Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Year In Review: The Best Reads

Pouring over my spreadsheet to glean titles for my Best Reads of 2010 list, I concentrated on those titles I graded a B+ or higher.  Even then though, I haven't included all my B+ reads.  I've relegated this list to those titles that jumped out at me when preparing for this blog post.  The books that had a "lasting effect" as it were.  Hey, I read a lot of really good books this year, but staying power is the X factor.  The wild card, if you will.  So here, without further ado, are the books that stuck to me like glue in 2010.....

(Title links will take you to full-length reviews)
  • Oh-So-Sensible Secretary and Juggling Briefcase & Baby by Jessica Hart - contemporary series romance, Harlequin Romance line.  These books are connected by heroes that are brothers, but they couldn't be more different as characters.  OsSS's hero is laid-back while JB&B's is a driven workaholic.  Hart has a writing style and voice that just seems to click with me.  I also think she's quite skilled at what I call "gut-punch" moments.  Both of these knocked the wind right out of me, and in the case of JB&B it elevated the book for me. 
  • Surrender to a Irish Warrior by Michelle Willingham - historical medieval romance, Harlequin Historical line.  I've read several books by Willingham and have enjoyed them to varying degrees.  This last book in her MacEgan brothers series (yes, it does stand alone - says me) is a departure for her thanks to the Holy Angst Ahoy Batman! storyline.  It's the kind of book that sucks the light right out of the room as you're reading.  It's dark, it's heavy, and in the end it makes the happy ending that much more uplifting.  If you're an angst junkie, dig this one up pronto.  Says me.
  • Scoundrel's Kiss and Song of Seduction by Carrie Lofty - historical medieval romance, Kensington Zebra and historical Regency era Austria romance, Carina Press (Harlequin).  Lofty hit two homeruns in one year.  SK featured a deeply wounded hero, so determined to repent for his past that he wants to become a monk.  Her heroine is a opium-addicted not-so-nice girl who played a slightly villainous roll in a previous story.  SoS was a bit of a slow starter for me, but oh how I loved the passion in this book!  You'd think passion would abound in the romance genre, but it doesn't always, and Lofty writes this romance in a such a way that your heart aches.  I also really appreciated the historical feel of this story - having her widowed heroine behave and worry about things that one could imagine 19th century proper ladies worried about.
  • Irish Warrior by Kris Kennedy - historical medieval romance, Kensington Zebra.  I originally graded this one a B, but looking back, it so should have been a B+.  A great road romance with a sweeping saga feel.  An Alpha warrior hero who falls hard for the heroine and will do anything to protect her.  A heroine with gumption and brains who finds her family's past coming back to haunt her.  If you like medievals, read this now.  And even if you don't normally gravitate towards the time period but are desperate for a good, meaty historical?  Yeah, look this one up.
  • Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi - historical Americana romance, Berkley Jove.  I love historical romances that feature "regular folks," so it's no surprise that this is now the third Morsi historical to land in my keeper stash.  A dreamy beta virgin hero, a heroine with a "bad" reputation, and a "scandalous" romance that defies a town full of disapproving fools.
  • "The Reluctant Hero" by Lorraine Heath (My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys anthology) - historical western romance short story, Kensington.  I'll admit that I may have graded this one higher partly on the nostalgia of Heath writing a western again (I really think she "belongs" here - don't try to convince me otherwise), but it really is a very good story.  Yes, it's a short story.  And yes, it's not going to have the same heft to it as a full-length novel.  But Heath uses this story about a dime novel writing heroine and a town sheriff to tackle the idea of "hero worship."  And in a romance novel?  I find that a very interesting theme to tackle.  Hell, as romance readers don't we all "suffer" from hero worship in one form or another?  
  • Holding Out for a Hero by HelenKay Dimon - contemporary romantic suspense, Kensington Brava.  I read a mess of books by Dimon this year, but this was the first one and dang, it knocked my socks off.  I loved the adversarial relationship between the hero and heroine.  I loved the dark (holy cow, dark!) romantic suspense platform.  I loved the sexy, sizzling banter.  This book reminded me of how great the Brava line can be when there's a good writer delivering the story.
  • Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen and The Night Season by Chelsea Cain - contemporary mystery/suspense, Ballantine and St. Martin's Minotaur.  I didn't read a lot of mystery/suspense this year (::sob::), but what I did read was really quite good.  The Gerritsen and Cain novels were the clear standouts.  Gerritsen delivers a wonderful entry to her long-running series, includes a creepy plot thread that could be straight out of a horror movie, and even wraps up some personal baggage for one of her characters.  The Cain book doesn't release until March (so yeah, review won't happen until then!), but this entry proves that the author doesn't need her female serial killer character, Gretchen Lowell, to write a compelling creepy read.
And that, as they say, is that.  If you have an exorbitant amount of time to kill, and you want to see everything (the good, the bad, the ugly), the easiest jumping off point for both Bat Cave and TGTBTU reviews would be to look back at my Month in Review posts.  Which you can do by following the tag.

