Okay, we're a few days into January, so I suppose it's time to talk about my favorite books of 2010. First, a few words about how the heck I can possibly sort all this out.
I read 510 books last year. A lot of them were novellas--about 50k words. I read at least a full-length novel per day. I'm actually hoping that number goes down in 2011! My cat, on the other hand, is rooting for 600.
I have a favorite spot on the end of the couch where I do most of my reading. On the table beside the couch, along with a box of tissues and a coaster for my diet pop, is a little paper notebook. When I finish a book, I jot down the title, author, series, 1-5 rating, date finished, and a few notes. I've tried plenty of online solutions like LibraryThing, but ultimately, they never work for me. Paper works. When I fill a notebook, I transfer the information to a Google spreadsheet. Thus, I have glorious data to share with youse.
When I get really excited about a book, I'll rate it a 6 on my scale of 1-5. Insert "goes to 11" joke here. Conversely, really horrible books get a 0. So there. Having compiled this list, I actually see a lot missing. Fives that, in retrospect, should have been sixes, but I didn't want to overuse my OMG rating. That'll teach me. Also, these are all well-established authors I've been following for a while. So stay tuned--there will be another post following this, with some new authors, and more great stuff.
Here are my sixes:
by Joey W. Hill
Series: Nature of Desire
"When his father dies, Thomas is forced to abandon a burgeoning art career in New York. As difficult as it was to give up his lifelong dream, it's nothing next to walking away from the man he loves. Marcus taught him to embrace who he is, a sexual submissive who responds to the touch of only one Master. But why would the sophisticated Marcus need some farm kid from the South?
Then Marcus shows up and offers him a way to continue his art career and help his family. There's only one hitch-he asks Thomas to spend a week with him in the Berkshires. Thomas knows he should refuse. But he's never been able to say no to his Master."
While I don't read a lot of male/male erotica, I was familiar with Thomas and Marcus from reading the other books in the series, so it was great to finally read their story. As usual, Hill's work is deeply emotional. She does a wonderful job of getting under the characters' skins, not to mention the reader's. Please be aware that even if you read erotica, even if you read the occasional BDSM or D/s book, Hill's work can be extreme, especially in the Vampire Queen books. You've been warned. Rough Canvas is fine as a stand-alone, and doesn't really depend upon the other books in the series. They are:
Holding The Cards
Natural Law (a fave--I've read this one twice)
The Ice Queen
Mirror of My Soul
Mistress of Redemption
Branded Sanctuary--another 2010 favorite
Joey W. Hill is one of my favorite authors, because she's just plain good. Her books are an auto-buy for me. She writes four series, and while they are all written in the same world, the overlap is very subtle. If you decide you like her style, I recommend going to her site for series orders, and reading the Vampire Queen and Daughters of Arianne books (yes, I know it's angels and mermaids. They're great, I swear!), so you get the occasional references in the other books.
by JR Ward
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood
"Darius, a fallen Brother, has returned to the fold with a new identity and a very different destiny. Now, John Matthew, plunged into the heart of war, must face off against evil incarnate-and rescue his one true love."
First off, don't even try to read this without the rest of the books. Ward has built an interesting and complicated world, and you need to be there with her, or you'll get lost. The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, or BDB, is an addictive soap-opera with colorful characters, lots of sex, and cringe-worthy slang. In our house, we call these books the "Add an H" series for the silly names, like Rhage and Tohrment. She does this with nouns, too. And the slang--ahh! And yet, I keep crawling back for another rock. In order:
by Ilona Andrews
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Kate Daniels
"Kate Daniels cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to deal with-especially if they involve Atlanta's shapeshifting community.
And now there's a new player in town-a foe that may be too much for even Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family."
One of the best feelings in the world is when you anticipate the next book in a series, when you hope and wait and bouncebouncebounce, and then the book arrives and it totally kicks ass. Again, gotta read the series, and it's worth it. Kate Daniels is one of the premier heroines of UF, and for good reason. Andrews (actually the writing team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews, who recently moved here to Portland!) has created a well-rounded, fascinating character, teamed her up with interesting creatures, and plunked them all in a post-apocalyptic world, where waves of magic mean your truck might run now, but you'd better have a donkey for backup. I can't recommend this one highly enough. The Spousal Unit and I both love everything Andrews has written, and I'm pretty sure you will, too.
Tales of the Otherworld
by Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Urban Fantasy
"New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong has bewitched audiences with her Otherworld series of supernatural thrillers. Now, in this new collection of shorter fiction, some of Armstrong’s most tantalizing lead characters appear alongside her unforgettable supporting players, who step out of the shadows and into the light."
This was a big ol' tasty treat for fans of the Otherworld series. Armstrong is a superb writer, and has created a character-rich series. In fact, I don't think there's another series like it. She doesn't just tell a character's story then abandon them--her main characters are revisited many times, and not just as asides in other stories. Also, her characters are not static. They grow, get married, have kids, and those kids even grow up and get books of their own. Some Otherworld books stand alone better than others, but in any case, I don't recommend reading this one first. If you've never read Armstrong, start at the beginning:
Dime Store Magic
No Humans Involved
Living with The Dead
Waking the Witch
by Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls
"Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf—the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen."
Shiver is a beautiful, haunting book. Stiefvater has created one of my favorite things: a supernatural curse that is actually a curse. It's hard to feel sorry for a super-powerful vampire or werewolf. Poor thing, doomed to live forever and be really strong and healthy and good looking! Ah, go cry, emo bloodsucker. On the other hand, being a werewolf in Shiver, well, sucks. Wolf in the winter, human in the summer, you have no control, and normal life is forever out of reach. This is another book I recommend to absolutely everyone reading this. Don't be put off by the YA designation. This is a lovely, mature work, that is deservedly on the favorites list of many readers. I came to this a little late. Shiver is the first book in the series, and the second is already out:
by Gail Carriger
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Steampunk
Series: Parasol Protectorate
"Quitting her husband's house and moving back in with her horrible family, Lady Maccon becomes the scandal of the London season.
Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London's vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.
While Lord Maccon elects to get progressively more inebriated and Professor Lyall desperately tries to hold the Woolsey werewolf pack together, Alexia flees England for Italy in search of the mysterious Templars. Only they know enough about the preternatural to explain her increasingly inconvenient condition, but they may be worse than the vampires -- and they're armed with pesto."
As you can probably tell from the summary, these books are a hoot. Sharply written, Carriger deftly executes an alternate world full of airships, werewolves, vampires, and astonishing mechanical devices. Don't be put off if you're not a steampunk fan--neither am I, despite two books on this list. Carriger's could opine on patent numbers and still be entertaining. Alexia is one of my favorite UF characters, and her gruff werewolf love is delightful. This is another must-read-in-order, but there are only three:
The Iron Duke
by Meljean Brook
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance/Steampunk
Series: Iron Seas
"After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power — and fear — of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession."
Okay, this is it. This was my favorite book of 2010. When I think of Meljean Brook, the phrase that first comes to mind is "master world-builder." Her steampunk London is not pretty. Its population recently freed from slavery, it is a world full of poverty, prejudice, and horrors--as well as imaginative wonders and fantastical characters. Mina is a superb heroine--smartly written and fully realized, prickly and likable, and the Duke is, well, hot as hell. While this is the first book in the series, if you like it, you can get a little more in the Anthology Burning Up, which includes an Iron Seas novella. Yes, the novella is worth the price of the whole book.