Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tis the Season . . . for Book Lists

Tis the season of lists. For the grands, it’s lists for Santa. For me, it’s lists of the year’s top books.

There’s Booklist’s Top 10. I’ve only read half of these. Some of them I’d never even heard of until I saw the list. (The starred titles are the ones I’ve read.)

1. Barely a Lady.* By Eileen Dreyer.
2. The Clouds Roll Away. By Sibella Giorello.
3. Down River. By Karen Harper.
4. Last Night’s Scandal.* By Loretta Chase.
5. The Lone Texan.* By Jodi Thomas. 2009.
6. Secrets of a Scandalous Bride.* By Sophia Nash.
7. Sixteen Brides. By Stephanie Grace Whitson.
8. Steamed. By Katie MacAlister.
9. The Wicked Wyckerly.* By Patricia Rice.
10. Wolf in Tiger’s Stripes. By Victoria Gordon.

Publishers Weekly announced a Top Five. I did much better here. I’ve read three, a fourth is on my TBR shelf, and the fifth is on my TBB list.

1. The Forbidden Rose,* Joanna Bourne
2. The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook
3. The Heir, Grace Burrowes
4. Barely a Lady,* Eileen Dreyer
5. Trial by Desire,* Courtney Milan

Library Journal also has five, and I’ve read four of them.

1. Bourne, Joanna. The Forbidden Rose.*
2. Brockway, Connie. The Golden Season.*
3. Dreyer, Eileen. Barely a Lady.*
4. Kinsale, Laura. Lessons in French.*
5. McDonald, L.J. The Battle Sylph.

The Smart Bitches’ list in Kirkus Reviews is a list after my own heart. It has 21 titles on it, and they range from a book by Nora Roberts, who has been turning out winning books for more than two decades now, to the debut book of  Sarah MacLean. I’ve only read ten from the Kirkus list, but I like the idea of 21 top books. Ten is classic, but five seems rather stingy to me.

1. Last Night’s Scandal* by Loretta Chase
2. Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy
3. The Summer of You* by Kate Noble
4. Something About You* by Julie James
5. Maybe This Time* by Jennifer Crusie
6. Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey
7. Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
8. Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin
9. His at Night* by Sherry Thomas
10. Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
11. What the Librarian Did* by Karina Bliss
12. Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh
13. Scoundrel by Zoe Archer
14. All I Ever Wanted* by Kristan Higgins
15. Happy Ever After* by Nora Roberts
16. Bayou Moon by Ilona Andrews
17. The Forbidden Rose* by Joanna Bourne
18. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake* by Sarah MacLean
19. Naked Edge by Pamela Clare
20. Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
21. Seven Nights to Forever by Evangeline Collins

Amazon went for the classic ten, and I’ve read eight of them.

1. Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage* by Jennifer Ashley
2. Burning Lamp (An Arcane Society Novel)* by Amanda Quick
3. Pleasure of a Dark Prince (Immortals After Dark, Book 7) by Kresley Cole
4. Sin Undone (Demonica, Book 5) by Larissa Ione
5. Married by Morning (Hathaways, Book 4)* by Lisa Kleypas
6. A Hellion in Her Bed (Hellions of Halstead Hall)* by Sabrina Jeffries
7. Finding Perfect* by Susan Mallery
8. Burning Up* by Susan Andersen
9. The Summer Hideaway (The Lakeshore Chronicles)* by Susan Wiggs
10. Ten Things I Love About You* by Julia Quinn

The big winners are Eileen Dreyer’s Barely a Lady, which appears on the lists of Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose, which appears on the lists of Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews.

These are just the lists that have garnered the most attention. I’ve lost count of how many lists I’ve read, and I’ve lost count of the time I’ve spent considering my own top romance novels. I gave 31 romance novels an A this year (about 12 percent of those I read), a grade that for me means “This was a great read, and I know I’ll read it again.” I tried to narrow my list of A books to a top ten, but the best I could do was a top twelve. I made my task easier by eliminating all books written by my Vanette pals since I couldn’t choose among them and including them all would have left no room for other books. Some of the following you’ll recognize from other lists. Some of them others have loved less than I do. But that’s ok. This is my list. Maybe I should call it “The Romance Novels I Loved Most in 2010.”

