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Thread: Looking for Books to Read

  1. #1
    figuring it all out jpspell's Avatar
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    Looking for Books to Read

    I'm not sure if this is the place to put this, so I apologize if it's in the wrong place.

    Anyway, what I'm looking for are names of books that have skeptical characters who find out they have magical abilities and/or have paranormal/supernatural experiences.

    The MC in my manuscript has a really hard time accepting things she can't explain like ghosts, psychics, magical powers, etc. It takes her a long time to figure it out and come to terms with it.

    The problem is that most books I've read start with the character already knowing what they are. That doesn't help me much.

    I'm having difficulty balancing her skepticism with the need to move forward in the story. To make her accept it too fast seems unnatural, but I'm worried that a reader might want to slap her in the face and say "Get over yourself. It's real."

    I thought if I read some other books like mine I'd be able to see how they made overcame the character's skepticism.

    Specifically, my character displayed abilities as a child and was forced by her mother to repress them. Now they are coming back but she doesn't remember anything from childhood. She communicates with a woman whom others presume is a ghost (but is really an astral projection from the past) and she has her own out-of-body experiences. She also has very real dreams and visions. Instead of seeing these things for what they are, she believes she is hallucinating and losing her mind.
    Anyone know any books like this?
    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    figuring it all out jpspell's Avatar
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    I see a lot of people looked at this. Since no one responded, it makes me think I need to broaden my request...

    Any books about a MC who is thrown into a world that goes his/her personal beliefs?

    examples: doesn't believe in vampires and finds out they have a society; doesn't believe in ghosts and is haunted; doesn't believe in psychic abilities and finds out she's psychic

    I know a lot of urban fantasy books have the creatures "out of the closet." That's not what I'm looking for (right now). I'm looking for books where it's a total secret and a person who is strongly skeptical is forced to change his or her beliefs. Even better if the person initially refuses to accept what he/she is seeing.

    I really could use help because I haven't had any luck searching online. I'm not wanting to copy anything. I just want to get a feel for how fast or how slow the person overcomes his/her skepticism.

    Thanks again!

  3. #3
    @PeteMC666 PeteMC's Avatar
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    Have you read Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" or "Neverwhere"? I'm struggling to grasp exactly what you're after but I think these probably fit the bill.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW
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    Not sure what you're looking for, but Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame novels are about a group of modern college kids playing a dungeons and dragons game who get sucked into a place where they become their characters - barbarian, thief, magician, etc.. I don't recall (it's been a while) how long it took them to accept what and where they were.

    Barbara Hambly wrote a series (The Darwath Trilogy - although she ended up with 5 books) wherein a man and a woman from modern day America end up crossing into an alternate universe where magic, etc. work. It takes them a while to believe.

  5. #5
    figuring it all out jpspell's Avatar
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    Thanks to both of you for the responses. I'll take a look at the ones you suggested.

  6. #6
    figuring it all out Mytherea's Avatar
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    I just finished "London Falling" in which the main characters are given a sort of supernatural sight and try to deal with the world it shows them using police procedure, since it's the only way they can think to cope. They're pretty skeptical for most of the book.

    That's all I've got right now, but I'll try to come up with some others for you. I'm sure they're out there somewhere.

  7. #7
    Learning and Improving Coralynn's Avatar
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    These are paranormal romance but a lot of Lynsay Sands books have a hero or heroine finding out about the secret world and trying to adjust.

  8. #8
    Part-time ninja CAMueller's Avatar
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    Like others, I'm not completely clear what you're after, but you might try Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires books. The first novel Some Girls Bite has the MC having BIG issues with being a vampire. She struggles quite a bit with accepting a new life, and one she didn't want.
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  9. #9
    Boldly going nowhere in particular. Jess Haines's Avatar
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    I know I have read some like this. They aren't common, but they do exist. Will have to come back to the thread after I give it a think and review what's on my bookshelves.
    Jess Haines
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  10. #10
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lbender View Post
    Not sure what you're looking for, but Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame novels are about a group of modern college kids playing a dungeons and dragons game who get sucked into a place where they become their characters - barbarian, thief, magician, etc.. I don't recall (it's been a while) how long it took them to accept what and where they were.
    Ew! Ick ick ick ick ick!

