them up. I do have Illusionarium on my tbr but haven’t read it yet. Steampunk is way out of my comfort zone for me so I don’t think I’ll be getting to it anytime soon. However, I’m so glad you loved it! Happy reading!

    Here’s my Top Ten Tuesday!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fun idea! These last 2 or 3 years I’ve been really branching out, even wanting to read *le gasp* contemporaries! And not contemporary fantasy, but actual CONTEMPORARIES. This has never happened in my LIFE. It’s weird! But I’ve been really enjoying trying different genres. But ya know, medieval fantasy FOREVER. *fistpump*

    Okay, I basically desperately want to read ALL these. Illusionarium is sadly the only one I’ve read. I actually OWN The Skin Map, so I seriously need to read that thing.

    I’ve been wanting to read Heist Society for yeeeears, and STILL haven’t. I just never find those books anywhere and am not sure I want to spend money on them until I’m sure I’ll love them. I keep hoping I’ll find Heist Society in a secondhand bookstore but no luck…

    These all just sound so great. I need to get my hands on them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, it’s so WEIRD. O_O I hardly ever read contemporaries either, but I’ve started to occasionally! That’s so funny you’ve been as well. 😀 (But YES, medieval fantasy foreverrr! <3)

      But Illusionarium is so good it can make up for that, yes? 😉 OH MY GOODNESS YOU MUST READ THE SKIN MAP RIGHT NOW LAURI YOU WILL LOVE IT. (I mean… I hope so. XD)

      Ugh, yes, it's the worst when you can't find books. :-/ I'd have thought they might be at your library since they're fairly popular? But maybe not. I hope you can find it sometime. 🙂

      Haha, always accidentally adding to your to-read pile, aren't I? XD Sorry. 😛


  4. Ahhhh I just finished Illusionarium the other night!!!! And oh my gosh Lockwood. He IS the best. But I did feel a little deceived by the cover…you see, I thought it was going to be more romance-y? Once I got over that, though, it was really good book. Such a satisfying ending! And the twists and parallel-ness were really satisfying to me. I kind of just want to spend more time in Jonathan’s actual world, cause it seems really cool…anyway, I want to read more good clean steampunk now. I wouldn’t stay I write full-blown steampunk, but I generally prefer a Victorian/slightly mechanized time period. I think it’s from my love of Jane Austen/period dramas/North and South and then the coolness of airships and all that.
    But yeah in the last few years I’ve really stepped out of my Christian fantasy bubble to try some YA and even some manga, with mixed and mostly good results. Probably cause I’m still super picky and I take foreeever to decide if I want to read a book. I’ve learned that it’s okay to DNF a book and return it to the library without finishing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • OH MY GOODNESS YAYYYY! 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed it! But yes, not so much on the romance… sorry. 😛 (I’m a total romantic too, so I understand. XD But I just enjoyed it so much I hardly noticed there wasn’t much. Yessss, all of the things! (LOCKWOOD! <3) Sounds like great reasons to enjoy it. XD

      And that's cool you've been stepping out a bit. 🙂 I don't usually but… sometimes. 😛 Mixed results though, yeah… And I've yet to get into DNF-ing books. o.o Meep. You are wise to do so, though! I just try to mostly only start a book if I think I'll like it enough to finish it. So far I've only DNF-ed like 2 books that I can think of…


  5. My comfort zone of books is, of course, fantasy and sci-fi. I do step out of it occasionally, but I have to be in the right mood. I still enjoy animal stories (think Where the Red Fern Grows… whatever genre that might be), and sometimes dystopian (though I generally end up just annoyed that it isn’t as good as The Giver).

    Um… I have a weakness for Shakespeare (but I need to read it in a group or a class or something… it’s not like I can just curl up with one of his plays and READ it… no, Shakespeare must be discussed and acted out!!!)

    I enjoy some classics such as the Scarlet PImpernel and The Chosen, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mutiny on the Bounty, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion… I’m picky though.

    And sometimes I enjoy a good political thriller thing like Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October.

    I also enjoy straight up history if it’s well-written – Steven Ambrose is one such author who can make history come alive. Really enjoyed his Undaunted Courage and Citizen Soldiers.

    Random things like School Story by Andrew Clements can also sometimes catch my eye – that was one of the best books I’ve read recently, not a hint of fantasy to be found in it.

    And I’m currently reading George Muller: The Guardian of Bristol’s Orphans (kind of a biography, maybe?) with Leiana right now and it’s fantastic!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same! (Except for sci-fi… my comfort zone is just fantasy. XD) But yes, I agree that the mood has a lot to do with it.

      I’m pretty sure animal stories is a genre…?

      The Scarlet Pimpernel, P&P and Persuasion! Yes!

      Ooh, I enjoyed the Hunt for Red October movie but hadn’t thought to try the book. 🙂

      Interesting list, thanks for sharing! It’s fun when unexpected books are actually good! 😀


      • 🙂 I feel like my reading life is fantasy (sci fi to a lesser extent, and usually it’s more space opera than hard core sci-fi) + eclectic odds and ends. Especially since starting homeschool, since there are a lot of great chapter books I’m getting to read to Leiana that I’d never heard of before!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ishness of a February Variety | The Road of a Writer


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