My Top Twelve

(in alphabetical order by title)

1. The Accidental Wedding by Anne Gracie

I love romances that somehow manage to render the conventions of the genre in a fresh way, romances that move me to laughter and tears, romances that have characters I believe in and root for. TAW has all of these plus a scene inspired by Katie Melua’s “When You Taught Me How to Dance,” a song I love.

2. The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville

I loved the hero makeover, loved the book connection, loved Diana’s quirky family. In fact, I pretty much loved everything about this book. It made Miranda Neville an autobuy author for me.

3. The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

I had sworn off spy books before I read Joanna Bourne’s books. Now as soon as I finish one of her books, I’m impatient for the next one. This one may just be my favorite in the series. It’s a perfect blend of history and romance written in prose that has a glorious simplicity and lucidity.

4. The Irish Warrior by Kris Kennedy

I used to say I never read Medievals, but then I read Kris Kennedy. I think I liked TIW even better than The Conqueror. I found the legend of the dyes fascinating, and the relationship between Finian and Senna was one that had many dimensions. And Finian! Wow, what a hero!

5. A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James

A fairy tale with a feminist edge written with the usual intelligence and grace of Eloisa James, a never-fail author for me--how could this one not be on my list? The ending with the heroine’s surprising admission is one of my favorite endings ever.

6. Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase

This was one I both longed to read and feared to do so. I loved Olivia and Peregrine in Lord Perfect, and I wanted their story to fulfill all the promise of the intelligence, intrepidity, and opposition of the young characters and their relationship. It did. Chase once again proved she is a nonpareil.

7. Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly

Carla Kelly’s extraordinary ordinary characters are unique in romance fiction. Polly Brandon and Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Philippe d'Anvers Junot join a long list of unforgettable Kelly heroines and heroes whose love stories are shown developing amid the horrors and the wonders of life lived by people never found in the ballrooms and clubs of the Ton.

8. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh

Charming is the best word I can think of to describe this short romance that gives the familiar tale of marriage between the progeny of a cit and an aristocrat the most delightful twist imaginable. Reginald, the son of a coal merchant, Annabelle, the daughter of an earl, are endearing characters. Remembering their story makes me smile—and sigh.

9. Money Honey by Susan Sey

This book has a suspense plot, but it felt like a straight contemporary to me. The focus is definitely on the romance--and it's a terrific romance. Liz and Patrick have history, chemistry, and substance. And I can’t express my delight that they have a real relationship, not just lusty romps.

10. The Redemption of Tyler O’Neill by Molly O’Keefe

I chose the second book in the series, because while I loved them all, I loved one a bit more than the others. But the books in this trilogy (The Temptation of Savannah O’Neill and The Scandal and Carter O’Neill are the others) are like three acts in a single play that reveals the stories of a troubled family. O’Keefe demonstrates wonderfully just how complex and compelling a story a gifted writer can tell within category limits.

11. Something about You by Julie James

I’ve been a Julie James fan since I read her first book, but this one is my favorite. Cameron and Jack are whole characters. They have lives—jobs, friendships, backgrounds, and a history with one another that credibly complicates their relationship. And sexual tension? Whee! Julie James could write a book on what I feared was becoming a lost art.

12. What the Librarian Did by Karina Bliss

I read this story of an arrogant rock star who wears purple boots and a librarian who wears vintage clothing in one gulp and then went back and reread it. It was a delight to read, but this is not to say that it is froth. The story has significance; it also has one scene that makes my list of all-time funniest scenes. It set me on the biggest glom I’ve been on in years.

What do you think about best-of book lists? How many have you read on this years' big lists? Will an apperance on the list persuade you to try a book? What were your top romances of 2010?


Manda Collins said...

Thank you so much for bringing all of these lists together in one place. Though they only remind me how behind I am on my reading this year. There are even some auto-buy authors for me whose books I haven't managed to read yet. Horrors!

As the lists go, I am unsurprised to note that yours is the one I've read the most books from. We do have pretty similar tastes.

