Favorite Paranormal Books

As you might have deduced, my story involves a fairly heavy paranormal element. There’s a couple of vampires (not your typically thought of vampires, but blood drinkers none the less). There are ghosts. The afterlife and what lies beyond plays a pretty heavy role in my series. Nowadays that puts one squarely in the Urban Fantasy genre. Basically, if you write a book that has a paranormal element, the market is going to look at it in this way. When I wrote Deadworld, I had thriller in mind. It just happened to involve things no longer alive. Consequently, prior to this discovery, when Kensington bought it as an Urban Fantasy, I had read very little in the genre. This might have been to my advantage. I picked up a few books to check out and see what the genre was all about. I still need to read more. So…

What are some of your favorite books with paranormal elements? I need to add to my tbr pile in this genre and could use your input. Give me a top three list (or just your favorite). I look forward to see what you have to say here!


12 responses to “Favorite Paranormal Books

  1. Since most of my library is still in boxes I know I’m going to smack my forehead as soon as I’ve hit ‘post’ but here goes:

    Possibly my first foray into UF that made me search for ‘more like this please!’ was Raymond E. Feist’s ‘Faerie Tale’ (1988) and labeled ‘dark fantasy’. UF as the genre (or marketing franchise?) we know now didn’t exist then though many had already written novels that fall into that category. This novel of Feist’s was considered different as it blended the modern day and Celtic mythology. Not city center but still modern and definitely dark (many thought it horror at the time). The human characters could have used a little more depth but the blend and world building are great. The cover I have (http://crydee.sai.msu.ru/REF/bookcovers/Faerie_Tale-l.jpg) better represents it (IMHO) than the current available cover.

    For recommended urban fantasy now:

    1) The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher – these always jump to the top of my TBR pile when a new one is released. Excellent character development over series – a lot of different creatures and extensive world building. Always enjoyable – even the not-quite-as-good-as-the-other books are better than many by other authors. Male MC in true noir/gumshoe style without the cardboard cutout tendency. My only real criticism is that Chicago doesn’t usually feel like ‘Chicago’ (it could be any large city) but it’s solidly planted in the here and now and filled with fascinating twists on familiar creatures and lore.

    2) The Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs – her writing is addictive and wonderful. Her books rival Jim Butcher’s for top position ion what I have to read first. I’ll pretty much read anything by her and I’m never disappointed. Focuses on werewolves and Ms. Briggs has done a great job on developing pack lore and group dynamics. The MC is female coyote shifter so she doesn’t quite fit with the werewolves and has to rely on her brains too.

    3) Volume 4 of Tales of the Slayer – from the Buffy franchise by various authors – each have a story about a slayer who had to undergo ‘The Cruciamentum’ – a ritual when they turned 18 which (unbeknownst to them) took away their Slayer powers and put them in a trap with a very real and dangerous vampire – so essentially they are suddenly vanilla human (no powerful strength, super speed, amazing accuracy etc) and have to use their wits to survive. I love this volume because it turns the Buffy mythos inside out which in turn strengthens the whole thing. Buffy was created as an ‘anti-victim’ and female empowering vehicle (specifically in honor of Joss Whedon’s mother, whom he loved and thought deserved better than always being cast as the classic victim). He gave the blonde airhead cheerleader, the tastiest vamp-snack, the power to save others (and the world) then in this development he takes it away to see what they’ve learned – to see if all we’ve explored has really empowered females at all or if we’re just deluding ourselves. It’s fascinating! http://www.amazon.com/Tales-Slayer-Buffy-Vampire/dp/068986955X (Very vague spoiler: Buffy is one of the only ones that manages to survive her 18th birthday by the way and turns the friends and family are just monster bait into a strength, though I don’t think her story is in the volume. It’s in the TV series though and very powerful – should have won an Emmy).

    4) A recent excellent anthology ‘Dark and Stormy Knights’ will give you an overview of some of the must-read authors too (including Jim Butcher – who writes from a non-Harry POV, Carrie Vaughn who’s Kitty & the Midnight Hour remains a favorite UF book, Vicki Petterson – who’s Vegas based UF has not a vamp or were in sight, Ilona Andrews – xlnt writing team & always a good read though more post-apocalyptic in feel rather than present-day-tech). There’s only one story I didn’t enjoy in the volume.

    5) I also recommend you read the 1st Sookie Stackhouse book ‘Dead Until Dark’ by Charlaine Harris. I find the series inconsistent but the 1st book was a very enjoyable introduction. Then I suggest you watch the 1st Season of True Blood and see how – and why – the concept caught the imagination of the director. They’re both different but Ms. Harris is owed props for her creation. I still read each volume in the series when it comes out and have always enjoyed something in each one. The most recent, for example, was far more satisfying for me than the previous one, though it uses the set-up. Along the same lines, pick up ‘True Blood and Philosophy – We Wanna Think Bad Things With You’ from the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, and take a look through it. It deals with both the books and the series and delves deep into the issues of both and explains some of why there’s a continued fascination with vampires and the supernatural even in this high-tech age.

