Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Top Ten Reads of 2010 (So Far)

We are officially halfway through the year, and I always take stock of the year’s reading at this point. I’ve read 137 books so far; a couple of dozen of them were rereads of old favorites, including some new reissues like Jo Beverley’s The Stanforth Secrets and Loretta Chase’s “The Mad Earl’s Bride,” and another dozen or so were literary fiction titles with a sprinkling of non-fiction. But most of my reading in 2010 has consisted of books published this year—heavy on romance with some women’s fiction and mysteries for variety. The first half of the year has been generous in providing reading pleasure. A fair number of the books I’ve read have been added to my keeper shelves, and many more have made me laugh or cry, wonder or remember, and sometimes all of the above. But even among favorite reads, there are those that stand out.

These are the ten that are my top reads of the year so far (in alphabetical order by author):

1. A Matter of Class, Mary Balogh
I admit to complaining about this one. I winced at the price, particularly given the length of the book—somewhere between a novella and a novel. But I’ve been a Mary Balogh fan since her first book; only Nora Roberts accounts for more of my keepers. So I bought it, and I loved it. I loved Reginald and Annabelle, I loved the “matter of class,” I loved the twist (which I figured out quite early), and I loved the sweetness of this most satisfying story.

2. What the Librarian Did, Karina Bliss
This was my first Karina Bliss book, and it is a gem. How often do you find a book that pairs a reformed druggie rock star with a librarian hooked on vintage clothes? WTLD is sweet and sexy and funny and poignant, and it shows how terrific a category read can be at its best.

3. The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne
This is a story about love and trust, about large events that make up the histories of nations and small moments that make up the lives of individuals. The characters are complex and compelling, the story so engaging that it doesn’t seem to end but just moves from the page to the reader’s memory, and the prose so lucid and simple that it set me to paring my own. Joanna Bourne has the gift of creating stories that appeal to the reader’s head and heart. I loved Maggie and Doyle's story, and I’m already impatiently waiting for Bourne's next book.

4. The Goddess of Fried Okra, Jean Brashears
I reviewed Goddess in April, and I’ve already revisited this book. It's one of those books that lingers in the memory, its characters popping up unexpectedly like old friends you haven't seen in a while. It has many champions. Eloisa James praised it in one of her columns for B&N. All I can add is that if you haven’t read this book yet, you are missing a rare treat.

5. Something About You, Julie James
Contemporaries where both the H/H act like adults with brains and hearts as well as sex organs are not exactly common, but these are the kind of books that Julie James writes. I think SAY is her best yet. Jack and Cameron are appealing as individuals and as a couple. The dialogue is great, the danger is credible, and the sexual tension is superbly done. (There’s a motorcycle scene that I’ve studied a dozen times to see how JJ accomplishes this.) It's a terrific book--romantic comedy at its best.

6. Marrying the Royal Marine, Carla Kelly
I continue to be amazed that every book Carla Kelly writes is not on bestseller lists. I’d especially like to see those who complain that romance writers are incapable of writing realistic tales read Kelly. Marrying the Royal Marine is the third of her books about the illegitimate daughters of a villainous aristocrat. Kelly again writes about ordinary people who have extraordinary heart and courage. She writes about war and makes the suffering of the innocent, the humanity of the enemy, and the brutality of “our” side painfully real. Practical Polly Brandon, clear-sighted though spectacled, and her Scotsman with a French name, the decent and honorable Hugh Junot, join a long list of unforgettable Kelly characters. For me, the name Carla Kelly is synonymous with keeper.

7. The Irish Warrior, Kris Kennedy
I used to say I almost never read medieval romances. Kris Kennedy is changing my reading pattern. I loved The Conqueror last year, and The Irish Warrior is even better. I found the dye-witch tale intriguing, and while Senna is a wonderful heroine, it is Finian, with his strength, honor, passion, and humor, who catapults this book over others I also loved to place TIW among my top ten.

8. Song of Seduction, Carrie Lofty
Sometimes I just want to read something totally different from my usual choices, and Song of Seduction certainly meets this criterion. Set in Salzburg in 1804, featuring a pair of musicians as H/H, flawed characters with scars and secrets, with sex scenes that merit the hot label various reviewers have assigned but that nevertheless are part of a gradually developing, complex relationship, SOS is unique. It’s one of Carina Press’s first releases, and if it’s indicative of the quality of romances, CP will be releasing, they can count me among their readers.

