RBA’s Best Reads of 2008: The Yearbook Edition (Part 2 of 4)

December 30, 2008 at 5:00 am 11 comments

Here we go with part 2 of my Best Reads of 2008! Here’s the relevant stuff I said in the Part 1 post:

  • I thought I’d have a little fun, and do this in yearbook “Superlatives” style.
  • These books weren’t necessarily published in 2008. They are books I read this year.
  • If some of my reviews sound familiar, it’s because I’ve borrowed shamelessly from my previous posts.

At this point, this week will very roughly be:

  • Part 1-Romance
  • Part 2-Speculative Fiction & M/M fiction
  • Part 3-YA & Mystery
  • Part 4-Urban Fantasy

Today is very loosely the best M/M and Speculative Fiction I read in 2008.
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Most Likely To…

Get arrested: Mildmay the Fox

handcuffs

Mélusine (Doctrine of Labyrinths, book 1) by Sarah Monette

Told in first person POV by two protagonists, this book could have been confusing. However, Sarah Monette is deft in her ability to write in 2 distinctive voices to tell this story.

Felix broke my heart. His vanity and vulnerability were compelling. But, I loved Mildmay, with his rough manners and street-wise demeanor hiding his hunger for connection.

Book Descripton at Amazon:

Mélusine—a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption, and destinies lost and found… 

Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But the horrors of his past as an abused slave have returned, and threaten to destroy all he has since become. 

As a cat burglar, Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. But now he has been caught by a wizard. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay, but for Felix Harrowgate… 

Thrown together by fate, these unlikely allies will uncover a shocking secret that will link them inexorably together. 

Melusine by Sarah Monette

Felix, a court magician, and Mildmay, a thief and assasin, both reside in the dark, magical city of Mélusine, yet their lives are worlds apart.  Mildmay’s voice, is full of slang and bravado, and reflects a man used to living by his wits, attitude, and sometimes his knife.

Felix is beautiful, vain, and vulnerable. Nearly destroyed by another magician (in a horrifying magical and physical rape—be warned), he is on the brink of madness and needs to clear himself of the other magician’s crimes. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, waiting for the moment when Felix and Mildmay finally come together on the same page.

The chemistry between them and what they discover in their effort to cure Felix’s madness and clear his name kept me turning pages, until the very last one. The world Ms Monette creates is complex and captivating. This is book one of a four book series. The last book in the series, Corambis will be released in April 2009.

  • Sarah Monette’s site.
  • Mélusine excerpt at Amazon.

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Most Likely To…

Use Excessive Force: Jake Riordan

The Adrien English series by Josh Lanyonpasadena-police-badge1

Why is that song “Hurts So Good” all of a sudden running thru my head? (OK, I’m dating myself now.)

Here is the Fatal Shadows (book 1) description:

Someone’s out to get Los Angeles bookseller Adrien English. His best friend has been viciously murdered, now he’s getting weird phone calls and sinister gifts from a mysterious “admirer.” The cops think he’s trying to divert suspicion from himself-with the exception of sexy and homophobic homicide detective Jake Riordan. Is Riordan really such a great detective—or does he have a few secrets of his own? Is his offer to help Adrien on the level or is he out to nail his favorite suspect—to the wall?

Fatal Shadows by Josh LanyonI loved the noir feel to these books. It would have been just a easy to imagine this book taking place in the 40’s, given the tone and pacing. Adrien is very much that self-contained noir protagonist. Not a “tough guy”, so much as a man who, while in the midst of his family (loved Lisa, his mom!), friends, writer’s group, and customers, is very alone (and sometimes lonely.) There is a lot of dark/light imagery both in the setting (a lot of book 1’s action takes place at night, in the shadows) and in the characters, especially with Jake Riordan, the homicide detective investigating the death of Adrien’s childhood friend.

Ah, Jake. Underneath his blonde good-looks lurks much darkness and self-loathing. Yet somehow, Mr Lanyon is able to write in Jake an element of vulnerability that makes him a compelling, conflicted character. Eventhough Adrien (who doesn’t need more drama in his life) should run, screaming away from Jake, and the baggage carries around with him, it’s understandable why Adrien is drawn to him. There is much UST (unresolved sexual tension) in book 1 between these guys that makes for great reading.

