It's not easy choosing top new releases for me. I don't give away too many A's (8), and some of those are either for re-reads or older publications that I've read. So when it comes to choosing favorites, I do go to the top grades but then have to dig into my pool of B+'s (19) and B's (23) which are more abundant.
Since I don't have that many top reads so far this year, I've decided to make it easy on myself. I'm choosing the top 3 A's & 1 B+ for new releases, top 3 A's for backlist reads, and 3 honorable mentions that, although they didn't receive an A grade, were highly enjoyable for me personally and are books that I highly recommend.
Total New Books Read January through June: 83
Contemporary Fiction/Romance: 28
LGBT Fiction/Romance/Mystery: 17
Historical Romance: 16
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 10
Science Fiction/Fantasy: 8
Anthology (mixed genres): 1
Favorite new releases to date:
- Kiss of Snow (Psy/Changeling, #10) by Nalini Singh (Berkley) Grade A: This is a book that was highly anticipated by me personally and didn't disappoint. I love that Singh hasn't lost her touch when it comes to her tight world building in this long paranormal romance series, and that she continues to focus each story on the main couple. Hawke and Sienna were da bomb! Loved, loved their slow-building courtship and of course, their happily ever after. I'm not the type of reader who likes to invest in long series, so it says a lot to me personally that I can't wait to read the next book and the next book in this series by Ms. Singh. (Paranormal Romance)
- The Sweetest Thing (Lucky Harbor #2) by Jill Shalvis (Forever) Grade A: A contemporary romance that took me by surprise, especially since I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did. The Sweetest Thing is a book that I enjoyed from beginning to end. I loved the combination of Tara's tart personality with Ford's super sexy persona. The community of Lucky Harbor, Tara's sisters and the fun events that developed made this a fun, sexy and romantic read that I just loved and will most definitely re-read in the future. (Contemporary Romance)
- Slant by Timothy Wang (Tincture, Lethe Press) Grade B+: This gay fiction read was Wang's first novel and, with minor exceptions, it was a magnificent debut. The writing, characterization and plot were all excellent, with a narrative voice that kept me wanting more until that last page was turned. I loved his multi-layered approach to the subject at hand, where he confronts one Asian gay man's confusion and struggle on different fronts: sexuality and ethnicity on a personal level, as well as within the gay community and mainstream society as a whole. (LGBT - Gay Fiction)
Favorite book from backlist or previous year's releases:
- Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (St. Martin's Press) Grade A: I was introduced to Crusie's backlist last year and this was a book that everyone seemed to love. I loved it too. I fell in love with Min and Cal, after all what is there not to love? But most of all I liked that Crusie focused this book on the very sensitive subject of women, weight and romance. Specifically, I liked that she showed both sides of the coin -- those who find beauty and truly love the person for who they are (Cal); and those who "claim" to do so, but whose love turns out to be the "toxic" kind (Min's mother). I've seen too much of this type of "toxic love" not to recognize the truth of it... so needless to say the whole story resonated with me. (Contemporary Romance)
- The Perfect Family by Kathryn Shay (Bold Stroke Books) Grade A: This touching contemporary tale about the struggle a family experiences when one of two sons comes out of the closet stayed with me for quite a while. It was complex, entertaining and true to life. This is a book that I recommended and think should be read by all those who are interested in helping family, neighbors or friends that are going through this struggle. (LGBT Contemporary)
- Song of Seduction by Carrie Lofty (Carina Press) Grade A-: Now here's a book that took me totally by surprise. I won this book at DIK and read it off the cuff without really knowing what I was in for... and boy did I enjoy it! I don't have a lot to say about it besides all the praises I sang to it in my review, except to repeat that I really appreciated the true passion and the historical details found in the story. I read the second book in this series Portrait of Seduction and it was a B+ for me, not in the A category but a winner nonetheless, making Carrie Lofty a must read author for me in the future. (Historical Romance)
- Dust by Elizabeth Bear (Jacob's Ladder, #1) (Spectra) Grade B++: The first book in this science fiction opera trilogy turned out to be a total obsession for me. I couldn't put it down until I was done with it. I gave it a B++, but it really should have been an A-... it's one of those books where the grading needs to be adjusted. Really! This book's world building was complex, but the story itself was quite absorbing and just the fact that I was obsessed with it says a lot. At least for me. :) (Science Fiction)
- A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear (Tor) Grade B+: This fantasy story by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear was another one that really stayed with me for a while. The way the authors interpreted the bond between animal and man was quite unique and absorbing. However, what I find interesting about this story is that although most of the main characters are male and in the surface males rule, there's a distinctive undercurrent of female power in the story. There's a second book releasing in the fall and I'm certainly curious as to where the authors will go with the story. (Fantasy)
- Summer at Seaside Cove by Jacquie D'Alessandro (Berkley) Grade B: Here's a contemporary romance that I enjoyed so much that I ended up writing two posts about it. It's a book that I recommend if you want to read a fun romance this summer. There's romance, heat, sand, a great beach front community and an adorable dog that will win your heart in about a second. Yes, I'm still talking about that dog, lol! It's interesting because although I gave this read a solid B, it really should have had that + sign at the end based on the fact that I enjoyed it so much. (Contemporary Romance)
Needless to say there are other books that I loved and recommended throughout the first half of the year. I really DO hate to simplify my favorites to such a short list because there are many books that stay with me. I cannot end this post without mentioning the following:
Within contemporary women's fiction/romance there are two such books:
Slow Dancing on Price's Pier by Lisa Dale: B+, and
Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards: B+
In contemporary romance, I'll go with
A Lot Like Love by Julie James: B+, and
Twisted Creek by Jodi Thomas: B+
Then there's historical romance where I "discovered" and highly enjoyed:
The Sergeant's Lady by Susanna Fraser: B+, and
Somebody Wonderful by Kate Rothwell: B+
In addition, within the M/M romance sub-genre, Harper Fox became a favorite author with the titles:
Driftwood: B+ and
The Salisbury Key: B+.
Empire by Xochiquetzal Candelaria. This is a book I truly enjoy -- because I still re-read it -- and which received one of those rare A's from me.
That's it for the first half of the year. I've already read some wonderful books in July! How about you? What book was your top choice for the first half of 2011?