January's Monthly Recommendations topic is Best First Books in a Series. I'm not really sure what this means. Series where the first book is the best? Or series whose first book is excellent? I think I'll go with the second one. So here are some books that are excellent and are also the first book in a series, in no particular order.
Illuminae by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - This book blew my mind a little bit. I'm not a huge fan of space sci-fi, so I didn't have the bar set very high. But still, I was so impressed. The book is told in journal entries, chat scripts, government documents, etc. I flew through it. Kady and her ex-boyfriend Ezra are some of the few people who escape safely when their little, piddly planet is attacked. Then the ship they are on has a horrible plague running rampant and no one is talking. The kids hack the ship's computer to find out who knows what and what's going to happen next.
And I Darken by Kiersten White - This will come as no surprise on this list. I fell in love with this book last spring when I read it for the Sequoyah list. Lada Dragwlya is the first born child of one of the scariest lords in Wallachia. He is disappointed because she is a girl. When her little brother is born, he is small and whiny and annoying, but her father is proud. Until he sends them as collateral to the Ottoman empire. Lada spends her life being the son her father never had. She is brutal, intelligent, calculating, and hard as nails.
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron - I love this series. It is written as the journals of Jane Austen. Surprisingly, she was involved in the solving of several mysteries in various places she visited in her lifetime. Jane is written in such a way that it is easy to imagine the real Jane Austen doing these things. They make me happy.
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin - Alternate History anyone? In this book, Hitler and the Axis forces one WWII and Hitler has taken over most of Europe. Every year, he holds a motorcycle race and the winner gets to go to a big gala. Last year, a girl won, and she got to dance with Hitler. Yael was a Jewish girl in a concentration camp who was used as a guinea pig for a crazy scientist who is trying to change Jews into Arians. The end result is that Yael can change her appearance so she looks like anyone else. She decides to turn into the girl that won last year, win this year, and stab Hitler when she dances with him at the victor's ball.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - I expected this to be super light and fluffy. And it kind of was, but it wasn't as ridiculous as I expected. Rachel Chu is a girl in New York City who has a great Chinese boyfriend her mother likes. She agrees to go with him to Singapore for his cousin's wedding. What he failed to mention is that his family is rich like the Vanderbilts only more so. They belong to a society of Singapore socialites and Rachel is being judged constantly. She is ABC (American Born Chinese) and society knows nothing about her heritage. Her boyfriend seems completely oblivious to what's going on and doesn't realize what it's doing to Rachel to be constantly under a microscope.
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - Cormoran Strike is an ex-military policeman with an ex-wife and an ex-house and it looks like an ex-job soon. A secretary is sent to him by a temp agency by mistake, but he lets her stay. She turns out to be very good at private investigation, which is what Cormoran is in the business of. They make a fearsome pair to solve the mystery of the supermodel who fell from a hotel balcony. The police ruled it suicide, but her brother insists it was murder.
In The Woods by Tana French - This series is rather different. Each book has a new main character, with characters from previous novels in the background. In this one, a Dublin murder investigator is called back to his small home town to solve a murder that reminds him very much of a situation he was involved in as a kid in that same place. The inner life of the main characters make this series spectacular.
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - The Raven Cycle is a 4 book series about kids in a small town in Virginia. Blue lives there with her mom and aunts. She is the only one in her family with no clairvoyant powers. She acts as a magnifier for their powers, but has none herself. The other characters are students at the swanky private boys' boarding school in town. One of them is looking for the grave of a Welsh kind said to be buried in the area. The others are along for the ride. This book is fun and weird and funny.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman - This books is weird and cool. The characters all find themselves at a secret college of magic in upstate New York. Quentin Coldwater believes his favorite story land is real and is determined to get back there. This book has hints of Harry Potter, Narnia, and the Catcher in the Rye.
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn - This book is super fun. It's told by the dog, Chet. It's so easy to imagine what Chet looks like to humans while he's doing his thinking. He's so doggy-like! If you ever wondered what dogs are thinking, just know they are way smarter than you think.
Whew! 10 great first books in a series! What are some that you love?