Next up?  My final post on my reading year that was 2010.  A general summary, observations and final thoughts.

8 comments:

  1. I have 'Oh-So-Sensible Secretary' and 'Holding Out for a Hero' in my TBR pile.

    I need to read the third Chelsea Cain book before the fourth one comes out.

    Thanks for sharing your faves.

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  2. Surrender to a Irish Warrior sounds really good. I'm going to look that up.

    I had a ton of 4-star reviews in 2010, but hardly any 5-star reviews. I might need to work on not grading the same across the board. A lot of those 4-star books should have been in the 3-range, I think.

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  3. Thanks for the reminder about Lofty's 'Song of Seduction'. I originally wanted to buy it when it was first released and was brokenhearted when I found out it was ebook only. Now that I have a Kindle (hooray for Santa Claus!), I plan to download it very soon. I'm a major classical music buff (grew up in a family that included professional classical musicians), and that aspect of the book intrigues me greatly.

    I also need to download the Morsi novel. Just read your full review and, boy, that book sounds great!

    Looking forward to your further ruminations on 2010's reads.

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  4. Ohh, I didn't realize that the Juggling Briefcase book was the older brother! Damn LOL.

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  5. SarahT: I hope you enjoy both the Hart and Dimon as much as I did! And save that third Cain title for when you're ready for some gore. I liked it, but yeah....pretty gory. The March release is A LOT tamer on that front.

    Holly: Assuming you clicked on the title link and saw my TGTBTU review? It's a really good book, but dang....it's a dark, dark read. Lots o' angst. The back cover blurb is really vague, and having read the author before I was pretty surprised. A real departure for her.

    Marie: One of the So. Cal. Bloggers was a music major in college and really loved how Lofty handled the "music stuff" in the story. I hope it works well for you too! And the Morsi title is pretty old - 1993 - so I'm not seeing a digital copy available (although I didn't do an extensive search!). But it looks pretty easy to come by used....depending where in the world you are of course.

    Nath: I didn't realize either until I started reading the book! I just clicked "buy" because Hart has been working so well for me. I had some issues with the story (oy vei, there's a secret baby thang that just annoyed me no end) - but still, a very good read. Very emotional.

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  6. I've been struggling with what to buy - I seem to have read myself into a corner (no new to me authors etc) and have decided on all the 'dark' books you have listed.

    So definitely Surrender to an Irish Warrior, Holding Out for a Hero (I just read the first few pages thanks to Amazon's look inside feature and it's fast and snappy and looks great) and Carrie Lofty's Scoundrels Kiss.

    Just one question - I know you read all over the map from no sex to all sex. Am I missing a sensuality grade on your or Syb's site? I'm that one that needs sex in the book - close the door and I consider it women's fiction. I know, I suck ;)

    CindyS

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  7. CindyS: No, you haven't missed them....I don't do sensuality ratings. I tend to mention "heat level" when I feel like I have something to say on the subject (usually with erotica).

    Of the titles you mentioned - all of them have naughty bits. Of the three, the Dimon is definitely the hottest because....well....it's a Brava. The Willingham and and Lofty titles are probably floating around "standard romance novel heat" so PG-13ish......

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  8. Thanks Wendy - without the naughty bits I'm not reading ;) Unless it's not a romance - then I at least going in knowing there will be no sex.

    CindyS

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