    Guardians of the Flame has almost at the very beginning a brutal and horrific rape scene of both the female characters -- and only the female characters -- as some cheap and easy way of establishing that "this is not a game."

    It is a ghastly scene, and although it did not manage to spoil D&D for me, it utterly ruined any chance Joel Rosenberg had of having any of his books read again by me, ever.

    Barbara Hambly, sure, her books are fun and intelligent.

    Also things like The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff, or The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson, and I'll see if I can remember more stories like these of bewildered, scientific people thrown into worlds of magic and weirdness.

    But Guardians of the Flame -- no. Just no.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 08-22-2013 at 12:22 AM.
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  11. #11
    Formerly Phantom of Krankor. Torgo's Avatar
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    I'd mention Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which is largely about a skeptic coming to believe in magic, but it also starts off with a rape scene which bothered me. (I loved the books as a teenager, but they seem both bad and problematic in retrospect.)

  12. #12
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpspell View Post
    I see a lot of people looked at this. Since no one responded, it makes me think I need to broaden my request...
    It's possible part of your difficulty was that you put a post in the Urban Fantasy room titled "Looking for Books to Read."

    The commonest assumption with that title in this room is that you are looking for straightforward urban fantasy recommendations. People with suggestions are likely to click on your thread, see that that's not really what you are looking for, and move on.

    It's also possible that part of your problem is that the situation of skeptic-slowly-coming-around is kind of unusual in UF. I am not familiar enough with the genre to be sure.

    I had the impression in a lot of UF that the preternatural was already known about and accepted.

    In straightforward, somewhat old school science fiction and fantasy there is a strong thread of that sort of thing, the sciency, skeptical person coming to a magical place and having to accept and adapt to it.

    The two I mentioned above <Stasheff's The Warlock in Spite of Himself and Dickson's The Dragon and the George) are classics in that subgenre. I think Andre Norton's Witch World books also work like that, some of them anyway. James H. Schmitz's The Witches of Karres is like that too, although it is a little lightweight and goofy. Fun, though.

    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant also technically fall into that category, but may actually be worse than the Guardians of the Flame since it's the protagonist and hero who does the onscreen rape.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 08-22-2013 at 04:41 AM.
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  13. #13
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Sigh. I guess none of those are really urban fantasy.

    There's a really good book, a fantasy, by John Crowley called Little, Big, which is about a person slowly coming to terms with the magical creatures around his family and home.

    It's not a standard fantasy. It's a beautiful, dense, interwoven, metaphysical, incredibly rich story. If you have the patience and time it's a deeply rewarding read. But it may not be what you're looking for.
    Don't be so proud of this teleological terror you've constructed.

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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    It seems like this kind of book is more common in middle grade and young adult urban and contemporary fantasy (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, Twilight, etc.), but I can't really think of many examples in urban fantasy.

    Gaiman's American Gods and Neverwhere might count, as might Kraken by China Miéville.

  15. #15
    n@ wickedimp's Avatar
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    C.E. Murphy's series The Walker Papers - first book is Urban Shaman - comes to mind for me. The main character Joanne Walker is in her late twenties when she finds out she's a shaman - spends most of the series coming to grips with this, kicking and screaming at least part of the way. The supernatural beings in the series are definitely not "out" and most people have no idea they exist.

  16. #16
    Ah-HA! Smiling Ted's Avatar
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    In current urban fantasy, the existence of the supernatural is usually widely accepted. What you are looking for is "wainscot" fantasy, in which the supernatural exists, but the modern world is generally unaware of it. Technically, the Harry Potter books are wainscot fantasy (muggles don't know about magic) but the bulk of the story takes place in the magical world, so the wainscot element isn't a big deal after the first book.

    However, "I can't believe I did that" is actually an enormously common trope (to the point of cliché) in superhero comics - like every third mutant origin story or so.

    Generally, your character can maintain disbelief until her first encounter with an undeniably supernatural experience. Maybe it can't be dismissed because other people had the same experience; maybe because it revealed truths that weren't available to your main character; maybe there's some other proof of its reality. As soon as your character encounters the undeniable proof - and what that is is up to you - she has to drop the skepticism. It's not that complicated, and the precise timing of that moment is something you can work out in successive drafts.
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW RN Hill's Avatar
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    Urban Shaman was the first to pop in my mind as well.

