The rules for this list were simple: books I read in 2016, loved like whoa or found edifying in an important way, and (most importantly) didn’t beta read or edit.

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Seraphina & Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

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61gxyvytrolThese fantasy books featuring dragons and a wonderful, diverse cast of characters, including trans and gay characters, as well as a polyamorous end-game were simply wonderful. Highly recommended. I’d love to see more in this fascinating and well-drawn universe. My top reads of the year.

 

For Darkness Shows the Stars & Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

51rhgxrrfgl 51oskrptajl These fantasy books featured post-apocalyptic reimagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Baroness Orczy and Otto Penzler’s The Scarlet Pimpernel respectively. Unique world-building with descriptions that “roll film” before your eyes, these stories were addictive, new, and yet familiar all at once. Highly recommended. I’d love to see more in this universe, especially since a few threads are left dangling at the end of the second book. 

Backwards to Oregon by Jae

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I both loved this book and found it frustrating, yet it’s making my Favorites of 2016 list. How’s that possible? I bought it expecting a lesbian Western and quickly realized that it was a trans Western more than anything else. Luke Hamilton is clearly a transman and I loved the aspect of the book that dealt with how stunted Luke’s life had to be to keep his secret. But, again, it’s advertised as a lesbian Western, and it consistently calls Luke “she” when written from Luke’s own point of view. Which, well, really made me uncomfortable. I started to replace the ‘she’ with ‘he’ in my mind just to ease the cognitive dissonance. I wish that the author would edit this book to reflect Luke as a transman, removing the female pronouns, because it was, otherwise, an excellent, well-researched, very engaging read that’d I’d highly recommend. It’s a shame that it’s so good and yet this issue makes it deeply uncomfortable at times. Or maybe that’s a good thing, too. It certainly made me think.

Rorschach Blots by RoughDraftHero

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This book is short and you can pay whatever you like for it (including nothing at all) over at Smashwords. I can’t recall what made me pick it up. It’d been in my TBR for a long time, but this year I finally got around to it. I will say that this book is pretty problematic in that it covers a teacher and student getting involved in deeply inappropriate ways. It wasn’t even wildly well-written, but, dude, it’s free-ish, so let’s get our priorities in order here. It smacked of repurposed fan fiction, but I’m down with that, and maybe it wasn’t even and it just had that feel. BUT it’s on my Favorites of 2016 list for a reason and that is the really fascinating psychological stuff going on when you’ve got a young, uneducated, fledgling dom trying to assert himself over an older, not entirely educated sub who is resisting every step of the way because, duh, he’s the dom’s teacher. I’d probably sell a kidney to see a sequel to this book, to be honest. Okay, not a kidney. But I’d make statements like, “I’d sell a kidney” and hope the author would just simply deliver for me despite no kidneys being sold. Recommended if you enjoy twisted set ups with odd pay-offs and lots of spanking.

Blue on Black by Carole Cummings

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Fantasy-Western with angry men who are desperately attracted to each other? Yes, please. Fascinating world-building with several unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming? Double heck-yeah! I’m always excited when a book surprises me, because, to be honest, it doesn’t happen a lot. So I was pleased as punch when I got to say, “Now, what? Didn’t see that coming!” while reading this book. I’m a sucker for fantasy books and this one was my cuppa all the way. Broody men with high-stakes and a mystery that kept me curious until the end. Recommended!

The Mystery of Nevermore by C.S. Poe

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I adored this mystery by C.S. Poe. It had hints of Adrien English without all the almost unbearable angst. If you enjoy acerbic characters who are sexy while solving mysteries and who just can’t keep themselves out of trouble, then you’ll enjoy this one, too. This book felt like an old friend. It has the vibe of a cozy mystery despite being set in bustling New York City. Maybe it’s because of the heaps of snow? Regardless, this is a lovely read and I recommend it.

 

Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles by Eli Easton

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I’ll just admit up front that I have a certain weakness for a younger/older book where the older character is the more flamboyant, over-the-top, dramatic one, and the younger character is steady and steadfast. This absorbing read hit that button hard and fast, and I loved it. Easily one of my all-time favorite Christmas reads, I lost track of time while reading this one and ended up staying up until 3:30 am. Not even on purpose! I was so absorbed, I didn’t even know what time it was! Highly recommended. Very cute. Loved it. Would read again.

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