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1) No picking an author solely based on one book (so no Elizabeth Fama, Sarah Beth Durst, A.C. Gaughen, etc.).
2) No picking an author who has received many, many accolades, no matter how much I'd like them to receive more (so no Robin LaFevers, Ally Carter, Elizabeth Wein, etc.).
I broke both of these rules once and still only ended up with eight authors, but taking away the rules would leave me with far too many, so eight it is.
Megan Whalen Turner. Say hello to rule breaker #1. Megan Whalen Turner is well-known and has received several awards. However, I still do not believe that she is as popular as she should be. Seriously, this woman is amazing. If I could write like ANYONE, it would be her. The fact that there are YA readers out in the world who haven't even heard of her saddens me more than I can say.
Elizabeth Gaskell. Aaaand here's rule breaker #2. I've only read one of Elizabeth Gaskell's books, though I've watched BBC miniseries of both North & South and Cranford. But let me tell you that this woman is a genius. I grew up a devoted Austenite, but for me, Gaskell BY FAR surpasses Austen. Her characters are fully realized and deep; her settings are eloquently crafted; her romances are divine. Ugh. So, so good.
Claire Legrand. I still don't understand why more people aren't talking about Claire Legrand. Her first book, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, completely blew me away. It's MG gothic horror at its finest. Her second book, The Year of Shadows, comes out in August and is equally fantastic, if not more so. I can only console myself with the belief that once you all read Shadows for yourselves, you will understand how awesome this woman's writing is.
Dee Henderson. I think Ms. Henderson is pretty well-known in the Christian fiction community, but I wish she were more widely recognized in the secular community as well. Her O'Malley series is FAB, as is her True Valor series. Hot guys, thrilling mysteries, clean romance... What else could a girl ask for? My blogger friend Ems devoted an entire month of Sundays to Ms. Henderson's work, and I strongly suggest you all check out her posts.
Rae Carson. I maaaay have broken the second rule with this one as well, though I'm not sure. I love Rae Carson, and my friends love Rae Carson, but I can't tell how much everyone else loves her, and THEY SHOULD. They so should. Her Fire & Thorns series is one of the best fantasy series in my collection. I'm waiting for a few more books to crown her officially, but right now she's up there with Pierce, Turner, and Cashore.
Gerald Morris. MG Arthurian retellings, hooray! I love Mr. Morris's Squire's Tales books. They're fun and subversive and stinkin' hilarious.
Alan Bradley. All my love and more to Flavia de Luce, the precocious, poison-loving middle-schooler charged with solving Mr. Bradley's sleepy English mysteries. The pacing is different from my normal mysteries, but the characters are so intriguing, especially razor-sharp Flavia.
Jeri Mass. This last author is responsible for one of my favorite childhood series, Derwood Inc. There are, if I remember correctly, six books in the series that follow the Derwood kids through their adventures. As members of a newly mixed family, the kids are still trying to get a feel for each other as they rocket headlong into mysteries and adventures. From adventures in a button factory, fighting neighborhood bullies, kidnappings, to intrigue at an alpaca farm, I enjoyed every second with the Derwood kids.
There you have it, my top eight! I'm sure I'll find a few more as I visit your lists; if I do, I'll add them to the bottom as an honorable mention. Have you read any of the authors I mentioned? What did you think?