The entire series is awesome, and each book is not only a satisfying mystery, but also shows the progression of the fascinating relationship between Adrien and Jake.

  • Josh Lanyon’s website and blog.
  • Adrien English series on author’s site.
  • Fatal Shadows excerpt on author’s site.

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Best Dancers…

Captain Nate Hawkins and Prince Aiden Townsend

shall-we-dance

My Fair Captain by JL Langley

The ballroom scene? ‘Nuff said.

OK, well, I guess I should say something else. <g>

This is a M/M regency/erotic/space romance. (Whew!) From the outset, JLL deftly builds this world, the characters, and the romance. The chemistry between Nate and Aiden is palpable from their first meeting and grows in intensity.

Aiden is so completely endearing, and Nate is very much the dashing military officer.

Here is the book description:

Talk about a compromising situation!

A storm of political intrigue, murderous mayhem and sexual hungers is brewing on planet Regelence.

Swarthy Intergalactic Navy Captain Nathaniel Hawkins ran from a past he had no intention of ever reliving. But when his Admiral asks him to use his peerage, as an earl and the heir to a dukedom, to investigate a missing weapons stash, he’s forced to do just that. As if being undercover on a Regency planet where the young men are supposed to remain pure until marriage isn’t bad enough, Nate finds himself attracted to the king’s unmarried son.

All Prince Aiden Townsend has ever wanted was to be an artist. He has no interest in a marriage of political fortune or becoming a societal paragon. Until he lands in the arms of the mysterious Earl of Deverell. One look at Nate’s handsome face has Aiden reconsidering his future. Not only does Nate make a virile subject for Aiden’s art, but the great war hero awakens feelings in Aiden he has never felt, feelings he can’t ignore.

After a momentous dance at a season ball, Aiden and Nate find themselves exchanging important information and working closely together. They have to fight their growing attraction long enough to find out who stole the weapons and keep themselves from a compromising situation and certain scandal.

My Fair Captain by JL Langley JLL is able to create characters that I find myself thinking about long after I’ve finished her books. They have a combination of strength of character and vulnerability that I find irresistible. Also, her books are very sexy. She really knows how to write sexual tension.

MFC is the first in JLL’s Space Regency series. The Englor Affair came out late this year. Other books by JLL that I highly recommend are The Tin Star (The Ranch series, book 1) and With Caution (With or Without series.)

  • JL Langley’s website.
  • My Fair Captain description on author’s site.
  • My Fair Captain excerpt on publisher’s site. This is actually part of the ballroom scene I mentioned!

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Most Likely To…

Make you question gender roles: Jerin Whistler

male-female-symbol

A Brother’s Price by Wen Spencer

I love it when a book makes me question my preconceived expectations. This one does it in spades. More often, a novel that messes with gender roles (at least among the books I’ve seen) will be an M/M romance. However, A Brother’s Price IS a traditional M/F spec fiction/romance.

Beauty, dress, gender roles are all made to stand on their head in this story. Everytime I thought I was in the groove with this society’s topsy-turvy set-up, I would be surprised again. Another thing that made this book a stand-out for me was that even with all this shifting around, the story was a strong tale in it’s own right.

Description from author’s site:

On an alternate Earth, where the population is ninety percent female and a man is sold by his sisters to marry all the women in a family, Jerin Whistler is coming of age. His mothers are respected landed gentry, his grandfather a kidnapped prince, and his grandmothers common line soldiers blackballed for treason, trained by thieves, re-enlisted as spies, and knighted for acts of valor. Jerin wants to marry well, and his sisters want a husband bought by his brother’s price.

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer I love Jerin’s forthright manner and nurturing character. While stifled by his sister’s expectations of him, he still is loving and caring to the younger siblings he is raising.

This is a book I would think about while doing other things. I’d wonder what Jerin would do in a given situation, or replay scenes in my head that I had read earlier. To me, this is a sign that a book is out of the ordinary.

I really wish that WS would write another book in this world, either continuing to follow Jerin, or focusing on another protagonist. During Nath’s Books, Books, and More Books 2009 Reread challenge, this book is definitely going to be on my list!