    A close second was Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever, where the MC, Mac, flies to Dublin to find her sister's killer and discovers she can see the Fae. She takes it pretty hard at first. It totally disrupts her perfect, pink little world. But she gets over it.
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  18. #18
    Boldly going nowhere in particular. Jess Haines's Avatar
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    I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. I just read it. My Life As A White Trash Zombie.

    The MC wakes up in the hospital with... ahem... some "new appetites" and other strange phenomena which gradually leads her to understand she's become a zombie. It was really good, don't be put off by the title.

    Also second the recommendation for Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. Those books were excellent.
    Jess Haines
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  19. #19
    Noob bailre's Avatar
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    "The Walker Papers"

    The Walker Papers series by C.E. Murphy is pretty good for that.

    Fair Peril by Nancy Springer.

    To a certain extent, King Rat by China Mieville is also good for that sort of skepticism.

    Stardust by Neil Gaiman . . . though that's not really so much urban as period-urban. 1800s-style.

    Imajica by Clive Barker.

    If I think of more, I'll post them. Hope this helps, though. These books have the protagonists as skeptical, more or less, and are a fun read along the way.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW Charging Boar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeteMC View Post
    Have you read Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" or "Neverwhere"? I'm struggling to grasp exactly what you're after but I think these probably fit the bill.
    I would not count American Gods as a model for what the OP is looking for. The book is amazing, no question about that, but Shadow accepts the world he was thrown into in a way no other character can do. He just instantly agreed to it all and was only thrown off by the leprechaun creating a gold coin out of thin air (even with far more amazing things occurring).

    If you read that book OP, keep in mind that your character will almost certainly not act like the MC in that book did (but it is an amazing book and well worth a read).

  21. #21
    Grumpy Editor TheGreySentinel's Avatar
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    While technically YA Urban Fantasy, consider Valiant, Tithe, and Ironside by Holly Black. The main characters of both Valiant and Tithe start out rather skeptical and end up immersed in a world they struggle to comprehend.

    Also, consider "The Dresden Files". While the main character is extremely well versed in his world there are many, many side characters who struggle with the reality of what they face, and Jim Butcher does a wonderful job illuminating their internal warfare.

    I agree that "American Gods" and "Neverwhere" are also wonderful choices for representing this "normal person thrown into a world of magic" theme you are trying to capture.

  22. #22
    Grumpy Editor TheGreySentinel's Avatar
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    **I somehow double posted. I apologize. My internet sometimes hiccups. ** Please delete this.
    Last edited by TheGreySentinel; 12-15-2013 at 02:04 PM. Reason: Double post.

  23. #23
    Overwriting Telergic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpspell View Post
    The MC in my manuscript has a really hard time accepting things she can't explain like ghosts, psychics, magical powers, etc. It takes her a long time to figure it out and come to terms with it.
    If you don't mind let me first point out a pitfall here that is a peeve for me. It's great to have a skeptical character. But there's a difference between skepticism and cluelessness that for some reason many writers seem not to comprehend. There are characters who have somehow lived their entire lives without any exposure whatsoever to fantastic fiction, including fairy tales, mythology, and sci-fi movies, and so the characters remain obstinately stupid rather than skeptical through most of the book.

    Moreover, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of the bizarre, supernatural, or paranatural or whatever, it's unreasonable to remain defiantly obdurate as regarding the reality of the phenomena. The character certainly doesn't have to buy the "obvious" or traditional explanation for ghosts, vampires, or aliens, or whatever, but at least they should acknowledge that something strange is going on.

    I am blanking on good modern examples for some reason, but some fun older books that come to mind dealing with this issue are Darker than you Think by Jack Williamson and The Magicians by James Gunn. In both these the main character is a skeptic who gets caught up in fantastic events and comes to terms with the phenomena after initially rejecting the idea.

  24. #24
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin daytonj's Avatar
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    The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel start off with the 2 young MC not believing in the world and as it goes they struggle with the implications of the world they are thrust into. UF is a new and confusing genre, but I would put this into this realm and it involves many Pantheons and thoughts on unknown.
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  25. #25
    I write weird stories. phantasy's Avatar
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    Try Vicious by V.E. Scwab. Lots of suspense and cool characters.

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