Once Upon A Winter's Eve by Tessa Dare
Genre: Regency romance
I love Tessa Dare, and I like the background premise of the Spindle Cove books. Spindle Cove is basically a retreat for young ladies in Regency England whose parents have decided they aren't quite normal - they're more interested in reading or geology than in needlework and dancing, or maybe they got caught up in scandal and need to disappear until the gossip dies down. [Un]fortunately, a garrison's just been stationed at the once-abandoned castle at Spindle Cove, and the regiment has a number of good-looking young men from appropriate (and not-so-appropriate) backgrounds. Interesting women and hot guys in uniform; what's not to like?
For Tessa Dare's titles that blew me away, I recommend the first books in her other two trilogies, Goddess of the Hunt and One Dance with a Duke.
The Flinch by Julien Smith
No idea how to categorize this book. "Self-examination" doesn't quite cover it, but neither does anything else I can think of.
Published by The Domino Project, here's their description:
The idea is simple: your flinch mechanism can save your life. It shortcircuits the conscious mind and allows you to pull back and avoid danger faster than you can even imagine it’s there.
But what if danger is exactly what you need?
The basic gist is that what's stopping you from achieving more isn't know-how; it's pain-avoidance. The instincts humans developed to keep from being eaten by velociraptors (just kidding!) are now keeping us from public speaking and joining gyms and taking other uncomfortable risks that could vastly improve our lives.
So far, the book assumes you've only got first world problems, but considering it's e-book only, that's not an unreasonable assumption about its readership. The Flinch is free, and so far, worth reading.
Witch by Marie Brennan
I'm as impressed with it as I was with Warrior. One of the fascinating concepts in these books is the idea of meeting yourself as the product of a different upbringing. A twin, no matter how similar, is a completely different person. A clone is exactly the same person with the same memories. This is different. What would it be like to have grown up as, say, a street urchin, and then met your other self who spent her life at elite schools? You'd understand your other self well enough to know what you would or wouldn't do in certain circumstances, and yet you don't know what has shaped the other you, and so can't actually predict which one of a few likely choices the other you would make. What would it be like, arguing with someone who understands you perfectly and vice versa, but doesn't actually know you?
Something else I love is that there's no romance element. There might be one later, but not so far. I don't mind romance at all, as evidenced by my love of Tessa Dare and other romance writers, but I've heard disturbing stories of female authors being pushed by agents/editors to include strong romance elements in any book with a female protagonist. The existence of Warrior and Witch means someone recognized great storytelling on its own, without trying to shape it to their idea of what the market wants. The market wants everything!
There's so much more I like about the Doppelganger books. Lots of unlikely choices and impossible situations for the characters. The religious and philosophical details of the politics they're dealing with. And the Hunters - I would happily read a hundred stories set in the Hunter schools. Love that concept.
I like how these books deal with devastating news, too - Mirei's life has been upended, and then she finds out that the only people she can trust without reservation are lost to her. They're both alive, but unavailable in any way that counts - no conveniently-plotted deaths here. No wiping out entire families or villages, only for everyone to move on emotionally unscathed. I mentioned this about Warrior, but I REALLY appreciate that Marie Brennan doesn't write easy deaths. The body count in fiction has been steadily rising IMO (even if you don't count "armies-of-thousands" deaths typical of epic fantasy, which is a whole other issue). I'm far more interested in having a wide variety of books available than in having my personal tastes indulged, but I'm really happy with agents/editors who market fantasy books not dripping with blood. In fact, I'm still waiting for high fantasy where no one dies. :)