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?