9. Seven Secrets of Seduction, Anne Mallory
I’ve enjoyed Anne Mallory’s other books, but Seven Secrets of Seduction is the first one that made me understand why some of my friends are Mallory fanatics. Even though the book-loving heroine is common in romance, Miranda herself is uncommon in her character and in her experience. Max is a dangerous hero, and he challenges the reader as effectively as he challenges Miranda. I don’t want to wander into spoiler territory, so I’ll just say,"Read this one." I think you’ll understand those Mallory fanatics too.

10. Ten Things I Love About You, Julia Quinn
I’m an unabashed fan of all books by Julia Quinn. I buy them to be entertained, to laugh, to have my heart touched by the humanness of her characters. While I certainly have my favorites among her books, she never fails to provide exactly what I spent my money expecting. Quite often she offers more. TTILAY was no exception. I fell in love with Sebastian Grey in What Happened in London when he read from a Gothic romance. Seeing him as the author of that romance, as a soldier affected by war, as a man who falls in love deeply and unexpectedly just added to his appeal. Annabel, the Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind, almost deserves him. And in Annabel’s grandmother, Lady Vickers, JQ has created a scene stealer to rival Lady Danbury from the Bridgerton books. A fun read that tugs at the heart as effectively as it tickles the funny bone.

By December, this list may change. In fact I just recently read a July release that will definitely enter my top ten. But whether these books stay in my top ten or not, they are all keepers. Each one gave me much reading pleasure, and I know I’ll be rereading them all. They are all winners.

What are your top reads for the first six months of 2010? Have you read any on my list?


Deb said...

Janga, I would have to say that most of my top reads have been newer books from the last few months. *Definitely, JQ's TEN THINGS; it was like the "old" JQ stories: fun, light, and romantic.
*Tessa Dare's new series is on the list, too.
*Sara Lindsey's TEMPTING THE MARQUIS and her first book PMT. She's now an auto-buy for me. Loved 'em both.
*Sarah MacLean's NINE RULES; this debut novel was great and she is also now another auto-buy.

Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...

Deb, I agree that Tessa Dare's Stud Club books are wonderful, and I too love Sara Lindsey's Westons. I could also rave about Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe's Mistress by Mistake and Tempting Eden, Courtney Milan's debut novel, Proof by Seduction, and Vanessa Kelly's Sex and the Single Earl. But if I'd included books I love written by friends who kept me hoarse from celebratory squees through the first six months of this year, I wouldn't have had room to rave about books by other people. Maybe I should do a separate blog--Books That I'd Rave About Even If They Weren't Written by My Friends. :)

TerriOsburn said...

You know I'm not one for lists and right now, I'm not even one for reading much. But you make all these books sound so good. And I haven't read any of them! It is official, my life it completely out of control.

How did I miss ALL of these?! May print this off and post on my fridge so after the move is done and settled, this will be my reward/sanity returning list.

Manda Collins said...

I'm happy to say I've got a few of these on my TBR and I'll be adding others after reading your great mini-reviews. I've only read one of these, though, and that was Julia Quinn's TEN THINGS, which I loved.

My pocketbook doesn't thank you, but my inner reader does!

MsHellion said...

I've read a couple on your list, but they don't make my top 10.

One Dance With a Duke
Twice Tempted by a Rogue
Barely a Lady (Eileen Dreyer! So good, so tragic her next book isn't out until August 2011!)
Nine Rules (this has been said, but I agree!)

That's all I'm remembering right now. The last LK book I read doesn't make my list either. Sorry!

Elyssa Papa said...

Such a great list, Janga! I LOVED What the Librarian Did. That was such a fabulous, emotional book. I look forward to future Bliss books---and I really wanted Xander's story. I think Manda does, too. ;)

Janga said...

Terri, I don't see how you find time to breathe with all you have on your plate these days. But when the move is complete, the last box unpacked, and the revisions finished, you can indulge in some reading time. I hope you'll include these in your reading. Of course, by that time, I'll have another list. LOL!

Janga said...

Manda, you forgot WHAT THE LIBRARIAN DID. I read that one on your and Ely's recommendations. :-)

My pocketbook sympathizes with yours. It's still groaning from all the July purchases--and I still have more to search and buy. And four family birthdays this month too. Ouch!

