Wow! The first two books I read in 2016 were so good, I need to add them to my 2015 "Favorites" list!
Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas (HarperTeen hardcover, 15 September 2015).
The cover implies that this is a pastiche of the Cinderella story, but it takes a long time before we recognize it.
The book opens with a nameless young woman has just been deposited into a row of seamstresses, bent over fine stitchwork. The girl doesn't know who she is, or how she got there. She does know that she's not a very good seamstress, and that she is in possession of a silver thimble that no one else knows about.
The seamstresses are shoeless, dressed only in coarse cotton shifts, and are fed meager rations of cold porridge. The threat of "The Godmother" discourages then to conversing, but they manage anyway, in the occasional whisper.
The girl, who has decided to call herself "Pin", resolves to escape, but how? When one of her fellow seamstresses attempted it, she met with a gruesome fate.
Then, opportunity presents itself when The Godmother tells her to act as a model for the Shoemaker, since she has such small feet. Suddenly, Pin has a reason to move around the building, and communicate with other workers.
This riveting story does begin slowly, but after the few pages, the reader is hooked. Make sure to set aside a few hours to read this; you won't want to put it down.
Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine (NAL hardcover, 7 July 2015).
Jess Brightwell is a "runner": he smuggles rare books for his wealthy father, who is ostensibly an importer. This, of course, provides a perfect cover for the illicit nature of his real line of work.
In this reality, in the year 2025, it is not allowed for individuals to own original manuscripts. All are stored in The Great Library, in Alexandria. There are other, smaller, libraries in major cities, which are allowed to store books, but they are strictly controlled.
People are allowed to read, texts are delivered to the electronic "blanks" that everyone owns, but personal ownership of physical books is forbidden.
Thus, Jess's job is very dangerous. By the time he's sixteen, he's been doing it for over half a decade, hating every minute of hit. His greatest fear is that his father will expect him, as the older son, to take over the business.
Fortunately, Brightwell père recognizes that Jess does not have a flair for the business, and arranges (at some expense) for Jess to go to Alexandria and train to work in the Library.
Since private ownership of books is not allowed, working for the Library can be a hazardous occupation, something Jess doesn't fully comprehend until he's actually settled in the students' dorm.
This was another book I wanted to read through without stopping, yet at the same time I didn't want it to end.
The second book in the series, Paper and Fire, is due in July. It's going to be a long seven months.
FTC Full Disclosure: I borrowed both these books from my local library.