I am a total list junkie. I love debates about who should and shouldn't have made the list. I love seeing what other people have read and enjoyed so that I can add their choices to my reading list.

You have inspired me to cull my own list for this year.

Janga said...

Loving lists is one more thing we have in common, Manda. I owe you thanks for the What the Librarian Did recommendation. I think I've read everything she's written now and am looking forward to more. :-)

I also look forward to seeing your list. I'm betting it will have more romantic suspense titles on it than mine does.

Elyssa Papa said...

Great list, Janga. We did share a few same books on our best lists. ;) I haven't read the new Anne Gracie book--but Maggie liked it, too. I might have to check that one out.

Janga said...

Thanks, Ely. The Gracie has all the elements I love in her other books. I smiled often when I was reading it and teared up a few times too.

The Iron Duke is now on my TBR shelf, thanks in no small part to your raves. It will be my first steampunk read, I think.

Anonymous said...

I loved your list, and I can see I'm going to add a few more books to my TBR pile as a result. :) Now all I need is to find more time to read. LOL

Donna Cummings

Janga said...

Thanks, Donna. I'm always glad to add to a fellow reader's TBR stack. LOL I know what you mean about time though. If only free time were proportional to the size of my TBR collection. But you have a good reason for a sizable TBR stack, you've been doing lots of writing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for including Something About You on your list, Janga! So glad you enjoyed the book.

I just ordered What the Librarian Did based on multiple recommendations, and I can't wait to start it.


Janga said...

Thanks for dropping by, Julie. I am all eagerness to read A Lot Like Love. March, right?

And I think you'll love What the Librarian Did.

Hellie Sinclair said...

I did best at Smart Bitches where I'd read four. The rest I'd only read one or two.

And thank you for compiling the lists...I always love reading them and realizing I'm not nearly the Regency fan I like to think I am. *LOL* (And I spend a lot of time making noises and going, "I can't believe that made the list!" and then I spend a lot more time questioning what I did read this year because it now seems I read nothing all year long. *LOL* Which cannot be true.)

Though I did read the Barely a Lady one and I was glad it made several lists.

Terri Osburn said...

I'm the odd reader out here, as the anti-list person. LOL! I see from all these lists that I can barely call myself a fan of romance. Wow, it's bad. So, so bad.

I've read TWO on your list, Janga. Nothing from all the others. Well, maybe one here or there. What the heck am I doing with my free time?

Wait, free time? Hahahahahahaha....

Quantum said...

I think that scanning book lists is rather like reading theater critics. For them to be useful, you have to trust the judgment of the person/persons compiling the list. Even when objectivity is attempted by adding up votes from readers, there is no guarantee that 'The Best Novel Ever Written' will not be overlooked.

For reasons like this, I only look at the Janga romance lists, because I know from experience that they will contain much of the cream. I also try relatively unknown authors from time to time, hoping to find gems, rather as an art collector tries to spot work which will in time become valuable.

In the latter category I have started reading 'The Crimson Bed' by Loretta Proctor. I haven't seen it mentioned in any discussion and came across it in a second hand book shop. It attracted me as a novel set among the Pre-Raphaelite artists that I admire. The fact that the author spent many hours in the Oxford Bodlean library, researching Pre-Raphs for the book was also a major plus. After Chapter 3 I can give a tentative thumbs up!

From your list Janga, I have read the Balogh and at least read something by most of the authors mentioned.
Susan Sey, Karina Bliss and Molly O'Keef are new to me though.

Must remedy that when I have a spare reading moment.

AND you are in to steam punk!?
Can't wait to read your verdict. *smile*

Janga said...

Another fan of book lists, Hellie! Yay! I too sometimes think That's on the list? But I'm bothered more by those I've never heard of. They make me question how I missed them.

I read and liked Barely a Lady too. I'm an Eileen Dreyer fan from way back. I did have problems with the hero though, so it wasn't one of my top reads. I loved Patricia Rice's The Wicked Wyckerly too. It was thisclose to the cutoff. I bet Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions is on your list.

Janga said...

You've read, Ter. You just read different books. You read all Meg Benjamin's Konigsburg books, didn't you? You're ahead of me there. That's a terrific series, definitely one more people should be reading.