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Most Likely To…

Run with the wolves: Isolfr

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A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

This is one of the most original stories I read all year.

The world presented was one that harkened to Norse mythology and culture. Trolls, wyverns, threaten village-folk. Wolfcarls, men who are bonded to wolves, protect humans from these fantastic creatures.

The wolfcarls live with their wolves according to a pack culture, in male-only enclaves called wolfhealls.

Here is the description from the publisher’s site:

A Companion to Wolves is the story of a young nobleman, Isolfr, who is chosen to become a wolfcarl — a warrior who is bonded to a fighting wolf. Isolfr is deeply drawn to the wolves, and though as his father’s heir he can refuse the call, he chooses to go. 

The people of this wintry land depend on the wolfcarls to protect them from the threat of trolls and wyverns, though the supernatural creatures have not come in force for many years. Men are growing too confident. The wolfhealls are small, and the lords give them less respect than in former years.  But the winter of Isolfr’s bonding, the trolls come down from the north in far greater numbers than before, and the holding’s complaisance gives way to terror in the dark. 

Isolfr, now bonded to a queen wolf, Viradechtis, must learn where his honor lies, and discover the lengths to which he will to go when it, and love for his wolf, drive him.

A Companion to Wolves by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah MonetteI loved following Isolfr’s journey from a sheltered, privileged young man, to a warrior and leader in the wolfheall. It is not an easy path, and some of the wolfheall’s practices make for uncomfortable reading. However, the violence (which is sometimes sexual in nature) never feels gratuitous. Rather, it serves to unflinchingly mimic the wolf pack culture.

Another interesting aspect in ACtW is the fluidity of sexual orientation. Isolfr, and some other wolfcarls are heterosexual, yet within the wolfheall are in committed consensual same-sex relationships that mimic those of their wolves.

I would love for there to be another book in this world. The book is self-contained, but there are so many fascinating adventures that I can envision for Isolfr. Unfortunately, Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear each have their own individual successful writing carrers, and at this time no future books are planned in this engrossing world.

  • Sarah Monette’s site.
  • Elizabeth Bear’s site.
  • A Companion to Wolves excerpt at publisher’s site.

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Cutest Couple…

Will Lawrence and (the dragon) Temeraire

prom-costume-couple

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

And, no, I don’t mean like THAT.

Though some books do do the whole cross-species secks, this is not one of them. (Thank God! Human/Dragon relations sound awkward and painful.)

However, the relationship that grows between Will and Temeraire over the course of the series is beautiful in how it develops. They are truly each other’s Significant Other, in an emotional sense though not a romantic one. There is a reunion scene in one of the books that is worthy of slow-motion/split perspective camera work as they run toward each other in joy. Man. I love these characters!

Here is the book description for His Majesty’s Dragon, book 1 in the series:

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik I love historical novels, and this one is such a great blend of history and fantasy. NN has been so successful in incorporating the dragons, yet keeping Will really grounded in the time period.

Will is an honorable gentleman of his time. Being thrust into the unruly world of the Aerial Corps shakes his perceptions: of society —he is an aristocratic younger son; social mores —there are women aerial captains, marriage isn’t a prerequisite for having children among the corps, sexual relationships can be casual; and his government —political decisions are often made for expediency’s sake rather than for Britain’s best interests.

Something else that is really intriguing about this series is that the books’ action often occurs in places and among cultures not often explored in mainstream historical novels: China, the Ottoman Empire, Prussia, and Africa.

Another awesome thing about this series is that it has been optioned by Peter Jackson to (hopefully, eventually) be made into a movie!

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Stay tuned for Part 3 of RBA’s Best Reads of 2008, coming soon! It will be (more or less) the YA and Mystery edition.

Entry filed under: Best of 2008, Fantasy Romance, Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Speculative Fiction M/M. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

RBA’s Best Reads of 2008: The Yearbook Edition (Part 1 of 4) RBA’s Best Reads of 2008: The Yearbook Edition (Part 3 of 4)

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Vintage pin-up girl reading
Urban Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, Mystery, M/M, Fantasy, Speculative Fiction, audiobooks, it just goes on and on...
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