Talk about getting it in at the last minute! I couldn’t go into 2016 knowing that I’d internally squeed about books and hadn’t shared that squee with the world. Here are some of the books that made me happy to be a reader in the last two months of 2015.
A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
This novella is listed as book 2 in this duo’s Fly Me to the Moon series about the space race of the 1960s, but it’s a prequel set in 1948. As an admiral’s daughter, Frances Dumfries is used to being pursued by midshipmen, all of them more interested in getting in with her father and advancing their careers. Too bad for those midshipmen that, since her mother’s passing, Frances is also used to taking on all the duties of a Navy wife, and she’d decided it’s not what she wants for the rest of her life. Joe Reynolds is a Navy man, but a romantic at heart. When he falls for Frances, it’s love at first sight. The conflict in this book is rich and believable, and the writing. Guys. It’s SO GOOD. I got angry several times as I was reading because the prose was so damned good. You know what I mean. When you’re reading something so freaking good that you just keep thinking “HOW DARE YOU? How dare you be this good?!” I highly recommend this, and it’s free. FREE. Get on this. Also, sweetest epilogue I’ve ever read. (If you follow me on Twitter, this is what I was reading when my cat dropped a dismembered lizard at my feet.)
The Warlord and the Nightingale: A Steampunk Fairytale by Jeannie Lin
This excellent novella is a great entry point into Lin’s steampunk series, the Gunpowder Chronicles. Although it’s short, it has all the hallmarks of a great Lin book: longing so intense it jumps out of your ereader, beautifully detailed descriptions of the historical setting (19th century alternate history Japan), political intrigue, and richly drawn heroes and heroines. Hanzo is a master karakuri puppet maker. These puppets are more than marionettes though: they’re automatons. After his master’s death, he’s bought to the grounds of a rich and powerful warlord where he falls for the warlord’s “nightingale,” Lady Yura, who must sing away the warlord’s fears. I loved the setting and Lin’s creative and original take on the subgenre. Read it!
Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
This book kicks off another Courtney Milan series, and one I anticipate will be her best yet. Judith Worth lives a life that could be quite worse, but since she has lived one that was quite better, she knows the difference. A former member of the aristocracy, she is now the sole guardian of her younger sister and brother after a family scandal resulted in the humiliation and death of her father and beloved older brother. When a mystery threatens to upend the scraps of a life Judith has made for herself and her siblings, she’d forced to turn to Christian Trent, the marquess of Ashford. He was once the love of her life, before he became the man that led to her family’s downfall. This is a layered second chance romance, and an utterly original take on the British historical romance—along with the love story, Milan ties in a take on the British empire and just how all of those dukes and earls pay for their lifestyle. I loved it and can’t wait for the next installment.
Genius Volume 1 by Adam Freedman, Marc Bernadin, and Afua Richardson
The concept of this book is brilliant: what if the the greatest military mind of our generation was born into an impoverished community? What if, despite having everything set against her, she realizes the power of her strategizing abilities and harnesses them to use against her people’s greatest enemy? What happens when your greatest enemies are those sworn to serve and protect? In addition to the fascinating and timely subject matter, the art is AMAZING. Afua Richardson is one of the most talented comic artists on the scene today.
Monstress #1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana takeda
The first issue of this new comic series was beautiful and intense. Monstress is described as a mix of “steampunk and kaiju,”but it’s also high fantasy: war between races, magic, talking animals, and monsters. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will give a trigger warning that although this is fantasy the cruelty of war is depicted unflinchingly. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series!