And you've been writing this year. You finished a book--and bought a house and worked and took care of a child. I'm amazed you found time to read at all.

Terri Osburn said...

When you put it that way, I feel a little better. I'm on book for of Benjamin's Konigsburg series, moving onto book 5 when I'm done. What am I going to do when I finish that one and then have to *gasp* wait for the next one?!

Terri Osburn said...

That was book FOUR. Sheesh. I should go to bed now.

Janga said...

Q, I'll have to check out the Proctor book. I find the Pre-Raphs fascinating. I've often thought that the seed for a novel is planted in Christina Rossetti's poem "In an Artist's Studio."

I'm flattered that you trust my recommendations. It helps that we began with a mutual admiration for the novels of Eloisa James. :-)

Janga said...

Ter, I know you liked Susan Sey's debut too. And you should try What the Librarian Did. It's a category, so it's a quick read. I think you'll really like it.

Terri Osburn said...

I LOVED Susan's book, and Eloisa's, of course. I just added the Bliss book to my ereader. I read the beginning and you're right, I like the voice already.

irisheyes said...

I just love lists, Janga! I've read 7 of yours and only up to about 3 on any of the other lists.

I think I would have added Lisa Kleypas' Married by Morning, Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions and Mary Balogh's A Secret Affair instead of A Matter of Class (matter of preference both books were awesome:)

I'm right there with you on Anne Gracie, Eloisa James and Carla Kelly.

I'm a little disturbed by the fact that a medieval made your list and I haven't picked it up yet. I'll have to put Kris Kennedy on my list. I haven't been in the mood for a medieval in forever. I do have Miranda Neville on my list too. I know it is second in a series and being kind of anal about that stuff wanted to read the first one first. LOL

I was on a real Joanna Bourne kick a couple of months ago. Her books are works of art!

I'm very excited Julie James has a new one coming out in 2011. I just discovered her this year and purchased all 3 of her books after reading the first.

Janga said...

Irish, I'm not surprised that you've read most of the books on my list. :-)

I agree that Lisa Kleypas' Married by Morning, Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions and Mary Balogh's A Secret Affair were all great reads. One year the Romance Vagabonds listed our #1 read for the year and then all our A reads. Maybe I should do that next year. I could include more books I loved then.

No one is more surprised than I that I have a medieval on my list. You know I used to say I never read them. But Kris Kennedy converted me. LOL Seriously, I've loved both her books. I hope you will try them.

pjpuppymom said...

Janga, I love your penchant for lists! I'm horribly behind on tracking my books from 2010. Too many other things on my schedule this year.

I've read about half the books on the Smart Bitches' list. Not so many on the others though I have many of them on my ever-expanding tbr.

Janga, your list is most closely aligned with the books I've read and loved this year. Eight of the books on your list would be in my top twenty. I'm not a bit surprised by that! ;-)

Janga said...

PJ, I know you've had a busy year with lots of roles to juggle, not least among them all host/interviewer/reviewer during the amazing first year of The Romance Dish.

I'm not surprised we share many favorites for the year either. I suspect the results would be similar for most years. :-)

Miranda Neville said...

Thanks for including me, Janga. I don't think I've ever made a be in such great company. Merry Christmas and happy reading in 2011!

Beth said...

Thanks Janga, on another great recommendation. Despite what is IMO a terrible title and and ever worse cover What the Librarian Did was a treat. I have found myself getting a bit bored with a lot of the titles I have been reading lately and as a result haven't been reading as much as usual. This book was a real surprise with a plot and characters I couldn't pigeon hole within the first two chapters. I will definitely be looking for more by Bliss.

I completely agree with Quantum, lists are great fun, but your lists are the ones I actually use to find new authors and titles. Please keep them coming!

Janga said...

Thanks, Beth. I doubly appreciate the compliment coming from a librarian.

I'm so pleased you liked the Bliss. I'm really impressed with her characterization skills. WTLD is my favorite, but I've liked her characters in everything I've read.

Terri Osburn said...

I'm reading the Bliss book right now and I'm impressed with her voice and how well the story moves. Thanks again for the recommendation.