Friday, January 5, 2007

2006 In Review: The Best Of The Rest

I'm going to keep on chugging along even though my first couple of 2006 In Review posts haven't exactly been lighting the world on fire with comments. My theory? When I start talking about the duds next week all the "haters" will come out of the woodwork and say I'm nothing but a Big Fat Meanie and who do I think I am - Queen Snark?

Ever notice how nobody ever writes editorials about reader blogs when we're talking about books we loved? Anyway, on with the show.

Here is a snapshot of some of the books that fell into my "B" range. There's no scientific method here, these are merely the "B" reads I would recommend more so over the others. Click on the title to get the original blog post:

Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber (2003, women's fiction) - I avoided Macomber for a long time because I had this notion that her books were "sweet." I like sweet in historicals, but in contemporary settings (which is what Macomber writes), it's a much harder sell. Most of the time it comes off syrupy. This book is certainly sweet, but it's also very interesting. It follows the lives of three young women who decide to become nuns. It takes us through Vatican II, and ultimately what leads all of these women to leave the order. Macomber writes very good characters and it shows here.

The Horseman by Jillian Hart (Harlequin Historical 715, 2004, western) - The hero in this book just about did me in. He's perfect. So perfect I almost left The Boyfriend. Boy, I would have looked a tad foolish given that the hero in this story isn't exactly real! For those of you who think Beta heroes are wimps, read this book. If it doesn't change the way you think there's just no hope for you.

The PMS Murder by Laura Levine (2006, cozy mystery) - I love Levine's mysteries! Besides the fact that they are very funny (the heroine has a cat named Prozac), they stand alone very well. They're more like "day in the life" snapshots than a connected series. You can read book 4 before book 1 and be totally cool. Also, Levine used to write for television and it really shows in her books. I don't know how the woman does it, these books only clock in around 250 pages yet she gives multiple suspects and motives. She-it, this book featured 5 suspects and 5 different motives yet I got plenty of character development and the book didn't feel "stuffed" in the least. The only problem is I keep reading the new book in one day then have to wait a year for the next one to show up.

The Jasmine Trade and Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton (2001, 2003, mystery) - Probably my biggest discovery of the year, Hamilton has already jumped to my autobuy list. Her series follows Eve Diamond, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. The main reason I love this series so much is that Hamilton gives readers the "real" L.A. No Hollywood. No glitz. No glamour. You have crime, homeless, poverty and a large immigrant population. Oh, and she writes pretty good mystery plots too. Check 'em out.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (2006, paranormal) - Probably my biggest surprise of the year since I've never gotten the appeal of Moning's time travel romances. This book bends genres a bit, and I liked the young heroine. She was young, acted young, but wasn't too-stupid-to-live. This is not easy to do, but Moning pulls it off. While the ending doesn't really end, I liked the plot quite a bit (paranormal = scary in this instance) and believe I shall enjoy watching this young heroine grow up. Oh and did I mention that I lurve first person narrative stories. Love 'em!

Watchers In The Night by Jenna Black (2006, paranormal vampire) - Most of the commentary I've seen on this debut novel (and first in a series) is that it's been-there-done-that. Yeah, it does follow a group of vampire hunters, so what? I think what stands out the most for me was that I liked the competent heroine (a rare find in paranormals - sorry, just is these days) and an outsider hero. Lord help me, I got sucked in - and I swore off getting sucked into paranormal series a long time ago. Can't wait for book 2.

The Sex On The Beach Book Club by Jennifer Apodaca (2006, romantic mystery) - Apodaca writes "fun" books and while I love emotional angst, I love me a good beach read. This is essentially what this book is, her first romantic mystery for Brava. The heroine carried this story for me, a smart girl hiding behind a tough attitude. The hero is suitably yummy and the mystery winds and twists all the way to end. I'll admit I was a little bummed when Apodaca announced she was putting her established mystery series on hold for a bit, but this book is fun and bubbly and a nice fit on the Brava imprint.

Next up? When I get around to it (probably next week), I'll talk about the duds and disappointments.


Kristie (J) said...

Well - I can't really comment on any of the books in this post since I haven't read any of them - but I can comment in general :).
I've avoided Macomber for the same reasons. I have read a couple of them but they really aren't my cuppa although she does have an extensive backlist.
I have read Jillian Hart and I think I even have this book - but it's yet TBR.

Wendy said...

I've purposely avoided Macomber's romances because I just have this feeling they'll be too sweet for me. But her women's fiction has been working for me. I liked Changing Habits but loved Between Friends.

I've got a few more of Hart's HH titles in the TBR mountain range. These days she's mainly writing inspirationals for HQ's Steeple Hill. It's not a genre I normally seek out, but if her HH's continue to work for me I might try one....

Kristie said...

I really enjoy Laura Levine's books as well. They are funny and a great mystery. I agree with you that even if they are only 250 pages, the book does not seem to be rushed and you do get a lot of suspects.

Karen Scott said...

Ever notice how nobody ever writes editorials about reader blogs when we're talking about books we loved?

Aint that the truth!

And I can't comment on these books either cuz I've never read any of them!

ReneeW said...

I haven't any of these either but the Hart and Apodaca sound good to me. I've been trying to avoid paranormal lately but these two sound good too.

sybil said...

I adore The Horseman and most of the Jillian Hart I have read. I am so sad she is doing inspirational now.

HEY! I comment! Damn it!

lol I have noticed my good reviews get less response than bad ones as well. I have decided it is because everyone is in awe of your rec and rushing off to read and buy. So they don't have time to comment ;).

Wendy said...

To my fellow western lover Renee:
Definitely track down the Hart! The hero is too yummy for words!