    There are a lot of newer books starting new series that I’ve enjoyed too but I’m waiting to see if the potential I see develops before recommending them as highly.

    I know you only asked for 5 and I’ve give you an intro, 5 and I’m about to put in one final high recommendation but I’ll explain why:

    Watch the whole Buffy the Vampire Slayer series with a critical eye to writing and theme (remember it started on a miniscule budget). Though there’s a change in tone to the (much darker) in season 6 it still deals with a ton of basic issues. I think perhaps because it’s older now people forget just how ground breaking the series was. A lot of the issues I see people complaining about regarding UF now are dealt with head-on by Whedon through the Buffy episodes. It’s meaty stuff disguised as entertainment and there’s a good reason it’s being taught in universities everywhere. From the victim turns savior idea, to challenging the loner status of supernatural fighters, to family to ‘what if the government got wind of it all’, to the toll dealing with darkness takes, to responsibilities of family and life while the supernatural threat exists, to natural death as opposed to supernatural death – the series looks at almost all the issues you see discussed elsewhere. I’m not sure why people have forgotten, except that perhaps enjoying it as a teen made them think it’s just for kids. It took me ages to come around to the idea of watching Buffy (stupid name right?) but then I got it and the name is perfect. Be surprised. (note: I’m not a big consumer of the novels spin offs but in addition to the Chronicles of the Slayer volumes one other is worth a look: ‘Go Ask Malice: A Slayer’s Diary’. Again I underestimated this book. The 1st chapter had me rolling my eyes at the juvenile language etc but then I suddenly got it. This book deals with an abused girl who has a calling she didn’t ask for and puts power in some very scary and disturbed hands. It’s staying on my shelf and deals very well with the whole ‘abused background’ thing and a far more believable result for the character.)

    Happy reading (and writing). 🙂

  2. The Greywalker series by Kat Richardson (ghosts) and the Toby Daye series by Seanan Mcguire (fairies). They’re both great examples of noir urban fantasy, even though Mcguire’s work isn’t specifically paranormal.

  3. Even though it’s classified as a single title, Jennifer Crusie’s, Maybe This Time. It’s a nod to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. It even has a nymphomaniac ghost. What’s not to like?

  4. Kelley Armstrong’s BITTEN was my introduction to urban fantasy – I was in high school back then.

    Rachel Vincent’s STRAY and ROGUE.


  5. Jayne Ann Krentz is my favorite writer for paranormal stories. She has past, present, and future covered in the Romance/Mystery/Comedy arenas.
    Cassandra Clare’s series THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS is a good one, although the first one has a twist at the end that I’m still not sure I like. Her latest is a prequel to the series called CLOCKWORK ANGEL that I just started. Pretty good so far.
    Suzanne Collins first series GREGOR THE OVERLANDER was outstanding. I don’t really care for the Dystopian form of the genre, so I don’t know about THE HUNGER GAME trilogy.
    I don’t know where Terry Prachett fits in, but everything he does I love and he has a couple of new books out. So many wonderful places to go!

  6. There are so many, but here are:

    Three of my Favorite Books with Paranormal Elements:
    1) Time & Again – Jack Finney (Time Travel)
    2) The Lake House – James Patterson (Genetically altered kids with wings)
    3) Running with the Demon – Terry Brooks (Contemporary knights & demons influencing townfolk)

  7. Karin Tabke (writing as Karin Harlow) has a new series, first book ENEMY LOVER–part paranormal, part political thriller, the book puts an interesting spin on vampires.

    Jennifer Lyon’s Wing Slayer series–witches, Wing Slayers, and rogues, oh my! Jen has created a world hidden behind the façade of modern society that is spellbinding, IMO.

    And last, I can recommend Leslie Parrish’s Xtrasensory Agency novels. The first one, COLD SIGHT kept me up most of the night. Her PIs all have extrasensory powers and the cases they solve are chilling. CS is not for the faint of heart.

    (I’ll be polite and not tout my own novels here, though I think they’re pretty good, too! LOLOL!)

  8. I think the Dresden Files is a must read. Also, I highly recommend the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison – best worldbuilding ever. Love that series and don’t be afraid of it because it’s a female protagnoist.

    More on the sexy side, but also highly recommended and a top seller is the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. She has created a series and world that fans flock to (and puts her in hardcover and on the best-seller lists).

    My UF and paranormals tend to run to female leads if that doesn’t bother you. 🙂

    • I enjoy female protaganists actually. I’ve read the first three books of Kim Harrison’s series. And given that the lead in my series is a woman, I better not be bothered by them. lol.