Janga said...

Now we all want to know which Kleypas book was the last you read, Hellie. I loved Twice Tempted by a Duke. Meredith may be my favorite Tessa Dare heroine. And I envy you for having read Barely a Lady. I've been a Kathleen Korbel/Eileen Dreyer fan for ages, and I have searched locally for BAL. No luck so far.

Janga said...

Thanks, Ely! I'd love to read Xander's story too. Meanwhile, Bliss has a Christmas novella due out in November that I'm looking forward to. She describes it on her website as "Single mom versus single-minded Grinch." Doesn't that sound like fun? You know I'm a nut about Christmas stories.

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - At that point, I think I'm going to start with that Meg Benjamin. Sounds right up my alley.

Keira Soleore said...

Janga, from your list, I've read the Karina Bliss and Julie James. I'm waiting to get the JQ, Joanna Bourne, and Kris Kennedy at RWA. I've dithered at the Balogh, though now, I'm going to go for it.

Some of my memorable reads of 2010 were:
"Welcome to Harmony" by Jodi Thomas
"Countess of Scandal" by Laurel McKee
"To Sin With A Scoundrel" by Cara Elliott
"Delcroix Academy, Book One" by Inara Scott
"The Golden Season" by Connie Brockway
"Pieces of Sky" by Kaki Warner

I've done a lot of re-reads this year. Not sure if Warner strictly counts in the 2010 list.

Also, I'm the only person standing who did not like the Karina Bliss.

quantum said...

I have read Balogh's 'Matter of class' and liked it but didn't rate it among her best.

My two favorite reads from 2010 would be 'Undomestic Goddess' by Sophie Kinsella (recently recommended here by Helli), and 'Phantom Waltz' by Catherine Anderson (also recommended here). The former made me laugh uncontrollably at times and the latter touched heart strings that I didn't know I possessed!

Later this month I am intending to start the 'Virgin River' series by Robyn Carr (as recommended here!) and continue with books by Catherine Anderson and Cathy Maxwell, but looking out for new excitements as reported in these splendid blogs. *happy smile*

Janga said...

Terri, I loved Venus in Blue Jeans! I think you will too.

I want to read the other two books, and I think there will be a fourth. Meg Benjamin is a new favorite author for me.

Janga said...

Keira, I thought Welcome to Harmony was marvelous. I reviewed it for The Romance Dish, and gave it an A. It was thisclose to making my top ten. Both the Warner books are on my TBR shelf.

As for the Bliss, I'm sure you're not the only one who is less enthusiastic about it. I know many people who are just not category fans. The great thing about romance fiction is that the variety is great enough for us all to find lots of books we love.

Janga said...

Q, you're home! Did you and Mrs. Q have a great time on vacation?

You know, I haven't though about where A Matter of Class would rank among my favorite Baloghs. Certainly below Lord Carew's Bride and The Famous Heroine.

You know Robyn Carr is another favorite of mine. I'll be interested in hearing what you think of her Virgin River books.

irisheyes said...

I've read half of your entries, Janga, and am anxious to get my hands on a few of the others on your list. Carrie Lofty's Song of Seduction looks good, as does The Forbidden Rose by JB and The Irish Warrior by KK. Funny as it seems I haven't been able to get into a medieval in quite a while. I remember trying to talk you into Madeline Hunter and Jo Beverley's medievals for the longest time and now I seem to have fallen away from that genre.

I'm right there with you on A Matter of Class and Marrying the Royal Marine. I've been a Mary Balogh fangirl for years and my enthusiasm for Carla Kelly is growing by leaps and bounds!

I just started Julie James' Something About You yesterday, am only 2 pages (2 pages!!) in and can't wait to get back to it. So I'm sure I'll be adding that one to my top ten list.

A few of my other top tens would be:
A Secret Affair by Mary Balogh
Married by Morning by LK
Love in the Afternoon by LK
Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter
Provocative in Pearls by Madeline Hunter
A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

It seems to me there has to be more but my 2010 list is shorter than I thought it would be. I've probably left some out.

MsHellion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...

Irish, as usual, we like so many of the same books. I'm happy to see you loved Carr's Summer in Sonoma. Walt may be my favorite hero of 2010. :)

The Hunter books are high on my list too. I'm really eager to read Sinful in Satin in September. Even the release date is alliterative. :)